Posts Tagged ‘book agent’

From Tiny Blog to Book Deal to Oprah

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

Here’s a true story to help you understand how to get noticed by hundreds of thousands of people and eventually have the media begging for interviews with you.

If you want to be in this position *before* you publish your book, follow the lead of Christopher Greenslate and his partner, Kerri Leonard, who teach English and social justice in a southern California high school.

Teachers Christopher Greenslate and Kerri Leonard got a book deal after they ate on just a dollar a day.

Teachers Christopher Greenslate and Kerri Leonard got a book deal after they ate on just a dollar a day.

One day, while they were discussing their extremely high grocery bill, they thought about people in third world countries who lived on just a dollar a day. Then they asked themselves a question that would literally change their lives: What would it be like to eat on a budget like that?

They decided to conduct an experiment to find out. Greenslate and Leonard would subsist on a one dollar a day diet.

(more…)

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What Adam Sandler and Sandra Bullock Can Do For Your Book

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009
If you want a literary agent, mine the humor in your life story, like Carrie Fisher does in "Wishful Drinking."

If you want a literary agent, mine the humor in your life story, like Carrie Fisher does in "Wishful Drinking."

In my interviews with publishing professionals, one thing has come across loud and clear: You can make literary agents and editors take a chance on you if you’re funny.

So even if you’re writing a serious account about your life, you have to mine the humor in it. There’s always something funny.

Carrie Fisher’s new book, Wishful Drinking, is about recollecting the memories she lost through electroshock therapy, which she went through voluntarily to beat depression.

Nonetheless, she had me laughing so loudly in just the first chapter, they almost kicked me out of Borders.

When one of my clients read me her pitch for her screenplay and her novel, it came across,it came across as too sanctimonious.

Though her book is about a very difficult personal challenge, some of the relationships in it reminded me of Driving Miss Daisy. Plus there were elements to her story that reminded me of Three Men and a Baby.

So I asked her to look at her pitch again. This time, though, I told her to imagine the people  in her life story as being played by Dwayne  “The Rock” Johnson, Brendan Fraser, and Bette Midler.

She immediately understood how her pitch could be more light-hearted.

Just because something’s serious doesn’t mean there isn’t comedy in it.

I was once in an acting class where a guy was doing a monologue from a play called The Strongest Man in the World. He read every line like the toughest guy you can find.

The teacher asked him to recite the monologue again, only this time, to say the line as though he was the queeniest gay guy in San Francisco.

He did it, and it was brilliant, because he found all the humor and  sarcasm that he had missed the first time.  After that reading, he took what he discovered and blended  into his original interpretation.

So whatever you’re writing, particularly if it’s serious, sit back and imagine that the people in it are played in it are played by whoever makes you laugh. For me, that’s Adam Sandler, Jack Black, Sandra Bullock and Jennifer Aniston.

I guarantee you’ll see your work in a whole new light.

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7 TV Shows Authors are Guaranteed to Get On

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

What do Elvira, The Food Network’s Bobby Flay, and comedian Tom Green all have in common?

They all started out on public access television.

PBS affiliate KTCA even picked up a program called Mental Engineering that started at SPNN, the public access channel of Saint Paul, Minnesota.

With more than 700 stations throughout the world, public access television is the easiest way for any author to get on the air virtually anywhere. (For a list of U.S. stations, go here:  http://mappingaccess.org/)

And if you create just one video, it will get multiple plays.

My local community television station, CTV of Santa Cruz, (www.CommunityTV.org),will air a half hour or one hour show a minimum of ten times in the first month. If you create something short, they will air it even more often.

And they have three different channels: one for government related programs, one for educational material, and one for general material. So any work that can deemed educational in nature, which would include anything in the self-help or how-to categories, and probably even children’s books, will air on two stations.

The kicker is, they have to air anything of a non-commercial nature that any resident of Santa Cruz County brings to them. All you have to do is fill out a form and make sure your video meets their technical requirements.

And here’s the secret sauce: I can bring them ANY video—by anyone. So you could live in Zimbabwe, send me a video, and if I bring it to CTV, they will air it.

And if you bring my video to your station, at least in the U.S, they will put my show on your channel. So if you can get enough friends, relatives, clients and/or subscribers to bring your video to a community television station, you could literally create a national show.

You could easily create seven shows—or get one show to air in seven cities.

Gerard Butler could have easily gotten a literary agent when he went from public access TV to a regular broadcast show in The Ugly Truth.

Gerard Butler could have easily gotten a literary agent when he went from public access TV to a regular broadcast show in The Ugly Truth.

There’s another reason this is important. Video is already the future of the internet. According to Business Week, as far back as last November there were more video views than searches: 12.7 billion viewings as opposed to 12.3 billion searches.

So you should be making videos anyway. Why not use the same videos to air on your local TV station?

Plus, your chance of getting a video on the front page of Google is 45 times greater than the odds of getting your text page on the first page of a search.

For this strategy to be fully effective, you need to have a reason for people to come to your Web site after they see your show. You could give away a special report, or fr/ee chapters of your book—or if you are a children’s book author, you could give away some coloring book pages with images from your book.

(By the way, this is a killer strategy for children’s book authors. Do a show reading your book, and get it to air everywhere. Or team up with two other children’s book authors for a show, and use everybody’s connections to get the show on the air in as many locations as you possibly can!)

Once you know a show will air, call up the bookstores in the area and make sure they carry your book.

You could even promote a bookstore appearance this way—then tape your appearance at the bookstore and put that on television. Some of these shows air for years—which could mean continuous sales for your book anywhere your show is on.

And if you dream of getting your own TV show, community access could be a good beginning. If you make the leap to a major cable or broadcast show, you wouldn’t be the first.

As a publicist once said to me, “Things lead to things.”

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A Surprising Way to Create a Fanbase

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

I just created a new feature for my e-zine:
Author Freebie of the Week.

I’m finding some great ebooks, podcasts, teleseminars and videos that people are giving away. These items are extremely useful for authors, so I’m enjoying passing them on.

There’s always somebody who is suspicious– in one email
I was asked, “You have got to be kidding nothing is free,
what is the bottom line?”

The truth is, because you’re competing with a simple
Google search, if you want to sell anything, you have
to give a decent amount of content for free. Otherwise,
it’s too hard to land a customer.

A lot of the time the free stuff that’s available on the net is behind a “squeeze page”
where a prospective customer is required to give up their
name and email address in order to get the material
they were promised.

But Ryan Deiss has created a new model where
he gives away the first part, which in his case is a
video, without asking for anything. Then, once you like
part one and you want parts 2,3,4, and 5, you’ll
need to *pay* by giving him your contact information,
which  allows him to pitch you
his products.

You can see an example of how he does this on his Million Dollar Napkin page.

Get a Literary Agent by building a fan base by giving away free information.

Get a literary agent by building a fanbase. Start by giving away free information.

Chris Anderson, whose last book, “The Long Tail”
created a phrase that became a standard part of
current business vernacular, has a new book out
called Free: The Future of a Radical Price. In it
he describes how several offline businesses are profiting
from giveaways. Think cell phones– they are being sold
or given away for free in order to get your subscription.
Publishers Weekly mentions  a surprising example in their review of Anderson’s book:

” . . . In China, piracy accounts for about 95% of music consumption—to the delight of
artists and labels, who profit off free publicity through concerts and merchandising.”

Anderson gave away more than 210,000 copies of his book over a 5 week period. You can still get the first fourteen pages.

And Amazon.com has a twenty minute podcast of Anderson.

Of course, in the book business, there are dozens of stories
about people giving away books for free in order
to develop a following. Seth Godin is the most famous
example in the US. He allowed several hundred thousand
people to download his book, Unleashing the Ideavirus
for free, and then offered the book in hardback for $30.
He sold 40,000 copies–and grossed a neat $1.2 million
dollars. (It may have been 30,000 copies at $40 apiece,
I never remember. But the total value was the same.)

Paulo Coelho, a much richer author, was disturbed that
his books weren’t selling in Russia. He used the same
model–and a million copies were downloaded. He ultimately
wound up selling more than 10 million books in Russia–
and we’re talking novels, not non-fiction.

So if you want to build a fanbase, in today’s market, you have to give things away for free. Everybody’s doing it. Why? Because it works.

And if you want access to my Author Freebie of the Week, plus  a list of top literary agents seeking authors, fill out the form to the right.

Hey, I practice what I preach.

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Get in Chicken Soup for the Soul

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

If you want a literary agent, it can't hurt to get a story in Chicken Soup for the Soul.

If you want a literary agent, it can't hurt to get a story in Chicken Soup for the Soul.

If you want a literary agent, it helps to have some writing credits. One good writing credit to put on your resume is a story in Chicken Soup for the Soul.

You probably already know the fairy tale success story behind this series. Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen put talked to all the speakers they knew and put together a collection of their best stories. Then they tried to get a publisher.

Literary agent extraordinaire Jeff Herman sent their proposal to 50 editors and couldn’t sell the book.  Jack and Mark pitched the book to an additional 75 publishers and still got turned down. Finally, they convinced HCI to take a chance on their book by showing them a box with 20,000 order forms ready to go.

144 million books later, there are a lot of people who have had to forgive themselves for saying that a collection of short pieces would never work. One of my friends is in that group.

At any rate, there is a  unique scoring process that’s used to build the Chicken Soup books. They take 101 stories out of all the submissions. The finalists are sent to a fairly large group of readers who rate them on a scale of 1 to 10. (I heard this story from Mark several years ago, so I hope I’m getting it right. I’m thinking there are about 40 readers.) Only the stories that get the highest scores from the group wind up in the book. As I recall, a story really needs a 10 across the board to get in.

That’s what makes this a wonderful credit for you. If your story gets in, beause of their careful vetting process,an agent doesn’t need to read it to know that you write well.

Oh, and last I heard, they’re paying $300 per story.

Here are what they are looking for during the next few months. Remember, a Chicken Soup story is supposed to warm the cockles of your heart– though I suppose they won’t turn down something that makes  you laugh, either.

Dieting and Fitness

Got a story about how YOU changed your eating or exercise habits? Got a system that lets you cheat with a hot fudge sundae once in a while. If you have a story that can inspire others, this is the place to share it.

Deadline: September 30, 2009.

Endurance Sports
Do you run, cycle or swim? Or are you a triathlete? The Chicken Soup team wants your best story about your triumphs, tragedies, life lessons from your sport or even how you the hours of practice into your life. You can be an amateur, a student athlete, or a pro. Deadline: September 30, 2009.

Mothers and Daughters
The relationships between mothers and daughters can be both complicated and wonderful. If you’ve got a mother-daughter or a mother-daughter story that’s moving or funny, this book might be for you.

Deadline: December 31, 2009.

Christmas and Holiday Stories
Share your Christmas, Chanukah and Kwanzaa stories. Deadline: January 15, 2010.

Grandmothers

Whether you are a grandmother (or stepgrandmother or honorary grandmother) with a story about your grandchild, (or vice versa if you’re an adult), if you’ve got a wonderful story, send it in.

Deadline: March 31, 2010.

Grieving and Recovery

This next Chicken Soup collection is meant to be a support group in the form of a book for anyone who has suffered a loss.  They are looking for stories that let people know they aren’t alone, that they can get through the grief, and that there is life on the other side of their pain.

Deadline March 31, 2010.

Grieving and Recovery for Cat Owners

Losing a cat can be a painful process. This book will help cat owners deal with their loss. Stories about aging cats and getting a new cat after losing a  cat you adored are also welcome. Deadline: March 31, 2010.

Grieving and Recovery for Dog Owners Everything mentioned above for cat owners applies to dog owners, who will get a separate book of their own.

Deadline: March 31, 2010.

For submission details, go to:

http://www.chickensoup.com/form.asp?cid=possible_books

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Sweet and Sour Literary Agents (and Rumi)

Friday, August 28th, 2009

This is a tale of two pairs of literary agents. Each pair includes a sweet one and a sour one.

Sounds like a fairy tale? It kind of is– with both a happy ending and a moral.

The first tale involves  literary agent Carol Susan Roth. I hate to call her the sour one, since we had a very pleasant lunch a while back. But for fairy tale purposes, she was.

Literary Agent Carol Susan Roth sold "The Infertility Cure" at auction

Literary Agent Carol Susan Roth sold "The Infertility Cure" at auction

Randine Lewis, author of The Infertility Cure, had two agents who were interested in her work. The first was ready to send out her book proposal as it was, right away. The second was Carol, who said that Lewis’s book proposal wasn’t ready for prime time yet. Lewis went with the first agent, who sent it out to three publishers, resulting in three rejections.

So Lewis went back to Roth: “ . . .She introduced me to a wonderful ghostwriter who totally revamped my proposal. Carol sent it out and after an auction with six of the major publishers, it was sold to Little, Brown & Co. for a very big advance!”

Pair number two involves a novel.  It has basically the same setup. The “sour” literary agent was interested in  the work based on the author’s query letter. But after she read the manuscript, she said to the author that their work had merit, but  just wasn’t ready yet. This literary agent suggested that the author  improve it, and that she would be happy to provide commentary on subsequent drafts until it was a salable book.

But there was a sweet literary agent who was willing to take the work on as is, right away. The sweet agent submitted the novel to dozens editors at a wide variety of publishing houses—and they all turned the manuscript down. They rejected this novel for the same reason that sour literary agent had declined to take it on in the first place.

So the author decided to go back to the sour literary agent—who agreed to work with her to improve the manuscript—even though it’s next to impossible to get an editor to re-consider a manuscript he’s already rejected.

The sour agent twisted some arms and sold the book. But that’s an unusual outcome. Rejected books are almost never resurrected. And because an agent sent this manuscript out before it was ready, it almost didn’t get published.

So both these tales had happy endings. The moral of the story reminds me of some lines from one of my favoirte Rumi poems, Borrow the Beloved’s Eyes. The translation, as you  might expect, is from Coleman Barks:

“Worry about the others, who give you

delicious comforts that keep you from prayer.

Friends are enemies sometimes,

and enemies Friends.”

So when you have a choice between a sweet literary agent who wants to represent you right away, and a sour one who wants  you to wait and improve your work, it’s usually wiser to choose the sour literary agent.

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What Literary Agents Want to See If You’re Not Famous, Part IV

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

Literary agents always have a story of a book they recently sold where the author wasn’t famous– but had a story that was so interesting and well-written that they had to represent it.  Typically, it’s because the person who writes the material has an experience that takes you into a whole new world. Representing these books is clearly a labor of love for an agent, because they are captivated by the story and the way it’s told. And when literary agents love a book, they can usually find an editor who will feel the same way.

Literary Agent Andy Ross

Literary Agent Andy Ross

It really helps if you’re writing about something unusual. Andy Ross (www.AndyRossAgency.com) says that publishers are pretty tired of personal memoirs about everyday life and dysfunctional families. He says they call them “me-moirs.”

But when he was pitched a book proposal by a young man who a month after his twenty-first birthday, moved to Ujae (population: 450), a remote atoll in the Marshall Islands located 2000 miles from the closest continent to teach English, Andy knew he had something worth pitching. It helped that the author,Peter Rudiak-Gould,  is laugh-out-loud hilarious pages. It also helped that, unfortunately, Ujae may be one of global warming’s first casualties, so there was a current events factor.

But most important of all, the story is  engaging and extremely well-written. Every one of the testimonials on Amazon from eight other published authors mentions that it’s funny or moving.

The result? Surviving Paradise: One Year on a Disappearing Island will be coming out on Union Square Press at the beginning of November.

Another twentysomething, Jesse Saperstein, approached Deborah Levine Herman, of the Jeff Herman Literary

Literary Agent Deborah Herman

Literary Agent Deborah Herman

Agency after he was turned down by lots of other agents. Deborah says she loved the project. ” . . . He has Asperger Syndrome [a form of autism]and he walked the Appalachian Trail to raise money for Juvenile AIDS and he also has written a book that was his, it came from his inner voice and it was just a very unique voice.”

She didn’t accept Saperstein right away:  “I made this guy rewrite his book over two years. And because he just was very grateful and I think people need to be grateful every day for everything, he had a sense that what he was receiving was going to help him reach his goal. And so he was able to make whatever changes he was told to make.”

Herman was eventually satisfied with her young client’s writing, and was ready to represent him. She found an editor, Marian Lizzi, at Perigee Books who “got” his book,  a heartfelt and  humorous collection of essays revealing Saperstein’s unique perspective on growing up different, managing his quirks, his Appalachian adventure and even venturing into the world of online dating called Atypical: Life with Apsperger’s in 23 1/3 Chapters. It’s due out in April of 2010.

Saperstein was undoubtedly helped by the massive success of The Curious Incident of the Dog in Night-Time, by Mark Haddon, which is narrated by a lead character who is autistic, and to a lesser degree (because they’re not current), Donna William’s memoirs Nobody, Nowhere and Somebody, Somewhere. When you write a book proposal, it helps to be able to compare your books to recent bestsellers.  That tells publishers, and ultimately bookstores, that there is a verifiable market for your book.

I doubt that Marian Lizzi, no matter how much she liked Saperstein’s book, could have gotten this book through her editorial board if Haddon’s book hadn’t been such a big hit. I imagine the sales and marketing people would have had a fit! “How could we possibly know if this book is going to sell since there’s nothing else like it.”

If you want to know how the editorial board at publishers work, check out my Inside the Editorial Boardroom interview with with David Nelson, a former VP of Sales who sat on these boards at both Penguin and Harcourt. You’ll get the inside scoop on  what goes on once an editor likes your book, including how publishers decide how much to pay authors for their books. It’s an extra bonus with my Agent University program, a six CD set I’m giving away for just the cost of shipping and handling.

And if you want to get published without being famous, do something unusual, then write about it superbly– and preferably with a great deal of humor, and you really can land a literary agent.

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What Literary Agents Want to See When You’re Not Famous, Part I

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

When you’re trying to get published, the first thing literary agents tell you is that you have to have a platform. A platform is an audience of people who know who you are. Typically it’s achieved through becoming a well-known speaker, having a syndicated column, developing an e-zine with a large following or a Web site or blog with lots of traffic or having tons of followers, friends, or links on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.

A platform takes time to build. But certain strategies can help you land a literary agent and get published even if you’re not already well-known to tens of thousands of people.

First off, timing is everything. Literary agent Grace Freedson says you can sell a book without a platform “if it’s a topic that a publisher … feels if I had a book on this I know I could sell it.”

Even if publishers don’t realize they want a book on a particular topic, but yours covers a trend that affects lots of people, you can get published without a big platform.

Here’s an example:

In today’s economy, millions of people are losing their homes to foreclosure, going bankrupt, and missing credit card payments. How do you do things like rent an apartment, get a job, buy a car, get a credit card and start a new business after your credit is shot? Chris Balish and Geoff Williams answer that question with their book LIVING WELL WITH BAD CREDIT, which literary agent Laurie Abkemeier of DeFiore and Company sold to publisher HCI.

If you’re a book publisher, publishing this book is a no-brainer. It’s filled with timely information that the media will be happy to talk and write about. A morning talk show like the Today Show could literally do a week-long series on living with bad credit. Each day they could show you how to overcome one of the problems the book solves.

So if you come up with something timely that’s already on everybody’s minds, or if you happen onto a topic that publishers think is hot, you can attract a lot of attention from book publishers and literary agents.

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