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SPAWNews, March, 2007

Wendy Dager, Editor

For contributions to the newsletter and Letters to the Editor, please e-mail the editor of SPAWNews:

Those of you who are SPAWN members, be sure to visit the Members Only Area to read this month's Market Update. Go to the first page of the site, and click on the "Visit Member Area" button. You will be asked to log in.

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Table of Contents

- Editor’s Note


- Market Update

- Q&A

- Book Review

- Book Marketing Idea

- Ask the Book Doctor

- Member News

- Opportunities

- Contests

- Events and More

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Editor’s Note

By Wendy Dager

I wouldn’t call it giving up. It’s more like moving on.

After almost seven years of trying to market my novel, I Murdered the PTA, I’ve decided to do something different. I’m not abandoning "PTA" entirely—a synopsis is still on my Web site in case there’s a publisher that wants a humorous story of murder, mystery and mayhem—along with a little rock-and-roll.

But I’m not sure it’s ever going to happen. I’m not being negative—I’d like to think of my attitude as cautious realism.

"PTA" has an interesting history. As a writer of nonfiction, I decided to try fiction on a whim. The idea for "PTA" came to me in mid-2000, based on my experiences as an oddball mom in stereotypical Southern California suburbia. It took about a month to write the novel and a little longer to hone it. Because it’s so hard to sell fiction directly to publishers, I queried numerous agents and received form letter rejections. I was contacted by one, who, I believe, heard about me through SPAWN. She became my agent, but I lost her when she got out of the business. I found another agent within a year, but she left the agency and turned me over to another agent at the same agency. I liked her, but she kept telling me to backburner "PTA" and that I needed to break in by writing a nonfiction book instead.

What she wanted me to do was dish the dirt on my hometown. I never did, even though I knew plenty, being not just a card-carrying member of the PTA, but a local newspaper opinion columnist. Why didn’t I do it? Because I still have to live there. I had scary visions of deranged soccer moms carrying torches and pitchforks and copies of my evil tell-all book, converging on my faux Victorian abode, calling for my head.

So I entered "PTA" in a couple of contests, hoping to garner enough attention to get a publishing deal. It won an Honorable Mention in the 13th Annual Writers Network Screenplay & Fiction Competition—which was a nice thing to put on my Web site, but didn’t seem to impress my agent. Then, a friend sent me the link to CourtTV’s "Search for the Next Great Crime Writer" contest, which the network ran online late last year in conjunction with one of its television shows, featuring stories narrated by well-known crime and mystery authors. "PTA" made it to the top five out of about nine hundred entries. The final-round judging was by popular, online vote and—well—you can probably tell that this oddball mom/newspaper opinion columnist/lone writer doesn’t exactly have the biggest friends and family network.

I lost.

But, once again, "Top Five Finalist" looks cool on my Web site.

I sent queries to two more agents and both responded with personalized rejection letters saying my writing is good, but I should write something else.

I’m finally taking the hint. I’m working on a new novel. It’s going slowly, but I’m a better writer than I was when I wrote "PTA" and, as my kids are a lot older and require less attention, I have more time to work.

Why did I share this story with you? Because we often talk about our successes and failures, but rarely do we mention the projects that are neither. Those are the ones that are the most difficult to categorize, to abandon, to love or to hate. But, lucky us, we get to learn from them—even if it takes seven years.

–Wendy Dager is editor of SPAWNews. Her Web site is

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Join SPAWN at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books

SPAWN members: display and sell your books from the SPAWN booth at the gigantic Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, April 28 and 29, 2007.

They expect 133,000 visitors this year. SPAWN has purchased two booths for SPAWN members only. Act now because space is limited.

Sign up for one day only at $200 or sign up for both days at $360.

Here's what you get: One-third booth, which gives you room to display and sell three titles and space for one poster on the back wall. Every member will have front-of-the-booth access to visitors. If you want to reserve two-thirds booth and display six titles, it's $400 for one day.

Don't miss this opportunity to sell lots of books, get that all-important exposure, make new contacts, network with other members and have a really good time.

Sign up now at: https://thor.

Write to or if you have any questions.

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Market Update

By Patricia Fry

SPAWN members tell us over and over again that they get their $45 annual membership fee back twofold—and more—after pursuing some of the opportunities and resources listed in just one issue of the SPAWN Market Update.

This month's SPAWN Market Update provides 15 specific ideas for building your PLATFORM. We offer links to directories for magazines that publish fiction and directories for agents who represent fiction books as well as short fiction. In fact, resources abound in this issue. Plus we introduce you to some traditional royalty publishers you've probably never heard of.

Here are a few of the important facts you’ll find this month:

  • Use this great directory of magazines where you can promote your novel through your short stories.
  • An invitation for POD self-published authors.
  • Not represented by an agent? A great list of small publishers who are seeking your manuscripts.
  • 15 terrific ways to get started on YOUR platform.
  • Access this impressive links page for screenwriters.
  • A highly recommended FREE marketing newsletter.
  • Do you wake up writing? For those who don’t, get stimulating daily writing prompts at this site.
  • Insightful hard facts why your self-published book isn’t always welcomed with open arms.

If you are not yet a member of SPAWN and would like to access Market Update and enjoy other benefits of membership, please join now online at

Note: If you are a free newsletter subscriber only, you must join SPAWN before you can access SPAWN’s "Members Only" area.

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I am at it once again! Searching through the Writers Market and attempting to find a publisher. I'm thinking I need to obtain an agent! Most publishers listed in the book require agents. Know any good ones? I've passed my "galley copy" around to various people and they all love my book. How do I make these publishing companies listen? How do I find publishing companies for my genre that aren't listed in the Writer's Market book? Any and all help are greatly appreciated.

Frustrated Author

Dear Author:

Good for you! I'm glad to hear from you again and to learn that you have not given up. It is certainly a long road for some—for most. I read yesterday that the first Harry Potter book was rejected over 100 times. Now don't you feel better knowing you're in good company?

Do you remember that I suggested going to the biggest bookstore in your town and looking at books like yours? See who is publishing them. Look up these publishers online, locate their submission guidelines and send the publishers what they want—query letter, sample chapters, synopsis, marketing plan, etc.

I am really preaching loudly these days about building a platform. This is also something you can be doing now. Your platform is your following, your way of attracting readers. As I have told you before, a publisher is concerned primarily with his bottom line. He wants to know if this book will make him some money.

Now, imagine this, a publisher receives three proposals for really good thriller stories. One author submits a synopsis and sample chapters.

The second author promises to be available to help promote his book.

The third author reveals the fact that she has had dozens of short stories published in magazines and ezines, she won first place in the Annual Thriller Writers of America competition, she is a member of Toastmasters and is working on honing her public speaking skills, and she has already scheduled speaking engagements designed to promote the book next year at six local civic organization meetings. She might also say that she is working on two additional books in this series and is planning a statewide tour with the trilogy in the fall of 2008.

Which author will the publisher be most inclined to choose? I'm telling you, it is more about the platform—the viability of the promotion plan—than even the quality of the writing.

Some authors get promises from corporations or charity organizations to purchase thousands of copies of the book as premiums for their customers or for fundraisers. Some authors start charities, build active Web sites (one where horror/thriller authors and readers can learn and share, for example) or find ways to make news. One of my clients wrote a novel about a homeless family. I suggested that he develop a program or even an organization to help local homeless people and then send press releases to newspapers nationwide. His publisher would be thrilled to know that he would go to such lengths to get this kind of publicity.

To find a good agent, look at books like yours and read the acknowledgments page. Often, authors will thank their agents here. I prefer that you choose an agent who is a member of AAR. Then you know they are credible.

As you know from reading my book, The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book, AAR agents are listed at And remember, agents specialize, so find one who works with authors of books like yours. Send appropriate agents a query letter and anything else that particular agent requests.

I've been suggesting for a long time that you submit some of your stories to magazines. This would be an excellent time for you to be doing this—as I mentioned above, getting published adds to your platform.

Have you spent time looking through the resources at Web sites related to thriller/horror books? They sometimes list publishers and agents. They might post book titles. Who publishes those books? Who represents them?

Do a Google search using keywords like "thriller agent" (or publisher), or "agent for thriller book."

It's all about heavy-duty research, perseverance, continuously building your platform, sending the publisher exactly what he requests (in his submission guidelines) AND addressing the publisher's bottom line by telling him what you have done, are doing and are willing to do to help him make money on this book.

You might reread the sections in my book on how to approach a publisher/agent and how to prepare a book proposal.

Wishing you the very best in your endeavors.


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Book Review

By Patricia Fry

The Positive Dictionary: Only Words With Positive Messages

By Dr. Phil Minnaar

EKSAL Quality Systems—Canada, 2006

ISBN: 0-9732042-1-4

141 pages—$12.95 (US)

Dr. Phil Minnaar has a PhD in educational management and computer science. He devised this book of words—all with positive connotations—in order to spread the message of the many benefits of a positive attitude toward life. The author says that anyone can use this dictionary to write more positive letters, but he also encourages writers to use it in their quest to choose the right word for the right situation.

To read the full review of The Positive Dictionary: Only Words With Positive Messages, go to

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Book Review

By Patricia Fry

Becoming Your Own Critique Partner

By Janet Lane Walters and Jane Toombs

Zumaya Publications, January 2006

236 pages—$14.95. EBook—$6.99

ISBN 13:978-1-55410-293-8

Here’s a new book from our own Elizabeth Burton’s Zumaya Publications. But rather than the usual fantasy, thriller, historical novel or romance, this is a nonfiction book for writers of fiction. They’ve published it under their Zumaya Writer’s Workshop series.

Authors Janet Lane Walters and Jane Toombs bring to this book more than fifty years of writing experience. Their purpose is to help writers polish their novels without the help of a critique group.

How many of you rely on your critique group to help mold your novels? And how many of you have moved and lost contact with your group or watched your group dissolve over time? It can be devastating and depressing. But, according to Walters and Toombs, all is not lost.

To read the full review of Becoming Your Own Critique Partner, go to

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Book Marketing Idea of the Month

How to Successfully Promote Your Book at a Book Festival

By Patricia L. Fry

(Excerpted from Patricia Fry’s article, "How to Work a Book Festival So it Works For You." )

The huge Los Angeles Times Festival of Books is next month. Are you signed up to join us in selling books? Time is short—so don’t delay.

There are hundreds of book and author festivals held throughout the U.S. each year where you can rent a booth and sell books. Authors can also secure booths at trade fairs, flea markets and art and craft fairs.

Read about what to expect and how to prepare for a book festival at

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Ask the Book Doctor: About Categorizing Manuscripts, Handling Pet Names and Terms of Endearment, Recommended Manuscript Lengths, and Hiring Practices

By Bobbie Christmas

Q: I am writing a book proposal. How do I categorize my book beyond nonfiction? It is a family saga with issues related to custody, mental illness, individual challenges faced by two young boys and others, and the failure of social services agencies.

A: You are correct in thinking that your proposal will have to clearly define the label on the bookstore shelf where the book should be displayed. My first thoughts are to say that it falls under biography, relationships, and psychology, but I’m not an expert in this field. To be sure, visit a bookstore, find other biographical books on relationships that deal with mental health issues, and see how those books are categorized. I think psychology may be the winner, because it's also a popular category, but to be sure, do your homework by visiting a store.

Read about these and other interesting topics at

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Member News

Note: To have your announcements included in this section, you must be a paid member of SPAWN. Please e-mail your news to

Writer's Rainbow director Tamara Kaye Sellman recently received her second nomination for the Pushcart Prize via Pushcart's contributing editors' board. She was previously nominated for her short story, "The Rosaries of Raggedy Ann," which appeared in Rosebud in 1997. Links:,,

Patricia Fry will speak at Borders in Thousand Oaks, California on Tuesday, March 13 at 7:00 p.m. at the Ventura County Writers Club meeting. This event is open to the public. Patricia's topic is "How to Succeed as a Published Author." What will your SPAWN president say are the two most important things to consider BEFORE publishing a book? As a bonus, you'll learn how to build promotion into your book while you're writing it and how to establish a solid platform. Don't miss this opportunity to learn how to experience greater success.

Authors in the Atlanta area can attend Patricia Fry's workshop at the Spring Book Show 2007 Author-Publisher Seminar March 23-24. Go to to register.

Wendy Dager’s second career as a voice over artist is taking off. You can hear her narrate an online baby announcement at the Web site of Greetingflix, If you need a voice for your Web site, audiobook, or telephone system, go to Wendy’s Web site to hear samples and to contact her.

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Women’s Artistic Network promotes women networking with other women to achieve success in the artistic world. Women’s Artistic Network is the brainchild of a group of area women who want to inspire, support and jump start women with creative endeavors. Membership is open to professional women and to women who are just starting out, who want to network in the arts, want validation for their work, or who seek help either in writing, art, and music or those hoping to enter the world of public speaking. Newly elected officers are: President, Carol Doering, Simi Valley, Vice Presidents, Kateri Alexander, Westlake Village and Diantha Ain, Simi Valley, Treasurer, Margaret Brownley, Simi Valley and Secretary, Mary Shaffer, Van Nuys. The group meets on the second Monday of each month. Novelist Margaret Brownley is featured in March. For more information contact Carol Doering at 805-493-1081.

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Read about the latest contests at

Note: SPAWNews advises "caveat emptor" when dealing with venues, contests or promotions unknown to you.

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Events and More

Read about the coming events at

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SPAWN is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization.

Donations are tax deductible.

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Join SPAWN now and receive one FREE book! See the selection from which you can choose your book at the Member Benefits page. As a member, you can enjoy the benefits of the Members Only Area. There you will find:

  • Member Forum. In the SPAWN Forum, you can discuss publishing with knowledgeable published writers and publishers.
  • Market Update. This valuable Market Update will appear every month, letting us know exactly what is going on with magazine and book publishers.
  • Event Calendar where you can submit your events. After approval, your events will be available for all members to see.
  • Member Webpages where you can upload your HTML pages to build your own Web site. Your Web pages will be viewable by everyone on the Internet.
  • Member Catalog where you can list your books and services
  • Member Discussion list where you can discuss your triumphs and questions with your publishing peers.
Join SPAWN now by clicking on the "Join SPAWN Now" button at the top of this page.

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SPAWNews SPAWN is a nonprofit corporation. Donations are tax deductible.

Small Publishers, Artists & Writers Network

PMB 123

323 E. Matilija St., Suite 110

Ojai, CA 93023


Telephone: 805-646-3045

Fax: 805-640-8213

Wendy Dager

SPAWNews Editor, Membership and Database Coordinator


Virginia Lawrence, Ph.D.

SPAWN Webmaster


Virginia Lawrence, Ph.D.

SPAWN Executive Director


Patricia Fry

SPAWN President



To promote the literary arts and provide education, information, resources and a supportive networking environment for artists, writers, and other creative people interested in the publishing process.

Submission Guidelines

Members and Nonmembers: Please send your press releases, seminar information, and books for review to Wendy Dager, Editor, SPAWNews

PMB 123

323 E. Matilija St., Suite 110

Ojai, CA 93023

or email

SPAWN membership dues are $45 per year; spouses, half-price. Make your check payable to SPAWN and mail to P.O. Box 2653, Ventura, CA 93002-2653. Or click on Member Application to fill out the secure online form and pay your dues by credit card.

SPAWNews, Member Directory and Web site listings, and discounts for SPAWN events are included in membership.

SPAWN is a nonprofit corporation. Donations are tax deductible.

Small Publishers, Artists & Writers Network

PMB 123

323 E. Matilija St., Suite 110

Ojai, CA 93023



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