Tuesday, July 29, 2014

What NOT to do when you query agents or editors.

1.   Dear Agent/Editor
a)   Why are you contacting this person if you can’t even bother to learn their name? This will only show them that you didn’t do your research. If you don’t know their name, do you know their guidelines and what they do and don’t accept? Not a good start. And if you do use their name, please, for all that is good in this world, do not misspell it.
b)   “But I used ‘Dear Agent/Editor’ because I’m sending my query to more than one.” This is just another way to show you’re not serious about being a professional writer. It shows that you don’t care who represents you. It also shows you are lazy and haven't done your homework. It’s not a good way to start your career.
In general it’s a good idea to address your query letter as you would any other formal letter to a person you want to take you seriously. For example Mr. or Ms. and use their full name or just their last name. Never use only their first name.

All capital letters is a big no-no. Some of you are thinking “Who does that anyway?” It’s surprising how many do. This is not what they mean when they say ‘grab our attention’. All capital letters will only make you seem desperate and it’s considered extremely rude. It doesn’t matter what you say in the letter, it could be the best query letter they’ve ever received, but all they’ll see are the capital letters of desperation.

3. You are my last chance!
No. No one wants to be your last chance. This is wrong in so many ways but let me point out the most obvious ones. Like the all capital letters, it is rude. No one likes to be picked last! You basically just told them that you tried everyone else and they are your last choice. Also, if everyone else has rejected you already, why should they take you on? Begging is not the way to start a business relationship. Don’t ruin your chances by attempting to play on their sympathies. There is always another chance as there is always another project.

4. My book is a masterpiece, it’s the next…
We all hope our book is a masterpiece and will be the next (insert best-selling book) but we won’t be the judge of that. Neither will our friends, family or mailman.

Bragging about your unpublished book to someone that has probably seen it all a thousand times is a bad idea. Let your book speak for itself when the time comes. Your focus now should be your pitch, what your book is about and not your future fame and glory.  No one wants to work with a diva.

5. This query comes directly from my characters.
Although this might seem like a good marketing idea, it really isn’t. Agents won’t be signing a contract with your fictional characters no matter how well you channel them. Keep in mind that queries are business letters; it’s the same as applying for a job. You don’t want them to think you’re crazy, they don’t want to role-play with you, what they want is someone who knows that publishing is a business.

6. The mystery query.
My book begins so and so but to find out what happens you have to request the whole manuscript. That’s like sending a letter for a job interview where you tell them you finished high school but they have to call you to find out if you went to college or not.
Agents/editors are not your everyday readers that need a cliffhanger to keep reading. I can’t stress this enough; publishing is a business. Don’t play games, don’t be coy, and don’t try to trick them into reading more. It won’t work! They know all the tricks and they’ve seen them a thousand times. Your best bet is professionalism and honesty.

7. What would you do?
Although as writers the “what would you do?” is a good exercise to hone our writing skills, starting a query letter that way is not in the least intriguing to an agent/editor. It’s one of those things that’s been used to the point of being a bad cliché. It’s just a waste of good query space, when you could jump right into your story plot and let it speak for itself.

8. Do not send a query letter that’s longer than one page.
Focus on the work you’re submitting for consideration and a short to the point bio for yourself. Do not go on and on about how great your story is or about the time you did this and that. As a professional you should be able to keep your letter to one page and give them a good idea of what you are proposing.

9. Do not query agents/editors for more than one of your works at a time.
Maybe you’re a fast writer and you can even write while you sleep. You have a rich collection of material ready to be published on the spot. How tempting to toot your own horn and let them know you’ll never keep them waiting for your next masterpiece. The problem with that is you’ll only give them the wrong idea. If your work is so great why is all that material still unpublished? And no, they won’t believe you never tried to publish it before. So, instead of coming off as a sales dead-end, wait…once you have your first sale then reveal to them you have more. This way it will be a welcome surprise rather than raising red flags.

10. Tossing numbers.
Unless you have published or have been published before and had good sales, do not throw numbers in your query. It doesn’t matter how many sales you THINK your, as of yet, unpublished work will have. No one can know that, not the agents, not the publishers and certainly not you. That is unless you want to come off as greedy and unreasonable and never sign a contract with them.

11.   I told a little lie, how are they going to find out?
Lies, little or big, have a nasty habit of rearing their ugly head when you least expect them. For example, you told a lie about a referral: “Author ‘Name’ said you would be interested in my book.” The problem here is that agents and editors are not shy about checking up with the author you named to see if your statement is true.

Lying by omission: You’re sending them something you have published before and for A or B reason you don’t mention this. If they find your query interesting enough to consider asking to see more, they WILL jump on-line and search your name, book title and any other information you provided them with. If however your submission is unrelated with previous publications you can probably get away with it.

Note: I should mention here that posting your work on-line for all to see is previous publication. If you post your work on-line, be certain it has limited access, by either membership or even better a private group of people of your choice. Not by anyone that happens to stumble on it.

12. Did you read it yet? Did you? Did you?
Anyone that knows anything about the wonderful world of writing knows that it’s just like waiting in a long line. They just called number 24 to step up and you’re holding number 124. Stepping out of line to pester the agent every so often will most likely get you kicked out and you’ll lose your turn entirely. A polite enquiry after a reasonable period of waiting is fine but don’t ask them every single week if they got around to reading your submission yet.

13. How dare you reject me!
We have no solid proof of this but we’re fairly sure that agents and editors DO talk to one another, even ones from different agencies/publishing houses. So if you’re tempted to write back after a rejection to tell them how foolish you think they are to pass up on your masterpiece, don’t. Maybe your work is good but not their cup of tea. Maybe it needs more polishing, maybe, maybe. What’s certain is that you’ll get a bad name and no one will ever want to work with you. It only takes a moment to send an angry response but they will never forget they got one and you better hope your name doesn’t come up when they talk amongst themselves.

Did we miss something? Let us know in your comments below.

Join our forum and discuss about this with other writers.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Character Interview: Lilly, Flank Hawk’s Scout


AbD's interview with character Lilly from the book Series First Civilization’s Legacy by Terry W. Ervin II


AbD:   Welcome to Authors by Design, Lilly. Can you tell us a little about yourself?

Lilly:    Well, like the title says, I’m Flank Hawk’s scout. We met when he was running from a bunch of ogres and mud hounds, and I helped him. We hid in my riverside burrow so they lost his trail and didn’t catch him.

AbD:   Your burrow? Could you clarify that?

Lilly:    Usually I don’t talk about it, but I’m a lycanthrope. Flank Hawk calls it my ‘beast’ but really it’s just me, a different part of me that lurks inside and comes out when I allow, or when the moon is full. Somebody in the royal court whispered a rumor that I was a werewolf. That’s not true. My animal is a muskrat. Werewolves are bloodthirsty and vicious and can’t be trusted. I can be trusted. Ask anyone who I’ve scouted for.

AbD:   You’ve scouted for more people than Flank Hawk? 

Lilly:    I have, but only when Flank Hawk is serving them. He’s a mercenary. I’ve scouted for Grand Wizard Seelain, on her mission to retrieve the Blood Sword for King Tobias, and for Supreme Enchantress Thulease, when she was looking for a way to save her daughter.
I can hear and smell better than people like Flank Hawk. He first named me his scout to Belinda the Cursed. She’s the daughter of the Colonel of the West, but that’s not important now.

AbD:   What do you find important?

Lilly:    Being Flank Hawk’s friend, and helping him stay alive. He doesn’t always listen to me, but we’ve saved one another plenty of times. He gets so focused on duty that he misses what’s going on, sometimes even with the people around him. I help him with that.

Soul Forge First Civilizations Legacy

AbD:   Do you have any other friends?

Lilly:    The only other person that’s been as good of a friend as Flank Hawk is Roos. He was a Crusader, and died saving me and Flank Hawk. An ogre had knocked me down and stomped on my arm. Flank Hawk carried me away while Roos stayed behind so we could escape. I hated Roos at first and he didn’t like me, but that changed. I didn’t know how much until he was gone. I really miss him.
I’m friends with Road Toad. Everyone calls him Major Jadd now, but he’ll always be Road Toad to me. He’s a serpent cavalryman for the king, so he isn’t around much. His aft-guard, Sergeant Drux, is a friend too. I think he likes me—more than I like him. Me and Grand Wizard Seelain sort of became friends, because we spent so much time together on her mission to get the Blood Sword. Lesser Enchanter Jonas was becoming a good friend, but a witch killed him. Flank Hawk killed her for doing it.

AbD:   Do you fear dying, Lilly?

Lilly:    Well, yeah. Who doesn’t? Sometimes I think Flank Hawk might not. He’d rather die than fail in his duty to someone he’s serving. That’s why I have to watch out for him.

AbD:   Who was the most recent person Mercenary Flank Hawk served, where you went along as his scout?

Lilly:    I don’t always travel with Flank Hawk. But, this last time Supreme Enchantress Thulease hired me to go along, scout for her and be part of her team. She needed to find the Sleeping Sage in the Southern Continent’s big desert, and she wanted Flank Hawk to go, because she trusts him. Plus, that creepy Imperial Seer Lochelle said it was a good idea. For there to be any chance of success, the seer said that the captain of the enchantress’s guard needed to go too. He’s an expert swordsman.
See, the problem is that Captain Flayzin blames Flank Hawk for Prince Reveron’s death. Named my friend a coward—which he ain’t. Flank Hawk is good with a spear, and can use a sword, but not all that good. He’s a healer, but not a very good one. Still, killing and healing don’t mix. People that know about magic like Enchantress Thulease and Grand Wizard Seelain and Imperial Seer Lochelle have told him that. The seer even said Flank Hawk could be a good healer if he gave up being a mercenary. He never will. I think it’s because of his sister, who was kidnapped by servants of the healing goddess, because she’d shown the ability to be a healer. Things have changed, but being a healer isn’t who Flank Hawk is. Or what he wants to be, even though it’d be safer.
Anyway, the Enchantress asked me to go because Flank Hawk needed someone he could trust, and I’m a good scout.

AbD: It sounds like you’ve had some harrowing experiences. Which of those stand out the most?

Lilly:    Once I was almost killed by a pack of dire wolves. Flank Hawk and Private Zunnert saved me. Well, they kept most of the wolves off me until Captain Bray on his dragon mount showed up to do the real saving. Going into the lair of a werebat with Flank Hawk was scary too, but the mountain hold of the Svartalfar…those dark elves are just twisted and cruel.
Actually, when Flank Hawk had to draw the Blood Sword to slay a giant that was about to stomp me, him and Roos—and then the evil sword possessed him and he was getting ready to kill me and Roos. Facing the Blood Sword. That’s what anybody with any sense would call harrowing.

AbD:   Where do you see yourself ten years from now?

Lilly:    I don’t know. I won’t be working as an assistant gardener in the King’s Palace. I’ll have learned to speak and write the Crusader tongue by then. King Tobias asked me what I wanted for helping Flank Hawk finish his mission, and that’s what I asked for, so I could learn to read Roos’s holy book.
Most don’t know, but lycanthropes get old faster than most other people. In ten years I’ll still be young enough to be Flank Hawk’s scout. Unless me, or him, or we’re both dead, that’s where I’ll be.

AbD:   Thank you for answering our questions, Lilly. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Lilly:    You’re welcome. And I’ll add that anyone reading this interview should read about Flank Hawk’s tales, not only because I’m there to help him through most of what you’d call “Harrowing experiences” but because they’ll learn about my favorite place to eat. The One-Eyed Pelican. Flank Hawk says he hates it. Maybe if he didn’t count the rats in the rafters or always order that greasy fish soup…anyway, he still goes whenever me or Road Toad asks if he wants to join us. So, I don’t think he hates it as much as he says.

About the author: 

Terry W. Ervin II is an English teacher who enjoys writing fantasy and science fiction.

His First Civilization’s Legacy Series includes FLANK HAWK, BLOOD SWORD and SOUL FORGE, his newest release from Gryphonwood Press. Terry’s debut science fiction novel RELIC TECH is the first in the Crax War Chronicles and his short stories have appeared in over a dozen anthologies and magazines. The genres range from SF and mystery to horror and inspirational. GENRE SHOTGUN is a collection containing all of his previously published short stories.

To contact Terry or learn more about his writing endeavors, visit his website at www.ervin-author.com or his blog, Up Around the Corner at



Friday, April 11, 2014

Six Reasons You May Need A Blog

by Kim Smith


In today's Facebook-fueled world, some folks are saying that blogging for writers is dead.

That it was a great way to connect five years ago, but now? Not so much. Well, I am of the opinion that blogs by and for writers are still viable. I am of the opinion that blogging and the world it created is still pretty relevant in the 21st century and here's why:

1. Writing Warm-up
For a writer, blogging counts as your word count. How many times have we decided to turn out 1000 words a day and can only muster the blog that day? It counts in my opinion. Everything we pen counts. So look at your blog as your writing warm-up.

2. Feedback
When we blog, we can get input from our subscribers. They leave comments and suggestions on what we need to do about whatever the blog topic was. I hope you will leave one for me today on this subject. I love comments and feedback.

3. Marketing ops
Today, the world wants content. Yes, and they want it in a variety of ways. We consume ebooks, and Youtube videos, and listen to podcasts like maniacs. But we sure do get a lot of information that way!

4. Networking ops
Blogs are still the best way to connect with our group of friends and fans. As writers, we need outlets to find others with our particular bent. I follow a number of blogs and try to visit them once a week to say hi. Writers need to connect with others and blogs are great networking tools.

5. Availability
For our readers, blogs are a way to reach our audience. Readers can visit our blogs and learn all about what we are doing. They can also find out personal stuff like where we are going to go for dinner, who's babysitting our children, and what our pets look like.

6. Book Promotion
And finally, at least in my mind, is our blog is still our best way to promote our books. We can post excerpts, cover art, buy links, and talk endlessly about our books and stories on our blogs, because, well, they are OURS.

Leave me a comment and let me know what else you think blogs are good for. I am sure there are more!

Kim Smith is a longtime member of Authors by Design. She has a number if novels to her credit with the most recent being a YA fantasy called An Unexpected Performance. You can find more about her and her podcast, Writer Groupie at http://www.kimsmithauthor.com