Alan Jacobson’s Writer’s Toolkit

The publishing landscape has changed dramatically during the twenty-four years that I’ve been writing professionally. Some things, however, have remained constant because regardless of who’s publishing you or the format in which the reader is consuming your work—hard, soft, eBook, audio—you still have to craft a compelling story and populate it with characters the reader cares about. That was as true two decades ago as it is today.

In the early years of my writing career, when my debut novel was published, I was one of the first authors (if not the first) to include his email address on the back flap of the hardcover. People thought I was crazy—who’d email an author? This was a decade before Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads. The internet, on a consumer level, was relatively new; these were the days when AOL would mail you diskettes enticing you to use their service. On dial-up. For those of you who never had that pleasure, let’s just say you’re lucky. You’d click on a link, go get a cup of coffee, and return to your computer to find the webpage just about finished loading. In that context, the question of who would contact an author via email was a fair one.

Nevertheless, I wanted a way to reach my readers and give them a way to reach me. What did I have to lose by listing my email address on the book jacket? Well, False Accusations was a national bestseller and I did get emails…lots of them. Most were about my book, but some were from aspiring authors who wanted to know how to navigate a new industry they wanted to break into. I have always answered all my own email, but after awhile the questions—and answers—got repetitive and started consuming more of my time, hours I needed to be spending writing my next novel.

The following year, I thought of a solution. When I launched my website, I included a section with the questions I got most often from aspiring writers—along with my answers. Whenever I received a new email from someone with these questions, I would refer them to there. They got what they needed and I was able to return to writing for a living. That section of my website is now called The Writer’s Toolkit. In the installment on agents and research, I’d like to extend a heartfelt thanks to literary agent Lukas Ortiz of the Philip Spitzer Agency for reviewing the information for accuracy.

“I’m used to hard work and rejection. But when you reach fifty-three without a published novel to your credit you begin to doubt your own sanity….I really needed the encouragement I found on your website today. Thank you.” — K.D., Ohio

The topics covered include the following (use the Writer’s Toolkit pull-down menu in the masthead above or the links below):

Agents | Doing research for your writing
Writing, publishing, and marketing your book
Contracts – what’s reasonable, and what to avoid
The business of publishing: what you earn and when you get it
Protecting yourself: Copyright – how it works, what it means

DISCLAIMER: Any “advice” or information provided on this website is based on the author’s experience and knowledge, and is intended only as background and for purposes of general interest. It is NOT LEGAL ADVICE, and could be incorrect. If you have questions about this information, how it applies to your particular situation, or anything else of a legal nature, CONSULT AN ATTORNEY.


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