Dec 06

The Book Summary – Five Must-Know Components

Tips on writing a book summary

After your book query, the book summary or description is the most important marketing element. You can think of it as number 2 on the book marketing ladder.

Once your book query gets the reader to actually read it, the summary is what will entice the editor or agent to ask for more.

If you’re writing fiction, this means taking your novel, short story, or other fiction genre and reducing it, condensing it, to around 200 words. Many authors, especially new ones, have a difficult time with this. How do you turn a 35,000 children middle grade book into 200 words? How do you turn a 250,000 word novel into 200 words?

Impossible!

Well, as impossible as it may seem, that’s what you need to do to get your manuscript out your door and into a publishing house.

So, what’s involved in writing a ‘killer’ book summary?

According to Margaret Fortune, in an article at Writer’s Digest, the “synopsis [summary] is about one thing: Convincing an agent [or editor] to read your book.” (1)

Again, you book query made the editor/agent look, but it’s the summary that will have her wanting more.

The summary breaks the manuscript into five primary components:

1. Main characters

Once the reader gets to the point of reading your summary, you need to provide an engaging protagonist (main character). This very brief portrayal must demonstrate the protagonist’s individuality. The reader must be able to relate to the character through some trait, goal, peculiarity, or other.

In my middle grade fantasy adventure, “Walking Through Walls,” the protagonist didn’t want to labor in the fields like his father. He wanted more. He wanted to find the Eternals, a mystical group who had extraordinary powers. In fact, he obsessed over finding them.

This gives the protagonist a particular characteristic, an edge. It sets him apart.

2. Plot, including setting

This is one of the toughies. You want to be descriptive, but you need to make it lean. Give enough, but don’t give too much.

According to the article Shrink Tank by Grace Bello, “The key is to entice, not to reveal all.” (2)

TIP: A helpful way to condense your story is to first create 10 different elevator pitches for it. These are one or two sentences that you could convincing get out within a 30-60 second elevator ride.

Once you can narrow the manuscript down to an elevator pitch, you should find it easier to write a 200 word overview.

3. Tone

The tone is established through phrasing and even word choices, such as positive or negative words. The tone is subjective – it’s the author’s attitude toward the story or components within the story.

Write the summary in the same tone [narrative voice] as the book. If it’s humorous, make the summary humorous. If it a mystery or suspense, keep that tone in the summary.

4. Genre

The editor or agent will of course want to know the genre, so be sure to include it.

TIP: If you submit a children’s story to a romance book publisher, that editor won’t be interested in your story – no matter how well-crafted your summary is. So, be sure you research the publishing houses and/or agents you intend to submit your query and summary to. Be sure the accept submissions in your genre.

5. Comparable titles

While years ago, this wasn’t an issue, it is now. Agents and publishers want to know what they can compare your story to.

As an example, my middle grade fantasy book mentioned above, is set in 16th century China. It has the elements of respect and honor that the time period conjures up. If I had to compare it to something similar, I’d have to go with “A Single Shard,” by Linda Sue Park.

This is in no way stating it’s as good as “A Single Shard,” it’s saying that it has a similar tone and mood to that book.

TIP: Be careful with this component. You don’t want to puff your book up by comparing it to a great book. As with my example above, I’d be quick to mention that it’s only comparable in tone and mood.

References:

(1) http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/tips-for-queriers-the-query-the-synopsis-and-the-first-page
(2) The Writer, October 2013, Shrink Tank, page 33.
(3) http://ourenglishclass.net/class-notes/writing/the-writing-process/craft/tone-and-mood/

MORE ON WRITING FOR CHILDREN

Book Marketing and the Query Letter
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What Makes a Good Story? Plot Driven vs. Character Driven

Children's ghostwriter

Let me take a look at it. I’m a working children’s ghostwriter, rewriter, editor, and coach. I can turn your story into a publishable and marketable book.

Shoot me an email at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com (please put Children’s Writing Help in the Subject line)

Or, if you’d rather give it a shot and do-it-yourself, check out my book, HOW TO WRITE A CHILDREN’S FICTION BOOK.

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Nov 15

Book Marketing and the Query Letter

The Query Letter

If you are contemplating writing a book or you’ve already written one and intend on going the traditional publishing path, you’ll need a query letter and a cover letter.

This is true whether you’re an author, a writer, or a business owner who wants to build his authority with a book.

Wondering what a query letter has to do with book marketing?

The query is the second step in your book marketing journey. Think of it as the beginning of a hopefully rewarding relationship with a publisher or agent.

The first step is writing a great story. The second is getting a contract – this is where the query comes in.

If you’re not sure what a query letter is, Jane Friedman notes that it’s a stand-alone letter and has only one purpose. Its sole purpose is “to seduce the agent or editor into reading or requesting your work. The query is so much of a sales piece that you should be able to write it without having written a single word of the manuscript.” (1)

The query letter is your foot in the publishing door. So, you can see how much rides on this one or two page letter (preferably one page).

Here are 8 elements you should be aware of:

1. Do your research. Have you gone to the publisher’s or agent’s website to make sure your manuscript topic is something s/he handles?

You can do an online search for publishers or agents that will be a fit for your story. Or, you can use an online service, like WritersMarket.com.

I recommend you get Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market (current year).

2. Know what you need to do. At the site, did you carefully go over the submission guidelines? I mean really, really, really, carefully!

3. Is your opening (in the query) grabbing? Will it get the reader’s attention?

4. Edit, edit, edit. Have you checked for grammar errors? Have you checked for redundancy? How about spelling? Don’t rely on a word processors speck check feature alone. Edit your letter manually.

5. Keep it short and sweet. Eliminate non-essential personal information.

6. Include credentials, and/or pertinent background information, if any.

7. Include your book marketing strategy for promoting your book. In this section, include your social media following, only if significant: 500 followers, 1000 followers, 5000, 10,000. Obviously, the more the better. And, it’s essential that you have an author website and include the link in your heading.

8. Have you studied the query letter format?

The format consists of several paragraphs?

a. Your introduction, mentioning that you’ve visited the website and why you’re querying.
b. A very brief gist of what the manuscript is about and the intended age group.
c. A very brief synopsis of the story.
e. Your background, if pertinent. Include your marketing intentions.
f. Thank the editor/agent for her time. Mention that you included XXX pages (the number the guidelines said to send), if applicable.

Taking the time to do it right and write an optimized query letter may make the difference between the slush pile and a contract.

The query letter is the portal to a contract. If the reader says NO at the letter, you’re manuscript may be great, but it won’t have a chance.

MORE ON WRITING FOR CHILDREN

Children’s Ghostwriting Fees – Does Price Equal Quality?
Getting to Know Your Characters
Editing a Children’s Book – 10 Tips Checklist for Authors

Need Help With Your StoryLet me take a look at it. I’m a working children’s ghostwriter, rewriter, and coach. I can turn your story into a publishable and saleable book.

Send me an email at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com (please put Children’s Writing Help in the Subject line), or call me at 347—834—6700

Oct 08

Make Your Children’s Writing Website Focused – 3 Must-Haves, 6 Tips

Is your site on the mark?

As we get caught up in our writing careers sometimes it’s easy to forget to remain focused.

That’s a no-no! It’s important to present a focused brand and site.

Okay, so what are three website must-haves and six tips?

The Must-Haves

1. Create a website using your own name.

As a writer, whether you’re co-writing with someone or not, you need your own website. And, your main (hub) site should have your name in it. This will be your central site linking off to your other related sites.

As an example, my children’s writing site is: Writing for Children with Karen Cioffi.

Now, with this title I have two essential elements covered: (1) my name, (2) the site’s keyword.

The visitor and search engines can quickly determine what the site is about. This is super important for website ranking and authority. While there are a number of other areas that need your keyword for website optimization, the title is one of the top ones.

Note: In this case, when I say “title,” I mean the URL also. Your URL is an optimization tool. It gives the search engines more information the site.

So, using my site above, the URL is http://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com

My site’s title and its URL both have the always-important keywords in them. This is focus.

2. Include the niche you write in as part of your URL and website title.

This was touched on in number one above. If you write in only one niche, say children’s historical fantasy, you should have that keyword in the title of your site, as well as in the domain name. Then you can have one site to list all your books. Just be sure to create separate pages for each book.

Tip: It’s really a much better idea to create a separate website for each book, in addition to your central author site. It allows you to create multiple must-have pages for each book. See number 4 in the tips below.

HOT TIP: If your title is too long, it’s better to use the niche keyword, say ‘children’s historical fantasy,’ and omit your name. Unless you’re Eric Carle, or Kevin Henkes, or James Patterson, you’re name has no search engine value.

3. If you are branding yourself as a children’s writer, keep your site specific to writing for children.

I originally had a problem with this. I ventured into a number of writing arenas including content writing and online marketing. Instead of keeping those areas separate, I brought them into my children’s writing site.

So, why is this a mistake? Well, because of dilution of expertise.

If you’re branding yourself as a children’s writer, the focus of your site must be children’s writing. If you promote yourself as ‘doing this, that, and the other thing,’ you’ll become known as the ‘jack of all trades and master of none,’ – dilution of expertise.

TIP: If you’re also involved in other writing arenas as I am, create a separate sites for promoting yourself as an expert in those areas. You wouldn’t want to have your steamy romance books listed on your children’s writing site.

Remember, whatever your site’s niche is, keep it focused on that niche.

6 TIPS for a Better Website/Blog

1. Always have an about page on each of your sites, include a short bio and photo.

2. Always have an opt-in box (for your mailing list) readily visible on your sites.

3. Always make sure your visitors can easily find how to contact you – a contact page is a good idea.

4. Have a page for reviews of your books, excerpts of your books, testimonials, illustrations, awards, etc. You can also link to interviews others have done about you and your books. (This is where a separate site for each book comes in handy.)

5. Offer a resources and/or tools page. The visitor will appreciate this and hopefully share your site with others and link back to it.

6. Get a book trailer or video on your site. Mix it up. People love visuals.

Using these tips will help you create a focused and reader/search engine optimized children’s writing website.

MORE ON WRITING FOR CHILDREN

What Makes a Good Story? Plot Driven vs. Character Driven
Editing a Children’s Book – 10 Tips Checklist for Authors
Submitting Your Manuscript – 8 Tips

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Jan 29

Tips for Marketing Your Children’s Book

children's book, excalibur, fantasyGuest post by Fiona Ingram

When marketing your children’s book, a better result comes from a finely-tuned approach. Simply honing in on your target market the right way will reap great benefits. Here are my tips.

1. Have a top quality product. Your book must be entertaining or educational, well written with age appropriate language, themes and/or illustrations, and have an eye-catching cover and appealing blurb. Parents and those involved in buying children’s books will probably be a lot more demanding about the quality of material to be viewed by a young reader.
2. Define your target market. These are parents, relatives, teachers, librarians, literacy experts, and parenting and educational organizations. If they trust the quality of your book, you are halfway there.
3. Ask yourself: why would they read your book or choose it for young readers? What is the focus or ‘hook’ that will captivate a young audience? Is it adventure with a bit of history or geography? Fantasy with lots of imaginative goings-on? Is it educational, religious or cultural in theme? This will help you narrow down the persons or organizations who will give your book a second glance.
4. A good author website is a must, where buyers can read more about the author and the background to the book/s, see what the author has achieved, such as winning book awards, writing articles of interest to parents and educators etc. Don’t forget a Facebook page for your book or book series where you can post event updates and your book video/s.
5. Enter your book in every possible but reputable award. Book awards are a fantastic way to blow your own trumpet modestly. Awards and even just nominations usually come with stickers that, displayed on your book cover, give it higher status. An award or nomination says that your book has achieved industry standards and is worth purchasing. This is important when attracting the attention of libraries, bookstores, and schools.
6. Reviews are another excellent way to spread the word. People rely on reviews because they are the opinions of buyers just like them. Apart from Amazon, B&N and other major book sites, don’t forget to list your book/s on Goodreads, Librarything, Shelfari, and Jacketflap, which focuses on children’s books. Take it a step further and approach parenting, literacy and educational blogs (such as The Reading Tub), offering to write informative articles on kids and reading. Don’t forget publications devoted to children’s books such as School Library Journal, The Horn Book, Library Media Connection, and Booklist. Subscribe to children’s book publisher newsletters (Publishers Weekly and Scholastic) and find out what other authors are doing. James Patterson’s ReadKiddoRead is also a great resource.
7. Give something away. You can give of your time and skill as a storyteller. Using the hook that will appeal to librarians and educators, approach your local schools, libraries and literacy centers with an offer of a book reading, a chat to kids about books and the fun in reading, or include a quiz if your book has an educational theme. Kids love quizzes and they can all win a prize–bookmarks, postcards, and posters are a cheap and fun way of making sure your book lingers long after you have left.
8. Blog tours are an incredibly effective way of targeting the audience interested in you and your book.

These are just a few ways you can focus on marketing your children’s book. Lastly, I’ll reiterate the advice I was once given. Tell everyone you know about your book—family, friends with kids, local teachers and librarians. Word of mouth is the best advertising and it’s free!

children's authorAbout Fiona Ingram:

Fiona Ingram was born and educated in South Africa, and has worked as a full-time journalist and editor. Her interest in ancient history, mystery, and legends, and her enjoyment of travel resulted in The Secret of the Sacred Scarab, the first in her exciting children’s adventure series—The Chronicles of the Stone. This was inspired by a family trip the author took with her mom and two young nephews aged ten and twelve at the time. The book began as a short story for her nephews and grew from there. The Search for the Stone of Excalibur is a treat for young King Arthur fans. Fiona is busy with Book 3 entitled The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper, set in Mexico.

While writing The Secret of the Sacred Scarab, Fiona fostered (and later adopted) a young African child from a disadvantaged background. Her daughter became the inspiration for the little heroine, Kim, in The Search for the Stone of Excalibur. Interestingly, the fictional character’s background and social problems are reflected in the book as Kim learns to deal with life. Fiona’s experiences in teaching her daughter to read and to enjoy books also inspired many of her articles on child literacy and getting kids to love reading.

About The Search for the Stone of Excalibur:

A modern day adventure as our protagonists search for Excalibur and the treasures it holds!

Continuing the adventure that began in Egypt a few months prior in The Secret of the Sacred Scarab, cousins Adam and Justin Sinclair are hot on the trail of the second Stone of Power, one of seven ancient stones lost centuries ago. This stone might be embedded in the hilt of a newly discovered sword that archaeologists believe belonged to King Arthur: Excalibur.

However, their long-standing enemy, Dr. Khalid, is following them as they travel to Scotland to investigate an old castle. Little do they know there is another deadly force, the Eaters of Poison, who have their own mission to complete. Time is running out as the confluence of the planets draws closer. Can Justin and Adam find the second Stone of Power and survive? And why did Aunt Isabel send a girl with them?

Join Justin and Adam as they search not only for the second Stone of Power, but also for the Scroll of the Ancients, a mysterious document that holds important clues to the Seven Stones of Power. As their adventure unfolds, they learn many things and face dangers that make even their perils in Egypt look tame. And how annoying for them that their tag-along companion, Kim, seems to have such good ideas when they are stumped.

Author Site: http://www.FionaIngram.com
Twitter: http://twitter.com/FionaRobyn
Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/fiona.robyn.ingram

Get Your copy of The Search for the Stone of Excalibur.

~~~~~

Fiona, it was a pleasure hosting you on your virtual book tour for your new book. It looks like a wonderful book. Best wishes for its success!

Karen