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Periodical Submission Tips

Periodical Submission Tips

There are three key periodical submission tips to follow when sending content to online outlets and print media publishers.

I list them from least important to most important, but if you don’t get past the first one, you’ll never get to the second. And you must pass the second step to even have your writing considered.

1. Follow the Submission Guidelines

Guidelines are there for two reasons. First to allow the recipient (usually an editor) to work more effectively, and second for the writer to present their work in the most favorable light.

The guidelines are there for your benefit, to help you, not constrain you.

2. Make Sure Your Submissions Match What the Periodical Publishes

For example, my publications address niche industries. I want relevant industry nonfiction articles. Over the years I’ve had people submit short stories, poems, song lyrics, and even a recipe. It’s clear they never bothered to see what content I publish.

As a result, they wasted my time and theirs.

3. Submit Your Best Possible Work

Even though it will be edited—this happens to every piece, regardless of who wrote it—make it the best you can. Proofread it carefully, spellcheck it, and ensure it says what you want it to say. Frankly, if I have to work too hard to polish the submission, I’m likely to reject it and go on to the next one.

This may seem harsh, but it’s the reality for most time-pressured editors, agents, and publishers. Follow these three periodical submission tips to maximize your chance for acceptance.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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Third-Person Omniscient Point of View

Third-person omniscient is out of favor. Do you wonder why?

While we could attribute it to a trend, the best explanation I have is that we’re so conditioned to watching TV and movies, which limit us to the camera’s vantage (third-person limited, if you will), that as readers we expect books to do the same thing.

When I began writing back in the dark ages, I preferred the omniscient voice because third-person limited seemed, well, too limiting. Third-person omniscient was also easier to write because it didn’t restrict me to one point-of-view per scene.

However, those days are gone, and few books published today use omniscient point-of-view. I once heard a podcast recording with Jerry Jenkins, and he said third-person omniscient was “archaic.” That convinced me.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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Writing Perspectives (Point of View)

Many beginning writers wonder about point of view in writing and which should they use. Though there are many books written on this subject, here’s a brief overview.

Note that most people use perspective and point of view interchangeably—that’s what I learned in High School English—but others make a distinction between them, claiming that point of view is the correct term for this discussion.

Here is a brief, basic overview of perspectives/points of view.

First Person Point of View

First-person perspective uses I, as in I said… or I went…

For example, I went to the bookstore to buy the latest book by my favorite author.

Second Person Point of View

Second person perspective uses you, as You said… or You went…

For example, you go to the store to buy a journal and pen.

Second person is hard to write (and to read), so most authors avoid it. As an exercise, I wrote a piece of flash fiction in the second person, present tense. It was tedious.

Third Person Point of View

The third-person perspective uses he, she, and they, as in He said… or They went…

For example. They went to a book signing to see the famous author.

Two Types of Third-Person Points of View

There are two flavors of third-person: Limited (only what the point of view character can observe or think) and Omniscient (where the narrator knows what everyone thinks).

Third-person omniscient is out of favor and seldom recommended any more—though many of the classics, including much of the Bible, is third-person omniscient.

Writing Tense

For each of these four options there are two choices: present tense (what is happening now) and past tense (what has already happened). This results in eight possible combinations to consider, but eliminating the second person and third-person omniscient, cuts our considerations down to four.

Past tense is easier to use, and the first person is more natural for most writers. After all, when we tell stories about ourselves to our friends, we use the first person, past tense.

Beginning writers should start with first person perspective, past tense, as in “I wondered which point of view I should use.” Then try third person, past tense, if you wish.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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Word Processing Options

word processing alternatives

Microsoft Word is expensive, but it is also the de facto standard for writing and publishing. I urge you to use it if possible. Even so, consider these word processing options.

As an alternative to purchasing Word (or Office), you can check out Office 365. It includes Word, but instead of buying the software for several hundred dollars, you pay a small monthly fee. As a benefit, you are always on the latest version, and depending on the license, you may get to put it on multiple computers.

Other Word Processing Options

If you pick another word processor, make sure it can output files in a .docx format (Microsoft’s Word format). Always submit your work as a .docx file.

Scrivner, a popular writing tool designed for how writers think and work, is gaining popularity. It can also output a .docx file, as well as many other formats.

Another word processing option is Google Docs, but Microsoft Word remains the industry standard—and my recommendation.

In a related issue, consider using dictation software to write.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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Discover How to Know If You Have a Marketable Book

a book is marketable

Have you ever wondered if you have a marketable book? Most people have, especially anyone who wants to make a living from writing.

You can pay someone to give you their opinion on what’s marketable before spending hours writing. Although you can do internet searches to find them, I recommend going to the websites of agents you respect. Some provide writer services on the side and would gladly charge you a fee to offer their opinion on if you have a marketable book. Other sites provide lists of respected service providers.

However, the operative word here is an opinion. Aside from some basic book tips, the best anyone can do is offer their opinion. Ask two people, and you will likely get two opinions. Often they may conflict with each other.

Consider all the stories we hear about agents and editors rejecting submissions, based on their opinions that the novel won’t sell. But then after twenty, forty, or even more rejections, it crosses one person’s desk who doesn’t reject it. In her opinion it’s marketable. Sometimes that proves correct and becomes a best seller.

All of this to say, you can ask around and even pay for advice from someone to tell you if you have a marketable book idea. But in the end, just go with your gut and write what you’re passionate about.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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Writers Must Read to Know What Is Marketable

Reading helps us understand what is marketable before we spend hours writing something that’s not. So does talking to others in the industry, especially agents, editors, and publishers. Also, look at the publishers’ current releases.

As a starting point here are some general principles of what is not marketable. Though there are exceptions, they are rare:

  • A book that’s too long or too short for its genre
  • A book of poetry, unless you’re famous
  • Your autobiography, unless you’re famous or infamous
  • A book of short stories, unless you are an established fiction author
  • A nonfiction book for which you have no authority or credentials
  • A topic of personal suffering that many others have already covered

Aside from that, don’t chase trends. It takes about two years to have a book traditionally published, so by the time we write our trendy piece, the trend could be over, and no one will want our book.

Instead, write what you’re passionate about. Just verify it doesn’t fit into one of the categories of what to avoid. And then write it!

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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Using Clip Art in a Book or Blog Post: Learn How to Protect Yourself

clip art in a book or blog

A writer found some clip art they’re interested in using in their book, but they also had concerns. The terminology is “Royalty-free clipart for commercial use.” Is it safe to use?

First, let me say that I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice.

Given that, in my opinion, the phrase gives you the protection you seek for this clip art image. However, I recommend going to a reverse image search engine, such as TinEye.com. You can upload the image in question, and they will check their index to see if anyone claims ownership.

If it’s okay to use, keep a record of the results, and then consult a couple more sites just to be sure. (Just search for “reverse image search engines“ for other options).

If it’s not legally permissible for you to use, then buy a royalty-free license (not an editorial license) or find alternative artwork. If you buy a non-exclusive license than others can use it as well. A more expensive exclusive license means only you can use it.

You can learn more about using clip art and other important book publishing info in Helen Sedwick’s excellent book Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook. (Check out my review.)

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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How to Use Blog Categories for Greater Impact

Use blog categories.

There are three purposes for blog categories.

1. Search Engine Optimization

One use of blog categories is that it helps with search engine optimization (SEO), which allow the search engines to better find and list posts.

2. Reader Engagement

The second use of blog categories is to help readers find similar content. For example, if we blog about three subtopics and a reader is only interested in one of them, then they can click on the category and see just those posts.

3. Writer Organization

A third benefit of using blog categories is to help us in our own organization. Here are two examples: I recently tweaked the focus on one of my blogs, and some of the old posts no longer fit my new vision. Since I had these old posts in one category, it was easy to find and remove them.

In another instance, I decided to draft a book using old blog posts. They were all in one category, which made them easy to find and access.

Selecting Blog Categories

Here are some other items about categories:

  • Having only one category offers no benefits.
  • Having too many categories is confusing. Aim to have three to eight.
  • Using the default of “uncategorized” is unprofessional and accomplishes nothing.

Don’t confuse categories with tags. They seem similar but work differently and have different applications. To learn more, check out my post about categories and tags.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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Citing Sources for Quotes in Books

Sources for Quotes

Each chapter in my friend’s book starts with a quotation. Most of the quotes came from internet sites. She wonders if she needs to include a page citing sources where she obtained each quote. Here’s what I said to her.

For Traditionally Published Books

For traditionally published books, your publisher will have its own requirements for you to follow. And each publisher likely has a different approach. In addition, they also have a legal team that will help keep you and them out of legal trouble.

In general, they will want you to attribute your source. I’ve even heard of one publisher who insisted on a signed release for each quotation. This is burdensome and a good reason to not use quotations.

For Indie Published Books

If you are indie-publishing your book, my opinion (not legal advice) is to cite all your sources. In my books, I try to avoid using any quotes, in any way, from any source. That’s the surest way to avoid getting sued for plagiarism.

However, in your case, this gets messy because the website where you found the quote may have copied it from someone else—that is, they stole it from the original author. Then you perpetuate their plagiarism—and their crime.

Final Thoughts about Citing Sources

If you can remove the quote and put the concept in your own words, that might be your best approach.

I am not a lawyer, so this is not legal advice about citing sources. It’s just my opinion. For a great resource on this subject—as well as other important legal considerations for writers—check out Helen Sedwick’s excellent book Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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Literary Agents Handle Books and Not Shorter Works

What agents handle?

I’d love a literary agent who would handle shorter pieces, such as articles, short stories, or poems. Unfortunately, they don’t. Literary agents handle books. They only deal with book-length projects.

Agents earn commission on projects sold. The payoff for shorter pieces is too small for them to spend time pitching them. They need to invest their time in bigger works that pay better.

That’s why literary agents handle books and not short pieces.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!