Archive for the 'Book Tour' Category

Q & A with My Freelancing Mentor, Wendy Burt-Thomas

Wendy Burt ThomasWendy is a full-time freelance writer, editor and copywriter with more than 1,000 published pieces. As you may recall, her third book, The Writer’s Digest Guide to Query Letters hits stores in December.

1. Can you tell us about your book?

The book was a great fit for me because I’d been teaching “Breaking Into Freelance Writing” for about eight years. In the workshop, I covered a lot of what is in this book: writing query letters to get articles in magazines, to land an agent, or to get a book deal with a publisher. Since I’m a full-time freelance magazine writer and editor with two previous books, this was incredibly fun to write because it didn’t require tons of research. I was lucky enough to receive lots of great sample query letters from writers and authors that I use as “good” examples in the book. I wrote all the “bad” examples myself because I didn’t dare ask for contributions that I knew I’d be ripping apart!
In addition to the ins and outs of what makes a good query, the book covers things like why (or why not) to get an agent, where to find one and how to choose one; writing a synopsis or proposal; selling different rights to your work; other forms of correspondence; and what editors and agents look for in new writers.

It was really important to me that the book not be a dry, boring reference book, but rather an entertaining read (while still being chock full of information). I was thrilled that Writer’s Digest let me keep all the humor.

The Writer's Digest Guide to Query Letters2. Why are query letters so important?
Breaking into the publishing world is hard enough right now. Unless you have a serious “in” of some kind, you really need a great query letter to impress an agent or acquisitions editor. Essentially, your query letter is your first impression. If they like your idea (and voice and writing style and background), they’ll either request a proposal, sample chapters, or the entire manuscript. If they don’t like your query letter, you’ve got to pitch it to another agency/publisher. Unlike a manuscript, which can be edited or reworked if an editor thinks it has promise, you only get one shot with your query. Make it count!

I see a lot of authors who spend months (or years) finishing their book, only to rush through the process of crafting a good, solid query letter. What a waste! If agents/editors turn you down based on a bad query letter, you’ve blown your chance of getting them to read your manuscript. It could be the next bestseller, but they’ll never see it. My advice is to put as much effort into your query as you did your book. If it’s not fabulous, don’t send it until it is.

3. You’re also a magazine editor. What is your biggest gripe regarding queries?

Queries that show that the writer obviously hasn’t read our publication. I’ll admit that I did this when I was a new writer too – submitted blindly to any publication whose name sounded even remotely related to my topic. One of the examples I use was when I submitted a parenting article to a magazine for senior citizens. Oops! A well-written query pitching an article that’s not a match for the magazine isn’t going to get you any further than a poorly written query.

4. There’s an entire chapter in the book about agents. Do you think all new writers should get agents?

Probably 99% of new writers should get an agent. There are lots of reasons, but my top three are: 1) Many of the larger publishing houses won’t even look at unagented submissions now; 2) Agents can negotiate better rights and more money on your behalf; 3) Agents know the industry trends, changes and staff better than you ever could.

5. You’ve been a mentor, coach or editor for many writers. What do you think is the most common reason that good writers don’t get published?

Poor marketing skills. I see so many writers that are either too afraid, too uniformed, or frankly, too lazy, to market their work. They think their job is done when the write “the end” but writing is only half of the process. I’ve always told people who took my class that there are tons of great writers in the world who will never get published. I’d rather be a good writer who eats lobster than a great writer who eats hot dogs. I make a living as a writer because I spend as much time marketing as I do writing.

6. What are some of the biggest misconceptions that writers have about getting a book deal?

That they’ll be rich overnight, that they don’t need to promote their book once it’s published, that publishing houses will send them on world book tours, that people will recognize them at the airport. Still, you can make great money as an author if you’re prepared to put in the effort. If it wasn’t possible, there wouldn’t be so many full-time writers.

7. What must-read books do you recommend to new writers?

Christina Katz has a new book out called Get Known Before the Book Deal — which is fabulous. Also, Stephen King’s On Writing and David Morrell’s Lessons from a Lifetime of Writing. Anything by Anne Lamott or my Dad, Steve Burt.

8. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned as a full-time writer?

Seize every opportunity – especially when you first start writing. I remember telling someone about a really high-paying writing gig I got and he said, “Wow. You have the best luck!” I thought, “Luck has nothing to do with it! I’ve worked hard to get where I am.” Later that week I read this great quote: “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” It’s absolutely true. And writing queries is only about luck in this sense. If you’re prepared with a good query and/or manuscript, when the opportunity comes along you’ll be successful.

9. What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

Writing the “bad” query letters. I’ve read – and written! – so many horrible ones over the years that it was a little too easy to craft them. But misery loves company and we ALL love to read really bad query letters, right?

10. What do you want readers to learn from your book?

I want them to understand that while writing a good query letter is important, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. You can break it down into parts, learn from any first-round rejections, and read other good queries to help understand what works. I also want them to remember that writing is fun. Sometimes new writers get so caught up in the procedures that they lose their original voice in a query. Don’t bury your style under formalities and to-the-letter formatting.

To learn more about Wendy or her three books, visit If you have a writing-related question, you can post it on


Get Known Before the Book Deal Book Tour

I’m now planning my book tour for Get Known Before the Book Tour, Use Your Personal Strengths to Grow an Author Platform. 🙂

Obviously I’m very excited. I found out today that the publication date is October 20th. That doesn’t give me much time to get out and about before the (unofficial) December moratorium on book-related events kicks in.

But I hope to be all over Oregon in November and then heading up to Washington state to speak in the New Year. (Details to come soon.)

I am planning to attend one writing conference per month-ish in 2009. Are there any that you would like me to attend near you? Please either leave a message in the comments or send me an e-mail at writer mama at earthlink dot net.

I’m very excited about working with as many aspiring authors in-person as possible in 2009. Thanks for your input! Hope we will get a chance to meet face-to-face, if we haven’t had the opportunity already.

Thank you Barnes & Noble, Clackamas Town Center

I have been wanting to do a writer mama panel for a long time. So I invited Chelsea Cain, Elizabeth Rusch and Heather Sharfeddin and we did a panel. Diana Page Jordan moderated and she was terrific. The whole experience was altogether enjoyable. I wish I had recorded it!

We’ve all recently published very different kinds of books and yet, despite our individual approaches to process, we seemed to agree on the following:

Childcare is important.

Supportive spouses are key.

Seeking a tribe of believing mirror fellow writers is critical (especially because they may not be the folks closest to you, that last part came from me).

Thanks, to Page Jordan from Barnes & Noble for hosting! And Jerry Isom and Bill Johnson from Willamette Writers!

Diana Jordan, Christina Katz, Elizabeth Rusch, Heather Sharfeddin, Chelsea Cain

Here we are. I will definitely be organizing another one near Mother’s Day. Thanks everyone for coming!

Barnes & Noble Clackamas Town Center, Children’s area

Meanwhile, when she wasn’t in the audience, Samantha enjoyed the children’s section.

She was also pleased to receive a copy of Elizabeth Rusch’s A Day with No Crayons (Rising Moon), one of four books she published this year along with the Oregon Book Award Nominated, Will It Blow? Become a Volcano Detective at Mount St. Helen’s (Sasquatch), The Planet Hunter, The Story Behind What Happened to Pluto (Rising Moon), and Girls Tennis, Conquering the Court.

All in all, it was a good day.

Today is the Books for Kids Event at the Clackamas Oregon Barnes & Noble

Did I mention that it’s the biggest Barnes & Noble between Vancouver B.C. and San Francisco?

That’s right.

If you want to learn more, please visit my earlier posts here and here and the Willamette Writers Website.

And don’t forget to tell the B&N cashier you want your book purchase credited to Books for Kids.

You may download cashier vouchers, which will also be avaiable at every cashier station, and a PDF flyer for the event, if you’d like one, here.

The Official Writer Mama Tour Has Come to an End!

My forthcoming book!Whew. What a long and wonderful six months it’s been!

Thanks for reading all about it here. If you missed it, you can always scroll back to April and follow the “blogprints” from there.

I’ll be posting some media materials for organizers of Spring, Summer and Fall writer events, but until March 2008, I’ll pretty much be taking a break from traveling. I’m really happy about being able to hunker down in the gloomy months and just write my brains out.

Really, really happy. 🙂

I’m going to officially thank everyone who helped with the tour now, so brace yourself:

Special thanks to the folks at Writer’s Digest Books: Jane Friedman, Michelle Ehrhard, Greg Hatfield, Phil Sexton, and Stephen Koenig. Also thanks to Claudean Wheeler for every compliment I received about Writer Mama’s cover (there were many!).

Gratitude to Writer’s Digest Magazine for the awesome “When Writing and Parenthood Collide Contest.” And thank you Maria Schneider for choosing The Writer Mama Riffs blog for her “The Writer’s Perspective” blogroll.

Big hugs to Sage Cohen for her sunny support in all kinds of weather.

High fives to Sharon Cindrich for swapping travel tales and all the writing-a-first book support we shared along the way.

So thankful to all of the contributors to Writers on the Rise and all of the participants in our awesome Writer Mama Back-to-School Daily Giveaway (which I am going to wrap up soon, I promise!).

Thanks to my agent, Rita Rosenkranz, for being the model of poise and professionalism at all times. Special thanks to the Weiser family, especially to Barb, for picking up the childcare slack.

Thanks to all of the hosts including Broadway Books in Portland, Village Books in Bellingham, Orca Books in Olympia, Willamette Writers Portland Chapter, Willamette Writers Coast Chapter, Third Place Books in Redmond, Washington, The WD/BEA Writer’s Conference and Writer’s Digest at Book Expo America in New York City, OWC Presents at Powell’s in Beaverton, The PNWA Conference in Seattle, The Willamette Writers Conference in Portland, The Whidbey Island Writer’s Association MFA Fall Residency, Willamette Writers Central Oregon Chapter, Willamette Writers of Southern Oregon, Columbia College, Chicago’s Creative Nonfiction Week, The Northwest Women’s Show in Portland, and The Wilsonville Public Library & The Wilsonville Arts & Culture Council’s Northwest Author Series.

Thanks to my students for their willingness to work and write hard!

And especially thanks to you, the readers of this blog, for teaching me how to be a blogger. I had no idea what I was getting myself into and I still can’t keep up with most of you. But I do the best I can. 😉

Especially thanks for continuing to spread the word about Writer Mama. The word-of-mouth support has been just incredible. And I always appreciate every single personal recommendation whether it’s to a friend, a fellow writer, a daughter, mother, student, teacher, reader, librarian, bookstore, or event organizer.

Now is an especially important time to continue to share what you like about Writer Mama. So don’t stop, just because I am saying…

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I deserve a Java Chip Frapuccinio.

Sage and Christina Rock the Northwest Women’s Show

Okay, maybe “rock” is a strong word for what we did.

But we had a good time. So rock it is!

Sage Cohen and Christina Katz at the 2007 Northwest Women’s Show


Sage Cohen and Christina Katz at the 2007 Northwest Women’s Show on stage

Writer Mama Visits Her Kind of Town (Chicago) for Creative Nonfiction Week

I spent the lion’s share of my twenties in Chicago. I’d just gotten my B.A. from Dartmouth College in English and spent the summer as a T.A. at Phillips Andover’s Summer School.

I was preppy. I was incredibly naive. I was scared. And when I landed in Chicago, after driving all night to get there from Mass. in my boyfriend’s old Buick with “My Kind of Town” by Frank Sinatra booming through the speakers and the Sears Tower lit and looming through the windshield, I was a quite a lot like Dorothy, only I woke up in Chicago instead of Oz.

Over the next nine years, I sometimes followed (and sometimes didn’t follow) the yellow brick road wherever it took me.

And then one not very happy day (if I am remembering correctly, not much else was going very well), I said, “Screw it. I’m writing.” And I got myself an application to Columbia College Chicago’s Fiction Writing Program. Graduate school was a place where houses didn’t fall from the sky. There were no wicked witches there. Just a lot of other aspiring writers just like me, who wanted to write and after that pretty much didn’t have clue.

I met my friend Kristin Bair O’Keeffe there and we became fast friends. United by our literary desire and our belief that were hot stuff (I’m not sure if we were or we weren’t, but we sure thought we were) we wrote a lot of pages and started a graduate student reading series called “Readings in the Raw.”

Chicago was the place where I dared to make a commitment to writing. It was a commitment that I paid thousands of dollars for. And it was totally worth it. I highly recommend graduate school in writing to anyone in their twenties who wants to write. The hard work that I did at Columbia, writing thousands and thousand of pages over the course of three years, didn’t get me published outside those at the school, but it gave me an important foundation as a writer that I have drawn on over the years and continue to draw on as my writing career grows.

I’m going back to read as part of an event for Creative Nonfiction Week, which is a joint effort between the Fiction Department, the Journalism Department, and the English Department. If you are going to be around, please come by and say hello. You can learn more about Creative Nonfiction Week here.

Now if I can just get the sound of Frank Sinatra out of my head, I’ll get back to work. 😉

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