Peter McCarthy says he is going to be a fair and helpful juror, yet wants to see excellent writing execution, too. As a publishing industry veteran, the founder and Principal Consultant of McCarthy Digital knows what he wants from our participants. (More about Peter at The Jury.)
What makes a great story?
As a reader I look for compelling ideas, characters, and -- personally -- an economical style with no "wasted" words. At heart, though, I'm a marketer and I am always thinking about how well a given story (or book) lines up with potential readers. Will it resonate? If so, what aspects in particular? I look for a certain "differentiating factor" or "hook" that will speak to readers and get them to read that first sentence.
What hidden treasures will you look for in our contest?
Amazing and truly unique concepts and excellent execution. I want to be blown away by the ideas and the writing. If those two pieces are there, the rest just falls into place. At least most of the time! No guarantees.
Are you a tough juror?
Relatively tough but mostly, I hope, fair and helpful.
How can authors best take advantage of social media?
Firstly, by first taking the time to learn the best practices of using social media in general. These networks have their own rhythms, idioms, and idiosyncrasies. Secondly, by defining their potential audience, their goals, and then their tactics. Generally a blend of social interaction, informative sharing, and promotion works best. No one likes the "hard sell," regardless of the medium. Lastly, I would offer that fearlessness, measurement, and patience are critical. Be fearless -- do it and be yourself. Measure your efforts -- and don't be afraid to stop doing what is not working. Lastly, and most importantly, be patient. Overnight success happens over time and with much effort.
Our participants might need some compassion, too. Have you ever participated in a writing contest yourself?
Indeed. Back in my younger days I wrote screenplays. My co-author and I participated in a Writers Guild of America -- West competition. We were finalists and had our script read by several producers. We didn't get a deal but we did get great, useful feedback. It was a great experience. Very encouraging.
What are some of your guilty reading pleasures?
Self-help. I find a lot of it useful, though for some reason I am embarrassed to cop to the fact that I like reading it from time-to-time. Too much time in literary ivory towers, I suppose. I would use an emoticon here as I am laughing at myself...
Your writing-related pet peeves?
I do not have much patience for a lack of economy with words. I love a good descriptive paragraph as much as the next reader. However, as Elmore Leonard once put it: "Leave out the parts people skip." I think this applies to all genres and across fiction and nonfiction.
How can authors achieve real writing success?
Focusing on the writing first and then letting others help with the rest of the process of publication. No one is a professional at every facet of publishing. And, as seamless as releasing an eBook has become, getting the process right is still much more difficult than most think. But, yeah, write often, as well as you can, and then get support.
This is the first part of a two-part interview with Peter. Watch for the second half to be posted later in the contest!