Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Day 15?

Day (oh dear godiva, I'm losing track!): I think it's Day 15??

Beautiful Thing of the Day:

'Tied rocks' by artist Shizu Okino, 
using traditional Japanese knotting techniques 
Twitter hashtag #womensart

Tip of the Day:
It's totally ok to promote the hell out of your book while we're all here at home, readjusting to the New Reality.
What's NOT ok is spamming everyone.
How to avoid spamming:
1. Do not send to everyone in your address book
2. Create lists of people to send to based on how you know them.
2a Agents I queried who passed on my project are NOT people you know
3. Remember the yapping I've done about having a mailing list? Now is a good time to remember to start one.
Or as Tim Lowe said on Twitter:

What's fending off 3am attacks of cold dread: Cybill on Amazon Prime.

Progress toward baking good biscuits: 0
Today's effort was flat, and bland.
(yes of course I ate them!) 

Tomorrow I'm adding a tad more buttermilk, and a splash more salt.

Pet photo of the day:

Precious claims the reading chair.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Having a hard time writing just now?

Yea, me too.
Although, I'm very grateful for the blog just now. The daily deadline helps me get something down on paper, even if it's not the usual content.

So, routine is good.
Probably a new routine, but almost any kind of routine will help settle the mind.

One of my clients, Jeff Marks, told me his to-do list is now organized in 30-minute segments. Do the one thing you must at 10:30, then do all the scatterbrain things till 11:00. List, rinse, repeat.

Agent Lucy Carson said she's reading things twice right now cause she doesn't fully trust herself as a reader/editor right now.

That resonated with me.

The thing that helped me the most though is remembering that I can read books and it really does count as work.

You don't have to be writing to be working as a writer.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

What do you wish you'd done ahead of the quarantine?

Starting Week #3
Status: A-ok.

This week's goal: stay sane.

How I plan to do that: try to keep some sort of organized schedule.

Let's see how it goes!

There's a new post at QueryShark. 

Housekeeping: Don't feel you need to apologize for sharing your fears here in the comment column. This isn't a therapy session, but telling the truth about how we're living now is essential.

One of the things I've always said in workshops is "ask questions even if you feel like everyone else knows the answer.  Sure as shinola, at least two other people won't."

Same here.
If you're feeling anxious, I know for an ironclad fact at least one other person is too.

Looking back over the comments this week:

I really liked what Shauna said about trigger warnings. Very cogent. And accurate.
The thing about content warnings is, if I understand them correctly, you put them before something where the viewer may not have a reason to expect the trigger. IE if you link to an article about animal abuse that has graphic pictures, you would put a trigger warning for that. With a book, if the plot is about a triggering topic, that should be clear from the summary and tone anyway. IE the Hunger Games doesn’t need specific trigger warnings because the premise makes it clear what’s going to happen. 

And many many thanks for the outpouring of sympathy for Her Grace and Sleekness the Duchess of Yowl.

As I plan for the week ahead there are a couple things I rue:

1. Not sharpening my chef's knives.
With all this cooking at home, I'm now using dull blades.

2. Not being caught up on laundry.
Sure I can wash smalls in the sink, but sheets? Nope.

3. Missing my last haircut
I'm going to emerge from this looking more like The Shaggy Dog than I'd like.

Things I'm profoundly grateful for:

1. Living in a neighborhood that isn't full of people hoarding things.

2. Being able to shelter at home. One of my friends got caught far from home and is now there for the next couple weeks.

3. This community that buoys my spirits every damn day.

So what do you wish you'd done, or stockpiled?

Saturday, March 28, 2020

so, it's not the end of the world here in NYC I PROMISE

I'm spending a goodly number of electrons responding to emails from family, friends and Reef-dwellers who are watching the news and thinking I'm about ready to swim the Styx for Hades.

Nope, Nope, Nope.
Cerberus is not howling at the window.

In fact, I'm probably one of the people with the very lowest risk right now.
I'm inside, and alone.
I only go out in the wee hours of the morning when any sane person is asleep.

I'm not planning on going out again until someone with a medical degree rather than a vote count tells me it's ok.

The people I'm worried about are the nice young men who deliver food and groceries. (Yes, they skew toward gents, although I have seen a lady grocery delivery person twice in five years.)

They need the jobs they have, and they are, even at six feet apart, much more exposed to germs than I am.

I do the only thing I can: tip heavily.

As for publishing:
I'm seeing the resumption of business. Not full tilt boogie by a long shot, but people are reading queries (I am) responding to fulls (I am) and making deals (I am.)

At this point, I'm going to relinquish Queen of the Known Universe to Jessica Faust over at BookEndsLLC who didn't miss a step. She's really led the way on "keep going all ya'll." I'm in awe of her.

I think the next big benchmark will be 4/20/20. Schools are closed here in NYC until then; they will have to decide whether to open, or continue the closure.  I think most businesses will follow the lead of the schools.

In the meantime, we're having a dance party, the plants and I!

Friday, March 27, 2020

So, how are we doing?

These could be pictures of me, but they're not.
(for starters, the couch is not snot-green)

Take a guess at who this is.
Clue: it's a regular blog reader.

How are you all faring?

Thursday, March 26, 2020

content warnings in a query letter

I was wondering about including content warnings in a query letter. Do you include them for things like graphic murder, recounting of rapes, loss of a baby, etc.? And if so, how do you include them? Where would you include them?

The purpose of the query is to entice your reader to read the pages.
The purpose of the pages is to entice your reader to request the full novel.

That means you're going to tell me about the story.
If the story means your main character has lost a child, then that's what you include.
If the story is about a rape, then that's what you include.

But if those things are just part of the story, not the start of the plot, then you don't need to include them.

No matter what, you should not attach some sort of scarlet #NSWF to your query.

Honestly if something arrived here with a content warning I'd be much less likely to read it, since I think the scariest things are often those that are not graphic.

Freddy Krueger isn't all that scary.
Alfred Hitchcock is absolutely terrifying.

The Lottery will never leave me, and there's nothing graphic about that story in the least.

I'm looking for things that engage my emotions, not upset my digestive system.
Be very judicious in your use of graphic content.
It's a powerful tool to be wielded with great care.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Querying during the next couple days/weeks/months

I hope you and your family are doing fine. Here in London, the situation is crazy, deserted streets and supermarkets.

I'm writing to ask you for advice. My book and the query are ready, but because of the virus, I'm hesitating to pitch agents. Is the market closed at the moment? Or do you think I should try anyway?

I don't know.
I don't think anyone really does.

While there has been a lot of talk of working from home, what I'm seeing is people worrying from home.

And many agents may be at home with small children, or trying to help older relatives.

My first priority is the stuff that has to be addressed: upcoming publication dates; delivery dates; events.

Reading queries isn't on that list.

I'm also VERY hesitant about offering rep right now.
I don't know what we're looking at down the road, and planning like it's all going back to "normal" in a couple weeks seems...well...deluded.

You don't put the brakes on the economy this size  and then just start up again at full speed.

You might keep your eye on Twitter for agents who say they are actively reading and signing. I've seen a couple of those.

I wish I had a more definitive answer.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

How do you approach the pandemic in your manuscript?

I'm in the home stretch of revising a mystery/thriller set in present-day Toronto.

In between pandemic-induced panic attacks, it occurred to me that COVID19 is going to fundamentally change the landscape for the kind of fiction I and countless others and writing.

So here's my question: How do you approach the pandemic in your manuscript?

1) Pretend it never happened, making your book a bit more of a fairy tale

2) Take a stab at guessing what things are like when it's over, even though no one can know?

3) Some other clever approach

Just don't plan to write a book about the pandemic, at least not for a while.
It's going to take some time for everyone to get past this when it's over.

If you need context: I still can't read books about 9/11, and that's 19 years gone.

I think I'm an outlier here, but I remember reading a novel about 9/11 that was pubbed in 2004, and thinking it was too soon then.

It's too soon because there hasn't been enough time to reflect deeply, and that's what you have to do with novels about cataclysmic events. And this sure qualifies.

BUT, if you're asking about how to reference it, rather than write about it, the answer is I have no idea, and no one else does either. Sweeping pronouncements about how this will change everything are premature. Do you recall the death knell for irony post 9/11? Yea, me too. And it lasted about 27 seconds.

So keep writing and we'll figure out how to deal with Current Events later.

If you want an example of something written in the midst of a world changing event, take a look at the movie Mrs. Miniver released in 1942. You can see how the story telling suffers for lack of an ending.

Bottom line: it's entirely ok to leave it out of your book right now.

Maybe this whole thing is a collective dream.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Flash fiction contest results -FINAL

Herewith the results of the flash fiction contest.
It was a very nice break from reality, thank you.

I can't get to the post office for a while so prizes are on hiatus, I'm sorry.

You've trained me to your subtleties so well that I spent several minutes trying to suss out the meaning here:

Craig F
I wake hungry in the Spring. Soon I will be >b>bask>/b>ing in lovely provisions, I find my familiar friend.
Then I realized it was simply a typo on the first angle bracket (I had to look up what >s are called, which wasn't as simple as you'd think!)

Lovely homage to Kenny Rogers

Great punchline
steve forti
congrats on your parole. how does it feel?

got any asprin? got me a wicked headache. aint easy on the noggin hauling all this around.

that real or a piece?

aint no wig, brotha. shit took me years to grow out. whole crew had ‘em, too. called our cell block in LA the afro ward.

no tat – y?

police ID you on your tats, man. aint no ink on my skin. hair can be cut, ink don’t wash out, bub.

ask one more question? what were you in for, anyway?

cut the tag off my mattress before leaving the store.

So topical it should be balm:
To: current husband, individuals I gave birth to, @charliegoldendoodle
Re: Working From Home/Homeschooling best practices
To review first mandatory meeting:
- Going froward, all work (business and classroom) will be proofread not once, but twice. Get tow sets of eyes on it, people.
-Spring inventory: Lathering is vital, but SoftSoap is non-restockable. 3 pumps = too many.
-Team Building Hashtag Contest entries will be posted on refrigerator Saturday a.m. First prize: gourmet gift basket (2 rolls of Charmin, canned chickpeas, pineapple salsa, and cream of mushroom soup!)
NOTE: #bettertogether has BEEN DONE. And IS FALSE.
current husband just cracked me up.
Clearly I'm not fit for polite society.

Here's the list of entries that really stood out to me.

Matt Krizan
No words are spoken. None need to be said. My adversary glares at me, and I give as good as I get. He’s not backing down, and neither am I.

My wife fidgets uneasily beside me. His pretty, young daughters tremble, eyes shifting to and fro.

War? Do we fight? Guns drawn, knives out?

No. We hash it out like real men.

A count of three. My hand goes flat. He thrusts forward a fist.

A gasp. Ringleted children weep.

Paper covers rock, and I fill my basket with the last package of toilet paper.

Deft dismantling of froward here!
And this is stunningly visual writing, which is a whole lot harder than it looks.
Nice work here.
And hilarious!

Just Jan
March 17, 2020

The incessant pounding stops as I open the door. “Pub’s closed.”

A wee man springs forward, smelling like he basked in a vat of spirits. “Who says? ’Tis St. Paddy’s Day!”

“The Governor’s decree.”

“A more froward man I’ve never met!”

“It’s for the greater good. And don’t forget to lather for twenty seconds when you wash. That’s two rounds of ‘99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall’.”

“I can sing about it, but you can’t serve it. Disgraceful! Got any hash?”

“Corned beef.”

“Good grief!” He reaches into his pocket. “I’m gonna need a bigger pipe!”

The mere mention of 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall during quarantine qualifies this for the horror category.

"I'm gonna need a bigger pipe" just cracked me up.

Fearless Reider
The principal’s in a lather again. “They’re fractious and froward,” he snorts and stamps.

“Rowdy and rude,” brays Mr. Burrows.

“Dimwits and dumbbells,” clucks Miss Broodie. “Home Ec’s a flop! They put ALL the eggs in one bask—”

“But,” Mrs. Bovins hiccups, “at leas’ they didn’t count ‘em b’fore they were hashed.” Astringent aromas spring from her breath. She’s been at the rye again.

“Which brings me to their math scores,” bleats Mr. Baaartels. “Awful and atrocious.”

“The kids are alright,” purrs Ms. Kitty. “It’s temporary. And they’re geniuses at Gym.”

Barnschooling is not for the faint of heart.
This just cracked me up completely.
Love the names of the characters!

Mallory Love
We met on Twitter, commenting on the same hashtag:#Springfroward. We both laughed at the typo and how fitting it was since the time change did make people ornery.

Soon our conversations went from tags to private messages. We debated everything, from basketball teams (Lakers for me, Knicks for him) to handguns (I like the Sig; he used the Glock). He blathered on about detective shows. I was more inclined to "Breaking Bad."

It was a great friendship until we met in person at a bank: me in a ski mask holding my Sig, him in uniform pointing his Glock.
Very deft use of froward here. 
And that lovely twist at the end is very clever.
Clean crisp writing like this always makes me very happy.

Very Special recognition to this entry that says everything in my heart.

Janice L. Grinyer
I click on the news video; a young Salish girl begins dancing springing steps, brow furrowed in concentration, circling in tall Montana grass. Her Jingle dress catches the fading sunlight, glittering onscreen.

It is a healing dance, they say. Every day at sunset, she dances, each step a prayer. She is requesting from the Creator healing of the world during this awful pandemic.

I pause.

And here I am, online, hashing out political arguments, basking in a froward attitude, my thoughts slathered in contempt for others. My soul suddenly aches.

I click again.

She dances for all of us.

***Many thanks to 11-year-old Salish descendent 
Aurora O’Neill and all the other Jingle Dress Dancers across the Nations, 
who are dancing without prejudice for the healing of all people of the world- 
we are humbled, may your prayers be answered.

I was in a real downspin these past few days, so I was very glad to see all these entries. It's always a plus to see your work! Thank you for taking time to write and enter.

I have been looking at the list and as usual, having a hard time settling on just one.

Use the comment column to tell me who I might have overlooked (there were a couple I just didn't understand) and who you think should take home the prize.

Final results posted later today.

 I had to let this sit for almost a full day.
Came back several times and re-read.
But  in the end, Matt Krizan's entry really stood out: pure, simple, elegant...and funny.

Matt, I'm sorry I can't get to the post office just now.
I owe you a prize!

Thanks to all of you for your very clever work.
It was a very nice break in the weekend.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Her Grace and Sleekness the Duchess of Yowl

Early morning, chez Yowl.
All is quiet.

A brisk ratatattat on the door rouses Thumbs, who stumbles from her hammock to peer through the spyhole.


"Pickup for Her Grace."


"Pickup for Her Grace and Sleekness the Duchess of Yowl."

Thumbs opens the door to find a uniformed man with a rolling trolley like those used by hotel bellmen. His name patch reads "Picu Andropov."

"What are you picking up?"

He consults a work order.

"Two steamer trunks, misc. cans of tuna, and an aquarium."

Thumbs is befuddled, so she simply opens the door and stands aside.

Clunking and huffing ensues. Water splashing. Muffled curses.

Soon Picu returns pushing the cart, now laden with two steamer trunks, a tuna-scented Saks shopping
bag, and an aquarium full of fish looking seasick as their watery home is now suitable for surfing.

"I left a copy of the work order on your dining room table."

"Ok, thanks."

Picu clanks and splashes all the way to the elevator.

Thumbs checks the work order.

Sure enough, two steamer trunks, cans of tuna and an aquarium. Pickup address
Chez Yowl, but the destination ....is blank?

What the dogfearing heck is this?

A note at the bottom:
Dear Thumbs,
I have gone on ahead to my next life.
I took the tuna. I left the cannoli.

Her Grace, Katy, the Duchess of Yowl

I knew she could not live forever,
I hoped I would be wrong.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Flash fiction contest

I'm lying on the snot green couch trying to wrap my head around the new reality, which we hope is temporary of course, and flailing about.

Seems like a good time to focus on some prompt words, right?

I'm behind on mailing out the prizes cause I'm not leaving my house but we'll figure that out in the weeks to come.

The usual rules apply:
1. Write a story using 100 words or fewer.

2. Use these words in the story:
froward (not a typo)

(NO Steve Forti extra prompt word this week. I have retired from the field of battle. Forti Thwarts the Shark!)

3. You must use the whole word, but that whole word can be part of a larger word. The letters for the prompt must appear in consecutive order. They cannot be backwards.

4. Post the entry in the comment column of THIS blog post.

5. One entry per person. If you need a mulligan (a do-over) erase your entry and post again. It helps to work out your entry first, then post.

6. International entries are allowed, but prizes may vary for international addresses.

7. Titles count as part of the word count (you don't need a title)

8. Under no circumstances should you tweet anything about your particular entry to me. Example: "Hope you like my entry about Felix Buttonweezer!" This is grounds for disqualification.

9. There are no circumstances in which it is ok to ask for feedback from ME on your contest entry. NONE.

10. It's ok to tweet about the contest generally.

Example: "I just entered the flash fiction contest on Janet's blog and I didn't even get a lousy t-shirt"

11.. Please do not post anything but contest entries. (Not for example "I love Felix Buttonweezer's entry!"). Save that for the contest results post.

12. You agree that your contest entry can remain posted on the blog for the life of the blog. In other words, you can't later ask me to delete the entry and any comments about the entry at a later date.

13. The stories must be self-contained. That is: do not include links or footnotes to explain any part of the story. Those extras will not be considered part of the story.

Contest opens: Saturday, 3/21/20 at 5:23am (NYC time)

Contest closes: Sunday, 3/22/20 at 9:00am (NYC time)

If you're wondering how what time it is in NYC right now, here's the clock

If you'd like to see the entries that have won previous contests, there's an .xls spread sheet here http://www.colindsmith.com/TreasureChest/

(Thanks to Colin Smith for organizing and maintaining this!)

Questions? Tweet to me @Janet_Reid

Ready? SET?

Not yet!

Rats, too late. Contest closed.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Can we start the weekend now?

Claudie's guest cat Precious, and isn't she just?

I spent most of yesterday curled up on the couch reading Jennifer Hillier's forthcoming book Little Secrets (April, 2020)

I needed some down time, escape time, not-reality time.

It's not that I've run out of things to say (cause that will mean Hell needs ice skates) but I didn't have enough time to form cogent thoughts.

Plus, yanno, worrying about my boyfriend Idris Elba.

Everyone holding up ok?

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Reasons I passed on your query


1. You're using the memoir format to make a political or domestic point.
I'm not interested in being lectured to in any form, and particularly not in 300+ pages.

A good memoir is so brutally honest that it's painful. That means you're exploring yourself, not pointing fingers at someone else.

2. Your premise and plot are utterly derivative.
If your book sounds like a 70's TV cop show, it's a pass. The world has moved on from Cagney and Lacey, and even Starsky and Hutch.

If your book sounds like something Michael Connelly wrote, it's a pass. I've read his books, and liked them. I'm not looking for you to reprise it.

3. Your query contains the words "it's a must read."
It's not.
That's marketing hyperbole. It's not the plot, it's not even a description of the book. If you don't understand that now, I don't want to take on the task of teaching you.

4. Misused/wrong words
I've steeled myself to overlook your almost universal inability to properly conjugate the verb to lie.
I've shut my eyes to consistent its/it's errors.

But honestly, words are your tools. When you get them wrong, it's just painful.
I love words.
Watching you torture them is something no agent wants to see.

1. The market for this kind of book is contracting not expanding.
It will take me more time and effort to find a home for this than I'll reap in commissions.

2. It's not a book I like.
That doesn't mean anything other than you think I have bad taste.
That's ok.
There are quite a few published books that I think are rubbish. And they're doing quite well.
You just need a different agent.

3. I tried to sell a similar book and couldn't.
I try not to do that same thing again.

Any questions?

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Query Letter Diagnostics update

First, I hope all y'all are doing ok.
I was sorry to see that late last night blog reader Laura Stegman got herself sent to Carkoon from the comment section on yesterday's blog post. It was nice knowing her. I hope she has something good to read in her handbag. I hear the library on Carkoon specializes in Kale-porn.

Now, to today's topic.

I've been working away at my incoming queries and realized that the form letter I use most implies that I've read the pages with the query.

Here's what I send:
Thank you for sending me your query.

I'm unable to take on every project that appeals to me. The harsh reality
of a 24-hour day gets me every time.

Like all agents, I've passed on books that went on to do well.

I strongly encourage you to query widely.

Please think of this as redirection to another agent, not rejection.

Very best wishes to you!
Which is a problem if I have not READ the pages.

I think my submission guidelines are pretty clear and consistent (include pages) and responding personally with "send pages" rewards carelessness, I decided to add #4: failure to send pages to the reasons I don't respond.

I also added the first line: if you queried before 11/20, and haven't heard back, resend. All my unanswered queries sent before that date are gone.

Here's the revised QLD. Let me know if anything isn't clear, ok?

I respond to all queries. If you sent a query and did not receive a response, go through this list to see what went wrong:

1. Did you query before 11/20/19?
YES: Resend your query. All queries sent before that date are gone.
NO: go to 2

2. Have you waited thirty days?
I ask for 30 days to respond to queries. In addition, there is a place on the blog that shows how caught up I am. Make sure you're not jumping the gun.

NO: Simmer down and wait.
YES: Go to 3

3. Did you address it to Janet@JetReidLiterary.com?
NO: resend it to that address
YES: Go to 4

4. Did you include the requested 3-5 sample pages in the body of the email?
NO: resend, and this time include the pages
YES: Go to 5

5. Did you send the email to more than one person at the same time as a cc or a bcc or on the TO line?
NO: go to 6
YES: resend it to me, and do not include anyone else, including yourself in any address line

6. Did you include an attachment of any kind?
NO: go to 7
YES: resend it to me without any attachments. Pages are pasted into the query itself

7. Did you query for more than one project in the query letter?
NO: go to 8
YES: revise your query. Query for ONLY one project at a time.

8. Did you query by post and fail to include an SASE for my response?
I do NOT send email rejections on queries received on paper.

NO: Go to 9
YES: Requery and include an SASE OR requery by email. (email is preferred)

9 Are you someone other than the author of the book?
NO: go to 10
YES: Your query was deleted. It will not help to resend it because I do not respond to queries from anyone other than author.

10. Have you sent me email in the past, such as newsletters, cute pictures, signed me up for your mailing list?
NO: go to 11
YES: your email is likely now blocked. Resend the query from a new email address.

11. Have you queried me more than twice this year for the same project?
NO: go to 12
YES: your email has been flagged as junk or spam. Stop querying.

12. Have you checked your spam filter for my reply?
(if you have one of those "please click here to be on my approved sender list" barriers--I didn't)
NO: go check
YES: go to 13

13. Does your query letter contain any phrase or word that would trigger MY spam filter?
NO: go to 14
YES: rewrite your query letter, resend

14. Does your email address resemble your account name closely enough?
My spam filter sorts those mismatches as spam.
NO: change your account name to match your email, or get a new email address
YES: go to 15

15. Does your email address provoke my spam filter? (ie is it not your name, but a description of body parts or lifestyle or stamina)
NO: go to 16
YES: get a professional email address.

16. Have you included an actual query, not just pages from your novel?
NO: Resend with an actual query (250 words approx) and the first three to five pages of the novel.
YES: Go to 17

17. Have you sent an actual query, not something you think is "better" "improved" or "more helpful" than a query? [Examples so far: an Excel spreadsheet of blog posts that comprise your novel; a published copy of the book you're querying on; a CD rom; a USB drive.]

NO: Resend with an actual query (250 words approx) and the first three to five pages of the novel.
YES: Go to 18

18.  If you've gotten all the way down this list and nothing has been a do-over, try again. Pay attention to the things that trigger my spam filter, and the things that trigger my delete key.

Also, stuff happens. If you haven't heard back, and you haven't done anything wrong that you can see, just query again. If it happens a second time, drop me a note on Twitter: @Janet_Reid.

Questions? ...well, I'd tell you to email me, but clearly that's a problem. You might try reaching out via Twitter: @Janet_Reid

Monday, March 16, 2020

I'm curious about the impact of COVID-19 on publishing

Hi Janet -
I'm curious about the impact of COVID-19 on publishing. We all know brick and mortar bookstores - especially our independent friends - are at risk of losing business* as the country hunkers down for the foreseeable future.

But what about the industry behind the scenes?

As a debut writer who's been on sub to editors for about a month now (seconds in publishing years, decades in Fretting Writer years), I'm curious to know what if anything this means for those of us who have our work out in the world on editors' desks and computers and Kindles. Business as usual? Extended wait times? Too early to tell?

Any insights are appreciated.

Stay well and get some sunshine.

- A Fretting On-Sub Woodland Creature

*Support your local bookstores.

Too soon to tell.

It's really hard to focus and concentrate, but that's usual when your routine is in tatters. I can't imagine how the parents of school kids are coping given NYC shut the schools for a month with less than 24 hours notice.

While almost everyone I know is working from home, it's too soon to say what that will mean for acquisitions, or signing new clients or any of the normal daily stuff.

My big concern isn't the short term of what will happen this week or next. It's the long term economic impact. While a company like Random House won't suffer too much, there are a lot of smaller fry in the industry.

Smaller presses, even flourishing small presses, can be hard hit when people lose their jobs and cut back on spending.

Or when people are afraid of losing their jobs and so they cut back on spending.
Or people running small businesses stay open but see a 90% drop in customers and thus income.

And that's what we're looking at here with massive closures like all Broadways shows. Not the actors or musicians, protected in their unions, but the bars and eateries in the area. Hotel housekeeping workers.  Hot dog vendors. Taxi drivers already hard hit by the medallion crisis. Dog walkers, day care workers.

We're a week into this and the uncertainty is really hard to deal with.

I'm proceeding as normal. Following up on client submissions, sending work out.
Absent information on new protocols, there's no other way to conduct business.

I'm reading incoming queries, and requested fulls.

In other words, your normal torment continues until further notice but Christmas is not yet cancelled.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

The Duchess of Yowl Gets Hosed

It is a peaceful afternoon chez Yowl.

Suddenly, there is a noise indicating the end of the world.

Thumbs rushes to the carbon monoxide detector.

Smoke alarm.

Thumbs races into the living room, frantically following the yowl.

A cannister vacuum hose, dancing the macarena, greets her.

Thumbs quickly turns OFF the vacuum, opens the back panel to remove the bag, and sure enough, out pops a formerly svelte cat, now fattened by furballs, plant leaves, and dust bunnies.

The caterwauling does NOT cease.

"Your Grace, I've got you, you're safe!"

"I was EATEN!"

"I can see that. I'm glad you weren't digested!"

"Get rid of that foul  contraption at once! This is attempted REGICIDE!"

"Yes, I think we're going to need an upright. But, one question, your Grace. How did you turn it ON?"

"It didn't need thumbs, I just stepped on that button."

"Yes, but why?"

"You put my leftover lunchables in it."

"You mean I vacuumed up the food you spilled on the floor."

"I was saving that for tea. You never serve enough tuna."

"Back to cleaning up with a broom and dustpan"

"Or just serving more tuna."

Saturday, March 14, 2020

How are all y'all doing?

This might be the weirdest week of my life.
It's weird because I'm sort of afraid to leave my house, and I really don't ever need to, but also feeling like what am I so afraid of, cause I'm not planning on joining a flash mob, getting on the subway or interacting with anyone at all if I do.

I'm going to go out for a walk.

Events are cancelled, most everyone I know is now working from home, but no one knows how long this is going to keep going. Do we settle in, build new routines, or treat this like an extended winter break?

"The duration" was a phrase from World War 2 that we may see in use again.

I can't think of any comparable experience in history short of the plague and that lasted for 100+ years. And of course the flu epidemic of 1919, neither of which involved a world economy, or "just in time" delivery for grocery stores.

It's like I have no parameters on how to think about this.
No guidelines for when to worry, and when not to.

How are all ya'll holding up?

Friday, March 13, 2020

Grandma had a novel

I've been given a manuscript written by my great grandmother over 60 years ago. She never got it published, in fact, she never got beyond just writing it. My grandparents didn't get it published and it was forgotten by my mother.

It was written on a typewriter and I have typed the entire thing onto a word doc (well over 500 pages). It's currently with a proofreader. I will then go over it, edit where necessary (nothing serious), add notes and definitions (there are some archaic and old terms) and then get some opinions on it from friends and family.

Essentially, I would like to get it published because she was a fantastic writer (wrote and directed plays) but also because her personal story adds so much value to the book. It's set during WW2 in Poland & Russia and I think it has real potential. I believe she did in fact meet with publishers who wanted to take it forward but then life put a stop to it I suppose.

I am pretty sure that the first step is to officially obtain the rights, and although she had one son, and he had one daughter, and she had one son (grandfather, mother, me!) and although there's complete faith and trust, it still seems like I need to get this sorted legally. I'm not entirely sure how to do this though?

Furthermore, once the rights are obtained, I really don't know where to begin with the next stage. I'm totally new to this and haven't got any contacts I could talk to.

N.B. I am based in the UK

You need a UK intellectual property lawyer before you do anything else.
As I understand this, you are now working on a manuscript that doesn't belong to you. It belongs to whomever your Great Granny left her estate to, and if that person has joined her in the great Library Beyond, it belongs to the heirs of that estate.

Possession doesn't count here.
You're going to need real live paper documents here.

Beyond the question of ownership, you've fallen into the "this is great everyone will want to read it" trap.

You don't know ANYONE, let alone everyone, will want to read this.

You should get some objective (ie NOT family) eyeballs on this, and by that I mean a professional editor.

You can't get an agent to read this right now; because you're not the author, most agents including me won't even respond to your query. (You're not the author is #7 on Query Letter Diagnostics).

That your Great Granny had a career in the theatre is certainly a bonus point.

Any publishing contract you sign will REQUIRE you to warrant you created, or are the owner of the material. The last thing you want to find out the hard way is that Granny left all her intellectual property to the British Library, and they now want all the proceeds from the hit Broadway musical made from the book.

And if you think that kind of thing doesn't happen, you're 100% wrong.

Seek advice. NOW.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Housekeeping reminders

1. If you comment several times on any given post, Blogger thinks you're a spammer, and relegates you to "awaiting moderation."  It can take me several days to fish you out.

If your comment doesn't appear, that's the most likely explanation.

And remember, you should not comment more than two or three times at most on any given post.

2. If you see spam on the blog, please let me know by email.
Don't post in the comment column, or on Twitter.

3. If you see a typo on the blog post itself, please email me. I'm VERY glad to hear about those, particularly now that Blogger has disabled the spell check feature.

4. If you have questions you want answered on the blog, email me. While I do see the comments, it's not the best place to ask. It will help if you identify yourself as a blog reader. I'm more careful now about assuming people know questions are answered in public forum.

5. It's ok to post news in the comment column about upcoming publications.  Please be respectful of the topic of the day however. Don't post news more than once. (That's a fast way to get deleted, and relegated to spam.)

6. It's ok to link to YOUR stuff. It will be really helpful if you learn how to post links.

7. Be aware that the flash fiction contests CLOSE at a specified time. Even if the comments are still open, your entry is DQ'ed if it's AFTER the deadline. Often I don't close the comments right at the appointed hour, and the reason is that I am a slothful shark, and probably still sacked out in my hammock dreaming of tormenting writers.

Any questions?

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Even if your agent is dead

Dear Janet--
First of all, thank you for the slap upside the head (blog post of Tuesday, March 3rd).  I think I needed to generate some anger, and you helped me do that.  I will make one more good-faith effort to contact my agent; if I fail, I'll consult my contract and write that letter.  Because you're right--this is my life, my writing life, and it's just dribbling away from me.

But I do have one last question, and it's a good one: as far as I know, my book is still out there with seven publishing houses. How do I find out what happened to it?  I do have a list of all the editors.  May I email|call to find out where the manuscript stands with them?  (And suppose, just suppose, that one of them actually likes it and wants to . . . pursue it further.  Would that pull the agent back into the picture for negotiations and a 15% commission?  Unlikely, this last, I know, but I like to be prepared for all possible outcomes.  If Martians land on the roof, I'm ready.)

Since you've got the sub list you email the editors to let them know that you've changed representation. Of course, you send this AFTER you've terminated. 

You don't need to explain why.
You do NOT ask the status of the submission.
This is just info only.

Should your agent rise from the dead to let you know s/he got the termination letter, s/he will probably say s/he'll withdraw the submission. That's normal.

The question is now if this flurry of activity coughs up an offer.

If it does, you're in a bit of a pickle because the agent is still entitled to the full commission. It doesn't seem fair now, I know, but you're honor and duty bound to pay it for a certain amount of time after you've parted ways. Your author agency agreement should specify how long. If it doesn't, six months is reasonable.

And you'll want someone else negotiating the contract. Which means you're going to pay for a contract review specialist or a second commission to  a second agent.

BUT the good bad news is that if your agent isn't keeping you informed, chances are the submission is languishing too. Editors are increasingly unlikely to respond until you've pestered them to the point you're starting to feel sorry for them. "There's that Janet Reid on the phone again. Doesn't she have a blog post to write??"

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Fact checking memoir

With the controversial news of the Woody Allen memoir announced (being released next month by Hachette) and the backlash this received (particularly from Ronan & Dylan Farrow), I was wondering in general about the expectation of fact-checking in memoirs. I remember there being a scandal around A Million Little Pieces by James Frey back in the day, but I don’t know what (if anything) came out of the scandal in regards to publishing standards.

Are publishers expected to have some fact-checking completed with memoirs? Is the expectation different when the writer is a known public figure with known allegations of sexual abuse? Does this last answer change depending on whether the memoir covers that time period of life or mentions the accuser at all?

Obviously, the internet has opinions, but I was hoping for some general industry insight.

Publishers do not fact check memoirs. Memoirs by definition are one person's experiences, and what looked like baby food to you looks like refried beans to me, and of course we're both right.

What the publishing contract DOES require is a warranty that the book doesn't libel anyone, doesn't violate anyone else's right to privacy, does not materially misrepresent the Author or the Author's background or life story.

The specific wording varies publisher to publisher, agency specific contract to agency specific contract.

The only thing that's different for a public figure is the libel standard. It's harder to libel a public figure than someone who is not.

The Woody Allen memoir controversy didn't rest on the author's warranties.

The Woody Allen memoir controversy was that Hachette wasn't forthcoming with their employees that the book was in the works, and very specifically did not tell Ronan Farrow who published Catch and Kill with Little,Brown, a division of HBG.

Very understandably Farrow was furious.

Very understandably many HBG editors vehemently took issue with the idea of publishing the Allen memoir at all.

It was a tone-deaf decision, and the people who said so were very courageous.

The memoir has since been cancelled and rights returned to Allen.

Despite what Stephen King says, Allen was NOT muzzled. Given the number of publication avenues open to writers, and the number of sleazeball publishers who will print anything for a buck, there are lots of alternatives

Ron Charles, book critic for the Washington Post had this to say:

These Hachette employees who walked out did something extraordinarily brave in an industry that’s highly concentrated. But it’s also an industry dominated by women.

Maybe after all this country has gone through and on a day when Merriam-Webster reported that lookups for “misogyny" spiked 2,400 percent, the prospect of editing, marketing, selling or even being associated with the memoir of a man accused of abusing a girl was just one humiliation too many.

Publishers, after all, are not neutral platforms like Facebook or public spaces like a town square where free speech must reign. Publishers make extremely selective judgments, and when one of those judgments is morally offensive to employees, it’s encouraging to see those employees speak up and walk out.

The era of silence, of looking the other way, of playing catch and kill needs to end.

Monday, March 09, 2020

Save Me From My Reading flash fiction contest results-FINAL

As usual, you all stepped up to deftly hold my attention after a long week of reading.

Herewith the results:

Filed under the why do I even try column YET AGAIN.
Steve Forti

Special recognition for words I had to lookup:

Special recogniton for a great line
She who controls the toilet paper controls the world

The Duchess of Yowl approves of this entry:
Lisa Bodenheim

Here's the long list of entries that stood out

Matt Krizan
“The Plot Thickens!”

“Twist The Knife!”

The old friends greet each other warmly, regaling one another with stories they’ve been in. From the far end of the table, A Snail’s Pace glowers at them.

“I thought they weren’t bringing him back,” mutters Plot.

Knife shrugs. “Can’t have one of these without him.”

“I guess.”

The moderator approaches. “Anyone seen On The Same Page? No? Well, we can’t wait any longer.”

They settle in next to the moderator, who taps on her microphone, asks everyone to please take their seats. “Welcome,” she says, “to today’s panel discussion on clichés in literature…”

Timothy Lowe
Digging for Grandpa required a treasure map. Luckily, Grandma left one.

“Twisted,” said Desiree.

“That’s Grammy.” I peered at the page. “Always with a sense of humor.”

We wound through thickets, splashed through streams, shovels in hand.

“Fitting payback for a lifetime of philandering,” she said. “But how did she know it would--?”

“He had a pacemaker put in. Next week, he went missing. Here we are.”

The mise-en-scene described in Grammy’s will: a rotten garter, a set of scarlet pumps, a wisp of gauze shrouding the shallow mound.

Desiree wouldn’t stop laughing.

“What’s so funny?”

“Sex marks the plot.”

Katelyn Y
They’re silent when I finish. Finally, Tolkien speaks. “It’s not bad. Just… take more space. The more words, the better.”

Odd. Heaven shouldn’t have criticism. “It’s… a short story.”

“Exactly. Short on plot and allegory.” Lewis, nodding solemnly. “Though I liked that twist with the lion on page nine.”

“There’s not…” This can’t be Hell. I didn’t do enough for that, did I? “I think you misread – ”

“Atrocious ending too,” says Christie. “I’ve no idea who murdered whom.”


“Exactly.” Tolkien pats my shoulder. “Just rewrite, add fifty pages, and we’ll talk tomorrow.”

Oh. Purgatory. Fair enough.
Michael Seese
"I'm leaving."

Her "farewell," delivered after-the-fact—via text—confirmed what I'd long known. That in Darcy's Theater Of The Absurd, my role was little more than the mise-en-scene. Verily, Darcy had turned the page on our relationship somewhere between her byline and the (overly) dramatis personæ, with countless props from her private performances meeting shattered demises against a wall or the sidewalk below, while she recited her life from its hackneyed script.

"I need more."

"I have no space."

Of course, plotlines should wrap with a twist, though in this case, twenty.

Specifically, the lug nuts on her brand-new Porsche.

My eyes rolled in time with the thud of music. Oblivious human groupies swaying behind me. Cause strobe-lights and Michael Bolton? Not exactly…going the distance.
Leaning over the bar, I cupped my mouth. “No, Paige. Like page.”
Smiling the bartender, not a merit scholarship lot, whose muscles were more suited to spandex and iron than vermouth, gave my martini over.
“No, thanks.” Gripping glass, I took my—very—needed drink. Slugging it down, I pulled my silver pistol and took aim.
Because as for the undead lead singer of this cover band?
Forever would be enough.

John Davis Frain
Frain, creature of habit, hit the jukebox for Friday night inspiration. The Jackson 4 record dropped. Jammed. He shook and twisted the machine. No music. No inspiration.

He’d try again Saturday.

When he woke, none of his four senses seemed to function. He flushed his flash.

Sunday arrived with the same result. He stared into space.

“Hey, V.” He showed his wife his entry, nary a splotch on the page. “I plead the fourth. Nothing’s working.”

“She gave you fewer constraints, yet it’s harder?”

“Nobody understands writers.”

V gave him a high-four, pinky lost years earlier in a motorcycle accident.
The particularly nice twist here is that V is five in Roman numerals.

Mallory Love
“Let travel through space and time.
Plot our way through the universe.”
The young guy sang my lyrics to me.
“You’re a legend. Can I get an autograph?” He ripped a page from his notebook.
It’s rare nowadays to be recognized as a geriatric rock star.
Rarer still to get an album sale. Tours? Forget about it.
“How about a picture instead?” I suggested.
To most kids his age, I’d just be another old man on the street.
I’m flattered he noticed me.
The twisted thing was he’d never suspect me when he later realized his wallet was missing.

Here's the short list of entries that stood out.
(this was REALLY a task to choose which ones!)

My evil twin rang the stage at dress rehearsal. “Bomb on mise-en-scène.”

Pacing, the director turned the page.

“Who plotted a twist without telling me!?”

A stage “dude” strode forth, a paper-brown box-en-hand.

Actors aghast, eyebrows high, and fingertips to lips.

The actor dropped the box.


Actors shuffled back once…twice…throwing up their hands (you should try it sometime, bleech).

End act one.


Standing from afar, I watched a fireball light the low-hanging clouds.

I turned to my doppelganger as she giggled with delight.

“I told you. With your lisp, they’d never understand mezzanine.”

She turned in shock. “What lissp?”
This is so much subtle fun!
I read this three times and saw something new each time.
That's real artistry.

S.D. King
“Me, too.”

Nods around the circle.

“Me, too. I was 12.”

Six inmates - Rikers Island. Tough women. Little girls robbed of trust. Of hope. Of future.

Janice stood guard as the weekly GED Study Group got off topic again. She liked these women.

“I’d plot a Lorena Bobbitt if I got my hands on the bastard.”


“Actually any raping bastard. Even Cosby or Spacey.”

“Preach it, girl.”

Janice understands- she still can’t even pee without drippage – broken beer bottle.

“You hear a famous twisted bastard’s in the men’s cellblock?”

Janice knew the cell number.

“Me, too,” she whispered.
While this isn't really a story, there's no way I'm not giving this some love.
Probably helps that I watch Unbelievable on Netflix over the weekend.
(I'd watch Merritt Wever in just about anything, up to and including just standing in a phone booth on Seventh Avenue)

Lora Senf
Always known there’s a space.

And a door.

Between There and Here, I mean.

Momma said, “Careful, baby – what’s There’s where it belongs. Got no business Here. Not anymore.”

Did my best to mind, but turns out it’s me that’s bridging.

Plotted to open it a crack - barely enough to slip a page – to see the light poke through. Figured, There must be a whole lot brighter’n Here.

Turns out it don’t abide partway. That door flew wide and wasn’t no light There. I ‘tribute it to folks being all twisted up and mostly dark inside.

Shoulda minded Momma.
This really isn't a story either, and I normally don't go for much that is allegorical and abstract, but this just really spoke to me.

french sojourn
Her words hit him like a poleaxe to the gut.

She has the nerve to stand there in all her pageantry and look so smug. How could she mention my sickness in front of everyone? Why? I’m seeing a therapist… you money-grubbing cheese eater. Damn, now you’re bringing up my health.

But he, Walter Mitty, stood there and took it. Turn the page, be the better person.

Even more twisted, now she’s going on about my death…plotting it in front of all these people.

The minister turned, smiled, and said, “I now pronounce you, man and wife.”
I'm always a sucker for this kind of twist in a story, and this one is damn good.

C. Dan Castro
The promoter smiled. Feral. “And then?”

“Our hero flees with the Speck. But...plot twist! Monkeys steal the Speck. Give it to an eagle which loses the Speck in a clover field. Hero finds it, but other animals pounce. Tie him up. Threaten to destroy the Speck.”

“Then he gets them to hear a what?”

“A who.”

Feral laughs. “Feels like Abbott and Costello.”

“It’s a page turner. For a children’s book.”

“Yeah, fast paced. Ted, it’s ‘54. Commies everywhere. Make the eagle a vulture, giv’im a Ruskie name like Vlad, and I’ll see citizens hear about Horton hearing his Who.”
This made me laugh out loud, particularly given I've spent the week offering up notes on manuscripts. I hope I'm not quite as blind as Mr. Feral (such a great name)

Fog oozed across the pier like an ocean of milk suffering from severe personality disorder.

"It'd help lots if you'd dispose of the body," said Vanderbilt, peering at the semi-seen scene with a twisted, uncertain grin.

"What I'm s'posed to do 'bout it?"

"Listen, it's a pretty hip age we're living in, but not hip enough for blatant murder."

"He should'na had that crap ace up his sleeve."

"And you shouldn't have had that knife up yours."

"Alright, I'll handle it—Vanderbilt?"


"Where's the body?"

"Rien ne va plus," said the fog. "Guess it isn't your lucky night after all."

Semi-seen-scene in and of itself is hilarious but for use of the prompt word mis-en-scene, it's sheer genius.

And that last line takes this from deft to utterly delightful.

So, who did I overlook?
And who's your fave?

I read these again today, and my initial choice is still the final choice.

The prize goes to Kregger!

Kregger, email me your mailing address and what you like to read and we'll get a prize in the mail.

Thanks to all of you who took the time to write and post entries.
It really livened up my weekend.


Sunday, March 08, 2020

Bear with me!

From blog reader Writer of Wrongs:
Okay, he's not a pet, but I got to pet him!

My state's wildlife office does spring checks of radio-tracked (collared) bears and their young. We're too far south for a true hibernation; instead, the bears are in a state of torpor. A veterinarian and field biologist sedate the sow and monitor her, while another field biologist and the state's "bear guy" examine the cub(s). They allow small groups to accompany them on these trips, and I GOT TO GO!

After we had turns petting this little dude, he was returned to his mother's den just a few yards away, and she was given a shot to reverse the sedative. (More importantly, the bear guys weighed and measured him for records of the state's native bear population.)

It was a delightful experience, and I thought you and the Reef might enjoy these pictures. He was warm and cuddly, and he yawned and sneezed and was just generally adorable.

Friday, March 06, 2020

The Save Me From My Reading Flash Fiction contest

I've been reading my face off this past week, some really good material!
But now, I'm in need of a burst of amazing, so it's time for a Flash Fiction Contest!

The usual rules apply:

1. Write a story using 100 words or fewer.

2. Use these words in the story:


Note: There are only four. I don't know why I did this. Clearly I'm losing what few wits I have left.

To compete for the Steve Forti Deft Use of Prompt Words prize (or if you are Steve Forti) you must also use: mise-en-scene

3. You must use the whole word, but that whole word can be part of a larger word. The letters for the prompt must appear in consecutive order. They cannot be backwards.

4. Post the entry in the comment column of THIS blog post.

5. One entry per person. If you need a mulligan (a do-over) erase your entry and post again. It helps to work out your entry first, then post.

6. International entries are allowed, but prizes may vary for international addresses.

7. Titles count as part of the word count (you don't need a title)

8. Under no circumstances should you tweet anything about your particular entry to me. Example: "Hope you like my entry about Felix Buttonweezer!" This is grounds for disqualification.

9. There are no circumstances in which it is ok to ask for feedback from ME on your contest entry. NONE. (You can however discuss your entry with the commenters in the comment trail...just leave me out of it.)

10. It's ok to tweet about the contest generally.

Example: "I just entered the flash fiction contest on Janet's blog and I didn't even get a lousy t-shirt"

11. Please do not post anything but contest entries. (Not for example "I love Felix Buttonweezer's entry!")

12. You agree that your contest entry can remain posted on the blog for the life of the blog. In other words, you can't later ask me to delete the entry and any comments about the entry at a later date.

13. The stories must be self-contained. That is: do not include links or footnotes to explain any part of the story. Those extras will not be considered part of the story.

Contest opens: Saturday March 7, 4:25am

Contest closes: Sunday, March 8, 9:00am

If you're wondering how what time it is in NYC right now, here's the clock

If you'd like to see the entries that have won previous contests, there's an .xls spread sheet here http://www.colindsmith.com/TreasureChest/

(Thanks to Colin Smith for organizing and maintaining this!)

Questions? Tweet to me @Janet_Reid

Ready? SET?

Not yet! 
Sorry, too late.
Contest closed.

Thursday, March 05, 2020

The Author/Agency agreement: termination clauses

Laura Stegman asked in the comment column of Tuesday's post

I have one question for OP, aside from "is he dead or very ill?" and that is, what does it say in your contract about terminating the relationship? I would also be interested, if Janet is willing to tell us, what her contract -- or even a "typical" agent contract -- says about termination by either party, and what circumstances allow for termination.

Termination should be at will.
Lest you think that involves gunfire of any sort, sorry, no. We are not allowed to kill each other, other than metaphorically.

That is either party can end the agreement without cause.You don't have to prove that I'm derelict in my duties, and I don't have to prove you're a dimwit who can't take directions.

Generally there's a notice period.
You fire me, I have 30 days to close out submissions, get the paperwork in order, and erase you from my speed dial.

You are free to solicit new representation at once of course.

Earned commissions survive the dissolution
If I fire you, and this is JUST ME, not industry standard, I generally give you the sub list and waive any claim on future sales.  I do NOT waive my right to commission on the books I've sold except in unusual circumstances.

Parting ways is really really hard.
I hate doing it.
But sometimes,  clients need a fresh start with someone new.
And sometimes I can't get the job done that you need.

And sometimes we both recognize we made a mistake.
(those are the hardest)

Any questions?

Wednesday, March 04, 2020

Querying middle grade

I enjoyed your blog post last June about Scott Reynolds Nelson’s book, AIN’T NOTHING BUT A MAN. It's a fantastic middle grade nonfiction read and an excellent mentor text to have on the bookshelf. With the combination of photos, paintings, illustrations, sidebars, text, and jaw-dropping appendices, how would you, as an agent, prepare a book proposal to sell such a book? What's the approach to packaging all the resources together to make an effective proposal or does the focus start with just the text?

The focus is the text, and the concept.

Then we take a look at readability, which drives us all nuts but is important for kids books, particularly fiction. A book that's hard to read won't find fans.

It's not dumbing down, not even close. It's recognizing what 4th grade readers can do. Sure some kids read at a higher level (probably most of us here) but the last thing we want to do is write books for only the top 1% of the reading population.

My goal with kids books is finding and selling books that kids love love love.

The way I had books I read over and over in elementary school.
(you too?)

All the backmatter comes after the story is fully developed.

And often we work with editors on this after they've acquired the book because how much back matter can depend a lot on the size of the book and the number of pages.

You don't need any of that to query.
You query with just the text.

Any questions?

Tuesday, March 03, 2020

My agent is ghosting me

At first it starts off with an old, familiar story. My agent signed me in October of 2018. He raved about my book, said he loved it. My last email from him was in April 2019, where he gave me a list of publishers and editors where he had subbed it. One had already rejected. The other seven thanked him and said they'd get to it as soon as they could. But that's the last I've heard from him. I email him every couple of months--no answer. I've called him twice and left voice mails, but he doesn't respond.

I know, I know, you've covered this thing over and over. I should send him a registered letter telling him that unless he contacts me, I want out.

But here is where the story gets different (well, at least in my mind).

This man has already done so much for me. After my initial query he responded with a revise and resubmit, plus about 1500 words of detailed criticisms and suggestions. I read them, and without a doubt they were brilliant, spot-on. They showed he really put a lot of (uncompensated) time into my manuscript and grasped the essence of what it needed. It took me ten months to revise, but the more I rewrote, the more excited I got, because it just kept getting better and better. And he must have agreed, because after rereading it he made me an enthusiastic offer of representation.

And then we get to April of last year and the looooong silence.

Yes, I'm angry and frustrated, but in my mind I owe him a whole lot more than he owes me. He's kind, he's smart, he knows books and I want to keep him. It occurs to me that he's ghosting me because these seven editors are not responding to him and it distresses him to have to tell me that. 

Entirely possible.
I spent a large part of yesterday following up on submissions and it's very frustrating when editors don't respond.

But you're focused on the wrong thing here.
Your career is stalled.

Let's look at that sentence again:

Your career is stalled.

How long are you willing to have that go on?

If editors aren't responding, he should be talking to you about Plan B.
Plan B can be a lot of things.

Gratitude and respect are wonderful, but neither of those are helping you right now.

This is your call. The only person who can decide what to do is you.


Are you planning to live to be 200 so you have all this time to squander?

You do NOT owe him anything more than what you've done: stay in touch, ask for updates.
If he's not replying, that's on him NO MATTER WHAT.

Most of us know editors can be bottomless pits. It does NOT excuse ghosting a client.

Misplaced loyalty has kept more  people in bad relationships than rent controlled apartments in NYC.

You've done everything you should.
Being grateful doesn't come at this steep a price.

Monday, March 02, 2020

I know you have no love for NORMANs.

I know all ya'll hate No Response Means No.

I have no love for it myself and try to answer most of the queries that I receive. (The ones I don't.)

But, I understand why some people don't.

Here's one of my favorite examples of why people don't.

Notice it's been sent to 850+ people.
And it's a REPLY to a rejection.

And here's something I saw on Twitter recently after Jessica Faust at BookEnds mentioned she'd been spending a lot of time in her query inbox.

Both of these things are truly idiotic and thank goodness most of you would never think of doing this.

But this happens more than you'd think given how much information is available on how to query effectively.

Even when people are just being nice and replying to rejections with "thanks for taking a look" it's still more email to read through and sort.

And I don't get anywhere close to the number of emails that high powered agents who work in YA see on a weekly basis.

Those numbers are truly daunting, and if it was just a matter of an auto responder, that's one thing.
But it's not.

You'd be surprised at how many people have auto responders on the email that they use for querying (NEVER DO THIS) saying they'll be back in the office on Monday.

Again, more email clutter.

This doesn't begin to mention the people who do oddball stuff that I've talked about in past posts.

Or the people who take a response as an invitation to a conversation. (It's not.)

Or scold me that their first email bounced when they'd sent it to an agency I last worked at in 2016.

Or tell me I asked to see a book via Twitter, leading me to dig around in my Twitter feed in case I had lost my mind and done something that stupid (I hadn't. Not then anyway.)

I'm sorry it's come to NORMAN for a lot of agents.

I hope I never have to resort to it. Being thicker skinned than everyone else, AND looking for blog fodder, it's not quite the problem for me that it is for nice young agents fresh out of agent school who aren't used to being called idiots with no taste.**

 Any questions?

**my standard reply to those is
 "aren't you glad you found out before I offered rep?" 
which I've never actually sent, but think about
doing every single time.

Sunday, March 01, 2020

March 1!

Is it spring at your house yet?
Not here, that's for sure.
It's 27 degrees here which means my plants don't want to be anywhere near the windows at night.
Sometimes I think I can see them turning away from the cold...or maybe that's one too many flutes of vodka on a Saturday night.

What's the first reliable sign of spring where you are?

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Revising your novel, revising your query

I have written what is, according to everyone who's seen it, a very good query letter. ("Everyone who's seen it" includes a respectable agent, who read it and requested the manuscript. Hooray!)

The problem is that I wrote the query letter before revising the novel, and now the "hook" in the query letter takes place in the second half of the novel. I should rewrite my query letter, right? But the first half of the manuscript isn't as hooky. I worry that if I rewrite the query letter to reflect the beginning of the novel, I won't get requests; but that if I send the current query letter and do get requests, agents won't like the book because they'll be expecting something that doesn't happen for another two hundred pages. Thoughts?

You're right to worry.

When I get a query that talks about choices and stakes for the character, I'm expecting to see those choices and stakes pretty quickly in the novel.

That's because your query is about the START of your novel.
It's about the START of the plot, what choices the main character faces, and what's at stake with those choices.

If it takes 200 pages to get to that, the problem is NOT the query, it's the novel.

If the query talks about something that happens on page 200, I'm going to be perplexed. That's
not the reaction you want.

And the problem is not that the agent won't like the book, it's that they'll stop reading and pass.

Obviously something compelled you to rewrite the book after you thought it was done. I'm not sure what "isn't as hooky" means but if it means the plot doesn't really start on page one ....

"Nothing happens for the first X pages" is a comment I've written to authors more times than any of us care to know. If you hear "the pacing is off" this is one of the things it means.

Start your novel where the story starts.
Tell me about that in the query.

Here's an example: Gone With the Wind starts when Scarlett O'Hara learns Ashley Wilkes is going to marry Melanie Hamilton.

It' does not start with Ashley meeting Scarlett. Or with Gerald O'Hara coming to Georgia. Or Ellen Robillard agreeing to marry him. All those events are the start of the timeline, but they are NOT the start of the story.

The main character is Scarlett and novel starts when (to her way of thinking) her life takes an abrupt left turn.

Any questions?