Category Archives: Warrior Writer

Remember, Writers: Coffee is for closers.

You did it.  You got the words down.  What now?

Now you have to close the deal.  The film clip in this blog is from Glengarry Glen Ross, featuring Alec Baldwin (in an academy-awarded nominated role) giving his infamous ‘Coffee is for Closers’ speech in a David Mamet movie.  If you haven’t seen it, it’s enlightening (be warned: plenty of profanity).

How did you react?  Most people react negatively to Baldwin.  But he makes quite a few good points:

If they don’t want to hear what he has to say to him, they shouldn’t be in that room.

If they want to make money, they have to close.

If you want to succeed, follow:





backgroundIn Write It Forward I teach the three steps of change:  Moment of Enlightenment (Attention and Interest), make a Decision, and then have Sustained Action.

What do you want to do with your book?  If you’re happy you wrote 80,000 words or so and you’re done with it, then you’ve closed.  Congratulations.  Go get a cup of tea.  But if you want to publish successfully, then put down that cup of coffee.  Coffee is for Closers.

Most aspiring writers aren’t closers. And most lament it’s because getting an agent is so hard, the odds are terrible, publishing is contracting, no one really reads, etc. etc. etc.  Except here’s the deal:  Agents, publishers, readers, all exist to consume books.  They’re the given.  They’re the lead.  YOU have to be the closer.

You have to be the Closer with great material.  By constantly improving your craft of writing.  You have to Close by studying and following the business, by being a professional who wants to be employed in the world of writing.  By following up every possible opportunity you get with determination and professionalism.  By shutting up about the unfairness of it all and doing everything in your power to Close the deal.

I was amazing, stunned, when I heard that less than 10% of writers who were told to follow up a one-on-one at a conference by an agent actually sent in the follow up material.  Essentially, those writers called a client who had expressed interest, talked about the interest, then hung up without closing.  They got the Attention, had the Interest, then made the Decision to quit.  To not take Action.

If you’re going to self-publish, you’ve just become an entrepreneur.  You’re running a business in a very competitive environment.  Yes, we all talk sweet, but they’ll cut ya!

Publishing is a very hard business.  It’s tough to get published in any mode.  Then it’s tough to succeed once you’ve been published.  But people do it.  They’re called Closers.

Write It Forward!

#NaNoWriMo is coming to end…what to do next?

At the end of November many writers will have 50k words, or close too it. Some will have completed a novel. Others will be close to completion. Most will need a long nap. Writing 2k every day can be exhausting, especially when the words are forced or not flowing. Producing that kind output is a full time job when many of those participating in NaNo have other jobs and families, its even more exhausting.

So now that it’s almost over, what do you do next? Most of the advice I see out there is to take a break. While I think that is an excellent idea, I think there is one thing you should do before you set aside your NaNo project. I suggest you make an outline of what you think you just wrote. Your mind has been in constant thought, producing word after word. Its time to see if those words make sense.

When I wrote Rekindled during NaNoWriMo, as soon as I was done, I took out a notebook and started labeling pages. One was for Hero. Another for the Heroine. I had a page for the best friend and ex-girlfriend’s romance. I had a page for the dead father. A page for the hero’s boss and the hero’s mother and their relationship. I had a page for the heroine’s best friend. A page for dead father’s best friend who is holding a lot of the secrets tying all the above people together. I had a page for the bad guys who were tying to kill the Heroine. Finally, I had a page for the plot line. I jotted down what I thought I knew about what I wrote WITHOUT LOOKING AT THE MANUSCRIPT. I was surprised at how much I didn’t know about what I had just written.

Then, I took a break. I didn’t work on that manuscript at all, though I thought about it and I keep a notebook with me, jotting things down.

Next, I printed it out and sat in a big comfy chair with my feet up and just read it. This was the hardest part. I didn’t allow myself a red pen. I forced myself to stay away from the computer. I did however give myself permission to take notes. They were mostly questions, like “why did I write that scene in that point-of-view?” or “who really is Kaylee’s father?” That question really hit me hard because I hadn’t planned for Kaylee to have a different biological dad than the one who raised her and who had been murdered, but it was my subconscious at work, so I had to figure it out. This process was very difficult, but very important in understanding what my brain had done while I was busy tossing words onto the page to meet my word count.

After I had gone through the manuscript, I had to make some difficult decisions. Many of my scenes were written in the wrong point of view. So they had to be changed. I had to delete two point of view characters. Also, the reason Kaylee had come home in the beginning of the book wasn’t the reason I had been working of off halfway through the book.

I honestly was so confused by middle of December I felt like I almost had to start all over again. So, I took a deep breath and went back to basics. I asked myself what the Kernel Idea was for this book. I wrote that down and one sentence gave me a lot of direction, but I still had a lot of rewriting to do, but it went much smoother after that.

Nanowrimo coverIn honor of Nanowrimo month, Cool Gus has put together a Nanowrimo Survival kit at a discount:  three books in one at a big discount (over 50% off buying them individually).  We’re only going to run this special for November, then we’ll be taking it down.

The Novel Writers Toolkit which is how to write the book.

Write It Forward which is how to be a professional author and build a career using my Who Dares Wins concept.

And How We Made Our First Million on Kindle which is about negotiating the world of digital publishing.

Ready, Set, #NaNoWriMo

The first time I heard of NaNoWriMo was back in 2004. I had only been writing for about year, but was struggling with my process. The more I learned, the harder writing became and I thought that maybe if I could go back to the good old days where I didn’t know anything about novel structure, plotting, GMC, character arc, turning points, emotional plot points, yadda, yadda, yadda, things would get “easier”…enter NaNoWriMo.

I had an idea for a book. My first thought (what Bob would call a Kernel idea) What if you’re x-wife returned to town on the same day her father was murdered and you’re job was to arrest her? I had nothing else. No backstory. No setting. Not even a single character name. I knew nothing about the story other than my hero was a cop, the heroine had runaway years ago, came back, and found her father’s body in the front hallway, dead. Normally I’d spend a month or two talking out the plot, the characters, doing research, writing “false starts’ and getting a feel for the story, but NaNoWriMo was about to start. Everyone was doing it and my critique partners at the time challenged the “plotter” of the group to write from the seat of her pants.

RekindledSo I did. I wrote almost 65,000 words in one month. Not bad. I produced a book, Rekindled. This year I’m unofficially participating. I’m finishing up book 3 in the New York State Trooper Series, which will be out by the end of this year, but I’m also starting to plot and write a new book. I’ll be heading down to Write on the River to start work on the new book.

I think NaNoWriMo is great for writers. Check out the #nanowrimo hastag on twitter. It creates an energy that is contagious. Writer’s cheering each other on. Encouraging each other to continue, push forward and write through the blocks. We measure our progress through word count, so it makes sense to set a word count goal each day, and work toward it. But there is more to a book than word count.

When I did NaNoWriMo, I tossed my personal writing playbook out the window. I started off real strong, writing sometimes 4k words in one sitting. I never looked back, keep pushing forward. No matter how hard it was. Not matter how much I felt like not writing, I sat down and typed. I was going to complete NaNoWriMo no matter what. I kept writing. It was draining me, but anyone who knows me well, knows when I’m challenged and determined, there is no stopping me. I’m a finisher. Ever see the movie Turner and Hooch with Tom Hanks? There is a scene in that movie where he goes to the Vet’s house and she had been painting, but was done for the night, with the walls half done! How could she not finish what she started? Tom just picks up the brush and decides the job must be finished. That’s me. I start something, got to finish it. No matter what.

When 01 December rolled around I had written THE END. I was exhausted. My brain had no concept of what I had just written, but I had completed the goal—write at least 50k. I never took my eye off that prize. I made a goal, and I completed the goal.

It took me two weeks before I could even look at a keyboard and a screen. I printed the manuscript out and started reading. I knew I would have some revisions, but what I found out was that my process had changed drastically.

I learned that every writer has to find the writing process that works for them and the only way to do that is to be willing to re-evaluate the way you do things and try something different.

Nanowrimo coverIn honor of Nanowrimo month, Cool Gus has put together a Nanowrimo Survival kit at a discount:  three books in one at a big discount (over 50% off buying them individually).  We’re only going to run this special for November, then we’ll be taking it down.

The Novel Writers Toolkit which is how to write the book.

Write It Forward which is how to be a professional author and build a career using my Who Dares Wins concept.

And How We Made Our First Million on Kindle which is about negotiating the world of digital publishing.

Write It Forward!

Agents: Human, Machine or Borg?

We’ve discussed the future of publishers, bookstores and writers so far on this blog.  Today, I’m going to discuss agents.  As the Borg cube comes into low Earth orbit, I’ve seen several agents rip off their rank insignia and surrender, aka, find another job.  That is in line with the people laid off or leaving publishing houses, the midlist authors whose contracts were not renewed, etc. etc.  So what will the agent’s role in the future of publishing be? Or more accurately, what should the role of agents in the future of publishing be?

For now, I see about a two-year window where agents can operate traditionally and survive if they are established.  Read PW Daily/Deals and it’s pretty much business as usual, although less books are being bought for less money, which directly impacts an agent’s bottom line.  But waiting that two years without changing will cause an agent to end up in the same boat as Dorchester which refused to see the changes occurring in publishing and suddenly decided this year to completely switch their focus in publishing, after ignoring the warning signs for a decade.  Not working.  A smart agent (like the smart author) will examine the handwriting on the wall, recognize the wall for a Borg hologram, and try to see through it, to what lies on the other side.

Andrew Wylie tried it.  He announced earlier this year that his agency would bring most of his clients’ backlist into print in eBook.  The publishing world went berserk.  Random House blacklisted him for a while.  One of the tenets of Warrior Writer is that anger is an indicator of a deep truth and a strong need for change.  Random House’s extreme reaction indicated more to me than anything else that publishers fear agents supplanting them.  After all, few of the Big 6 have a slush pile any more.  They rely on agents to sift through that for them.  So agents have to ask themselves, as eBooks take a larger and large slice of the market (how many Kindles sold on Black Friday, BTW?), why they need publishers if they’re doing the heavy lifting of manning quality control in publishing.  Why wouldn’t an established agency with a list of headline clients, not set itself up as it’s own publishing house via eBooks and Lightning Source Print On Demand?  Outsource the editing to the many editors who have been laid off from traditional publishers, and also outsource the formatting and cover art work?  In essence, become what we’re doing at Who Dares Wins Publishing?

The line between agent and publisher is going to blur.  Sort of when a human meets the Borg collective.  What will come out is a hybrid.

What does this mean for authors?  For now, not much, although if you have an agent, there should be some discourse on what your agent envisions their future to be.  And yours.

Now for some blasphemy.  I’ve attended a lot of writing conference over the years.  I participate in social media and watch the discourses.  Read blogs.  Here are a couple of suggestions for writers and agents that are controversial, but, screw it.

Writers.  Query every agent you can.  I don’t care if they handle your genre/type of book or not.  With electronic queries, what does it cost you?  The time to get the email for the submission and the agent’s name.  I’m so tired of hearing agents sit on panels and tell authors all the things they don’t want.  It’s part of their job to go through the slush pile.  A good book is a good book.  The reality is that there are so few diamonds in the rough, that any diamond looks good.  If the agent doesn’t handle that type of book, but recognizes quality, they will pass it on to someone who does.  But by limiting your number of queries, you limit your possibility of success.

I’ve had authors tell me that will piss off agents.  Don’t rejections piss you off?  But you have to react professionally, and so should agents.  If I see one more tweet about how hard it is to go through the slush pile from an agent, I’m going to scream.  It’s called a job.  Sort of like how hard it is for a writer to write.  Besides, if you send to the wrong agent and piss them off, they’re the wrong agent anyway, so you haven’t lost anything.   This is in line with my change in position on self-publishing.  The reality for all of this is your odds of success as a new author are less than .5% (that’s not 5% but 0.5%).  But someone is going to be successful.  The more shots you take, the better the odds.  Aiming better, for a writer, is writing better.  Just last night I saw another tweet from an agent, with all of two years in the business complaining that ‘even published authors must follow our guidelines for submission’.  Do you know how many different guidelines are out there? Must use this font. Must be single-spaced synopsis, double-spaced synopsis. Only send one page. Ten pages. Nothing but a five-sentence query letter. Must send marketing plan. You break one of my rules I won’t even open it and look at it. You just get rejected without me ever reading your book because form is more important than the quality of your book, at least that’s the message. So go ahead and keep rejecting based on form.  Short-sighted.

Agents.  Come up with a standard query format for fiction.  You constantly complain about what you get and how it doesn’t follow your specific format.  You’re no more important than the writer who actually wrote the book.   The AAR needs to adopt a standard query format.  A writer submitting hundreds of queries can’t spend weeks adopting their query to each specific agent’s desires.  The funny thing about this one is:  it will help agents clean out their slush pile that much quicker.  Win-win all around.  When I propose this, an echoing silence from all those agents who tweet-complain about their slush pile.

The twist on this is that the diamonds will follow my three rules of rule breaking in Warrior Writer anyway.

Writers:  Detail for your agent your career plan.  Give them your strategic and tactical goals as developed under Special Force One (What) of Warrior Writer.  Show them you have a future and a plan.  Then work with your agent to see how they can help you.

Agents:  Come up with a training program for your writers.  Just getting a writer a book contract doesn’t mean they know anything at all about how to be an author.  Hell, use my Warrior Writer book and program if you want.  But to not train your authors is to propagate the 90% failure rate for first novels.  We just can’t afford such a failure rate in today’s market.  Do you have a Standing Operating Procedure you give to each of your newly signed authors?    In the long run, this will save you time and give you a higher success rate.  Yet, not a single agent or editor I’ve talked to has an SOP for new authors.  The first thing we did when a new team member joined our A-Team was hand them our team SOP.  Writers, agents and editors need to be a team, but leaving the writer ignorant helps no one.

Authors:  Follow up.  I was stunned when I heard that only 10% of authors who get requested to send further material after a one-on-one at a conference (BTW, most agents tell everyone to send material) follow through.  Then I thought about it.  For years I’ve been telling authors who invest good money to attend my workshops to feel free to follow up with query letters, synopsis, whatever, after the workshop.  Less than 10% do.  So I believe that percentage.

It’s a rough world out there now that the Borg have arrived.  But they are here.  Wishing for the good old days and for them to go away is like the dinosaur wishing it hadn’t strayed into the tar pit.  Assimilate and succeed.

Write It Forward.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 219,140 other followers

%d bloggers like this: