The Thirty Minute Blogger

Exploring Books and the Writer's Life, Faith and Works, Culture and Pop Culture, Space Science and Science Fiction, Technology and Nostalgia, Parenting and Childhood, Health: Physical and Emotional ... All Under the Iron Hands of the Clock and That 30 Minute Deadline

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Writers: Finding a Publisher Basics

All right readers, the votes are in. You all prefer articles on writing issues so that will be the focus. So, you've written a book and now you need to find a publisher ... or you have a terrific New York Times best seller idea and want to pitch it to a publisher. What do you do?

It all starts with information. You begin the process by checking out other books in your genre. For this, you'll need your local library. Yes, you can check for books on your subject on Amazon if you are so inclined, but you'll still want to see physical copies of the books before you make your choices to see how each publisher handles the material and the layout. Go to the library (or bring their card catalogue up on line if they've gone high tech) and gather up an armful of books in your genre or on your topic. Check them out and see which publishers had an approach that is most to your liking. Go to the copyright page and get the full name of each publisher whose work you like. By taking this route, you've narrowed the field considerably before you take the next step.

Now, go back to the card catalogue and locate the most recent copy of the Writer's Marketplace that your library has. Look up each publisher who caught your eye. The Writer's Marketplace will give you a rundown on how each publisher operates and how they accept submissions. It will tell you if you need an agent to approach them. If not, it will tell you if the publisher accepts entire finished manuscripts or if they are looking for a proposal letter, an outline, and a few sample chapters instead. This is absolutely essential information as you do not want to waste your time contacting every publisher in the business hoping someone will like what you have written.

The most important step in this process, however, is to follow whatever steps the publisher asks you to take with great precision. Each publisher does things differently as each has developed a particular system that works best for them. Send them something that doesn't follow their guidelines and in most cases, your manuscript will be rejected. Why? Because your manuscript will take them more time than they are willing to spend on it if it doesn't conform to their guidelines.

Good luck.

Michael and the New Baby Message in a Bottle!

J.S. Brooks Presents goes all out to promote the book with the small town, message in a bottle approach. Right now a flyer is posted on the community bulletin board at the local Acme. Yes sir, I'll try anything!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Joys of Sharing Your Work With Your Kids

I write and edit books for a living ... along with going to seminary part time and filling in as a licensed American Baptist pastor for pastors who are off for a week's vacation ... and have had the opportunity to write some unusual and interesting books. From time to time it means plunging into fields I don't know very well and bringing myself up to speed quickly. Since many of the book involve antiques or collectibles, the quickest way to bring myself up to speed is to interview the collectors as I shoot their collects. (Yes, copious research is also done, but the interviews are more fun and always engaging.)

Some years back, I was given my most unusual assignment. A collector's guide to the Pokemon card game was desired as the publisher, who was then experimented with moving into the world of pop culture collectibles. Personally, I knew nothing about Pokemon cards other than my kids watched the cartoon and that the cards did indeed exist. So I bought a 60 card pack and read up as much as I could. While I learned the basics, I had not mastered the ins and outs of the material. So, I gave the cards to my resident expert, my ten-year-old son, and let him fill me in on all the details. Fortunately, knowing the game rules was not required for this project as the written rules seemed largely incomprehensible to my adult mind. My son scoffed and quickly informed me nobody actually read the rules. The rules of the game as played were passed down from one kid to another by word of mouth.

Illumination was dawning.

To make a long story mercifully short, my son helped me organize the cards into their various decks, organize the book into its various chapters, and in the moment I enjoyed best, he was my most critical editor. He really took the job seriously. He was encouraging but he was also stern when he discovered errors. He had all the makings of a top notch editor if I do say so myself. It was a wonderful experience we were both able to enjoy together and a great opportunity for my child to truly help me with my job, an experience that made him feel pretty good at the time and even better when I handed him the finished copy of the book.

So, whenever possible, find a way to include your children in your day, even into some facet of the work-a-day world where they are not usually allowed to enter. You'll both be likely to find the experience memorable.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Artists: How to Get Your Artwork Published!

If you are an artist who has submitted work to many juried shows and book calls, this article is not for you. Click on the picture of my book, Michael and the New Baby, buy a copy, and go away. I thank you.

Now, if you are an up-and-coming artist who would love to see your work published in a book along with the works of many other artists, both emergent and successful, here are some tips to help your submission get selected.

To set the stage, you are informed that some author or other is writing a book on the art form you create (perhaps ceramics, printmaking, or glass blowing). You would like to have a shot at having your work selected for inclusion. Here are a few simple steps that will give you a better shot at inclusion and the notoriety inclusion in such a book brings.

1. Make sure you obtain a copy of the submission form. This form will inform you in detailed terms (if the author is worth his or her salt that is) exactly what is being looked for in terms of images and text. Don't rely on the description of a friend or associate of what is on said form, get the actual form itself. If you have any questions about what's on the form, it pays to contact the author and clarify the issue right away to make sure you get the submission right. Be polite in that call or email. If you aren't, I guarantee the author will remember your name and that won't work in your favor.

2. Once you have the submission form, follow it to the letter. Make sure to include everything the author is seeking.

3. Make sure the images are at least as large as the author asks for. Mostly authors are seeking digital images today because they are easier to work with. Authors will be asking for a fairly high resolution image (perhaps 350 or 400 ppi at a 4" x 6" image size). Take that seriously as the better the image quality and size, the better your artwork will look in the book and the more likely it is to be selected. If you aren't familiar with digital cameras, find someone who knows photography well and can take professional looking photos of your work for you. Art books are photo driven and the better your image, the better your shot at inclusion in the book. One quick pointer in the realm of the digital camera: if the camera looks like a 35mm camera and has lenses that may be changed, it is more likely to be of sufficient ppi (pixels per inch) to take a large enough photo. If it looks like a little rectangle and has a fixed lens that slides in and out ... or worse, is built into your phone, it will not have high enough resolution to create a competitive photo.

4. As an artist, writing may not be your forte. Nobody can be good at everything, after all. If you have a friend who is a writer, you might want to recruit this friend (pizza and beer makes a good bribe) to help you write your artist's statement (which can be reused many times for different judged events by the way) and photo captions. Make sure to proofread the finished statement several times, each time looking for something different. On the first pass, make sure you have included all of the information the author asks for (the author knows what he or she intends to convey in the book and doesn't ask for these things without a specific purpose in mind). On the second pass, check the grammar. On the third pass, check the spelling. Nothing conveys a poorer image of you and your abilities faster than lots of spelling and grammar errors. I know it's not fair, but it's true.

5. When you send in your submission, send it to the author's attention and include the title of the book project on the envelope (or in the subject line if the author accepts email submissions). The author may have several art book projects in the work and will be thankful not to have to guess which project your submission belongs to.

6. Following all these steps carefully will give you a much better shot at inclusion in the book project. Miss any of these steps and you are likely to have your submission rejected. Basically, it boils down to this: if you make the author's life easy by providing all that is asked for quickly, your chances for inclusion go up significantly. If you make the author's life hard, I can guarantee you that unless the author is having trouble finding enough artists for the book, your submission will be rejected so fast it would make your head spin, no matter how impressive your artwork.

7. One final thing: if you are selected for inclusion in the book (lucky you, congratulate yourself), the author will send you a release form which says the author has your permission to use the photo (or photos ... really lucky you) in the book. Sign and return this legal form immediately. If you don't return the release form, you will discover later that your work was not included in the book after all. Why not? Because the author didn't have the legal right to publish your work because you forgot to sign the form!

Good luck on your next submission.

Friday, September 11, 2009

9/11 A Moment for Reflection and Prayer

In 2001, I was in the office editing some photo captions when the news came across NPR that an airplane had collided with one of the Twin Towers in New York. The information was sketchy at first and I imagined a small, fixed wing aircraft impacting the tower much as a small plane had done way back when to the Empire State Building. Soon after that the reports came tumbling in one on top of the other. It was a passenger jet used as a guided missile. Then a second hit to the other tower, then the Pentagon, finally the passenger jet dropping from the sky in Pennsylvania. It was a day of unimaginable horror and incredible evil. It was a day when we saw just how badly hate can twist souls and what people are capable of when they give themselves over to darkness. Everyone in the office was in hollow-eyed shock. Work ground to a halt as the reports kept coming in and we all waited for the next hammer blow. We realized we were descending into madness and war.

The sky for the next few days was strange. No jets rumbled over on their way to the major international airport close by. No con trails crisscrossed the sky. On the clear days, the sky was just such a large, empty expanse.

I vividly recall reassuring my children that our small town would not be on any terrorist's hit list. I hated to see that fear and doubt cross their minds.

And so, I take a moment to pause and pray. I pray for all the families of all the victims everywhere. I pray for the families of policemen and women & firemen and women lost that day or over the months to what they inhaled as they tried to save lives. I pray for all who fell and all who grieve the loss. I pray for all the fighting men and women overseas and at home struggling to follow orders and keep us and themselves safe and sane in unsafe and insane situations. I pray to God that there will come a day when the human heart is no longer twisted by hate and madness will no longer lurk in the dark recesses of the human mind. I pray that one day we might all do what God would have us do and help each other with open hands and greet each other with open arms. I pray for an end to grinding poverty, hunger, and injustice -- an end to all these and every other man made cruelty which torture so many lives and twist so many souls with hate. I pray for all who work in every little way, often without notice, to bring peace into a war torn world. I pray for all peacemakers everywhere. Please join me in this prayer.

I hope this finds you well, whoever you are, when you read this. I wish you love, joy, and the peace of God, the peace that passes all understanding.


Readers: You Have Great Power!

My mild-mannered alias writes antiques, collectibles, and art books for a living. In a former career, I was an archaeologist. Just the other day, an archaeologist wrote to me to tell me how useful my books on ceramics were to her in her work. This made my day, my week ... you get the idea.

Readers, you have great power. If you like an author's work, let the author know through the publisher or an author's web site, blog spot, etc. You have the power to lift spirits and keep a favorite scribbler returning to the keyboard to turn out something else you may love. Use your power.

Of course, with great power comes great responsibility ...

Better stop before Stan Lee gets after me ... or Disney now.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Michael and the New Baby First Royalty Check

We here at J.S. Brooks Present ... celebrate the arrival of the first royalty check for Michael and the New Baby. The sales are modest and we will be actively seeking new venues to get the word out. We'll be looking into contributing copies to libraries locally, seeking venues for book signings, etc. Still, we're enjoying the moment.
Have a blessed day and a great Labor Day weekend.