Monday, October 31, 2011
Thursday, October 27, 2011
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
My apologies to all for disappearing! I’ve just gotten back from a week of traveling on business—and I was swamped for several days before that with trip-related details. I hate it when bloggers go on about the “guys, I’m sorry I haven’t posted in a while,” but I felt I owed a bit of explanation for leaving our third contest winner, Jo Eberhardt, waiting on her bio critique for so long!
Without further ado, let’s jump in. Here’s Jo’s original bio paragraph:
I live on the outskirts of Brisbane, Australia with my husband and two young sons. My greatest ambition as a child was to grow up to be the lead singer of a heavy metal band. Sadly, by the time I was ten, the whole neighbourhood knew I couldn't carry a tune in a bucket. So I took my love of entertaining and inspiring people, and turned to storytelling instead. Earlier this year I had a story shortlisted for the Stringybark Speculative Fiction Award and subsequently published in the anthology A Visit From the Duchess. Over the last two months, I've won two of Chuck Wendig's weekly Flash Fiction competitions, as well as this competition on your blog. I'm a member of the local Writer's Group, am an Emily contest judge for the West Houston RWA in the Futuristic, Fantasy and Paranormal category, and blog about life, the universe and everything at http://thehappylogophile.
Overall, Jo, I really like this one—the “I’ve always wanted to be a writer” bit is kind of clichéd, but you’ve nicely turned it on its head a bit with the joke about wanting to be the singer in a heavy metal band (especially because it’s often unclear whether a metal singer can, in fact, sing!).
Generally speaking, you’re covering all my usual points here: where you live, your professional (writing) credits, your professional (writing) affiliations, a link to your blog, and a funny detail that gives me a stronger sense of your voice… and proof that there’s a real person behind the sometimes-dry details. This is a solid start.
Now, then, where to improve?
When I get a bio like yours, I often find myself doing a lot of googling to learn more about the credits the writer lists. It pains me a little bit to admit this so publicly, but I am definitely guilty of assuming that if a credit doesn’t have an Internet presence (no Google hits whatsoever), I, um, assume it’s fictional.
However, that’s not the case with yours! Here are links to Jo’s credits, for anyone who is less…what’s the word? DILIGENT, I’m sure that’s what you were thinking, right?, than I am.
http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/77531 (the anthology, on Smashwords)
http://terribleminds.com/ramble (Chuck Wendig’s blog-- I leave it up to you whether to point the link to a specific post announcing your contest wins.)
To sum up this point, which has gotten a little ramble-y, if you were querying me and included the links in parentheses after the description in your bio paragraph, I'd be grateful, and your chances of my giving your sample pages a thorough and careful read would go up.
The “life, the universe, and everything” moment: My geek cred is often called into question, with good reason, but I can certainly recognize this as an homage to Douglas Adams. Given your involvement with FF&P RWA, even without any details about the project about which you are querying, I’m guessing that any agents and editors reading your query are also supposed to “get” the reference here.
I have some concerns, though, about leaving this phrase in. It’s cute and it’s clever, but it also means that you’re encouraging any and all readers of the query to directly compare your work to that of Douglas Adams, who has more or less achieved nerd sainthood at this point, I’m pretty sure. The publishing industry’s full of direct comparisons to other people’s work, but we usually phrase it as “This Famous Book meets That Other Famous Book” or “will appeal to fans of This Famous Book and The Other Famous Book,” so that you’re never inviting a situation where you’re asking someone to decide whether your work is better or worse than the work to which you’re comparing it.
Your work may well be as good as Douglas Adams’s—and far be it from me to say otherwise!—but it should be the work itself which encourages this comparison, not the query letter. Yours is a very mild version of this phenomenon, but I can’t tell you how many query letters I’ve seen which asserted that the novel in question was better than Harry Potter, Twilight, or The Da Vinci Code. Seriously. I’m not paraphrasing here.
My best advice on how to fix? Swap out “life, the universe, and everything” for a line elsewhere in the query that says “my novel TITLE will appeal to fans of Douglas Adams and [this is my geek cred failing me again, because I cannot think of another example of humorous SF that’s not Doctor Who, which just seems like too obvious of a reference].”
Otherwise, if the novel is half as good as the bio paragraph, I think you’re in very good shape here.
Thanks for your patience, and thanks again for playing along with the contest!
I’m open to ideas for a new contest—should we do another writing contest (in these waning days before NaNoWriMo begins)? A randomly selected winner from comments? What should the prize be?
Thursday, October 6, 2011
From a young age, writing was an integral part of Christi Corbett’s life. It was a skill she further developed during her career as a television writer. Now, Christi continues to broaden her writing horizons with the completion of Along the Way Home, a historical fiction about the Oregon Trail.
After graduating from Western Washington University with a degree in Communications, Christi took a job with a CBS affiliate in the Creative Services Department. Over the years her lifelong love of writing was put to good use; in addition to writing over three hundred television commercials, she earned the position as head writer for a weekly television show. Furthermore, she was responsible for writing over one hundred press releases detailing the station’s various special events, community programs, and news department awards.
During her time with the television station, Christi was awarded with multiple American Advertising Awards (ADDY) and recognized by the March of Dimes with an award for providing “Outstanding Communications Support”.
Sharing the power of television has always been important to Christi, both professionally and personally. Through television station partnerships, Christi repeatedly managed advertising and publicity for large scale events with agencies such as The Salvation Army, the United Way, the American Cancer Society, and the March of Dimes.
Nowadays, Christi looks forward to putting her experience in public speaking and marketing to use during the promotion process of her novel,Along the Way Home.
Christi is a member of Willamette Writers, and also participates in a critique group.
Currently, Christi lives in a small town in Oregon with her husband, and twin children. The location of the home holds a special place in Christi’s writing life; it stands just 600 feet from the original Applegate Trail and the view from her back door is a hill travelers looked upon years ago as they explored the Oregon Territory and beyond.
This is a lot to take in, so let me say first of all, Christi, that I think you're right: the first one is too dry and the second one is too wordy.
Since you've given me so much to work with, and since I went into such detail about my "rules for bio paragraphs" in the previous post, I'm going to try a judicious cut-and-past effort here, to give you a sense of where I'd go with this.
I spent three years as the head writer for a weekly television show [CMC: name the show and the network! Local or national, this is a nice credit to have.] and have written over three hundred broadcast television commercials, for which I received multiple American Advertising Awards (ADDYs) and was recognized by the March of Dimes with an award for providing “Outstanding Communications Support.” I’m an accomplished public speaker, and my connections in the television industry will be helpful in publicity and marketing efforts for my work. I’m a member of Willamette Writers and a critique group, and I live with my husband and our twins in a small town in Oregon, in a house just 600 feet from the original Applegate Trail.
This final detail is a nice touch, don't you think? I love knowing about people's personal connection to their writing (Christi's novel is a historical about the Oregon Trail).
Christi, because you've already got a lot of other information in your bio paragraph (at least as rewritten by me), you can probably safely leave out the blog and Twitter-type info-- but make sure it's in your contact information at the end of your letter.
But to make some more general, sweeping comments about hypothetical situations:
Shoshanna (hi, Shoshanna!) asked in comments what I would consider a "good number" for Twitter follower purposes. I've been thinking about this a lot, because I hadn't tried to put an actual numerical figure on what I meant by that. But here are some of my theories:
-A thousand Twitter followers is a lot for someone who's never published before, or has "only" self-published, or published with smaller houses where they've never been assigned a publicist. I assume that with 1,000 Twitter followers, you've proven that you've got an interesting voice online, and that you "get" this particular social media venue.
-A LOT of bestselling genre fiction authors have between three and five thousand followers. If you're tweeting to an audience of this size, and a decent percentage (please don't make me define "decent percentage!") of your followers will buy your book, you are in great, great shape.
-If you have 10,000 Twitter followers or more, chances are you are a household name at least in certain spheres.
-The most Twitter-popular author I could find in my ~ ten minutes' searching was Neil Gaiman, with well over a million followers. Margaret Atwood has about 260,000. Joe Hill has about 120,000. Jodi Picoult has about 38,000.
Regarding your blog, if your blog is important or fairly well-known in one of the following situations, be sure to mention it in your bio:
1) you are a book blogger, who regularly writes book reviews or discussions about the publishing industry on your blog. You know you fall into this category if publishers contact you offering to send you books (via NetGalley or otherwise), or if your posts get picked up in industry link-roundups from time to time.
2) your blog has become an authority on a topic that's related to the book you're querying on.Note: this is true even if you don't have academic credentials in the topic. If other people have come to consider you an authority on the topic because of your website, that is itself a kind of credential. If you're writing Jane Austen sequels and you're a webmistress on the Republic of Pemberley, for example, that detail is going to help sell your book. So mention it!
One more bio critique to go. Any questions or thoughts? Leave 'em in the comments!