Writers' Newsletter

Issue #228
March 2022

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Why Aren’t You Selling—Enough?

By G. Miki Hayden
Instructor at Writer's Digest University online and private writing coach – Monday March 7, 2022

I went to the bank with a nice big check last week amounting to hundreds of dollars for a short story. That will wake you up. It woke me up. I thought all bank transactions were electronic these days. (A wee joke, but, yes, I received the money.)

I don’t always sell stories for that much, but I’ve been selling steadily over the years—stories if not novels—and I sell to some good publications. I also appreciate glowing rejection letters.

The markets are tough. We all know that. But if decent writers are persistent, they should sell. Personally, I send out stories and even novel pitches every week or so. Do you have sufficient work in your inventory that you can keep on submitting material you believe in?

That’s what you need to do, but not first.

What comes first? If you really aren’t finding acceptances, then the primary thing you need to do is look at your writing. No, I err. The first thing to do is have someone else look at your writing.

Oh, wait. I misspoke again because from my teaching of thousands of students in hundreds of classes over the years, I’ve seen few who know the basics of our own spoken tongue as it descends to the page. So don’t ask them to give you feedback.

The writers I work with in class and in editing their fiction (as well as nonfiction) reliably send me mistake-strewn and weak work. Hooray, that gives me a reason for being. I can hand out better sentences for the would-be wordsmiths.

I thought that might do the trick and we’d all be happy. But noooo. Year after year, I’ve seen the same kind of work, and even from the same writers—oh, yes and different ones.

Then, too, I edit work sent to me by people who’ve actually hired writers to produce specific types of material…badly.

So what’s my pitch? to gain thousands of dollars editing your work? No, not at all because I simply have too much work to do. I’m just asking you to buy The Naked Writer, my composition guide recently out from ‎JP&A Dyson and in its third edition.

You’re frustrated because editors, even if they know little about the subtleties of composition and grammar, will feel uneasy seeing poor positioning of words, poor use of words, weak sentences starts, sentences with connections missing, repeated phrases, the wrong use of adjectives and adverbs, and so on and on, and etc. You surely don’t have all those glitches yourself, but I know from reading hundreds of pieces of work just like yours that you make some of them.

Your work doesn’t shine with the polish of correctness.

I can’t say you won’t make 50 percent of your goofs ever again, because you also have to study the book and retrain yourself, but I’m telling you that with every fix, with every approach to writing that you learn, you will improve and come closer to what you’re aiming for. And that may not be perfection, but you may near the point at which, halleluiah, you will sell. At the very least, you’ll expand your brain and come to know something of what you don’t know right this minute.

I like you. I want you to learn something—I want you to read my book. So go ahead. Take this mad leap and buy the book AND READ IT. Study it even.

You see, you’re looking for the right story, but you’re wrong. You need to be looking for the optimal way to write, and my book will help you do that.

Here’s a one-time, time-limited offer since you all are my close friends: Send a paragraph or two—tops 150 words—via (address your messages "Dear Miki..."), and I’ll indicate two or three problems with what you write. If you have no infelicities, I’ll send you back my sincerest congratulations. Well, yeah, let’s see. And if I do locate a couple less-than-perfect spots and edify you, you truly ought to buy the book.

About the Author

G. Miki Hayden is a short story Edgar winner. She teaches a mystery writing and a thriller writing and other writing classes at Writer's Digest online university. The third edition of her Writing the Mystery is available through Amazon and other good bookshops. She is also the author of The Naked Writer, a comprehensive, easy-to-read style and composition guide for all levels of writers.

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Some of this month's news for writers from around the web.

The New Hampshire Writers’ Project Annual 603 Writers’ Conference Explores Telling Better Stories

The New Hampshire Writers’ Project Annual 603 Writers’ Conference Explores Telling Better Stories – Friday March 18, 2022

Award-winning biographer, editor, historian and screenwriter, Geoffrey C. Ward best known for his collaborations with Ken Burns to join NH Writers’ Project Chair Masheri Chappelle in soulful conversation at morning plenary session

Concord, NH, March 15, 2022 — The New Hampshire Writers’ Project (NHWP) is hosting its annual 603 Writer’s Conference virtually on Saturday, June, 4, 2022. The day kicks off at 8:30 a.m. with an in-depth conversation with special guest Geoffrey C. Ward; and culminates with NHWP’s signature Pitch Party that offers attendees the opportunity to make their best book pitch to a panel of professional literary agents, publishers, editors, and celebrated authors. The Pitch Party offers a cash prize of $250 for the winner. Previous Pitch Party winner, Brinda Charry, landed a two-book publishing deal following her win.

[Read the full article]

Writers' Handbook 2024 - Out Now!

  • Over 1,500 markets for writers
  • Includes literary agents, publishers, and magazines
  • Available both in print and as an ebook

Writers' Handbook

Click here to buy it now

Blake Friedmann to launch online open week for writers

Blake Friedmann to launch online open week for writers – Tuesday March 8, 2022

Literary agency Blake Friedmann will opens its virtual doors next week, with a series of events dedicated to “demystifying” publishing and agenting and to supporting writers seeking representation. 

Beginning on 14th March, the agency will host a week of live #AskAgent sessions, top tips videos, agent blogs and book giveaways running across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. 

The agency said it aims to offer “insights and transparency” with key focuses into how book deals work, how to navigate the submission process and find an agent, how an author and agent work together, understanding the publication process, and earning income as an author. 

[Read the full article]

Fantasy fans crowdfund record £17m for author Brandon Sanderson’s new novels

Fantasy fans crowdfund record £17m for author Brandon Sanderson’s new novels – Sunday March 6, 2022

Fantasy author Brandon Sanderson might not be a household name like George RR Martin or JRR Tolkien, despite having a legion of loyal fans.

But that might be about to change. Sanderson, 46, although traditionally published and regularly selling upwards of 2m copies of his sweeping, epic novels, launched a crowdfunding campaign on Tuesday to self-publish four novels he had written during lockdown.

When he woke up on Wednesday, it was to, in effect, one of the biggest book deals in history. And less than three days after launching the project on Kickstarter he broke the platform’s record for the highest earnings in its 13-year existence.

[Read the full article]

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A selection of the new listings added to this month.

New Magazine Listing: The Coil

New Magazine Listing: The Coil – Tuesday March 15, 2022

Independent online literary magazine.

[See the full listing]

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New Publisher Listing: AdventureKEEN

New Publisher Listing: AdventureKEEN – Thursday March 10, 2022

A nonfiction publisher of books on a wide range of subjects, including adventure, outdoors, travel, nature, local history, sports, and more.

[See the full listing]

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New Literary Agent Listing: Rachel Petty

New Literary Agent Listing: Rachel Petty – Friday March 18, 2022

Represents children’s fiction and non-fiction, from picture books up to YA and crossover. Looking for ambitious storytelling, a bold approach to structure and voice and a fresh take on genre. Particularly interested in submissions from author/illustrators and people from underrepresented and marginalised communities. Likes YA romance, horror and thrillers (or a combination of all three, especially with a twist), hooky sweeping fantasy (wants excellent world building with a simple, clever pitch), hilarious middle grade, bold graphic picture books, and anything that has the potential to jump off the page and onto the screen.

[See the full listing]

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Click here for more of this month's new listings >


Some of this month's articles for writers from around the web.

The Best Sex Melissa Febos Has Ever Read

The Best Sex Melissa Febos Has Ever Read – Wednesday March 16, 2022

The writer Melissa Febos draws from the raw materials of her life — including her work as a dominatrix, struggles with addiction, and relationship with her mother. In her fourth book, Body Work: The Radical Power of Personal Narrative, a blend of master class and memoir, she defends the aesthetic and social value of personal writing. Weaving together anecdotes and allusions to literary, psychological, and religious works, as well as advice she refined while teaching graduate workshops, Febos shows how treating sex writing as taboo upholds oppressive conventions. The best sex she ever read is this passage from the poet Eileen Myles’s novel Inferno about the protagonist’s first time sleeping with another woman. The scene euphorically breaks all the rules Febos once learned about writing sex: to avoid humor, certain words, and grossness.

[Read the full article]

How It Felt to Have My Novel Stolen

How It Felt to Have My Novel Stolen – Tuesday March 15, 2022

On the verge of selling my first book, I was scammed by a manuscript thief. My deepest insecurities about wanting to be a writer came rushing to the surface.

At 2:47 p.m. on September 20, 2020, I received what appeared to be an innocuous e-mail from my literary agent, Chris. Could I send over the latest version of my unsold novel-in-progress as a Microsoft Word file? “I just realized,” the e-mail read, “that I only have it as a PDF.” It wasn’t like Chris to misplace things, but the situation didn’t seem implausible. People switch computers. In-boxes get gnarly. I found an old e-mail with the Word file attached and forwarded it along.

At 3:44 p.m., another e-mail arrived: “Strange, I haven’t received anything now . . . can you resend please?” I re-forwarded the old e-mail with the Word file. At 4:03 p.m., I got another e-mail, which explained that Chris’s agency was in the process of switching servers, and perhaps this explained why my e-mails weren’t coming through. Could I try again, this time working around the problem by changing the .com suffix in Chris’s normal e-mail to .co?

Looking back, this is the part where I can’t quite understand my actions. Why didn’t I just call Chris and ask him what was going on? Here’s my best attempt at a defense. The night before, I’d been up several times, tending to my nine-week-old son, and never finding my way back to true sleep. I started on coffee sometime around dawn. When these e-mails came, I was a quivering zombie, incapable of real thought, looking only to move forward, dealing with whatever came up until the next time my son slept, when I could try sleeping, too. I was in no condition to think, only to do.

Not long after I sent the Word manuscript to the .co address, my phone rang. It was Chris. He’d been offline for a few hours, he said, so he was just now seeing that I’d sent him my manuscript twice that morning. Why, he asked, sounding more than a little bit stressed, had I done that, when he hadn’t asked me to?

I’d been scammed.

[Read the full article]

On navigating the publishing industry

On navigating the publishing industry – Sunday March 13, 2022

Literary agent Heather Carr discusses the ins and outs of publishing , focusing on the work you want to do, and the value of networking even if you think it's gross.

The literary world is full of various roles and duties. How did you decide to pursue the agent path?

I really like the editorial process, but I wanted the freedom to work on only the work that I wanted to work on. And I feel like being an agent, you have the most control and flexibility over who you decide to work with. There’s no one telling me I have to work with a politician I don’t like or a writer whose work I don’t believe in or don’t think needs space on the shelf, or whatever. I have the ability to curate that.

I’m also really passionate about there being more transparency as far as how the financial parts of publishing work. I get to talk to authors directly about that as an agent, about what their financial life as a writer could look like. And, I also get to help them, from a business perspective, make those financial decisions for their career and manage that. I get to be a matchmaker, and that’s probably my favorite part. You get to find a book that you know an editor will fall in love with. Being able to do that over the course of a writer’s whole career was really appealing to me. You just do everything. You don’t have to be specialized, which is nice.

[Read the full article]

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