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How to Write a Powerful Fiction Query – Advice from Thomas Hauck, Ghostwriter and Book Editor

Many of my valued fiction clients ask me for advice about contacting literary agents and publishers. The most difficult part of any proposal is the query. This is the one-paragraph summation of what your book is about and why the literary agent should devote eight hours of his or her life reading your 90,000-word novel. It takes the agent or publisher about ten seconds to read your query and then decide whether to reject your book or ask to see more. This means that if you’ve spent a year or more slaving over your novel, its fate may depend upon that ten seconds your query is read by the literary agent.

The most important thing about a query is that it must convey the essence of your book, not the details. It must address the underlying theme, not the fine points of your amazingly intricate plot. It must present the problem faced by the protagonist, and the difficulty of solving the problem.

Here’s an actual example of advice I gave to a client who was gracious enough to share his query with me. He wrote:

“I have been rejected hundreds of times, and made the novice mistake of querying way too early. I think I now have very few viable options left, but here is my current query that no one has positively responded to:

“I am seeking representation for XXXXX, a 72,000-word ethnic novel with literary sensibility.
The book focuses on the unlikely friendship between Negin, the daughter of an Iranian Baha’i man, and Habibeh, a house servant who believes that touching a Baha’i can cause fatal blisters. However, their friendship is not tested until Habibeh conspires to take Negin to her late husband’s nephew — a powerful cleric who is planning to capture Negin’s father. Negin prepares to flee, but the cleric’s brother arrests her father. Habibeh can help, if she pays a high price.

“I grew up in Iran and my family, like Negin’s, was pulled between the Baha’i and Muslim faiths. This is my first novel.”

This is what I wrote to him:

“Your query is too confusing. Leave out the names. Boil it down to its essence. Say this:

“When the daughter of an Iranian Baha’i becomes friends with a Muslim house servant, the two girls violate deeply held social norms. The danger deepens when a powerful cleric learns of their friendship. This insightful novel explores the clash between cultures in contemporary Iran, and seeks to explore the limits of the human heart.” You need to convey the theme of the story, not the literal facts. There needs to be tension and conflict, and you need to state the source of the conflict. Do not use the girls’ names – they are much too confusing for a query.”

The query he had been using was very confusing and required the busy literary agent to keep track of the names of the characters – and their names are the least important part of the query! I’m not an expert, but it seemed to me that his novel, if well written, should be snapped up instantly. It fulfills everything the publishing industry is looking for.

Thomas Hauck ghostwriter, book editor, author

 

 

 

 

 

– Thomas Hauck is a leading professional ghostwriter and book editor serving both established and emerging authors.

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Theatre Review: “Flight of the Monarch” Makes World Premiere at Gloucester Stage Company

Even by the high standards of the Gloucester Stage Company, one of America’s most respected venues for new dramatic works, “Flight of the Monarch” has made an astonishing first impression. This new work, penned by Jim Frangione and directed by GSC Managing Director Jeff Zinn, and featuring just two actors, Nancy E. Carroll (Sheila) and J. Tucker Smith (Thomas), hits the stage as a fully formed and incisive examination of a question that every person asks themselves at some point in their lives: “What do I have to live for?”

The premise, like many great dramas, is simple: The lights come up on Sheila, a woman of advanced age, who is lying in a hospital bed. But she’s not passive; she’s on the phone, arguing with her sister. Defiant in her confinement, she just wants to get on with her life. Her younger brother Thomas, who has been dozing in a visitor’s chair, wakes up, and the siblings waste no time in exposing the family’s secrets. As the layers are ripped aside, we quickly learn that under Shiela’s fiesty exterior she’s losing faith in herself. She feels only the crushing weight of what she believes has been a lifetime marked by failure.

In crafting the peppery dialogue, playwright Jim Frangione, himself a working actor, thankfully avoids the temptation to be clever. Sheila and Thomas feel like people we know, and it’s easy to forget that we’re not hearing transcripts of actual conversations. Frangione’s ear for dialogue is spot-on and the plot elements are true to life. Yes, there are plenty of laughs in this drama, but none are forced, and they come from the heart, not from a playwright seeking to pander to his audience.

The direction by Jeff Zinn is what it should be: invisible to the audience. “Flight of the Monarch” unfolds with such ease and naturalism that we forget we’re watching a consciously crafted presentation. As the actors verbally attack, retreat, and make peace – often with the span of a few seconds – we stay with them, never feeling as though we’re seeing anything other than real people with real problems.

Gloucester Stage Company veteran and Rockport resident Nancy E. Carroll and GSC newcomer J. Tucker Smith carry the production with nary a misstep. They deliver astonishing performances that resonate with real passion, dreams, and regrets. They never reach for cheap laughs, which goes a long way toward building and maintaining their credibility with the audience. When they express their deepest emotions, we believe them.

The set by Cristina Todesco supports the actors and the story. When the lights come up on the second act, which is set in Sheila’s living room, you’ll swear you’ve been there before – every casually placed tchotchke evokes the kind of run-down middle-class Cape that could use a really good cleaning. The lights, costume, and sound design all contribute to the authenticity of the setting.

“Flight of the Monarch” is a poignant and astonishing family drama that aims for the heart and doesn’t miss. Congratulations to the Gloucester Stage Company for presenting this newly created jewel. See it before it triumphs in New York! Onstage now through September 30. For tickets – while they last! – visit gloucesterstage.com or call 978-281-4433.

 

 

 

 

 

Thomas Hauck ghostwriter, book editor, author

 

 

 

 

 

  • Thomas Hauck is a professional ghostwriter and book editor…. and occasional theater reviewer!
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Be Careful with Acronyms – Advice from Thomas Hauck, Ghostwriter

Acronyms are ubiquitous in both business writing and novels. But you have to be careful and consistent in how you construct them! Here’s an actual excerpt from an article in The New York Times published on September 1, 2017. The political article was entitled, “Mueller Has Early Draft of Trump Letter Giving Reasons for Firing Comey”:

“His conduct during the hearing added to concerns held by Mr. Sessions and Mr. Rosenstein that the F. B. I director had botched the Clinton investigation and had overstepped the boundaries of his job.

“Two days after Mr. Comey’s testimony, Mr. Rosenstein had a meeting with a White House lawyer at the Justice Department, where Mr. Rosenstein expressed concern about how the F. B. I director had handled the Clinton investigation. The White House lawyer relayed the details of the conversation to his bosses at the White House.”

Look carefully at the acronym for “FBI.” Notice on both occasions the “I” doesn’t have a period after it, making you stop and read it again to make sure the “I” isn’t the first person personal pronoun.

I don’t use periods when writing acronyms. I believe they are pointless. That’s why I always write FBI, or USA, or NORAD. However, if you choose to use periods, be consistent, and write F.B.I. (leaving no spaces between the characters).

Thomas Hauck ghostwriter, book editor, author

 

 

 

 

 

– Thomas Hauck is a professional ghostwriter and book editor serving the most demanding authors.

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Word Count and Page Count – Advice from Thomas Hauck, Ghostwriter and Book Editor

I often receive inquiries from potential clients asking me to write a nonfiction self-help book for them, and they want to know how much time it will take to complete. My response is always that before we can determine how much time it’s going to take we need to set our target word count.

Books are measured by the word count. A free downloadable ebook is generally no more than 10,000 words. An ebook that you want to sell should be at least 20,000 words. If you want to create a physical paperback book, you’ll need at least 30,000 words to make the book substantial enough to print. Typically, self-help books that are sold on Amazon are in the range of 40,000 words. I’ve written some self-help business books that have hit 70,000 words. It all depends on the complexity and depth of your message.

The page count means nothing, because you can make the page count go up by making the font bigger, the margins bigger, and the spacing between the lines bigger. Have you ever bought a classic novel that’s in the public domain, like a Charles Dickens novel? Typically the publisher will want to save money by making the font very small – like eight or nine point – and cramming as many lines as possible on a page. In contrast, some very short books, such as the business management classic “Who Moved My Cheese?” feature a big font and lots of blank space so that the skinny little book will get fatter.

My question to my client is, what is your goal? Do you want to create a free downloadable ebook, or a book that you sell on Amazon? And what’s your budget? Professional ghostwriters and editors get paid by the word, so the more words you want, the higher the price. In my business, because each book is custom written, word by word, there can’t be a volume discount. The rate per word for a 10,000-word ebook needs to be the same as the rate per word for an 80,000-word novel.

When planning your book project, be sure to contact me and we’ll discuss your goals for your book, and then we can decide on the word count and how much time will be required to write your book!

Thomas Hauck ghostwriter, book editor, author

 

 

 

 

 

  • Thomas Hauck is a leading professional ghostwriter and book editor.
Posted in Advice on Hiring a Ghostwriter, Business Books, Essays, Self-Help Books | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

More About Capitalizing Job Titles from Thomas Hauck, Ghostwriter and Book Editor

I’ve written often about the capitalization of job titles. This is because writers seem to have a wide range of opinions about the subject, and approach the question on an ad hoc basis, without having a clear concept to guide them.

According to the Chicago Manual of Style, which I follow, job titles, no matter how lofty, are ordinary nouns and are not capitalized. Therefore king, president, janitor, doctor, capo de capo, pope, and all the others are not capitalized. You would say, “I went to the capo de capo, and he said yes.” Or, “I spoke to the president yesterday,” or, “I spoke to the janitor yesterday.” All are the same.

Job titles are capitalized only when used as part of a proper name. So you would write, “I spoke to President Smith yesterday,” or, “Pope Francis is visiting today.”

However, many reputable publications, including The New Yorker, don’t do this. They follow the practice common in business, which is to capitalize a job title to make it seem more important. In business, you commonly see, “I was appointed Regional General Manager last week.” Or in politics, “The President said yesterday that we will end trade sanctions.” The problem with this approach is that it’s purely subjective. Who gets capitalized? President? Director? Manager? Account Rep? Salesperson? It can quickly get confusing.

It’s understandable, perhaps, to want to capitalize a word like “President” when you’re using it as a substitute for his or her proper name, and it’s obvious to whom you’re referring. So you would write, “I spoke with the President yesterday, and he said he’d call the King of Thailand and extend his best wishes.” But imagine writing, “I spoke with the Regional Sales Rep yesterday, and she said she’d call the Warehouse Manager to solve the problem.” It looks absurd, doesn’t it?

If you want literary credibility, stick to the Chicago style. If you want to impress the shareholders who read your company’s annual report, then you might as well go for it and capitalize Every Important Job Title!
Thomas Hauck ghostwriter, book editor, author

– Thomas Hauck is a leading professional ghostwriter and book editor.
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Giving Writers Straight Talk: Sometimes They Want the Sugarcoated Version

My valued clients hire me because of my expertise as a ghostwriter and book editor. They value my opinion and experience, and depend on me to tell them the truth, at least as I see it.

But some writers don’t want to hear it!

I recently provided a free test edit of the first 1,000 words of a chapter written by a prospective client. This is something I do routinely. This was a book about improving your performance in business, and the chapter was about the importance of body language. The writer’s chapter began with a two-page description of the author watching old films of Michael Jordan playing basketball. The films were from the height of Jordan’s career in the 1980s. According to the writer, you could learn a lot about body language by watching how Michael Jordan interacted with his teammates over the years.

This case study seemed far-fetched to me. It seemed to me that the writer (a man in his thirties) was enamored of “superstars” and the NBA, and while to him the body language of Michael Jordan was endlessly fascinating, I provided a rather blunt assessment, and advised him to cut the MJ section altogether. I wrote:

“On the development side, I must tell you honestly that in my opinion the Michael Jordan case study is not helpful and should be cut. These are the reasons:

1. This happened in the 1980s. It’s ancient history. Many readers don’t know and don’t care about Michael Jordan.

2. Many of your readers will be women and others who don’t care about basketball. To them, it’s boring. The only sports metaphor you should ever consider using is NFL football, which has the widest appeal.

3. As a reader, I want information that helps me solve my problem. This story doesn’t help me. It’s just not relevant. Of course MJ went from a gawky kid, eager to please, to being a confident star. It may be an interesting journey to watch, but it’s not moving me forward.”

I see this quite often: Men who write business books and who forget, or don’t realize, that young women constitute a rapidly growing segment of the business population. You cannot write a business book today without considering that a large part of your potential audience includes nontraditional people (i.e., non white straight males) who are just as ambitious and hardworking as anyone. And think of this: I’m sixty years old, and if I think references to Michael Jordan are boring and dated, then what’s a twenty-five-year-old going to think?

Anyway, the writer didn’t hire me. I think he talked to another editor who flattered him by telling him that his Michael Jordan story was brilliant. And for a few people, it might have been. This is a very subjective business. However, I will never flatter a client just to get their business. My job is to provide the best possible advice, which does not mean “take the money and run.” My clients deserve better than that!

Thomas Hauck ghostwriter, book editor, author
– Thomas Hauck is a leading professional ghostwriter and book editor serving both first-time and established authors.
Posted in Advice on Hiring a Ghostwriter, Business Books, Essays, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Blockchain: Trust Companies,” by Richie Etwaru, edited by Thomas Hauck

Congratulations to my valued client Richie Etwaru on the publication of his groundbreaking new book, Blockchain: Trust Companies: Every Company Is at Risk of Being Disrupted by a Trusted Version of Itself. Everyone has heard about bitcoin – the new digital form of currency – but few people know about the revolutionary protocol underlying bitcoin and many other advances in ledgerkeeping. 

More than anything else, blockchain promises to permanently alter the way we view the problem – and promise – of trust in contractual relationships. This easy-to-read book describes the evolution from distrust to trusted commerce driven by blockchain, as finance, identity, reputation, inventory, market, agreement, and cooperate data sets sequentially evolve through blockchain, first becoming trusted data sets, then becoming data sets that enable transparent consensus at scale, and eventually becoming candidate data sets for smart contracts to transact on autonomously.

For example, remember the Enron accounting scandal? The fraud was made possible by the inherent secrecy of corporate ledgers. They could be altered and hidden. Blockchain ledgers cannot be altered because every version of the ledger is preserved forever as long as the ledger itself exists. In other words, you can’t erase or alter an entry because the previous version will still be there.

The author is QuintilesIMS’s [NYSE:Q] chief digital officer, where he is responsible for identifying, prioritizing and embedding technology innovation and digital trends into the vision, strategy, and operating model required to support the growth of our Global Technology Solutions business unit.

Prior to joining QuintilesIMS in April 2015 from Cegedim, Richie was Executive Director and Head of Innovation and Transformation at UBS Wealth Management, SVP and Divisional CIO for Lehman Brothers, and has co-founded and exited prior technology ventures.

He holds multiple international patents, Bachelor of Science in Management and Information Systems from the City University of New York, MBA from the University of Phoenix, and is completing his PhD in organizational leadership and design.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Thomas Hauck is a leading professional ghostwriter and book editor serving both emerging and published authors of fiction and non-fiction.
Posted in Books Edited by Thomas Hauck, Business Books, Self-Help Books | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

About paragraph spacing in novels, narrative non-fiction, and most self-help books

Clients often ask me if they should indicate paragraphs with an extra line inserted between paragraphs.

(Like this.)

It’s the format used in emails, many blogs including this one, and technical books. Here’s my answer. Regarding paragraph spacing in a work of fiction or narrative non-fiction, you have a choice:

1. You can look like a self-published amateur and use a space between paragraphs.
2. You can look like Stephen King, Agatha Christie, Leo Tolstoy, James Patterson, Stephanie Meyer, Raymond Chandler, JK Rowling, and thousands of other esteemed and successful authors whose books are regarded as classics and do what professional publishers do: indicate new paragraphs with a two- or three-character indentation, and no extra space between paragraphs.
Sincerely,
Thomas Hauck
Author, ghostwriter, and book editor
Posted in Advice on Hiring a Ghostwriter, Grammar and Writing Skills, News, Novels | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Emotional Dimensions of Healthcare” – Edited by Thomas Hauck

Congratulations to my valued client David Woodlock on the publication of his groundbreaking new book, “Emotional Dimensions of Health Care,” which I had the pleasure to edit. This explosive book takes a fresh look at some of the most vexing healthcare problems we face as a nation, including obesity and substance abuse. What our well-meaning healthcare providers too often overlook is the very real and permanent damage that adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) can do. Traumatic events, whether sudden or occurring chronically over years, can physically alter the chemistry of the body and brain. To achieve relief from a perpetual condition of high stress – which never abates – patients make choices that are in many ways perfectly rational. Even suicide and other self-harming acts can at times be rational paths away from debilitating and chronic emotional pain. This well-crafted book shows how healthcare providers and patients can, and should, look beyond physical causes of disease to the underlying emotional component. If you don’t do this, the prescribed treatment may be ineffective.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Thomas Hauck is a leading professional book editor and ghostwriter serving both emerging and established authors of fiction and non-fiction.

 

 

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“The House on Hayden Pond” – YA horror novel edited by Thomas Hauck

Congratulations to my valued client Jessica Monks on the publication of her new YA horror novel “The House on Hayden Pond,” now available on Amazon. In this fast-paced thriller, a family moves into rustic old house that looks like a charming fixer-upper. But things start to go bump in the night, and as the malevolent forces ramp up their assault on mom and dad and the kids, the family finds itself in a life-or-death battle. It’s an action-packed thrill ride with a heart of gold, and is guaranteed to keep you up long past your bedtime!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Thomas Hauck is a leading professional book editor and ghostwriter serving authors of both fiction and non-fiction.
Posted in Books Edited by Thomas Hauck, Novels | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment