Category Archives: Publishing

Patience Sucks. Patience Works.

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One year.

I had to wait one fucking year between my first conversation with a client and starting the project.

Did it suck?

Are you deef? Of course it sucked.

But oh my God was it worth it.

My client paid five figures. There are writers with book deals with presses whose advances aren’t even close to that. I received that from a dude.

My client is awesome. Not only is he a badass pilot, but he gave me everything I needed to successfully write what he wanted, without micromanaging my ass along the way. He knew I was a professional and treated like me a professional, not like his bitch.

My client’s project is awesome. A kinetic screenplay set in the world of counterterrorism and espionage. Uhh, fuck yeah.

Waiting a year, yeah, not fun.

But you know what, if you’re not willing to pay some dues, you’ll never break into the literary game.

Sorry.

You’re just not that important yet. If you act like a diva, you’re going to lose any opportunities that may come up.

I’m not saying to just hold fast and wait. You’re not passive (and if you are, knock that shit off), but sometimes things don’t go on your schedule, they go on the gatekeeper’s.

You damn well can try to speed them up, but never, ever, ever, EVER get pissy about it.

Unless you want to be a nobody forever. If that’s what you want, have fun.

The same situation’s come up again for me.

Through a whole bunch of weird and complex life events, I was connected to a New York Times bestselling author.

He read a screenplay I wrote.

He met with me.

And he told me, “Normally I tell people it’s a great accomplishment that you finished a script. Most people never complete one. But here’s what you should do: put it in a drawer, close the drawer, and never open the drawer ever again.”

Do you know how many assholes are constantly bothering a successful writer for a favor, or to front something?

First off, I know I have the luck of the devil himself to even get a read from this guy.

Second, when you have someone who sold over a million copies of their book telling you you’re good, it feels pretty fucking sweet.

Third, when the guy says he’ll connect you to an agent, and then chews you out for why in your early 30s you’re not already writing for Hollywood, then that’s almost surreal.

But then a year later, you’re still occasionally exchanging emails, trying to push him on to connect you.

It’s easy to be a loser and bitch and moan. Most writers would do that in a situation like that. That’s why most writers are wasting their time and should give it up.

But not you, right? You can see this for what it is, a test.

And you’ll pass it because you won’t give up.

If you’re an outsider, you need a leg up to break into the literary game.

Or the screenwriting game.

Or anything big.

If you want to blow up, or change the world, or get rich, or do something other than work as a barista, you damn well need powerful allies.

And your powerful allies are, by nature, more powerful than you.

They can make your career.

Or, if you alienate them, they can keep you doomed to obscurity.

What do you think’s the better way?

When you find your opportunities and your allies, make it happen.

And if you can’t make it happen quickly, then hang on for a long ride.

It’s Not You, It’s Me: A Truth About Rejection Letters

Introduction

If you’ve ever received a rejection letter from a publisher or literary agent, then you know just how much it sucks.

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But there is some good news.

Really, it’s them, it’s not you.

The Biggest Reason Why Your Writing Gets Rejected

I have a close friend who has an almost ungodly amount of perseverance. Usually, that’s an amazing thing to behold. Usually.

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A friend of hers is a poet. I’m the editor-in-chief of a literary magazine. Hey, wouldn’t it be great to feature her poetry in your magazine, Alfonso?

Nope.

While my friend’s friend’s poetry is strong, and she’s quite accomplished, this woman’s work was completely outside of the parameters of the writing we publish at Beautiful Losers Magazine.

Does the fact that this woman’s writing was rejected for our magazine mean she was a bad poet? Absolutely not.

The truth is that every agent, publisher, and literary magazine has VERY specific requirements of what they’re looking for. If you aren’t an exact match for those parameters, your writing will probably be rejected.

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And it doesn’t mean you suck as a writer.

And it doesn’t mean that particular piece sucked.

It just means that you need to find a better home for your writing.

If you’ve received tons of rejections, you’d better spend a little bit more time finding an appropriate place for your writing.

Now if you’ve been doing this legwork and still are receiving tons of rejections, you may want to consider having your work edited by a professional editor. I’m available, kids!

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Conclusion

Treat agents and publishers like members of your preferred sex. You wouldn’t marry just anyone, would you?

Don’t send your writing to agents and publishers without screening.

Unless you like being left at the altar, you fucking masochist.

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Like What You Read? Like What You Read!

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If you found this post helpful, please do me a solid and like and subscribe. If you’re really looking for a way to get on my good side, then share this post on social media.

Any questions? Feel free to leave a comment and I’ll do my best to help.

Fighting the good fight with you,
Alfonso

 

How To Find A Literary Agent For Your Manuscript (Part Two)

Today, let’s talk about the most fun part of landing an agent – the query letter.

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Please don’t follow the example of the picture above. Above all, your query letter should be intelligible.

Your Opening Salutation

First things first, you need to start with an opening salutation. Just not any of the following:

Dear Agent:

BAD! Most agencies have several agents on staff. Find the one that most closely matches your book’s content and use their name.

Also, if no agents represent your type of material, don’t apply to that agency.

Your vampire novel will not go over well with an agent who represents literary fiction.

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Agents talk. Word can get around about unprofessional authors.

Dear Alfredo Colesono:

BAD! Some people have difficult names to spell. In my case, it’s called being of Italian descent.

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Expect an automatic rejection if you misspell an agent’s name. It’s a sign of sloppiness that will be assumed to carry over into your writing.

Hi Alfonso,

BAD! Don’t be too informal with an agent until you develop a rapport. Address them by their surname (e.g. Ms. Howell; Mr. Chan) in your query.

I’ve just written a novel that will change literature forever. And it’ll make you at least a million bucks. Only an idiot wouldn’t represent me. You’re not an idiot, are you?

BAD! A writer who toots his/her own horn only means that no one is tooting it for you. Let your work do the talking and save the grandiose statements for your mom.

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Query Letter Contents

So, what should you have in your query letter?

A pitch/synopsis of your work, usually in about two or three paragraphs.

A brief 3rd person biography with your writing credentials. If you lack writing credentials, include either interesting facts about you or your strongest accomplishments in another field.

For fiction, you’ll frequently include part of your manuscript. The number of pages requested varies, but industry standards usually range from three pages to three chapters.

A few agents will only want a query letter.

A few agents will want your whole manuscript.

Most agents (though certainly not all) will want your manuscript pasted into the body of an email.

Don’t send attachments if an agent wants your sample in the body of an email. It will be deleted unread.

Follow The Rules and Avoid the Slush Pile

To get the best results when querying an agent, make her job easy…

Or you’ll have to resign yourself to self-publishing.

And yes, there are excellent self-published works.

And yes, there are self-published works that do get recognized.

But mostly, self-publishing is a participation trophy. You’re better than that, aren’t you?

And I know some people who either have self-published or make money steering authors to self-publish will hate me for saying the previous statement.

If you Google my name and this blog, you’ll probably find a piece saying that I’m an idiot for talking smack about self-publishing.

Hey, it does work sometimes. I mean, people do win the lottery. But I wouldn’t bank on self-publishing working for you if getting a literary reputation is what you’re after.

Or if getting any financial compensation beyond a few dollars is what you’re after either…

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So, moral of the story, be nice to your agents and give them what they want!

There’s So Much More

What’s a synopsis?

How do I do a chapter outline?

Why do I need a market analysis?

What is this thing called “platform” and why do agents like authors with one?

Do I need to write a non-fiction manuscript before pitching it to agents?

I promise I’ll get into these topics in subsequent posts. Until then, write write write!

I Need All The Help I Can Get

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If you found this post entertaining or informative, please do me a solid and like and subscribe. If you’re really looking for a way to get on my good side, why not share this post on social media?

If you have any questions about landing an agent, just leave me a comment and I’ll do my best to shoot a helpful answer your way.

Fighting the good fight with you,
Alfonso

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How To Find A Literary Agent For Your Manuscript (Part One)

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If you’re anything like me, and I hope you’re not, then the thought of having to land a literary agent can provoke any number of responses. These include, but are not limited to:

Sobbing uncontrollably while cursing the gods for being born a writer.

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Checking Facebook. Then Twitter. Then your email. Then your texts. Then Facebook again.

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Considering whether magic or the law of attraction can be used to get you an agent without any bit of effort on your part.

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Hopefully, you’ll eventually come to your senses and scrap these less-than-useful approaches. But what then?

It Starts With A Book

$9.90 and Internet access. That’s all it takes to move your literary career forward and begin querying agents…

Of course, we’re writers, so having $9.90 and Internet access isn’t a guarantee.

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Oh yeah, one other thing, you’ll need a completed manuscript (if you’re a fiction writer) or a pitch for a workable idea (if you’re a non-fiction writer).

Not too much to ask, right?

For $9.90, you can purchase the E-book version of the Writer’s Market 2018 from Google Play. This book contains a comprehensive list of literary agencies that work with authors of all types, from middle grade fantasy authors to romance novelists and anything in-between.

And the best part, the Writer’s Market tells you exactly what types of books these agencies are looking for, eliminating any guesswork on your part.

Follow Those Submission Guidelines

Once you find an agency that works within your form and genre, all you have to do is visit their website.

Well, that’s not ALL you have to do. But it’s still pretty easy – trust me!

Different agencies, and agents within the agencies, will have different submission guidelines. Please please please follow those guidelines. Agents, like editors and publishers, will curse you and the next ten generations of your family if you don’t follow submission guidelines to a T.

How do I know that they’ll curse you and the next ten generations of your family? Well, after all, I am the co-founder and an editor at Beautiful Losers, a super cool literary magazine which you should totally check out. (Yes, this is a shameless plug!)

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Oh wait. About the cursing thing. That’s probably just me. I should get some help for that.

But seriously, follow those guidelines. You want to be seen as a professional, don’t you?

Many Agencies Have Multiple Agents

So it’s on you to find the agent that’s the best match for your manuscript.

Yes, it’s on you. No pressure…

Okay. Deep breaths. Try some more. Back with me?

The good news is that almost every agency has summaries of the literary interests of their agents. Find the agent that’s the closest match for the genre, style, and age target of your manuscript. If you’ve written a darkly comic picture book, don’t query an agent that specializes in upmarket women’s fiction.

That is, unless you like wasting people’s time. If that’s the case, you’re most likely a horrible person that would be awfully fun to hit the bars and make some poor life decisions with.

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But you’re used to making poor life decisions already, right? After all, you chose to become a writer.

Don’t hate me! I jest because I’m from Brooklyn. The sarcasm is love. Really!

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But Wait, There’s More

Query letters.

Author bios.

Synopses.

Market analyses.

Chapter outlines.

And more. Much more!

And I promise I’ll tell you all about how to navigate through it soon.

But first I need some sleep.

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Yes, you horrible person who likes to waste agents’ time, you may be fun to hit the bars with, but it’s only a little after 10 pm and I’m calling it a night.

I may or may not be a horrible person, but clearly it’s safe to assume I’m not much fun to hit the bars with.

Blah Blah Blah

If you’ve made it this far, thank you so much for reading (you may want to get your mental health checked!)

If you’re a long-time reader of this blog, you may have noticed this post is very different from what you’re used to seeing here. I still want to provide helpful advice for aspiring and emerging writers, but the professorial tone is gone. You see, I’ve recently discovered that I’m actually not Ben Stein’s character from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Shocking, right?

If you found this post entertaining or informative, please do me a solid and like and subscribe. If you’re really looking for a way to get on my good side, try sharing this post on social media!

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If you have any questions about landing an agent, just leave me a comment and I’ll do my best to shoot a helpful answer your way.

If you have any funny stories about landing an agent, you can share those in the comments too. The more absurd the better! To quote the late Hunter S. Thompson, “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”

Fighting the good fight just like you,
Alfonso

 

 

How To Balance Writing, Publishing, and Networking?

My cousin Jerry, by most any account, has a pretty good life. He’s successful doing work that he loves, makes a nice amount of money, has a beautiful and charming wife, and three great children. When I talked to him about some of the initial challenges I was facing after I quit my job as an educator and planned to make a go of it as a writer, filmmaker, and entrepreneur, Jerry told me a story. As a man in his early twenties, he quickly earned more than double the salary of many of his middle-aged coworkers. How? When others put in 40 hours on the clock, with maybe 10 hours spent actually doing their jobs, he put in 80 hours, working beyond what was expected. Now, he doesn’t have to work so hard, though he still puts in a great deal time in projects he cares about. Those other guys, who knows what they’re doing now?

The point of this story is simple, if you’re serious about not just writing in your spare time, but making a career of being a writer, you’d better work hard. Still, even if you put in 80 hours per week, in such a competitive position as creative writing, if you’re not working smart, you just might end up stuck in as bad a position as Jerry’s former coworkers.

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One of the most difficult concerns for any writer looking to not just break in, but succeed, is the balance of writing, publishing, and networking. Here are a few suggestions that should help you work smarter, not harder:

  • Above all, write. One novel, three short stories, five poems – that’s not enough. Don’t even think about publishing or utilizing contacts and networking until you have a solid body of work. One success wouldn’t make a career, and the amount of time spent doing so is counterproductive. Make writing a consistent habit, have a lot of work to show around, and then start thinking about networking and publishing.
  • Understand that writing probably won’t make you rich. J.K. Rowling and Stephen King are the extremely rare exceptions. That said, many writers can make a living off of writing alone, many times even off of creative writing alone. It helps if your budget isn’t extreme. If you are single and live in an area with a low cost of living in the United States, you could probably get by on around $1000/month. While you wouldn’t be living well on that, you could survive. Then, through perseverance and building your reputation, you could make a good deal more.
  •  The Internet is your friend. Creating a blog centered around your writing, or other topics of interest to writers, could be a great way to attract attention. Taking a participatory role in the culture of the writing community online will open yourself up to many new opportunities. Helping others will lead them to helping you. Websites like Upwork and Craigslist present many opportunities for publishers looking for ghostwriters. The pay may not be great, but with a body of work, a high-character approach, and determination, you can get those jobs and build traction. Do so.
  • Don’t be an outsider. Jumping off the previous point, many communities on the Internet are niche. If you write science-fiction or romance or mysteries, find where those writers and readers gather and become a part of their communities. Above all, help as many people as you can. Being a self-serving renegade can kill your chances of succeeded in today’s literary world.
  • Understand your markets. Don’t submit a 80,000 word science-fiction novel to an avant-garde poetry site. Respect publishers by being familiar with the writing that they publish and reading a significant amount of it. When you read the work that publishers put out, you’ll quickly know if it’s similar to your own. If it’s not, don’t waste your time and the publisher’s time with a submission. There are so many magazines and publishers that there is bound to be one that’s a good match for your style. Use Duotrope, Poets & Writers, or the Writer’s Market and find it!
  • Don’t be afraid to ask a favor. In the words of new wave singer Morrissey of The Smiths, “Shyness is nice, and shyness can stop you from doing all the things in life you’d like to…” If you have a friend or other contact that could potentially lead to a solid break, don’t be afraid to ask them for what you need. The worst they can do is say no. Of course, make sure that you’ve done the basics first. Above all, follow their suggestions afterwards. Nothing burns out a good contact more than asking for a favor and not following through after someone does what you ask.

Taking these suggestions into account, you’ll be in an excellent position to advance your writing career. What do you think? What advice would you give to a new writer seeking to follow their dreams? Let’s start a dialogue.

 

A Guide To Publishing Etiquette

Maybe I have some sort of undiagnosed personality disorder, but one of my biggest pet peeves is writers who don’t follow the submissions guidelines for Beautiful / Losers Magazine. When a writer sends us an email with their poems or stories attached as a Word document, I become visibly filled with rage. My blood pressure shoots up. My smile turns upside down. And then I delete it, but not after having soaked in my righteous anger for a bit. If you don’t believe me, just ask my fiancee.

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The last thing any writer hoping to get their submission accepted for publication wants is for an editor’s face to look like the one of the man above. Chances are, if an editor has that face before even reading your submission, it’s toast.

So, how do you avoid making editors displeased? It’s simple, etiquette!

  • Always read the submissions guidelines and follow them to a T.
  • Find out to whom you should address your cover letter.
  • Send a respectful cover letter.
  • Don’t get angry if they reject your writing. Don’t respond at all in such a case.
  • Read their magazine first.
  • Submit work that fits with the aesthetic of their magazine. To find out what the aesthetic is, read it!
  • Be patient. Sometimes it can be a spell before you hear back from a publisher.
  • Don’t paste your submission in the body of an email if they want attachments.
  • And, of course, DON’T SEND YOUR SUBMISSION AS AN ATTACHMENT IF THEY WANT IT IN THE BODY OF AN EMAIL 😉

How to avoid making editors displeased? Treat your submission to a magazine or publishing house with the same respect you would take to a job interview. Put your best face forward, do your homework, follow the rules, and you’ll be in the best potential situation for success.

Did I miss anything in this post? What do you think are some of the things to avoid when submitting writing to a publishing house or literary magazine?

Thinking About Kindle Direct Publishing? Hire a Formatter!

Do you want to publish on Kindle Direct Publishing? Great! Just make sure to get your manuscript professionally formatted prior to uploading it on KDP or you might be less than satisfied with the results.

I was excited to roll out a collection of short stories, tentatively titled New Weird America, on Kindle Direct Publishing. I edited all ten of my stories once again, making sure they were as tight as possible. I wrote my dedications, my biography, my title page, my table of contents, the whole shebang. In less than a day, KDP had my title up and running. Two days later, I took it down.

A word to the wise – the formatting you use in Word (or Pages, or whatever you use to type your manuscript) doesn’t always translate so well to Kindle Direct Publishing. My table of contents looked completely off. My introductory pages were cut off in weird places. I didn’t even get a chance to actually see how my stories looked from the free introduction, but given what I had seen, it needed to be pulled.

With the new possibilities for reach using Amazon Direct Publishing, self-published authors need to consider the possibility of hiring professionals to format their manuscript for readability on Kindle. I found a website, Word-2-Kindle.com, that does this job for only $49. I suggest that anyone new to KDP utilize their service, or others doing the same.

The rap on self-published books is that they are of poor quality. Formatting issues that hinder a reader’s capability to enjoy your work are a big turnoff. To uphold the standards of your writing, make sure to get your manuscript professionally formatted prior to using Kindle Direct Publishing.