The Poetry Editor and Poetry: 10 Tips on Titles for a poem or poetry book

The title of a poem, poetry book, or chapbook can capture a reader’s attention, add connotations to what follows, and help readers gain an entrance into the poem.

Source: The Poetry Editor and Poetry: 10 Tips on Titles for a poem or poetry book

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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.)

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© 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.

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Step into the New Year: writing, revising, and marketing

Preliminary Steps:

Study classical and popular works in your favorite writing genre.

Consider what draws readers to a particular poem, story, article, or book.

Study magazines and other publications you like to read.

Get familiar with the book catalogues of publishers whose work you like.

Consider potential gaps that your story, poem, article, or book might fill.

Writing Plan:

Plan your fiction or nonfiction manuscript before you begin.

Decide on a theme, purpose, and reading audience.

Thoroughly research your topic or story setting.

Outline each article or nonfiction book.

Write a synopsis of your novel in present tense.

Both the synopsis and the outline should be from 1 to 5 pages.

Writing, Revising, and Marketing:

Let your writing flow without criticizing yourself, then let your work rest.

Later read those pages as if someone else had written them.

Read your work aloud and notice if anything seems “off.”

Pinpoint a problem, and you will usually find a solution.

Revise to make the manuscript your best before you send it to a publisher.

Find and follow writers’ guidelines located on the company’s website.

Query several editors at once about an idea or book proposal, but when you submit your actual manuscript, send it to only one editor at a time.

When mailing your manuscript by postal service, enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope (SASE) to cover its potential return.

Keep track of where, when, and to whom you mailed each manuscript.

If you don’t hear back in 3 months, follow up with a brief, polite email.

While you wait to hear from one editor, query another editor about your next idea.

Repeat the above steps.

©2015, Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer and poet-author of 27 traditionally published books in all genres is on a mission to help other Christian Poets & Writers through blogs, writing resources, and e-books such as the Christian Writer’ Guide.

THE Market guide for poets

The 2015 Poet’s Market guide published by Writer’s Digest Books is THE book for poets who want their poems to be traditionally published. Like previous editions I’ve purchased over the years, the review copy that WD kindly sent me contains a wide range of articles in these key categories:

• Business of Poetry (getting organized, avoiding common mistakes, etc.)

• Promotion of Poetry (articles on platforms, blogs, readings, and more)

• Poet Interviews (with well-published poets offering insights into writing)

• Craft of Poetry (form, rhyme, meter, writing prompts, revision, and more)

• Poems (about poetry or being a poet)

• Markets (lists of magazines/journals, book/chapbook publishers, contests, awards, and grants)

• Resources (conferences, workshops, poetry festivals, poetry organizations, A to Z glossary of poetry terminology, and more)

• Indexes (subjects covered in poetry publications and a general A to Z index of publishers)

In the opening article “From The Editor,” Robert Lee Brewer assures us that this edition has even more listings of poetry publishers and contests than last year’s market guide. So, naturally, I had to flip ahead to the second half of this book where I immediately noticed new-to-me names of publishers of poetry books and chapbooks as well as journals I haven’t yet read. Such “finds” are worth the whole book!

Before drooling too long over those publishing contacts, however, reading the article “How To Use Poet’s Market” will prepare you and your poems for the submission process with these preliminary steps:

1. Be an avid reader.

2. Know what you like to write – and what you write best.

3. Learn the “business” of poetry publishing.

4. Research the markets.

5. Start slowly (as in, don’t rush into print!)

6. Be professional.

7. Keep track of your submissions.

8. Don’t fear rejection. Learn from it.

To give a glimpse of what they’ve learned, well-published poets and poetry instructors wrote informative articles for the book on everything from punctuating and formatting a poem to writing in form, working with editors, promoting a new book, and giving a poetry reading.

Not only does the book intersperse articles with interesting interviews, the guide includes a section of poems about reading poetry, writing poems, and “How To Break Up With A Poem” that just isn’t coming together!

Although I’ve been writing poems forever and getting published for quite a while, the front half of the book gave me refreshing perspectives on being a poet and a great refresher on poetry techniques.

Whenever I buy the book, however, I do so to expand my potential markets and see publishers’ updates and current needs. Occasionally “Tips” such as “We like how-to articles” are added, but mainly, the format includes each publisher’s name with the mail and e-mail addresses, the name of the editor to contact, a statement about the company’s practices, and immediate “Needs,” including preferences, length requirements, and topics to avoid.

Read and heed those needs!

If a periodical asks you not to stuff a #10 envelope with 10 or more poems, then stuffeth thou not!

If they say, “We like carefully crafted poems,” that means showing craft not a first draft!

But, even if you think you don’t know what a publisher’s preferences mean, you will if you simply look up unfamiliar terms in the A to Z glossary provided, then give yourself and your poems whatever time you need.

© 2014, Mary Harwell Sayler has placed hundreds of poems and 27 traditionally published books in all genres. Her e-book, the Christian Poet’s Guide to Writing Poetry, is a revision of the poetry home study course she wrote and used for years with other poets and poetry students, and she continues to offer one-on-one feedback for a minimal fee through her website.

2015 Poet’s Market guide, paperback

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Dancing on the Head of a Pen: book review

The enticing title, Dancing on the Head of a Pen: The Practice of a Writing Life by Robert Benson, drew me to request a review copy from Blogging for Books – a site that provides review copies of a variety of books in exchange for an honest assessment. Fortunately, that’s what I aim to provide, whether I’m discussing a new edition of the Bible or reviewing a traditionally published poetry book or a book about the writing life in general, as happens here.

Published by Waterbrook Press, this particular book also appealed to me because the author knows how to write! That might seem to be an obvious prerequisite, but I’ve discovered a new world of newbie writers who blog about writing and sometimes pass along assumptions, rather than reliable information. Conversely, Robert Benson has written many books and knows the in’s and out’s of writing and publishing. So, believe him when he says: “Most of the time, writing a book more closely resembles digging a ditch than participating in some transcendent creative experience.”

How we go about “digging” depends on what we dig. As Benson says, “Any of us – writer, designer, potter, painter, sculptor, architect, and on and on – wisely studies the habits practiced by the artists who inspire us in the first place. Those habits can guide us as we try to learn to do the work ourselves.”

For each of us, the work and surrounding habits will differ, not only from one another but also our own earlier selves as we experiment, pick up ideas, and find workable ways to write and continually improve our work. Most of us, though, will do well to heed Benson’s call to be quiet.

As he explains, “Solitude is likely necessary to be in touch with the things deep inside you. Silence may be required for you to hear what those things are saying to you. Do not be afraid to be quiet. Never be afraid to be alone./ Wandering around in wide-open spaces, especially spaces offered by a blank page, may be the key to making some art of those things found in the silence and the solitude.”

By now, you may be wondering if this book provides a devotional guide or tips on writing or suggestions for establishing your own routine or more than the sum of those parts, and to all, the answer is: Yes!

Once we’ve heard ourselves think enough to know what we’re to write next, we have to decide what type of writer we want to be. Like Benson, “I want to write. I may even need to write. But I want to be read as well.”

Knowing this about ourselves helps us to know whether we want to write for publication. If so, we need to have some type of reader in mind and some idea of whether anyone else might be interested in our chosen topic.

The author says, “When I begin to write a book, I ask myself some questions. Who do I think might read the writing I am about to do? Who do I expect to be interested in the stories I am trying to tell? Who do I hope will discover and enjoy and be moved by them?” And always, “Write for those you love.”

As Benson also says, “A writer has three jobs. Write the work. Make the work as good as possible. Find the work a home and a crowd of folks to love it.”

More than this, however, Robert Benson tells us, “I spend most of my time, metaphorically speaking, as a kind of explorer, out wandering around in the philosophical dark, lost in the spiritual words, searching for a deep something I often cannot even name, following trails leading to dead ends and darkness as often as not.” But then, “The spiritual life is not so much about answers as it is about better questions. Writing can be the same.”

©2014, Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer, authored 26 books in all genres, primarily for Christian and educational markets, before writing the Christian Writer’s Guide e-book on Kindle.

Dancing on the Head of a Pen, hardcover

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Sending your poems and manuscripts to traditional publishers

Poets and writers often self-publish their work because they do not know how to go about getting published by traditional print journals, books, or e-zines. These tips, first posted here over 3 years ago, bear tweaking and repeating:

• Notice publishers of books and periodicals you like to read.

• Most of these publishers now have a website where you can study the titles in their book lines and read the poems and articles in their archives.

• Make a list of each publisher whose work is similar to yours.

• Study the writers’ guidelines on each company’s website.

• Some editors want a query first to get a quick idea of what you have in mind. Consider this a “sales pitch” meant to give the editor an overview that’s brief, relevant, and to the point.

• If an editor prefers your actual manuscript or batch of poems, great! Just follow the writers’ guidelines, submitting to one editor at a time.

• Keep track of where and when you sent your work. If you do not have a response in 2 to 3 months, follow-up.

• While you wait to hear about one poem or manuscript submission, start another.

• If the editor returns your work, don’t take it personally. The acceptance pile might be too big and space too small. But just in case, your work still needs work: Read it aloud. Listen for rough spots. Revise as needed, then submit the manuscript to the next publisher on your list.

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© 2013, Mary Harwell Sayler, all rights reserved. To give you an idea of the traditional publishing experiences that went into these suggestions, visit my Bio on my website.

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Writing 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 helps you to think through important aspects of your book, keep your writing on track, and propose your book in a professional manner to the editor of a traditional 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 markets. Also, see Outline or Synopsis for information about preparing the outline you need for your nonfiction book or 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, and a cover page with relevant headings such as those shown below:

[Place your name and contact information across the top of each page like a letterhead.]

Book Proposal for _(name of the company your research says might be interested)_

Title: (Place a catchy but relevant title or a tentative title here.)

Author: (your name)

Theme: (For Christian writers, a favorite Bible verse such as Romans 8:28 often provides an excellent theme. Regardless of your choice, your 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: (If fiction, include another heading entitled Setting.)

Book Summary (for nonfiction book) or Story Line (for fiction): (Summarize the book in a sentence or 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 3-year span among toddlers, preschoolers, or school children, for example, 6 to 8 or 12 to 14.)

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 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 any 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.)

~~

© 2011, Mary Harwell Sayler, all rights reserved.