Brainstorming

Brainstorming is one of the fun parts in the development of a book. The key for the author is a willingness to hear other ideas. The second, and most critical key, is discovering those with whom you should brainstorm. Those people need to be willing to have their ideas rejected in the discussions and be willing to let an idea they created to be used by someone else. It takes a special person…many times a professional…to achieve that.

I’ve heard complaints from some authors who try this in a critique group only to be frustrated. Egos get in the way or the ideas generated are singularly unhelpful. Or the discussion doesn’t move the project forward, instead it gets sidetracked by numerous differing opinions on the direction of the piece.

That is not to say that critique groups are bad. Hardly. Only that some authors have experienced frustration if the mix in their group is not helpful (see the below cartoon).

A few years ago, at a writers conference, a well known author gathered a number of published writers together and declared, “I have a new book contract and need a better plot than what I have, can you guys help?” Over the next couple hours that group created a dynamite storyline (which is now in print!). That is brainstorming with a group at its best.

If you have a good relationship with your editor they can be a great sounding board for ideas (but be considerate of that editor’s time). A good agent can also provide this service. I have been a part of this process with nearly every book project I have ever worked on. While sometimes the two heads can bump into each other…painfully…the ensuing friction usually creates a spark…the spark of creativity and not contention.

Where do you go for your brainstorming sessions?

Enjoy the following “Pearls Before Swine” cartoon from last weekend:

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Amazon Rank Obsession

Admit it. You’ve checked your Amazon.com sales ranking at least once since your book was published. You feel the need to have some outside confirmation of the sales of your book. And Amazon’s ranking are free to look at.

I’ve even seen book  proposals where the author has gone to great lengths to include the Amazon ranking for each title that is competitive with the one the author is proposing. A prodigious amount of wasted effort.

Publishers rarely pay attention to Amazon rankings unless yours gets below 1,000 or if you get in the top 100.

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What to do about Morals?

In a post written last weekend Richard Curtis, agent extraordinaire, expressed surprise at a new morality clause that has apparently appeared in HarperCollins’ contracts. Read his post here [warning: there is some Adult content and comments included in the post].

What the general market doesn’t realize is that many Faith-based publishers have had a “moral turpitude” clause in their contracts for a long time. Moral turpitude is well defined in this post on Wikipedia. It is understood in the legal community as actions or activities that can get you fired from your job, deported if you are a foreigner in this country on a Visa, or have your contract cancelled if you are an author.

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Hints for a Great Cover Letter

Here are a few suggestions for you to consider when approaching an agent. Remember to use these as hints…do not follow them slavishly as if a literary agent is going to spend their time critiquing your cover letter.

By the way, we make a distinction between a cover letter and a query letter. A cover letter is what goes on top of a longer proposal and sample chapters. The query letter is a stand-alone letter that goes by itself to the editor/agent without a proposal or sample chapters. We happen to prefer the cover letter along with the rest of the package. Why? Because a query only shows that you can write a letter. A proposal begins the process of showing that you know how to write a book.

Address the letter to a specific person. If sending something to The Steve Laube Agency, simply address the appropriate agent. Every proposal will cross the desk of the designated agent eventually.

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Checked Your Copyright Lately?

Have you checked your copyright lately? I mean, have you actually gone to the US Copyright Office web site and searched for your registration? You might be surprised at what you won’t find. Here is the link to start your search.

Most publishing contracts have a clause that requires the publisher to register the copyright, in the name of the author, with the US Copyright Office. This is supposed to be done as part of the in-house paperwork process.

If you do not find your book, don’t panic.

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Book Tour Lesson: Listen to Publisher

Melanie Benjamin, author of Alice I Have Been, reflects on book tours, in an article for the Huffington Post.  Especially the difference between the one she put together herself several years ago and the one she is currently doing with the help of her publisher.

“I’ve also learned to listen to my publisher. When a bookstore contacts me personally about an appearance, I pass the request on to my publicist. Only once did I ignore her advice and do an event anyway.

Only the janitor showed up.”

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Even the Best Get Rejected

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I’ve written about rejection before and yet it is a topic that continues to fascinate.

Recently Adrienne Crezo did an article on famous authors and their worst rejection letters. I thought you might enjoy reading a couple highlights of that article and some additional stories I have collected over the years.

George Orwell’s Animal Farm was rejected by Alfred Knopf saying it was “impossible to sell animal stories in the U.S.A.”
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Someone Hacked My Website

And a “Merry Christmas” to me… (sarcasm dripping).

In the last 24 hours someone hacked my web site by utilizing a security hole in my host server. They didn’t need even my password! They were able to piggyback on these blog posts and added 853 scripts to my web site redirecting visitors to malicious sites. These little beasts are also known as Malware.

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Lawsuit over Hyperlink?

In Canada a man is suing another person for linking to allegedly damaging web content on a web site (the suit is currently before the Canadian Supreme Court).  A big “thank you” to Mac Slolcum for writing about this issue last week. In his article Mac asks the pertinent question, “Is a link on your web site equivalent to an endorsement of that content?” Think about it for a second. If you click the “Like” button on Facebook aren’t you telling your “friends” that you endorse that product, idea, video, or web site? What about when you re-tweet someone’s comments and then link to their site (like I hope you do with my blog posts!

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