News You Can Use – May 29, 2012

Self-Publishing: Under 10% Earn a Living – An article out of Australia makes a bold claim. I would claim, however, that only 10% of traditionally published writers earn a living too. Of course that depends on your definition of “a living.”

100 Best First Lines from Novels – In honor of the last two weeks where we talked about “first lines” I found this article from the American Book Review that chooses the top 100.

Stephen King’s 20 Tips for Becoming a Frighteningly Good Writer – Jon Morrow extracts the best parts from King’s book on writing and then applies it to the blogger.

Six Ways Copyeditors Make Your Book Better – Linda Jay Geldens makes an excellent point. Never skip this step before putting your work out in the public.

The No-Tears Guide to Podcasting – There are many who say podcasting is an excellent way to extend your platform and engage your readers.

Two Excellent Articles about Commas: Their use and misuse – written by Ben Yagoda
Fanfare for the Comma Man
The Most Comma Mistakes

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15 Latin Phrases Every Writer Should Know

15 Latin Phrases Every Writer Should Know

Persona Non Grata
“An unwelcome person” (lately defined by some as a literary agent) Habeas Corpus
“You have the body”  (The legal right to appear before a judge.) Cogito Ergo Sum
“I think, therefore I am.” For a writer it would be “Sribo ergo sum” E Pluribus Unum
“Out of many, one” Quid Pro Quo
“This for that” or in other words, “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” Ad Hominem
“To the man” During an argument or discussion, when one party attacks their opponent’s reputation or expertise rather than sticking to the issue at hand. Soli Deo Gloria
“Glory to God alone” – a motto of the Reformation. Johann Sebastian Bach would sign his compositions with the initials S.D.G. Caveat Emptor
“Let the buyer beware” (before you use the “1-click” feature on Memento Mori
“Remember your mortality” (also the name of an album by Flyleaf) Caveat Lector
“Let the reader beware”   (be nice to your reading audience!) Sui Generis
“Of its own kind,” or “Unique” – a key principle in copyright or intellectual property law Veni, vidi, vici
“I came, I saw, I conquered” – A message supposedly sent by Julius Caesar to the Roman Senate to describe a battle in 47 BC. For the writer? “Veni, vidi, scripsi” (I came, I saw, I wrote) Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam
“For the Greater Glory of God” – see 1 Corinthians 10:31. Johann Sebastian Bach also used the initials A.M.D.G. Mea Culpa
“By my fault” – or in common language today, “My bad.” Pro Bono.
“Done without charge” – Incorrectly used by fans of U2.
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Keys to a Great Synopsis

When I posted my ideas on some Keys to a Great Book Proposal, a few writers said they were challenged to write a synopsis. I agree that writing an interesting synopsis is difficult. However, it’s not an element you want to omit from your proposal because a synopsis orients the editor to the book’s contents. Here are my answers to often-asked questions:

1.) Do I need a chapter-by-chapter synopsis?

For fiction, no. I think I get this question a lot because years ago, a popular and respected editor I worked with asked for this type of synopsis. This is because some authors the editor worked with sometimes took liberties with the plot once they sat down to write the complete book. The book the editor received was different from the one contracted! Hence, this requirement. I got in the habit of writing this type of synopsis and found it helpful when I wrote my books. I knew exactly where I was going and why, as well as what my chapter cliffhangers would be. Working this way is a discipline that gave me confidence. I recommend that writers try this method at least once to see how they like it. But I don’t ask for this in a proposal because few fiction editors want to see a synopsis presented in this manner.

However, nonfiction proposals do need a chapter by chapter breakdown to explain what each chapter will contain. This is because often in nonfiction, chapters are loosely connected by a topic but can be read as separate entities. Readers may skip around with nonfiction books, gleaning information they need and discarding the rest. So this type of synopsis is helpful for nonfiction proposals. However, I do recommend summarizing the purpose and theme of the book in an overall description of a couple of paragraphs as well, then moving on to the individual chapter descriptions.

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What’s MY Line? (First Lines – Part Two)

I loved reading your favorite first lines last week. Isn’t it amazing how the right first line sets the stage, how it can pull readers out of reality deep into the story that’s being woven around them? I’m always awed at the power of the written word.

As I said last week, a group of writer friends likes to share the first lines of their works in progress. JUST the first line. Not the first paragraph, or even the first two lines. All we can share is that one, lonely line. And you know what? It’s been so helpful to do this. Because I realized, as I played from time to time, that my first lines weren’t as strong or emotive as they needed to be. And that, far too often, those first lines only had impact when combined with the second line.

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News You Can Use – May 22, 2012

Where is Publishing Headed? – This it a great article! Read is carefully and you will want to read more. I recommended John Thompson’s book Merchants of Culture last year (my review is here). Now it is in paperback for $17 (retail price) and for either the Kindle or the Nook for around …

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A One Year Anniversary Announcement

by Steve Laube

A year ago we welcomed Tamela Hancock Murray and Karen Ball to our agency. I couldn’t be more pleased.

These two ladies are amazing people. They both work very hard to serve their clients with passion and excellence. I am blessed to have them as part of our team.

Next week will be the eighth anniversary of the founding of The Steve Laube Agency. We have had some wonderful success and represented some amazing authors and books in those years. I pray that we continue to help change the world word by word.

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Fun Fridays – May 8, 2012 -The Chaos of English Pronunciation

Fun Friday – May 18, 2012

Quoted in its entirety from The Better Spelling Society (read their article the history of this piece). My favorite is the last stanza that reads “which rhymes with enough? Though, through, bough, cough, hough, sough, tough??”

The Chaos – by Gerard Nolst Trenité

This version is essentially the author’s own final text, as also published by New River Project in 1993. A few minor corrections have however been made, and occasional words from earlier editions have been preferred. Following earlier practice, words with clashing spellings or pronunciations are here printed in italics.

Dearest creature in creation
Studying English pronunciation,
I will teach you in my verse

Sounds like corpse, corps, horse and worse.

I will keep you, Susy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy;
Tear in eye, your dress you’ll tear;

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The Keys to a Great Book Proposal

“I think book proposals are one of the most difficult things to write, second only to obituaries.”

When I received this email from one of my authors, Sherry Gore, (and yes, I have permission to quote her), I could relate. I’ve never written obituaries, even though writing one’s own is a popular goal-setting exercise. But I have written and read many book proposals so I know they aren’t easy to write. Sometimes they aren’t easy to read. So how can you make your book proposals easy to read? When my assistant and I are scanning proposals, here are the key points we first notice:

1) Format: Is the overall look of the proposal easy on the eye? A poorly-formatted proposal won’t be rejected if we are wowed by the content, but proposals with a pleasing appearance make a great impression.

2) Title: Tell us immediately what we are viewing: Fiction/nonfiction? Series/standalone? Genre? Historical/contemporary?

3) Hook: What is the spirit of your book?  Fried Green Tomatoes meets Star Trek? Or A Systematic Approach to Spiritual Spring Cleaning?

4) Back Cover Blurb: In two or three short paragraphs, make me want to buy your book. Take the time to make this sparkle, because great back cover copy will help sell me on your book, then the editor, then the pub board, then marketing, then your readers.

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In the Beginning…First Lines of a Book

I don’t know about you, but I love great first lines. First lines that intrigue or challenge, that captivate and spark strong emotion or curiosity. Some writers spend hours, even days crafting that perfect first line to draw readers into the book. For others, the line is just…there.

A group of author friends loves to play the first-line game, where we share the first line from our WIPs. I like to ask people to share first lines from books that captured them. Both exercises are great fun. More than that, though, it’s fascinating to see what captures or intrigues people. It’s a great way to gain insight into your readers.

So what do you say? Wanna play?

First, let’s share first lines we loved from books we have read. Here are some of my favorites:

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