Tools For Writers: 14 Free Alternatives To Microsoft Word

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Free Alternatives To Microsoft Word

If you are sick of Microsoft Office, or are just not prepared to pay, here’s a lovely list of free word processing solutions.

  • Google Docs: Create basic documents from scratch or start from a template.
  • Open Office (Win, Max, Linux) : 3 is the leading open-source office software suite for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, databases and more.
  • Zoho: offers a comprehensive suite of on-line business, productivity & collaboration applications.
  • Adobe Buzzword: Adobe® Buzzword® is a proven and robust online word processor.
  • Etherpad: EtherPad is the first web-based word processor that allows people to work together in really real-time.
  • ThinkFree: ThinkFree online services provide a free web office suites with 1GB of online storage.
  • KOffice (Win, Mac, Linux): KOffice is free Office suite software, meaning it’s open for anyone to improve and does not cost anything.
  • IBM Lotus Symphony (Win): IBM Lotus Symphony documents is a great alternative to Microsoft Office Suite that allows its users to create, edit, share and save word documents and others too such as presentations, spreadsheet etc.
  • SSuite Office Software (Win): SSuite Office is all about you… the first time computer-user as well as the more experienced or general computer-user, who needs more functional applications and office software than just the basic ones that are shipped as standard with current operating systems.
  • NeoOffice (Mac): NeoOffice is a full-featured set of office applications (including word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation programs) for Mac OS X.
  • SoftMaker Office Suite (Win): The Microsoft Word-compatible word processor that is so easy to use that you will wonder why you bothered with Microsoft Word or for so long.
  • Jarte (Win): A free word processor based on the Microsoft WordPad word processing engine built into Windows.
  • Ommwriter A simple text processor that firmly believes in making writing a pleasure once again, vindicating the close relationship between writer and paper. The more intimate the relation, the smoother the flow of inspiration.
  • Bean (Mac): Bean is a small, easy-to-use word processor (or more precisely, a rich text editor), designed to make writing convenient, efficient and comfortable.

As a bonus Scrivener is currently allowing PC users to download a free beta version of their popular Mac software.

Editing Your Own Novel: The Importance Of Self Editing

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All writers know that if they are to stand any chance of successfully pitching their book to an agent or publisher, their book needs to be perfect (or as close to perfect, as possible). To do this, a writer must learn how to self-assess their own work. This article looks at why self-editing is so important and offers tips on ways to produce the best results.

Stiff competition makes self-editing essential

Agents and publishers are inundated with manuscripts on a daily basis. In fact, they see so many manuscripts, and have so few publishing slots available, that they are in fact looking for reasons to say no, not yes. It is easier for an agent/publisher to discover fault with a book and find an excuse to reject, than it is to say yes. This means that it is your duty, as a writer, to give the agent/publisher no reason to say no!

In reality this means getting the basics right. Correctly identifying your book’s genre, and precisely targeting the correct agent/publisher is a good start. However, standing out from the crowd of manuscripts can be difficult.

This puts agents/publishers in a very strong position. A few years ago, you would often hear of an agent/publisher working closely with an author. They would nurture the writer, working on the novel, moulding it into shape. However, these days are quickly disappearing. For an agent/publisher, any time spent editing a book simply costs money, and cuts into profits. (You could blame booksellers insisting on major discounts for this position, but that is another blog post.) As it stands any time spent working with a writer, is time that could be spent publishing books or negotiating deals. The result is that agents/publishers are looking for books that are as close to ‘publication ready’ as possible.

This means that a well edited book, which needs little in-house editing input, is a very interesting prospect for any publisher. Therefore, all other things being equal, a well edited book stands a far better chance of publication over a book that needs work.

This may not be fair, and may not be good for the industry, but it is the current situation. It means that it has become a writer’s duty to make their book as close to ‘publication ready’ as possible.

Understanding the editing process is key

If your book was to be prepared for publication by a publishing house, it would pass through a four editing steps process prior to printing.

  • Structural editing,
  • Stylistic editing,
  • Copy editing,
  • Proofreading,

The aim is simply to produce a book that is accessible and readable. Yet, the editing process is as much an art as a science and includes a large amount of ‘gut feel’. This said self-editing (and even professional editing) hangs around three key questions. These questions are constantly posed in the editor’s mind (be that the writer or a third party). Only by consistently applying these questions can a good edit be performed.

  • Is the book’s organisation and content suitable for the intended audience, medium, market, and purpose? [Structural]
  • How can the book’s meaning be clarified, the flow improved and the language smoothed?[Stylistic]
  • Have you ensured the correctness, consistency, accuracy, and completeness of the document? [Copy]

Tips for self-editing

This post about editing your own novel gave some solid outlines on which to build your self-edit. However, as an addition I wanted to offer some boarder advice.

Perhaps the biggest problem writers face, when editing their own work, is simply getting too close. Even when holding the questions listed above in your mind, writers can still find it just too hard to detach themselves. But this is understandable, in fact I would go as far as saying this is essential. Just how a writer detaches themselves from the tangle of their own narrative is hard to explain and I suspect it is very personal skill. I would be interested to hear any writer’s experiences or tips on doing just this.

The essence of any COPY edit is grammar and spelling but this is NOT an edit. An edit is so much more. It is important that a writer avoids becoming obsessed with spelling. Yes, spelling is important, and yes you must be as accurate as possible. However, grammar is just part of the puzzle. A good edit consists of all three questions listed above – spelling is just one aspect.

One potentially powerful option open to writers is to use friends and family to help with the edit. My advice here is clear. Firstly, be very precise with friends and family in just what you require from them. They can act as great proofreaders, but if this is the job you want them to carry out, then be clear. Tell them all you want is feedback on grammar and spelling only. Secondly, be selective about what you implement from friends and family feedback. Even the best intentioned feedback can be damaging and ill advised. Be prepared to listen, but also be prepared to ignore. After all, it is your book.

My penultimate snippet of advice is to consider professional help. Of course you would expect that kind of advice from a professional editing company, but I say it with the best of intentions. If you want your book to be the best it can possibly be, then a professional edit will help you to do just that. Yes, I agree that a writer having to pay to help get their book published is not a great situation for the industry, but that it is the situation that exists today. After all, agents/publishers see books as products, so you, as a writer, should also. Once you have this mind set, you can begin to see why gaining professional help to make your product saleable is just sound business practice.

Finally, I offer one last piece of advice. Don’t pitch your book too early. A poor pitch will result in rejection. Most agents keep track of the submissions they receive and once they have rejected a book, they will not look at it again. So, please, please, resist the temptation to submit early, and take that extra few weeks to make sure everything is just right.

I would be interested in reading your own tips, hints and experiences of self-editing. Just pop them in the comments.

The Query Letter That Won Me An Agent And A Four Book Deal (And Why It Was So Successful)

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In this post I will show you how to write a query letter that is able to convince agents and publishers that your book has the potential to be published. I will also show you how to avoid writing a query letter that fails to address key issues and misses important information.

The Warlock Of Firetop Mountain coverI can trace the birth of the idea for BattleBooks back 29 years. I was ten years old and attending the local primary school. The school had a book club, and every so often we received a small catalogue that we took home and picked out a book we would like to buy. The order slip, and money, would be handed back to the school. Then, after what seemed like almost a lifetime, the book would arrive at school and be handed out in class. To this day I can remember rushing home and lying on my stomach in the front room of our small three bedroom house as I devoured the opening pages of The Warlock Of FireTop Mountain. I can still remember thinking that the book was simply the most amazing book I had ever read, and that I would never need to read another book again. I loved that book, I read it from cover-to-cover. In fact, that exact same copy is sitting just inches away from me now, on my desk, as I write.

For those who have not read The Warlock Of FireTop Mountain, it is Interactive Fiction. The reader reads one section and is then presented with a choice as to which way to proceed. You make a choice and then progress onto the next section of the story.

Well, as it turned out, The Warlock Of FireTop Mountain was not the only book I was ever to read. In fact, in the intervening 29 years I have read quite a few other books. But none have ever managed to re-create that sense of shear excitement and wonder. So when the idea for BattleBooks formed, “The Warlock Of FireTop Mountain for battles.” I knew that I was onto a winner. I also knew that I needed to do the idea justice. At the time I was a published writer, but had no agent. I knew that if I wanted to make my idea for BattleBooks work then I needed to secure an agent. To do this, I needed a cracking query letter and book proposal. Below is an exact copy of the resultant query letter. I have added a commentary in italics which explains why I included each section.

Query Letter For BattleBooks

Series name: Battle Books

Book title: Battle of Hastings 1066

Battle Books is a series of books based on important battles that give the reader the chance to decide the outcome of the action.

This is a brief summary aimed at quickly ‘framing’ the books and allowing the agent/publisher to assess if the series was something in which they would be interested. If writing today, I would certainly add the phrase ‘Interactive Fiction.’ I would also use the term “Fighting Fantasy for battles.”


In the Battle of Hastings 1066 the reader assumes the role of William the Conqueror with the story beginning just hours before the famous battle. The book is divided into a number of sections, with each painting a snapshot of the battle and giving the reader a set of choices. These choices are aligned to different sections of the book. The reader weaves through the battle, with each section presenting new paths and creating multiple outcomes which range from the death of William to the complete defeat of the English army.

This is a brief, but concise summary (synopsis) of the proposed book. The aim is to make it very clear to the agent/publisher what the book is about without relying on a previous knowledge of Interactive Fiction, or Fighting Fantasy. Though I knew that I could use these examples to appeal to some agents/publishers, I also wanted the pitch to have a wider appeal so it could be safely circulated around the company to other important people who may have no knowledge of the sub-genre.

The text has been written to appeal to the 9-12 year old age group. The narrative is character driven, focussing heavily on William and his closest commanders. The events that unfold are presented not only in the context of the battle as a whole, but also with a view to their impact on the main characters. The story examines the themes of courage, cowardice and masculinity. As the story unfolds the nature and demeanour of William changes subtly, shifting with the reader’s choices. Some option paths result in a cold and ruthless killer, whilst others paint a picture of a warmer and more sensitive leader.

In hindsight this paragraph contains too much waffle and not enough focus on market. If writing today I would have tighter definition of the readership, along the lines of “9-12 year old boys (with a focus on reluctant readers).” I would also include three competitor titles, I would have probably included Beast Quest, Fighting Fantasy, and Dr. Who Decide your Destiny.

The Battle of Hastings 1066 is the first in a series of books. Hastings has been chosen for the initial battle since it is an historical event that is covered in the National Curriculum and therefore familiar to the reader. However, there is no limit to the scope of this series and the marketing strategy would determine the future titles, though the potential for sales in America, a country with a buoyant military history market, may be an important consideration. Examples of possible titles include Agincourt, Culloden/Bannockburn, D-Day, Stamford Bridge, the battles of Caesar, English Civil War and even the Ancient Greek wars.

The focus here is firmly on the potential market. I knew that a large publisher would only be interested if they could see the potential for international sales. I was worried that by picking an English battle, Hastings, that I was limiting this potential. This is the reason for the focus on the US market. In fact, the final four battles chosen were Hastings (which was written at the time of pitching), Marathon, Iwo Jima and Arnhem.

The market for Battle Books would initially be mainly boys age 9-12 and would appeal to the traditional Horrible Histories market. However, other market segments could be targeted. The obvious link with the National Curriculum means that the books could be sold into the school market, this would be helped by the agreement of Horrible Histories author Terry Deary to provide a forward for the book free of charge. Battle Books also lends its self to the book club segment and tourist trade. The children’s range would be supported by an interactive website aimed at older teenage/adult readers. This would be free of charge, though has potential for additional income streams. It is also envisaged that an adult version would be produce. This would be targeted to the large specialist Military History market.

Here I wanted to show my willingness to market the books. However, I also wanted to exploit my links to bestselling writer Terry Deary. I have known Terry for a number of years and, at the time of pitching, he had already agreed to write a forward for the book.

Gary Smailes is an experienced writer and historian. He has written a number of children’s history books, with two titles in the Brave Scots series examining the lives of William Wallace and Robert Bruce (2007). In addition, he has a series of eight books due for publication in 2008. These are biographies of Modern Heroes, written for children. Gary has a master’s degree in Military History from Liverpool University. In addition, he has worked for many years as a researcher on the popular Horrible Histories series.

In the biography section I wanted to establish my credentials as a professional writer. I wanted to make it clear that I was experienced in working with publishers and had the academic background to support my claim to writing ‘historically accurate’ books.

What You Can Learn

I recently wrote an extensive post about How To Write A Query Letter. I strongly suggest that your next step should be to go and read this post. It will give you step-by-step instructions on the best way to structure your query letter, and help you to avoid missing out vital information. However, there are a few points I would like you to take away from this post:

    Battlebooks Hastings by Gary Smailes
  • Play to your strengths: If you have certain aspects of your book that set you aside then make them clear in your pitch. In my case I have a postgraduate degree in military history, have a publishing track record and strong links to the bestselling writer in my genre. What are your strengths? Are you showing them off?
  • Every query letter is different: The guidelines I have suggested you read are just that, guidelines. One of the most important aspects of your pitch is your own voice. I wanted to show that I had an intellectual framework for the books, and therefore made sure my query letter reflected this persona. I write children’s books in a different ‘voice’ but chose to not use this for the query letter. It was, however, clear in the extract I included in the pitch. Does your query letter reflect your ‘voice’?
  • Do your research: Research is critical. The more you understand about your book and the marketplace the stronger your pitch. I knew that I needed a male agent with a strong understanding of history. It took me two years to find such an agent. In the process, I pitched to countless agents and publishers, before I finally found a home for BattleBooks. Yet, this process taught me a valuable lesson. I could have drastically cut the time it took me to find an agent (and not to mention reduce the number of rejections), if I had carried out some focussed research into the best possible agent at the start of the process. Who is the perfect agent for your book?
  • In the end I was offered representation by Andrew Lownie and he was able to place my books at Franklin Watts.

    Do You Need Help With Your Book Proposal?

    If you are looking to fine-tune your cover letter and ensure your synopsis is as good as it can be, BubbleCow’s Book Proposal service can help. I have written a FREE guide that will give you all you need to ensure your book proposal will have agents chasing you!

How Many Copies Do Novels Sell?

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We live in a world dominated by best sellers. A new writer can be forgiven for thinking that the mega-success of writers such as Dan Brown, J. K. Rowling and Stephen King represent to norm. The reality is very different, with debut novelists struggling to even get reviews, never mind selling millions of copies.

So, how many books can a new non-best selling novelist really expect to sell?

This is an almost impossible question to answer. It is commonly quoted that the vast majority of books published each year will sell less than 1000 copies. Yet, even this magic 1000/year is a misleading figure. Many of the books that sell sub-1000 come and go with no marketing, no budget and, to be honest, no expectation. So let’s assume your book is published by a publisher with ambition and, you as a writer, have some kind of online presence and intention to sell, then, how many books can you expect to sell?

The answer is… it is impossible to predict. The underlining nature of the publishing world is that best sellers are well… unpredictable. In fact, the only predictable thing about best sellers is that they are few and far between, the reality is that most writers sell a ‘reasonable’ amount of books. Publishers and writers are notoriously cagey when it comes to accurate figures for books sales, but each year we are given an insight into the murky world of book sales thanks to the Man Booker prize. It has become customary to delve into the book sales of the titles on the short list of the prize, prior to the announcement of the winner, and then a comparison in sales can be made before and after the prize has been announced. This year is no different and this table sums up the book sales for the 2010 short list. Using this list we can draw some conclusions for the sales of non-best seller titles.

Four of the six books on the Man Booker prize list stand out as selling less than 6000 copies prior to the announcement.

We can see that:

  • Parrot and Olivier in America by Peter Carey sold 5987 in seven months, grossing £87426.
  • In a Strange Room by Damon Galgut sold 1210 in five months grossing £15850.
  • The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson sold 3505 in one month grossing £54614.
  • C by Tom McCarthy sold 2649 in one month grossing £35073.

The other two titles on the short list Room by Emma Donoghue and The Long Song by Andrea Levy, sold 33923 and 15251 books respectively.

So what does this tell us about expected sales?

I would like to draw two conclusions. The first, you probably already know, and that is that book sales are almost impossible to predict. If you wanted to delve into the background of the best and worst selling titles on the list you would find that they probably had roughly the same marketing budget, reviews and word of mouth. The fact these books are short listed for the Man Booker prize suggests they are both well written and what we would could call ‘good’ novels. The long and short is that the reason for the difference in sales is a mystery. It is a mystery to me, it is a mystery to the author and, most worryingly, it is a mystery to publisher. Publishing is as much an art as a science, and even all these years after the creation of the novel, no publisher would be able to honestly tell you why one novel succeeds and another fails. The industry believes there is no recipe for success and are happy to leave it at that.

The second conclusion is that a novel will probably sell fewer copies than you think. If a novel sells 10,000 copies in a year it is doing well. For a first time novelist, with little track record, a figure of 2000 copies per year is probably closer to the truth. Granted the figures in the post are based on Literary Fiction, a genre that is notoriously difficult to sell. Certain genres will be more popular and sell more books, but what is important for a writer is that they are realistic in their expectations. If you are able to secure a book deal, it is important to talk to your agent/publisher about expected sales, they will have a much clear view of your genre and the industry. Only by establishing a realistic expectation for your book’s sales can you being to determine if your book can be considered a success or failure.

Tips to writing a great second draft of your novel

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So you have written your first draft and its now time to go back and make it all nice and shiny. Here are a couple of tips to help you get the most out of re-writing and editing the first draft of your novel.

Wait - The first piece of advice is to wait. By this I mean give it as long as possible between completing your first draft and starting on the second. Waiting weeks or even months will pay off, since you will come back to the text with a renewed vigour and a fresh set of eyes.

Cut and expand - It is essential that you only include text that moves your story forward. Your reader is by nature impatient and they will have little time for bloated paragraphs and fluffy descriptions. Ask yourself as you read - ‘Do I need this section? Does it move the story forward?’ If the answer is no, then cut the text. Painful but essential. By the same vein if a section is essential to the story but does not give enough information or detail, then expand. You can’t assume that readers will know certain facts unless they are presented in black and white.

Ask a friend to read - I recently wrote a blog post about getting the most from third party editing. I would suggest you go back and have a read of this post. A friend’s feedback can be essential, but only if managed correctly.

Read out aloud - I would strongly suggest that you read your text out aloud. I use a software program called TextAloud when editing. This is text-to-speech software that reads back your work. It gives you a new feel for your writing and will highlight any section that are jerky or simply don’t make sense.

Don’t worry about word count - Writers are often obsessed by word counts. You will often find blog posts listing supposed ‘ideal’ word counts for certain genres. The reality is that as long as a novel is not stupidly long or stupidly short, it will be fine. So if your work needs an extra chapter or if you feel a character can be cut - do it! Forget the word count, since the integrity of the narrative is far more important.

What Is The Point Of Writing A Book If You Have No Online Presence?

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Let’s face it, in 2011 writers need a strong online presence. In a world where self-publishing is a realistic option, and big publishers are telling us that having an online presence is essential to getting a book deal, writers are left with little option but to embrace technology and start building. But this leaves one important question: How do you build an online presence?

In this article I will show you how writers can build an online presence, in the process avoiding wasting time on activities that fail to bring potential book buyers to your site.

Inbound vs Outbound

The phrase ‘online presence’ can mean many things, but at its most basic it simply means attracting visitors to your blog or website. The more ‘regular’ visitors you push to your site, the stronger your online presence.

The traditional method of attracting attention is what is known as Outbound Marketing. This type of marketing is things you (or someone else) do to try and tell people about you and your book. TV, radio and print adverts are all types of outbound marketing, as are book reviews and Google adwords. As a rule of thumb outbound marketing tends to be both expensive and its effectiveness difficult to measure.

For example; a book publisher may pay for a glossy poster to be placed on the side of a fleet of busses. A big picture of your book rides around the streets for all to see. Yet, despite the expense it is impossible to measure just how many people buy your book as a result of seeing the advert. A lot of expense with only a potential reward.

Inbound Marketing flips the outbound model on its head. Inbound marketing focuses on techniques that drive potential book readers to your site by providing content that is both interesting and engaging. By delighting readers they are more likely to seek out your content and, hopefully, buy your book. As a side effect inbound marketing tends to be very cheap and almost always measurable.

For example; let’s say you were to set up a Twitter account and build a fan base of 1000 followers by sending out links to valuable and relevant resources. You could engage with these fans and slowly educate them to the presence of your book, converting a number of them into book buyers in the process. Using some simple free tools you can track the number of visitors you drive to your site and the number of these who go on to buy your book.

Where To Start

Rather than explore the theory of inbound marketing, I have instead listed a number of techniques that you can use to build an online presence. I would like to start by saying that, with the exception of a blog/website, it is not essential that you apply ALL of the techniques. In fact, I would suggest that whilst you are formulating your inbound marketing strategy you pick just two or three techniques. Only when comfortable with these techniques should you be looking to introduce others.


One essential element to any successful plan to build an online presence with a central hub . I strongly suggest that this is a blog. A static website will work, but a blog is better. There are many tutorials about setting up a blog but my advice would be to use WordPress. It is by far the most popular blogging software and has many free resources, such as plugins and themes, as well as a huge amount of online training content.

Here are a few tips to consider when thinking about your blog:

  • Domain name: Buy your own domain name and pick one that makes sense. I would strongly suggest you go for your name. If you opt to go for the title of your book, you will find yourself a bit stumped when you write your second book! I would also suggest you go for a top level domain name. If you go for a localised domain (e.g. this will severely limit your chances of ranking highly on search engines in other countries.
  • Sell your book: Make sure that once you have set up your blog/website that you have a very clear method for visitors to buy your book. Even if this is just a link to Amazon it is essential that any potential readers drawn to your blog know how to buy your book. This is called having a ‘clear call to action.’ The whole point is to sell books, so don’t be shy – push, push, push.
  • A bit about you: An About You page with a photo is essential. This will help you connect to your potential readers and make it that little bit easier for them to hit that buy button.
  • Regular content: There are two very good reasons for setting up and maintaining a regular blog. The first is that by creating great content you are feeding your inbound marketing machine, giving potential readers a reason to come to your site. In fact, the reason you are here is as part of BubbleCow’s inbound marketing strategy. We sell editorial services to writers. By writing articles that will appeal to writers, it brings potential buyers of our services to our site. The second reason for producing regular content is to feed Google. Each blog post you produce is one more blog post in Google’s huge database and one more post that will bring potential readers to your site for weeks or even months after it is published.

Social Media: Twitter

There are hundreds of potential social media channels but I suggest you focus on three, of which Twitter is the first and, in my view, the most important. There are many articles written about setting up and using Twitter and I don’t want to go over information that can be found elsewhere.

The key to building a following on Twitter lies in two areas. The first is adding value. This is giving followers a reason to follow you. BubbleCow’s Twitter stream focuses on tweeting out between five or ten links each day to resources we feel writers will enjoy. The second is persistence. You are looking at least a year of daily tweeting for Twitter to become a really effective method of finding potential readers.

To give you some kind of feel for the importance of Twitter here’s some figures from our site.

At the time of writing @bubblecow had 8560 followers, though I suspect at least 2000 of these were inactive (had not tweeted in three months).

In April 2011, Twitter represented 7.61% of the total traffic to BubbleCow. However, if we delve into the stats we get some interesting results. The problem we have is that the vast majority of our traffic comes into the blog, and not all of this traffic represents writers looking for copy editing. In fact, in business terms we have just two pages on our site that really matter. These are the copy editing product pages: Editing for submission to agents and Copy Editing for self-publishing writers. The second product is new and the stats for last month are not really a fair reflection, so let’s look at the copy editing for submission to agents and publishers.

If we look at the source for hits to this page we find that the top source for visits to this page in April 2011 was Google with 31.61% of the hits. However, the second highest source of hits to the page was Twitter which represented 30.09% of total visits to the page in April 2011.

This means that the second most important source of hits to the pages that actually generate business for BubbleCow was twitter!

Social Media: Facebook

It is estimated that Facebook has in excess of 5 million users. For this reason alone Facebook is not a social media channel you can afford to ignore. Once again, this is not the place to suggest tactics for using Facebook. This is an evolving area of discussion and I suggest you do some research on sites far more qualified to comment on the best way to use Facebook.

At the BubbleCow Facebook page we use two methods to engage with our fans. The first is a clone of Twitter, with us posting links to writer resources we feel will be of value. The second is as a place writers can come and chat. We try to ask a question each day and take the time to engage with writers.

So is Facebook effective?

This is a tough question to answer. In terms of engaging with writers and potential customers the answer is yes. It is very effective. However, the cold stats paint a different picture…

In April 2011, we found that Facebook was the seventh highest source of visitors to the site as a whole, representing just 1.34% of total visitors. If we look at that critical copy editing page we see a similar picture with Facebook representing just 2.74% of visits.

These figures should be taken with a pinch of salt since it could be argued that writers we have engaged on Facebook are far more likely to use our services when they do visit.

Social Media: Quora

Quora is a social media channel that is rapidly growing in value. In essence it is a crowd sourced question and answer site. Someone poses a question and users submit answers. These responses are then voted on, with the best content floating to the top.

I have been using Quora for a few months now, but it is way too early to draw any conclusion as to its value as a channel for attracting potential customers to the site. However, in the interests of clarity in April 2011, Quora represented just 0.14% of total traffic, though this was an 11% increase on the previous month.


For the next few examples I want to move away from the strategy we use at BubbleCow and delve into some of the ideas that have worked for others. The first of these is ebooks. The idea here is that you produce an ebook that will be of value to your potential readers. This ebook could be a non-fiction title, offering advice and guidance on a particular topic. However, in the case of a writer, I would suggest a sample of your work, or even a collection of short stories would be more applicable.

The theory is that you give the book away for free off your site, but set up a system to push people who download the book back to your site. One example would be to include a link at the end of the book to a page on your site that offers a bonus story. However, I would suggest you use a service such as Wufoo to ask readers to ‘pay’ for the book by giving you their email, which you can use at a later date.

Comment Marketing

The concept of Comment Marketing is pretty simple. You spend time hunting down forums and blogs that will be read by potential readers of your book. You then leave entertaining and insightful comments at these blogs and forums. In fact, the nature of this approach is a little more ‘in-depth’ and requires you to become involved in communities outside your usual sphere of influence. This is not a quick fix approach and requires understanding of the way each community works to get the maximum value.

Leaving comments on blogs and forums has two direct advantages. The first is that you will leave a breadcrumb trail back to your website. Leave a well worded comment, or just show up enough times and other members of the community will follow your trail and eventually show up at your blog. The second is to build backlinks. Amongst the many factors that Google use to determine your blog’s ranking is the number of high quality sites that link to your blog. Therefore the more backlinks you can leave out in the wide world of the internet, the more visible you become to Google.


Email, when used correctly, is a highly effective method of connecting with potential readers. Your email marketing strategy should be split into two distinct components: capture and execution.

Capture involves convincing visitors to give you their email address, allowing you to pass them information at a later date. I would suggest there are three levels of email collection. The first is to use a system such as a pop up. This sees a box popping up for every new visitor and giving them a chance to add their email. The second is a more static method that normally sees a form on the site in which visitors can add their email. The third method is to ask visitors to exchange their email for a product, a common example being an ebook (see ebook above).

I would suggest that in the first instance you use two free tools to set up your email capture system. I would use a free Wufoo form on the site, which re-directs the email to a free database at mailchimp. You can then use Mailchimp to send out emails to your whole email list is in one go (for free is less that 2000 per day at Mailchimp).

Execution is your interaction with potential readers. This sees you sending out emails to everyone you have collected on your database. Once again there are different levels of engagement. You could send out a regular newsletter that contains items of interest to your potential readers. Alternatively you could actually send emails that are more direct, perhaps offering limited time discounts on your book.

Advanced techniques

All the examples above represent just a selection of inbound marketing techniques you can use, there are many more. The idea is to show you just a few that I have found to be either very effective, or feel are easy to implement. I would suggest that you start by trying one or two of ideas out. However, once you are ready to move onto the next stage, below are a couple of things you should be considering:


Search Engine Optimization is by far the single best, long term, method of bringing sustainable and valuable traffic to your site. SEO is basically ensuring that your website is as visible to Google as possible, and is focussed on the kinds of keywords that will bring ‘quality’ visitors. The principles of good SEO are easy to learn and this free guide to SEO is a great place to start.

For example; in order to optimise this page for Google search ranking I did the following:

  • Picked a keyword: In this case the phrase ‘online presence’.
  • Used the keyword: I made sure that the phrase ‘online presence’ appeared in the page title, the url of the site, the first paragraph and as many times as possible. I should have added it to the h2 tags (the bold sub-headings), but it didn’t read well.
  • Links: I made sure that I was linking out to a couple of high profile sites.
  • Back links: I tried to make the content as valuable as possible so people would share, not so much for the visits, but for backlinks.

If you are serious about building the traffic for your site and to your books, then you need to have at least a passing understanding of the key SEO principles. If you are using WordPress, I would suggest the two following plugins to help with SEO:

Stumble Upon

This tip is not so much about Stumble Upon, but about the kind of traffic sites like Stumble will bring. I class Stumble Upon in the same group as Digg, Reddit (social book marking sites). In essence these websites send traffic to your page based on what other users are classing as worth reading.

Stumble Upon is a popular site and can bring hundreds, if not thousands of hits per day. It is easy to get carried away with high visitor numbers and be lulled into a false warm feeling that your site is popular. The key is to remember the goal of your site, which should be to engage with readers and, hopefully, get them to buy your book.

There are two types of visitor to your site: good visitors and bad visitors. Good visitors engage with your blog posts, they hang around a bit, read what you have to say, leave a comment, add their email to your newsletter, follow you on Twitter and even buy your book. Bad visitors come and then go. Stumble tends to bring bad visitors.

Let me show you:

In April 2011, the top two referrers of traffic to the BubbleCow site were Google (39.15%) and Stumble (20.32%). However, this just tells us the number of visitors, it doesn’t tell us the ‘quality’ of the visits. In order to do this we can use three statistics. The first is bounce rate. This will tell us the percentage of visitors that left the site within 5 seconds, the second is time on site and the third is the number of pages read.

If we look at visits from Google we see that 6.64% bounced (left within 5 seconds), the average time on site was 1 minute and 30 seconds and the average number of pages read was 2.76.

For Stumble traffic we find that the bounce rate is 8.11%, the average time on site is just 21 seconds, though the average number of pages read was 2.27.

All visitor stats must be taken with a pinch of salt, but from the information above there is a strong case to say that visitors from Google are more engaged than Stumble visitors.

So I am saying don’t use Stumble (Digg etc)?

Actually no, I am saying that you should use them. For every 1000 visitors Stumble brings, a percentage will be good visitors. The problem is that this percentage will be small. Since Stumble is free, then why not? All I am saying is that don’t be lulled into a false sense of success. Book sales, not total visitor numbers, are all that count!


I hope by this point I have convinced you that you need an inbound marketing strategy for your book. If I have, then there is one more tool that you can use to make your efforts more effective and that’s Google Analytics. This free tool is an essential for tracking the behaviour of visitors to your site. However, if you are using it to simply tell you how many ‘hits’ you have each day then you are missing the point.

I strongly advise you to invest some time in learning the basics of Google Analytics. I would start with getting a grasp of the ‘usefulness’ of the stats they offer and then move onto implementing ‘goals’ to your stats. It is easy to become overwhelmed, so I would suggest you start at the Google Analytics help pages and then move onto the excellent book Web Analytics 2.0

A strong grasp of Google Analytics will allow you to measure the success of your efforts. Only by doing this will you have an idea of what is working for your site (and by working I mean visitors engaging and buying your book) and what is not. Google Analytics will also give you the tool you need to experiment and measure the success of these experiments.

First steps

If you have got this far then you must be itching to get started. My advice for your very first step is to make an assessment of your current strategy. Look closely at what you are currently doing (blog, twitter, Facebook etc) and what you do well. This is where you should start…

For example, if you have a growing Twitter following, then start there. Look at what you are doing on Twitter and try to work out what works (by works I mean gets RT, drives traffic, allows you to engage) and do more of this. The stuff that doesn’t work (lead to potential sales) then drop.

Oh and don’t forget to measure…


WordPress - Free blogging software.

HubSpot - Lots of information about inbound marketing.

SeoMoz - Great SEO blog

Timely - Brilliant free Twitter tool for measurement.

Google Analytics - Free and powerful web traffic software.

MailChimp - Free email management

Wuffo - Free web forms with Mailchimp integration.

7 Blog Book Tour Companies That Will Arrange Blog Book Tours Just For You

Posted by & filed under Blog Book Tours, Marketing Your Book.

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Blog Book Tour Providers

Bewitching Book Tours

Bewitching Book Tours specialize in paranormal, urban fantasy, and erotica/erotic romance author and book promotion. Prices start at $25 for a 1 week (5/7 stops) to $150 for a month long tour.

Blog Book Tours

Blog Book Tours specialize in children’s book authors and cozy mystery writers. They charge $75 per blog stop with a maximum of six stops or one week.

TLC Book Tours

TLC Book Tours specialize in bespoke blog book tours, designing tours to fit the book and it’s genre. They provide a 10 or 15 stop blog tour service. You have to email direct for prices.

Virtual Book Tours

Virtual Book Tours specialize in all genres. They charge $399 for their month long 20 stop tour, though prices do include additional services such as a page on their site and press release.

Mystical Book Blog Tours

Mystical Book Blog Tours seem to specialize in Dark Fantasy. They quote their prices as ranging from $25-$200, with tours ranging from 3 to 15 stops.

Liftuse Publicity Group

Liftuse specialize in ‘‘mommy’ blogs, writing blogs, Christian men/women blogs, ministry blogs, and more.’ They seem to offer a very full service and you will need to email for a quote.

Godess Fish Promotions

Godess Fish Promotions specialize in romance fiction (in all its sub-genres: fantasy, suspense, paranormal, historical, etc), other genre fiction and Young Adult / Middle Grade fiction. Prices range from $30 (5 stops) to $199 (20 stops).

If I have missed any please add them to the comments and I will add them to the main post.

Thanks to Stephany Simmons for the research.

Copyediting: 3 things to do before you pay for professional copyediting

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Copyediting is an essential part of any writer’s life. Whether you are self-publishing or preparing your book for submission to an agent or publisher, you will at some point, consider employing a professional copyeditor. In this article I use my experience of running BubbleCow, a professional copyediting service, to try and outline the three things I think every writer should do before employing the dreaded red pen of a professional copyeditor.

Copyediting Tip 1: Get the basics right

If you are paying a professional copyeditor to just check your spelling then you are wasting your cash. You would be amazed at the amount of manuscripts that we edit that contain, not only a huge amount of very basic errors, but also numerous technical issues such as incorrect punctuation for dialogue and paragraph indenting.

Now don’t get me wrong. No one is perfect and we all make mistakes and have annoying, and often less than correct, writing habits. But that is what makes a writer a writer. We are not robots, in fact I would go as far as saying that the best writers bend and break the rules to create their own distinct styles. At BubbleCow we are more than happy to guide writers through the solutions to genuine writing problems, be they basic or complex. In fact, if you are struggling with an issue such as punctuating dialogue or indenting paragraphs, don’t waste your money paying us to edit your book, just fire me an email and we will explain the best way to correct the issues. However, it is still not in the best interest of any writer to pay for error riddled manuscripts to be assessed.

The reason is simple. If the manuscript you submit is ‘error heavy’, then you are at risk of not getting the most from your copyeditor. A copyeditor works best when able to take a holistic approach to your book. If they are focused on watching for, and then correcting, basic errors, it makes it that little bit more difficult for the copyeditor to see the bigger picture.

The copyeditors we employ at BubbleCow are highly experienced professionals, but their skills are wasted if they are spending hours just adding commas and correcting spelling mistakes. Their real value comes from the input that they can provide regarding structure, plot development and characterisation.

Action Tip: Ask a trusted friend or family member to read your book with an eye to spotting grammar and punctuation errors. If you are not sure how to correct the mistakes they spot, then go to the latest best seller and see how they do it…

Copyediting Tip 2: Use beta readers

A beta reader, is a trusted reader who will read your book and provide valuable feedback. These readers are looking for more than basic errors and will offer feedback on plot issues, characterisation and, in fact, anything you ask.

I would strongly suggest that you ask at least three beta readers to read your book before you consider paying for professional copyediting. Once again, it is better to pick up basic errors and plot holes at this early stage, rather than paying a professional to spot that the colour of your protagonist’s eyes is blue for two chapters and green for the rest!

Action Tip: Here’s four tips to getting the most out of beta readers:

  • 1. Define your goals: Be clear in your own mind what you are hoping to achieve from having beta readers read your book. Realistically you should be looking to get an early warning for any major issues in your book. Don’t be afraid to suggest readers pay particular attention to a certain issue or chapter, but be ready for the feedback – good or bad!
  • 2. Give permission to criticise: It is essential that you make it super clear to your beta readers that you want a warts and all assessment of your book. Give them permission to be painfully honest. Only by giving them permission to be honest will their comments be of any real value.
  • 3. Ignore the feedback: Having given your beta readers a clearly defined goal and permission to be mean, it is then essential that you are prepared to ignore their feedback! By this I mean don’t react in a knee jerk fashion to any problems they uncover. Don’t fire back long and complex emails explaining the motivations of your characters and the reasoning behind certain scenes. However, do give their feedback time to sink in… if the beta reader is confused by an issue and you have to explain it to them to make it clear, then chances are all readers will be confused. Therefore, before you embark on a major re-write give yourself time to digest their feedback, make a list of the key issues and then approach them in a calm and intelligent manner. Beta readers are not always correct and you may simply feel the changes they suggest are not needed. This is ok, after all it’s your book and you know best.

Copyediting Tip 3: Know what you are getting

Imagine the situation: You know that some level of professional feedback will improve your book, but you are not sure just what type of feedback is best for you. You trawl the internet and find hundreds of companies and individual editors promising a plethora of wonderful (and not so wonderful) services. Which do you choose? Which is best for you?

Below is a list of the three most common types of professional editorial feedback, and some guidance as to which situations each is best suited -

  • Detailed line-by-line copyediting: This is the process where a professional editor goes through your manuscript, reading each sentence, paragraph and sentence, in the process making detailed notes on everything from basic punctuation mistakes to major plot holes and structural narrative issues. This is what we do at BubbleCow, in fact this is all we do at BubbleCow!
  • Reader’s report: This is where a reader reads over your manuscript and makes superficial comments regarding the basic narrative issues, possible characterisation problems and visible plot holes. This type of report will provide you with an overview of your book, any potential problems and, in some circumstances, an opinion on your book’s commercial potential.
  • Proofread: This is a line-by-line assessment of your manuscript, in which the proofreader checks ONLY for grammar and punctuation errors. They will not provide any editorial feedback, though they may ask for clarification in regards to certain words and phrases.

Action Tip: Which type of feedback is best for you?

Copyediting : If you have completed your novel, have had feedback from friends and family (or even beta readers) and you are in a position where you are seriously considering either submitting to an agent or self-publication, then copyediting is the best choice.

Reader’s Report: If you simply require a brief assessment of your novel to determine its place in the market, or you have major concerns over certain plot issues, then a reader’s report may be useful. I would, however, highlight that many reader’s reports will spot problems, but may not offer feedback on how these can be corrected.

Proofread: If you are self-publishing, have had the book copyedited and are ready to send the book to the printers (or up load to amazon), then it is time for a proofread. The best way to think of a proofread is as the last thing that happens before the book is published.

How Do I Find An Agent?

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One question that I am often asked by writers is, ‘How do I find an agent?’ In this article I will explain how you can use the internet to find a suitable agent, and suggest tactics you can use to find the best possible agent for your book proposal.

How Do I Find an Agent? — Genre!

Let’s start with that bane of all writers — genre. It is essential to understand that the traditional publishing world is dominated by genre. Book shops buy and stock book by genre, publishers publish by genre and agent specialise in genres.

Your first step finding an agent is to determine your book’s genre. Many writers are reluctant to pigeonhole their book into a single genre, and I understand. However, if you are going to secure an agent you must play their game and tightly define your book as part of a single genre.

A quick way to define your book’s genre is to think of five or six books you think are like your book. Then mosey over to Amazon and see what ‘category’ they are placing these books in. Chances are your book will be in the same genre. A word of warning here. Amazon allows writers/publisher to classify books into more than one category. This means that the books on your list may well be listed in numerous categories. If this is the case, you are looking for a common theme amongst the titles you have picked. Below is a list of books genres that we use at BubbleCow:

Fiction Genre List

  • Action and Adventure
  • Chick Lit
  • Children’s
  • Commercial Fiction
  • Contemporary
  • Crime
  • Erotica
  • Family Saga
  • Fantasy
  • Gay and Lesbian
  • General Fiction
  • Graphic Novels
  • Historical Fiction
  • Horror
  • Humour
  • Literary Fiction
  • Military and Espionage
  • Multicultural
  • Mystery
  • Offbeat or Quirky
  • Picture Books
  • Religious and Inspirational
  • Romance
  • Science Fiction
  • Short Story Collections
  • Thrillers and Suspense
  • Western
  • Women’s Fiction
  • Young Adult

Non-Fiction Genre List

  • Art & Photography
  • Biography & Memoirs
  • Business & Finance
  • Celebrity & Pop Culture
  • Music, Film & Entertainment
  • Cookbooks
  • Cultural/Social Issues,
  • Current Affairs & Politics
  • Food & Lifestyle
  • Gardening
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • General Non-Fiction
  • History & Military
  • Home Decorating & Design
  • How To
  • Humour & Gift Books
  • Journalism
  • Juvenile
  • Medical, Health & Fitness
  • Multicultural
  • Narrative
  • Nature & Ecology
  • Parenting
  • Pets
  • Psychology
  • Reference
  • Relationship & Dating
  • Religion & Spirituality
  • Science & Technology
  • Self-Help
  • Sports
  • Travel
  • True Adventure & True Crime
  • Women’s Issues

One further point worthy of mention is sub-genres. You may have written a book that could be firmly classified as steam punk. However, you will be hard pushed to find an agent who represents steam punk. In this situation you would be far better classing your book as the parent genre, in this case science fiction. You will find many agents representing science fiction, some of whom will have a passion for steam punk.

How Do I Find an Agent? — Google

Having defined your book’s genre the next step is to sit yourself in front of Google and begin some honest research. The aim here is to produce a list of agents that would be ideal for your book. At this early stage it is important that you include all agents that represent your book genre. You will, at the next stage, start to trim down this list, but for the time being simply include all agents you can find.

For the sake of clarity, I will return to that steam punk book and use science fiction as an example. You need to be searching on phrases such as ‘literary agent [your genre]‘, so for our example this will be ‘literary agent science fiction’. (You can also use phrases such as ‘agent [your genre]‘ or ‘book agent [your genre]‘.)

I am based in the UK and the search of ‘literary agent science fiction’ produced About 1,930,000 results (0.17 seconds)! However, a bit of searching and reading lead me to a list of potential agents.


In reality this list needs to be a long as possible. As I said, at this early stage you are simply looking for agents. The pruning process comes next, so the larger the list the better.

How Do I Find an Agent? — Digging Deep

Having defined your list the next step is to dig into each agency, get a feel for what they do and see if you can reject or promote certain agencies.

The way to do this, at the first stage, is to examine the website for each agency. I would suggest that you are looking for three criteria to promote an agent to the top of your list:

  • Activity — what deals have they done in the past?
  • Ease of contact — How easy is it to contact them?
  • Suitability — Are they representing writers who write similar books to you?

By applying these three criteria to your agents you should be able to reshape your list.

Let’s return to our example. I looked at each of the agents on the list and asked three questions. 1. What deals had they done recently? 2. Could I email them? 3. Who were their writers?

The results were as follows:
1. What deals had they done recently? They had a news section on the site but it had not been updated since 2007. Made me wonder why? Had they not done a deal or were they not updating the site?
2. Could I email them? Yes, but they don’t accept email submissions!
3. Who were their writers? They represent a number of high profile writers including Iain Banks.
Summary: Perhaps difficult to contact but have pedigree.
1. What deals had they done recently? No news section, would need more research.
2. Could I email them? Yes, also had a direct email which was good.
3. Who were their writers? No list of writers. However, seems that represent script and gaming clients. No direct mention of SF.
Summary: Don’t seem ideal for SF, so relegated down the list.
1. What deals had they done recently? Had not been updated since 2009.
2. Could I email them? Yes, but a general info address.
3. Who were their writers? No direct reference to Sf writers. This said they seem to have a wide range of writers from a number of different genres, many of them big hitters.
Summary: Despite no direct reference to SF, the twitter stream on the front page, together with positive vibes, lifts them up the list.
1. What deals had they done recently? Fully updated, with the first entry being an SF novel!
2. Could I email them? Yes, huge caption with personal email on front page. Plus, encourages submission via email.
3. Who were their writers? Sizable list of clients with a number of notable SF writers.
Summary: Ticks all the boxes and jumps to the top of the list.
1. What deals had they done recently? News page was up to date and listed a number of deals.
2. Could I email them? Yes, plus they had a dedicated submission email address.
3. Who were their writers? Didn’t seem to have any big name SF writers, but was a sentence on their site saying they were actively looking for SF.
Summary: Lack of past record with SF goes against them but looked promising.
1. What deals had they done recently? They have a blog on their front page that shows the agency is active.
2. Could I email them? Yes, in fact only accept via email. However, seem to have complex and confusing submission rules.
3. Who were their writers? Good pedigree of SF writers.
Summary: Looks promising, though submission guidelines are slightly off putting.

Having carries out this exercise, I regraded the list as follows:

  • First choice —
  • Second choice —
  • Second choice —
  • Third choice —
  • Third choice —
  • Back up —

How Do I Find an Agent? — Digging Deeper

Having constructed your hit list, the next step is to dig a little deeper. You should be looking to build two things — knowledge and contacts.

The search for knowledge will see you trying to gather as much information about the agent/agency as possible. The more you know about an agent the better. For example, you may find that an agent you had dismissed actually has a passion for the genre you write, a fact that would catapult them up your list. On the flipside, you may find an agency is closed for submission, a fact that would see them plummet.

It is always better to approach an agent directly rather then via their general email. If you only have an [email protected] or [email protected] type email, then you should go out of your way to find their personal email address. You may also find that you are approaching an agency that has more than one agent. In these situation it is essential you find the agent within the agency that is passionate about your genre. This might be a simple job are scanning the websites and seeing which agents represents writers that are similar to you.

Another way to develop deeper understanding it to use social media. Below are a couple of channels you can mine for information:

  • Twitter: Many agents run Twitter accounts. These can be good places to get a feel for the agent and the books they like. A bit of careful tweeting can also see you developing a relationship with your target agent.
  • LinkedIn: This is a great resource to connect and reach out to agents.
  • Google+: New but quickly developing. It is worth checking to see if your target agent is on Google+.
  • Facebook: Your target agency might have a fan page, or you agent might even be open the a friend request. However, tread carefully!

At the end of the day, the aim of this stage of the process is to learn as much about your agents before making first contact. This research will help you to understand what makes an agent tick.

How Do I Find an Agent? — Approaching an Agent

There are two sets of rules for getting published –- those for unpublished writers and those for writers who already have books in print. One of the big secrets that agents, publishers and published writers don’t want you to know is that you can skip the slush pile and pitch your book with just one email.

Let’s all face the reality — agents and publishers make it harder than it needs to be for writers to submit their work. They all have their systems and submission guidelines for unsolicited book pitches. Yet no matter how closely a writer follows these guidelines the chances are that their book will end up on the slush pile. Unfortunately most books that get published don’t come from the slush pile. Agents and publishers prefer writers they know, writers with a proven track record.

This means that you as a new writer are up against it from the start. So what’s the answer?

Fight dirty!

If you are going to get your work in front of the right people you need to start fighting and the place to start is with an email. Forget all the guff you have heard about not approaching agents directly. Just do it.

So here is an outline for your single email book pitch. The key is to keep it compact and to NOT include any attached documents. At first contact keep it simple.

Paragraph 1: This is your elevator pitch — you need just a few lines to sell your book. It is essential that these are concise and to the point. You just need to give the agent a feel for your narrative; this will give them an indication as to whether your title is something that will fit into their current list.

Paragraph 2: More details about your book. Remember to be concise and to the point you need to include the following:

  • The book’s genre
  • The word count
  • An indication of the market with one or two representative titles
  • An Indication of if the book is written and if not when it will be finished

Paragraph 3: This is about you as a writer. Include a brief biography, containing any relevant information such as previous published titles.

I absolutely want to know about you. I love pithy bios because it tells me a bit about the person behind the words. I don’t care if you’re the president of your dart club unless your book is about darts.

Behler Publications

Paragraph 4: This is a loose outline of your book’s plot — just remember to keep it brief.

How Do I Find an Agent? — Mindset

Perhaps one of the most important aspects of approaching an agent is to remember that the power is in your hands. You have the book; without your book they can’t sell to a publisher and make money. Agents need writers more than writers need agents. If your book is good enough, with commercial potential, a number of agents will be interested in representing you.

One way to think of this, is that you are interviewing the agents, not the other way around, Your pitch should be confident. It is essential that you are not apologetic about your book. Remember, until proven otherwise you are the next bestseller.

The power is in your hands!

How Do I Find an Agent? — Free Help with Your Book Proposal

In 2001 I wanted to be a writer. At the time I was working for author Terry Deary (of Horrible Histories fame) as a researcher. I showed Terry some of my work and he encouraged me to try and get it published. However, a bucket full of rejection letters later and I was left disillusioned and ready to give up. I went back to Terry and asked him what was the key to his success. It turns out there was no secret, just hard work and (here it comes) a great book proposal.

I knew that if i was to build any kind of a career as a writer I would need to crack the book proposal code. Since that day I have been obsessed with decoding the book proposal, for both fiction and non-fiction, and over the years I have talked to literally hundreds of writers, publishers and agents about what makes a great book pitch.

Today my dream has come true. I have not one, but more than twenty books in print by a number of publishers including Hachette, one of the biggest publishers in the world. I also have an agent (Andrew Lownie).

However, I did nothing special. I have no special book proposal writing skills, and I learned nothing that you can’t also learn and apply to your book proposals.

I have written a FREE guide that is the accumulation of the knowledge that I have gathered in the process of becoming a professional writer and publishing more than twenty books. If you follow the guideline I set out in the newsletter you will learn how to write a book proposal that instantly appeals to both agents and publishers. It will also teach you how to avoid writing a book proposal that fails to answer all the relevant questions an agent or publisher may ask about your book.

Get the FREE guide >>

What Is The Best Genre To Write If You Want To Get Published?

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So you are an unpublished writer and you want to get published, which genre gives you the best chance of landing a book deal?

The premise of this post is that the more popular the book genre, the more books that are published and the higher the chance of you landing a book deal. The evidence for this post is all based on a recent Harris Interactive report based on US reading habits.

Fiction or Non-Fiction?

It appears that, of the people who buy at least one book at year, 8 out of 10 buy a fiction book.

Great, fiction it is… but wait.

It is also the case that out of the same group people, 8 out of 10 will also buy a non-fiction book. OK, good news I suppose, suggesting that fiction and non-fiction are equally popular. I am a bit sceptical, but let’s plough on.

Fiction Genres

This is a bit more straight forward, of the people buying at least one fiction book a year, just under half (48%) buy what is classed as Mystery, Thriller and Crime. This is a pretty broad spectrum but gives us some indication of buying trends. Yet, I suspect this will be no surprise. The figure did leave me wondering if mega-writers such as Dan Brown altered buying habits. For example, how many people bought Dan Brown because he is a best seller, but not because they are a fan of his genre? The same goes for J.K. Rowling, I bet a lot of readers buy Harry Potter but no other fantasy.

The second most popular genre was Science Fiction with 26% of readers buying Sci Fi books, ‘Literature’ was close on its heels with 24% and Romance is worthy of a mention with 21% of the market.

Non-Fiction Genres

So for Non-Fiction, of the people buying at least one fiction book a year, the biggest selling genre was history, perhaps no surprise, with 31% of the market. A close second was Biographies with 29% of sales. In third place was Religious and Spirituality with 26%, though I suspect this percentage will be smaller outside the US. The remainder of the marketplace was split between Self-Help, Current Affairs, True Crime, Business and ‘Other non-fiction.’

For me, the surprises in Non-Fiction were the fact that Self-Help made up just 16% of sales and Business a measly 10%. My instinct prior to reading this survey was that these would both sell more. The survey also seems to not include text books and educational books.


My thoughts are that this report simply doesn’t give us enough data to make a definitive decision on which genre is the easiest to get published. Clearly for Fiction, writing ‘Mystery, Thriller and Crime’ will give you a bigger fan base and more potential book deals. The same is true for History in Non-Fiction. Yet, this is a dangerous approach. So many factors go into securing a book deal that simply picking a genre because it has the biggest market is a little bit silly. If nothing else passion for a particular genre goes a long way. I can use myself as an example of an alternative approach. I write children’s history book, with a target audience aged 9-12, and a focus on reluctant readers. Yes, this pigeon holes me and yes it cuts down the readership, but it does allow me to work closely with my agent, whilst developing good relationships with publishers who are interested in this genre.

Any thoughts?