Moonspinners Writer's Page:

Q: A small independent publisher has had my manuscript for a year. After seven months she said she was still considering it. I'm wondering if there is something I should do other than wait for another year. A New York agent is also looking at the manuscript. Maybe I should advise her of this. What do you think?

A: I had a publisher hold 9 of my manuscripts for the better part of a year. Finally, after trying to get me to change my style (translated - make my books sound just like a lot of others already out there - and I refused) they declined to publish them.

You have something I didn't,,,an interested agent. I would move in that direction because they can only help to get you noticed. But I wouldn't talk with the publisher about an agent who is "interested." That might make you look unprofessional. However, if the agent, in fact, signs you...well then. 

One thing you probably already know, but I'll say it anyway. No one will ever care about your books as much as you do. So do whatever you need to in order to be your own best advocate.

Max Anderson _________________________________________________________________________________________________

Q: I'm a published writer who is working on a memoir. It looks at how a "good Christian marriage" can go bad, the role of Promise Keepers (not pretty), and how God can work all things for good after the end of a twenty-five year marriage. My questions is, what publishers might be interested in such a subject?

A: Look for a publisher who has published other books by ex-Evangelical Christians who learned to question...or those who have published I-got-out-of-a-cult (not necessarily Christian) memoirs--look in bookstores, Books in Print, and Amazon. Stress in your proposal that you've previously published, and do some market research about the
popularity of those other books.

Shel Horowitz ________________________________________________________________________________________________

Q: [This author has self-published a children’s book, which has received positive feedback. But he’s always enjoyed writing short satirical articles and is a hit comedian at parties. He doesn’t know where to submit his commentaries on life and wonders if he should hire someone to evaluate the material]. 

A: First of all, congratulations on receiving praise about your comedic talents.  It sounds like the positive feedback has encouraged you to pursue writing humor, and that is a good thing.  The first piece of advice I have for you is to begin researching whether there is a writer's group in your area.  You can call a few local bookstores and inquire if there is a writer's group or critique group that meets once a month at the bookstore - I have at least one of these groups in my area that I know of right now.  The critiques are free and usually pretty honest.  Your other alternative is to find a true and trusted friend who you know will be honest with you about your essays.  Also, do not become discouraged if one person thinks your essays are funny and another doesn't - humor is very subjective - it is easiest to begin making fun of yourself as opposed to making fun of others, so as not to offend people as you start out.

Also, check out the Erma Bombeck web site - - there is a humor writer's workshop every year in Dayton, Ohio, that is supposed to be wonderful.  You can receive lots of critiques of your work there also.  The guy who runs the workshop sends out a free e-mail newsletter once a month that is chock full of markets and articles on how to write humor.  Finally, buy the 2005 Writer's Market (if you don't have it already).  You can find several magazines/book publishers that accept humor.  Also, do a google search for humor writing contests and enter as many as you can each year.  If you win, you will know you're on the right track.  Do not become discouraged - I have been writing for almost 25 years and still receive rejections.

Good luck, and no matter what, keep laughing - it's what keeps us ALL sane!

Vicky DeCoster

Q: I am looking for a good agent or publisher who is interested in publishing books on business humor. Currently my first book is self published and titled Corporate Wildlife. I am also writing a second book.  My books are about humor related to workplaces, modern management concepts, etc.

A: Getting an agent that specializes in your genre is the key first step to getting a publisher.You need to write a book proposal to get an agent, who will use your proposal to get a publisher. The book proposal is essentially a marketing plan that proves to all that your book will sell X amount of copies. There are formulas and outlines available on the internet, and available from some publishers, such as McGraw Hill. You must show agents and publishers that your book will ell...amongst the 56,000 books published each year. There are reference books that list agents by genre, and lists on the internet.  If you want, send me a copy of your book, and I will share it w/ my agent who may or may not have an interest.  

Good luck,

Jeffrey Fox

Q: We are a young publishing company and need to find a/some venture capital investors. Ideas welcomed!

A: If I were a young publishing company looking for money, I would target money-making authors and sell equity to them.  Author incentives would include indirect sharing in their royalties; no books out-of-print; aggressive promotion of their books and backlist; and backend money if company were to be sold...none of which exists today for authors.  Or you might give up and coming writers some equity in exchange for some of their royalties.  The traditional route is to have a great business plan and marketing plan that proves to investors that your company will make them money.  I think you will find some good ideas in How to Make Big Money in Your Own Small Business. I know the guy who wrote the book.

Good luck to you.

Jeffrey Fox

Q: Hi Wendy--A small independent publisher has had  my YA multicultural novel for a year now. After seven months she said she was still considering it. Question: Should I wait another year? A News York agent is also looking at the manuscript. Should I try to make a tie-in somehow? Or what? What do you think?

A: Remembering that this is my opinion only....if you can get a NY agent - do it. In fact it's quite common to get an agent in between a publisher accepting a manuscript and actually signing the contract, so that is perfectly legitimate. (Even if this agent rejects it, you may want to try another if the publisher accepts it, to make sure you get the best deal possible.)

As far as the publisher, it may be worth phoning or writing to ask again what the progress is, saying that you would like to submit it elsewhere if they're unable to give you an answer soon. This is perfectly reasonable, and may also give you the chance to speak to the editor and hear what it is she likes about it, what she's looking for, etc - that personal contact is always helpful if you can get it.  You don't have to remove it from this publisher in order to send it elsewhere, and they ought to understand that you can't wait forever, so it's not like a threat.

Hope this helps.

Wendy Orr

Q: How much marketing does your publisher expect you to do for your novels? What type do you do and what works best?

I am with a small publisher but have both ebook(Fictionwise) and print versions(Amazon) of my novel available and am trying to generate some publicity.

A: My publisher never implicitly stated that I had to do *any* publicity.  Then again, they didn't do much themselves.  An author always needs to do some kind of self-promotion, whether it's with a website, mailing list, in-store appearances (although you have to be careful doing those without the publisher's knowledge... many stores expect the publisher to contribute to advertising costs and the publisher has only so much in the budget for such things), writers conferences, library/Rotary Club/school lectures, and anything else you can think of.  I do all of the above.  Did it help?  Who knows?  It certainly didn't hurt.  But I do know that if I'd left it all up to my publisher, there would just been a book on the shelf in the store.

Raymond Benson

Q: Hi, I've recently been reading up on ghostwriting, but since I haven't had any luck in publishing my own work (fiction) I'm wondering why anyone would pay me to write theirs.  Do you need publishing credits &/or credentials to become a ghostwriter?

A: Many people who seek our professional help self-publish their work.  By doing that they assume all the financial risk, but also get 100% of the profits. 

Also, much of your work will come directly from established authors (of "How To" books for example), who simply don't have the time to meet the demand of their targeted market.

With regard to "credentials," if you have the talent and a few good references to back it up, charge a fair fee, and provide an "old fashioned service" that believes the customer is always right, you will never be out of work. 

Thanks for asking!

Steve & Betty Lockman

Q: I am considering signing on to Peggy McColl's and Randy Gilbert's Amazon Bestseller Mentoring Program and would very appreciate (1) information regarding their program's credibility, (2) whether this is an appropriate venue in which to market my book...

A: 1. Their program apparently works, although I personally think it's been oversaturated--and is waaay too expensive. I know I get at least six or eight help-me-make-a-bestseller offers every month. 2. I don't know if your book is a novel or nonfiction. It makes a difference.

The key element in succeeding with such a program is the quality of the e-mail lists of the participating e-zine publishers. I'd ask a lot of questions about how they will locate the right ones for your book. 3. Do recognize that going through a subsidy publisher makes most marketing more difficult, including this. Not impossible--but go in with eyes open. I've heard of people who sold 1000 copies plus with such a program, and others who flopped.

I'd be glad to consult with you on other, probably more cost-effective, approaches. Let me know if you want information on that. 

Shel Horowitz

Q: I am a 68-year old school teacher. I have been teaching since 1962.  My passion is to help students and adults who are struggling with reading. I have written a fantasy story to help them learn phonics. It has been so successful in helping them.  My problem is getting publicity.  Do you have any suggestions?

A: If it's any consolation, every children's book author I know--including people like me who are published by the big New York houses--wonders how on earth to get his or her book into the hands of readers. There's no easy answer.  But here are some possibilities.  Does your local newspaper have an education reporter?  If so, send that person a review copy and perhaps a press release.  I make a good deal of my income from school speaking--and I started out by speaking for free in my own children's classrooms.  In one of those cases, the local paper covered the event, and the reporter wrote an article.  Can you volunteer to do some local school presentations?  For several years, I also did a session on new children's books I'd read and loved (including my own) to my local reading council.  It was a way to introduce local teachers and librarians to my work.  Another year, I drew up an informational flyer and mailed it to schools in my area.  If you're ready to branch beyond your own town or city, check to see if your state reading conference has a website with a proposal form. You may want to submit a proposal to do a presentation there that features what you know about teaching phonics--and introduces fellow teachers to your book. 

Jane Kurtz


Q: I'm hoping that you might shed some light on how to remedy our publishing dilemma. As a publishers yourself, with experience with the business aspects of it, I'm hoping you can share any experience you have had in effective and non-effective marketing techniques.

We have had some bad experiences with distributors and field reps, but are limited in size and manpower to market our books and distribute them  in volume across the US and beyond.(Although we have had selected wholesalers/buyers in Asia, New Zealand and Canada)

How did you begin and grow to where you are today? Did (do) you use exclusive distributors  and/or sales reps?  So far, we have had mostly good experiences with non-exclusive reps and have built our business by a combination of wholesalers and a few reps. The two bad experiences have been with exclusive distributors and reps, costing us money with no results. One of these negative experiences was with a Canadian distributor, so haven't gotten serious about a US distributor until now, due to this experience.  

In an effort to grow and increase our bottom line in the process, we are publishing other authors, will have three besides the original author by early next year.(Our first venture has been with a six book middle-grade reader horse series that has sold well considering our limited manpower, but only through blood, sweat and tears.) Forthcoming books include themes of adult western fiction and a topical middle grade fiction novel portraying the issues that come with being an inmate's daughter. Seems necessary to grow to become recognized as a publisher and be of any interest to a distributor or field reps as well as to qualify for CIP with the library of congress. However, the downside is that the expenses in printing and marketing the books outstrip the return with our limited outreach.

May you like to offer any advice? We will greatly appreciate your response.

A: Thanks so much for your question! First let me clarify that I don’t work with distributors directly or sales reps. We are strictly marketing and PR. What I can address is your question about effective and non-effective marketing strategies. First and foremost it’s important to know who your reader is, by knowing you’re reader you’ll also know ways to get your book into their hands. The least effective marketing campaign is one that subscribes to the “spray and pray” theory – where an author sprays a whole bunch of (marketing) stuff up against the wall and hope that some of it sticks. Not all marketing plans are right for all books. Some books for example require a marketing plan that is solely internet based, while others require a much broader outreach. When putting together a marketing plan, authors often overlook things like trade media, associations and associated speaking engagements. These are great things to consider because you can get so much “bounce” out of them!

In my company we use something called a “Reader Profile” that profiles the reader just like you’d profile a character in a book, this is great for unearthing marketing opportunities you might not have considered. If you’d like to see a copy feel free to shoot me an email: 

I hope this information was helpful, if you have any additional questions please don’t hesitate to ask! 

My best, 

Penny Sansevieri


Q: I have never made sales via my web site. I will have my meta tags and keywords changed this week. My ? is- how do I get email lists of my target audience for mass mail outs and would you recommend this? I wrote a children's picture book that teaches children to eat fruits, vegetables and meats, instead of junk food and sweets. It helps in the childhood obesity initiative.

A: The most important thing you have to do in order to make sales through your website is to promote your website. If you are aware of your target audience, you need to contact the webmasters of websites who are catering to the same audience, tell them about your book provide a link to your website and request that they trade links with you.  In order to do this you must have a Links Resource page on your website, many sites will not add your link to their site unless you can reciprocate. Link trading is welcomed by many webmasters as it increases traffic for all parties concerned.


Q: After I finished my first novel (for ages 8 - 13) I discovered that the title I chose was also the title of another book published earlier by a well-known author. I have already submitted queries to about 5 publishing houses. Do you think I should change the title of my book before submitting to any more?

A: There's no copyright on titles, but my feeling is that if you can come up with another title for this book, it would probably be best. For one thing, your primary goal for the title at this stage is to grab the editor's attention so that she reads your ms with an open mind about what an exciting, original story it's going to be.  Apart from that, It depends greatly on how old the other book is, especially whether it's still in print, how well known, and whether it's also a children's book.

Don't forget that the final decision on the title will be made by the editor at a later stage, so whatever you do now is not irrevocable.  If you love this title and truly believe that it is by far the best hook into your story, (and the already published book isn't Harry Potter or something on the best-seller list!)  then you may still want to submit with the present title.

Good luck!

Q:  When you think you have a good idea for a story, but you know that your written english lets you down because of limited education.How do you go about finding a ghost writer with the same interest.
What I have in mind is science fiction with a religious twist.

A: This is a tough one-I don't know if I can help you. Ghostwriters who write books are usually paid, and paid well. And they usually work with celebrities, writing the celebrities' life stories, which are expected to sell well on the strength of the person's name. Getting another writer, a good one, to develop your idea for a story or a novel, is almost unheard of. (Successful writers occasionally collaborate on a book, but that's another story.) The trouble is that fiction writers, unless they are best sellers, don't make much money, so their work is a labor of love. And what they love are their own ideas. They become fascinated by a character or an idea or a theme and feel compelled to write about it. So even if your idea is really great, another writer probably won't be interested. Published writers are approached constantly by people with ideas and their main reaction is irritation. It's kind of like telling someone you'd like to have a child with them, but they'll have to carry the child and do all the work of raising it, and pay for all the expenses, and, oh yeah, if the kid turns out great, they want the credit. Except that there are people out there who want to be single parents, while there are precious few writers wandering around hoping someone will hand them an idea.

Now, there are plenty of people who are wonderful storytellers, but can't spell. What I would suggest is that you write the story, or book, as best you can. If you're willing to do all that work, that is. It'll be a big job. Once you have a manuscript, or a good chunk of one, getting the spelling and the grammar cleaned up is a fairly mechanical process for a copy editor. Going through a manuscript and making thousands of changes is a long and tiresome job, so unless you're lucky enough to find a qualified copy editor who is crazy enough about your work and/or you to do you a huge favor, I'd suggest hiring a professional. Look up Editorial Services in your local yellow pages, or the yellow pages of the nearest city. Talk to several agencies and tell them you're writing a Christian science fiction novel and they might give you a break on the price.

Once your book has been cleaned up, you'll probably want more editorial help. I recently talked to an editor with the San Francisco Chronicle, the main newspaper in Northern California. He told me that when he writes something, the first thing he does is look for a good content editor. You need to find someone who likes your work, is in sympathy with what you're trying to do, and is a good writer and content editor. Someone who can make lots of good suggestions-your book drags in Chapter 10, so cut half the copy; develop this character and think about leaving that one out entirely; the plot gets muddy and confusing in Chapter 14. The copy editors I mentioned above could help you. Some will be better than others, of course. But at this point, you're probably ready for a writers group. This is a group of 2 to 10 people who meet regularly, usually once a month, to discuss and criticize each others' work. You would have to contribute advice, of course, but these are free. Except for the ones that have a leader, a professional writer, who charges a fee.

How do you find a writers group, or locate writers so you can form a group of your own? Various ways. Through writers' organizations. In the USA, Science Fiction Writers of America is the most important group in your field. If there isn't a branch in your area, Google "science fiction" AND 'your town or state" to find some of the many, many groups for science fiction writers and/or fans. Writers hold dozens of conferences each year and fans and writers hold conventions. Again, surf the Internet. Type "science fiction" AND "conference" into Google. Talk to your minister about finding Christian writers with beliefs similar to yours. If s/he can't help, perhaps the minister can refer you to another minister or religious group that can. Hang around bookstores, especially science fiction bookstores, and libraries, and talk to the people who work there. They can tell you about conferences and groups. Go to events, like signings and book discussion groups, that sound interesting. Pretty soon you'll be up to your neck in writers and new friends. You may have to try out several writers groups before you find one that suits your needs. You want to find one where several people are in sympathy with your work and can really help.

Of course, you can go the organization/conference/events route to try to find someone to write your book, but as I've explained, your chances are not that great. If you decide to write the book yourself, you'll have an interesting time, a lot of fun, and you'll learn a lot. Maybe this is for you, and maybe not, but believe me: A lack of spelling and grammar skills does not have to be a bar to writing a good book. The essential thing is to have something to say and to be a good storyteller. As I understand it, King David didn't have a lot of formal education, but he wrote all those Psalms.

Good luck! Regards,
Merrill Sanders
(Sierra Gothic: A Gold Country Mystery, Dry Bones Press, 2003)

Q: My first novel THE PAWN was released this month and I am hungry for reviews.  An historical novel it pits the ambitions and iron-will of a young woman caught in an austere community and the social standards of l880 against a family friend who knows her appetites all too well and uses them to turn her into THE PAWN in a plot to destroy her, her family, and all she values. First book in a trilogy.  GENRE: MAINSTREAM, FAMILY SAGA

A: I'll be happy to review your book. I normally post my reviews on 8-12 websites. It depends on where your book is available. Be sure to send me your contact info with your book. Once I receive your book, you should hear from me within five weeks, at the latest.


Q: What do you do with an agent that does not communicate with you?

[The questioner explains that she has a verbal agreement with an agent and has not signed a contract at this time. The agent has her manuscript and has sent her an email that she'd be delighted to represent her and is mailing a contract in separate email]

I may be pushing a little too hard, but would like some time of guideline/information. All I want to know is what is a reasonable time for communication, or when someone doesn't follow through, should that be the time to look elsewhere.

A: Congratulations, you are in an enviable position about which most writers only dream. Agents do not take on clients unless they, to use their own oft-repeated phrase, "fall in love" with the work, so the fact that an agent has said she'd be "delighted" to represent you is wonderful news.

The deals you read about -- the overnight sensations, the million dollar babies, the rapid ascensions -- these are the stuff of headlines, but not publishing reality. The reality is that publishing is a very conservative business that adheres most of all to the bottom line. Having an agent is an important first step toward publishing success, but the next step -- finding an editor -- may take some time. Of course, it may not -- you could be the next wunderkind -- but why sit around waiting to see which it will be? My advice to anyone with a book out is to do something else and forget about it. Start another book or get out of town or take a class -- anything, in other words, to keep you from thinking about something over which you now have no control. Like a child, your book has now stepped out on its own, and what happens next is in others' hands. I think it's wonderful! Good luck.

Lisa Lenard-Cook


Q: Expert question is directed to Penny Sanseveri:
Question I have authored 2 palmistry books and used POD Infinity Publishing.  If I were to combine both books, change the title and submit to a traditional publisher would that be ethical? Would it be possible to go POD again with the new book that is created out of the former two using Infinity Publishing again?

A: In answer to your question yes, and yes - in fact you could try to sell the book you currently have through Infinity Publishing since you own all the rights to it and if you combine them you can republish them, or update one and republish that. With POD it doesn't matter since you don't have any rights issues. Just make sure if you're updating your books that you list "Updated Version" or something like that on the cover in case there are references, web sites, etc that might cause the book to seem "dated." Hope this helps!

Penny Sanseveri


Q: Expert question is directed to MICHELLE AILENE TRUE:  This is my first book. It is a 112 page, 6x9 book of 56 poems and 56 black & white photos..... with some motivational quotes, biblical quotations and humor thrown in. My budget is very limited and I am considering using BOOKS JUST BOOKS to print it. Their fees are reasonable, but they do not provide much in the way of Marketing and Promotion. I have a Sales force in 2 churches to handle local sales here. From your knowledge and experience, would you consider my choice of Publishers to be a good one? If not, could you recommend a couple of good inexpensive Publishers?

A: There are many self-publishing firms these days. Some of them offer marketing and other services but you have to pay for them. The trick is to compare what matters most to you, and see where you get the better deal. 

Unfortunately, poetry doesn't have a huge audience. Since the audience for poetry is small, most publishers will not spend a lot of time and money promoting it, unless you are already famous (i.e.Leonard Nimoy or Maya Angelou.

Also, if you are including bible quotations, remember that people can open up the bible to read the same quotations, so why should they pay extra money for another book that has them?
Are the quotes all yours, or are you using quotes from other people?

Without having seen the book and its contents, I can't advise you on the best marketing strategy for it. Whether you have a traditional publisher or if you are self-publishing, it's always up to the author to market their books

What you may want to do since your work has a Christian theme is to try submitting your manuscript to Christian presses. Look in the annually updated books "Writer's Market" and "Poet's Market" for such publishing firms.  See if you can get accepted by a publisher before you have ty pay to get publishe.

No matter what publisher you end up with, you will want to contact the Christian Bookseller's Association and send a copy to the major Christian radio talk shows. Get your book into Christian book stores.

Also, get '1001 ways to market your books" for 700 pages of outstanding ideas, many of which will work for you! It's my marketing bible!

I have used to publish my 3rd poetry book, True Identities, and  I am publishing two anthologies of poetry that I'm also contributing to using The cost is $34.95 for an ISBN number and cbar code, plus there's the $30 to register my copyright with the government. They have decent discounts on large quantity purchases but you don't have to order any books at all. $65 and you're published!  

I will be looking for a traditional publisher for a non-fiction book I'm clsoe to finishing, but if I end up self-publishing that as well, I will likely use LuLu unless I do some comparisons and find a firm that dowes the same for less.  Which I doubt.

YOU as the author are the #1 marketing person to promote your book,and if you're not interested in marketing yourself and your book, you may want to re-think publishing your book.

Michelle Ailene True


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