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Answering your questions about writing, publishing, and marketing books

By Sarka-Jonae Miller

August 5, 2015 (San Diego’s East County) – How does a writer know what's right for their work with so many different opinions from agents, publishers, and articles? What is your suggestion for handling backstory?Linda Crawford

One of the most difficult tasks when pursuing a book deal is creating content that is exactly what literary agents and publishers are looking for, especially since no two publishers or agents agree. Therefore, when getting feedback you have to consider if the source is someone who has a serious interest in working with you as well as whether you want to work with that person.

For example, I had a few literary agents give me great feedback when I sent in my first draft of Between Boyfriends years ago. However, only one seemed interested in taking a second look after the changes were made, so I took her advice over that of other agents. 

Many authors make the mistake of thinking that feedback is an invitation to resubmit, and it often isn't. Do not make changes to appease an agent who does not specifically say that he or she wants you to send the manuscript back, unless you like what they suggest regardless. If you get conflicting advice, prioritize feedback from people who are the most serious about signing you.

As far as writing advice from articles, I don't recommend following it unless the article outlines general writing issues, such as showing instead of telling or something like the industry standard for word count. Direct feedback from an agent or publisher who has read your work is much more useful. Also, things change so quickly in the publishing world that you also rank newer advice above anything that is six months old or older.

In regards to backstory, readers are no longer willing to read through pages and pages of backstory in the beginning of a book; neither are literary agents and publishers. A lot of people don't like prologues either, but sometimes a short prologue that is meant to be a newspaper article or journal entry can sum up important information without turning off your reader.

Sprinkling backstory in throughout the first few chapters is ideal. Another trick is to begin the book at an exciting point, such as car chase or confrontation, and then flashback to show the less exciting events that led up to it. This could allow you to hook the reader enough that he or she will continue reading when the pace slows down.

The most important thing to remember is to always keep the plot moving. Never try to write large chunks of backstory. Having your characters talk about what happened in the past through dialogue keeps readers in the present and doesn't make them feel like they're reading backstory.

SJ's Favorite Freebies: Don't miss your chance to get my steamy romance FALLING FOR YOU free AuguFalling for You by SJ Miller is free for kindlest 6-10 from Amazon. An author I know from Facebook, Deborah Nam-Krane, is offering her chick-lit novel, The Smartest Girl in the Room, free today through August 8. Also, the romantic suspense novel You Loved Me At My Darkest by Evie Harper is free through August 28. The cozy mystery novel Lost Witness by Marla Bradeen is free through August 31.


Got questions?

Send them to Sarka-Jonae through Twitter @sarkajonae, Facebook, or via her author website.

About Sarka-Jonae Miller

SJ is a local author, book marketing manager, publicist, and columnist who writes chick lit and steamy romance based in San Diego and Los Angeles. Her novels include the Between Boyfriends series and the All for You series. SJ also writes health and fitness articles for The Best Years in Life and Natural News.

Check out her Between Boyfriends blog for book reviews, author interviews, TV episode synopses, and giveaways. Follow @sarkajonae and @sjpublicity9 on Twitter for more writing tips, book recommendations, and industry news. Get health and exercise articles from @sjnews9.

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Thanks for the comment and

Thanks for the comment and the question, Carol. I'll use your question for a column as I'm sure many others have the same inquiry.

Great article

I think I read "Between Boyfriends." The title and the book blurb sound very familiar. I have purchased a couple of your books, but haven't read them yet. I did enjoy reading this article, and I concur with the ideas you've passed along. Since I am a self-published author, I haven't had much experience with agents or traditional publishers. However, sometimes I'm tempted to submit something to an agent to see if there is an interest. What are your thoughts on that?