Tag Archive for self-publish

10 Steps to a Perfect Pitch: Free Webinar

Join me Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.

Join me Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.

Know one paying attention? Maybe it’s not your book; maybe it’s your pitch. Join me Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. EST for a free webinar on how to move toward the perfect pitch. You’ll leave with actionable steps you can put to immediate use, plus a few things to think about before you create – or recreate – your pitch. Oh, and don’t forget to bring your questions.

The webinar is free. Sign up here.

See you online Tuesday.



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10 Ways to Hone Your Pitch

Authors in the bull pen; the pitch is moments away

Authors in the bull pen; the pitch is moments away

Imagine the bullpen overflowing with pitchers. Each will get a turn at the mound, but there’s no room for error. One mistake and it’s game over.

Welcome to Pitch Slam, biggest draw of the 2014 Writer’s Digest Conference in New York City. What’s it like knowing you have three minutes to make an agent fall for your story, or at least request a second date?

Three minutes. That’s 90 seconds for the pitch and 90 seconds for questions. Once three minutes passes, a bell sounds and your time is up. Those who linger beyond the deadline can expect an unfriendly tap from the on deck author.

As any relief pitcher will tell you, the work doesn’t begin when you walk on the field. The work begins well before, in this case by crafting and rehearsing the pitch, and knowing whom you’ll be facing before the game gets started.

That in mind, here are 10 tips to help you step it up, whether you’re pitching at a slam or chatting up an agent between innings at a ballgame. Credit for 5-10 go to Writer’s Digest’s Chuck Sambuchino.

1 – Make your first line your best line. It’s true – you only get one chance to make a great first impression. Great is subjective, so let’s say make the opener the best you can make it. Mine was:

Pretender is the story of a disgraced journalist who learns a startling secret about a racist U.S. senator that he once helped send to prison.

2 – Be concise. You have lots of competition, meaning that the agents need a quick, clear synopsis that highlights story, conflict and protagonist. In my hour-long session, 130 authors were pitching to 50 agents.

3 – Know the players. Besides a Google search, many of the conference agents are on Twitter. You can learn a lot by monitoring what they tweet, and then use the info to frame your pitch based on what most interests them.

4 – Practice your lines. You should know your pitch cold and deliver it with passion. Don’t expect excitement from the other side of the table if you’re not passionate about your work. That said, you should also be nimble enough to adjust on the fly if an agent wants to drill down on something specific.

5 – Be comfortable. Reading your pitch is a bad idea, no matter how nervous you feel. This is an amateur move that eliminates the possibility of good eye contact, one of the core principles of effective communication. Really, this is not optional. If you’re having trouble, go back to Tip 3.

6 – Think DVD. That is, think of the back of a DVD box, which tells the story without giving away the ending. Example: It’s about a great white shark that terrorizes a New England town.

7 – Don’t lead with a question. While the provocative question opener might work in some situations, agents are usually on overload. Don’t make them work too hard to figure out where your story is going.

8 – Be specific. Don’t say your novel is a humorous romp. Craft a pitch that draws a laugh. Or at least a smile. (Notice this applies to good writing as well.)

9 – A few more Sambuchino “don’ts:” Don’t sing your pitch. (Would you consider it?) Don’t talk about yourself in the third person. I’m Steve. Steve doesn’t like hunting. Don’t say your family loved your book. Don’t sit down, exhale, and say you’re looking for an agent.

10 – Remember the mission. The pitch is about the book, not you. If interested in the work, the agent will ask more about you. That’s the time to talk about the author.

If you reach that last hurdle, you’ve done well. Now’s the time to remember that you’re a writer capable of incredible storytelling. Don’t list your credentials; turn your resume into a story that’s as memorable as your work.

Wanted: Reader Questions!

Post a question on my Goodreads page!

Post a question on my Goodreads page!

One of my favorite parts of author events is Q & A. I’ve been asked about plot, process, writer’s block, character development, dialogue, inspiration, marketing, sex scenes and a lot more. I love when my answers ignite a conversation that sheds a little more light on issues that interest readers and my fellow writers. Goodreads, essentially Facebook for folks who want to talk. share and review books, has taken note and now offers members an easy way to ask questions online. If you have a question, please click on over to my author page and post it. I will respond within 24 hours. Promise.

To follow Steve’s Back Story blog, please follow this link.



Free Webinar: Making Intimacy More Appealing

“Ready for round two?” she whispered. “You bet,” he said.sexscenes copy

Round two in this case is a repeat – by request – of my free webinar: “Sex Scenes: It Starts Between the Ears.”

This intimate conversation begins with a question: Which sells, sex or sexy? The short answer is, both sell. Some audiences are impatient, others prefer drawing a little tension-building romance and seduction. The act – and the writing of the act – are of course intensely personal. As with any form of writing, the more you practice, the better you get. But practice what, and how?

Join the webinar on Tuesday, July 1, at 7:30 p.m. for a look at the art of seducing your readers with scintillating prose that appeals to our most primal instincts.

The sign-up sheet is here.


To follow Steve’s “Back Story” blog, follow this link.

5 Lessons Learned Working the BEA Info Booth

Learning on the job

Learning on the job

Message from Siri: 10 percent power remaining. A hunt begins throughout New York’s enormous Javits Convention Center. Nothing, nothing, and then finally, an outlet behind an unmanned information booth. I plug in, sit and wait, not realizing that from the other side, it appears I am the guy with the answers. I am no such thing. I am at BookExpo America as an author and blogger.

In 30 minutes, I was approached by some 50 BEA visitors looking for everything from bathrooms to an evening book auction. At first, I demurred. “Sorry, just charging.” Some smiled, some looked disappointed. So I switched it up. “I’m just charging my phone, but I’ve been here a few times. What are you looking for?” The difference was significant. Some takeaways:

1 – Even impatient New Yorkers appreciate a smile, candor and forthrightness. Authors meeting readers for the first time should not overlook the importance of open body language, getting to the point quickly, and, as the conversation goes on, finding common interests.

2 –Some people are less comfortable beginning any kind of dialogue with a stranger. Make them feel welcome by speaking first. “Bet you’re looking for the art auction,” I said when two women approached “my” booth, (and after I’d figured out where the thing was being held). They not only appreciated the directions, they also listened to a quick pitch about my novel and took a bookmark that describes the plot and lists my website.

3 – You’re not going to win over everyone. One guy had missed his flight and arrived late. Anyone could tell at a glance he was tense, out of patience, and probably hungry. The new word is hangry. He wanted info I didn’t have. I told him I was just charging. His eyes said I should have found somewhere else to power up. If I was manning the information booth, I should have answers.

4 – Some people are just the opposite, and it’s okay to have a little fun. “Where is the art auction?” another woman asked. “Where do you think it is?” I answered. A light came on. “You don’t work here,” she said. “Correct, I’m just charging up. But I’ve heard the auction is up that escalator and to the right.” Bottom line: stiff and formal is not memorable. Let your personality show.

5 – People meeting you for the first time will make a judgment in about 10 seconds. Make sure you’re approachable and try to be helpful. You’ll notice a huge difference when you look at things from their point of view. Somehow you become more interesting, which opens a door to discuss other topics. Which, by the way, helps the time pass much more agreeably while your phone is coming back to life.

I enjoyed my brief time as a BEA info man. Has anything similar ever happened to you?

Follow Steve’s “Back Story” blog by clicking here.

Live Reports this Week from NY BookExpo

Live tweets start 5/28

Live tweets start 5/28

BookExpo America, billed as the largest book industry event in North America, takes place next week at the Javits Center in New York City. Authors, publishers and industry experts from 23 different nations will be attending, including yours truly. I hope you’ll follow my live tweets starting Wednesday, May 28 as I report on tips, trends and insights designed to help my fellow writers. The plan is to live tweet from conference sessions and then follow up here with longer blog posts. Please follow me on Twitter as @wordsprof


To follow Steve’s “Back Story” blog, click here.



9 Tips To Help You Shine at an Outdoor Book Fair

Get a leg up by knowing the lay of the land

Get a leg up by knowing the lay of the land

Dozens of small steps precede an author’s appearance at an outdoor book festival. A lot also happens during the presentation, and there are factors to consider once the applause ends.

Here are some tips gleaned (or reinforced) from a recent outing at one of the best venues around, the Gaithersburg Book Festival in Gaithersburg, MD.

Before the event:

Do some reconnaissance: You’ll feel more comfortable if you visit the venue beforehand and learn, for instance: the seating arrangement, size of the stage, whether you’ll need a mic, and if you have the option to move when speaking. Are you on concrete or grass? What’s the best angle for photos?

Make it easy: Of course you’re going to let everyone know where and when. Go the extra mile and use social media to provide a map and alert folks to potential traffic issues. You want everyone seated before you begin. Consider raffling off a book to help drive attendance.

Conquer stage fright: Relax by making new friends with people as they arrive. As you make light conversation, you’ll stop obsessing about your presentation. This will also add to the number of friendly faces you can find in the audience as you’re speaking.

During the reading:

Be the wizard: Reading is great, but audiences want to know what’s going on behind the curtain. Be open and candid. Reveal a bit of yourself and your writing process without dragging it out too much.

Maintain contact: The danger in reading your wondrous prose aloud is losing eye contact with your audience for too long. Read several words ahead as you get toward the end of paragraphs so you can look up frequently as you speak.

Smile: Another obvious one that is too often overlooked. Smiles beget smiles. The crowd wants to see that you’re passionate, confident and approachable. A smile helps convey your self-assuredness. Actress Diane Lane once said, “I think that anybody who smiles automatically looks better.”

After You’re Done:

Make mom proud: Don’t forget to thank not only those who turned out, but all those festival volunteers as well. Don’t forget the person who introduced you, plus your own team. Writing may be a solitary job, but working a festival requires help. Also make sure to stick around after you’re done presenting and answer questions from those who may be too shy to speak up in a crowd.

Be the booth: Festivalgoers are bombarded with information from the moment they walk through the gate. Create a poster that sums up your book in one or two sentences, plus a small sign with a special festival price. That leaves you free to chat or answer questions. With a smile, of course.

Be a good neighbor: It’s easy to think of those in nearby booths as the competition. Don’t. Be friendly, share best practices, and offer help if you see a need. Being sociable pays dividends, both with your fellow authors and with those who wander up to see what you’re selling.

What else has worked for you at outdoor festivals?

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Happy Mother’s Day to the 1st Writing Instructor

For Mom, my first reading and writing instructor. Who was yours?

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5 Ways that Reading a Novel Delivers

Science shows good things happen when you read novels

Science shows good things happen when you read novels

Part of comic Jim Gaffigan’s riff on laziness goes: “You ever talk about a movie with someone that read the book? They’re always so condescending. ‘Ah, the book was much better than the movie.’ Oh really? What I enjoyed about the movie: No Reading!”

Turns out that reading a novel – though it requires heavier lifting – returns a hefty dividend. Readers, and I suspect that includes Gaffigan, already know this. But a new study by Emory University’s Center for Neuropolicy  adds some science to the equation.

“Stories shape our lives and in some cases help define a person,” says Emory neuroscientist Gregory Berns. “We want to understand how stories get into your brain, and what they do to it.”

He adds, “We already knew that good stories can put you in someone else’s shoes in a figurative sense. Now we’re seeing that something may also be happening biologically.”

What have the neuroscientists at Emory stumbled upon here? What are people finding in books that got lost when technology began offering so many more options? To me, it’s:

1 – More depth and a richer, long-lasting experience.

2 – The chance and challenge to decide what a character looks and sounds like based only on the author’s description.

3 – An opportunity, again based simply on text, to imagine all the sensory elements that movies deliver without making us work.

4 – The pleasure of getting lost in a story, because reading is more active than watching.

5 – A chance to role-play. Emory’s Berns says, “The neural changes that we found associated with physical sensation and movement systems suggest that reading a novel can transport you into the body of the protagonist.”

This isn’t about books versus movies. Rather, it’s part of the explanation for why reading, despite all the high-tech competition, continues to thrive. Anyone with doubts should check the stats from Goodreads (Facebook for folks who prefer books to selfies). Goodreads.com nearly doubled its membership last year to 25 million. The site now hosts 29 million book reviews, and readers are discovering a new book every four seconds.

What do you get from reading a novel?

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8 Author Resolutions for 2014

Make this the year you nail it

Make this the year you nail it

Say goodbye to 2013 and get ready to reboot. Just one question: Will you be ready when new opportunities present themselves in 2014? Some suggested New Year’s Resolutions for my fellow writers:

1 – Update your website and social media properties. Maybe you’ve won an award or changed jobs. Maybe that idea you had for a Tumblr site didn’t work out and you haven’t updated it in months. Do some housecleaning. You can’t expect visitors to be engaged if you’re not even paying attention.

2 – Make your bio a story worth reading. The only people who want to read resumes are prospective employers. Readers like stories. You’ve got one, plus the ability to tell it in an imaginative way. Creativity shouldn’t end when you finish writing your novel.

3 – Commit to more personal appearances. Efficient as social media is, a handshake trumps a cyber-shake. Get out there and meet real readers. Look them in the eye. Tell them face-to-face why you’re so passionate. That doesn’t mean neglect your social media arsenal; it means find a balance between being social online and being social in person.

4 – Become a more engaging speaker. If you write like Steinbeck and speak like an insurance salesman, there’s work to do. Three quick tips: First, practice aloud, preferably in front of real people, or at least a mirror. Second, understand your crowd before you walk on stage. (What do they care about? How much do they know about your subject?) Third, anticipate likely questions, practice your answers, and try to weave in some relatable stories.

5 – Improve your pitch. No one has much time, what with the demands of the job, the house, the kids and the car. If someone gives you five minutes to explain your story, make sure to nail it. And (I can’t say this enough) be enthusiastic every time you make your pitch. Excitement is contagious. If you don’t have any, you can’t infect anyone else.

6 – Distance yourself from the reviews. Some, hopefully most, will be great, but some will be lousy. Live with it. There’s no way to please everyone, and remember you never wanted that when you first started out. Otherwise you would have begun by conducting a focus group instead of a prologue. And for heaven’s sake, don’t get in an online argument with someone who pans your book.

7 – Keep writing (and reading). There’s no finish line for writers. When you finish a short story, a novel or any piece of writing, take a break, but after a time, begin something else. Sometimes the work is great; other times it’s slow and painful. The only constant is that to continue improving, you have to keep writing. And reading. Reading helps, especially when the stuff you read makes you think.

8 – Pay it forward. Wherever you are as a writer, there are plenty in front and plenty behind. Tip your hat to the ones ahead and help the ones behind whenever and however you can. It pays healthy dividends.

Good luck, all, and please share the resolutions you’ve made for 2014.

To follow Steve’s Back Story blog, please click here.