Tuesday, April 28, 2015

How to write an Author Bio

You've just heard the good news that your dream agent wants your full manuscript. But there is a catch--she wants an author bio as well. Well, if you're JK Rowling, that is a mighty easy job: How does "Author of the most popular series of books in the history of publishing" grab you? Pretty good! The problem is, you are not JK Rowling. You are you, and you are reading this because an author bio was requested and you have no idea what to write.




The issue here isn't really about the writing itself--you are a writer, for heaven's sake--it's the lack of things to write about. If you were the lead correspondent for CNN, you would have written that; if you had ghostwritten three best-selling memoirs, you would have written that; if you were the world's leading expert on human cloning, you would have written that. But just because you are not any of these three things (or a host of others), does not mean you can't write. It does mean you will have work on your Author Bio, however. But there's hope. I have a solution to this issue, a solution which does not involve writing per se. My solution involves doing.

What am I talking about? Let me show you (remember, we're supposed to show, not tell). Here is my first--incredibly lame--author bio, which I wrote three years ago to send to any literary agent who requested it:


Peter Hogenkamp MD, Author Bio
I am a practicing physician and author living in Rutland, Vermont, with my wife and four children. After graduating from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA, I lived for three years in Austria, during which time I taught chemistry at the Salzburg International Preparatory School and traveled extensively. I have numerous friends and family in Europe, and my wife and I visit yearly. This past summer, I visited family in Germany, and traveled to Italy and Spain afterwards—Thank you, Ryan Air—to research the second book of The Jesuit series, tentatively called Doubt.

See how I used up all the lines with fluff? (I took lessons from my high school student children--experts in the field!) That's because I had nothing to write. When I finally managed to sign with an agent (who says duct tape is overrated?) she gave me some great advice. Do stuff.

So I did stuff. When it came time to update my author bio three years later, I had stuff to put down, and instead of a liability, my author bio is now an asset. Here is my new one:

Peter Hogenkamp is a physician and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; and The Intern, a serialized novel based loosely on Peter's internship, published bi-weekly on #Wattpad. Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of Prose&Cons, the literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets; a frequent contributor and reviewer at ReadWave; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and chief of two tribes on Triberr, The Big Thrill and Fiction Writers. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. He can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com

See what I mean? I actually had to cut some stuff out to keep it down to a manageable length. Please note that none of this stuff was beyond anyone's reach, either talent or wallet wise. All it takes is doing. And time, as my wife likes to point out, although the time can be anytime you want it to be. I do most of my stuff early in the morning before my family wakes up; night owls can do it after people are asleep. There is time, believe me; you just have to stop watching TV (unless #GameOfThrones is on.)

I'll end here. Note that what follows is my Author Bio--I use it all the time. Feel free to use some of the ideas I had, but keep one last thing in mind. If you are going to be a Triberr chief, be a good Triberr chief. Don't just do things to put on your resume; do them well and it will pay dividends. (And if anyone wants to contribute to Prose&Cons, message me at peter@peterhogenkamp.com)

Cheers.
:)

Peter Hogenkamp is a physician and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; and The Intern, a serialized novel based loosely on Peter's internship, published bi-weekly on #Wattpad. Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of Prose&Cons, the literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets; a frequent contributor and reviewer at ReadWave; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and the chief of two tribes on Triberr, The Big Thrill and Fiction Writers. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. Peter is He can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.
  

 
 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Comings and Goings


From the last chapter of The Intern:

How long Maggie remained there, crying in the dark, she would never be sure. Time lost definition in that murky, airless cubicle; the only thing she was aware of was her sorrow and a strong sense of unfairness. It was unfair, she thought, that anyone would come into the world the way Bobby had, spit out from his crack-head mother's womb under a bridge. It was unfair he had lived his whole life in a succession of foster homes and charitable institutions, never having experienced the comfort and solace of a real home. It was unfair he had been diagnosed with cancer at age seven, a high grade leukemia against which all the weapons of modern medicine had proven useless. And it was unfair--terribly, grossly unfair--he had died alone, without Maggie there to hold his hand as he passed from this world into the next.

 This paragraph is from the last chapter of The Intern, the novella I have just finished publishing on Wattpad. I am posting it here for a reason (a reason other than the obvious one that I am trying to pique your interest and get you to read the story:) this is exactly how I felt when a young boy on my service died, twenty years ago. (The circumstances were different, yes, but my reaction was Maggie's reaction, proving my point that details and names may fade with time, but emotions endure.)

My gut twists when I read the last chapter--and that's either good writing or the lentil soup I had for dinner last night. Here's another excerpt, from later in the chapter. Maggie is reading a letter Bobby wrote to her before he died:

Before I met you, I wanted to be forgotten, as if my whole life had never happened. What good had ever come out of my life? You changed that for me, because you were the only person I have ever loved. A live without love should be forgotten, like the dead rat I was once found in the sewer behind my foster home. But not a live with love. A live with love is immortal.
Please remember me.

Ok, that's enough. And don't worry about spoilers, because the reader is aware in the first paragraph of the story that Bobby doesn't survive. I did that because I didn't want the reader to focus on what was going to happen, but rather the effect of what was happening on the characters. I hope you'll take a look.

I started The Intern because I wanted to write a work loosely based on my internship. I kept writing it because I formed a bond with with two of the characters. When I finished it, after the usual relief and gratification had worn off, I started to miss Maggie and Bobby and the rest of the cast. So I am bringing Maggie back, in a book set two years after the end of her internship. The plot is one that I have been working out in my head for several years, and it just occurred to me that Maggie would be the perfect protagonist. So The Intern may be going, but The Book To Be Named Later (catchy title, huh) is coming. And that's Comings and Goings for today.

Cheers.
:)

Peter Hogenkamp is a physician and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; and The Intern, a serialized novel based loosely on Peter's internship, published bi-weekly on #Wattpad. Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of Prose&Cons; a frequent contributor and reviewer at ReadWave; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and a Beta-reader at StoryShelter. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. He can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.


 
   









Friday, April 10, 2015

5 Easy Steps to getting a Literary Agent!

You have finished your novel, and your first queries to literary agents have met with little success. What now? You CAN get a literary agent, you just have to take the essential steps first. What are they? I am reposting a blog I wrote for the QueryTrackerBlog to help you on your quest to being agented and traditionally published. If you haven't signed up for QueryTracker yet, keep in mind that I wouldn't have signed with an agent without it.

The 5 Essential Steps to Getting a Literary Agent


It was seven years ago, but I can remember it like it was today. I woke up on the day before Thanksgiving, booted up my computer, and saw the e-mail in my inbox. "I have reviewed your query letter and the first five pages of your manuscript and I would like to read more; can you please e-mail me the first 50 pages along with your author bio and and a list of comparable titles."

Now, by virtue of the fact that you are reading this blog on QueryTracker, I suspect you all have received similar e-mails and realize that this was no big deal. But it was a big deal to me at the time, and it is still something I remember fondly. I had sent this--my very first--query to Writers House (I am sure you all know what Writers House is) and gotten a request for a partial. Things fell apart from there, of course--the I regret to inform you e-mail followed shortly--but it was the first step of the 5 Essential Steps to Getting a Literary Agent.


Step 1)  Getting Your First Rejection.

Why, you ask, is this the first step? Well, consider the number of talented writers I know who have never received a rejection. The obvious reason is that none of them have ever sent a query letter in the first place. And why haven't they? The list is long--too much work, such a small chance of success, and not wanting to be slapped in the face top the list--but the reason doesn't really matter. If you are going to be a successful, agented and traditionally published author, you have got to put yourself out there--again and again--and in so doing you will be rewarded with rejections, apathy, criticism, (Sounds great, huh?) and the occasional positive response. Cherish the positive responses. Enjoying the small successes is the best way to keep on going.





Step 2)  Getting Your First Partial Request.

A request for a partial is not a guarantee you are going to be the next James Patterson or Daniel Silva, but it isn't a bad thing either: Someone (likely an intern or an agent's assistant) Somewhere (likely in NYC or San Francisco) thinks you can write. It is a validation of what you have known deep down all along. It is not a good thing: It is a great thing. But let's take a step back for a second, and do some math. Yes, yes, I know, they said there would be no math, but it is simple stuff and it makes my point. You sent out 10 queries and received 5 requests: What can you glean from this? You did a good job writing your query letter. On the other hand, if you sent out 20 queries and received just the 1 request, your query letter isn't any good. Revise it. (Here is the link to the QueryTracker Forum, where you can get great advice on how to improve your query.)



Step 3) Getting Your First Submission Request

After reviewing your partial, 10 agents have requested your full manuscript (this is what is called a submission request) but you get nothing but form rejections, lack of enthusiasm and, in many cases, nothing, in response. The fault here lies in your manuscript. I am not saying that your manuscript isn't any good, I am saying that it isn't good enough... yet. Getting an agent is a hard thing to do: Take a look at the acceptance rates on QueryTracker (and don't even consider the querying process without having QueryTracker on your Favorites list.) Many agents sign only one or two writers a year, some less than that. And many of the writers they sign come from referrals, not the slush pile. I am not saying you can't do it: my agent found me in the slush pile, and if I can do it, so can you. But you have to learn from the failures along the way. Kabitzing about how unfair the process is--or how arbitrary, or how frustrating--gets you nowhere. Asking yourself how you can improve is the correct approach. Go back to the comments you may have received; what are the agents telling you? Where is the weakness in your manuscript? Are your characters well-developed? Is your dialogue genuine? Is your prose tight? This is where you become a better writer: Don't waste the opportunity. Stop querying agents until you have fixed the problems with your manuscript; there are only so many agents who represent your genre. Stop querying. Start revising. Then query again. I say this from experience--this is the exact approach that worked for me in the end.



Step 4)  Getting Your First Revision Request

You may see this referred to as a Revise and Resubmit, but be careful: agents are very savvy about how they manage a writers expectations. You may need to read between the lines of their comments to realize you have received a revision request. What do I mean? Take my case. I worked very hard on revising my manuscript after it was rejected two dozen or so times at the submission level. I was fortunate to receive a lot of comments with the rejections, both good and bad, but let me tell you something: It is the bad comments you should be paying attention to. It is something you can work on. One agent told me: You write well, and I like the premise, but the main character isn't strong enough. That, my friends, was a revision request by my way of looking at it. So, that's what I did: I spent several months making the characters stronger and I sent it back to her with a carefully worded letter explaining that I had addressed the weaknesses of the manuscript and would she be interested in taking another look? (The key here is to be professional and polite.) In fact, I sent my revised manuscript to all the agents who had taken the time to make some comments (don't bother with the ones who sent form rejects or who didn't respond at all--they have no interest) and to the one agent who had specifically asked for a revise and resubmit. The agents who made comments were interested enough to spend some of their valuable time to help you: You owe it to them and to yourself to give them another shot. But only after you have worked hard to address the shortcomings in the manuscript.





Step 5)  Getting Your First Offer of Representation

Interestingly enough, the one agent who had specifically requested the R/R never even responded to my letter. Even when the offers started coming in and I let her know that I had several offers of representation, she simply said she was 'no longer interested.' (I wrote her back to thank her for help, by the way.) Her lack of interest didn't phase me, however, because I had received an offer. What to do in this case, when I still had another ten or so submissions out there? You want to let the agents know you have received an offer. They will either bow out (and save themselves some time) or expedite the reading of your manuscript in case they want to make an offer. I ended up with six offers in the next few weeks. (But just so we are clear, these six offers represented five years of querying, ten years of writing two different manuscripts, two writers conferences, and several laps of the earth trying to hike away my angst.) It can be done: You can get an agent through the querying process but it can only be done with a lot of hard work. Their are no shortcuts, no head starts, no tricks or gimmicks.

Just five steps.


Peter Hogenkamp is a physician and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; and The Intern, a serialized novel based loosely on Peter's internship, published bi-weekly on #Wattpad. Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of Prose&Cons; a frequent contributor and reviewer at ReadWave; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and a Beta-reader at StoryShelter. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. He can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

If You Can't Beat Them...

As many of you will know, it's the 21st Century, the era of digitilization, a tough time for us old school hold-outs who still love books. Or is it? Now that I have finally decided that the internet is here to stay, I am going to utilize it to promote books and literature. (If only I had thought of this earlier!) Yes, that's right, I am going to harness the tremendous power of YouTube to bring books back into the limelight. Introducing The Book Vlog, on YouTube: where I spend less than 5 minutes every week vlogging about books you should be reading. Cuz if you can't beat them, join them.

Before we begin, keep in mind that the person you are about to see is not a professional actor, it's me. Also, the video is filmed with my Iphone, held in a toaster, which was how I managed to get the best angle (huge points for cinematography.) Having said that, It's about content, right? Good books=good content, or at least am I hoping. Ok, without further ado; The Book Vlog, Episode #1


Ok, so James Earls Jones still has job security... but I made my point, and it was good fun. Just in case I piqued anyone's interest, here are the links to the websites of the five authors we discussed:
Steve Berry's website
Preston & Child
Daniel Silva's website
Jim Satterfield's website
Olen Steinhauer's website
Peter Hogenkamp's website

Cheers.
:)
Peter Hogenkamp is a physician and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; and The Intern, a serialized novel based loosely on Peter's internship, published bi-weekly on #Wattpad. Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of Prose&Cons; a frequent contributor and reviewer at ReadWave; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and a Beta-reader at StoryShelter. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. He can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.