Featured WLT 2013 Agents and Editors Conference Blog

An Interview with Keynote Speaker Chuck Sambuchino

 

The Writers’ League of Texas 2013 Agents and Editors Conference is only a couple months away. This year, WLT managed to nab Chuck Sambuchino, everything extraordinaire, for the Keynote Luncheon. He’s done it all folks — writing, editing, publishing, agents. He’s the go-to guy on tips for success, and I don’t think there’s a question about the business that he couldn’t answer. He’s attending a handful of conferences this spring and summer, so here is your chance to meet him right here in Austin. His presentation, How to Be a Successful Writer in Today’s Marketplace, will be held Saturday, June 22 from 12:15 to 1:30 PM in the Texas Ballroom at Hyatt Regency. Here is a short description about his presentation:

Writer’s Digest Books editor Chuck Sambuchino (Guide to Literary Agents) shares his best advice for writers of all ages and levels of expertise. In this keynote, Sambuchino will discuss how writers can create more stories and content easier than they think, be successful in a changing digital marketplace, avoid the three most common reasons that submissions get rejected, and more.

Registration for the Keynote Luncheon ends June 19th, and you must be a conference registrant to purchase a ticket. These tickets sell out quickly and may not be available during the conference due to limited seating. Don’t be left out!  I can personally vouch for the food on its’ deliciousness and convenience too.  Without further adieu, here are Chuck’s answers to my own questions below!

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First of all, describe yourself in four words.

Chuck Sambuchino: In no order: Writer, musician, husband, sleep-deprived-new-father.

You post in your blog, Guide to Literary Agents, every day. What all do you blog about, and how do you keep this constant flow of information going?

CS: The Guide to Literary Agents Blog is all about agents, submissions, query & synopsis writing, promotion and platform. It covers a fairly broad range of writing topics.

The best way I’ve learned to keep a large flow of content going is simply to let other people provide the content. (This is a fundamental principle of writer platform: “You don’t have to go it alone.”) I invite novelists to guest post on my site and new agents to receive a spotlight. This means that most of the content on my site is actually created by others. All I do is format it and make it look nice.

What do you enjoy about exploring different kinds of writing – humor, playwright, journalist. Is there a particular area you’ve always wanted to try?

CS: I guess this all comes down to the fact that I probably have ADD and am probably the most impatient person I know. That leads me to try different things to challenge & entertain myself. In terms of what I HAVEN’T done, I know that screenwriting is an area I would love to tackle. I have a manager out in LA now, though we have yet to get our first assignment or sale. Perhaps one of these days…

The interesting thing here is that we live in a time of specialization. You’re most valuable if you are “the go-to person on [topic].” That leaves a jack-of-all-trades like myself in a bad spot. But being versed in a broad spectrum of writing does have one good advantage: It makes me a better teacher, and is probably why I get invited to speak at so many conferences. I rarely get asked a question about writing that I cannot answer, and that comes simply from being a generalist.

You tweet, a lot. Why is Twitter and other social media outlets important for what your do?

CS: Social media provides an effective and easy way to reach our followers and readers. When I write a blog post, for example, Twitter is invaluable in letting lots of people know that the post is now live.

The truth is that I don’t tweet much from my personal Twitter @chucksambuchino. I just tweet perhaps 1-3 times a day. But the Writer’s Digest account @writersdigest has so many things to share and promote on any given day that it’s constantly producing tweets.

How did you write over seven hundred articles in ten years? Do your ideas just pop out of nowhere in the middle of the night?

CS: A lot of those published articles came when I was a newspaper reporter, and we had to write about 7 stories a week. Besides that, I also freelanced a lot for magazines and even wrote some articles for instructional books. It all adds up.

For anyone interested in freelancing, I can tell you this bit of good news: Once you hook up with a publication and produce 1-2 good articles for them, then they will likely keep you on as a contributor and farm articles out to you. In other words, once you get going, it’s very likely for you to write 10-20 articles for a magazine or newspaper. You won’t need to generate ideas anymore because editors will do that for you.

Which agency – writing, publishing, editing, writers’ resource – do you think is your ultimate calling?

CS: Writer. I don’t know if it’s what I do best, but it’s what I enjoy most.

How did the idea of Red Dog/Blue Dog come about, and how was it working with your wife, and puppy dog, Graham?

Photo Credit: The Official Red Dog/Blue Dog Blog

CS: I used to dislike dogs. But then a flabby poodle mix, Graham, came into my life and warmed my heart. It was my wife’s idea to “mix dogs and politics” — humorously combining two of my favorite topics. That’s how the book idea was born. The final product is a photo collection of doings doing stereotypical liberal and conservative things. It was very exciting when it came out last summer (2012) and I got to show Graham how I dedicated the book to him. (I think he fell asleep during the explanation.)

The best part about writing that book was being in touch with random people all over the country who wanted to help simply because they, like me, loved dogs. I was amazed at how people I didn’t even know spread the word about the book and helped promote it.

Has anyone ever butchered your name?

CS: A thousand times, yes.

And technically speaking, I myself butcher my name. Its true Italian pronunciation is Sahm-Boo-KEY-Noh. The letters “CH” in Italian make a “hard K” sound. There are still the hardliners in my family that pronounce it correctly and the ones like me who kind of Americanized it and pronounce it phonetically. It’s best to just not get me or any family members started on this topic, especially after some wine…

What is the most important advice you’ve received as a writer?

CS: I’ve sat here at the computer for five minutes now trying to pick the absolute BEST piece of advice, but I can’t quite choose one. So let me just offer up a random good one that I heard a while back. A screenwriter once said “If you’re writing a spec and you’re not having fun, then something’s wrong.” What he meant by this is that, as a writer, you will take on plenty of boring assignments strictly for paychecks. But there will always be that fiction you write for fun, without any guaranteed financial payoff. And when you’re writing that fiction or poetry simply for the love of it, try to have fun. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Alright, I couldn’t resist! I read that you were a cover band guitarist. Which songs have you always wanted to learn, and what are your favorites to play? Any Beatles?

CS: I can play “Let it Be” and “Eleanor Rigby” on the piano and often do. I remember speaking at your conference in 2008 and playing piano at 2 a.m. in the hotel lobby one night while people kept stumbling in after a long night.

If I had to pick my favorite songs to play, I would say “Mr. Brightside” was always a blast with the band, and that “Livin’ on a Prayer” always gets a crowd going bananas.

As far as songs I’ve always wanted to learn how to play, I’d say “Sweet Caroline” simply because everyone wants to hear that song, and perhaps “Cliffs of Dover” on guitar by Eric Johnson because it’s possibly the most beautiful instrumental rock song of all time.

What do you want writers to take away from your Keynote Luncheon?

CS: That anything is possible if you set your mind to it and work hard. If you have the passion and make the time, you can write anything. I also want to show people that there are simple things they could be doing every day to be smarter, more effective writers.

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Chuck Sambuchino is an editor and a writer. He works for Writer’s Digest Books and edits the Guide to Literary Agents as well as the 2013 Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market. His Guide to Literary Agents Blog is one of the largest blogs in publishing. He was recently included in a FORBES Top 10 list of Social Media Influencers in Book Publishing.

His first humor book, How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack, was released in Sept. 2010 and has been featured by Reader’s Digest, the New York Times and AOL News. The film rights were recently optioned by Sony and director Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future). His second humor book, Red Dog/Blue Dog: When Pooches Get Political, is a humorous photo collection of dogs doing stereotypical liberal and conservative things. It has been featured by Political Wire, USA Today, and the Huffington Post.

In addition, Chuck has also written two other writing-related titles: the third edition of Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript, and Create Your Writer Platform.

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About the Blogger

Hannah Bowman

Hannah Bowman was an intern for the Writers’ League of Texas from June 2012 through December 2012. Currently, she’s featuring writing instructors and literary agents for the Writers’ League blog, Scribe. She enjoys playing piano, writing stories, playing tricks on her mother, and dancing. She will be graduating from the University of Texas at Austin in May 2013 with a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and English. Hannah’s hoping to build her short story collection in the coming months, and start a career in nonprofits after a couple years of service work.

Third Thursday Wrap Up

October’s Third Thursday Wrap-Up

Author’s Guide to PR and Marketing: On Your Own, But Not Alone

By Lexie Smith

Marketing your book is like life. Ultimately you’re responsible for how you live your life, but you don’t have to live it alone. Unless you want to, in which case you’ll have a quiet life and even quieter book sales.

You need other people to help market your book, but you don’t need advanced degree in glad-handing. October’s Third Thursday program provided a quick marketing primer from panelists author Ernest Cline, writer and publicist Jennifer Hill Robenalt, author and writers’ resource blog maven Cynthia Leitich Smith, and author Jo Whittemore.

Here’s a quick breakdown of ways you are on your own, yet not alone.

You’re on Your Own

The reality of the publishing industry is that you are responsible for marketing your book.  Your time, your money, and your self are investments you must make to promote your writing projects.

Time

  • Time to network online and offline with readers, potential readers, librarians, writers, event organizers, etc.
  • Time to create content for marketing and networking (social media posts, media packets, etc.)
  • Time to learn about the publishing industry

Money

  • Money for marketing education—ebooks, books, coaching, classes, conferences, etc.
  • Money for website development – At the least you need to buy your domain name (something like YourName.com ) for about $10/year. There are lots of free tools you can use for your website and marketing.  (Including blog platforms, Facebook and Twitter.) Eventually, you’ll want to spend some money on the design of your website and hosting for your site.
  • Money for a publicist or marketing team—Once you’ve done all you can do, you may want to take your marketing to the next level and hire a professional.

Your Self

  • You bring a unique energy and tone to your work. Only you can bring those same things to your marketing efforts.
  • You know your work better than anyone else, therefore, you will have ideas that other people may not.  (See the FAQ about the DeLorean Ernie used on his book tour.)
  • You are more passionate about your project than anyone else will be.
  • It takes time to develop your writing voice, it also takes time to develop your marketing style.  Experiment with different things to find out what works for you.

 

You’re Not Alone

So, you have to spend your time, money, and your self selling your book. Isn’t it enough that you wrote the thing? Not if you want people to buy your book. Thankfully, you have many resources available to help you learn about and execute marketing.  Avail yourself to opportunities in person, online, and in print.

In Person

  • Local writers groups can provide feedback on your projects and moral support. Search online for these groups. (Check the Organizations for Writers page on the WLT site.)
  • The Writers League Third Thursday programs in Austin provide loads of information from a variety of panelists and the chance to connect with other writers.
  • Classes, workshops, and conferences offer learning and networking opportunities. (Including WLT workshops, like the PR Boot Camp Jennifer Hill Robenalt taught.)
  • Join forces with other authors to help promote each other’s books. (For example, Jo Whittemore is a member of the Texas Sweethearts and Scoundrels at TexasSweethearts.com.)
  • At some point you may want to hire an agent and/or a publicist to help you. CynthiaLeitichSmith.com has some good resources to help you with that when you’re ready.

Online

  • Search for genre specific writing groups online. Members can help you with all stages of writing, including marketing.
  • Educate yourself about marketing by enrolling in an online class. Check WritersOnlineWorkshops.com from Writer’s Digest.
  • Subscribe to a few blogs that include book marketing and promotion in their topics such as Jane Friedman , Cynthia Leitich Smith  and Dana Lynn Smith.
  • Look on websites of authors you like for information about the site (who designed or built it), email them and ask what they did to help them market the book.

In Print

  • Check your local library or bookstore for books on book marketing.
  • Consider books about small business marketing.
  • Look at the books you like. Scour the books for any reference to any person or thing that helped them market the book; look in any nook and cranny you can think of in the book: acknowledgements, about the author, book jackets, preface.

The idea of marketing your book may be daunting, but our panelists showed that it can be done and it can even be enjoyable.  Stay tuned for November’s Third Thursday Wrap-Up about launching your book. (Subscribe to the WLT blog feed here and sign up for the WLT newsletter here  to get updates about upcoming events and other useful information.)

Lexie is a WLT member who enjoys connecting people with information through LexicalLight.com, BloggingForWriters.com and 64mascots.com. A University of Texas graduate, she taught middle school English and, until recently, homeschooled her children. She lives in Round Rock with her husband, five kids and two rescued Boxers.

September’s Third Thursday Wrap Up, Behind the Publishing House Curtain”

By Lexi Smith

September’s Third Thursday program took us “Behind the Publishing House Curtain” with two booksellers and a publicist. Gillian Redfearn is a Key Account Manager for MacMillian Publishing, Gianna La Morte is a Sales Manager at UT Press, and Colleen Devine Ellis is the Publicity Manager at UT Press.

What did we find behind the curtain? Not a new car or a man pretending to be a wizard. We found inspiration and advice to help your book along the yellow brick road to publication.

You probably won’t encounter flying monkeys or talking trees (unless you’re in Marfa with Gianna) as you work to get your book in print. But, you can learn from Dorothy and friends about what it takes to reach your destination. Put on your Oz-colored glasses as we distill the conversation with Gillian, Gianna and Colleen into four things you’ll need as you work towards publishing your book.

Brains – It obviously takes a certain amount of brain power to write a book. Then it takes more to rewrite your book. Additionally, you have to figure out how to navigate all the different components of becoming (and being!) a published author. Avail yourself to the rich resources available in the Austin writing community. For example, tonight’s panel was an excellent opportunity to access professionals in the book industry and learn from their experiences.

Heart – Don’t give up on your dream of writing. Books mentioned tonight took from 3-10 years to write. Your book may take more or less time. Then you’re off to find a publisher. Once accepted for publication, it can take from 18 months to 2 years to publish. Becoming a published writer is not for the faint of heart.

Courage – Do you want your book to sell? If so, marketing your book will become a part-time job. Technology can make it easier than it used to be, but it can still be a daunting task. Though social media options (blogging, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) may overwhelm you, don’t be afraid to try them.

Need help? For inspiration, check out Liz and Gianna’s Adventures in Bookland blog. For instruction, sign-up for the ongoing Tuesday Night Tech Talks at the WLT and learn the nuts and bolts of technology for authors. You can also join us on Thursday, October 20th for “An Author’s Guide to PR & Marketing.”

Our panel also encouraged us to be bold, without being a jerk, in asking for things from your publicist, agent or editor. Let them know your expectations. You may not get what you want, but you can ask.

Friends – The Munchkins, Glenda, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman and the Cowardly Lion all helped Dorothy get to the Wizard. Likewise, you’ll need a team of people to help with your book. Family, friends, critique groups, editors, agents, book sellers and publicists can all help. Again, the WLT can help with many of these connections.

When Dorothy woke from her Technicolor dream, she found her ordinary world filled with people who loved her. As dreams of publishing your book are challenged by the stark reality of what that takes, remember that your friends, brains, heart and courage can help you reach your Emerald City.

Resources Mentioned

Self-Publishing Options

CreateSpace.com is part of Amazon.com.

Classes, Conferences and Workshops

October 8, AustinSCBWI, “Storytelling in the Digital Age”

November 12th, AustinSCBWI, “Write What You Think You Can’t”

Ongoing – “Silver Voices in Ink” from Badgerdog.org – Writing course for senior citizens with ongoing classes around Austin.

Writers’ League Agents Conference

Lexie Smith is a WLT member who enjoys connecting people with information through LexicalLight.com, BloggingForWriters.com and 64mascots.com. A University of Texas graduate, she taught middle school English and, until recently, homeschooled her children. She lives in Round Rock with her husband, five kids and two rescued Boxers.

Third Thursday Wrap-Up and Rhiannon Frater’s Publishing Guide

As always, we had a great time at Third Thursday, this time with a panel on preparing yourself for publishing. One of our panelists, the lovely and talented Rhiannon Frater, was inspired to continue the conversation!

Thank you for the lovely evening last night. I had a lot of fun!  After last night’s panel, I was inspired to write my own “publishing guide” to help those people who showed up last night.  Here is the link: http://rhiannonfrater.blogspot.com/2011/05/follow-up-post-to-panel-at-bookpeople.html

-Rhiannon Frater

Write to Land That Job or Promotion

Writing isn’t always about imagination and fancy adjectives. Sometimes it’s about sharing information, plain and simple. Today’s guest post comes to us from Mary Forlenza, a senior marketing writer and editor in Austin. We hope her words of advise will appeal to all you practical writers out there!

– Sara

By Mary Forlenza

Whether you are employed in your desired profession, or displaced from your job and having to look for another, writing can play a valuable role in advancing your career. In the technology field, for example, developers and architects become recognized as experts when they put their ideas into writing. They might publish articles in trade magazines or technical journals, or write white papers, online blogs and articles, conference papers or books. Publishing can literally change the course of a career, making you a candidate for a better job.

This applies to professional writers as well. There’s something about having your work published that seals your credentials as an expert. While waiting to hear from that last interview or job application, think about what you could write about, based on your expertise, and where you could place your work for publication. Do some
research into the relevant publications in your field that would catch the attention of leaders and management. A good resource is the “2011 Writer’s Market.”

Choose a topic that is timely, and a publication that needs your type of content. Many editors assist in that effort by placing their publication calendars on their web sites, indicating what topics they are interested in month-by-month. They may also provide their style guidelines. If you adhere to the guidelines, saving time in the
editorial process, then editors will look more kindly on your submission. The editors may also publish their payment rates, if they do pay contributors. The rates may be meager, but remember that you’re in this for career advancement, and not for near-term monetary gain, but for future enrichment.

You’ll need to plan ahead to accommodate the publication process. Allow time to write the piece, and for the editorial staff to review it and provide comments for you to resolve before publication. Before even writing your article, it’s wise to write a brief abstract of your article idea to send to the publication editor. Their response
can inform you whether they are interested at all, saving you the work of writing the full article. The response might also request a different focus for your written piece. The editor should indicate when they plan to publish your article. Online and print editors are always seeking content, and typically publish pieces that have fresh ideas and are well-written, even from unknown contributors.

If you have worked with innovative professionals who need help to put their ideas on the page, you could discuss teaming up for a joint byline on a published article or book. This can be a win-win proposition for you and the subject matter expert, when you feel you can work together successfully.

Paul Newman once said that he trained with better actors, but what made him so successful was his perseverance. In other words, consider that anyone with similar talent could do as well. In these tough times, it’s easy to give up. Try taking Newman’s advice and putting your faith in your writing skills and expertise. Then pursue a byline for the edge you need to succeed over other job or promotional candidates.

Mary Forlenza is a senior marketing communications writer and editor who also enjoys helping technical professionals publish articles and books. Her past jobs include ghostwriting executive communications, technical writing, reporting for the Fort Lauderdale News, writing PR for Florida International U., and editing papers for marine researchers. Mary has won professional society awards for creating a popular style manual, brochures and newsletters. She has an M.A. in Communications and lives in Austin, Texas with her husband.

Q&A with Editor Lucy Chambers of Bright Sky Press/Conference

Although meeting and mingling with agents is one of the biggest parts of WLT’s Agents Conference, there’s much more than just that! One of the other exciting options that the Agents Conference offers is introducing attendees to some of the country’s top editors, who will share their valuable expertise on what publishers are looking for, how they work with both writers and agents, and how the acquisition process works.This week, we are featuring Lucy Chambers, Editorial Director of Bright Sky Press/Conference and one of the scheduled editors at the 2011 Agents Conference. Read on to find out more about what an editor does and some exciting insights into her world!

How did you get started in publishing?
I worked for the Junior Literary Guild, which was a division of Doubleday & Co. I spent a year reading the best of new children’s literature and writing copy about it before I left the nest for adult trade publishing.

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Announcing the “Building a Book” Program Series

The Writers’ League of Texas opens the book on a new year with “Building a Book,” a yearlong series of monthly programs in which authors and publishing professionals explore how a book evolves. The free series starts in January with inspiration and then will progress through the publishing process and beyond.

The series will launch at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, January 15, with “Inspiration: The First Glimmer of a Book Idea,” a panel discussion with fiction author and creative writing professor Greg Garrett, children’s book author Keith Graves, nonfiction author and journalist John Taliaferro, and poet/translator Liliana Valenzuela. All programs are free and open to the public and will be held at the Writers’ League of Texas Resource Center, 611 S. Congress Ave., Ste. 130, in Austin.

“In such an uncertain time for publishing, we hope to shed some light on the publishing process with this series of free programs,” said Executive Director Cyndi Hughes. “‘Building a Book’ is for anyone who has ever thought about writing a book or who wants an insider’s look at how a book comes together – or even just an avid reader who loves books.”

Upcoming topics in the series include:

February 19: “The First Draft: Let the Words Rip!” (with authors Cynthia Leitich Smith and Greg Leitich Smith; additional panelists will be announced in January)

March 12: “Just the Facts: How Research Can Build a Better Book”

April 16: “That Revision Thing: Tips for Editing Your Manuscript”

May 21: “The Big Windup: Prepping Your Pitch, Proposal, and Synopsis”

June 18: “The Mating Game: How to Land an Agent”

July 16: “Legal Mumbo-Jumbo: The Ins and Outs of Contracts”

August 20: “Meet Your Publisher and Editor and Marketing Reps and Publicist and …”

September 17: “Undercover: Book Sales Reps Tell All”

October 15: “An Author’s Guide to PR & Marketing”

November 19: “Blast Off: The Book Launch & Beyond”

Panelists will be announced throughout the year, so check back for updates. Or visit the Monthly Programs page at the WLT Web site. Hope to see you there!