Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Blogs That Work - Dollybelle's Peep Show

A little preface about me and my tastes: I like just about everything. As long as it makes me think, laugh or feel good, and it's well written, I like it. Even if it's pink and girly or dark and gritty or fancy and literary. Ok? Here we go.

I'm wild about this month's Blog That Works. I met this sparkly blogger at one of my Blog to Book workshops but had the pleasure of reviewing her blog before the event, so I could get a good feel for what she was trying to accomplish with her online platform so far. And I was not disappointed. This former agent wished for a split second she was signing writers again - really, I would have nabbed her right then and there and figured out the finer details later - Ms. Christine Rose Elle's, Dollybelle's Peep Show delivered a well organized and visually stimulating blog package in pink. With ruffles and polka dots. Not only was the delivery stimulating (my inner 7 year old felt like she was in the middle of the Barbie aisle at Target!), but the content was fun, fresh and absolutely delightful.

Here's how the daily peep show rolls out, thematically: Candyman Monday; Sweet Treat Tuesday; Well-being Wednesday; Flirty Thursday; and La Femme Friday. All with a very feminine angle but also with humor, thought, heart and keen attention to detail (Christine has an impressive background in fashion and costume design in LA and San Francisco and worked for over a decade for Betsy Johnson). She covers everything from Dita Von Teese to literature's more handsome fellas to listening to your inner Lovey Howell (yes, the classy lady from Gilligan's Island).

Bottom line: the whole package from the fun and sparkly visuals, to the organization of the posts, to Christine's unique voice and fresh perspective and modern take on feminism, to her professional background, hooked me. 

And now she's launched a new ezine, Belle Femme Gazette, which cross references/publishes content from DPS along with original contributions from other writers. Way to build that platform, Christine!

Here's my interview with Christine Rose Elle, creator of Dollybelle's Peep Show (and Belle Femme Gazette):

What inspired you to create Dollybelle’s Peep Show?

CRE: "I started Dollybelle’s Peepshow when I moved to Rome Italy so that I would have a way to share with my friends and family all the wonderful experiences I thought I might have.  The posts I did from Italy were all very visual and inspiration based. I don’t think my family actually read my blog that much, but it seemed to resonate with ladies like me who love culture and beauty."

How have the daily posts inspired your writing?

CRE: "For me one of the main benefits of posting daily, in addition to getting really creative with content, is that it has forced me to deal with my “perfectionism.” I consider perfectionism a terrible malady for creating because when our standards and expectations are stringent and impossibly high, we tend not to share our thoughts, ideas and creativity because it isn’t quite up to our standards yet. Only it never will be.  So I learned that the health of my productivity is dependent on the notion that I don’t have to be perfect. I do my best, and then put it out there."

You write a lot about the idea of “radiance" - it's a big part of your hook. Tell us a little bit about what you mean by living radiantly. How does your blog help us to be mindful of radiant living?

CRE: "We all know radiant people when we see them, and there is something about them that is so inspiring. People, who cherish themselves so deeply, become masterful at self-care and nurturing. They know that this is the one precious life that we have, and they follow their bliss accordingly. Radiant people are not perfect, they just can see the big picture and know how to fit into it with self-confidence and self-love. This is their gift to others.

My blog is about the pursuit of this radiance. How can we get more mindful of our daily actions, cherish ourselves and this life, and hopefully inspire others to do the same.

My particular pursuit of radiance comes out of my love for style, glamour and femininity. I feel like my best self when I have a pretty dress on and cute shoes. Like so many other women, one of my icons is Audrey Hepburn. She had radiance in spades. It wasn’t just her outer beauty that people loved so much, but her sweet and generous heart."

If you had to choose a favorite day to post, which would it be?

CRE: "I live for Well-being Wednesday. Those are the posts that I think really reflect who I am. I am always on a quest for a more mindful life. These are the posts that just flow out of me. I don’t even know where half of them come from.  But I know that I so deeply and sincerely want the well being for all women. And this quest begins with nurturing self, and feeling confident that this self-love will spill out and inspire others."

And just for fun, given your background (and because I love clothes), if your life could be personified as a fashion item, what would it be?

CRE: "I think my life used to be a tightly laced corset. Terribly beautiful on the outside, but constricting and suffocating.

When I began my quest for well-being, my life turned into that perfect vintage pink polka dot dress. Fitted to perfection, glamorous, comfortable, a few flaws, and the most delicious flowey, twirly skirt. Perfect for the creative adventures of a lady with much to do, but who makes time to smell the roses too."

I encourage you to stop by Dollybelle's Peep Show and have a look at this well branded blog. After reading some of the posts and feasting your eyes on the visuals, you'll feel like you've had a nice chat with your best girlfriend in her pink vintage kitchen. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Focus and Today's Writer: The Long Pitch

In my most recent article for Pitch University, I discuss the difference between what I consider the "short" pitch - the air tight, expertly crafted query letter or face to face pitch that allows your foot in the door (partial or full manuscript read) and the "long" pitch, the foundation upon which your craft is built and how all that experience appears on paper. 

Expertly crafted pitches will only open doors for you if your work is great and you have the platform to back up the work. You could have a fabulous query letter that's been hand crafted for you by an expert but if the actual writing of your book doesn't live up to that query, it's over. I see this happen more often today than I did as an agent nearly 10 years ago. Why? Does it have to do with all the new resources and services focused ONLY on pitching? Perhaps, but those resources aren't the problem - they're a GREAT tool available to writers when the time is right. I feel it's because more and more people are pulling up to the writing table wanting to write but don't want to take that oh-so-necessary time to learn the craft, build on their skill and get their work seen before they approach an agent or publishing house.  

Writers, there are no short cuts. I don't care if you want to self-publish or go the traditional route, if you're just starting out, if you've just been at this thing for a few years, you must learn to write well and begin to make your work public in some form or another before you approach the publishing world. This track record of success becomes your platform - the thing you desperately need to really get your foot in the door of a publishing house or as many would say, into a reader's hands. But the process is not the same for all writers.

Fiction Authors

It might help, but you don’t need an MFA to write a brilliant, compelling, thoughtful, kick-butt novel. However, you do need a track record. It could be built on the shoulders of a career in journalism as with Tom Wolfe. It could be built in the wordsmithing operation of an advertising firm, or it could be built on nothing but the natural ability of being a keen observer. The point is that you have to start somewhere, baby steps if you like, but you’ve got to get your work out there. It needs to be seen, critically evaluated and someone other than your mother needs to see its value. If you’re not building on a track record, you are nowhere as a writer.  I’ve seen writers without any talent go on for years deluding themselves, believing all they needed was a break, and what they really needed was someone to tell them the truth. You need to be part of a writing community that speaks to your genre and supports your ongoing education as a writer.

Many literary writers submit their work to literary magazines or journals. Some enjoy contests and the vigor of competition. This work is all very time consuming and emotionally taxing. You’re earning your spurs. For most it’s a full time commitment, but no one ever said your passion was going to be easy.

Agents and editors expect to see a track record of previous publishing success from newly acquired writers. Does that mean you need to be published in The Iowa or Paris Review? It doesn’t hurt, but there are many reputable literary journals, magazines or other outlets to place your work. What about a blog with ten thousand subscribers? As with anything, you’re only limited by your own imagination. You need an outlet that suits your genre and voice. That’s a beginning. Join organizations that support literary authors and their work. Build your community - learn, contribute, share and submit. Work the process but most importantly, get it in print. Your track record will not only help you get your foot in the door. It will help you assure you have something to offer once you do.

For commercial fiction writers, the same generally holds true – find the outlets and contests that best suit your work and start submitting. If you’re a hard-core genre writer, joining appropriate writers’ organizational chapters is a must! There you will find the resources to help you fortify your craft, thereby strengthening your platform and approach to publishing.

Another good platform builder that helps put food on the table is the freelance article. Can you find an outlet to showcase your subject matter? Is there a newspaper or magazine hook that will fit your needs?  What topics or concepts are explored in your novel? Consider developing an article about those elements. Did you learn anything in your process? Do you have advice for someone? Most magazines for writers offer a section for authors to share a little bit about what they know about writing. How about personal essays? How did you find an agent? What do you have to offer?  What do you care about? I know one author who built a reputation writing letters to the editor and was asked by the paper to write a weekly column. Get creative, it’s your stock in trade.

Blogging is not right for everyone, but if you feel you have the time to develop a solid blog that will serve as a showcase for your writing, it’s an effective way to build a fan base and community. If you can demonstrate numbers to a publisher, there’s nothing more persuasive.

Nonfiction Writers  

Memoir and Essayists: Blog, contribute to blogs, submit to literary journals and magazines, develop your own column and pitch to appropriate newspapers, magazines, websites, etc. Let your perspective be known – find your voice and sell it!

Prescriptive “how to” experts/advocates/specialists:  Consider blogging as a feature to your website. People come to you for advice – you’re the expert – so open the lines of communication and develop your faithful following - extra credit if you offer your community an opportunity to submit material to you - questions, pictures and their on-topic experiences). Build value in your platform and fortify your base. Keep a regular blogging schedule and you will underscore your credibility and professional integrity.

Freelancing is a great experience builder for prescriptive writers. Submit to appropriate journals, magazines, websites, blogs, etc. Put your short pitch game to work by constantly pitching to editors, television and radio segment producers and anyone who might have interest in your services.   Hold workshops and seminars. Get noticed and find success.

Special Topic Writers: The same rules apply if you write about specialized areas of interest like sports, military, religious, history, pop culture and so on. Blog when and if appropriate; submit your work to journals, magazines, newspapers, websites, other blogs; develop new story ideas; pitch to segment producers; pitch to radio; sit on event/lecture panels, etc.  Be seen, be heard and be read.

Remember: The Long Pitch is all about preparation. If you're truly passionate about what you do, there will never be enough time in the day and before you know it, you'll have a platform worth pitching. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Flashback Friday: Becoming Agent Ready - 1

To help prepare you for your literary agent search.

(originally posted, Sept 19, 2010, with a few updates)

I began The Lit Coach, my publishing consultancy and writers’ life coaching practice, after a few years' analysis of how writers approach literary agents and the publishing world in general. If you’ve read my bio, you know I was a literary agent for several years in Los Angeles. After working with many authors, published and yet to be, at every stage of their literary career, a few things became clear: when they began their journey, they didn’t realize the hefty work load that was around the corner; they were so eager to be accepted by an agent, they blissfully ignored bad business practices and glossed over the fine print of the agent contract; they expected their writing career to pay the bills; and they expected the publisher to do all the talking for their book. Writers, there’s really no way to be 100% ready for what lies ahead on your publishing path, but there are a few key rules of the road you need to understand before you head out on this journey.

Rule #1 Writing is WORK

I'm talking about writing for money, here. I'm talking about earning a living off the thing you're most passionate about. Finishing a novel or nonfiction book is a lot of work, right? Agreed. Anyone who completes their own book should give themselves a well deserved pat on the back or in my case, something edible. It’s an accomplishment few can boast about. But most of the time when an agent wants to represent you and your project, chances are you’ll have to rework it. And if you’re not reworking your book (which is totally rare, unless you’ve hired a top notch professional editor to make it sparkle), you’ll have to work on boosting your platform, creating a web presence, tracking down info/pictures/blurbs for your book or making connections. There’s always something to do to make your whole package better. It takes an abundance of time, effort, energy, enthusiasm and most of all, persistence.

And then, hallelujah! Your book sells! I can’t express the mix of emotions you’ll experience, but it’s a great day to be remembered. At that moment, or soon after, you’ll realize all the hard work you put into your creation was so totally worth it. But it doesn’t end there, my dears. You’ve got a new publishing family to meet who will be expecting even MORE work from you. But you know, to do anything brilliantly well, you’re going to have to work more and ___ (insert sleep, watch TV, screw around on facebook) less. That’s just the way it is, right?

Writing a book and publishing it is a full time job that pays first. When you've finally got a few successful titles under your belt, you'll only continue to work to keep your career going by publishing articles, speaking to groups, sitting on panels with other successful authors, etc.; it’s A LOT of work (did I say that already?), but FUN! So if you’re going to enter this club, be ready to roll up your sleeves. Keeping yourself relevant in the world or words takes a heck of a lot of effort. But what else would you rather be doing?

ACTION: For those of you who are writing around full time jobs, families and other responsibilities and obligations, plan your writing time and agent search around these need-to-do activities. It's often said writing is a selfish practice and as writers, we choose to steal time away from these other activities and responsibilities to focus on ourselves. It doesn't have to be this way. Choose to schedule your writing around your more important responsibilities, like your job and caring for your children. It's not a race. There's no need to rush out your novel or hurry up to find an agent. You've got time, so enjoy your life and enjoy the process. Yes, it's work and you'll need to make a few time sacrifices. Maybe that means less screen time...not a bad switch. Most importantly, be clear with your family or those you live with that the time you devote to writing/pitching is sacred and can't be interrupted, unless it's an emergency, of course.

For those of you who don't have many obligations to schedule your writing time around, realize your gift of time is precious and use it wisely. Work smart and always plan your weeks ahead of time. Working without a plan leads to distraction. You'll avoid this altogether if you work your plan, letting that positive momentum drive you forward.

Rule #2 Agents come in several packages; choose wisely

Writers, there are three kinds of agents:

The Snow Whites or Prince Galants: These are the wonderfully talented agents out there who will practically hold your hand every step of the way down your publishing path, always ready to steer you clear of a series of unfortunate events, making sure you’re all singing a happy tune. I'm glad to tell you, there are many agents like this out there working anywhere from home offices to high rise suites from New York to Kansas to California . If you've signed on with this agent, thank your lucky stars and send her/him a bottle of wine or gift card to Starbucks. Often. Advance payments from publishers don’t cover all the good they do for writers in this world.

The Moguls and Mavens: These agents are good at what they do, often brilliant. They have fabulous client lists and offices to die for, but they are not likely to invite you to The Hamptons or The Club unless you’re a six figure deal. You are a business property in their eyes (and make no mistake, publishing is a business!). While their agent aura is certainly awe-inspiring, their direct attitudes can be off-putting, leaving you searching for a sweater. This agent is all about the business and only for the very self assured writer.

The Wild Cards: These are the agents who will leave you with a funny feeling after talking with them or reviewing their agency agreement/contract. They are also the agents who leave you feeling like a scolded 1st grader for not pitching them correctly at writers' conferences and events. Sure, they seem fabulous upon first meet, they have some successful clients and seem legit but it appears their business practices are questionable (charging reading fees, editorial fees or other unreasonable expenses). They’ll hold you to an unreasonably long contract (these contracts should hold you no longer than 12 months, at which time you can re-negotiate. Better yet, opt for a letter of understanding which clearly outlines both party’s obligations and expectations, holding neither of you to an iron clad contract if the agent is not working in your best interest). Always go with your gut with these folks, writers. If something smells fishy, just pass no matter how badly you want to be represented. No representation is ALWAYS better than bad representation! Remember that.

The point is, agent characteristics aside, you should only sign on with an agent you feel 100% confident about and be assured they'll work in your best interest, be it with Prince Galant or Ms. Diva.

Caution: You should never pay fees of any kind with a reputable agent and there should be a reasonable, traceable effort that shows your agent is trying to sell your work. While it would be unreasonable to demand real time progress reports from your agent, he/she should be willing to share at least the first names of the editors they've sent your work to and to which publishing houses. You should also receive copies of all pass letters. Before you sign on with an agent, discuss how you will be notified of when your project is going out and it's progress along the way.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Practice Your Book Pitch with The Pros Event: Santa Monica, Sept 1!

I'm delighted to be a part of the "Practice Your Book Pitch with The Pros: Learn to Become a Bestseller" panel, hosted by bestselling and award-winning author, radio host and book consultant, Jennifer S. Wilvok at Santa Monica's Bergamot Station, Thursday, September 1st from 6:30 PM to 9:00 PM.

Space is limited so reserve your seat soon. Ticket fee, only $40.00.

Click HERE to link to the event page for details and reserve your seat.

Event Details:

For you to be successful with your book,
you'll need to be prepared to talk about it.

You never know when you'll have an opportunity to talk about your book. Someone asks you, "What's your book about?" ...and maybe you fumble for what to say, start rambling on, or stutter and can't figure out what to say.

Join us for an evening of learning how to talk effectively about your book in a safe space with industry pros.

** This event is limited to 25 people so we can give you our specific attention on your individual book pitch. **

What You'll Learn:

  • How to write a pitch like a Hollywood pro
  • The secrets of pitching your way into a literary agent's heart
  • Fool-proof ways to apply concise copy to your book marketing platform and promotional efforts
  • How to effectively answer the question, "So, what's your book about?"

Here's what Charlie said after attending this event:

"Jennifer and her guests are consummate book publishing insiders and were very generous and specific with their advice, which was spot on."

Don't get caught in another conversation about your book
that you don't feel ready for.

Featuring Special Guests:

Dan Fauci

Former Executive at Paramount Pictures, Film Producer & Artist Creator of The Mastery of Self-Expression Program

Dan facilitates The MASTERY of Self Expression in Los Angeles. He is the creator of the program, and also created the programs Leadership and Creativity, The Abyss and Samarai.

Dan founded The Actors Institute, a school for professional actors, in 1975. Within ten years, the Institute grew to include branches in New York, Los Angeles,

Chicago, Seattle, Vancouver, Austin, Montreal, Toronto, London, Bristol, Paris, and several cities in Israel. Dan and the Institute then branched off into producing. Their first production was Looking Glass, a play about Lewis Carroll. Dan then partnered with Ted Danson, and in two years produced three movies for televison: When The Bough Breaks (NBC), We Are The Children (ABC), and Follow Your Heart (which Dan co-wrote for NBC), and the series Down Home with Judith Ivey (NBC).

After four years as an independent producer, Dan went to work for Paramount Pictures, heading comedy development. Over the next twelve years he oversaw the development of over 100 comedy pilots, half of which went to series. The most successful was Frasier, winning five Emmys for best comedy. Other shows he developed were Becker, Clueless, Girlfriends, Lateline and Sister, Sister.

Erin Reel
Known as The Lit Coach and a publishing and editorial consultant and writer's life coach

She is the host of The Lit Coach’s Guide to The Writer’s Life, a popular resource blog featuring stories, tips and fresh perspective from bestselling, award-winning and notable authors, literary agents, editors, publishers and other industry insiders.

A former Los Angeles based literary agent with nearly 10 years of experience in the publishing industry she was selected to contribute to Making the Perfect Pitch: How to Catch a Literary Agent’s Eye, edited by Katharine Sands; and Rick Frishman and Robyn Freedman Spizman’s Author 101: Bestselling Secrets from Top Agents as an independent literary agent under 30.

Event Host:

Jennifer S. Wilkov
Media personality, host and producer of the popular # 1 radio talk show "Your Book Is Your Hook!" on

Jennifer is a best-selling award-winning author, an award-winning freelance writer and a respected book business consultant in her business by the same name, "Your Book Is Your Hook!"

She is also the creator and founder of The Next Bestseller(TM) Workshop Weekend for Writers.

"This is your unique opportunity to see the power of what this evening event can really do for your book, and in turn, for your life. The professionals I ask to join me for these events are busy with their businesses of selling and promoting books. I've asked them to take time out to work directly with you on your pitch and the presentation of your book during this evening.

The result? Learn how to clearly state the hook for your book to anyone at anytime.

No more fumbling for what to say, rambling on, or stuttering while trying to figure out what to say.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Focus and Today's Writer - A Brief Manifesto by Lidia Yuknavitch

All this month the lit guests who've contributed to this blog have discussed their own experience with focus in this new age of social media (relatively speaking): how they use the medium as a way to build their author platform, promote their work and connect with readers; and what this all means in the evolution of the writer and the publishing industry.

But what about this medium's affect on creativity? Will status updates and 140 characters be the new micro flash fiction or narrative?

Today I give the floor to Lidia Yuknavitch, author of the acclaimed memoir The Chronology of Water (Hawthorne Books, 2011), to share her brief manifesto of focus and today's writer. Enjoy.

I pour my coffee I put half-and-half in it I shuffle over to the CYCLOPS I open a window.

I check my yahoo email I check my gmail email I check my email at work and at my website and my blog and oh yeah over at Linked In. I slug more joe I open another window. I check my facebook email I check the facebook live feed most recent stories I check my facebook friends' pages I try again to think of a clever pithy witticism to post as my status or maybe it's a sad or tired day and I'm neither clever nor pithy and I post an image of a dead bird. I drink coffee. Five people post comments about the dead bird. I check my book page I check my fan page I make sure they are not sad and lonely I respond to the five posts about the dead bird image ten more appear. Then there are all those friends whose walls I need to comment on, don't I? So they know I care and am engaged and just to reach out and touch?

What are my favorite Youtube songs and which one should I post?

How did it get to be 5:30 pm and who opened that god damn window and am I really still wearing my bathrobe and HEY! It’s 5:30 pm! Where is my cocktail?

Here it is straight-no-chaser: the only way I can balance my creative process as a writer with all the varieties of social media competing for my attention through the giant CYCLOPS otherwise known as my computer is to make the very forms of its existence part of everything I write.

In other words, while I’ve got all those media going on the CYCLOPS I think about formal strategies in writing to make use of. Fragmented narratives. Characters whose identities are cut up and displaced over a sea of technologies. Voices overlapping and interrupting and threatening to steal plots. Status updates as dialogue.

You see, I’ve given up. I’ve surrendered to the dominant modes of production of my time, just like I did with television, just like I did with film, just like I did when I owned my first computer and began to cry with joy that a technology for making stories finally existed that was IMAGE BASED and multilayered. Just like inside my head.

So my fellow social mediaheads. Facehookers. G-stringers. Stop worrying about the trash you didn’t take out and the clothes you didn’t wash and the dishes piling up in the sink. Those edits your publisher needs? Playfully twist them into status updates and share them with us; better yet, let us do some of them for you. Start reading facebook like you would a novel. Write novels that admit this is how we now live and love.

Comrades. Unite. Surrender. It’s our turn to quit acting attacked and take over the mode of production for what it is: another form of making.

m.02 (my two cents worth)

143 (I love you)

14AA41 (one for all and all for one)

99 (parent is no longer watching)

?^ (hook up?)

About the Contributor

(credit: Hawthorne Books)

Lidia Yuknavitch is the author of three works of short fiction: Her Other Mouths, Liberty's Excess, and Real to Reel, as well as a book of literary criticism, Allegories of Violence. Her works has appeared in Ms., The Iowa Review, Exquisite Corpse, Another Chicago Magazine, Fiction International, Zyzzyva, and elsewhere. Her book Real to Reel was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award and she is the recipient of awards and fellowships from Poets and Writers and Literary Arts, Inc. Her work appears in the anthologies Life As We Show It (City Lights), Forms at War (FC2), and Wreckage of Reason (Spuytin Duyvil). She teaches writing, literature, film and women's studies in Oregon.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Focus and Today's Writer - A Blogshop with Award-Winning Author, Ellen Meister

Today, award-winning author Ellen Meister (The Other Life; The Smart One; Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA) shares her secret to staying focused when faced with the reality of being an author in the age of social media, as we continue our focus on, well, Focus in a Writer's Life. I asked Ellen to contribute because she is easily one author I enjoy following who is clearly managing her bustling online presence and book promotion with grace and energy...and appears to be having fun!

EM: When people get even a whiff of how busy I am online, they look at me with the pity they reserve for an individual suffering intractable pain and say, "How do you DO it?"

They assume, of course, that there's some special secret, some hidden key to finding time to maintain such a ubiquitous online presence, especially since my personal life is jam-packed with three kids and my professional life is rife with demands and deadlines.

I suppose they wonder if I have the help of some new tech invention that does it all for me. Or if I have a team of geeks in my basement drinking Red Bull and typing out status updates.

Neither of these is true, of course, though I will admit that there is a secret. Otherwise I couldn't maintain all these active accounts:

A Twitter feed geared toward the writing community

A personal Facebook page

A professional Facebook page (the term "fan page" makes me cringe)

A website

A blog

A group for published and aspiring authors at CafeMom

Participation in a group blog for women authors

An active social presence at, a once-vibrant but now (sniff) dwindling writing community

Facebook page for Dorothy Parker to help create a platform for my next book

Twitter feed for Dorothy Parker to help create a platform for my next book

The big secret? Quite simply, I enjoy it.

Think about it. You know all those people who seem so amazed that you have time to read? They, apparently, have no time in their lives for such luxury.

But if you asked them what happened on the last episode of The Jersey Shore or who got bumped from Dancing with the Stars, they'd be able to tell you. Why? Because they like it.

But enjoying your online presence isn't just a way to find time for it. It's a way to be successful at it. Because if you're just going through the motions, posting updates for the sake of having something, anything, spewing into cyberspace, you're not going to make any real connections. And that's what it's truly about. They call it social media for a reason.

So that's my best advice to anyone trying to build an online presence—post about the things that speak to YOU ... and you'll speak to others, too.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to set my DVR ...

TLC: Managing your writer's life is all about setting priorities. If you choose wisely, you'll have enough energy and focus to do what you need to do to stand out to your reader AND have fun doing it. Will there ever be enough time? No. Just breathe, take it day by day and most of all, enjoy the process.

Also, please note, Ellen has chosen social media accounts and activity that make sense for her. She's also highly organized. Only attempt Ellen's example if you're a master of time management.

Here's to Focus in your week!


About the Contributor

Ellen Meister is the author of three novels. Her most recent book, THE OTHER LIFE (Putnam), has been nominated by BookPage for the Top 20 Books of 2011 and by the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association for Book of the Year. It was also selected by the Austin Public Library for their Best Fiction of 2011 list, and was singled out by the American Booksellers Association for the prestigious Indie Next List. It is currently under option with HBO for a television series. She lives in Long Island, New York and is at work on her fourth novel FAREWELL, DOROTHY PARKER. For more information visit

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Lit Coach Sale for Nonfiction Writers

The sale continues!

Nonfiction Service Packages:

Is your nonfiction book proposal agent ready? Even if you skip the agent route to self-publish, is your concept clear? Will your title stand out on the shelf? Do you know your market and how you will promote your book?

Here are a few services I offer to help you get your work moving in the right direction. Sale prices end August 31st. Email me at to inquire about packages and arrange your time with me.

The Lit Coach Express:

Have a nonfiction book idea but need direction on how to present it to an agent? Have questions about which publishing path is right for you - traditional, indie, self or e? Not sure about the best way to reach your audience? Need to know how to get started building that crucially important author platform? Maybe an hour long phone/skype session with me is all you need to get you started in the right direction.

Sale, $100; regularly $150.

Full Length Nonfiction Book Proposal Read and Critique:

I will review your nonfiction book proposal in full and send you my detailed editorial direction notes prior to our scheduled one and a half long skype/phone session. We will discuss the notes, your questions, how to approach an agent or the self-publishing world with your work and next steps.

Sale: $575; regularly $625. Please allow approximately 1-2 weeks for this service.

More and more writers are coming to the table with fabulous book concepts but no author platform. If you are an unknown "expert" or "specialist" with a breakout book idea, it's time to plump up your platform. Agents and editors will not consider your work if you do not have this very important piece in place prior to submitting your book for consideration.

Platform Development Counsel:

I will offer a full review of your pertinent book material (and supporting creative material); full assessment of your current blog, newsletter and other social media approaches (if applicable); assessment of what makes you an "expert," "specialist," or "advocate" - your education, special training, etc.; and explore your career and publishing goals. THEN, I will create a plan of action for you to implement to build your specialist platform.

Please keep in mind, a platform can take anywhere from 18months or more to build. Your coaching time with me is limited (but we can work week by week, under a different coaching plan); it's up to you to build your platform. You need to have this in place before you publish, whichever publishing route you decide. People will only invest their time and money in a book written by an expert with a track record of success.

Sale: $2800; regularly, $3250.

Which package is right for you?


"Without the skilled intervention and enthusiastic support of Erin Reel, Twinspiration would simply be a "what if?" pipe dream rather than a published text in bookstores and on nightstands nationwide. Erin's insight, verve, and commitment are unparalleled and unrelenting. If you want to see your idea for a book go from concept to concrete, I implore you, put on your uniform, start your stretches, and hire The Lit Coach!” Cheryl Lage, blogger and author of Twinspiration: Real Life Advice From Pregnancy Through the First Year

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Do Lit Coaches Have Sales? Why Not!

I've never offered a sale on my services before. But you know, the busiest time in the publishing season is right around the corner and I'm hard-wired for back-to-school sales, so let's combine the two. Right here. This is the first annual "Dear Lit Coach, Help Me Get My Manuscript/Proposal/Platform in Shape for The Fall Submission Rush" SALE!

Fiction Writers! Click here to see more thorough details on regular service packages. (Nonfiction writers, I'll be sending out something special for you Friday.)

The Lit Coach Express: One hour scheduled phone/skype session to discuss your specific questions and concerns about your approach to literary agents, the publishing industry, self and e-publishing, your author platform, synopsis and query letter crafting, writer's life issues, focus, etc. Sale price, $100 (regularly $150). Book as many as you like in August...the sessions can lapse into September, as long they're booked in August. You follow?

Full manuscript Read and Critique with editorial notes and a one and a half hour phone/skype session for $900 (Regularly $1200).

Save This Novel Workshop: Stuck mid-draft? Send me your novel in its current form of development and I will help you untangle your plot knots, capture runaway characters and help lead you toward developing a smashing climax and resolution. Service includes full review of your novel "so far," editorial notes emailed to you and 5 scheduled one-hour long phone/skype sessions discussing the notes and further direction for $1000 (regularly $1350).

Must sign up now through August 31 to take advantage of the sale price. Space and time is limited. (Seriously, my dears, I am a one woman show!)

Email me at to get started.

Please note: For manuscript reviews, allow 2-4 weeks depending on availability.


"Enthusiasm, education and an eye for excellence are the benefits writers reap when they work with Erin Reel as an editor. She offers the ultimate combination of industry experience and compassion for the writer’s need to complete a well-written, well-presented manuscript that will set them successfully on their path to get published. As a literary life coach, Erin provides insights into the range of emotions a writer may experience as they practice and hone their writing craft. She also has the talent to support writers with the essential elements and cornerstones of a strong and saleable manuscript. I have a high regard for her work and I enjoy recommending her to my clients for her editing prowess." ~ Jennifer S. Wilkov, book business consultant, radio show host & best-selling author, Your Book Is Your Hook!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Focus and Today's Writer - A Blogshop with Literary Agent Bree Ogden

The topic of author platform came up in a professional editorial group I'm in (doesn't it always?). The hot button issue was when do writers need to build their web presence - before, while or after they finish their manuscript?

Today I give the floor to literary agent, Bree Ogden with Martin Literary Management Group to shed some perspective on the what comes first, the author or the platform issue as we continue our focus on FOCUS in a writer's life this month.

BO: Aspiring young adult writers, I’m talking to you. How many Twitter followers do you have? High hundreds? In the thousands, you say? What about blog followers? You’re kidding me! 600?? Wow! Impressive!

So…where can I buy your book? Oh it’s not published? I see…

So admittedly, that was a bratty introduction. But sometimes you have to be bratty to get a point across (Sorry, mom). While creating a huge and loyal fan base is just the bee’s knees, it won’t necessarily help you get you manuscript published. And that’s what I want to talk to you about today.

Where is your focus and is it in the right place?

All the followers in the world aren’t going to write that manuscript for you. They aren’t going to query that agent and they sure aren’t going to convince an editor to shell out upwards of 60K for a manuscript that you neglected because you were too busy tweeting and blogging.

It’s a bit of a vicious cycle, it is. Your fan base doesn’t matter until you have a book deal, but once you have a book deal you are too busy editing to build a fan base. There is, however, one social media outlet that will help you when your agent is trying to get you that coveted book deal or even more importantly, when you are trying to land an agent.

Blogs/Web sites!

A word about blogs; it’s not about how many followers you have who have actually “subscribed” to your blog. It’s all about the stats. How many hits do you get a month? Where are those hits directed? Are they going to that guest post Stephanie Meyer wrote for you, or are they directed to the page about your manuscript. (The latter is a more beneficial place for them to be hitting).

Are you following?

Editors care more that your blog is getting attention because of the product they might possibly spend thousands of dollars on. If I may use one of my clients as an example: He has a Web site that generates an insane amount of hits a month. But he has a variety of his other projects and work on his Web site and only a small portion of it is dedication to his manuscript that I represent. However, 47% of his Web site hits go straight to that particular section. Now that’s something to write home about. Of the 20 or so other pages that people can explore on his Web site, nearly half his hits go to his manuscript page.

I know. I’ve just told you to focus on your manuscript before worrying too much about a fan base, and then I tell you how impressive it is to have a ton of hits on your site. Here is the distinction. And it’s a big one.

His work is completed.

Once you’ve written, rewritten, rewritten, edited, reedited, reedited and perfected your manuscript, that’s when you focus on a fan base. That’s not to say you can’t slowly build it up while you are working on you manuscript. But I know how tempting it is to get distracted with all the fun social media. And that, my friends, without a completed manuscript, is a road to nowhere.

TLC: Writers, publishers expect a lot from you. They want a knock-out manuscript, they want you to publicize yourself and sell your book in a very big way. Don't lose your focus, my dears. You've got to have something to sell before you can sell it and something to talk about before you go social.

About the Contributor

Holding a master’s degree in Journalism from Northeastern University, Bree Ogden of Martin Literary Management represents graphic novels, children’s books and young adult. Bree has a passion for the middle grade genre, especially boy-centric fiction. She loves dark and quirky humor, as well as dark writing in general. While she is not a huge fan of paranormal or supernatural in young adult, she loves sci-fi and horror. Bree finds inspiration in the television shows Dexter and the late Pushing Daisies, classical music, authors that can entertain while building the imagination and writers without egos. She loves anything that will make her scream in terror or laugh in delight.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Focus and Today's Writer - A Blogshop with indie author, Brandon Tietz

This last year left me a little concerned about the role of social media in the writer's life and how all this seemingly instant socialization affects a writer's focus. As I've said in previous posts, writers (well, writers 35+) have had to evolve pretty quickly to keep up with the PR demands of most traditional publishing houses and compete with the thousands of other books begging for attention. All this competition is a lot to think about. As a result, I'm seeing more writers consider the market and their marketing plan before they have a finished product.

Marketing and PR is an important piece of the publishing picture, but what I'm seeing on my end are too many writers dreaming and scheming about how they're going to get their book into your hands or onto your reading device BEFORE the book is finished. Somewhere along the way, more attention is focused on sales and all things social than craft and the book finds its way to me needing TLC. And my answer to the distracted writer is, "Snap out of it!" (she says with Snow White kindness).

Enough is enough. I'm introducing FOCUS as a new writer's virtue, which will be our focus all month.

This week, indie author of Out of Touch and Chuck Palahniuk Writers' Workshop moderator Brandon Tietz snaps us back into focus with 5 must-implement essentials of writing, platform building and social media profile development.

Via Twitter, we now know which celebrity is on bump alert.

We know which pop star is in rehab by Facebook update.

And we know that you have a novel for sale.

This is your “instant voice.” It’s how you keep hundreds—potentially thousands of people in the loop about what’s going on with you.

So you tweet about your book, and you upload pictures of the cover art to Tumblr and your Wordpress, and then you start a Facebook fan page because you know you’re going to be a New York Times bestseller one day. You say “buy my book” in every online corner you can imagine. The problem is that everyone with a screenplay, modeling portfolio, or Nikon camera hanging around their neck is doing this too. Surrounded by all this competition, it’s hard to feel special.

So the big question is: you’re demanding all this attention, but do you really deserve it?

Just like with anything in a creative field, you have to earn it. So here are some tips to social networking as they relate to writing.

1.) First things first, your novel can’t suck. I don’t care if you reached your 5,000-person friend limit on Facebook or how many Twitter followers you have, if your book is shit, you’ll be seeing #craptasticbook hashtags with your name mentioned left and right. Always remember that craft takes priority over marketing. The most important thing about writing is and always will be: the writing.

2.) Don’t be spam. This is the biggest mistake I see aspiring authors make in relation to social networking. Around the second or third “buy my book” tweet of the day is usually when I click the “unfollow” button.

3.) Publication is the best kind of networking; it’s a reason to pay attention to you. A published short story or an article in a literary magazine will not only give you credibility, but also serves as a form of marketing by association.

4.) Don’t neglect in-person appearances. Live events are meant to be the proverbial pay-off for both the reader and author alike. I can honestly say that a good review will never compare to the sound of applause, so go out and do something. The whole point of social networking is to further enable being social in real life. Don’t forget that.

5.) Turn off the “author” switch from time to time. Some of the most interesting authors I follow talk about their work in less than half their posts. The rest is mentions of random things in their lives: what they’re reading, a good movie, etc. Never forget that a public persona also involves you being a regular person.

These are tips to keep you from getting buried in the static that is social networking—not hard and fast rules. Ultimately, you have to decide what works best for you. Finding your social voice may very well be just as difficult as discovering your literary one, but not impossible by any means.

This is probably the best top 5 rules for using social media to your benefit list I've seen. Feel free to use them after your major crafting is all wrapped up.

And of course, if you have tips that help you stay focused please share.

Here's to getting FOCUSED!


About the Contributor

Brandon Tietz is the author of Out of Touch and one of the moderators of the Chuck Palahniuk Writers' Workshop. He has been published in Cannoli Pie Magazine, Red Fez Publications, Troubadour 21, Outsider Writers Collective, and the upcoming Velvet Anthology, along with flagship authors, Stephen Graham Jones and Craig Clevenger. His next book, a themed collection, is called Vanity. You can visit him at his official website: