Nancy's Books

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Small Publishers/Biography/Contest

Entering contests can pay off. I’m living proof. This weekend, I won a contest in which I had the golden opportunity to talk with literary agent Mark McVeigh. McVeigh had sage advice for writers trying to break into the publishing world. Here are the highlights of our conversation:

*Picture books are not top priority with large publishers but these books will make a comeback.
*Pitch to smaller, regional publishers. They produce top quality picture and chapter books and they keep books in print longer.

Check out McVeigh’s new blog at Sign up as a Follower so you can keep up with the latest in the publishing industry.

In celebration of my latest book, Happy Birthday, the Story of the World’s Most Popular Song, I’m continuing with tips on writing biographies.

Choose a subject that interests you. If you hate baseball or don’t find the sport interesting, maybe a biography on Babe Ruth is not your best choice. When you select a person you want to write about, get nosy. Become a fact-finding detective. Sniff out juicy details. Most writers find facts from at least two different sources before using them in a biography.

Fire up the beginning with a bang. The first sentence should reach out and capture the attention of your reader. Babe Ruth was born in 1895 may be accurate, but is it fun reading? Does it fire up with a bang? Is the first sentence exciting enough for the reader to continue? Try beginning with a little known fact about the person or an interesting statement. Continue the flow as you weave intriguing and relevant [also called juicy] facts into the story.

Teachers, here’s a fun writing activity.

Make biography boxes.
Who would you like to see on the next box of Wheaties? Create biography boxes by pasting an illustration that reflects the person’s life on one side of the box. Write a biography of the person and paste it on the opposite side. The inside of the box can be used to store items that represent the person’s life.

Invite students to share their biographies and boxed items with the class.


This contest will whet your writing appetite. National Public Radio is having a "Three-Minute Fiction" writing contest: http://www.npr. org/templates/ story/story. php?storyId= 123573329. The deadline is Feb. 28, 2010 and the maximum word count in 600. Have fun creating a story based on a photograph.

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  1. Thanks, Marge. Congratulations on the job at Cordia. Woo hoo!

  2. Hi, Nancy. Congrats on winning! BTW, I tried out your link to NPR and it seems to be broken. :( I'll try to find it on my own, but thought you'd like to know. :)

  3. Thank you for the tips! I've often wondered about the smaller regional publishers for that very reason. And you're right, that contest does whet the appetite.

  4. Amy, Small regional publishers are often more open to unpublished writers and most produce beautiful books. The marketing teams work individually with authors.

  5. Nancy, as a former teacher I love that you incorporate classroom ideas for teachers into your blog posts. Almost makes me wish I was back in the classroom The history boxes are a great idea! Congratulations on your win, too. Also glad to have found you through the Blog Chain. -- Donna B. Russell,

  6. Your blog is very helpful. Inspired me to try a few contests. I've never had much luck with that sort of thing, but nothing ventured nothing gained.