This is what I got when I put WORLDS THAT NEVER WERE into Wordle. What fun!

Created by Jonathan Feinberg, Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. The images you create with Wordle are yours to use however you like. You can print them out, or save them to the Wordle gallery to share with your friends.

Taking stock: Beautifying your blog on a budget

Let images do some writing for you. The photo below sets the tone for this post and hopefully sparks some interest.

I grabbed this image from iStockphoto.

I could have chosen any image to use as an example, but this one fit my mood this rainy Saturday morning.

Over on the awesome copyblogger site, Sonia Simone talks about using images to get the biggest bang out of a blog post (while putting in the least amount of work). Wouldn’t we all love to get on with more important stuff–for me that’s writing fiction–not to mention spending time with my husband and my dog.

Sonia says, and I agree, writing a great blog post is a lot of work. There’s the planning, the headline, the writing, the rewriting, the rewriting, the rewriting.

Images are steroids for your headline, you can set an emotional tone and arouse curiosity through pictures. What fun.

Sonia suggests two sources to grab images. The first is iStockphoto, which is my favorite. It has a wide selection of stock photography at very good prices. For a blog post, you can use their smallest size image, which will run you a little over $1 depending on how many credits you buy at a time. I downloaded the picture above from the dollar bin of iStockphoto. I also did a search on “Halloween” and found 15,256 photos to choose from.

Photo by freeparking

The second source Sonya suggests is the Flickr Creative Commons, which is where the non-copyright images on Flickr are found. Each image is available under one of six customized licenses built to influence where and how each image can be used. From the Flickr Creative Commons page, you can enter search portals for each of the six licenses.

I didn’t like Flickr as well as iStockphoto because I found the different licenses confusing. Still, the photos on Creative Commons are free, as long as you credit the photographer. And I found Skellie’s article A Complete Guide to Finding and Using Incredible Flickr Images helpful in explaining the six licenses.

I did the same search for “Halloween” under the Attribution Licensed photos and got 25,550 matches. This license allows you to modify the images (by cropping them, or writing on them, for example) and to use them in both commercial and non-commercial spaces. The only requirement is that you credit the author with a link back to their profile. Other licenses restrict users, for example you can download the images, but not modify them.

You’re forbidden to use Flickr images marked as copyrighted (or “All rights reserved”) for your own purposes unless you get explicit permission from the author. Who has time for that?

Time for me to quit procrastinating querying agents, submitting my short stories and writing new work. Although playing with images was certainly much more fun. I don’t think I’ll get much more writing done today. Harry and I plan on watching some scary movies this afternoon–the rain suggests cuddling indoors.

Thanks to my marketing writer husband for the post title.

My debut novel and the economy

As the subprime mortgage crisis threatens the U.S. economy, I am shopping my first novel around to agents. This could possibly be the worst time to debut as a novelist.

Fewer books, bigger deals—No room for debuts? A frost is coming to publishing. This the shocking subtitle of Baby, It’s Going to Be Cold Outside in Book Publishing, a gloom and doom article brought to you by THE NEW YORK OBSERVER.

According to the article, only the most established agents will be able to convince publishers to take a chance on an unknown novelist like me. My query, synopsis, and of course my novel, had better be razor-sharp or I don’t stand a chance of convincing one of those established agents to take a chance on a newbie. Rather than backing down, I’m going to rise to the challenge. I know that some of the agencies I’m querying receive upwards of 200 queries per week.

Meanwhile, on BookEnds, Jessica Faust says:
While books are selling and BookEnds has in fact made a number of deals in the past few weeks, publishers are understandably going to start getting tougher and deals are getting smaller. Authors are going to start to seeing lower advance numbers and, yes, lower royalties. And everyone is going to take fewer risks. It was hard to sell a new unpublished, unproven author two months ago, imagine what it must be like now.

Tess Gerritsen says:
… as I travel from town to town, from bookstore to bookstore, one thing that’s struck me is how quiet all the stores are. In mall stores, in superstores, in major chains and small independents, customers seem to be missing. Many booksellers have told me that traffic has been way down these past few weeks, and they’re concerned. I know it’s of little comfort to booksellers, but nothing else seems to be selling either. Malls are deserted. Stores selling clothing and furniture and kitchenware are all silent. No one seems to be spending money.

What does it mean for the book industry?

Books, unlike milk and bread, are discretionary purchases.

The bar just went up–I never learned the high jump, but I’m going to get a pole and start practicing.


In searching for an agent for my young adult novel, I discovered Nathan Bransford’s blog. He wrote a post titled HOW TO FIND A LITERARY AGENT. He says, “Welcome to publishing, the land of books, writing, and agonizingly long waits. Pour yourself a drink. You’re going to need it.”

Is he right! So far, I’ve sent out only one query letter to an agent and received a form rejection letter not even 24 hours later.

Agent search

I have compiled a list of the top 20 agencies that I would like to represent me in finding a publisher for my young adult novel, THE MAGIC QUILT. Now that I’ve done my homework, I plan to contact my top five agents and then use any feedback I get from those submissions before contacting others. I’m hoping to get my first queries out this week. I want someone knowledgeable with the young adult market and historical fiction/fantasy. It is important to me to find the right match for my book, someone who will be passionate in marketing it. Because I also write adult fiction, I am hoping to find an agency that represents both young adult and adult fiction. I am a little scared to send out the first query because it is such a big step.

There are so many sources of information on agencies in books and on the Web, it was hard to know where to begin searching. I had a few recommendations from fellow writers, which I used to start my list. After floundering a bit in all the available resources, I decided to use CHILDREN’S WRITER’S & ILLUSTRATOR’S MARKET, but I found only a few agencies there. I moved on to Agent Query and used that site to grow my list. Now I have my top 20, but I’ve got to narrow the list even further to my top five.

So far I have:
• searched each agency’s web site carefully and read the agent’s blogs, if any.
• read each agent’s submission guidelines so I can send them what they want–a query, sample chapters, outline, synopsis–and how they want it–electronic or snail main
• looked up recent sales for the specific agent at the agency I want to represent me in PublishersMarketplace to be sure the agent is a good match for my book.
• checked in Predators and Editors to be sure there are no black marks against the agency
• Searched for each agent in Association of Authors Representatives (US) or the Association of Authors Agents (UK).

I am ready to begin contacting agents. Wish me luck in finding THE MAGIC QUILT a good home.