5 Top Tips for Aspiring Authors

Last week, I had the pleasure of interviewing David Henry Sterry of the Book Doctors. David is a bestselling writer, performer and coach. He and his wife and business partner, literary agent and author Arielle Eckstut, are the parents of an adorable little girl and also of a wonderful tome entitled The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published, among other books.

David was a fount of useful advice in our interview, which for brevity’s sake I have divided into three posts:

9 April 2012: TOP TIPS FOR ASPIRING AUTHORS

18 April 2012: TOP TIPS FOR BLOGGERS

Coming soon: TOP TIPS FOR MAMA & PAPA WRITERS

Here is the first part of the series, in which David shares five of the Book Doctors’ top tips for aspiring authors.

1. GIVE US A HERO

DHS: If you’re pitching a book that is either a memoir or a novel, with a narrative, it’s very important that you give us a hero.

When I say hero, I’m using that term in a sort of Joseph Campbell sense of the word. Heroes, of course, are mostly tragically flawed. They have great attributes and they have terrible attributes.

I like to say Tony Soprano is a hero. Now, I wouldn’t necessarily want to go into business with the man because he might, you know, take my kneecaps out, but that’s what I mean in the sense of a hero: someone who’s charismatic, someone who wants something desperately and doesn’t quite have the tools to get what they want. Someone who I’m going to fall in love with, someone who I’m going to spend twenty hours of my life rooting for to succeed.

2. A BEGINNING, A MIDDLE AND AN END

DHS: I also need to see a beginning, a middle and an end: an arc for a character. I like to use the model of the Wizard of Oz.

At the beginning of the story, Dorothy of Kansas wants something desperately: she wants to get the hell out of Kansas. By the end of the story, she wants something else desperately that’s exactly the opposite, which is to go home.

In the middle, of course, there’s a terrible villain; I also encourage people to have a fantastic villain who we want to desperately hate. And she has some allies, which give her strength and wisdom.

But in the end, it’s Dorothy that makes these choices which enable her to get what she wants, and what she wants is different at the end of the story than it was at the beginning.

3. ESTABLISH YOUR AUTHORITY

DHS: If you’re doing a pitch for a non-fiction book that’s informational, it’s very important that you establish your authority.

The word ‘author’ comes from ‘authority’. We need to know what your credentials are, so that we can trust why we are listening to you as you tell us how to make our lives better, or lose weight, or become an internet millionaire: whatever your promise is.

4. UNIQUE AND DIFFERENT

DHS: I want three bullet points: concrete takeaway information pieces that I can say, “This is unique and different, as opposed to all the other books that are promising those same things.”

5. SHOW, DON’T TELL

DHS: One of my pet peeves is when someone pitches me the story and they say, “My book is funny,” or “My book is sad,” or “My book is thrilling.”

Anybody can say they’re funny, anybody can say they’re sad, anybody can say they’re thrilling. I want you to make me laugh. I want you to make me cry. I want you to make my heart pound.

It just goes back to that age-old writers’ adage: Show, don’t tell. Don’t tell me these things, show me that you can do it.

To me, it’s like those people who wear t-shirts that say ‘sexy’ on them. Let me be the judge of that, if you don’t mind…

It’s absolutely crucial that a writer displays in very concrete terms what is funny, unique, sad, breathtaking, thrilling or informative.

Stay tuned for the next part in this series: the Book Doctors’ top tips for bloggers!

JM

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April 9, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . 5 Top Tips for Aspiring Authors, MamaWriters, MamaWriters - Writing & Publishing, Top * Lists.

5 Comments

  1. Liza Vassallo replied:

    Reblogged this on Liza fills, feels and falls for the silence. and commented:
    I personally had the opportunity to work with the Author about five years ago and find these tips so very valuable.

  2. Liza Vassallo replied:

    thoroughly enjoyed this; DHS gave me the opportunity to work together briefly 5 years ago and his pointers impacted my perception and when you say – there should be a hero..it only indicates how we need to delve into the reader’s psyche as well as the author…with authority….how we write to save ourselves and give our readers something to conserve their hope. this was inspiring. thank you.

  3. yvonne replied:

    Excellent, helpful info as always from the Book Doctors.

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