Category Archives: Publishing

An Agent’s Take

Part 1  Revision for Publication


Recently I attended the monthly Sisters in Crime Northern California membership meeting where literary agent, Elizabeth K. Kracht delivered an excellent talk on how to prepare your manuscript for submission to an agent.The presentation covered the principles and conventions of good craft and appropriate mechanics, including formatting that applies, or should apply, to any written work being prepared for publication. As a developmental editor, I found her bullet points to be a checklist of what we need to look for when we set about to polish and format our work.

From the agent’s perspective, Kracht reminds us,  an agent see only up to 50 pages of our manuscripts. She says the manuscript must be “the best you can provide” and “hold the agent’s divided and distracted attention” from servicing existing clients and dealing with the huge volume of queries  she receives. Her tip? Send in work that needs only minor adjustments:

  1. Make sure your formatting is uniform
  2. Maintain structural uniformity
  3. Ensure the quality of writing is high
  4. Make sure your place and time are clear and distinct
  5. Create sympathetic characters
  6. Use appropriate pacing
  7. Use back story appropriately
  8. Make sure character voice and author voice are distinct and distinct from each other
  9. Make sure the inciting incident is clear

Kracht suggests : The Objective look

  1. Is your project structurally uniform?
  2. Do your chapters have a beginning, middle and end?
  3. Are you addressing themes in every chapter?
  4. The Three Things Rule: What three things are happening in each chapter driving the story and characters forward?
  5. Look objectively at your dialog.
  6. Get editorial feedback from an editor and/or qualified critique group.

The first hour of the presentation Kracht devoted to formatting and structure. No one wants to read, let alone publish, a sloppy manuscript! I suggest you follow these guidelines before submitting work to your critique group, writing teacher and editor, as well as contest, agents and publishers.

Formatting:  Make it Uniform

Kratch says she  doesn’t adhere to any specific style. She mentioned the Chicago Style Manual and I advise everyone should buy a copy.

You should follow the guidelines for each individual agent when submitting, but if you’re sending work to Liz, this is what she wants:

Title page

Page numbers

Double spacing

Contact info in header

12 pt font

Proper indentation (5 spaces)

Standard margins

New chapters starting on new pages

If using epistolary information, offset from the margin


Structure:  Create a Pattern

Use uniform chapter lengths or a good, logical reason chapters are mixed long and short. TIP: Chapters in genre novels run 12-15 pages and slightly longer in literary fiction.

Present alternating narratives (POV) in a pattern

Show POV shifts uniformly (new chapter, line drops, astericks)

Show breaks within chapters uniformly

Chapter headings and sub headings used uniformly

Uniform use of epigraphs, quotes, taglines or other similar information

Sections or Parts: rethink using this technique.

Vignettes: if using vignettes, make them meaty and gripping


Titles:  Connection to Content

1 to 3 word titles stand out. (Liz likes them best.)

Double entendres might work for you

The title ties to theme and content—Is your setting a major influence?

TECHIE TIP: Check for most common words. You may find words for theme and you may discover repetition. Or it’s just fun to play with.

TIP: Run an Amazon search for your title. Title’s can’t be copyrighted so you may find yours in use.

TASK: Make a list of all the themes in your book and find strong commonality to pull key words from. Your title (especially on Amazon) can be developed from most used /common keywords.

Word Count: Too Long OR Too Short= No Go

Is your word count appropriate for the genre? Google genre word counts. If you need to cut, look at:

  1.    back story
  2.   dialog tags and “sharpening” the pleasantries and dumb, mundane utterances we hear from characters
  3.    excessive description/over-writing
  4.     information dumps: less is more
  5.     build up
  6.     narration showing passage of time— you don’t need to show it.

Please come back  soon to read Part 2 of Elizabeth K. Kracht’s presentation on Revision for Publication delivered on May 14 to Sisters in Crime Norcal


Elizabeth K Kracht

Elizabeth is currently an agent with Kimberley Cameron and Associates, works with She Writes Press, and works with private editing clients.

Elizabeth’s career in publishing took root in Puerto Rico where she completed her BA in English and worked as a copyeditor for an English-language newspaper. When she returned to the mainland she found her “vein of gold” in book publishing. She thrives on working closely with authors to build their careers.

Elizabeth’s eclectic life experience drives her interests. She appreciates writing that has depth, an introspective voice, and is thematically layered. Having lived in cities such as New York, San Francisco and San Juan, Puerto Rico, she is compelled by multicultural themes and characters and is drawn toward strong settings.

She represents both literary and commercial fiction as well as nonfiction, and brings to the agency experience as a former acquisitions editor, freelance publicist and writer.


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Witch’s Tea/Blog Party!


First Witch:
When shall we three meet again
In thunder, lightning, or in rain?

Second Witch:
When the hurlyburly’s done,
When the battle’s lost and won.

— from Shakespeare’s Macbeth

There’s a change in the air, autumn is on its way, and so is one of my favorite holidays: Halloween!

Yes, we’re hosting a blog party! And if you’ve got a blog, you’re welcome to join us on October 31st, 2015.

Here’s how it works:

You post a Halloween or  Witch’s Tea blog on October 31st and then come to the ParaYourNormal Witch’s Tea Party page (not this one – the one that posts on October 31st). Link to your blog post (your actual post, not your general blog) in the comments. Your post can be photos, a spooky story, recipes, spells, pets in funny costumes, anything Halloween or witch-related, or even a real Witch’s Tea party. It’s an opportunity to have some…

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Publishing Principles: Cornerstones of your Writing Career

Most writers I know carry notebooks and take notes all the time. I buy books with heavy weight paper, preferably lined, and interesting covers that hold up to Flair pens and hard knocks, usually from riding in my purse. You might say I accessorize with notebooks, and notebooks are my method of marking time. For instance, it was two notebooks ago that I went to Stanford for a class on getting published, led by David Henry Sterry and partner Arielle Eckstut, and  took my notes in a book titled Lecture Notes with old fashioned iron keys dangling on the front and this quote:

That’s the way it is

with dreams. They scratch at

your door. You see them through

the peep hole. A stray dream looking

for a home. You think it might go away

if you ignore it. Wrong. It’s still

there when you open the door,

smiling. Wagging its tail.

My unpublished novel is baying on the porch. I’m opening the door…and I intend to succeed.

If you don’t know who Sperry and Eckstut are, you should. They wrote The Essential Guide to Getting your Book Published: How to Write It, Sell It, and Market It…Successfully! and their workshop at Stanford discussed and built upon the book.

Here’s a little foundation:

There are three ways to publish—traditionally, independently (through small presses) , and self-publishing ebooks and POD (print on demand) .

Today publishers aren’t going to market or promote your book (unless you’re already famous) so you need to be the “engine that drives the book.”

Authors who are entrepreneurs succeed by following four principles.

  1. Research—find out what books exist that are like yours and get an idea who might  publish and sell it. Who will read your book and how will you get it to them? Go to bookstores and libraries and look through the section where yours would be shelved. Read as many  books in your genre as you can. Talk with the booksellers and librarians. What is selling? Who is reading it? If your book deals with a topic of information, become an expert on that topic. Find the blogs and where your topic is showing up in the media. Follow Publishers Lunch for a daily digest of publishing news. Find out what all the deals are.
  2. Network—”Finding the right  agent and publisher, creating buzz, reaching your readers and selling books are all, in very large part, dependent upon people skills.” (Eckstut, Sperry) You can start now by joining writer’s groups, even your critique group. Talk about your book…ALL THE TIME. Sperry says don’t worry about anyone stealing your ideas. I say, so what? No one can write YOUR book!
  3. Write—I know, this sounds like a no-brainer, but my mind is boggled by the number of folk who talk to me about classes, and even editing, who are shocked to find out they will need to write or revise. If you want a long and productive writing career, you need to write. Every day would be ideal, but write what you can as often as you can. I have a friend who is suffering from cancer and chemo. She promised herself that she would write for 5 minutes every day no matter how awful she felt. She’s almost finished the rough draft of a new novel and has published several short stories. Were I to follow her writing lead, I’d have finish my Narco-trilogy some time ago.
  4. Perseverance—”…most successful authors have all had to persevere against oftentimes staggering evidence that they were complete losers who were bound to fail.” (Sperry, Eckstut) You have to send your work out. And you have to expect and deal with rejection. If you keep getting form letter rejections maybe your query letter isn’t working. (Note: did you open your query with that amazing  jacket blurb you got from that  famous author you met networking at a conference?) Research query letters and see what letters sold what books on agent sites. Keep evolving your material.


Assignment: Start your query letter NOW! And let in that dream…


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DIY? Some like Createspace

Now that The Hydra Effect book 1: Zihuatanejo is testing with “beta” readers, I’m thinking about what comes next. I’d love to find an agent and land a three-book deal sweetened with a fat advance, an editor, a publicist and a deep pocketed promotion budget. What writer wouldn’t? But is it realistic to expect my first book to be noticed by the traditional publishing industry? Or is that the right publishing route for me?

There’s a lot of talk about traditional publishing vs.  self-publishing. Agent Nathan Bransford blogged last year, “These days it seems like traditional and self-publishing are increasingly pitted against each other on blogs and forums, as if one side or the other is the bastion of all that is good and pure in the world and the other side is the bastion of all that is horrible and evil.” But it ain’t so. There are pluses and minuses to both.

Self publishing is a viable option for may of us. In our favor, digitally published books are out-selling paper books. I haven’t found a statistic that compares 2012 paper book sales to digital book sales  but Amazon’s 2012 digital book sales jumped 70% over the prior year and trends suggest Kindle  and Kindle aps are expanding into international markets.

Amazon may not be your ideal solution, but their publishing subsidiary, Createspace, may offer you the opportunity to launch your book into the world as it has for Nathan Robert Winters, author of the soon to be released, Omaha Kid. His local Launch Party will be held on April 6 at the Rianda House in St. Helena. We asked him to tell us about his experience using the Createspace publishing tools and he gave us some pros and cons of using this service.


  • you don’t need an agent
  • your book publishes much faster than through a traditional publishing house
  • you control all aspects of your book
  • you control all aspects of your publicity campaign
  • you keep a higher percentage of the profits


  • you don’t get the support of the agent or publisher
  • you find and pay for your own editors
  • there is no advance
  • you will have to maintain your own records

He went on to inform us that when you begin the Createspace process, your manuscript must be ready, corrected, formatted and error free. Although it can be a bit of drudgery, if you do publish with errors in your book, you can take it down and re-upload a corrected version—another possible feature for the CON list. Your book will also need it’s copyright and ISBN number, and a cover either predesigned, or you can use Createspace templates.

If you do choose to publish through Createspace, get a copy of Blake Webster and Steve Boga‘s book, How to Self-Publish Your Book The Createspace Way,  A Step-by Step Guide to Writing, Printing and Selling Your Own Book Using Print On Demand. It’s a nifty little book with plenty of screenshots that point out just what to do to upload your manuscript.

I haven’t made up my mind how to approach my publishing dilemma, but learning about the many options is opening my eyes to what lies ahead. At least I’ve got two of my three jacket blurbs even if there isn’t a jacket yet.

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