Right Reading passes along the following e-mail unedited (except for removing the publicist’s e-mail address). This is a typical form for a book press release. The brief personalized cover note shows the publicist is doing her job diligently. The writing advice is pretty standard for conventional mainstream fiction, and writers should be aware of these conventions before choosing to break them.
Hi, Tom –
I loved your tips on how to get published. Great – and much needed – advice!
I am getting in touch to see if you might consider adding a book to your list of resources: Don’t Sabotage Your Submission by Chris Roerden, winner of the 2009 Benjamin Franklin Award™ for Literary Criticism.
Following is more information and some tips from Chris.
Thanks in advance, and have a nice day!
MM Book Publicity
2817 West End Avenue
Nashville, TN 37203
For Immediate Release
Contact: Maryglenn McCombs
Date: August 19, 2009
Publishing Industry Veteran Shares Tips for Aspiring Authors
Rock Hill, S.C. — “Why was my novel rejected?” Millions of writers haven’t a clue, says veteran book editor Chris Roerden.
Roerden, author of Don’t Sabotage Your Submission, winner of the 2009 Benjamin Franklin Award™ for Literary Criticism, estimates that 4.7 million rejections occurred in 2008, based on the industry average of one in a hundred manuscripts becoming a book, and on 47,541 new adult fiction titles published last year.
“Average writing is the cause,” says Roerden. “At least 90% of all submissions are rejected immediately because editors and agents quickly spot the clues to average writing and stop reading.”
Roerden, who teaches writers to see those clues, eliminate them, and boost their odds of getting published, offers the following ten tips:
- Go naked: strip adverbs and adjectives from your writing. If a bare verb or noun seems weak, replace with a stronger one.
- Open in the middle of action and keep it going, with no more than 3 words of description or history per paragraph until chapter 3.
- Focus your story not on what happens but on the character it happens to. Open with her or him at a moment of change.
- Stick to the thoughts of one character per scene. No mind-reading or head-hopping. Other characters must speak their thoughts or reveal them through observable behavior.
- Sad, mad, glad are lazy labels. Labels tell. Instead, show behavior, facial expressions, and dialogue to let readers interpret feelings for themselves.
- Delete these words from all dialogue: Well, yes, okay, sure, agree. Even when characters agree, change the response to a question or change the subject.
- There is/was/are/were and It is/was create the most passive prose on the planet. Find all such phrases and rearrange: There was a (noun) waiting becomes A (noun) waited or The (noun) stood/took/held/existed/and so on.
- Twist clichés. She looked like a million bucks tax free (Harlan Ellison).
- Find every “as” used to suggest two actions occurring simultaneously. Most actions have different durations. Connect them with “and”; sometimes with “then”; not “and then” or “as.”
- Read the kinds of books you want to write, then re-read 3 favorites to learn the techniques that make them favorites.
Don’t Sabotage Your Submission (Bella Rosa Books, ISBN 978-1-933523-31-6, Trade Paper, $17.95) shares insider secrets on how submissions to literary agencies and publishing houses are screened—and quickly rejected. Filled with over 230 examples and expert advice, Don’t Sabotage Your Submission describes the dead giveaways to average writing, and shows how writers can improve their odds of getting published. According to New York Times best-selling author Charlaine Harris, “Roerden’s book is chock full of practical advice for the novice writer. Even seasoned writers could use a copy as a refresher course.”
Chris Roerden has worked in publishing 44 years and taught writing for the University of Maine-Portland, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and UNESCO in South Korea. Authors Roerden has edited are published by St. Martin’s Press, Berkley Prime Crime, Rodale, Viking, Oceanview, and many others. A native New Yorker, Roerden now lives in North Carolina and leads workshops for writers throughout North America. For more information about Chris Roerden, please visit www.marketsavvybookediting.com. Based in South Carolina, Bella Rosa Books (www.bellarosabooks.com) is an independent royalty press that specializes in backlist reissues and original titles by commercially-established authors. For more information, please contact Maryglenn McCombs by phone—(615) 297-9875, or email— firstname.lastname@example.org.