Tuesday, January 01, 2008

 

New Year's Writing Resolutions

By Patricia Fry

It’s time, once again, to take stock of your accomplishments. Did you meet all of your goals for the year? Did you finish that book, send twenty query letters to magazines each month or start working on your memoirs? If so, congratulations! Keep up the good work. If not, you aren’t alone. Millions of people break their New Year’s resolutions and this is generally because they set their standards too high.

Perhaps you can achieve success by lowering your sights. You have a very good chance of failure if you resolve to write a best seller, double your income and earn the Pulitzer Prize by year’s end. If you’ve never put pen to paper, perhaps a more realistic goal would be to spend three hours each day writing, enroll in a writing class and subscribe to a couple of writing publications. And then be willing to step outside your comfort zone.

It’s like the woman who asked me to help her get over a serious writing slump. She hadn’t been able to write a meaningful word in months. She said that she wanted to get back to her poetry and short story writing, yet she wasn’t willing to make the necessary lifestyle changes. I suggested that she write for at least ten minutes each day in her journal. She saw no point in doing that when she really wanted to write poetry. I said, "Then write poetry for ten minutes each day." She replied, "I can’t do that. I told you I’m in a slump."

I advised her to spend those ten minutes just sitting quietly or walking in a lovely setting. I said that if she did this each day, she would soon become inspired and she would start using this time to write. She said that was impossible—she had no time during the day to be quiet and by evening, her mind raced so fast, she could not get into a relaxed state. Obviously, until this woman is ready to make some changes, she will continue to fail.

Are you going to spend the rest of your life watching others enjoy the lifestyle you desire or are you going to make this the year to claim success for yourself? Here are some typical writers’ resolutions and some plans to help you get started on an adventure toward meeting your personal and professional goals.

1. Finish that book (poem, article, story). Pick up your work-in-progress now, while the year is new and you still have that great sense of starting fresh. But don’t look at this as one humungous project because you’ll feel overwhelmed. Take baby steps. Tackle this one page, one stanza, one paragraph at a time. Break it down into phases. For a book, you might vow to write a chapter each month. For a story, start with the outline, develop the characters, research the time period and then start the writing. These tasks might be scheduled over a period of a week or, if working on it only part-time, a month or two.

2. Start a writing project that you’ve wanted to pursue. Similar to the steps in the first resolution, figure out how much time it will take, how much time you want to devote per day/week and just start. One thing is for sure, if you don’t start it, you will never finish it. Make this the year you stop procrastinating. If you have several projects and don’t know which one to work on, use the list method. List the pros and the cons of starting each project at this time. The right one will become evident in your list.

3. Try one new book promotion idea per month. If you’re an author, you already know that there’s more to selling a book than having it in Barnes and Noble. Read my book, "Over 75 Good Ideas for Promoting Your Book" and John Kremer’s book featuring 1001 book promotion ideas and apply some of these ideas to your promotional repertoire this year. Arrange to sell your book through local independent bookstores and gift shops. Send press releases with order forms to libraries throughout the U.S. Record your book on tape for the blind and the busy. Do some piggyback marketing. I once procured a booth at the county fair to promote my local history book. Of course, I sold scads more than if I’d stayed home that week.

4. Approach at least one new market for your writing each month. Expand your horizons. If you typically write how-to pieces for parenting, general and health magazines, try your hand at a profile piece for a business publication, for example. Maybe you design brochures for local businesses. Increase your business and your expertise by offering to write their company newsletters. I know a writer who was earning a steady income writing PR material for a large healthcare firm. Last year, she decided to try something different and she has since sold three personal essays to a major woman’s magazine for a total sum of $4,000.

5. Write something different. As professional writers, we sometimes neglect our creative urges. We are so busy writing articles, working on clients’ books or writing company materials that we don’t get around to satisfying our own writing cravings. This year, reward yourself more. Set aside an hour a day or an entire afternoon each week to write poetry, work on your novel, or do more journaling.

6. Join a community or online writers’ group. My career accelerated when I finally left my writing cubicle and began connecting with other writers. I found the camaraderie and the support extremely nurturing and still do. I can’t even calculate the educational value. If you want to reap the benefits of networking with other writers, start looking for a local or online organization. Be a loyal participant. Bring what you can to the meetings or to the discussions and share it in exchange for all that you will glean.

7. Add a new dimension to your lifestyle. If you are a full-time writer, you’re probably at the computer day in and day out. You enjoy your work immensely, but sometimes feel on the verge of burnout. This year, establish some pleasurable time away from your office. Do more reading. Get involved in something creative such as mosaic or scrapbooking. Start playing tennis. And then pursue this activity at least a couple of times a week.

8.Volunteer more. It feels good to reach out and help someone. And there are a lot of projects writers can do within the community. Here are a few: Volunteer for the after school homework help program at your local library. Offer to mentor a journalism student or adult who is just starting a writing career. Start a writing club. Volunteer to write the fundraising material for a charity.

9. Make a gift of your writing. There are numerous ways to give through your writing. Make your own Christmas and greeting cards. Personalized cards are always appreciated. Write one of your poems in calligraphy, frame it and give it to a friend or family member. Create a book of your short stories and have it bound at Kinkos or a print-on-demand company. Write a children’s story starring the children in your life and give it to them for their birthdays. Maybe you know someone who can add charming drawings or photographs. For Christmas, I gather all of my published articles for that year, put them in binders and wrap them up for my three daughters and my parents. I know they enjoy this unique gift because one year I didn’t get around to putting the articles together for them and, boy, did I hear about it. They enjoy seeing the versatility and scope of my work and to have this ongoing keepsake.

Use some of these unique ways to help you keep your New Year’s resolutions. The result will be a happier more productive you throughout the coming year.

—Patricia Fry is a cofounder and the President of SPAWN. She is a full-time writer, author of 19 published books, and she works with other writers/authors on their projects. The above article is excerpted from her book, "The Successful Writer’s Handbook." http://www.matilijapress.com

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

 

Wednesday's Announcements

This just in from LA Writer's Group ( http://www.lawritersgroup.com )

Fall session writers groups are starting up in just a few weeks! If you live in the Los Angeles area and are looking for ways to spark creativity, fill that notebook, and get feedback on your writing in a safe environment, check them out at: http://www.lawritersgroup.com/schedule.htm. Happy Writing!

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1 Day Left to Order Your Discount Copy of Patricia Fry's Latest Book!

Whether you're planning to write a book or you're currently promoting one, "The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book" (revised, 2nd edition) has exactly what you need in order to succeed in the highly competitive publishing field.

Read "The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book" from cover to cover and then use the accompanying "Author's Workbook" to assist you in putting the methods, processes and ideas into practice.

Take advantage of the Pre-Publication DISCOUNT offer on these two NEW books--good through September 20, 2007. You pay just $25 for both the book (regularly $19.95) and the workbook (regularly $12.95) plus tax (CA residents) and shipping.

Order using your Visa or Mastercard at www.matilijapress.com/rightway.html (scroll all the way down and click the ordering button on the bottom/left). Or send a check to the address below.

Patricia Fry
PMB 123
323 E. Matilija St., Ste. 110
Ojai, CA 93023

Send any questions you have to: plfry620[at]yahoo.com

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

 

The Query Letter: Your Tool For Success


By Patricia L. Fry

If you want to get published, you have to make a good first impression when approaching an editor or publisher. How? Write a good—no, write a great query letter.

Why is the query letter so important? It saves everyone a lot of time. Editors are more likely to look at a one-page letter than an entire manuscript. And you don’t have to write the piece until you know there’s an interest. Often, an editor will suggest changes to your initial idea. If the article is already written, you’ll have to do a rewrite.

For example, two years ago, I queried Technology and Learning Magazine about an article on preparing girls for careers in technology. Instead, the editors asked me to write about public relations programs in American schools. I recently queried Children’s Voice about an article highlighting the healing powers of gardening for at-risk children. The editors saw more merit in a piece featuring specific gardening programs for kids, however. These are only a few examples showing the benefits of querying first.

While there is plenty of room for creativity when writing a query letter, there are also certain standards. Following is the anatomy of a query letter:

1: Date your letter and address it to the appropriate editor. If the source you’re using for contact information is over six-months old, I suggest confirming the information. Use a current issue of the magazine or their website, for example. If you’re not sure how old your information is, send an Email or call to verify the contact information.

2: State your intent. Identify your correspondence as a query letter. I typically write, “I’d like to propose an article featuring…” Or I might start my letter with an attention-getting statement. Here’s an example: “Do people often interrupt you when you’re talking? Are your comments sometimes ignored? Do you feel inadequate when expressing your ideas in a business meeting? In a recent survey, over fifty-percent of the women polled said they do not feel as though they’re taken seriously at work. My article, ‘Be Heard: How to Get People to Listen When You Speak’ could change your life.”

3: Give a synopsis of your proposed article or book. Briefly and succinctly describe your story and your slant. Introduce your experts and/or supply a list of research sources and one or two sample anecdotes. Avoid inundating the editor with details, but don’t play guessing games, either. Be straightforward in your presentation. Give the editor everything she needs in order to make her decision while keeping the synopsis portion within a paragraph or two.

4: Demonstrate that you’ve done your homework. Hopefully, your article or book idea is on target for this magazine or publisher. That’s the first indication that you’ve done adequate research. If you believe that your article is a good fit for a particular column, mention it. Also, state your proposed word count based on the magazine’s or publisher’s guidelines

5: List your qualifications. If you have a particular expertise related to your proposed topic, mention it. In a query letter for my article on handling the irate customer, I revealed that I worked for two years in customer relations and attended workshops on this subject. When querying for my article about helping instead of criticizing neighborhood kids, I told about my affiliation with a youth mentoring organization and a Neighborhood Watch program. When querying about a writing or publishing-related book, I would provide my resume as a freelance writer/author/publisher.

6: Give your writing credits. This is no time to be modest. List your most significant and pertinent works. If you’ve sold anything similar to this topic, say so. If you’re hard-pressed to come up with appropriate writing credits, go ahead and mention your work on the church newsletter or the fact that you’re a 4th grade teacher. Send a couple of published clips, if available.

7: End it. I generally close with something like, “Please let me know if you’re interested.” In the case of a rather complicated piece, I might say, “If you’d like to see a more detailed outline, please let me know.

8: Keep things simple. Make it easy for the editor to work with you. First, find out how the editor prefers that you send your letter—regular mail, email or fax, for example. This information generally appears in their Guidelines for Writers (usually available on their web site or by request through the mail). Send just what the editor requests (a query letter and 3 published clips, for example). If he or she wants more later, they’ll ask.

Like many writers, I have a web site. At the end of my letter, I often add my website address and write after it, “for more about me.”

Keep your query letter to one page if at all possible. I’ve been known to spill over to a page and a half when I have several experts and research sources to list and that’s forgivable.

Additional tips (and these are important, too):

• Neatness counts.
• Always include a self-address-stamped envelope (SASE).
• Log every transaction. List date sent, magazine/publisher name and article/book description. Leave a space to record any notes.

The Waiting Game

Waiting for a response is sometimes difficult. With the advent of email, however, the waiting period can be eliminated completely in some instances. I’ve been rejected (or had an article accepted) just minutes after emailing a query. But expect to wait for anywhere from 10 days to 3 months after sending a query letter by mail. The average wait is probably 4 – 6 weeks. Before using email to query, make sure this is okay with the editor. While some editors adore this mode of communication, others will not look at anything that isn’t sealed in an envelope.

I like to use email, because, generally, an editor will respond more swiftly. Some editors and publishers never respond. My records indicate that nearly one-third of the query letters I sent last year were ignored. It’s frustrating, isn’t it? And the waiting game can be most annoying.

New writers, especially, often lose patience with editors who take their time to respond. One way around this discomfort is to avoid putting all of your hopes and dreams into that one query letter.

I don’t wait for query responses anymore because I’m too busy sending out new queries.
Send your query to more than one editor. Write new queries on different topics. Be productive and you won’t get stuck in wait mode

Here are some additional tips:

• Wait at least 4 – 6 weeks before inquiring about a query or a manuscript. Then send a tracer letter stating, “According to my records, on January 12, 2002, I queried you about an article featuring techniques for attracting birds to your patio garden. I’m writing now to inquire as to the status of that idea.” I’ve sold several articles by following through like this. Editors misplace letters. Sometimes queries are never received.
• Set goals. Send a query on a new topic every day or submit three queries per week, for example. I send between 30 and 50 queries each month.

For those of you who are still a little overwhelmed by the idea of writing a query letter, I’ve devised this guide. Ask yourself the following questions to help you write that query.

1. To whom shall I address this query?
2. What type of material is this publication requesting? (How-to articles, essays, exposes, inspirational pieces…?)
3. What do I have to offer them that might meet their current needs?
4. What aspect of my idea will appeal to them most?
5. How can I let the editor know that I’m familiar with his publication/publishing company?
6. How can I convince the editor/publisher that I can create a good and credible story from this topic?
7. How can I convince the editor/publisher that I am the person to write this piece?
8. How can I make it easy for the editor/publisher to work with me?

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Patricia Fry is a full-time freelance writer and the author of 25 books. Her latest book contains sample query letters. Order, “The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book” today at CLICK HERE. Visit Patricia’s BLOG often.

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Saturday, February 03, 2007

 

Event Announcement: Patricia Fry Luncheon



Come meet Patricia Fry and the Editors of WOW! at this special O.C. event!

When: Saturday, February 10, 2007, 11:30 AM

Where:

Town and Country Manor
555 E. Memory Lane
Santa Ana, CA 92706
**in their Garden Room

Who: Patricia Fry, Author, Editor, President of SPAWN (Small Publishers, Artist, and Writers Network)

What: Luncheon with Patricia Fry


Why:
To learn about promoting fiction, self publishing, and more.


Contact:
Russell Traughber

Cost: $10.00 for event

Learn More and see who's coming HERE

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