Sunday, July 23, 2017

Last week's contest results!

You'll be forgiven for not remembering this contest, since it was held a week ago!
Here's the photo that asked the question: what is it?

The results for this contest were delayed cause I was out of the office on Monday and
by Tuesday I was knee-deep in backed up email from being out of the office for three days straight (on Thursday and Friday for ThrillerFest-which was a lot of fun!)

Herewith, at long last, the results!

Uh-oh... Who stole Panda-In-Chief's snugglies? Someone's gonna get in trou-ble!

Kitty sent us to Google translate!
Θάνατος στη Δήλο, ένα άλλο μυστήριο Αθηναϊκή

PAH suggested
3D puzzle of that building...

It looks like a 3D puzzle here for sure. It's actually a length of card stock paper, cut to show the skyline of NYC. Normally it's on my window but the window cleaner moved it and didn't put it back.

Amanda Capper
A cuddly tarantula with poor circulation.

Jennifer Delozier
I spy bear-ly visible spider cozies on them there feet!

All in all, I think
she brought
those two tacks in the wall.

Steve Forti can always be counted on for something hilarious
It's literally in “this photo”. Rearrange letters to “hip to shot”, meaning he brought whiskey and two glasses. A good drinking partner is a gift.

Gabby Gilliam
A spider friend had chilly feet
and lamented to a shark.
A client heard the spider's woe
and it tugged upon their heart.
While whiskey warms the belly
it does nothing for the toes.
The client knew that panda socks
were the only way to go.

(Over the 25 word limit, but the socks were too inspiring. Please forgive me, your sharkliness.)

Amber B
 It was bad enough being the only furry octopus in existence, but having to wear hand-knitted panda socks in public was mortifying.

Kathy Joyce
Dum, dum, da, dum...Spider is getting married!! See the garter? To throw at the reception! Socks? Destination wedding, China. Floppy butt thing? Spider veil.

Melanie Sue Bowles
You all think this is cute. It's not cute. You try navigating a tower of books with two legs crammed into one sock. I demand four more socks!

The Seasick Mermaid
Socktapus in the wild.

Panda In Chief
This makes me want to find a little stuffed shark for Janet and dress it in a panda costume.

Her Grace Heidi the Duchess of Kneale
 Why on earth would your client give you ten copies of the same book? Didn't they know that you can reread a book over and over? Good for the environment.

french sojourn
I wouldn't want to play poker with it.

He's got 4 of a kind showing, waiting on the river card.

My spidey sense is tingling.

Well, NONE of you got it exactly right.  You got the socks part. And of course, the spoctopus is wearing them here, but the sox are intended for chairs.

Yes, chair sox.
I about fell over when I heard that. Who puts sox on chairs? Well, whynot?
(It's a Japanese thing, these sox came in Japanese packaging.)

But, even though none of the guesses were exactly right, the entries were hilarious.

For the first time in forever, no winner.
Unless you think I missed something! Weigh in in the comments section.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Contest results

I should mention the reason for this contest: on Wednesday night my mail management program crashed. I had it backed up, but I'd done something to it such that the only back up that worked was from ten days ago (I back up daily so godiva knows what the hell I did to this thing.)

This has happened before so I knew what to do. Download all my email again. In this case, I was lucky. It was only all the email for a year. The first time it happened it was for five years.

So Wednesday night, and most of Thursday I sat at my compute and pushed Send/Receive cause the email program only downloads 500 emails at a time.

There were 35,000 emails. It takes about 20 minutes to download 500. Then you have to clean out the Outbox, cause all the mail to QueryShark generates an auto response.

Needless to say I was a burned out husk of a figment of a wisp of a shark by Thursday night. I couldn't have come up with a blog post if you'd given me ten prompt words and a head start.

Thus the contest. And true to your usual form, you guyz really cracked me up and lifted my spirits. Thank you!

Herewith the results:

Kitty went there!
They're searching for the results from the last contest.
errr...I'll get right on that.

AJ Blythe has eagle eyes
Alot: Cute Otter picture on wall
That's the centerpiece art for I Am Otter which I love so much I have it hanging in my office. It's the aftermath of the toast restaurant.

Another set of eagle eyes, Dena Pawling
queries current only through 3/20/2017
yea well, I've been busy not judging contests.

KdJames did some sleuthing too
I can't think up a caption. I'm thoroughly diverted and dumbstruck by the condition of that laptop. What the hell did you do to it?
Well, it's kinda old so it needed a truss.

Special recognition for a great line:

EM Goldsmith
We're gonna need a bigger slush pile.

Laurie Lamb
Shark: Janet out-Scotched us.
Special recognition for an entry that breaks all the rules, with style and charm
Kate Higgins

Great entries but not quite captions:

The Noise In Space
I keep hoping that one day- ONE DAY - we will get a caption contest with a 30 word maximum, so I can do a "my nayme is" poem (I love that meme with an undying passion.) Well, I'm armed with both a splitting headache and a devil-may-care attitude today, so I'm doing it anyway.

Our nayme is plush,
an wen its nite,
an our grate shark
turns off the lite,
we crank some tunes
we know by heart-
We let a Wilde
Rumpus start.

*spray paints "Vive le Revolution" onto the wall and runs cackling into the distance*
"Take me, you beast!"

"Not so rough!"

"What the hell? I thought this was a literary agency, not The Lifestyles of the Sick and Stuffed."

Here are the finalists
Janice Grinyer
"when the phone rang, they all froze; who was going to be query shark this time?!"
Spiderina still hasn't quite got the hang of playing hopScotch.

Melanie Savransky
Missed Connections: You were a leggy 18 year old with a killer smile and alot of charm. Pity I only heard your voice.
Moments before finding out why you never play spin the bottle with a spider.

And this week's winner is Melanie Savransky. There's just nothing like clever word play to charm my fiendish heart!

Melanie, if you'll email me with a list of what you like to read, and your preferred mailing address, I'll get a prize in the mail to you.

Thank you all for taking the time to write captions and enter the contest. You really made the end of the week a WHOLE lot better than it had been.

Friday, July 21, 2017

What the heck is going on here after hours?/Contest closed

Security cam footage caught some shenanigans.
What the hell is going on here?

25 words or fewer.
Post in the comment section.

Take wagers on how long it takes me to post the results (I hang my head in shame)

Yes there's a prize.
No it's not any of these hooligans. Those are my beta readers until I get new interns!

Contest is now closed! (sorry!)

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Ghost writing novels

Over the past few years, I've ghostwritten/edited nearly a dozen romance novels with a friend who then self-publishes them. The way this has worked for us is she acts as a James Patterson type: she has great high-concept ideas that she then hires out to writers to fill in. I have no qualms about saying I'm very good at what I do (confidence--what a new notion for me!), especially as I've recently expanded my clientele to do the same work for another romance writer. I'm paid fairly well as a work-for-hire when there are projects to be had, and I love this work as it's fun, comes naturally to me, and is far from what I write/want to write as far as my own books, so there's no competition.

Recently, I was on Upwork looking for editing jobs and noticed there are quite a few requests for ghostwriters who are given the concept and then asked to run with writing the story. I'm led to believe that the majority of self-published authors in certain genres are using ghostwriters. I'm wondering how this works in traditional publishing and if it's similar. More than that, I'm wondering if it's possible to break into traditional publishing as a ghostwriter and if it's lucrative to do so.

So I suppose that's the question, which I'm hoping with your knowledge might provide some much-needed guidance. Can writers break into the industry as ghostwriters and is it financially lucrative for them? Or should I stay the course and continue as-is? 

There are certainly a number of people writing novels that are published under someone else's name, or with the writer listed as a co-author. James Patterson is the classic example. I think John Sanford does some of his novels like this. And certainly there are now entire franchises written by a new author (Dick Francis, Robert Ludlum, Robert Parker)

Thus it is financially lucrative to be a successful ghost.

How to break in? The only people I know who have those gigs had writing careers before they had ghost careers. Their agents got them the ghost jobs, or their personal connections with estates did.

As a relative new-comer with self-pubbed titles in your resume, it's going to be a LOT harder.

The first thing you need to verify is that you are contractually allowed to tell people you wrote "someone else's book."

This is sticky point in all ghost negotiations. Some ghosts are contractually prohibited from telling anyone they wrote something. Others are allowed to mention it only within the industry as a reference for a gig. And some are allowed to have their name on the cover.

If you don't have this established in writing, you'll need to. The last thing you want to do is damage your income stream by having your "James Patterson" say "whoa Nelly, why are you telling people you wrote my book??"

The second thing you'll need to do is cough up sales figures. Self-pubbed books often don't do well. Trad-pubbed books often don't either, but there's a stereotype about the quality of self-pubbed books that has not entirely dissipated. You'll need to be prepared to address that.

How you'd query for this I do not know. Generally I'm not looking for ghost writers for my novelists. The ghost writers I have hired were for non-fiction, and I knew of them from their agent.

As you work on your own novels, you might just keep this mind as something to discuss with your agent when you hook up with her. It's another way to make money and I'm all in favor of my clients making wheelbarrows of dough.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Vodka is not the answer, don't tell @bpoelle

I just got in a request for a revise and resubmit. The agent wants to set up a phone call to discuss the potential changes, which I'm all for. But in the letter they sent me, they said they had some significant issues with the manuscript, including not feeling connected to any of the characters, feeling like the characters all blended together and had no outstanding personality traits, that most of my plot was over done and convoluted, and then listed out for me the similarities they found between my manuscript and a very popular series in the genre. Is this typically how R&R letters go?
I've had beta testers read this, and the one problem I never had was anyone telling me they thought my characters blended together. Some of the agent's suggestions were quite helpful but others left me lost. I also noticed that in the agent's notes, there's a handful of times where they point out that I forgot to introduce something to the story before using it later, but every time they had pointed it out, I had actually introduced it previously in the story, sometimes only paragraphs before. They also spelled the name of one character incorrectly consistently through the letter. I feel both grateful for the time they've spent on my manuscript as well as confused. If they had a problem connecting to my characters and thought my plot was over done, is there really anything I can do for an R&R? I don't drink booze, should I start?

Did they mention anything they liked?

Every agent does revision requests differently. I tend to reject with some notes, and if the author asks to resubmit, sometimes take another look.  Requests for resubmission are rare rare rare.

Other agents might request a lot of resubs.There's no right or wrong way here.

But what perplexes me is the lack of enthusiasm about anything. Generally if I'm thinking of reading something again, I'm pretty enthused about the ms and think there are one or two things that can be revised to the point of showing it around the office for beta reads.

An overdone and convoluted plot isn't something you can revise. It's start over again time.

Characters that blend together aren't fodder for revision. They're an indication that the writer needs more practice.

The real question here is what these guyz have in mind for you. My first suspicion is they are running some sort of editorial factory out the back door and have the idea that you'll "benefit" from their services for the low low price of one arm and one leg.

Generally an agent isn't going to request an R&R on something she thinks is a total mess unless there's at least some redeeming factor, which she would mention. A redeeming factor would be voice, memorable charactes, crackerjack plot, you are Oprah Winfrey's love child.

My guess is your manuscript is not a total mess because your question to me is concise, cogent and funny. Good writers write well even when they're penning letters to me and running on their Anxiety Wheel.

I suggest you see what they have to say. It's free to listen. Take notes.  You might actually have a second listener on the call (muted) to take notes for you.  Then you thank them for their time and consider what they have to say.

Just because an agent says something doesn't make it true. (Except for me. Believe everything I tell you)

This industry is as subjective about tastes and preferences as any other industry populated by people convinced they're the arbiters of all that is eyeball worthy.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Yanno that phrase "Great minds think alike?"....welllll....

So I have two fulls out with agents right now and a handful of query letters. I've been really excited and hopeful about the process, but I recently saw that a new ARC had been released in my same genre. It has a pretty different plot line than mine, but I thought up a snappy name for a potion in mine that's pivotal to the plot, and it turns out they have the same exact name for their own potion that's pivotal to the plot. Now I'm worried that the agents reading my manuscript will see this and assume I somehow either copied it or that my story is too similar to this ARC for it to sell, even though the plots are different. I'm also pretty upset that I'll now have to go into my own story and find a new name for my potion when I was so happy with what I'd come up with. I know this seems like such a small thing, but can it have a big impact on the agents reading my work? Do I contact those two agents, or just leave them alone and hope they don't get turned off by it?

Because this is the first time this has happened to you, you think it's a big deal.

This happens a LOT. It's NOT a big deal.

Example: this past weekend I was at ThrillerFest. A lovely writer asked for help on a query. Her query included a phrase that I thought meant one thing; in fact the usage is now for something else, a site on the Dark Web. I'd never heard of it before and I was positive agents would confuse this new usage with the historical usage. With that in mind, I advised her to change her phrase.

Within a day, two OTHER writers, in two separate conversations, referenced the new usage as a plot point.

I'd have laughed if I wasn't quite so mortified about my confident insistence that people would not recognize the new usage.

Agents will not think you copied this other writer. For starters, the book isn't published.

And the reason I know you didn't steal this idea is cause you're worried about people thinking you did. The blatant plagiarists never think anyone will notice. Meticulous writers are sure everyone will...and assume the worst.

You didn't steal this idea, or this nomenclature. People come up with similar ideas and phrases more often than you'd think.

Bottom line: you're fine.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Your contact page

Recently I was skulking around the contact page of an author.
I was looking for the name of the author's agent.
It was nowhere to be found.

No problem. Most readers aren't looking for that info and not listing it might be the agent's choice.
But, what was a problem was how prickly the tone of the "Contact me" page was.

It was overtly hostile to any writer wanting to make contact.
It was ice cold to any reader.
And everyone else could just go to hell.


Take a look at your contact page.
(You have one, right?)

Does it have the words "thank you" anywhere?
Does it have the phrase "I'm glad to hear from readers" or some approximation thereof?

If you're not able to blurb other author's books, do you phrase it with any kind of apology or regret (even if you aren't apologetic or regretful?)

I purposely did not buy the book this author wrote because I was so put off by the tone of this page.

I realize that many writers get blurb requests or personal favor requests they can't or don't want to agree to.  I know that eye roll of annoyance when those requests roll in. (Let's all remember I see queries from people who wouldn't know a submission guideline if it arrived gift wrapped.)

That's the cost of doing business these days.
Have a form letter ready to deal with those requests, or at least observe the social niceties by saying "I'm sorry I can't blurb any books right now."

I like to support writers, even those I don't represent.
But I'll be damned if I'll give hard earned money to someone who seems to disdain reader contact as an annoyance one must put up with.

If you want an example of a contact page that does it right, look no further than blog reader Donnaeve.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

What is it?

A client brought me a gift on Monday.
It's in this photo.

What is it?
(25 words or fewer)

Contest closes later today so enter sooner rather than be left out! now closed!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Giving Good Panel

I slunk into the Grand Hyatt at 8:32am on Friday morning.
Fortunately, the staff know me and were prepared.
A coffee IV pole was waiting at the top of the escalator.
I rolled it, and myself, to an out of the way corner and texted Patrick Lee:
"Good morning?"

My goal was two-fold. If he was still snoozing, I wanted him to wake up since his panel started at 9am.

If he was awake I wanted him to know I'd arrived.

He was awake, attached to his own coffee IV pole, and we rendez-voused in the Broadway meeting room just in time to catch the last bit of the 8am panel that featured the Amazing and Talented Jessica Faust.

At 9am Patrick's panel began. All the panelists were of the male persuasion. (The panel moderator was a woman.) I did a quick gender tally of the audience. 48/64 men, 15/64 women, 1/64 shark.

The panel topic was on writing realistic fight scenes. It was a lot better than I'd been expecting and one reason is Patrick Lee is a really funny guy at 9am.

The gent on Patrick's left turned out to be a great storyteller. A question from the moderator about real life fights got him started on a story about being mugged for a case of beer, and cutting his hand very badly on a broken beer bottle. When I tell you we were laughing as he told this story, it makes us sound like a bunch of sociopaths, but really it was very funny. And it was funny cause of how he told it.  My guess is this was not some impromptu riff, but something he'd told before, maybe often, and gotten it down to a nice taut tale.

The point is this: that's the guy whose books I bought after the panel. I hadn't heard of him before but I figured a guy who could spin a yarn on a panel could probably write a pretty good book.

So now I have two of his.

What this means for you: when you're going to be at a public event, have some stories in your reticule. You may not need them. But if you do, you'll be glad you were prepared.  Trying to be funny, and succinct, with no prep is very difficult. Make it easy on yourself. Be prepared.

Friday, July 14, 2017

An interesting thing happened on the way to the bar

Yesterday I participated in the UNpitchFest at ThrillerFest. As you know, I think pitching is an abomination and should be banned from conferences, but so far, not much luck in persuading conference organizers of this.

The good folks at ThrillerFest however have instituted the No Pitch Zone. The NPZ is a place for writers to come and get help on their queries and first pages. Sort of like QueryShark in person. In the NPZ this year were four agents and two editors. One of the agents was LaSlitherina Herself, the amazing and terrifying Barbara Poelle, and of course me.

Let's just say WE had a good time.
I'm not sure if any of the writers actually survived.
They are so very tasty.

This year something odd and interesting happened. I'm not sure why or how. I didn't plan it. It wasn't something I even thought about ahead of time. It just ... happened.

Here's what it was: the first writer sat down with all her papers and pens,  hopes and fears. If I could read auras I think she'd be a throbbing rainbow.

"Hi," I said. "I'm Janet."
She told me her name.

"How can I help you today?" I asked.

She needed help on her query. She fumbled a bit, found the paper, had it in her hands.

In years past, I might have taken it from her hand, feigning grabbing it at to demonstrate my eagerness to read. I thought that would make the writer feel encouraged.

This year without much thought I just said "May I read it?"
She handed it to me.

I asked "May I make some suggestions?" and she said "Yes, please do." Of course, we were in a room specifically designed for help on queries, ie suggestions, and I would have been startled if she had said no.

But it was interesting to see she instantly seemed more calm and more in control.

By asking her permission, by giving her control of the interaction, she felt better.

Well, the heavens didn't open, and angels did not descend to sing my praises (and honestly if they had I would have fallen over dead with shock) but it did feel like a bit of an epiphany.

So I kept doing it. I didn't make a big deal about it. I just ... asked.

Now that I've slunk home from the bar, and had some time to think I really like this approach. I can't quite put my finger on why yet (I haven't had time enough to ruminate, cause I'm still trying to fumigate!) but I just thought I'd share this with you.  [And that's cause I forgot to do a real blog post for today and I have to be back at T/fest today at 9am for Patrick Lee's panel.  He's more of a night owl than I am, so two coffee IV poles will be wheeled in!]

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Being first

I have a friend (how many of your blog entries start this way?) who is self-published. She has several (nine) books out, and they've done fair to middling, as best I can tell. I don't know how to tell precisely how well they've sold, but they're in the mid-hundreds in their categories on Amazon.

She read one of my manuscripts ages ago before she started self-publishing, and, to get quickly to the point, she wants to publish my manuscript.

She has never published anything for anyone else.

My gut says this is a bad idea. But on the other hand, the manuscript in question doesn't fit easily on the shelf - it's a tough shop. She's willing to take on the publishing and marketing costs. And she wants 50/50 profits.

My question for the blog is this: regardless of details (who gets what, etc.), this doesn't fit easily into traditional or self-publishing. With a manuscript that is likely never to see the light of day otherwise, can I still shoot myself in the foot with traditional publishers on other projects in other genres by doing this?

In other words, is this as horrible an idea as I think it might be?
What's the worst possible thing that could happen if you did this?
The book will tank and you'll be very disappointed.
That's it.

Publishers won't care if you've published something else. If you wanted them to publish the book that tanked that's when things might get dicey.

And you're not a debut, but hell, we'll work around that if we have to.

Bottom line: You will have a published book with sales numbers.
This will be a good thing if the book sells well.

Will the book sell well?
You've already said it's a tough sell.  Yes it's harder to find an agent than it is to find a reader. But, you need ONE agent. You need 10,000 readers.

The alternative is of course to publish under a pseudonym and never mention it when you query for your other books.

Of course, you didn't ask what I thought about the idea of being a guinea pig for someone's first effort at running a publishing company.  I will say only this: I never like to be first. I like to be third. I like the idea that rookie mistakes get made on someone else's book, not mine.  And no matter what, publishing someone else is NOT the same as self-publishing. For starters you'll need a contract. With an audit clause for the money. And a royalty schedule. And agreement on who registers the copyright. And then of course the warranties and indemnities clause.

You would be  ceding control of your intellectual property to someone who has limited publishing experience. And NO experience selling books other than through retail channels. You're essentially signing up for self-publishing with no control and half the money. Weigh that against the very lovely idea of your book reaching readers.

There is no wrong choice here. You won't kill your career no matter what you choose or how hard that book might crash and burn.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

No one says anything is wrong, but they're also not saying yes

Since completing my third novel (it is the first one I queried with, because no author would ever query their very first novel, right? Right??), I have received over 9 full requests (seeing as how I queried just a little over 60 agents, that's a decent number of full requests).

Each agent has had wonderful things to say about the novel: "creative and awe inspiring", "most imaginative writing I have read in a while", "very talented writer", "amazing detail and incredible world building", "I found myself loving the characters as if they were my own kids", "Please tell me this is a series in the making!", "smart writing", etc., etc., thank you, thank you.

Great, right?

Although their responses back had so many nice things to say, each one of them ultimately turned it down. Not one of them wanted to take a chance on the MS. In EVERY SINGLE case (requesting agents), there wasn't anything wrong with the novel that they put to paper - nothing that involved a R and R or extensive plot changes or character revamping or hair pulling or binge drinking/brownie scarfing/late night red bull fueled editing please stop crying you'll ruin your laptop sessions - they just didn't think it was a fit for them/their agency "at this time".

So my question(s) is/are, why would agent after requesting agent keep turning it down when they seem to like it so much? Am I to assume that the market isn't in a place right now that could support this kind of book (upper MG fantasy) and that is why they ultimately turn it down? I know that agents aren't immune to rejection themselves - it can take them months or even a year or more to find a publisher too - so why wouldn't they want to sign me and gamble with the market in hopes trends will swing or that a publisher will love it as much as they do and buck the whole market trend thing? (BTW - I do NOT/WILL NOT write for market trends - that's what a writer does. I am an author. I write for me and for the stories in my head and that will never stop regardless of all the rejections. Ok, moving on...)

While I appreciate the accolades, I'd like to see this "creative and awe inspiring" book of mine on the shelf!

Any help/insight/agent mind reading would be ever so appreciated!

My first guess, and this is just a guess, is that your upper MG fantasy is well written and wonderful but too much like everything else that's on the market right now. Part of any pitch to an editor is how a book is new and fresh. If the book isn't, well, that's not a book I'm likely to take on.

I don't tell that to writers because there's almost nothing they can do to fix it. And this is a subjective assessment. I don't know if you'll get rep tomorrow and then read MY scathing analysis out loud at a conference someday (or post it on your blog.)

My second guess, and again this is a guess, is that your book doesn't surprise the reader in any way.  That's an often overlooked key to any book (and it ties in with my first guess.)

Surprise me in a good way of course, not by having something happen that doesn't make sense.

My third (and most awful) guess is that something is really wrong with the book and no one is telling you.  I have been guilty of those kinds of rejections myself.  The reason I NEVER put that on paper is that (again) this is a subjective assessment, and my "you gotta be kidding" can be another agent's "gimme that now, I need to sell it right away."

And lest you think I'm exaggerating let me just say I beta read a manuscript that had an offer on it; suggested a pass (which we did) and found out the offering agent was not only a pal of mine, but someone whose taste I admire.  And that kind of thing isn't rare.

You've got a problem but my job is finding solutions, not just telling you what's wrong.

Time for some outside eyeballs on this.  You don't need a class most likely. You need a good critical eye.  This is where you need an editor who has worked for a big publisher, and is now doing freelance consulting.  You don't need an edit. You need a beta read.  Ask them to read as if they were reading for acquisition, and for notes about why they wouldn't buy it (or maybe they would, in which case, YAY.)

What you're looking for with this beta read is if the reader is surprised at any point in the plot, and if the book feels fresh.  If the answers are no and no, well, now you know.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

When your agent doesn't rep what you've written

I recently signed with a terrific agent for my nonfiction work. I’m thrilled – I already have a book deal, she represents authors who are highly regarded in my field, and she’s a perfect fit for what I do.

But I also write fiction, and while my agent does represent some children's fiction, neither she nor anyone at her agency represents the category of my soon-to-be-finished first novel (adult crime fiction). My agent has said she’d be happy to look at anything I write, but that she understands completely if I’d rather look elsewhere for fiction representation.

Working with her has been a dream come true – she got me more money and better terms than I had hoped for on the nonfiction book, and I just really respect her and enjoy working with her. I need to decide (maybe?) whether I’d be better off sticking with her even though she usually doesn’t represent or read crime fic (if the novel is even up to her standards), or querying other agents once the manuscript is ready to go. I also want to do what's best for my agent, and I don’t want to saddle her with a novel she’s not excited about. Am I overthinking this? Should I just give her the manuscript and let her make the call? What should I have for lunch? Oh God, why are writers like this?

This is not running on your woodland creature rodent wheel. This is a real problem, and it's one I'm seeing more and more.

The ideal solution is of course to find an agent to rep your adult fiction, while your current agent reps your non-fiction.

This is going to be a whole lot harder than you think.

For example, if you approached me to rep your adult fiction I'd need to know and trust your current agent.  Communication between the two agents is going to be a big factor in this polyamourous representation.

Each agent would have to loop the other in on contract negotiations. Some contracts have non-compete clauses, next works clauses, and option clauses that can throw a spanner in the works pretty damn quickly.

I have one client who has two agents: Sean Ferrell. The estimable Brooks Sherman reps Sean for his picture books. I rep him for his adult fiction.  When this arrangement started, Brooks' desk was right next to mine, and we could discuss all aspects of the picture book deals right then and there.

I can't imagine how cumbersome that would be for an agent in another office, let alone one in a different company.

That's why I tend not to sign people for anything less than their full wardrobe of work.

 But, if your current NF agent is ok with the arrangement, you can query agents who rep crime fiction. You're going to need to tell them about this other agent in the query letter (you'll put the info in the last paragraph NOT the first.) 

This is another instance where meeting agents in person is a good idea. It's a whole lot easier to figure this out when I can talk to a writer face to face and ask questions.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Am I part of your evil plan for world domination?

Here’s a question that’s been nibbling at my mind recently and one, only you can answer.

A while back I remember reading on your blog, (thanks for all you do for us), that posts to your blog belong to the blog. At that time I took the statement as meaning, if you ever wrote a book on writery, agentey, publishey stuff, you could use our comments as fodder. (That would be an honor BTW).

Because my new WIP continues the, ‘why I wrote what I wrote and what happened after’ format, are my quips, comments and amazing (ha) words of wisdom, now owned by you, or am I able to reuse? Re: their force and fallout, in my new memoir/essay project.

In other words, I was just wondering if all my brilliant attempts at enlightenment, shared as comments on your blog, are now yours. (No one accuses me of being humble).

I think you're remembering the submission requirements at which asks writers to agree that the posts can be kept on the blog for the life of the blog.

I instituted that after several people in a rapid succession got gnawed, then pissed, and told me they wanted the entry removed.

Given the value of QueryShark is revising (for the writer) and seeing the revisions (for the readers) just offering a critique that  no one else would see seemed an inefficient use of my scarcest resource (charm time.)

However, that does NOT mean I own the queries. In fact, I don't. They belong to the writer. Then, now, always.

I can refer to them should I ever write  a book on writery, agentey, publishey stuff, but I couldn't just republish the entry without permission.

I own the blogposts here of course. I don't mind if people link to them, or repost them with correct attribution. If someone lifts these posts and publishes them, that's not ok.

As for the comments, those belong to the writers, not me. Of course, if I ever did write a book on writery, agentey, publishey stuff, and wanted to include some of the pithier comments, and did so with attribution, I'd probably be ok.  BUT if I wanted to include one of Miss Julie's amazing stories, I'd have to get her permission.

A comment like
"To share an overflowing plate is admirable. To give away that which you covet is honorable. To donate knowledge, entertainment and escape is most noble"
is probably fair use.

But anything longer, and a complete story (like the flash fiction entries) is probably not fair use.

Comment without fear. (Now that is a phrase I might have to steal. Oh wait, it's mine!)

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Contest results-preliminary FINAL

Yesterday's blog post asking for caption suggestions was really illuminating. Some of you were very practical; very literal in your answers.  Some of you were a bit more fanciful. And some of you, writers to the bone, couldn't help writing stories. I've said it before, I'll say it again: you guyz are fiercely talented and amazing. Never doubt that for a second!

Megan V
I do hate to point this out, but unless that's Mosag then your she is a he. Poor Aragog. Always getting confused for something he's not. First an octopus, then his wife.
My spider is not restricted to just one gender. In fact, today she's wearing a black garter.

Now, I can hear you all thinking "oh that's just Janet making something up to amuse herself on a Sunday morning."

But no no no. The spider is wearing a black garter. How did she get a black garter? Well, the awesome Meredith Barnes stopped by last week to talk to our interns about publicity and marketing. Mer-Bear brought a copy of Karen Robards new book The Ultimatum, and the publicity materials that had been sent out with the ARCs. Instead of a paperclip, the publicity materials were held to the book with a black garter. (If you read The Ultimatum you'll know why this was a stroke of pure PR genius.)

I of course snagged the book
The spider snagged the garter.
With eight legs, one can always use an extra garter.

There were some hilarious suggestions as to the box's contents:

E. M. Goldsmith
Jeff Somers' missing pants

Steve Forti
The obvious answer is Gwyneth Paltrow's head.

But since it's Brooks, and he was the librarian at Shawshank, I'm gonna say it's a rock hammer hidden inside a bible.
I must be missing the joke about Gwyneth Paltrow's head, but any reference to The Shawshank Redemption gets my vote!

Update: Steve has now clarified the reference. I will NOT be viewing this on YouTube! WAY too scary.  I prefer to be the scarer, not the scareee!

Writer of Wrongs
Shrodinger's Cat. Not to be confused with the Duchess of Yowl. I hope.

Confuse me with some OTHER, lesser cat? I should think NOT.

Your order for Waffle House
I haven't been to The Waffle House in far too long. I better track down a writing conference near one and beg for an invitation!


TS Rosenberg
The Macguffin, of course!

It's the crushed hopes and dreams of a thousand writers, lightly seasoned with their bitter tears.
Nah, that's your favourite snack food.
Plus, probably he has his own.

Oh, the irony of it all! It's heavy, it's's none other than my great-grandmother's special recipe Christmas fruitcake that I sent you back in December. It's obvious the spider knows a good thing when he sees one. And you didn't even have a piece. At least Brooks knows what goes good with a nice bourbon.

Happy Christmas in July, Brooks! Enjoy the fruitcake.

It's me.
I am in the box.

I guess poor Mr. Sherman didn't realize when he cheekily told you, "Feel free to send along anything off-beat, slightly disturbing, and/or not quite right in the head you run across," you'd take him literally.

Colin Smith
It's John Frain's manuscript of course. And Sox the Spoctoper (spider-octopus) knows that NOTHING is worthy to share a box with THE MANUSCRIPT.

(Yes, I named him Sox, because every flash fiction contest, he gets blown away.)

Terri Lynn Coop
To be using a flat rate box for crosstown, it is something heavy.

For the pet spider to be terrified to enter the box, it is something spiders instinctively fear and avoid at all costs.

Duh, it's obvious.

You're sending Brooks Sherman a vacuum cleaner.

Don't feel bad folks, I'm a trained professional.


Kathy Joyce
Uh, guys? I think you're missing the obvious.

Byobrooks is an agent. What do agents need more than anything else?

Honestly, it's not that tough a riddle!

Agents need MORE TIME. Janet is sending him more time.

Why the flat rate envelope? To disguise it, of course. Most people want more time, so Janet has to pretend it's a box of books, so no one will steal it.

Why didn't the spider climb in?

Geez, do I have to do all the thinking here? Did you ever see a spider wearing a watch?

He didn't climb in because SPIDERS DON'T NEED MORE TIME!

You're welcome. ;)

Jenny Chou
Okay, so I really want to know what's in that box.

Everyone who has read Harry Potter knows that spiders flee from a basilisk, but why would you be sending Brooks a deadly snake? You like Brooks. You would not want to see him petrified.

I hear there are ARCs available of Nick Petrie's new book, but if you got your fins on one I can't imagine you sharing it.

So now I've determined the two things that are not in the box.

Though you share Sean Ferrel as a client, I know he's not in the box because he tweeted something today that was not "Help! I'm n a box."

Liquor you would have packed and shipped directly from the store.

Spider is afraid of it. Not an ARC. Not Sean. Not alcohol.

So obviously it's ---

*background noise of ferocious struggle as beloved iPad is ripped away*

Hi. This is Jenny's daughter. Mom made me promise to keep her off Twitter and all other forms of social media until she's completed draft 1 of her WIP. And besides, it's a beautiful day. You people should be outside or something.

I can't tell you how delighted I was with these entries. Hilarious and imaginative. And oh so illuminating!

It's almost impossible to pick just one winner.

How about you guyz weigh in in the comment column today, and I'll announce the winner tonight?

UPDATE: ok, I've read the comments, and mulled this over.
There's no way to choose one winner, so there are two:  KathyJoyce for what is IN the box, and Jenny Chou for what is NOT in the box!

As usual, you guyz just blow me away with your talent! Thanks to all who took the time to enter and comment.

Kathy and Jenny, drop me a line with your preferred mailing address.  Jenny, boy oh boy, do I have a  good prize for you!

Saturday, July 08, 2017

What are we sending to Mr. Sherman, Agent to the Bestsellers?

On Thursday I packed up a box of [somethings] for my boon companion in bourbon, Brooks Sherman.

Of course, any time there are boxes, and tape, and promises of an adventure, the animal life perks right up.

No exception that day. No sooner had I affixed the address than my pet spider (which we know is not an octopus) dropped in and start planning her entry into that box. (With eight legs, she can cut the tape, slide in, and retape the seams in while enclosed. I've seen her do it.)

However, she changed her mind when she heard what I was shipping over to Our Man Brooks.

Post your guess of what's in the box in the comment column.

Yes there will be a prize. There might be more than one.

Contest runs today only.

Friday, July 07, 2017

About those bookshelves!

I have been following the advice of the Shark and reading much more widely than I used to in my chosen category/genre. It's brilliant. I get to read outstanding stories, I constantly reaffirm how much I enjoy my category/genre, I support authors in it by attending their events and buying their books (and sometimes I make direct connections with them), and I learn something from almost every book that helps me refine my own writing. One recent book gave me ideas on how to handle dual POV that are directly applicable to my WIP. Another was notable for its outstanding voice and characterizations, yet another for its creation of a beautifully strange world that was both like our own and not.

The only downside is that shelf space at home is growing tighter and tighter. I would be happy to give away some of these books, but I am mindful of not wanting to cannibalize sales of new books. Do you have favorite ways to pass books on to others that maximize the benefits for both authors and readers?
As you might suspect, having won one yourself, my favorite ploy for reducing inventory is running a flash fiction contest and sending books to the winner.

That option is not the best for people who don't have an exaltation of readers lining up with quill and ink to write contest entries.

I think the best place for used books is the Friends of your local library donation box. When I moved to New York City I donated my entire collection to the Friends. (They needed a pickup truck for all the boxes.)

As to your concern about cannibalizing front list sales: Friends of the Library sales won't do that. For starters, the people who attend that sale are generally library patrons already, and thus their library most likely has a copy of most of the books you'll be donating.

Second, the FoL sale is a great way for readers to find new authors.

Third,  in supporting the public library you're helping an institution that is the foundation of democracy and that's no small thing.

[Not for nothing does Brother Muzone extol the benefits of a library card]

Free access to a wealth of knowledge is way a person can rise in the world regardless of circumstance.  I sincerely hope no one would fault you supporting that.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

How do agents decide whether a book is right for their list?

How do agents decide whether a book is right for their list? Some people tell me agents want books similar to those on their list, others tell me agents want books in the same genre but they should not be similar to any other books on their list. When querying, is it worth taking a look at an agent's list or should we be guided by genre alone?

Also, if I look through tweets with the #MSWL hash tag, I see rather specific requests with regard to plot, characters, setting and even the ethnic background of the writer. One could get the impression that agents look through the slush pile not just for good stories in the genre they represent, but for good stories containing specific traits. If that's true, where do they get the list of traits they want? Is it gut instinct? Opinion polls? Requests from editors and publishers? Has the market become so fractured that agents only represent books in certain genres possessing certain traits? 

You can't even think about this right now.
This is a textbook recipe for driving yourself absolutely crazy.

One of the things that keeps us all from going nuts in this crazy world is imposing order on the chaos of life: establishing habits, organizing our lives, having routines.  Entire shelves in bookstores are devoted to books about organizing your life to exert control. (I probably own them all, I love books about being organized.)

The trick is to know where you can impose habit, routine and order. Creating a checklist for what agents are seeking and selling is not one of them. How you query is.

What I'm looking for isn't a checklist. If I read something and like it (a lot!) I will consider whether I think I can sell it. I will consider how much I can sell it for. I will consider whether the author appears to be someone I can work with or if they are giving off the Nutso Vibe. I'll look at other books on my list and consider if this fits or overlaps with my current clients. (I'm unlikely to take on a book too close to what Laird Barron writes for example.)

But, that is MY process. It's not only not everyone's process, it's not anyone else's process.
There is no uniformity in how agents consider books.

That actually works in your favor; if you annoy the snot out of me (you don't) all you have to do is query someone else for a fresh opportunity. If I annoy the snot out of you (all too possible) well then, here's La Slitherina's email address and she's damn good at her job.

As to the #MSWL request list. A lot of those specific "things I'm looking for" are in fact responses to what we think will sell. There's been a surge in demand for books that specifically reflect diversity in race and ethnicity, rather than the characters simply being default white.  Some of the requests reflect our knowledge of holes in the market. And some of it is just us yapping about what we like to read.

#MSWL is useful mostly for finding agents who are looking for things in categories you didn't know they were interested in.  It's not a comprehensive list.

And just because we're looking for X, and you wrote X, doesn't mean it's a slam dunk that I'll sign you. (See paragraph "What I'm looking for isn't a checklist" above.)  In other words, it's circular.
Like a damn rodent wheel. It's no wonder you guys are all nutso.

And one last thing: you wrote "Some people tell me" and I get the feeling you're listening to other writes yammering about what works and what doesn't. Beware of vesting too much confidence in these voices.  Writers know their own experience. They aren't agents. They don't work in agencies.

One of the things that will trip you up hardest is listening to someone tell you how it is, and accepting it as gospel. There is no "how it is" for acquiring clients. Every single client had a different path.

A lot of publishing is luck.
All of publishing is subjective.

There's only one thing you can control: your novel.  

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

More on waiting, cause really what else should we talk about while you're waiting!

Your recent blog posts about manuscript requests and R&R’s spurred me into action to respond to a longstanding response to requested materials. Here is the timeline of our correspondence:

I queried with sample pages.

A week later she sent a very complimentary response enthusiastically requesting the full. I responded that day.

She sent an immediate response, thank you, she had it and would get back to me shortly.

Three months later I sent a nudge and asked if she wanted to see a version incorporating some revisions.

A month later she sent a reply, she was very sorry she hadn’t got to this, but still wanted to read it, please send the revision and she would get back soon. I responded that day.

Three months later I sent a nudge, only to learn that she had switched agencies. Ack!

Three months after that I sent a nudge.

A few days after that I had a happenstance twitter DM conversation with one of her authors. The author mentioned that she had asked her agent about my MS, and that the agent had been very excited to read it, but had been very busy (selling this authors book for one, and changing agencies.) The author suggested I contact the agent again after Christmas.

I sent an after Christmas nudge. The agent responded after a month. Yes the transition to the new agency had been chaotic. She still wanted to read my MS, but in the transition had lost access to the version I sent. Could I resend? I replied that day. (Also perhaps this was some indication that the agency shift had not been an entirely happy affair?)

Another three months, another nudge.

A month later, since I hadn’t heard back, I sent another nudge.

All in all this has been going on for almost a year now.

Her author loves her, and they have three book deals in two years.  The agent is making good deals with major publishers, which I see as a great sign. She expressed a lot of enthusiasm on several occasions, thus I feel a sense of obligation to not just give up. But I also don’t want to be rude.

Q1 Should I continue to send nudges? If so, how often and how many before I give up?
Q2 I have maintained a twitter connection to her author and we have DM’d on several occasions. Should I discuss this with her via DM? If so, what should I say or ask?
Q3 The agent and I are mutual Twitter followers, so I could/should I break the rule and DM the agent on the assumption that my inquiries are getting lost in the junk-mail folder, and that she would want to know that she had lost track? I tried this one other time with an agent and it actually lead to a great conversation.

My hamster wheel is spinning full speed ahead, but the bearings are getting a little wobbly.

Q1: Yes, about every 90 days or so. Don't give up.

Q2: NO. Involving a client in this is the fastest way I can think of to get an instant pass and not because of your novel but because you overstepped a pretty clear line.

Q3: NO.

Your mail isn't getting lost in her junk mail folder. People have the weirdest idea that when their emails aren't answered it's cause we didn't see it. That's just not true. It's cause we have 400+ OTHER emails pending too.

I spent a good chunk of this past weekend winnowing my incoming email down to under 100 pending. Down from 400+.  Yes, a lot of those replies started with "sorry for the delay." And NONE of those were "hey I read your manuscript." Those are still pending.

You have NO idea what else is going on in her office. If she's selling things, that's her highest priority.  Moving agencies slows everything down too, even when the move is a very good thing. (And no, losing access to the email address at her former agency is par for the course, not an indication of bad feeling.)

I will also tell you this: right now a lot of agents and editors are having a hard time reading incoming work. I don't know why that is. I myself have a backlog of 40+ requested manuscripts.

I know waiting is just the pits, but right now, that's your job. Work on the next project. KEEP QUERYING. Get off the rodent wheel, and remember that YOUR priorities are not yet hers.

But, yes, this does seem like a long time, even with the special circumstances you describe.  I looked at my incoming fulls and I'm current on reading/responding/requesting revisions through 2016.  So, that means the longest I've had something is six months.

It's entirely fair to make some assessments about whether you want to work with someone based on how they begin the process.  She may be slow to read, but is she slow to reply? That's the metric I'd use to assess.  We're all behind on our reading. Not responding at all to email is a bigger problem (and yes, I'm guilty of that as well, so I'm not pointing fingers.)

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

July 4th

This is the flag that flew above Ft. McHenry during the war of 1812. It's the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write what became our national anthem.

I saw this flag for the first time when I was 7 years old. My dad took us to the Smithsonian and there it was; I'd never seen a flag that immense. The shock of its size and maimed condition remains with me to this very day.

I imagined the tears and holes were from the battle. They're not (well, not all of them.) They're from souvenir hunters!  [See the section on snippings here.]

I'm not a huge fan of Aaron Sorkin. He's one of those writers that I appreciate less and less the more I hear his work.  But he got one thing resoundingly right in the speech he wrote for Andrew Shepherd in the movie The American President.
America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, 'cause it's gonna put up a fight. It's gonna say "You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.

I think this year has been a real test of how bad we want democracy.

Have a great 4th of July.

Monday, July 03, 2017

Can you publish pieces of a novel, like you do short stories?

This is related to your post  from the person who wants to self-pub/post his short stories as a way of gaining presence and followers. My question for you is, could this be done in a comparable way with excerpts from a novel that hasn’t been published yet? How much could be posted as a teaser without the book being considered published and, therefore, tainted goods for any self-respecting shark or agent?

First, let's remember there's a standard for how to judge if a book has been published. Does it have an ISBN? Was it available for sale?

Excerpts from the novel do not have an ISBN.
Generally they're not sold; they're content in a magazine perhaps, or posted on a website, and that's a distinction that's important. The book isn't sold; excerpts were.

Excerpts before publication are covered under "first serial rights" in a publishing contract.  If you've published excerpts from your novel, and your agent sells your book, make SURE you tell her since publishers routinely scoop up first serial rights, and you don't want them to do that in this case.

Pieces of novels are often published in literary magazines before a book is sold.

There's no problem with doing this.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Contest results

Y'all certainly rose to the occasion! If my life were being secretly recorded, I'd look like a loon, sitting in my apartment early Sunday morning howling with laughter for no apparent reason.

Herewith the results:
Special recognition for terrible jokes (that made me howl with laughter!)

Colin Smith
"What did you think of breakfast?"
"You mean the goat-meal? It was baaaaad. You?"
"I'm on the fence."
Claire Bobrow
Well, Nibbles, they didn't name me Barb for nothin'.

Dena Pawling
I am horse. Here me roar!
You're a goat.
I am horse!
Horse, horse, HORSE, HOR-!
You win. You're hoarse.

Special recognition for one of the very best "oh by the way" additions to an entry

[It took waaaay too long for my sleep-deprived brain to realize "royalty shenanigans" had nothing to do with the House of Windsor.]

I was half way to looking up "fencitarian" when I got the joke


Introducing the new Fencitarian Diet. Gluten-free, carb-free, and (eventually) goat free.

Sadly, this required outside references, but when I actually DID google Adam Sandler's goat song, this is hilarious
Karen McCoy
My name is Adam, and this is my friend Sandler. If you Google Sandler's goat song, you'll understand why we'd like to legally change our names to Baklava and Sandoval.

And here are the finalists:

E.M Goldsmith
Laundry on the line or weeds in the pen. A feast in or out. No sheep in sight. No idiot boy to cry wolf. It's a good day to be a goat.

Lennon Faris

G.O.A.T. Quotes

Bust a friend out and she will be free once.

Teach a friend to eat a fence and she will be free forever.

Read faster, that last story was delicious.

Janice Grinyer
"When Susan’s vexatious kids finally showed up for lunch, she recognized her new neighbor wasn’t kidding about being a witch..."

In a stunning show of good taste for quoting The Wire, plus cleaning up the original word
to muthagoater, plus surprising the sox off me (always the best strategy)  it's Steve Forti for the win.
“I don't take my fence chewing too seriously.”
“That's right. It's just business.”
“Us, muthagoater.”
“Us, man.”
“Uhh... wrong Wire.”

Thanks to all who took the time to write and post entries. Your work is source of delight and amazement (even the entries that didn't get a mention.)

Steve, drop me a line to confirm your mailing address and let me know what's on your books wish list for the summer.  

Saturday, July 01, 2017

Caption contest!

We've been counting down the minutes till the long weekend, and now that it's here, you'll be hard pressed to pry me off the lawn chaise and away from my delicious stack of reading.

And it's certainly not a good time for discussions about ethics, royalty shenanigans or just plain boneheaded marketing, right?

(If you're curious why the above is boneheaded marketing, check my twitter feed for yesterday: @Janet_Reid)

It is however the perfect time for a caption contest.
Here's the photo:

25 words or fewer
Post in the comment section of this blog post.
None of the contest rules apply; just make sure I can tell it's an entry, not a comment.

I'll pry myself out of Vodkaville at some point this evening to close the contest and pick a winner.

Too late! Sorry! Contest closed now.

Friday, June 30, 2017

More on requested fulls, those problems we all want to have

With my third novel (a thriller), after two weeks of querying, I have 10 agents reading my full manuscript, and 2 partials out.

Question 1: I know you've addressed this a couple of times on the blog, but if I get additional full requests, should I let them know ten other agents are reading? More recently you said a writer should only reveal that information if an agent asks, but in a previous post a few years ago "When to reveal you're popular," you said it was okay to tell an agent if they request a full. I want to know if I can mention this without coming across as rude.

Question 2: Before I sent the manuscript out the first time, I believed it was completely ready, but after reading it again several times, I've found a handful of errors (for example, peak instead of peek). These happen after page 100, and I know you've mentioned that this is unacceptable, but I'm wondering if an agent will stop reading if they encounter an error or two past page 100.

None of the agents have responded so far, and I know you advise sending a revised manuscript, but I can't help but feel like the agent will think I would make a bad client if I do. Or will think it's annoying. If the changes are a few typo fixes is it worth sending a revised copy? If I do, how do I phrase that email?

Generally you only need to inform agents if another agent has made an offer.  I sometimes get those "another requested the full" emails, but they don't have any impact on when I read the manuscript.  If there's an offer, I will move that ms to the top of the list.

I caution all of you scofflaws out there who just had the bright idea of telling all agents that you've got an offer so as to get your ms to the top of the list. DO NOT DO THIS.  There are two reasons: lying is a TERRIBLE way to start a relationship with anyone let alone someone you will be working with long term.  And yes, you'd be amazed how easy it is to find out it was a lie.   Second, because I'm reading quickly I'm more likely to stop if I'm not totally thrilled. I'm Unlikely to offer any comments or revision suggestions.

The answer to your question is this: if an agent asks if anyone else is reading, it's fine to say yes, but it's almost impossible to inform everyone of full requests and not sound rude.

As to your second question: I don't stop reading unless the mistakes are frequent or egregious. If it's clear you didn't run spell czech I generally give you a chance to revise and resend.  I'm really not the comma police.

If you've got a LOT of homonyms I'll mark them until I lose patience, then send it back to you with a stern warning. Often I'll read a revised version if the author cleans up the ms.

If you've got a cleaner version of the ms, you offer to the agents reading the full.

Here's how to do that: Dear SharkForBrains, I found some errors that mortify me. I fixed them. Here's the cleaner version.  Yes, I consider myself gnawed. Love and kisses, woodland creature

I'd ALWAYS rather read a cleaner version. Every mistake yanks me out of the story. The fewer times that happens, the more I can concentrate of other things: pacing, tension, plot holes.

And none of that would make me think you'd be a bad client.
In fact, knowing the ms had errors and not caring? THAT's a problem.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Self-pubbing short stories

I’m the kind of guy who’s always been of the mindset that traditional publishing is the way to go. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had opportunities to speak with several indie authors and I love that they’re earning a living (far more of a living than I am with my day job) doing something they love. If I were any other kind of person I’d be jealous and rushing to join their ranks. Thankfully, patience is my middle name.

I’ve written and “trunked” three novels over the past four years for various reasons. I’ve had some short stories published, but nothing professional (i.e., no payment for the publishing). I’m currently working on (what I plan and hope to be) a series of novels I believe will not find themselves in the trunk. (In other words, I feel like I’m on the brink of some kind of success).

With this series, and more importantly the first book, I’m on the fence about whether to pursue self-publishing. For reasons stated here and here, I feel I want to continue with my die-hard pursuit of a traditional publishing contract. However, given all the buzz from the indie world (and some buzz from folks I’ve spoken with in the traditional world) I fully understand the need for an author to have an ability to promote and market his or her work, despite publishing options. With that in mind, I’ve been developing a website and working toward building an email list specifically to help with this promotion and marketing.

I realize this seems more a self-publishing tradition, but I assume (perhaps wrongly) that it wouldn’t hurt a traditionally published author to have a bit of a following. To help generate that following, I intend to offer short stories as a lead magnet to entice people to join my mailing list, etc. I’m also toying with the notion of self-publishing several other short stories and novellas to continue generating interest until (not if – fingers crossed) the first book is published.

Here's my question: given all the talk we’ve had about how bad self-publishing gives you baggage (and realizing that I would treat these short stories as professionally as I would a novel) would self-publishing shorts in this way be detrimental to a future traditionally published career? (i.e., I’m concerned about all the talk we have about sales figures from a previously self-published author with a second book being the “baggage” agents and publishers won’t want to touch.) I want to be proactive, but I’m also afraid (woodland creature)

My instinct tells me to be cautious, but it also says that shorts are a different animal than novels so I might be okay.

You're just not phrasing this correctly. Here's what you mean to say: I'm building my mailing list by publishing work that will appeal to people who will want to read my novel.

Once you phrase this correctly, you understand this is a very good thing, and huzzah to you for taking the promotion bull by the horns and giving him a waltz around the dance floor.

Far from being a detriment, this is something that would make me sit up and take notice in a query. You don't need platform to sell a novel, but if you include "I have a robust mailing list of 500+ readers" in your bio, well, yes, that makes my fin wriggle.

And if you need an example of a guy who's doing this, you need look no further than Jeff Somers.  Follow his Twitter feed to see how he promotes his self-pubbed stories, and builds his mailing list.  Jeff is a lot of things (likely drunk, likely pantsless, likely to be eaten by zombie cats after the apocalypse) but not proactive isn't one of them. He calls himself lazy; I roar with laughter when he does. Watch what he does, not what he says.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

I want to sell in multiple countries, do I need multiple agents?

I would like to think that all my works have international reader-appeal, but I am originally from England, currently live in Australia and have two completed creative NF WW2 stories (a PB and an 8+/YA) that have English main characters, and a creative historical biography in progress that’s set in London. While they will be submitted to Australian publishers, I have a feeling that a UK publisher could well be most likely to make an offer. I also have five ‘normal’ picture book texts completed for any readership and one that is distinctively Australian. Would you advise attempting to partner with an Australian agent, one in the UK and one in the US? Do most US agents have co-agent partners in the UK for stories that will probably find a first home there, rather than for a sale of rights after initial release in America?

You don't want or need multiple agents.
You need ONE agent who will do multiple deals.

What you don't know is that the Australian publisher will most likely want the right to publish in English around the world. That's called "World English" That then means the Aussie publisher controls the rights for the UK and the US.

You wouldn't have anything for a UK or a US agent to sell. (An Australian publisher would generally not engage a US agent to sell rights; they'd do it directly.)

Whereas if you have ONE agent, they will strategize about which publisher is best suited for your work and which territory they're best suited to exploit.

World English has some very tricky aspects and you do not want to just assume that everything will work out.

Any questions?

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Exclusives, the Dorian Gray topic

I am putting together a query plan, and one of the agents I'd like to query (because she has sold books similar to mine) has the following requirements:

- she accepts queries by snail mail only (50 pages plus synopsis plus SASE)
- if she requests a full, her site says, "we require one-month exclusivity"

I am of course hoping that agents will swarm over this book like sharks over chum, so where do I put this agent in the plan? I'm leaning toward dead last so her exclusivity requirement doesn't cause me issues, but again there's that whole "has sold books like mine" thing. Plus she'll receive the query later than the e-query agents (which is all the rest) so perhaps I'll already have an agent by the time she contacts me. (Heh. I am hilarious.) But if not, if others have the full, what do I say to her? If I tell her others have it and then later tell her she can have the exclusive, that tells her nobody else wanted it. Which isn't information I necessarily want her to know.
I'm sure you know my position on exclusives. They stink.
And a month is just ridiculous.

I wonder if she conducts all her business by snail mail?

Which is not to say I haven't thought about going back to written queries. I miss the paper and the ink. And I like to read on paper. And I think I read more carefully on paper.

But I also miss civilized air travel, actual card catalogs, and Cary Grant, but we're not getting those back either.

I digress.

If you want to query her, you abide by her guidelines regardless of what we think of them. You query on paper. If she requests the full, you send it to her only if you can give her the exclusivity she asks for OR if you write back to her request for the full and say other people have it, but you're glad to send if she still wants it.

Guidelines are not an indication of character. They're intended to help you send your work in the way that makes it easiest for the agent to read and consider it. If she wants her queries on paper, so be it.  If you elect to query her last, that's a reasonable prioritization.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Critiquing books while you're querying

I run a blog where I analyze books from a writing perspective to find a lesson, of sorts, for other writers. Mostly the posts show what a book did right, but occasionally they highlight where (I thought) the book went wrong. How careful do I need to be about highlighting negative aspects? I'm passionate about what I read, good or bad, and that (should) show in my writing. But I don't want to alienate a potential agent if I disliked a book they repped- especially since the main point of my posts isn't to review a story, but to learn from it.
You're right to know this is squishy territory. I am very fond of my clients, and the books they write. However, I do not confuse that fondness with the idea that all the books they write are perfect.

A judicious post, pointing out what worked or didn't, is generally safe ground.

What ISN'T safe is drawing any kind of conclusion about how the book got that way. To wit "the author phoned it in" "the editor was asleep at the wheel" "the agent lost her mind when she signed this one."

You have no way of knowing what went on behind the scenes creatively or editorially.

Focusing on the book is your best plan.

You should also remember that if I love your work, and sign you as a client, all my OTHER clients will be skulking around your blog to learn about you. A lot of my clients are in a mutual admiration society, which I strongly encourage.

What that means for you is:  Make sure the author of the book you're talking about will recognize it as a thoughtful, well-written piece, not some sort of hatchet job (at least after the first read!)

What you're also not going to do -- EVER --  is tweet or link to the author or editor or agent about this review.

It's one thing to know there are critical reviews out there; it's another thing to have someone put a reference to it in your timeline.

Your very hesitation on this tells me you'll err on the correct side of caution.

And remember; all the books I sell are AMAZING!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Egad, what a weekend to lose my wifi!

Sorry guyz!
Just got back from hanging out Elsewhere and as it turns out, Elsewhere didn't allow me access to the wifi network!


I should have remembered my gmail passwords! And my blog passwords!
I change them often enough that I have to write them down,
and if I get to a place where I have to log on as someone else cause my computer is being snobbish
about "local wifi" ...well...let's not do that again.

Content resumes tomorrow!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Someone will always gleefully tell you how hard it is

(a)Word on the street is that diversity gets double the rejection rate of a story that's not diverse. Several of my friends who are People of Color reported rejection rates from 100+ before getting accepted, while the people who wrote say straight white (cis) (males) often report reject rates around 40-50 average. This doesn't seem to matter on genre either.

(b)Given the larger rejection rates for diverse and highly diverse manuscripts in the industry and me hearing that it sometimes takes 2+! years to get through all of the rejections before getting a hit, is it wiser or less wise to send in more than 5 submissions per round per month. I'm tempted to double it considering the higher rejection rate, but equally nervous about burning bridges while doing so.

(c)Also, I have a habit of writing outside of the usual American gold standard for "What makes a story good" by borrowing from the cultures I'm writing in (Of course with extensive research). I figure my primary audience should be the real life people that are represented by the characters. However, I also recognize that often agents and (white) readers won't recognize those conventions up front and say NO, that's a "wrong" way to tell a story. I'm also semi-frustrated because reports from College Lit class students report that the "World Lit" section only covers things like "Greek" and "Roman" which doesn't really help. (And most of the time they don't hit up the diversity within those lits either. Like the LGBTQIA.) I'm aware this results in a higher rejection rate for me as most people probably reading my stories while professing to want diversity, probably haven't say, studied what a Dream Record (Korea) is. I have no idea if the agent knows what Kishotenketsu looks like. Never gotten to read outside of American (and maybe European) Lit. Is there a professional way to battle this misconception in a query, so they don't auto-reject and give the story a fair shake just because it doesn't fit the gold standard American Mold?

Kinda trying to battle the systemic prejudice within publishing here and would love some tips on how to get through it in a less painful way.

Thanks for any tips you can give.

For starters "word on the street" means writer anecdotes, and listening to those at all, let alone drawing conclusions from them will make you crazy. It's akin to "my cousin's hairdresser's boyfriend had his kidney stolen by organ brokers and woke up in the park with an ice pack and a note to get to a hospital." Unless you know the guy's name, and saw the note, don't be so quick to believe things.

There's simply no way to draw conclusions based on rejection rates. Those are not measurable, replicable numbers. And given "no response means no" has become the norm, you're using the absence of data as data.

My little math loving heart quivers.

What you CAN measure is books that are PUBLISHED. And yes, there is a stunning lack of diversity in published books. That situation is starting to change, but publishing moves at a glacial pace in every single way except author rodent wheels, so that change is going to take a while to see.

And there's NOTHING you can do about this other than buy and talk about books that are the kind of books you write and want to read.

Your question about increasing your submission rate from five queries a month to ten implies you burn bridges by sending queries out too fast. I can't imagine why you think that. Querying doesn't burn bridges. Querying gets your project in front of agent's eyeballs.That's ALL it does.

As to paragraph (c) I literally don't understand what you are trying to say here. You've got a reference to gold standard (which has nothing to do with writing or novels), college lit classes (which have nothing to do with trade publishing) and references to auto-reject (which is generally due to things like "fiction novel" not things we might have to google like Kishotenketsu.)

Bottom line: You're missing a key quality for someone who wants to be a professional novelist. That quality is die hard certainty you are the exception to all the stats, all the anecdotes, all the BBS denizens that say you will fail. You have to look at daunting stats (and while you haven't collected those stats properly here, the stats ARE daunting) and say "that will not apply to me."

Without that determination, you will always find a reason you didn't succeed.And there will always always ALWAYS be a cacophony of voices telling you how hard it is, how racist, ableist, out of touch; how the powers that be are stacked against you. And all of it will be true. That can't matter to you.

Every single time I read a query I'm not thinking "this won't be the one." I'm hoping just the opposite. Your job is to write the one that is.

And every single person in my office is looking diligently for underrepresented voices. I sit in those meetings, I beta read those manuscripts. If anyone tells you agents aren't looking for this, ask if they're in the meeting, or reading the manuscripts.Yes it takes a lot of rejection to get to yes. That's always been true. It will never change.

Here's the answer to your question (Kinda trying to battle the systemic prejudice within publishing here and would love some tips on how to get through it in a less painful way) at long last: There is no less painful way. This is the reality you're working in. It's going to be a battle. It's going to have very few victories. I don't know if it's better to know that going in, or discover the hard way via experience.

What I can tell you is this:  Don't listen to anyone who tells you that your book didn't get picked up cause agents are racist and insensitive and full of white privilege idiots. Yes, there are certainly some of those in the field. BUT, the biggest reason we don't take things we're actively looking for is the story or the writing aren't compelling.