Tips on Writing novels Marketing Your Novel Book Fairs Pulitzer Prizes


As we stated in the short story section of our web site, most novels are a collection of short stories linked together to make a longer story. Over the years, the novel has evolved -- and today's popular novel is a far cry from novels of many years ago. When you consider a novel like Moby Dick, its popularity isn't exactly what it used to be. Let's face it. There aren't too many people nowadays who are capable of breezing through a copy. Moby Dick contains hundreds of pages describing everything you really never wanted to know about blubber. Over explaining things just doesn't cut it these days. If you want to write a popular novel today, you have to write to meet today's tastes -- with short, easy to digest sentences, which is another reason why most copies of Finnegan's Wake are collecting layers of dust as we speak. Today's readers are vastly more informed than readers of the past -- so if you are writing a novel, realize that your reader will tire very quickly if you keep on writing and writing and writing about something that could be summed up in a few short paragraphs.

Speaking of short, easy-to-digest sentences, you should also have a short, easy to digest title! In today's book publishing industry, the books that sell have short (sometimes shrill), easily digestible and/or sensational titles. So rather than a long-winded, obtuse title, keep it short and sweet. And, remember (given all this information about being short, sweet and to the point) if you can't describe your book in one sentence, how many copies do you think you're going to sell?

You should also realize that when you start writing your novel, virtually every word you write will probably never appear in the final draft. It takes a lot of mental gymnastics to write a book, thinking through what your reader will appreciate before arriving at a final decision. Jonathan Safran Foer , a contemporary writer, wrote Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close in 2002. It took him 39 drafts to write. He summed it up this way: "Like a boat whose every plank is replaced while at sea, the first and last drafts have nothing in common -- no characters, themes or plot . To get to the 400 manuscript pages that ultimately comprise the novel, I had to write well over 2,500." Jonathan's dingy had eventually turned into an aircraft carrier!





Since your novel is competing against thousands of other novels to grab and hold your readers' attention, you must get your reader hooked with the first sentence. H.G. Welles knew this when he wrote War Of The Worlds. His opening line was "No one would have believed...". Wow! Talk about a grabber! Of course, having said that, if you can write like H.G. Welles, you don't have a thing to worry about. Of all the modern-day writers we have ever read, Dean Koontz is the master of the "grabber". From his first sentence onward, the reader is hooked!. Consider these opening lines:

"Tuesday was a fine California day, full of sunshine and promise, until Harry Lyon had to shoot someone at lunch"
Dragon Tears

"As soon as she finished dressing, Laura went to the front door and was just in time to see the Los Angeles Police Department squad car pull to the curb in front of the house"
The Door to December

"In the dark, Joanna Rand went to the window. Naked, trembling, she peered between the wooden slats of the blinds"
The Key To Midnight

"With the woman on his mind and a deep uneasiness in his heart, Spencer Grant drove through the glistening light, searching for the red door".
Dark Rivers Of The Heart


Consider which viewpoint you will use -- before you write your novel. Will your story be told in the first person singular, second person or third person? In the old days, novels used the narrator viewpoint -- similar to a person sitting at a campfire and spinning a yarn. Some novels even used the Olympic Point of View (this was how William Makepiece Thackeray told his story "Vanity Fair" -- as though he was God in the Heavens). Most contemporary novels, however, use multiple viewpoints. The Multiple Viewpoint is an acceptable and easy read for today's readers. It gives you, the novelist, the latitude to detail complicated relationships. Each of the characters can explain the relationship from their particular angle. It also lets you weave together different plot threads in complicated stories. The points of view are: first person (Catcher In The Rye is a good example), second person, third person (multiple or single), narrator and the rarely-used omniscient point of view. NOTE!: In the eighties and early nineties, numerous avant-garde attempts were made at some rather offbeat points of view. They were experimental. Those novels can now be bought for 25 to 50 cents in bins at Goodwill Book Stores. Know what we're saying?

First person narrative is similar to telling a story from your own viewpoint. It uses "I" throughout the text. The danger with this technique, however, is that with first person narrative there may be a great deal of telling the facts rather than illustrating them. First person narrative is best used when a vivid picture is portrayed. For example, rather than saying "my life was pathetic", the writer should add details to color the image: "I was sleeping on the floor with a blanket that was given to me by the Salvation Army". After sleeping with it in an alley way, it smelled of urine. I began to realize the urine was mine." Also, first person narrative works best when there is more action than mere detailing of facts.



A rarely-used point-of-view (often used by the "classics" authors down through the generations) is the omniscient point of view. There are two reasons why the omniscient point of view is rare: 1. It takes a very deft hand to pull it off effectively and 2. If not used well, it can confuse the reader. The Omniscient Point of View is basically when the author steps away from a first person narrative and becomes a "presence" that can see and hear "everything". The author is standing "offstage", so to speak, filing his nails, if you will, lapsing into a detached interpretation or "editorial viewpoint" of the events taking place on stage. The Omniscient Point of View can add richness and texture to the story, but as we said it's not easy. It can be less difficult, however, if you apply these guidelines:
Avoid pomposity. Today's reader is easily irritated by an explanation of an event that is self-evident. So make sure your Omniscient Point of View is A) really a point of view and B) not overbearing. When you are adding an omniscient point of view, avoid jumping around, spouting out unrelated ideas. It can get tedious and confusing, deterring people from reading further.

Be clear. When using an omniscient point of view, be sure it helps to clarify. For example, if a character in your novel is doing something, the omniscient point of view can describe the person's characteristics, which, in turn, explains why the person is performing these acts.

Be consistent. If you began your book with an omniscient point of view, use it consistently throughout your novel. If you suddenly dropped the device in Chapter Three, the reader will wonder what ever became of the author -- and if he or she has been abandoned to plow through the rest of the story alone.

The Omniscient Point of View is another arrow in your quiver of writing skills. Used judiciously and well, this device can be very satisfying to both the reader and writer.


A novelist is a "visualist". A novelist paints a picture so the reader can see the picture -- and literally lapse into a trance to become a "temporary citizen of another world". Jean Paul Sartre once said that his work was "an attempt to pluck the pictures from his mind and realize them outside of himself". In that regard, think of your novel as a movie. Think of your novel as eventually being made into a movie (if it's made into a movie, it will be worth a lot more than a book). A publisher will love the idea, since he sees "movie rights" in the future. So think of yourself as 50% screenwriter/50%novelist. Your publisher will thank you. Your readers will thank you. And the screenwriter who adapts your novel for the silver screen will thank you!



Rather than write endless prose on the subject, we thought we'd open the question to discussion. The following are excerpts from a meeting held on Monday, May 8, 2017 on the Thirsty Muse courtyard in the warm Spring sunshine.

Norm:

We're here to discuss how a writer chooses the characters for a novel. Who wants to begin?

Desmond:

I'll start. I think it comes down to watching other people -- understanding what makes them tick -- picking somebody out from a crowd -- and just imagining what that person would do if confronted with a situation.

Norm:

Wow. How could you ask for a better start? Many of today's dramas are based on what people do when thrust into a difficult situation. Susan, what do you think?

Susan:

Yes, I would agree. I do that a lot. I like to watch people. For example, when I'm working, I pick a spot to have my lunch and just sit there watching all the passersby. I think that's where the real talent lies -- the writer being able to focus in on one individual, then crawling under that person's skin -- understanding what his or her motivations in life are -- then giving their personality something that would be extremely difficult for them to handle -- and coming up with the outcome -- but writing in a way that makes the character believable.

Norm:

Armand, do you do that?

Armand:

I suppose, yes, we all do. Somebody once told me that a good way is to pick out characters from a novel, then tell the story from their point of view.

Debbie:

Isn't that plagiarism?

Armand:

Not if you use the character in a different context. Believe it or not, there's no copyright on characters.

David:

Yes, but if you used Obe Wan Kanobe from Star Wars and your novel became a world-wide success, I'm pretty sure Universal Pictures would be knocking on your door.

Armand:

That might be the extreme. Okay. Let's say public domain novels. For example, Tom Wolfe used Rosencrantz and Guilderstein in his novel. Shakespeare didn't sue.

Sarah:

I think that no matter what you do to pick your character, it always inevitably ends up being you.

Desmond:

Good point. I suppose it always come down to how we, as individuals, see the world.

Devin:

We are the camera!

Bill:

The characters that have always been interesting to me are the ones that are obsessed about something -- and as the story progresses, they have problems because of their obsession. Scrooge is a good example.

Norm:

That would be a morality play.

Bill:

I suppose it would. But what's wrong with that? If it sells. Ebenezeer Scrooge sold!

Norm:

Did it ever. Anybody else got any ideas? Rebecca, we haven't heard from you?

Rebecca:

Well, Norm, you know I'm more interested in writing screenplays. That's where my interests lie. So whenever I go to the movies, and I go a lot, I make a mental note of the actor -- what their characteristics are. I try to invent characters that would fit with the actors I know. That way, when they cast one of my screenplays -- and they will someday I'll know exactly who they should pick.

Susan:

That's a great idea. Why didn't I think of that?

P.S.:Marlon Brando was the actor who brought "real life" to the stage and screen. Even though his lines were plainly typed on the script, he mumbled and jumbled his words and, in effect, mimicked real life! He brought his brutal stage performance as Stanley Kowalski to the screen in "A Streetcar Named Desire in 1951 and revolutionized postwar cinema. While most of the theatrical world was pursuing proper pronunciation and effective enunciation, Marlon made quite a few heads spin. Suddenly, everyone was a "method actor".





If you are trying to dream up a plot that is totally unique, get your head out of the clouds. You won't. Basically there are only about seven plots. Every novel contains a piece or pieces of them. But don't let that dissuade you! You can still be unique in your treatment of the plot. Even the most offbeat scenarios find their roots in the seven basic plots. The group's consensus of opinion is that a good novel is a good morality play. A character has a problem in the beginning and throughout the novel, she or he must overcome obstacles or friction in order to resolve that problem. Your best resource for finding a plot is, of course, through the classics. All contemporary literature is derived from the classics.


         

When you submit your manuscript, consider the lives of the people who will be reading it. If you are a new writer, the chances are good that if your script is read at all, it will be read by a secretary or perhaps an assistant editor -- somebody with high hopes and grand ambitions but who hasn't quite reached the upper echelons of management yet.

Their job is to wade through stacks of manuscripts to find a novel that's worthy of publication, which is a task they must perform every day. Now, just sit back and think about this for a minute. Imagine walking into a new field with thousands of haystacks and you are required to find that one proverbial needle. If you were that person, what would you do? You might start ambitiously -- seeking the rose among the thorns -- but in time you will become complacent and rather than read one manuscript after another, you will probably just start looking at them -- arbitrarily judging their eligibility by appearance alone. You've already sorted through enough manuscripts to realize that if it doesn't look good, it wasn't professionally prepared and, therefore, you assume not professionally written. You will start discarding the "possibles" based solely on looks alone. We know it's not fair -- but who ever told you life was fair?

As you well know, there is a science to everything -- and submitting a manuscript is no exception. If your manuscript isn't submitted properly -- even if it's brilliant -- your work will be relegated to a trash bin -- not because people are anal retentive, but because...umm... did we mention the fact that life isn't fair? So, if you've put a lot of work into your novel, it only makes sense to put an equal amount of work into a professional presentation of your efforts.

Before you submit your manuscript, it's important to pave the way first. You will send a dozen or so query letters to your prospects. On your query letter, you will, of course, mention that you are making a multiple submission (tell them how many other submissions, but don't name names) and now it's merely a matter of time before the offers roll in (maybe you shouldn't use those exact words). (By the way, as far as "multiple submissions" go, this is a hotly de-bated topic. See the footnote at the bottom)

Anyway. Onward and Upwards. Let's say you get a bite from a literary agent (remember that we've learned that we don't submit our manuscripts to publishers because it's a waste of time, nor do we submit our manuscripts to professional "editors" because that's just a waste of money). If a literary agent is interested in you, prepare yourself for the next step.

You will now send a synopsis of the first three chapters of your book (don't send any old chapters willy nilly -- because this only telegraphs the fact that you are an amateur. REMEMBER. THE LAST THING YOU WANT TO DO IS LOOK LIKE AN AMATEUR!), plus the actual three first chapters, plus a cover letter, plus an S.A.S.E. (self-addressed stamped envelope). All these materials will be pristine -- that is to say totally clean and new! If an agent detects even the slightest dog ear in your synopsis, it will tip him off to the fact that the synopsis has already been read and rejected. Use 8 1/2" x 11" standard 20-bond white paper (not high gloss). Prepare these three elements as professionally as possible -- that is to say type them on a word processor (in a 12 pt. Times Roman font. If you use any other type of font, you will probably be dismissed as a hot dog). Use a laser printer -- not a dot matrix or an ink jet printer. Make the letter a block style letter with one inch margins all around the page. In the letter, you will thank the agent for his interest in your novel and say that you've included your synopsis and an S.A.S.E. Remember to be as brief as possible. A letter that gets right to the point will be welcomed (literary agents must go through a ream of material every day and the last thing they need is a long-winded proposal that's as confusing as reading Finnegan's Wake in braille).

Your synopsis should be about three pages (tops) even if your book is the length of "War and Peace". On the top left hand side of the first page, type your name, address, phone number and e-mail and/or fax number if applicable (and make this a template for all three pages). In the middle of the page, put the title of your book "MY NOVEL" IN CAPS. On the right hand side, type what kind of novel it is (the genre, si'l vous plait). Is it a mystery? A comedy? A biography? Then, type the exact word count. Don't number your first page. Number your second page as Page 2 and your third page as Page 3. Now, you can begin typing your synopsis -- but before you do let's go over a few points that we've learned earlier.

You are a writer but even if you are another Stephen King or Dean Koontz, just saying so won't be enough to buy you a cup of coffee. You have to be a writer and a MARKETER. You have to SELL your novel. So make sure your synopsis sells the book. Make your language snappy -- with a hook at the beginning and end of each chapter. This is when you really have to sell -- because if the agent is bored by the synopsis there's no way he'll be interested in the book.

If you are required to send the actual three chapters, then format them like this: center the title of your novel in the middle of the page (about 1/3 of the way down the page), then directly under it, write the chapter number. Don't staple your pages together. Keep them loose leaf. Remember to keep your chapters chronological and, above all, remember to use your spell checker. As you prepare your manuscript for submission, keep remembering that it takes more than talent to be a writer. If you want to be a successful writer, you need talent and a healthy respect for the submission process! And if you do everything perfectly, your talent will shine through!





Take yourself seriously. That's hard to do if you are a writer. It's particularly hard when you tell someone else you write for a living. The reason is because everybody knows how to write. So, if you tell someone you are a writer, they'll usually just say "Yeah, right!" and go on with what they were doing. You must believe in yourself and you must emphatically demonstrate that writing is a part of who you are , not just an amusing little hobby. If you are a writer, writing must be important in your life -- and you must show that day after day!

Always Be Professional. You must look like a writer. This doesn't mean dressing up in a tux, wearing a sash or trotting around with a rack of medals pinned to your chest. It simply means looking your best, looking professional (we recommend the tweedy look). This rule also applies to your cover letters and manuscript preparation. Remember, you have plenty of places to be creative -- in your writing. Don't be creative in your manuscript preparation. Editors don't like writers wandering from the standard format.

Write Your Passion. If you are not passionate about your subject, it will show in your writing. The old "saw" is write what you know -- and it's true. If you know your subject, it shows -- and your passion will show.

Love writing. Let's say you've written twenty award-winning novels, hundreds of short stories and seen every major Hollywood motion picture actor star in your screenplays. Even with all your success, you must still love to get up in the morning, sit down at your computer -- and start writing. Look at Stephen King. The man can quit writing any day now -- and still be a success. But he doesn't. He just keeps on going. He doesn't write for the money (or so he says in his book "On Writing"). He just loves to write.

Keep Reading. Read other artists' work. Don't limit yourself to your genre. Be inspired by other material. Also, be a critic. Examine the faults in other people's books or movies -- and try to avoid them in your writing.

Stick To A Schedule. Make sure you allot enough time to write every day. Remember that writing isn't a matter of talent. It's perseverance pure and simple!.

Be Critical Of Your Work. There's no such thing as perfection. And remember that you are not perfect. However, as you strive for perfection, you can get better. Every day you can get better -- by looking objectively at your writing and improving it where it needs improvement.

Be Sensitive Inside -- never outside! In other words, don't let the rejection get to you. Every writer must suffer through the pain of rejection. It's just what happens when you are a writer. Don't let it get you down. Learn from it. And move on!

Trust Your Editors. If you are working with a professional editor, the chances are pretty good that the editor is a better writer than you are. Many editors have published many of their works. The definition of an editor is one who "edits to make a manuscript better". Disagree with an editor if you must -- but listen to their opinion. Nine times out of ten their opinion will either be right or helpful in making your writing better

Writing Is A Precarious Occupation. There are no guarantees in life -- and there are absolutely no guarantees in writing! As a writer, you must have a well-honed sense of what works and what doesn't.




A copyright symbol on every page. There's no sense being paranoid. God knows that a literary agent has enough problems of his own and has no desire to copy your material. Agents already know that your material is copyrighted. If it came out of your word processor, it's covered by the Berne Convention, which means it's automatically copyrighted.
Single Spacing. No Indentation for Paragraphs.Always double space and always indent your paragraphs. Don't go more than two spaces down when starting a new paragraph.
Illustrations Submit your illustrations after your novel is accepted for publication, never before.
Too Much of Anything For No Apparent Reason.This includes: sex, vulgar language, fancy words, foreign words, affected tones and clichés.





In the "Dealing with Rejection" page of this web site, there is a story about Beatrix Potter, the author of Peter Rabbit. When Beatrix wrote her novel, she tried desperately to get her story published, but the publishers of the day weren't interested. Undaunted, Beatrix decided to publish the book herself, then gave it away to relatives and friends on special occasions. When her friends read her stories to their children, Peter Rabbit was an instant success. Word spread and finally when Beatrix couldn't keep up with the orders, she went to the publishers. After examining the numbers, the publishers suddenly had a change of heart and the book was published right away. You know the rest!

The story of Beatrix Potter isn't a unique experience in the world of publishing. In fact, it's being played out time and time again. Publishing is a business -- a tough business -- and publishers must realize a profit from your novel and your ability to promote your book. Most publishers are putting increased pressure on their writers to promote their book as vigorously as possible. Their costs are escalating, profits getting slimmer, so they are severely restricted in what they can do to promote your novel.

So let's consider your novel -- and how you will market it. Who is it directed to? What's your market? How do you reach these people? The best way is probably through a guest appearance on the Oprah show. If you are invited on her show, you can expect to sell about 50,000 books by the week's end. But the competition is fierce -- and the chances of getting on Oprah are slim. But you could always try. Send a copy of your book, a brief summary and bio to:

Olivia Gerth
Associate Producer
The Oprah Winfrey Show
110 N Carpenter St
Chicago, IL 60600


Failing an appearance on Oprah, the next best thing you can do is line up appearances at book stores. Book stores welcome authors who are willing to speak, answer questions and publicize their books. If you don't have the time for the administrative work, consider hiring a public relations firm which specialize in authors and their books. They aren't as expensive as you might think. Here are some tips in dealing with bookstores:

  • Make sure you have a prepared speech with you. You don't want to be caught without something specific and entertaining to say. How do you do this? See Presenting Your Novel With Power
  • Avoid just reading from your book. It's boring. Instead, try to encapsulate your book's subject into a brief description and offer compelling reasons why your audience will enjoy reading it!
  • Arrange your appointment months ahead of time (some say four months is your best bet.)
  • Provide the book stores with a mailing list so they can announce your appearance to your friends, relatives, acquaintances, etcetera. Better yet, do it yourself.
  • Don't ask the book store to pay for your appearance. It costs a bookstore an average of $350 to produce even the smallest author event. Neither their time nor their expenses are reimbursed by the publisher or book sales."
  • Before your appearance, make sure the bookstore has an adequate stock of your books. Check far enough ahead of time so additional copies can be found if needed.
  • Don't drop in to a bookstore unannounced to arrange an appearance, much less expecting to sign copies at the time.
  • Don't show your disappointment if the audience is small. This is when you must be your most gracious. Treat them as you would "honored" guests. The goodwill you engender will spread by word of mouth.


    Aside from bookstores, there must be an association out there that's interested in your topic. For example, let's say your book is about old homes. Is there a historical society that would be interested in your piece? Write a letter to them or pick up the phone. Offer to give a slide show and seminar -- and promote the sale of your book in the lobby.

    One of our members met an author recently with real marketing savvy. He struck a deal with a local publisher to publish his detective novels -- and since his book was in a specific geographical area, he promoted it through the area's local Chamber of Commerce. People bought the book -- not so much for the detective story -- but because they enjoyed reading about their home town. Once his book was a success in that area, he moved on, researched another area, then re-wrote the book. Although the plot was still the same, the landmarks changed -- and once again, his book was a hit!

    So the bottom line is that you must always consider your target market. Think about who would be interested in your book. Perhaps it's about religion? Would your church include your novel on their book list? How many other writers do you know? Writers tend to help each other and often promote each other's books. If you belong to a writing association (which you should) how many other writers' blurbs can you squeeze into your book? Corner them, then ask them face to face. It's hard to say no when someone looks you straight in the eye.

    Perhaps you work for a major corporation which has a newsletter? If you talk to the editor, he or she might be willing to write you up in the company newsletter.

    The Internet, of course, is always an invaluable source of information -- and a great way to market your product. Open your own web site and promote your book --- like one of our editors is promoting his!

    In the final analysis, whatever you do, don't go to a publisher with your hands in your pockets and stare at the floor. Be energetic. Show them you're serious. Remember. It's your book -- and if it doesn't sell, it aint worth the paper it's printed on!

    Check these references for more Information:

  • Book Blitz: Getting Your Book in the News, Barbara Gaughen, Ernest Weckbaugh.
  • Book Marketing: A New Approach, Dan Poynter.
  • How to Sell What You Write, Jane Adams.
  • Publicity and Media Relations Checklists, David R. Yale.
  • The Writer's Workbook: A Full and Friendly Guide to Boosting Your Book's Sales, Judith Appelbuam, Forence Janovic.
  • 1001 Ways to Market Your Books, John Kremer.
  • How to Market You and Your Book, Richard O'Connor.



    When selling your book, remember that in essence you are selling yourself -- your knowledge and capabilities.

    Aside from selling your novel, you're also selling your next novel and the one after that. So put aside all false sense of modesty. Stop hiding your light under a bushel. Get out there and jump up and down! You can do it! And you don't have to be obnoxious while you're doing it! When selling yourself and your book, make sure you:

    stay available for interviews. Even if an interviewer calls at 3:00 a.m. Be fresh and alert and ready for your interview the next day. There are plenty of radio stations and other media that do "author" interviews. Many will get last-minute cancellations.

    get a 1-800 number. Why not? 1-800 lines aren't as expensive as you might think. The fee is based on the number of incoming calls. And if that one call is from a publisher, won't you be glad you spent the money!



    For the professional writer who wishes to showcase his or her book, there are dozens of wonderful venues. Book Fairs are where all the personnel involved in the production of a book will gather to hob knob with their contemporaries. In the United States, the biggest Fair is Book Expo America (BEA) which usually takes place around February each year. Many domestic and foreign agents also meet at the Frankfurt Book Fair in Frankfurt, Germany. The Frankfurt Book Fair is the "Grand Daddy" of all the Book Fairs. Here, the agents and distributors will meet and negotiate foreign language rights. For the "casual writer" there are many Fall Fairs or Farmer's Markets which include "Authors' Days" in their schedule. For more information on these events, check out the following web sites:

    BookExpoAmerica.com
    Frankfurt Book Fair
    Foreign Rights Fair





    Your Novel Proposal (WD Books, $18.99) by Blythe Camenson and Marshall J. Cook. This is a very comprehensive book, with samples and real-life novel proposals by Robert W. Walker on his book Darkest Instinct

    Carson McCullers: A Life (Houghton $30) by Josyane Savigneau. This biography includes portions of McCuller's original synopsis for her classic: The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

    How To Write A Book Proposal (W.D.Books, $15.99) by Michael Larsen. This book is written from the literary agent's point of view.

    Thinking Like Your Editor (Norton, $26.95) by Susan Rabiner and Alfred Fortunato. This book is written from the editor's point of view

    The Writer's Market Companion W.D. Books, $19.99) by Joe Feiertag and Mary Carmen Cupito. A very comprehensive guide, featuring everything from fiction to non-fiction.



    When you book an appearance at a book store and walk in, you might be shocked to see that there is actually an audience sitting there, waiting for you. So what do you do? Panic? Everybody is waiting for you patiently -- waiting to be entertained and informed -- waiting for you to mesmerize them with your spell-binding brilliance throughout your talk. But you? How are you supposed to mesmerize them? You are just a writer. Up until now, your only job was to put words on a page. Heck, it was somebody else's responsibility to actually read them. A blank page is a lot less frightening than a gallery of blank faces waiting for you to regale them with gems of wisdom. At least the blank page won't get up and leave.

    So you are nervous. What do you do? The first thing that you've got to do is relax. Tell yourself that you wrote a book on your topic. You know your subject better than anybody else in that room. Doesn't that make you the expert? Isn't that why they came? To hear an expert?

    Also, tell yourself that you wouldn't be the first brilliant bard to get choked up on your own words. Have you ever heard Margaret Atwood or Michael Ondaatje read from one of their books? While they may be brilliant authors, listening to their prose is like watching grass grow. Surely, you can do better. The secret to good story reading is the same as the secret to good writing: practice. Rehearse in front of a mirror. Tape your performance. When you re-wind the tape, keep track of where the dry spots are and concentrate on making them better. Also, understand that there's no shame in dead air. Stopping every once in a while will give you time to breathe, reflect and allow the audience time to fully digest your words. Avoid "uhs and ahs". If you start humming and hawing your way through your novel, you will sound like a dork. Humming and hawing is definitely out -- so you can do anything else. Just don't hum and hah.

    Once you start, you will realize that you are far more familiar with your topic than anyone else in the room. You will be on a roll, then, once you are on a roll, a nifty way to avoid those flutters in your stomach is by telling a personal story. When you recount a personal story, you will lighten up, realizing that you are just as human as those people in the audience. you will be able to relate to them.

    Oh, yes and watch your pacing. The first time you listen to yourself read, you will probably notice that you are reading too fast. Slowing your pace down not only allows people to understand what you are reading, but also brings out the story's natural rhythm. To find a good pace, read until it seems you are going too slow and you will be pretty close. Breathing normally also helps. The key of course to success is preparation. You will want to write down the points you wish to make. You will tell your audience why the point is important, give examples of why your point is important and use references as back ups. A famous quote would be useful at this point. By using a quote, your point will be delivered with extra power -- presenting the premise that somebody very important and/or wise agrees with you.

    A few final suggestions: Always have a glass of water on hand; never use accents or funny voices for dialogue; remember to enjoy yourself and just like writing, keep at it. Attend more readings, watch and listen to others read and learn from them, even the really bad ones. Don't be afraid of reading your work in public every chance you get because the more you read, the better you will get.


    If you are a new writer and you want to sell your novel to a publisher, YES you need an agent! Most writers are introverts -- which is often why they became writers in the first place. Usually, they aren't salespeople. They have a tough time verbally selling anything. 80% of the books published by major houses are sold by agents -- and many publishers won't even accept material written by authors who aren't represented by an agent. They receive thousands of query letters and unsolicited manuscripts every year -- and don't have the manpower, the resources or, in many cases, the will to read an unpublished author's masterpiece. Remember, this is a business. If you are a fiction writer, you must get an agent. Non-fiction is easier to sell. A "How To" Book, for example, has a built-in benefit. A novel doesn't. It needs the enthusiasm of an agent -- especially when you've exhausted all possible avenues and are discouraged by the road blocks! So, by all means, search for an agent. Check out "The Writer's Market" for a complete list of agents. If you want more information about securing an agent, read these books:

    What Agents Want, edited by John Tullius.

    Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript by Jack and Glenda Neff and Don Prues (18.99) has everything a writer needs for creating effective query letters, proposals, outlines, synopses and follow-up correspondence.

    The Insider's Guide to Getting an Agent by Lori Perkins ($16.99) outlines all the details of the agent/client relationship.

    How To Write A Book Proposal by Michael Larson ($15.95) addresses every step of writing a nonfiction book proposal.




    If you are a new writer, your best bet is to write a "non-fiction" novel. Agents know that writers who write a "non-fiction" novel are deeply interested in the topic before s/he begins (and probably quite knowledgeable about the field).Chances are good the author will actually finish the novel -- and make it readable.

    Your second best bet -- if you are a new writer -- is a complete manuscript for a non-fiction novel. Too many writers have a great idea for a novel, but can't follow through. So if you are writing "fiction", make sure you have a finished manuscript (with the t's crossed and the i's dotted) before submitting your query letter.

    Unfortunately, if you are a new writer who has penned a collection of short stories or poetry, get ready for a rough ride. Agents are business people --- and they know that profit margins on poetry and short stories are low. (Then again, Margaret Atwood's first book was a book on poetry, which she self-published, introducing her to the market).

    To get an agent interested in your novel, send a well-polished, grammatically correct, query letter. Make sure your letter sizzles with ideas that sell. Most importantly, tell the agent that there is a need for your novel on today's market. Quote statistics, social trends, markets, etcetera.







    We've compiled a list of agents based on their willingness and track record of working with writers. You can tell they're bonafied agents because they do not charge for reading or evaluating your manuscript (although they may charge you a small amount for administrative costs).

    Due to legal technicalities, we have removed the list. However, we promise to sort out the issues and get the list back online.



    Of course, as you write your novel, remember that all the blood, sweat and tears that you lost will be a forgotten memory as soon as you step up to the podium in Stockholm to accept your Pulitzer Prize. Nothing would please us more at the Canadian Copywriter to add your name to the list. Let us know how your novel is progressing and we'll have our suits dry-cleaned in preparation for the occasion. Until then, keep writing and have a look at your predecessors:

    1918: Ernest Poole: His Family 1919: Booth Tarkington: The Magnificent Ambersons 1920: No award
    1921: Edith Wharton: The Age of Innocence 1922: Booth Tarkington Alice Adams 1923: Willa Cather: One of Ours
    1924: Margaret Wilson: The Able McLaughlins 1926: Sinclair Lewis: Arrowsmith
    1925: Edna Ferber: So Big 1927: Louis Bromfield: Early Autumn1928: Thornton Wilder: The Bridge of San Luis Rey
    1930: Oliver La Farge: Laughing Boy 1931: Margaret Ayer Barnes: Years of Grace1932: Pearl S. Buck: The Good Earth
    1933: T.S. Stribling: The Store 1934: Caroline Miller: Lamb in his Bosom1935: Josephine Winslow Johnson: Now in November
    1936: Harold Davis Honey in the Horn 1937: Margaret Mitchell: Gone with the Wind 1938: John Phillips Marquand: The Late George Apley
    1939: Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings: The Yearling 1840: John Steinbeck: The Grapes of Wrath1941: No award
    1942: Ellen Glasgow: In this Our Life 1943: Upton Sinclair: Dragon's Teeth1944: Martin Flavin: Journey in the Dark
    1945: John Hersey: A Bell for Adano 1946: No award1947: Robert Penn Warren: All the King's Men
    1948: James A. Michener: Tales of the South Pacific 1949: James Gould Cozzens: Guard of Honor 1950: A.B. Guthrie: The Way West
    1951: Conrad Richter: The Town 1952: Herman Wouk: The Caine Mutiny 1953: Ernest Hemingway: The Old Man and the Sea
    1954: No award 1955: William Faulkner: A Fable1956: Mackinlay Kantor: Andersonville
    1957: No award 1958: James Agee: A Death in the Family1959: Robert Lewis Taylor: The Travels of Jamie McPheeters
    1960: Allen Drury: Advise and Consent 1961: Harper Lee: To Kill a Mockingbird1962: Edwin O'Connor: The Edge of Sadness
    1963: William Faulkner: The Reivers 1964: No award1965: Shirley Anne Grau: The Keepers of the House
    1966: Katherine Anne Porter: Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter 1967: Bernard Malamud: The Fixer1968: William Styron: The Confessions of Nat Turner
    1969: N. Scott Momaday: House Made of Dawn 1970: Jean Stafford:Collected Stories 1971: No award
    1972: Wallace Stegner: The Angle of Repose 1973: Eudora Welty: The Optimist's Daughter 1974: No award
    1975: Michael ShaaraL The Killer Angels 1976: Saul Bellow: Humboldt's Gift1977: No award
    1978: James Alan McPherson: Elbow Room 1979: John Cheever: The Stories of John Cheever1980: Norman Mailer: The Executioner's Song
    1981: John Kennedy Toole: A Confederacy of Dunces 1982: John Updike: Rabbit is Rich 1983: Alice Walker: The Color Purple
    1984: William Kennedy: Ironweed 1985: Alison Lurie: Foreign Affairs1986: Larry McMurtry Lonesome Dove
    1987: Peter Taylor: A Summons to Memphis 1988: Toni Morrison: Beloved 1989: Anne Tyler: Breathing Lessons
    1990: Oscar Hijuelos: The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love 1991: John Updike: Rabbit at Rest 1992: Jane Smiley: Thousand Acres
    1993: Robert Olen Butler A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain 1994: E. Annie Proulx: The Shipping News 1995: Carol Shields: Stone Diaries
    1996: Richard Ford: Independence Day 1997: Steven Millhauser Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer 1998: Philip Roth: American Pastoral
    1999: Michael Cunningham: The Hours 2000: Jhumpa Lahiri: Interpreter of Maladies2001: Michael Chabon: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
    2002: Richard Russo: Empire Falls2003: Jeffrey Eugenides Middlesex 2004: Edward P. Jones: The Known World
    2005: Marilynne Robinson: Gilead