About Tanya

Author of award-winning suspense-filled general and women's fiction.

A Nugget and My Other Blogs

I did blog yesterday. But I didn’t do it here. You see, I’m on two other blogs, as well, and I realized I’d better let you know about them, because I’m sharing some of my golden nuggets from Thursday’s “webinar” on those sites.

My other personal blog, Seized by Words, is reserved for thoughts on the power of words, as well as book reviews and author interviews. I shared my thoughts there the other day on a phrase used by Rachelle Gardner during her presentation and you might want to check it out.

This past week, I was invited to become a contributing blogger to ANWA Founder & Friends, the official blog of a terrific national group of ladies–American Night Writers Association (ANWA). I blog there every other Friday, so yesterday was my first opportunity and I decided to share a bit more of what I’d learned on Thursday about crucial elements in the crafting of the first few pages of your manuscript. Please give the whole blog a look, not just my posting, and consider becoming a follower. Cindy Williams has a terrific post there today about author branding.

My nugget for today: If you’re having a hard time determining the genre of your story, then try to visualize your audience…the readers who will love your kind of story. Consider the other books they read and that’s your genre.

BIG TIP: Better to come up with a more specific genre than “Mainstream.” Rachelle said, for example, that “Women’s Fiction” would be better than “Mainstream” because it defines the audience better and helps the agent categorize your book more easily.

Originally posted 2010-05-29 09:42:17.

Webinar with Agent Rachelle Gardner

Today I spent 90 minutes online and on the phone with a literary agent.

Literary Agent Rachelle Gardner

No, I don’t have an agent yet, and though I used my phone for the audio, it wasn’t exactly a personal phone call. There were probably thousands of others out there also listening in (including my friend and fellow writer, Liz Adair) as Rachelle Gardner with WordServe Literary Agency gave a power point presentation entitled “Sell Your Stuff: Learn the Secrets to Selling Your Fiction and Memoir.”

Sponsored by Writers Digest, it was definitely time and money well spent, as she covered in detail how to make sure your work is ready to pitch (particularly those first few pages), and then how to make sure you’ve got a good query letter, a good log-line (or 1-sentence pitch), and a good elevator pitch. She took questions (which we typed in and submitted throughout the presentation), promising to answer all of those she didn’t have time for by email over the next 2 weeks. As a bonus, we also get to send her an elevator pitch or 1-sentence pitch for her to critique personally.

So what did I learn? I’ll share my lessons in nuggets over the next couple of weeks through this blog. Today’s nugget:

Do NOT start your novel (or memoir) with backstory. In fact, don’t bring any backstory in during the first few pages. Then, if you need to add some backstory, weave it in skillfully. Most agents, including this one, will give the first few pages of a manuscript more weight than the query letter itself, so you’ve got to make sure you come off like a pro in those first pages and a professional writer plunges you into the story, rather than spending paragraphs and pages setting everything up.

More on what they’re looking for in those opening pages in days to come.

Originally posted 2010-05-27 17:46:29.

Our Uphill Battle as Writers, Part One

Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman of Writer’s Digest (and former President and CEO of HarperCollins) passed on a somewhat horrifying statistic bandied about at BEA this week:

“7% of books published generate 87% of book sales. And 93% of all published books sell less than 1,000 copies each.”

Now the encouraging part is that those statistics were quoted during a panel discussion on DIY (Do It Yourself) publishing and how it’s changing the publishing world. Here’s the complete article from Publishers Weekly. If you’re

J.A. Konrath

feeling hopeless about ever getting your book published and into the hands of readers, I encourage you to read the whole article. Apparently, there is life after self-publishing. What kind of life is still up for debate. If you’re an established author like J.A. Konrath, it sounds like the life can be pretty good.

Here’s my quandary: I went ahead and self-published my first novel. Many traditionalists in the publishing industry will say I’ve pretty much shot myself in the foot…I’m branded forever. Any agent reading my query letter for my next novel will note my first book, look it up, and see it didn’t sell anywhere near 10,000 copies and pretty much assume that I don’t have what it takes. (Unfair, I know, but all they need is one little excuse to throw my query away.) So…do I try to publish traditionally under a different name (and does that even work?), or do I continue the self-publishing route? After all, if I can gradually build my own audience, who needs the elite publishing houses of NYC?

But then that statistic smacks me in the face again. Obviously, that 7% is represented by those very houses.

So, on the one hand, we’ve got authors like Konrath paving a DIY way for the vast majority of us writers…and, on the other, we’ve got the likes of Garrison Keillor bemoaning the fact that “book publishing is about to slide into the sea” with self-publishing because “when everyone’s a writer, no one is” in a column in yesterday’s Baltimore Sun.

Here is what he said in part:

We live in a literate time, and our children are writing up a storm, often combining letters and numerals (U R 2 1derful), blogging like crazy, reading for hours off their little screens, surfing around from Henry James to Jesse James to the epistle of James to pajamas to Obama to Alabama to Alanon to non-sequiturs, sequins, penguins, penal institutions, and it’s all free, and you read freely, you’re not committed to anything the way you are when you shell out $30 for a book, you’re like a hummingbird in an endless meadow of flowers.

And if you want to write, you just write and publish yourself. No need to ask permission, just open a website. And if you want to write a book, you just write it, send it to Lulu.com or BookSurge at Amazon or Pubit or ExLibris and you’ve got yourself an e-book. No problem. And that is the future of publishing: 18 million authors in America, each with an average of 14 readers, eight of whom are blood relatives. Average annual earnings: $1.75.

Back in the day, we became writers through the laying on of hands. Some teacher who we worshipped touched our shoulder, and this benediction saw us through a hundred defeats. And then an editor smiled on us and wrote us a check, and our babies got shoes. But in the New Era, writers will be self-anointed. No passing of the torch. Just sit down and write the book. And the New York Times, the great brand name of publishing, whose imprimatur you covet for your book (‘brilliantly lyrical, edgy, suffused with light’ – NY Times) will vanish (Poof!). And editors will vanish.

The upside of self-publishing is that you can write whatever you wish, utter freedom, and that also is the downside. You can write whatever you wish, and everyone in the world can exercise their right to read the first three sentences and delete the rest.


I’d like to think that the stories I write are worth more than the first three sentences. But he does have a point. There are so many more novels being written today, so many more queries being sent out today. The odds of getting picked up by an agent, not to mention a big publishing house, have grown so long that it really does come down to a matter of luck and timing…and that’s only AFTER you’ve written something truly worthy.

I wish I’d started up this path 30 years ago, but I didn’t. Am I going to give up? No way. My knees may be weak, but I’ve got strong fingers. Besides, the higher the mountain, the greater the achievement.

Originally posted 2010-05-26 17:02:24.

Mom’s Sense of Adventure

My mom turns 84 this year (on July 4th) and shows no sign of slowing down, despite the recent insertion of a pacemaker. Last month she tap danced for more than three minutes at the ward talent show. (If you don’t believe me, check out my Facebook page…I uploaded the video.)

So, what’s she got going on this month? She’s jetting her way to Serbia, followed by a quick visit to old friends in Greece. You see, her older sister (who is something like 88) insisted on flying over to witness her granddaughter’s traditional wedding, but wanted company. So my mom, along with her sister’s other daughter and son-in-law, volunteered to make the trip. Knowing my mom, she’ll have a blast and take plenty of pictures of everyone, whether she knows them or not.

Here I sit beginning to feel the effects of arthritis in my shoulder, and Mom, who is about 30 years older than me, is off galavanting around the world. I know I inherited my writing genes from my father, but I sure hope I got some of Mom’s energy and sense of adventure to go with it!

Originally posted 2010-05-25 17:35:33.

Help With Social Networking

Last week I promised to share information on Social Oomph, a website designed to help save you time and effort in your social networking efforts. Originally, it keyed in on Twitter (and, in fact, used to be called Tweetlater, I believe), but now it’s set up to help with Facebook updates and Google Buzz (though the latter is in its first stage of development), as well.

I happened to run across mention of it when I was researching Google Friend Connect etiquette (which, by the way, still hasn’t been addressed to my satisfaction) on this blog by marketing guru Matthew Neer. If you’re not already familiar with it, it’s well worth a look.

If you’re a Twitter beginner, like me, and feel as if you’re setting foot on foreign terrain every time you tweet, Social Oomph provides a type of passport, as it were, easing your way into Twitterland and allowing you to set some automatic responses for new followers who come your way. After all, one of the worst things you can do on Twitter is not acknowledge new followers…you’ll lose them fast if they’re more diligent than you about checking in on a regular basis. As authors, that’s the last thing we want. We need to KEEP our readers, not lose them.

Also, as this video by the same marketing blogger (Matthew Neer) demonstrates, you can point new followers automatically to your FB site, your website, or your blog…as long as you don’t act like you’re selling anything.

There are several YouTube videos posted by others that also address how to work with Social Oomph, and you may want to check them out, as well.

Basically, the free website allows you to do several things, including the following:

  • Schedule tweets (plan for the day, set them, then forget them)
  • Track keywords (especially helpful if you’re into a particular niche)
  • Extend your Twitter profile (promoting yourself more)
  • Send DMs to new followers (automatically)
  • Track your clicks
  • Follow those who follow you (automatically)
  • Vet new followers (semi-automatically)
  • View @Mentions and Retweets
  • Purge your DM Inbox
  • Secure Twitter and Buzz access

There is an alternative to Social Oomph. It’s called HootSuite, but according to one reviewer, they are really complementary programs and he couldn’t recommend one over the other. In his opinion, Social Oomph has “awesome automation abilities” while Hootsuite offers “customization, tracking, and user-friendly features.” I haven’t checked it out yet, but since he recommended both, I may have to give it a look (particularly because they have an iPhone app).

I would love to hear from any of you who have had experience with either sites.

Originally posted 2010-05-24 09:44:14.


I had planned to post about socialoomph today, but I’m having major problems with one of my email accounts that I need to get resolved. Also, I can’t sign into LinkedIn any more. Could the two problems be related? I don’t know yet, but it’s thrown a wrench into my writing plans for today.

That’s why it’s always a good idea to have a backup schedule–activities you can fall back on while you’re waiting for the experts to help you out of your fix.

I think this would be a good time to read. Just take myself away from this computer and open a book.

Oh, wait. All the books I’m scheduled to read are on my computer…or iPhone. At times like these, I’d love to time travel back to the 70’s before all this stuff became such a distraction.

Originally posted 2010-05-19 12:55:11.

I’m no Sally Field, but…

I don’t know how many of you were even watching the Oscars back in 1984 when Sally Field, upon winning her second statuette, couldn’t help herself and blurted out “…you like me, right now you like me…”

It was a moment that either touched you or made you squirm, depending on your reading of 1) her sincerity or 2) her “uncoolness.” I mean, it’s not cool to draw attention to yourself, is it?

But that’s what we’re asked to do today as authors. Writers (with the exceptions of Norman Mailer and Gore Vidal) are usually shy, retiring types, content to hide behind the written word. (I know I am, anyway.) They want their writing to be discovered, not themselves. But these days we have to get out there and meet and greet people, introduce ourselves online, in bookstores, libraries, even at the local Costco or Walmart.

We can no longer hide behind our characters or make do with an interview here or there. We have to share our souls, as well as our faces, on our websites, blogs, on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, our Amazon Author Page, you name it. It seems as if ten new online sites spring up every week, trying to convince you that if you don’t register with them, you’ll be left behind in cyberspace.

And after going through the initiation into Google Friend Connect, may I just say that now I fully understand the sentiment Ms. Field tried to convey years ago. Thank you to all those who joined my site.

I tried to look up Google Friend Connect etiquette, wondering if I was supposed to respond individually to each of you whose faces now share that little box with mine. I couldn’t find anything about it. (However, I did come across a goldmine of a post regarding the etiquette of socializing on Twitter…Heard of socialoomph.com? More about that tomorrow.)

So, if I’ve messed up somehow by not separately contacting each of you, please let me know (email would be a lot less humiliating than a comment below) and I will. But, for now, thank you all. Everybody wants to have friends, to be liked. Sally Field understood that. And I do, too.

Originally posted 2010-05-18 14:57:28.

I’m Ready for Review (I Think)

Once you add Google Friend Connect to your website, you feel absolutely naked online. It’s as if you’re alone in a vast wilderness. Hello? Can anyone hear me?

I decided tonight that I would throw all caution to the wind and invite all 600+ Facebook friends to check out the new website, leave some comments, and…hopefully…keep me company in that bare area of white space under “Followers” in the side bar.

Of course, I realize that most of my acquaintances aren’t checking out Facebook right now. After all, it’s FHE night. So all you ACS alumni–now’s the time to show some support, okay? I’m hoping that by tomorrow morning I’ll get a few hits and a few Google Friends. (I guess I’d better send out a few emails as insurance.)

Anyway, I’m still working on getting my book trailer embedded on the home page, as well as a few other images. But please feel free to tell me what works and what doesn’t. The Bio’s too long, isn’t it? And I know I need to post a couple of sample chapters from The Reckoning and my newly finished manuscript, Laps. I have a ton of links that still need to be added, plus some poetry. But I’d welcome comments on the Baghdad photos in the meantime. Should I add photos of Greece or Lebanon?

This is still very much a work in progress, so put your two cents in now.

Originally posted 2010-05-17 20:52:43.

Living Online

Over the past three days, I believe I have spent 20+ hours working on rebuilding my website, all at the expense of my family and my writing. I realize that, these days, an author needs to be concerned with “platform,” but what’s the point of a platform (in this case, online presence) if you spend so much time building it that you lose focus on your most important roles…not marketing yourself, but being who you are first and foremost–a writer.

Where is that delicate balancing point in my daily routine between the craft and the salesmanship? I believe it’s time to pull out my notes from the Northwest Writers Retreat last October and review Marsha Ward’s counsel.

In the meantime, I’m giving myself till the end of the day on Tuesday to add all the content I can to my website (with, or without, images on the home page). If any of you out there have any answers as to how to size your images correctly so as to fit them in a widget in the side bar (using HTML code, I believe)…PLEASE get in touch with me by email. Or even leave a comment here.

After Tuesday, I’m doing a final polish on Laps (taking into account the feedback I’ve gotten), taking a few deep breaths, and sending out my first batch of queries by Friday. It’s time I got offline and started living again!

Originally posted 2010-05-16 19:54:12.