Thursday, March 05, 2009

Writers Everywhere! Fight the Recession! (By Going Back to the Basics)

Staying positive.

Sometimes it’s harder to do than at other times. Depression or recession. I think the economists got the nomenclature wrong but it really makes little difference. In either case, it’s been, yes, depressing for writers who want to sell their work, whether they’re freelancers, novelists or whatever. It really makes no difference. The publishing industry is in the pits.

To stay positive in a down market--whether we’re pitching a screenplay or shopping a book--we return to the tried and true values. You know them. And I have a couple of twists on them. Here’s a review:

~Too many rejection letters get discouraging so be even more assiduous with your research. Know your journals, publishers and agents and submit only to those who have expressed an interest in your genre or in a voice like yours. Also check to see what they have published in the last year. Don’t submit something just like it. They’ve been there and done that.

~Write a great query letter to go with what you submit. Learn how to do this straight from interviews with some of our nation’s best agents in The Frugal Editor (you’ll also find a list of those agents and their Web sites in the Appendix of that book). There are also templates in your Writer’s Market but do try to give your letter a little more voice or sparkle than their samples suggest. One of the agents I interviewed says she gets so many look-alike queries is “just plain creepy.”

~Tailor each query letter you send out to give it special appeal for that agent or editor or publisher.

~If you are interviewing, dress the part. Don’t go to the depths of your closet to find something suitable. It may not be. Even the cut of a jacket can change in a year. Treat yourself to a new one. You’ll feel cheerier.

~For gawd’s sake network (see last week’s newsletter). Twitter is a great place to do that--agents, publishers, freelancers, Web people--they’re all tweeting! All you need to do is gather the kinds of people around you who you can help and who can help you. Then stay in touch. Twitter makes that easy (Find me at I’m running a regular tip series on agents, reviewers, and publishers who tweet.

~Remember that legitimate, heartfelt endorsements sell. Use them on your Web site, on your business cards, on your blogs, in your e-mail signatures, on your business stationery. You DO have business stationery (or a virtual letterhead), don't you?

~Don't stop promoting. This is NOT the time to let up on your exposure or your branding. Just use the most FRUGAL ways to do it.

Keep Writing, Promoting and Yes, Editing, Too!
Carolyn Howard-Johnson

PS: Speaking of recession, long time subscriber to my Sharing with Writers newsletter and writing friend Aaron Paul Lazar was just laid off from Kodak with more than 1,000 others. If you know of a virtual job that could utilize his considerable engineering and writing skills, please contact him at

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Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and two how to books, The Frugal Book Promoter: How To Do What Your Publisher Won't and The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success. She is also the author of the Amazon Short, "The Great First Impression Book Proposal". Some of her other blogs are, a blog where authors can recycle their favorite reviews. She also blogs at all things editing, grammar, formatting and more at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor blog.

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