Slush Pile by Sheryl Browne
As part of my book blog tour I was invited to offer ten tips on how to avoid the slush pile.
OK, my ten tips are:
- Make sure your first chapter is your best! The first chapter has to provide the all-important hook. It also has to introduce the characters, show their inner/outer conflict, along with the ‘inciting incident’ which brings your characters together and into conflict, i.e. set the tone for the story. That’s an awful lot of information/background information you are going to be cramming into that first chapter. Could it be – horror of horrors – that your slaved over first chapter actually ends up muddled and totally boring? A prologue is a consideration, of course, but unless it conveys information crucial to the book that can’t be conveyed in the first chapter, it’s superfluous. So, be open to rewriting that first chapter, scrapping it, or moving chapters around to make sure you are starting your story in the right place. At the end of the day, it is your book. You are the author. You have the power to do it!
- Do consider joining a writers’ group or perhaps teaming up with a critique partner. Feedback is invaluable.
- Do employ outside editorial help if you need to, but be careful to check credentials. Personally, I chose to approach someone recommended by the Romantic Novelists’ Association, who was very reasonably priced and extremely professional. You can find details of editors I’ve used, including a fabulous US editor, at www.sherylbrowne.com
- If your manuscript is ready to submit make sure to research agent/publisher websites to see if your genre is something they represent. DO keep your covering letter short. A brief bio and intro the book is sufficient. For example, I am seeking representation for my book, Lost in Birmingham, a thriller, approximately 90,000 words in length. I noted from your website you are interested in looking at this genre and wondered whether my book might be of interest to you. DO mention you realise they will be inundated with enquiries – they will be!
- Make sure to keep synopsis and chapters to the length stipulated in the agent/publisher submission guidelines (i.e. two page synopsis and first three chaps) and only submit online if they accept email submissions. Most agents do nowadays.
- Read you work out loud, into a tape recorder, rather than to the dog. If you hesitate while you are reading, chances are the reader will, too. It’s a great way of ironing out the glitches and getting rid of superfluous narrative.
- Once you are underway with the submission process, do think about building yourself an online presence. Authors need to be totally interactive in promotion in today’s publishing climate. Set up a website, but do make sure it looks professional. Take a look at the websites of authors writing in a similar genre. Set up a blog, linking back to your own website, a Twitter Account and Facebook page and start connecting with people. Published authors, as well as authors who have chosen to ePublish, find Twitter an invaluable marketing tool. There are other social networking platforms, such as Linked in, Stumbleupon, Digg, but don’t overwhelm yourself!
- Become Goodreads or other Bookbuzz site member. You can then start linking with like-minded readers and writers and, as with Facebook, eventually set up an author page.
- Do also consider linking up with online writer/author support groups. Often you can connect up with members of these groups via Twitter and begin sharing/tweeting between members to reach a higher audience. I am a now a proud member and editor at www.loveahappyending.com (a group of thirty show-cased authors and associate Readers from around the world, everything from chick lit to WWII memoirs & stories).
- If you get rejected and the agent/publisher has offered you a piece of advice, even a snippet, be grateful. Despite hundreds of submissions to wade through, someone has gone to the trouble of commenting because they think your work has potential. They wouldn’t have bothered otherwise. Use the advice, if you can, dust yourself off, and move on.
I wish you every bit of luck your hard work deserves!
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