Blog – Mary Harwell Sayler

As the New Year begins, expand your options and improve your writing and publishing success with these tips and helps.

Source: Blog – Mary Harwell Sayler


How to write a book proposal

Before you take time to write a full-length book of fiction or nonfiction, you can save yourself time and worry by writing a book proposal. This will help you to think through your book, keep your writing on track, then propose your book in a professional manner to the editor of a traditional or indie book publishing company.

A previous article “Basic Steps for Writing & Marketing” will give you an idea of what to expect as you aim for traditional publishing markets, which the e-book, Christian Writer’s Guide discusses too, along with everything else you need to get started as a freelance or assignment writer. Also, see “Outline or Synopsis” for information on preparing an outline for your nonfiction book or a synopsis for your novel.

In addition to an outline or synopsis, your book proposal package will include one to three chapters of your book, depending on the publisher’s preference as shown in their writers’ guidelines. You’ll also need to include a one-page cover letter and a book proposal sheet with headings relevant to your manuscript as shown below:

[Place your name and contact information across the top of each page as you would for a letterhead.]

Book Proposal for (name of the company that your research shows might be interested)

Title: (Check online bookstores to see if anyone else has used the title you want. Then place your catchy but relevant title here.)

Author: (Type your full name as you want it to appear on the manuscript.)

Theme: (For Christian writers, a favorite Bible verse such as Romans 8:28 can provide an excellent theme. Regardless of your choice, a theme and purpose will help you to keep your writing focused from beginning to end.)

Purpose: (An incomplete sentence or phrase with no punctuation usually works well here, for example, “to strengthen faith” or “to promote unity among Christians.”)

Genre: (Fiction, Nonfiction, or Poetry, but if fiction, add another heading entitled Setting.)

Book Summary (for nonfiction book or Story Line for fiction: Summarize the book in a sentence or two or a brief paragraph written to encourage an editor to read more.)

Audience (or Readership): (State here what group or age of readers you aim to reach. For instance, a nonfiction book might be aimed at pastors, youth workers, or general laity, whereas a children’s book might appeal to a 2 to 4-year span among toddlers, preschoolers, or school children, for example, 6 to 8 or 8 to 12.)

Length: (Put the expected number of double-spaced pages or the expected word count.)

Marketability (or Comparative Analysis): (Base this brief information on what you find as you research your topic and title in Internet bookstores. Provide any similar or competitive titles and publication dates. If you believe your idea will fill a unique need, say why.)

Platform (or Ideas for Promotion): (If you already have a following or have established an online presence in a blog, website, or profile page on the major social networks, include that information here.)

Author Bio (or About the Author): (Group prior publishing experiences by genre and/or age group. Briefly provide relevant information such as your education, research, teaching experience, or workshops you have led on your topic.)

© 2015, Mary Harwell Sayler, all rights reserved

If you would like Mary’s feedback on your book proposal package before you send it to a traditional or indie book publishing company, visit the Contact & Critiques page of her website.


Your writing success can soar with an honest but kind first reader

You’re your own first reader of course, so, hopefully, you make a habit of reading aloud every word you’ve written, listening closely to what you say and how effectively you say it. If something seems “off,” change it! Then, when your manuscript feels and sounds ready to you, find a good first reader.

If you just want a pat on the back, fine. Pick whoever knows and loves you a lot to read your manuscript and tell you how great it is.

If, however, you want an honest assessment of the strengths and weaknesses in your work so you can improve your writing as you revise, excellent! This means you’re aiming for professionalism, so your requirements for a first reader now need to be higher too.

But, where do you go or to whom do you turn?

For that important first reader, look for a friend, family member, or writing peer whom you trust to speak truthfully without putting you down.

If you’re fortunate enough to have several people in mind, pick the person who likes and often reads published works in the genre you have chosen.

As you choose your first reader, age will be a factor too. For example, if you write for preschoolers, read your story, poem, or nonfiction picture book text to young children who enjoy being read to in this fun Read-To-Me stage.

You do not even need to know your first reader! For instance, ask your local librarian about reading your work to the appropriate age group who regularly meets in the public library. This may be a weekly story time for preschoolers, a daily after-school program for older kids, or a literary discussion group for adults who get together each month. Regardless, take notes of the feedback you get, writing down exactly what was said, so you can carefully consider each comment later when you’re alone, ready to revise.

If your area offers a writing or critique group, this can provide yet another option for you to find a good first reader. Just give yourself time to get to know the individual members and the quality of their writing as you look for someone with whom you connect.

Look, too, for someone who shows respect for your work. Although you want to find someone you can count on to give you an honest assessment, you certainly do not want or need a first reader whose “honesty” is actually cruelty or jealousy in poor disguise!

Often, a first reader can spot rough spots in a manuscript, pointing them out matter-of-factly, which can help you to see what to do to improve the work. If this doesn’t happen, try putting your manuscript aside long enough to be able to return to it objectively.

If your first reader writes in your genre, s/he will be better equipped to advise you about ways to revise more effectively. If not – or if you know something is not working but do not know what to do to correct the problem, it’s probably time to get a professional critique.

How? Where? For your poems, children’s picture book manuscript, or book proposal, you can find this help – or, to be more specific, my help – through The Poetry Editor website. You’ll also find information about what to expect, including the fee, quoted on the site.

But maybe you don’t want to pay for help. Maybe you’re not ready. No problem! Just go back to finding a first reader who provides what you need right now. Then, when you’re ready for an honest evaluation with workable suggestions and encouraging feedback from a writer who is well-published in your genre, great! That’s what you and your manuscript will get – not for free but for a fee – from me.

Poetry practice and constructive criticism will help you to help your poems

The purpose of The Poetry Editor website and this blog is to help you become your own best poetry editor. That might not happen right away, but if you’re serious about the work of a poet, which, yes, does involve work, you can do this! How? Study poetry. Write poetry. Read your poems aloud and listen for anything that seems “off.” Then correct that as you revise.

Getting feedback helps too. At first, most poets just want a pat on the back, but if you hope to be published, you’ll need more than cuddling or coddling. Do not, however, ask just anyone to read your poems! Select your first readers carefully from people you trust – family or friends who will give you positive criticism and be honest with you but also encouraging in their response.

You might find a poetry critique group in your area that you like too. If not, search the social networks for poetry groups that critique one another’s work. Besides receiving immediate online input, you will probably find at least one other poet whose comments you value and poems you like – someone you can relate to who’s willing to exchange a poem-in-progress with you, so you can comment on one another’s work privately.

Each of those options gives you free feedback to help you help your poems. This may be all you need to improve your poetry as you revise and also to gain confidence in submitting a batch of revised poems to one editor at a time.

But maybe you want more for yourself and your poetry. If so, enroll in a poetry class. Check out relevant ads on this blog that interest you. Order Poetry: Taking Its Course. Hire a professional poet, poetry editor, and/or poetry instructor to critique your poems, correct mistakes, and offer practical suggestions or workable solutions.

If you cannot afford to pay for the professional feedback you want, do not ask for free services. Not only is this disrespectful, but it’s very discouraging to published poets, editors, or instructors who work hard for other poets but are asked, over and over, to “make an exception” and provide professional services for no compensation whatsoever.

Although those services will not be free, the fees should be reasonably based on the amount of time, experience, and expertise involved in doing a critique or providing a writing consultation.

For most poets, a professional Critique will be the place to start. As you look through each page on The Poetry Editor website, notice the responses from other poets, editors, and poetry students. Notice the links to published poems. Notice the tips, resources, and services intended to help you research, study, write, revise, and eventually become your own best poetry editor.

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