ALA Conference

This past Saturday three of my fellow critique group members and I visited the exhibit booths at the ALA Conference. Although none of us are librarians, we felt this would be a beneficial field trip from a writer’s perspective since we could see the books coming out in the fall for many big and little publishing houses. It was also an excellent way to meet valuable contacts that we may not otherwise have gotten to know.

This was my first time visiting such an event for this industry. The last time I went to anything even remotely similar was almost 20 years ago when I was involved in the film industry.

To be honest, I was a bit nervous. I didn’t know what to expect or how to approach any of the people in the booths. Thankfully we had our veteran author and friend, Nancy I. Sanders, with us. She skillfully and confidently walked up to people, introduced us as members of a local writer’s group, and then proceeded to ask about their line of books. This led to talks about their needs (or lack thereof), and about their submission policies. We met sales reps, editorial staff, and publishers. There are even a few houses who I will definitely contact with an idea in the next few weeks.

Conferences are a great way to see the needs of an industry. Even if you just visit the exhibits like we did, you will walk away with a better understanding of the market, and perhaps a few leads that you would never have gotten through e-mail or snail mail. That one-on-one contact makes a world of difference.

Beneficial Breakdowns

I am currently working on a proposal for a non-fiction children’s book for my current publisher. Before I delve into the actual research, I need to intensely study the publisher’s format for this type of book. Here are some tips on how to do a beneficial breakdown.


·   Pick 2 to 3 books from the publisher’s list that fit the same genre. In my case I asked my editor what books she would recommend that were similar in style.

·   Take notes on each book. Look at the total number of pages. Count the words in a full page of text to determine the average word count per page.

·   If there is a table of contents, note any prefaces, introductions, number of chapters, indexes, and bibliographies. Write the total number of pages for each section. Multiply the number of pages within a section by the average word count per page to determine the word count for that section. This will help determine how best to breakdown your chapters.

·   Read through the book, noting style and format.

·   Note the number of illustrations (if any) per chapter.


Once you have finished reading and taking notes of all the books, analyze your information. Pay close attention to any similarities because these will be the techniques you will need to apply to your outline and sample chapters for your proposal.


Book breakdowns are necessary in understanding the style and format of your publisher. Taking the time to study  will greatly improve your chances for success.

Writing Exercise #2

Do you have writer’s block? Kick start your creative brain by picture. Pull out an old magazine or select one from your library’s periodical section. Flip through the pages and pick a picture that captures your eye. Then start writing. Don’t take the time to create character names or plan out intricate plot twists. Just sit down and let the story flow from the picture. You might be amazed at what develops.

University Plus

My local library has been very good for resources, but limited for the amount of research I need to do for the various articles I write and the background information I need. Thankfully I live in an area where several colleges and universities are within ten to twenty miles from me. Their libraries are stocked with a variety of materials that are a researcher’s dream: books, magazines, databases, archives, journals, law books, etc.

Because I am not an alumni, I have to pay a yearly fee to borrow books at the school I decided to use. I cannot do inter-library loans from other universities to this one, and I cannot use their databases from home; but I feel it is worth the cost and the travel time to get items that I would not have access to otherwise.

The loan period is 28 days for a maximum of ten books, which gives me plenty of time to peruse the volumes I need.

Will this help with all my research? No, but it is a healthy start. Depending on my budget, I may even add another university later on down the line so I can even have a broader amount of resources. And if I find that funds are limited, I can still visit the other libraries and do some good in-house research without having to borrow any materials.

Why don’t you give your local university a try? You may just find that extra research information you’ve been looking for.

Business Cards

I just received my brand new box of business cards. Since my book won’t be out until the Fall of 2009, I had hesitated before. But when I read a recent blog post by a published author that it was a good idea to have some, I decided to take the plunge.     

I used an online printer and spent a good two hours checking out the various backgrounds. The blog had suggested putting your picture onto the front of the card to give publishers and editors a face to remember after conferences. Because my picture had a greenish background, I needed to make sure that any design I chose would complement the photo.

After I found a background design, I worked on the placement of the photo and my name for the front of the card. Then I worked on the back of the card, choosing the same background with a darker color, and then setting up my name and contact information. I made sure I had enough blank space on the back to jot down notes (and for all those future autographs I may one day be signing). I was very satisfied with the results and I had fun along the way.

Of course I was a little concerned on how the final product would look. Designing something online doesn’t guarantee it will come out as nice and polished as it looks on my monitor. But I do have to say they did a great job. I was very pleased.

With today’s modern technology business cards are inexpensive and just a few clicks away. If you are serious about your writing career, it’s a good idea to get some. You can use them to promote school visits, to hand out to editors and publishers at conferences and seminars, to give to fellow writers, and to advertise your blog and/or website. It’s well worth the time and money.