Thursday, December 3, 2015

Should You Use The Word 'Said' When Writing Dialogue?

“Teachers! Please Do Not Make Your Students Use Synonyms for Said,” I Blurted, is the name of this very true article by Gabriel Roth I just read. I say it's true because my twins are also in 4th grade and they have also been told to avoid using the word 'said' after quoting speech in dialogue. In fact, there seems to be a movement toward alienating the word 'said'. My feelings are mixed. I think that just like with anything else in life, a middle ground usually works best.

I struggle with this attempt to exile the word 'said' from being used in writing dialogue. I have even had arguments with my children about it because I’m contradicting their teachers. 

I understand that the reasoning is that repetitively using the word 'said' can be monotonous and lack creativity, and often can even be a lost opportunity to show the reader more. However, for all of the good reasons teachers are beseeching children to learn to use expletives and verbs, such as ‘snarled, professed, argued, remarked, cried, ect.,' sometimes it just becomes too much. I think that perhaps the teaching focus should be on when to offer more, and finding the right balance.

In my opinion, using the word less is a good technique to be encouraged. I however, disagree that the word said should be avoided at all costs. I believe that there should be a balance between its usage and using expressive terms to add to the dialogue when it makes sense, when they are necessary, and when they actually add value. 

Otherwise, we end up with a dialogue plagued with descriptive words after each statement that are distracting to the reader, jolting them out of the conversation and giving them too much work to keep up with all that is being presented to them. Sometimes there is such thing as too much, and it makes for just plain bad writing. 

I think that the balance is a skill to be acquired, and teachers should encourage the creativity of choosing appropriate words to replace the ‘said’, but not implore them to do so all the time. We don't need to exile the poor word to the lost land of the “Words to Not Use List.”

Sometimes, good dialogue doesn't even need anything after the quote, especially if there are only two people speaking. When your characters are well formed, and their speech patterns are clearly distinguishable from each other, and they have reasons for saying what they would say, you don't have to add anything after that quote. Your reader will know who said what. You can still add occasional descriptives like 'she said' here and there, or even something like, 'he said, as he searched her expressions for a sign that she was being disingenuous,' before continuing the dialogue. The later example not only tells you who said the statement, but also what he is doing as he speaks, and more importantly, lets the reader know that what the speaker is thinking without saying it... which goes a long way for those of us who repeatedly encourage authors to show instead of telling. 

I would therefore say that finding the balance between using the word 'said' versus other descriptives, or even nothing at all, is the key to good writing. So work on that! 

Happy Writing!

Click here and read the Article by Gabriel Roth

Gabriel Roth is a Slate senior editor and the editorial director of Slate Plus. Follow him on Twitter

Thursday, November 5, 2015

20th Free “Dear Lucky Agent” Contest: Romance and Romantic New Adult Fiction

I am currently the Judge for Chuck Sambuchino's "Dear Lucky Agent" Contest. This is his 20th contest, and the second time that I'm judging for him. Chuck is an amazing teacher, speaker, editor at Writer's Digest, and a successful author with THREE new books released this September. Take a look at Chuck's post about the contest with all of the rules and details. 
I hope that you send in your submission and look forward to reading your work! 
Welcome to the 20th (free!) “Dear Lucky Agent” Contest on the GLA blog. This is a FREE recurring online contest with agent judges and super-cool prizes. Here’s the deal: With every contest, the details are essentially the same, but the niche itself changes—meaning each contest is focused around a specific category or two. So if you’re writing any kind of romance or romantic new adult fiction, this 20th contest is for you! (No erotica.) The contest is live through EOD, Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015.
After a previous “Dear Lucky Agent” contest, the agent judge, Tamar Rydzinski (The Laura Dail Literary Agency), signed one of the three contest winners. After Tamar signed the writer, she went on to sell two of that writer’s books! How cool! That’s why these contests are not to missed if you have an eligible submission.
E-mail entries to Please paste everything. No attachments.
The first 150-250 words (i.e., your first double-spaced page) of your unpublished, completed book-length work of romantic new adult fiction or romance (no erotica). You must include a contact e-mail address with your entry and use your real name. Also, submit the title of the work and a logline (one-sentence description of the work) with each entry.
Please note: To be eligible to submit, you must mention this contest twice through any any social-media. Please provide a social-media link or Twitter handle or screenshot or blog post URL, etc., with your official e-mailed entry so the judge and I can verify eligibility. Some previous entrants could not be considered because they skipped this step! Simply spread the word twice through any means and give us a way to verify you did; a TinyURL for this link/contest for you to easily use is An easy way to notify me of your sharing is to include my Twitter handle @chucksambuchino at the end of your mention(s) if using Twitter. If we’re friends on FB, tag me in the mention. And if you are going to solely use Twitter as your 2 times, please wait 1 day between mentions to spread out the notices, rather than simply tweeting twice back to back. Thanks. (Please note that simply tweeting me does not count. You have to include the contest URL with your mention; that’s the point. And if you use Twitter, put my handle @chucksambuchino at the middle or the end, not at the very beginning of the tweet, or else the tweet will be invisible to others.)
Here is a sample TWEET you can use (feel free to tweak): New FREE contest for writers of Romance and Romantic New Adult Judged by agent @mcorvisiero, via @chucksambuchino
Completed romance novels and completed romantic new adult (no erotica).
Please note that this is a contest for new adult fiction and romance only.
  1. This contest will be live through the end of Nov. 12, 2015, PST. Winners notified by e-mail within three weeks of end of contest. Winners announced at the top of this blog post thereafter.
  2. To enter, submit the first 150-250 words of your book (i.e., your first double-spaced page). Shorter or longer entries will not be considered. Keep it within word count range please.
  3. You can submit as many times as you wish. You can submit even if you submitted to other contests in the past, but please note that past winners cannot win again. All that said, you are urged to only submit your best work.
  4. The contest is open to everyone of all ages, save those employees, officers and directors of GLA’s publisher, F+W: A Content and E-Commerce Company, Inc.
  5. By e-mailing your entry, you are submitting an entry for consideration in this contest and thereby agreeing to the terms written here as well as any terms possibly added by me in the “Comments” section of this blog post. If you have questions or concerns, write me personally at chuck.sambuchino (at) The Gmail account above is for submissions, not questions.
Top 3 winners all get: 1) A critique of the first 10 double-spaced pages of your work, by your agent judge. 2) A free one-year subscription to ($50 value)! 3) Their choice of any of Chuck’s 3 new books (mentioned at the top).
Marisa-Corvisiero-literary-agentMarisa A. Corvisiero is the founder of the Corvisiero Literary Agency and their Senior Literary Agent. During the few years prior to starting her own agency, Marisa worked with the L. Perkins Agency, where she learned invaluable lessons and made a name for herself in the industry. Marisa is seeking creative stories with well developed plots and rich characters with unique voices. She will consider  Contemporary Romance, Thrillers, Adventure, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy, Science Fiction, or any combination thereof, unique concepts in Fantasy, Adventure and Science Fiction for middle-grade and Picture Books with special stories to deliver a subtle non didactic message. In non-fiction, she enjoys out of the box and high concept spiritual, self-improvement, science, and business books for all ages. You can visit her on Twitter at @mcorvisiero.
MAKE IT COUNTBy Megan Erickson
A college sophomore is on danger of flunking out until she is assigned a sexy, nerdy math tutor, the one man on campus who turns her inside out and sees the real her — but he’s her boyfriend’s best friend.
TELL ME WHENBy Stina Lindenblatt
About a young woman trying to keep life simple while she pull herself together after being abducted and meets someone who is anything but simple.
A modern day Rocky story in London, where the fighter falls in love with a brilliant mathematician with a secret past that comes back to haunt them both.
HENDRIXBy MJ Fields and Chelsea Camaron
About the work-hard play-harder, super focused, determined, and steady voice of reason among the wild brothers, who falls for a woman in a mask during an erotic interlude at a charity event and again when fate makes their worlds collide.
TRUST THE FOCUSBy Megan Erickson
A college graduate embarks on a cross-country road trip with his best friend to spread his father’s ashes, but as the summer progresses he realizes he can no longer deny who he is, the future he wants, and his growing feelings for the man by his side.
Hendrix-book-cover Tell-me-when-book-cover make-it-count-book-cover The-Hurricane-book-cover Trust-the-focus-book-cover
For more information about Chuck Sambuchino, please visit his amazing blog, Guide To Literary Agents with Writer's Digest. 

Chuck's Fall Releases
three covers
  1. When Clowns Attack: A Survival Guide is an anti-clown humor book that teaches you how to defend yourself against these red-nosed bozos who plague us. It’s a perfect gift for that clown-hating friend in your life. Find it on Amazon or through Barnes & Noble or anywhere else books are sold.
  2. The 2016 Guide to Literary Agents is a big database of agents — who they are, what they want, how to submit and more. Find it in the Writer’s Digest Shop or anywhere else books are sold.
  3. The 2016 Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market has oodles of markets (agents, publishers, etc.) for writers & illustrators of children’s books — from picture books to middle grade to young adult. Find it in the Writer’s Digest Shop or anywhere else books are sold.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Kindle Unlimited: Another Take-Over-The-World Scheme By Amazon?

I love I have been a loyal customer for about fifteen years. I buy everything on Amazon, from books to chocolate, and everything in between. When my twins were born, I signed up for a 'subscription' for Pampers (diapers) and just kept them coming. It was awesome. We saved money and never ever ran out. No last minute trips to the store at inopportune times for us. I even buy all of my Christmas presents on Amazon. Easy one-click shopping and usually hassle-free returns for those picky recipients that have to carefully choose everything themselves, mainly my husband, are a huge draw for me.

I find that it is the easiest place to shop. Everything is searchable, organized by categories, and every product is reviewed in a five star system with commentary. Nothing else facilitates educated decision making like Amazon does. My favorite thing to buy on Amazon is, you've guessed it... books.

Yet in spite of all of my love for this formidable web-store, in my dealings as a Literary Agent and Consultant to authors I have encountered many issues with Amazon's pesky, complicated and cryptic algorithms used to recommend, rank, and promote products such as books. Although I haven't entirely figured them out mathematically, I've certainly determined some patterns and learned some things that work and don't work. So I'm sort of OK with the algorithms for now. I can also overlook some of the other issues they are having with some top publishing houses (Hachette), returnability, and low prices. I can even deal with the massive number of books competing for sales (currently about 3 Million books- up from 600,000 just 4 years ago). The thing that I'm having a difficult time rationalizing is Amazon's introduction of Kindle Unlimited.

For anyone that isn't aware of the all-the-books-you-can-devour program offered by Amazon, here is the short scoop. Basically, for a $9.99 monthly fee you can download (borrow) all the Kindle books your heart desires. As a book lover and avid reader this is heaven for me. As a publishing professional however, I see the effect this program is having on the industry, and how it affects independent authors whose livelihood depend on their online book sales. 

The above mentioned rigorous competition coupled with all time low e-book pricing (as low as $.99 e-books or even offered for free) have led to revenues leveling off after nearly doubling just just two years ago in 2012. Even though e-books have been selling more than print books since February 2011, overall profits have reached a plateau. And offering unlimited e-books for less than ten dollars per month is making matters much worse.

Some successful self-published authors have recently reported that after short term participation in the program their income decreased by as much as 75%. When an author publishes their work on Amazon they earn a 70% royalty.  A rate that is highest in the industry, especially when compared to traditional publishers. Even some of the best e-book profit sharing models aren't as high. This means that the average book selling on Amazon at $3.99 will earn $2.79 per book.

On the other hand, books in the Kindle Unlimited program don't receive consistent payments, with the current average payment of about $1.39 per download regardless of the book's length. Most authors can't afford, and shouldn't accept such a loss for the benefit of a company that claims to be saving all of them from other publishing models.

Luckily the program isn't mandatory, so self-published authors are not required to sign up to participate. But at what cost? This brings us back to the mysterious algorithms and unilateral control. Many believe that their books will lose not only a lot of attention, but also may be excluded from certain promotions and recommendations Amazon offers to their shoppers.

The solution is simple. Amazon should find a way to make it clear to authors that they can safely opt-out of the program without fearing exclusion or intentional retaliation. Algorithms should be clearly and mathematically explained. Success should be strictly based on merit and quality of work, not some abstract methodology that holds us hostage and at their mercy. No one should be forced to accept decreased profits out of fear.

An alternative in the case of Amazon's lack of cooperation would be proper organization and alignment of author's interests. I'm by no means suggesting boycotting or protests, but perhaps something along the same lines as a legalized union.

Monopolies are the enemy of capitalism. Likewise, a go to place for publishing like Amazon should remain loyal to the people that made it successful, and strive to level the playing field in the so called partnership. 

This is of course just my opinion based on my experiences, what I know of the industry, and the belief that fair business practices and ethical standards are imperative for success. No company should be allowed to dominate any industry and call all the shots, and no one should bite the hand that feeds them. 

So even though I am a fan of Amazon, my reservations are quickly gaining strength. This fantastic company has done a lot for the publishing industry and made a lot of people money. But greed is the ugly cousin of self righteousness. If Amazon is not carefully listening to the proverbial pulse of the industry, and continues on their unchecked journey to world domination, they should prepare for a stand off.

Happy Journey!