Monday, 22 February 2010

Guest Review: The Writer's Essential Tackle Box, by Lynn Price

We all know the lovely Lynn Price of Behler Publications, and her fantastically useful and funny blog: now you can get your hands on a great big chunk of her advice in this beautiful and fascinating book, The Writer's Essential Tackle Box: Getting a Hook on the Publishing Industry. This review, from Lyndsey R. Davis, is for the American edition of the book: but in May a UK edition is going to appear from prizewinning independent publisher, Snowbooks (who, regular readers will know, happen to be one of my absolute favourite publishers). Watch out for it!

With the abundance of ‘how to write’ blogs and books on the market, Lynn Price, of Behler Publications, tackles the issue from a fresh perspective in The Writer’s Essential Tackle Box. It’s not a fishy story. She deals with issues that others do not cover.

For a published author re-entering the game, or the newbie bursting with story ideas, the process can be daunting. Ms. Price gives an insider’s view of the industry using a Question and Answer format, interviewing the Who’s Who of the publishing world; her pithy remarks clarify while engaging the reader. Many books present an author’s single point of view how something should be done; Ms. Price’s experts corroborate—in their own words—what works.

Navigating the book is easy. The four sections have subheadings which direct the reader to specific topics—no need to use the index. However, the latter avails a quick search.

Section 1: The Interviews offers over two hundred pages packed with pragmatic approaches. Agents such as Andrea Brown, Rita Rosenkranz, Peter Cox and Laurie McLean elaborate on procuring representation. Wilda Williams of Library Journal, Jim Cox of Midwest Book Review, and Lauren Roberts of BiblioBuffet suggest ways to use their services in expanding a book’s exposure. Jerry D. Simmons clarifies the murky waters of publishing: the pros and cons of big and small houses, explaining the complex system of book sales and returns. Amy Collins and Sharon Goldinger detail what a Book Shepherd does for those who elect to self-publish, and how they are distinct from vanity presses. Writing on tours and bookstore signings, Gayle Shanks adds to Ms Price’s tips for the prepared author. George Foster illustrates the secrets of cover design. Greg Snider answers questions about distribution, while Ingram and Lightning Source disclose warehousing facts, information excluded from most ‘how-to’ books for writers. Mike Sirota promotes the independent editor’s role in producing a polished work. Victoria Strauss and Peter Cox shed light on how to connect with the cyber world and internet resources. Anita Halton and Annie Jennings spell out why authors need publicists and public relations specialists. Website creation is no longer the elusive fish with Cathy Scott’s design. Ms. Price hooks the reader with her introductions and simplifies with her summaries.

Section 2: “Forget the bait, pass me the Maalox”: The Submission Process provides the prospective author with a step-by-step, hilarious approach to the often painful journey. Here, the pragmatic lessons begin: busting the myths that are foisted on anxious writers, enumerating instructions on The Log Line, the Pitch, the Author’s Bio, query letters, synopses, and the fateful rejection. However, this section ends on a high note with the Promotion plan.

Section 3: “Chumming the Waters” distinguishes between commercial publishers, vanity presses, and print on demand, and adds to Jerry Simmon’s interview on publishing. Ms. Price itemizes the nitty-gritty issues in succinct nibbles: cash flow, print runs, pricing, reviews, marketing, sales force, disclosure and more. With this information, the aspiring author can recognize the pitfalls and make informed choices.

Section 4: “The Writer’s Survival Style Guide” is packed, like sardines, with the ‘worst and best examples’ of writing. Ms. Price updates the standard that was set by Strunk and White’s Elements of Style with this lexicon of contemporary editing because it’s more readable and humorous. In this text, a writer learns to recognize a ‘sick’ submission and give it a proper four-part autopsy. However, a worthy submission may emerge after the surgery on the Fluffitis, Backstoryosis, Dialog Tagococcal, and Pointofviewicemia and overloaded descriptions with a heavy emphasis on telling instead of showing. Though she doesn’t state a resurrection is possible, her examples offer hope that rewrites will distill the essence of a good story and if mixed with a balance of description and dialog, it may be possible to recover from a case of Dullitis.

Ms. Price anticipates questions that a reader, unfamiliar with the industry, might have. She presents a lexicon that includes more than a glossary of terms. Her clear examples show how it should be done, and complex definitions become understandable. Though this book serves a new writer well, the savvy author will enjoy the sage reminders, profound insights, and recommendations, to say nothing of reveling in her wit.

Some books lend themselves to becoming dog-eared—no doubt supported by the margarita-making beagle. Thumbed pages and bent corners reflect its usefulness. This book meets that criterion because it satisfies a need in every writer. Unfortunately, for those who claim they can only afford a single comprehensive reference on writing, Ms. Price has removed any excuse for someone not to tackle the writing and editing of a piece.

Lyndsey Davis writes fiction and non-fiction, since retiring as a US Navy Chaplain. She has published non-fiction articles for newspapers, magazines, websites and co-authored two books: Daily Devotions for Advent and Christmas, Daily Devotions for Lent and Easter. An irregular blogger, she twitters and writes articles, devotionals and stories for several online services and publications, while juggling several Works in Progress. Of course, the real balancing act is saved for home life, with a husband, two sons, four cats, one dog, twenty fish and a turtle.


Nicola Morgan said...

Unfortunately, this otherwise honest the book does not mention the author's penchant for choccie margaritas or that actually her beagle does all the difficult work. I feel obliged to inform all readers of these dark secrets.

Otherwise, it's a damned fine book and one that is already on my bookshelves.

The fact that Price is heading this way is a bit scary but I think I have time to find a good hiding place.

Anonymous said...

I want you all to know that I've had to call the carpenters in to widen the doorways, so my fat head may pass through unhindered.

Goodness! First Zigmond starts the act, then this Smith woman posts this lovely review. It's enough to require smelling salts and a margarita.

Morgan, it's chocolate martinis, not margaritas. Gah...

Thank you, thank you. I'm looking forward to working with Em over at Snowbooks.

catdownunder said...

Miaou! I will forgive Ms Price for owning a dog - her other advice more than makes up for this.

batsick said...

Ah, yeah. I remember my first adventure into writing, called Carmine Being and The Black Rose. I remember writing its first chapter being critiqued, and then chickening out about less than half way through. I liked your blog. Hey, would you like to come to mine? Mine is at Of my creative musings and such. Come follow and comment! I’d appreciate it and I am trying to get my voice as an author and artist heard!

Catherine Hughes said...

Lynn, don't lose that carpenter's number. You may need him again.

I can't wait to read your book and I am sure it will be added to those that I keep as my 'companions' on this frustrating journey towards (I hope!) publication.

Meanwhile, I am sure I speak for the entire complement of Litopians when I say 'thank you' for all the free advice, help and support you offer. You don't mince your words, but those of us who are determined to succeed wouldn't have it any other way! Straight talking is required!

So thanks. I'm looking forward to the book. Nice one Snowbooks!