Sunday, June 25, 2006

Chat With Author Stephen Spignesi

Join us for a chat with author Stephen Spignesi

Date: Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Time: 10 PM Eastern US
Place: The Writer's Chatroom
Password: dialogues

Stephen Spignesi is a New York Times bestselling author who writes about historical biography, popular culture, television, film, American and world history, and contemporary fiction. He is also a songwriter, a novelist, a screenwriter, a poet, an editor, and a book doctor.

Spignesi — christened “the world’s leading authority on Stephen King” by Entertainment Weekly magazine — has written many authorized entertainment books and has worked with Stephen King, Turner Entertainment, the Margaret Mitchell Estate, Ron Howard, Andy Griffith, Viacom, QVC, and other entertainment industry personalities and entities on a wide range of projects. He has also contributed essays, chapters, articles, and introductions to a wide range of books.

Stephen’s three dozen books have been translated into several languages, including Farsi and Dutch, and he has also written for Harper’s, Cinefantastique, Saturday Review, TV Guide, Mystery Scene, Gauntlet, Lighthouse, and Midnight Graffiti magazines; as well as the New York Times, the New York Daily News, the New York Post, the New Haven Register, the French literary journal Tenébres and the Italian online literary journal, Horror.It.

His 2005 debut novel Dialogues (Bantam), now out in trade paperback, was hailed as "a reinvention of the psychological thriller" and called "impressive" by the Boston Globe.

Stephen has also appeared on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News Channel, and other TV and radio outlets. He appeared in the 1998 E! documentary, The Kennedys: Power, Seduction, and Hollywood, as a Kennedy family authority, and in the A&E Biography of Stephen King that aired in January 2000. Stephen’s 1997 book JFK Jr. was a New York Times bestseller. Spignesi’s authorized Complete Stephen King Encyclopedia was a 1991 Bram Stoker Award nominee.

In addition to writing, Stephen also lectures on a variety of popular culture and historical subjects and teaches writing in the Connecticut area. He is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of the small press publishing company, The StephenJohn Press, which will soon be publishing a slipcased, limited edition of his historical fantasy, The Husbands of Coventry.

Stephen is a graduate of the University of New Haven, and lives in New Haven, CT, with his wife, Pam, and their very intelligent asthmatic cat Carter, named for their favorite character on ER.

Please feel free to forward this notice to individuals and groups you feel may be interested.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

How to Find and Sign With a Literary Agent

©2006 Suzanne Falter-Barns

If you’re interested in publishing a book and gaining a market presence and income from it, you’ll need a literary agent. They are the grease that keeps the oft-rusty wheels of publishing moving. Every day, they eat lunch or talk to editors and acquisition people in major, mid-sized and even small publishing houses while pitching them on the new hot ‘properties’. That's where you want your project to be.

Here are some tips I can pass along that will help your search for this important part of your team. (This may not be a fast process, by the way.)

• Make sure you’re selling something marketable. It could be you’re the only person out there who wants to read about your Aunt Tillie’s days as a pickle packer. Before you approach an agent, find out what problem your book solves and who it will appeal to. Research similar titles on and look for gaps in the marketplace. Go to bookstores and see what’s hot (and what’s not.) Give an agent a good reason UP FRONT to get excited (before they even read your mss)

• Do not send your manuscript! Send a one page letter describing your project and why you are the person to write it, plus your proposal (non-fiction only) or a few sample chapters of your manuscript (fiction.) Offer to send the rest right away if they are interested. Make sure everything is spell-checked, double spaced, with correct margins, etc..

• Make sure your book idea or manuscript is in top shape. There is no substitute for excellence… it helps! You’ve got to have an awesome concept, and an even better title.

• Make your book proposal as professional possible. (Book proposals are only for non-fiction books, those other than novels.) You’ll want to include a lot more than just what the book’s about. You’ll need to include any market research you’ve done on who’d buy the book, ideas for unusual places the books could be sold, or ways to tie it in with ‘special sales’ (that’s pub-speak for big wholesale orders) to certain industries, or connections with your workshops, speaking gigs, web site, etc.. You’ll also want to include an impressive bio, merchandising ideas, a sketch of the competitive marketplace and publicity ideas. (If this sounds daunting, worry not. See my blurb at the bottom.)

• Establish your credibility. If you’re writing non-fiction, are you a PhD or do you have a masters, or lots of great professional experience? It’s tougher to sell a great book written by someone who’s got no credentials in the field to back them up … but it can be done. This is where platform is totally critical!

• Build your platform. Get your list up to at least 7500. And make sure you've already begun to speak, and get media blurbs. Have that branded site and blog and put them to work for you. (This is where my Get Known Now Blast Off Class is really handy!)

• Hook up with a star. Can you get a celebrity endorsement, or a testimonial or foreword from a highly placed industry star? This will help an agent feel they can sell your work. I found my 'star testimonials' simply by contacting other big authors through their sites.

• Find the niche no one has explored. They’re out there, even in your chosen field. This is especially true for non-fiction, though niches apply to both genres. The best niche comes from your own passions and interests… what’s really You?

• Hand pick the agents you submit to. DO NOT SEND MASS MAILINGS TO AGENTS. It won’t work, and is a waste of time and mo.ney. Instead, research who to approach and pick the 5, 10, 20 or so who actually sell your type of work. Agents stick to niches themselves, and one way to find that niche is in various resource guides like Writer’s Market, the LMP (Literary Market Place … in all big libraries), or the Writer’s Digest Guide to Literary Agents.

• Make your letter great. Your pitch will be placed in a pile with the other cold submissions that arrived that day (maybe 25 –50) and an assistant will thumb through them, spending about 10 seconds on each one. This means if you have a personal contact, you mention it in the first sentence. Trim your description of your book into a meaty, mouth-watering paragraph. Add a bit on why you are the person to write it. And BE SURE to let them know you hand picked them, out of all the agents out there, because of the great work they’ve done for authors X, Y and Z. Make it personal, a little witty, and smart.

• Don’t use old contact info … and call to see that the agent you’re contacting is still at the address you have before you send anything

• Don’t ever pay an agent to evaluate your book. This is not how standard agents work, and is illegal.

• Give the agent one month to evaluate your work. Then follow up by phone or email. Many will tell you how they like to be contacted in guides such as The Writer’s Market and those listed above. Continue to follow up, until such actions are ridiculous. You’ll probably get some kind of response, especially if you’re letter is great

• Follow up and ask for referrals. If you’re lucky, you’ll get the intended agent on the phone. They may seem interested, but just won’t commit. (A standard line is “I’m not taking on any new clients right now.”) So ask if they know any agents they might recommend, or someone who is expanding their operation. Then send a thank you note if their info has been helpful.

• Work your personal connections. Be exhaustive, thinking of anyone you know who might connect you with other agents, or even authors. Most authors will want to see the project you’re pitching, and may not feel comfortable sharing their contact with you… but many may.

• Be persistent. You may have to go through several lists of hand-picked agents, before you get the bite you need.

Download Suzanne’s free list of 50 Top Publishing & Media contacts at . Drop by her blog at for almost daily tips on how to get known now … the easy way!

©2006 Suzanne Falter-Barns..

Want to reprint this article? Email Lorraine Carol for permission at

Ahhh ... That Purple Prose

Join us at The Writer's Chatroom Sunday evening at 8 PM (Eastern US) to chat about purple prose.

Our moderator for the evening with be our very own resident humorist, Renee' Barnes.

Wikipedia defines Purple Prose as:
A term of literary criticism, purple prose is used to describe passages, or sometimes entire literary works, written in prose so overly extravagant, ornate or flowery as to break the flow and draw attention to itself. Purple prose is sensuously evocative beyond the requirements of its context. It also refers to writing that employs certain rhetorical effects such as exaggerated sentiment or pathos in an attempt to manipulate a reader's response. ( )

Join us Sunday and shamelessly take advantage of this fertile ground for hilarity. Let's laugh ourselves silly, as we learn how to avoid using Purple Prose in our daily writing.

Whoopee Cushions and Silly String provided; bring your own Chocolate and Coffee.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Link Share Chat

Quick Promos and Blog links at the begining of the chat
Humor E-zine :
Renee's blog:
Audrey's blogs:
Linda's blogs:
"Be a Successful Writer!" at
Find daily writing tips at Writer's Edge (Georganna's)blog:
Glenn's Writer's Group:

Shared Links:

Character Development worksheet bills itself as the world's greatest encyclo-diction-almanac-apedia
writer's encyclopedia

best glossary of magazine industry:
journal of newspaper industry:
articles for book writers
databases for book writers: also publishes PublishersLunch daily newsletter about the industry Statistics Every Writer Should Know Daily emails of markets and contests.
httP:// this is aforum for screenwriters, screenwriter classes, tips for screenwriters, and review by other screenwriters.
Contracts for a magazine article
Contracts for A web article
Contracts for An anthology story
Trade book publishing agreement checklist
This is a great site for writers to come together. We have forumns and
private critique group. We currently have an opening in my group - Prose
Nest . I would love to see some of you there.

Worksheet for authors, to figure out your marketing plan. Gaiman's Journal A Site containing many wonderful things National Writers Union
I would expect everyone to know about (Writer's Market) and (Writer's Digest) and its commercial database at Copyright info. Copyright info Another source, "Legal Lexicon's Lyceum," one of the best Internet Law Dictionaries, is available at
Writer Circle - A great article
for anyone who wonders if internet marketing is worth it. - A great article on how
to promote your blog, for free.

What to do after your work is accepted and is in print. Here is a link that may help some promote their work. This is a great place to have your work critiqued. The site works on a points system, I've yet to post and not have at least 8 people critique. The people there are usually very helpful.
American Society of Journalists and Authors

Ivan Hoffman's Website Editors and Preditors - All writers LaRocca’s Site.
Loads of free information for writers. Articles with lots of information for writers. Crime Scene Writer Free Q&A service, lots of categories to choose from, volunteers answer your questions

Book tv, C-SPAN2......Today I watched as writers of both fiction and non-fiction pitched their books before signings and during interviews...a way to see what life is after you are published.

Info and Markets Absolute Write Writers Weekly Hope’s newsletters Fiction Factor Anthology markets demo of ebook editor Free "Office" alternative

This is a list of the newspapers around the US...along with contact info US Newspapers
Resources for grants: - The Foundation Center - The National Endowment for the Arts - The National Assembly of State Arts Agencies - Look under grants.
This is an automated critique machine AutoCrit

Perhaps you think you could write better television dramas yourself. If so, check out this website:
Turn some of life’s mysteries into fiction for Over My Dead
Body at: writing links, and resources on the web
For writing prompts I want to mention Christine Senter at and Milli Thornton at

Please check the Chatroom Schedule at for information on
upcoming guests and writing-related chat topics. Future guests include Mary
Roach, Hope Clark, Stephen Spignesi, Tim Bete, J. Thomas Callahan, Kelsy
George, Linda Formichelli and Diana Burrell and others.

Visit our Previous Guests page to catch up on what you've missed. And on the Products page you will find some great recommendations. Please use our links to buy, and help support the chatroom!

These two sites are invaluable to me times. Get Organized Now Forum Fly Lady
This link has Reviews of Writing Books
Daily Writing Prompts
Writers Free Reference --free information

Gotham Writers' Workshop
The Onion
Smart Markets and Contests
Ryze Business Networking
Maureen’s website, Moonspinners Writer’s Page, Etymology and history of first names. Browse by Masucline/Feminine, English, Arabic names, Italian names, etc... Largest database of US and Canadian periodicals
Holidays and Observances
This is a directory of free WIFI hotspots
Here's a Free Press Release

Fix your fiction at Fiction Fix
Deb's Historical Resource page a website that is full of this woman's research...incredible
Strunk Jr., Elements of Style
This is an Online Library

Another prompt site Imagination Prompt
Links and Resources
English Grammar
Creative Writing Directory
Java Script word count We'd like for The Writer's Chatroom to be one-stop shopping for writers. We'd also like to make that list next year! Hope’s newsletters
for genre writers there's
A good article on blog promotion, for free.
There is a series of articles written by Richard Hoy at that talks about blogs and how to submit them to the search engines.
Audrey: The info I gave in our last blog/rss chat is now on the Education page as downloadable PDF files. American Medical
Association home page. more medical info Check out the Published Clips page. The list is finally getting long enough to be worth listing.
My own insane lists are here ...

Visit our Previous Guests page to catch up on what you've missed. And on the Products page you will find some great
recommendations. Please use our links to buy, and help support the chatroom!

Our chatroom team:
Audrey Shaffer – Chatroom Moderator and Guest Scheduler
Linda Hutchinson – Moderator, Researcher and Bio Writer
Renee Barnes – Moderator
Glenn Walker -
Chatroom Moderator and Guest Scheduler

Thursday, June 15, 2006

An Interview With Literary Author Patrick Ryan

Last night we had the pleasure of having literary author Patrick Ryan, author of Send Me and a host of short stories, as our guest at The Writer’s Chatroom.

Patrick’s responses to questions from member chatters were filled with wit and charm, but also with a no-holds-barred attitude regaling what it takes to make it as a writer.

Question: Your work is considered “literary”. What makes it so?

Patrick Ryan: Wow. Good question. For me as a reader, that means utterly convincing characters, not over-relying on coincidence, and creating believable dynamics between those characters. Also, creating characters you, as a writer, have compassion for, even when they're unlikable.

Question: I've been putting together some short stories, but I'm having trouble with where to market them.

Patrick Ryan: Go through (Writer’s Market) to see how many stories a journal/magazine accepts a year. If it says, say, four stories, forget it. And if it says NO SIMULTANEOUS SUBMISSIONS, forget it. That's my advice, anyway. It's unrealistic of journals to expect a writer to wait six months (or longer) for a yes or no.

Then -- and this is crucial -- carpet bomb the market. Send your story to every place that seems an option. As much as you can afford to.

And don't think twice when a rejection letter comes. I have boxes of them. But pay attention to any hand-written note like "Good to see!" or "Please keep us in mind."

If you think your story would appeal to any reader, you should send it wherever the market says "literary fiction." The hard fact is that you'll need to submit a story to lots of places that would never publish such a thing before you get lucky with the timing and the right editor. I've published around fourteen stories, and almost all of them were rejected anywhere from five to twenty times before someone said yes.

Question: Patrick, your bio said you received a Fellowship. Exactly what does that mean? How does it work?

Patrick Ryan: You have to have published, I think, three stories over the past three years, or something like that, to apply. Then it's a fairly simple process. I applied in March and they didn't announce until December. I thought of it as a lottery ticket.

You have to be in it to win it, as they say. The NEA, because of funding cut-backs, does poetry every other year, prose every other year.

It's worth applying for. It's money, which equals time to write, of course. And yes, it was QUITE a thrill. It gave me some very necessary peace of mind.

Question: Patrick what is your writing schedule like?

Patrick Ryan: I write for about four or five hours a day, five days a week, usually. Then there's added time revising. I do lots and lots of revision. I read everything out loud at every step of the process, to hear the rhythm and the cadence and the dialogue.

Discipline is everything. If I'm not on top of it all the time, I lose it. Meaning, I lose the project (the story or the novel).

Question: You don’t have television, cable, or other distractions most of us take for granted. Does this help you get more writing done—or have you found other, more interesting, distractions living in the Big Apple?

Patrick Ryan: The Big Apple is a wonderful, insane place. But I move in small circles, so to speak. I have a routine, and I have my distractions, but they're pretty regular.

My apartment is ANYTHING but sound proof! But I work, now, at this place called the Writers Room, where I rent a cubicle and no one is allowed to speak. It's the most wonderful and creepy place on earth.

One of the biggest pieces of advice I can give: don't write on the machine that let's you onto the internet and your email. Just don't do it! It's bad, bad, bad. And don't answer your phone when you're working. End of sermon (maybe).

Question: Do you make your living writing, Patrick?

Patrick Ryan: I do, now, make my living writing. That's new as of about two years ago. I've been writing steadily and working various jobs since 1990, when I graduated from an MFA program. I wrote seven novels I revised and submitted and couldn't get published. I also got about halfway through seven or eight more. I just kept going.

Out of the blue, I got an agent for SEND ME, and it sold, and my life changed. Now I make my living off my writing.

Question: Could you tell us what Send Me is about?

Patrick Ryan: Basically, it's about a family and what happens to it over forty years. More specifically, it's about a mother abandoned by two husbands, left with four children, and the fallout (and, occasionally, recovery) that results.

It's told out of chronological sequence, from six different points of view, both in the third-and first-person. I wanted it to be as holistic a portrait as possible.

Question: Please tell us a little more about writing for One Story.

Patrick Ryan: That was a fantastic experience. Everyone should submit there. The editor, Hannah Tinti (a wonderful writer -- check out her story collection, ANIMAL CRACKERS) was so influential in shaping that story/chapter, "So Much for Artemis."

She told me she thought the ending was off-topic. She told me two of the main characters who are set in opposition to each other never confront each other.

Because of her feedback, I completely rewrote the last ten pages. Totally new material. That ended up being the story that got me the NEA grant and will be in Best American Short Stories, so I'm very indebted to her. She's brilliant.

Question: Where did you get your first publication?

Patrick Ryan: I'd been submitting both stories and the first novel I wrote for years, and then, just out of grad school, I had a story taken by a tiny little newsprint journal called THE GASLIGHT REVIEW. I was so excited. It had a circulation of about 100, I think.

But it helped my ego. I published about a story a year for ten years. That sounds minor, I know, but it kept me going.

Question: Patrick, do you see yourself writing non-literary works in the future? Mainstream, perhaps?

Patrick Ryan: Interesting that you asked that. Here's an aside that may be worth hearing...

When I was waiting for my edits for SEND ME, I got an idea for a young adult novel. I called my agent and said, "Would you represent a YA, if I wrote it?" She said, "Sure!" So I wrote it. Geared toward a 16-year-old audience.

She sold it to HarperCollins. It will be out in a year. And it brought in enough money to allow me to quit my day job and be comfortable writing full-time.

Question: Do you go on book signing tours?

Patrick Ryan: I didn't do a tour for SEND ME. It was my first book, and my publisher -- The Dial Press, an imprint of RandomHouse -- puts their money into advertising rather than tours. It's a philosophy I concur with.

In response to marketing questions from the room:

Patrick_Ryan: talent + hard work + luck +
timing + PERSITENCE and FAITH = a published book.

As noted by Hope Clark: Patrick dispelled many of the notions we've read in the writing books!

Visit our Previous Guests page to catch up on what you've missed. And on the Products page you will find some great recommendations. Please use our links to buy, and help support the chatroom! (You may purchase ANY book at by using our link at TWC site.)

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Chat With Author Patrick Ryan Tonight

Join us this evening for what will be an interesting and educational chat with guest author Patrick Ryan.

The place: The Writer's Chatroom
The time: 10 PM Eastern US
Password: sendme

Patrick Ryan's first book, Send Me, was published in February by the Dial Press, and was chosen by Barnes & Noble for their "Discover New Writers" series.

His work will be included in the upcoming Best American Short Stories 2006. He is the recipient of a 2006 Literary Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Smart Family Foundation Prize for Fiction.

His stories have appeared in The Iowa Review, The Yale Review, One Story, Ontario Review, and elsewhere. He lives in New York City.

I will be interviewing Patrick and taking questions from the room. Patrick has donated an autographed copy of Send Me, which will be awarded to one lucky chatter midway through the chat. You must be present to win!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Questions About Contracts?

Here are a few links for information about contracts:

Contracts for a magazine article

Contracts for a web article

Contracts for an anthology story

Trade book publishing agreement checklist:

If you have other links, please forward them to me at and we'll post them here and on The Writer's Chatroom website.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

What is a Ghostwriter?

What is a Ghostwriter?
by Gary McLaren

Do you believe in ghosts? They are mostly unseen. Unnoticeable. And believe it or not they are moving behind the scenes in the publishing industry. If you're lucky you might catch a fleeting glimpse. They are officially called 'ghostwriters'.

A ghostwriter is a writer who writes on an assigned topic under someone else's name, with their consent. They often write books completely from scratch but sometimes their work involves rewriting or polishing an existing work.

Most books by famous personalities are actually written by ghostwriters. When you see an autobiography or memoir from a politician, businessperson, or celebrity, chances are that it has been written by a ghostwriter. Here are a few examples. The autobiography "Ronald Reagan: An American Life" was ghosted by Robert Lindsey. "Learning to Sing", the autobiography of American Idol star Clay Aiken, was written with ghostwriter Allison Glock. The autobiographies of Doris Day and Sophie Loren were written by A.E. Hotchner.

So how popular is ghostwriting? Statistics are hard to come by since many people don't want to reveal that their book is ghosted. Some industry estimates suggest that up to fifty percent of all non-fiction books are ghostwritten.

A client may decide to hire a ghostwriter because the client does not have any writing talent or because they are too busy. Ghostwriters, for their part, are usually well-established writers already, and are selected on that basis.

What do Ghostwriters Write? Ghostwriters are hired to write many types of documents, from autobiographies for famous personalities to e-books for internet marketing gurus, and even letters for politicians. They also write fiction.

Sometimes it is for a series of books written by several ghostwriters under one name, as with the stories of Nancy Drew or The Hardy Boys. Ghostwriters also continue to write novels under the name of popular authors who have died, as in the case of Robert Ludlum.

Is Ghostwriting Ethical? Although ghostwriting is a widely accepted practice within the publishing industry, some people outside of the industry complain that ghostwriting is deceptive. But that is not necessarily true. Consider for a moment the ghostwriting process. The client is the author of the work in that they are the person who is really behind the content. It is the client's ideas, the client's stories and experiences. It is the client's words recorded on hours of interview tapes.

The ghostwriter is a professional consultant providing expertise in the area of bringing together all the information, organizing it, and writing it up in a way that will produce a marketable and readable masterpiece. What Skills does a Ghostwriter Need?

A ghostwriter must be a good writer.

He or she should also have good interviewing skills, since they will spend many hours and days interviewing clients. They should have the ability to ask good questions that will draw out the best aspects of a story. Another skill - which may need to be developed - is the ability to maintain the client's voice so that the book reads like the client, not the ghostwriter.

How is a Ghostwriter Paid? Ghostwriters usually charge a flat fee for their work. Sometimes they will reduce their ghostwriting fee in return for a percentage (perhaps 25-50%) of the royalties, or in rare cases they may waive their fee in return for a percentage of royalties.

The advantage of a flat fee is that a ghostwriter knows exactly how much he or she will be paid. The risk of relying on royalties is that even if the book is well-written, the ghostwriter has no control over the book's marketing and promotion.

Does a Ghostwriter get Any Credit? More often than not, the public never knows that a book was ghostwritten. Sometimes ghostwriters are even legally bound to not reveal that they have ghosted a particular book. Occasionally ghostwriters will receive some credit. The writer's name may appear on the cover as a co-author or it might read "as told to Jenny Ghost."

Another way to thank the ghostwriter is under the acknowledgements, for example "...and thanks to Joe Ghoul without whom this book would never have been completed".

Are You Thinking of Becoming a Ghostwriter? It could be an excellent career move. You've probably heard it said that everyone has a book inside them. Well, the fact of the matter is that not everyone has the time or the skill to write it. As long as there is a story to be told, ghostwriters will continue to be in demand.

© Copyright 2006 Gary McLaren. About The Author Gary McLaren is the editor of Worldwide Freelance Writer, a leading source of information for freelance writers. If you would like more information on starting a ghostwriting business, check out

[Note: free Reprint Rights: You have my permission to publish this article on your web site or newsletter provided that you make no changes and that you include the entire 'About the Author' resource box]