Heart vs. Brain: the Business of Writing

Heart vs. Brain: the Business of Writing

by Natalie Bright

At a community book fair, I shared a table with a energetic lady who self-published a lovely book about her life-time passion of quilting. As it goes at these events with other authors, the conversation always tends to be about writing. Her questions shocked me: “What’s an agent?” “How can I sign-up for social media?”

There seems to be a change occurring within publishing that troubles me. I’ve seen a mother re-arrange the event stage and podium for her writer-daughter, authors texting and ignoring readers at their table, hateful comments to event planners, unapproachable attitudes towards the general public, and misinformed authors who demand that book store owners  “make my book a bestseller”.

I do know of an author who was dropped by Amazon because of the posted book reviews, and this author is extremely bitter and disheartened as you can well imagine. And yet the comments were about bad grammar, senseless plot, and numerous typos.

The opportunities for writers are HUGE, but people are jumping in with both feet before even learning about the industry. After pouring heart and soul into a novel, which is years in the making, it’s devastating when faced with rejection, but it seems some authors sabotage their own work by their lack of understanding and their attitude. What happened to friendly professionalism? The best advice; put your heart into the writing and use your brain to be successful.

A Questionnaire for Your Brain

Do I have a well-written manuscript that is the best that it can be?

Does it exhibit a general understanding of genre structure and story craft?

Is it grammatically correct?

Do I want only eBook versions, or print copies as well?

Do I have the budget to ensure my work is a professional, finished product?

Am I clear about my target market; who will buy my book?

How can I reach my target market; social media, speaking, emails?

Do I have the time to successfully promote my book?

Am I willing to act in a professional manner to do all I can to ensure success for my book?

If I don’t understand all that I need to know, am I willing to learn or pay someone who can help me be successful?

Agent: Yes or No?

Read about agents, editors, publicists, and publishers, if you don’t know the difference.

My manuscript is complete; should I consider an agent?

Does my book have a universal theme which would appeal to a major publishing house?

Is my theme more specific with a limited target market?

Should I consider small, regional or university presses where I can submit directly without an agent?

Can I Have it All?

You may have a vision of what you want, but it may not be a practical vision. Talk to other authors and learn from their mistakes and successes. Join a professional writer’s group, attend the meetings, and ask questions. Learn all you can about story craft and the publishing industry. I have talked to too many people who’ve paid good money resulting in no book in hand. Be receptive to other people’s ideas and then make a decision that best suits your situation. Today, I think that YES, writers can have it all.  You might have one story suitable for an eBook and you might have one story suitable for a regional press.

As in my case, I self-published a nonfiction day-job-related book that has done extremely well based on word of mouth throughout the industry. I had a platform for promotion. However, I’m working with an agent for my children’s historical fiction because I wanted a whole team of publishing professionals behind me. The characters seem larger than life (heart talking), and my brain wants to reach the highest potential of seeing these books in a school library some day.

Go ahead and dream big. Write the book of your heart, make it the best that it can be, and then take your personal feelings out of the equation. As a professional, use your brain to achieve your dreams.

I’m excited for you and can’t wait to read your story, and mostly, I hope your publishing experience is a positive one.

Thanks for following WordsmithSix!


Make a fortune by doing nothing!

Make a fortune by doing nothing! 

If you’ve been around the block once, you’ve heard them, the get rich quick schemes. “Work part time for thousands of dollars a week!” “Get rich with minimal or no effort!”

Get Rich

Let’s get real. Most people run from this kind of hyped up claims—or do we?

Somehow the idea that a new writer can write a book, publish it and sit back to rake in the money without any work is alive and well today.

You may have an agent and a publishing house contract, and yes, you may have a good book, but the world doesn’t know it. You must promote it.


By every means possible you must promote your work: word of mouth, business cards and fliers, libraries, writing conferences and book signings. Use electronic promotions such as a website or a blog. Social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, and Pinterest also create large platforms for your writing.


The truth is if you are going to be successful, you not only have to write a good book, but you must work hard and sell it too.

Rory C. Keel

By the Book

Outtakes 27

 By the Book

I admit to being a stickler for rules. If I’m told “no exceptions”, I don’t ask. If my manager says an hour of overtime per day, I rearrange my schedule. If my assignment is due on Friday, I’ll have it done by Thursday at the latest. I find I land in trouble when I don’t read and follow the rules. Case in point; I didn’t read the rules on a slot machine and cheated myself out of money.

I’m not a big gambler, but sometimes I enjoy playing the slots or a little Black Jack. Recently, three of my sisters and I drove to Wichita Falls, Texas, to celebrate our older sister’s birthday. Part of the celebration was a trip over the border to a small casino in Oklahoma. The place is not big enough for Craps, Black Jack, or Roulette. Their staple is slot machines. I sat down at a penny or nickel machine, loaded it with a twenty dollar bill, and hit spin. Had I read the “about this game” information, I would have realized I won a bonus round on my first spin. I kept racking up points until I did not make the minimum for the round. Instead of cashing out, I played off the bonus credits. I did have a nice sum when I cashed out, but had I read the information, I would have made more money.

The same goes for submitting your work to an agent or editor. Agents and editors are truly busy people. They cannot read every manuscript, so an author must do their homework and make the submission shine. Check the website for submission guidelines. Keep in mind, these are not suggestions, they are actual rules to follow when sending your work. Some agents or editors will request a cover letter, synopsis, and the first three chapters. Check for the length for the synopsis. The agent may want a maximum of three pages, or perhaps one page. Please do not send ten pages. You will not be read. If the guidelines say three chapters, do not send the entire manuscript.  Make sure you spell the name correctly. Check for the genres the agency represents. Whatever you do, do not submit your erotica to a Christian publishing house.

There are some basics to follow. Standard font and type style is Times New Roman or Courier New 12 pt. Script is impossible to read, and fancy fonts are not professional. Use a good quality bond paper. White only! I’ve disqualified contest entries because the submission was received on gray or baby blue paper. Margins should be one inch all around, and the type should be on one side only. Use black ink. Pink or purple may be your favorite colors, but editors will not appreciate your creativity.  Double space your manuscript. Do not include your photograph, your child’s picture, or a puppy photo. The agent will not be impressed. Proof read. Proof read. Proof read.  Ask a friend to proof read the submission for you.

Remember, writing is a business, and rules must be followed. Want to know more about writing for the editor? Check out the Panhandle Professional Writers’ website at pandhandleprowriters.org for information regarding the Frontiers in Writing Let’s Write Weekend, June 29-30, 2012 in Amarillo, Texas. Hilary Sares, former acquiring editor for a New York publishing house, will present workshops on meeting editors’ expectations. Y’all come. We’d sure like to meet you.

Cait Collins



I’m fortunate to have four of my five sisters living here in Amarillo. Once the repairs were completed, they came over to help me move the furniture into place and make the place a home. Sister #5 has a flair for interior decorating and she’s not shy about letting you know she doesn’t like your ideas. I spent time drawing room layouts to scale just to make sure everything would fit and she didn’t like it. When I left the living room, Number 5 rearranged a section to her taste. Then she started on my office.

Now don’t get me wrong. I appreciate her efforts. I’m not the best designer, and she has good ideas. I’d even admit I like her placements better, but I don’t want to give her a big head. Still, she could have asked about moving the television and chair instead of greeting my return with the finished product. Honestly, the room looks great, so I will overlook the ambush.

As writers, we need to be open to a different perspective on our work. Face it we are too close to the piece to always be objective. “My mother loves it,” is not a critique. Mother loves you and will gush over your story. You need unbiased reader or a critique group. I’m have both. My reader is honest but fair, and I have the best critique group around. These folks allow me the chance to step back and take a critical look at my project. Have I left out vital information? Does the current scene contradict a previous scene? Are my characters always acting appropriately? Often they are correct in their assessments, but they are never cruel and always willing to discuss their suggestions. We do not always agree, but I have fresh ideas and the opportunity to accept or reject their viewpoints. They respect me and my talent, and in turn, I respect them.

Not all readers or critique groups are good. Unfortunately, some writers are more focused on “rip it apart” instead of “can we help make it better”. Look for writers with personalities compatible with yours. You want and need support and advice, not slash and burn. Remember, you are not married to your group. If it’s not working out, you can and should walk. Do not give up on finding the individual or team to help you be your very best. Better to receive criticism from people who care about you and your manuscript than be ambushed by an agent or editor.

Cait Collins