Thursday, June 21, 2018

Query in haste, repent in leisure!

I know you're going to bite my head off for this question, but here goes...

Hypothetically speaking...Let's say a first time novelist gets overly excited and queries a bit too soon. Perhaps she wants to test the waters and sends out a few queries before her beta readers have gotten back to her. (I know...I know...)

Well...her beta readers have gotten back to her and everyone is really loving her novel, except for one little flaming red flag...they hated the opening chapters.

She's fixed them and is very happy with the changes, but the question is...At this point, she's assuming those initial queries are all going to get rejected, which she's accepted, but is there anything she can do to let those agents know the opening has changed? Or should she just chalk it up as a lesson learned?

(And yes...she's well aware that she's tasty shark bait at this point. She's hiding safely under the covers with her toes far from the edge of the bed.)

As always, thank you so much for your time and advice. As afraid as I am to hear it, it's still very much appreciated!

You did WHAT?

Well, you can requery. There is no law that says you can't query again even if the agent has passed the first time. There are no black lists. Agents don't gather in covens to hand around lists of Bad Bad Writers. (The lists are of Bad Bad Editors!)

You'll want to change your email address if you do.  If you query me from an email address I've heard from before, gmail groups those emails even if the subject line changes.

Do NOT mention you queried before.

And don't expect a flurry of requests.
Often, the reason I pass on queries is not the first pages; it's a problem with the query, OR it's a book I don't want to read or work on.

I recently passed on a project that had a terrific query and artfully written pages. It was a book about an emotionally charged subject, and I don't have the emotional bandwidth to even consider that book right now.  Nothing the author can do about that. (I passed with a personalized email saying why, but still, not fun for the author.)

But, this time, make sure you've really polished that query and first pages till they sparkle.
A do-over is fine. A dozen-over is a sign your enthusiasm needs better management.

Your enthusiasm is the flip side of the writer who can't bear to send a query cause it might not be perfect. That writer tinkers endlessly. With the query. With the pages. With the novel.  That kind of LACK of eagerness is just as much a problem as your abundance of enthusiasm.

That sweet spot of when to query is when you're confident, and your revisions are just moving things back and forth without actually changing much at all.

Bottom line: there are no query police and I'm always looking for good work.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

"I can still work!"

I've had this conversation twice in the last two weeks with hard-working clients:

Client: I'm going on vacation, but I'm taking my laptop and I'll work on these revisions.

Me: Don't.

Client: No really, I can. I have wifi in the cabin by the beach/on the zipline/at the pool.

Me: I'm sure you do, but under no circumstance, should you pull out your laptop and work.

Client: (considering the possibility that SharkForBrains might be more than a nickname) umm...huh?

Me: Look, you're going on vacation. Go On Vacation. Don't take work with you. Be fully present with your husband/wife/kids/whomever. Don't be the person holed up in the attic trying to connect to the wifi while everyone else is having fun.

Here's why I'm pretty adamant about telling clients this:

Your brain needs fallow time. It needs time to rest, recuperate, reenergize. Taking time off is NOT slacking off. It's recognizing that your brain needs rest. That's not a weakness.
It's hubris to think you're so amazing you defy the laws of being human. You need food, you need sleep, and you need a respite from work every once in a while.

There's a hilarious meme going around on Twitter about The Most Successful People I Know. It started when some douchecanoe posted a list of what the most successful people do and populated it with things like:  gets up at 4am; reads for an hour before swilling green tea steeped in a handthrown pot from Tibet; attends daily mass, twice, and recites the readings from memory.  You know, those lists that make you feel like a slacker idiot.

Of course, there were some pretty hilarious sendups.

Laird Barron posted this one:

And there are some others that made me laugh:

And some with poetic literary references:

(please tell me you recognize both references!)

My point is this:  the most successful people I know understand they are not automatons, and take vacations, and give themselves respite time, and recognize the value of doing so.

So, if when you're tempted to take work on your vacation: Don't.

Be fully present for your life instead.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

More on mobsters, hackers and other stock characters

Yesterday's post about tired old tropes that make me pass on your pages produced a plaintive wail of sorts:

Emilya Naymark said...
Mobsters period? As in no mobsters ever?
I had a vision of Emilya looking at her manuscript replete with three dimensional, interesting criminals who just happened to belong to the mob, and a solitary tear trickling down her cheek.

Of course, this amused me to no end because, as you know, tormenting writers and crushing hopes and dreams is my favorite part of the job.

And of course, my original post was a bit terse. Here's a more nuanced take on "no mobsters."

Mobsters can be something other than Don Corleone or Tony Soprano.

I'd love to see a librarian mob, with librarian street toughs enforcing reading-level-quiet, and godhelp you if you don't pay your fines.

Or simply mobsters that don't wear velour track suits, carry brass knuckles and have a Brooklyn accent that would heat up cold pizza.

To create an interesting mob person (ladies or gents!) think about why your character is IN the mob. What does being in the mob do for them, what do they get out of it? What do they have to sacrifice to stay in the mob. Do they want to be OUT of the mob, but can't figure out how to withdraw gracefully (ie alive!)

In other words, like with every character, you're going to know a lot more than your reader, because you're going to know why they are the way they are.

Mobsters and all those other tired old stock characters are all too often used when the writer needs to move the plot forward, and they don't invest time in understanding them.

A hacker is needed, presto here's the hacker from Central Casting.

So, mobsters, maybe. If you do it right. But that's true of darn near everything. Do it right, and I'll read to the end.

Now, that is a offer you can't refuse.

Monday, June 18, 2018

So, your query works. I read your pages. Then I said no. Some reasons why.

1. Over writing. "Massive red orb" when what you mean is "sun."
Unless it's science fiction, and suns can be small blue triangles as well as massive red orbs, you should save the description for things that matter. That the sun is shining does not require the sun be described as a massive red orb.

2a. The female characters are described by what they look like; the men by what they do.
I'm over this.
Completely, totally, over this.

2b. The characters are described in ways that make them caricatures. I see this a LOT with starting-out writers. Our hero isn't just smart, he's a rocket scientist. She's not just a waitress, she won the Nobel Peace Prize last year. Characters are more interesing when they're flawed.

2c. Stock characters. Alcoholic, burned out cops; brilliant but socially inept hackers; mindless thugs; mobsters; DMV employees who always manage to cough up info when the hero needs it.

Give any of these characters some fresh twist and I'm all in. This is why you read 1000 books in your category, so you know what's been done before and what hasn't.

3a. Nothing happens.
Something needs to change for the story to start. If I have to wait too long, I lose interest. It doesn't have to be someone being set on fire; it can be subtle. It just needs to be there.

3b. Not enough happens by page 50
The plot should be fully underway by this point. If the only thing that's happened is the characters have been moved around, we'll still need a sense of what's at stake. Think of it this way. Your characters are driving cross country from NYC to LA. Whether they're going too fast or too slow is something you know ONLY if you also know they have to be in LA by six pm tomorrow or the world will end. It's not just what they're doing, it's what's at stake.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Sunday, and finalizing plans for upcoming vacation

A special bit of recognition to those sons and daughters who have lost their fathers this year. Father's Day is hard when your dad is gone, that first year especially so. May the memory of your dad be of comfort to you today, and always.

There's a new post at QueryShark today.

Blog hiatus starts in two weeks. I'll be using that time for a reading retreat, so think of yourself as making a sacrifice (daily content) for the good of a lot of writers (those in the requested full scrum who have been waiting for what seems like forever to them.)

Two weeks back I asked for some ideas about what to do for the week I'll be reading.

Here's a list I culled from your comments.  Let me know what you think!

For Nine Days, Nine Questions, I'd love to know what quote, advice or encouragement folks keep going back to: those sentences that you scrawled on a Post-it and suck to your wall/computer screen/desk. (Or forehead for the really rough days.)
Jan added to Sarah:
I'd love to know the one (yes, only one) writing tip that each writer feels has helped them the most.

Kristin Owens
How about: What's the first sentence from your current WIP?

Sam Mills
Nine Days, Nine Questions: What hobbies have you given up to make more time for writing? What hobbies did you keep to get a break from writing?

Dena Pawling

Have you participated in NaNoWriMo? Did you finish? What did you learn? Has your family stopped believing you're crazy?

Have you participated in writing-related twitter contests? Which ones? Why? What did you learn?

Do you submit short stories for publication? Where? What has been your experience, good or bad?

Have you ever submitted anything to a contest? Which ones? Why?

Where do you do most of your writing? Why? How many chairs have you had to replace?

Of the books you read, what percentage are purchased and what percentage from the library? How do you choose which to buy? Have you had to purchase a larger house to accommodate all your books?

Do you use writing software like Scrivener or similar? Is it better/easier than a basic word processing program? Why?

What do you see as your main strength as a writer? Main weakness?

Besides this blog, which writing-related blogs/sites do you visit? Why? Why are you reading blogs instead of writing?

What category/genre do you write? Why?

In the past year, which book have you read that impacted you the most? Why? How many copies of that book have you purchased and/or stolen and/or given away?

Have you ever let someone borrow a book and it comes back to you damaged, or does not come back at all? Does this make you happy or sad or mad? Who posted bail for you?

Have you ever borrowed a book and never returned it? Is that person still your friend? Does that library still welcome you? How many community service hours do you still have left to complete?

Julie Weathers

2. Share tips on how you keep writing even when you don't want to.

3. How do you organize your books? If you organize them by color, I don't want to know.

4. What were some of your writing goals this year? Are you on track?

5. Do you have a "posse" that keeps you on track with your writing?
What's something(s) you keep around your work/writing space that is iconic to you? 

Mike Howard
How about simply posting your word-or-idea count for the day, each day, every day


1. What are your three favorite books?
2. What are you reading now?

Colin Smith
The nine questions could be fun. Especially if they're not all writing-related questions. Maybe some interesting but not-too-personal questions about other things. E.g.,

What did you do after high-school?

If you went to college, where and what did you major in?

What's your favorite non-writing activity?

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would that be? (That could get a bit personal, but I can think of things I wouldn't mind sharing.)

John Davis (manuscript) Frain
What one idea has most helped your writing practice? (I have to thank Julie W. for the idea of a sand timer. It sits on my desk, and when I turn it over, I WRITE.

And it works!

No internet, no phone, no interruptions for one hour, one minute and twelve seconds. Even the sand timer wants me to write more--I timed it and there's an extra minute-twelve of sand in there, so I get an extra paragraph every time I play.)*
*Longest parenthetical note ever!
Lennon Faris
Weirdest writing experience.

Or creepiest!

Karen McCoy
Maybe one of the "nine questions" days could cover stories of when we met authors (or agents? or editors?), and what we learned from each experience.

-Where do you live and is it where you were born? If not, why did you move?

-What is something special or unique about where you live?

-What is your favourite local food? Fav non-local food?

-What did your grandparents do for a living?

-What is your dream vacation, if money were no object?

-Other than writing, fill in the blank: "I've always wanted to __________." What's stopping you?

-What life skills do you bring to the zombie apocalypse, and can I be on your team?

-Why is Blogger suddenly making me log into my gmail account before I can comment? (OK, so that's not a question for the blog)

-What's your favourite way to procrastinate (other than thinking up questions for this blog hiatus)?

Sherin Nicole

4 Books that Shaped Your Writing Style?

Jeannette Leopold 
Aspect of WIP that makes you most nervous to share with beta readers?

Her Grace, the Duchess of Kneale

If you couldn't be a writer, what would you want to be when you grow up?

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Happy Bloomsday!

I'm nowhere near a devoted Joycean; I like to read about him more than I like to read him.  The Most Dangerous Book, about the publication of Ulysses, by Kevin Birmingham is a true sox-knocker. Even if you've never read any James Joyce, and have zero interest in starting, this book is a terrific look at publishing.  Utterly readable, utterly captivating!

Friday, June 15, 2018

Don't give publishers rights they can't exploit

I wrote, in English, a historical novel that takes place in Lisbon during World War II. It came to the attention of a major publisher in Portugal, which published it (in late May 2018) in Portuguese. The publisher has all language rights except English, which I kept.

Now I want to start the process of trying to get the novel published in its original version. (1)What is the best way to pitch it to an agent or publisher in the States? (2)Is the fact it's been published in another language a good selling point? (I don't have sales figures yet.) (3)Will it matter much that the English-language publisher won't have other language rights to sell? (4)What else should I consider, or highlight, as I pitch?

Your oh-so-pointed sharky advice would be much appreciated. 

I'm glad you realize this is going to be pointed, cause I want to smack you around with a nerf bat!

For starters, why did you license all languages but English to the Portuguese publisher? Do they have the ability to sell it to China? Romania? Croatia?  My guess is no they do not because their job is publishing books in Portugal.

My guess is you did it because you didn't know not to, and that's not a character flaw of course, but honest to god it's why you GET AN AGENT!!!

You wrote this book in English. Query agents who work in the English-speaking market. Despite some of the books I've read recently, I'm fairly sure English is our working language here.

When we take on the book we can help you with the Portuguese deal, and RETAIN your other rights to sell them to other markets.

Please tell me at least that this Portuguese publisher has to split the take on any deals they make for you, AND that if they don't the rights revert to you in a year or so. (Ok, you didn't know to do that either, and I'll just sit over here weeping shark tears into an already salty sea.)

As to your questions:
1. The best way to pitch this to agents in the states is a query letter. You have to tell them it's an English only deal cause you licensed translation to the other guy.
2. No, the fact that all your subrights are tied up someplace else is NOT a selling point.
3. Yes
4. There isn't anything other than the book to pitch.

Bottom line: NEVER grant rights to a publisher if they're not in a position to exploit them. This means when a publisher wants film rights you say no. They aren't a film studio. A publisher without an active foreign rights department or a contracted foreign rights agent shouldn't be granted translation rights cause they have no way to execute them for you.

Any sub right grant should divide the money between author and publisher with the majority going to the author. 60/40, 75/25 etc.

There should be a limited number of years that the subrights are with a publisher. After that time period expires, the author should be allowed to have the unexploited rights revert back.

Any questions???

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Book 1 isn't going to be the first one in the series

How would you go about querying the second book in a series of novels?

Partials and even fulls were requested for the first installment, but didn't catch an agent.

I've continued the story universe, in one case with a new female protagonist, and in the other with the sole surviving 2nd main character from the first.

Both new stories can stand alone--with only minor references to theprevious ones.

Should I even mention the first book in the query?

No. It's not a second book unless there's a first. And by first, I mean a published book.

I'm perplexed why you're querying book two if book one didn't get a deal. Have you gotten assistance on the book? By assistance I mean someone other than you or your crit group taking a look. If you just keep going without fixing what was wrong, it's going to be hugely frustrating.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018


This is really a minnow of a question for a Shark, but it has been bugging me so I'd love you to sharpen your teeth on it. When writing a synopsis for a work of fiction do you capitalise the names of characters the first time you introduce them? Google hasn't helped as I've found advice both ways. I personally don't capitalise because I find the caps throw me off when I read the synopsis. I'm sure it wouldn't be a deal breaker, but you know us woodland creatures...

Your question reminded me of a delightful book called Caps For Sale. Originally published in 1947!

The question of ALL CAPPING names in synopses is one, like the Oxford comma, that will drive even mild-mannered agents (let alone fierce sharkly ones) into a frenzy.

ALL CAPPING is a refugee from the film world, and should be seen as the abomination it is.
Unfortunately that is only my opinion, not industry standard.

It's not a deal breaker for me. I simply find it gets in the way of reading the synopsis. And reading a synopsis is only marginally less horrifying than writing one, so why add difficult to deadly.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Writing in the zeitgeist

On Sunday I posted a story about the Duchess of Yowl, and a t-shirt.
The original version of the story had a different ending.

These are the last five lines of the post you saw:
Duchess of Yowl: Too true. Get me the number for Barbara Poelle.

Me: Barbara is allergic to cats.

Duchess of Yowl: All the more reason my picture should be on this t-shirt. For all those unfortunates who can't have a cat.

Me: (aside) always thinking of others.

Duchess of Yowl: (from inside the shopping bag) I heard that.

The original version, the one that still cracks me up, is this:
Duchess of Yowl: Too true. Get me the number for Barbara Poelle.

Me: Barbara is allergic to cats.

Duchess of Yowl: How does she go on living?

You'll recall that last week we lost Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade to suicide.
It rattled a lot of people including some of my clients in a major way.

I kept looking at that final line and yes, it was funny, but it could also be perceived as making light of suicide.

In the end, I revised. It took HOURS to write around that first ending, and I went back to it more than once, but each time, I thought "nope, this is not the place or time for this joke."

There was a question earlier this year about querying a book with elements to the plot that might be perceived as exploiting a tragedy, but joking is different. Joking about some topics is just bad form.  There's even a joke about this: "too soon?" when a comedian cracks wise about something awful.

Well, yes it was too soon for a joke about suicide.
For some readers, it will always be too soon, but for right now, it's too soon for enough people that I felt the line needed to go.

Have you had to write around something in your books? How did you do it?

Monday, June 11, 2018

Contest results--FINAL (as of 3:17am)

I really love this phrase from Harmony Commissions
Large, husband shaped problems.

These two lines from Steve Stubbs are hilarious:
Nobody ever said he was the sharpest tool in the shed. He's the only Boy Scout who earned Girl Scout merit badges by mistake.

And this badge, I'm shocked, shocked! it's not in the Girl Scout manual yet!
Will McPhail
Only the strongest, the bravest of the brave obtain the Decapitator badge.
Honestly, Steve Forti just has to be in his own category now.
“This is nice, isn’t it? Breakfast mimosas overlooking the reef?”
“Totally. We should do this more often.”
A bang. The wooden door rattled on rusted hinges.
“The hell was that?”
Another bang. A grunt. A flash of yellow against the algae-covered porthole window.
“Open up!” a voice slurred.
Ariel set her cocktail aside and swam to the door. Pulling it open, the blonde on the other side spilled in, sloshing red drink in hand. Just then a shadow passed behind her, fear sank in, and the porthole exploded in a mess of teeth.
“Dammit Linda! You brought a bloody Mary!”

Please someone, write this book suggested by the estimable Amy Schaefer:

I like this one a lot!
Timothy Lowe
“Merit badges? For Girl Scouts?”

“Shut up,” Suzy said, her cheeks burning. She knew wearing the sash to school was a bad idea. Too show-offy. But Mom had insisted. Of course she had. Mom didn’t know about boys like Billy Marbles. Suzy’s best friend Sil had told her Billy had a crush. That’s why he picked on her so ruthlessly. Somehow that made the whole thing worse.

“What are those two for? Knitting? Sewing?”

The next day, Billy was absent. Flu or something.

“What are those two for?” Sil asked.

“Knot-tying,” Suzie said with a smile. “And that one’s knife-throwing.”

This just cracked me up; I think it's the shark boxing.


I’m kinda famous in my Troop cuz I often double up while earning badges. The first time was when I was helping an ol’ lady tie up a purse-snatcher. Community Service and Knots in one fell swoop.

So it was only natural to me to combine Martini Drinking and Shark Boxing. What’s amazing isn’t how many sharks I subdued but rather that no one else thought of it first.

Honestly, reading this, I'm kinda glad I wasn't in Dena Pawling's Scout troop!
Through the peep hole, Doreen saw green beanies and badge sashes. Behind them, a wagon with boxes. Salivating, she threw a blanket over Jason's body and grabbed her wallet. Thin mints were just what she needed.

She opened the door. “I'd love some girl scout cook-” Her eyes shifted to the Smith & Wesson. “Um, ladies?”

“Where's Jason?” the taller one hissed.

Doreen glanced toward the blanket.

The shorter one scooted around Doreen and lifted the corner.

“Party time!” They pulled the wagon inside. Doreen found glasses. They shared a box of wine.

Be prepared. Make new friends.

And honestly not Richelle Elberg's either!
“Cyndi cracked the safe in her own Dad’s office. Like, she’s musta seen him open it a hundred times. Shouldn’t count.”

“It really shouldn’t,” Molly said. “And Olivia totally cheated.” Molly shoved another Thin Mint into her mouth and gulped her milk. “Seriously, two doesn’t even count as Serial.”


“I went to the market--by myself!--and found what I needed.” Molly gazed at her sash proudly. The new Kidnapping badge sparkled like a sapphire.

In the corner, a toddler howled.

“Guess I’ll do Disposing of Bodies next.”

“I’ve got some leftover lime if you need it.”

I'm pouncing on this idea from BrendaLynn NOW
Shark Minibar Fund
c/o Janet Reid.

As usual I'm having a terrible time choosing the winner.
Help me out here, let me know what you think! 

 Update: 3:17am Tuesday morning

Ok, this is a first. I did overlook a terrific entry, and y'all reminded me of it in the comments.

It's this from Just Jan

When we were young, we thought Granny was a pirate. Every school vacation was spent listening to her swashbuckling stories.

It wasn’t until we helped with her final move that we found the truth in a dusty corner of her attic. Maryanne picked up the moldering sash, heavy with achievements. “I didn’t know you were a Girl Scout.”

“Where do you think I learned to drink like a fish?”

“What about this one?” I asked, pointing to the shark badge.

Granny lifted a pant leg. “How do you think I got my limp?” 

And after a lot of thought, and another read, the winner is Just Jan! 

Jan, if you'll email me we'll figure out a good prize for you!

Thanks to all of you who took the time to write and post entries. I really love seeing what words can do when flung around by deft story spinners like all y'all.

Also you scare the pants off me a whole lot.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

The Duchess of Yowl and the t-shirt

Duchess of Yowl: You're late. My evening petting was scheduled to start 180 seconds ago!

Me: Sorry, I was at the store buying you a present.

Duchess of Yowl: (suspiciously nosing bag) It does not smell like tuna.

Me: I should hope not, it's a T-shirt. See: Cat, size svelte.

Duchess of Yowl: (walking on shirt) It feels comfy.

Me: Here, let me iron it so you can see how it looks.

Duchess of Yowl: (looking at ironed shirt) This is a TRAVESTY!

Me: Your grace, what's wrong?

Duchess of Yowl: LOOK! (twitches an elegant, disdainful whisker)

Me: Not everything can have a picture of a cat.

Duchess of Yowl: Why not? And anyway, not just a cat, it should be a picture of me!

Me: Take it up with your agent.

Duchess of Yowl: (suspiciously) Aren't YOU an agent?

Me: You think I'm a waitress, and a laggardly one at that.

Duchess of Yowl: Too true. Get me the number for Barbara Poelle.

Me: Barbara is allergic to cats.

Duchess of Yowl: All the more reason my picture should be on this t-shirt. For all those unfortunates who can't have a cat.

Me: (aside) always thinking of others.

Duchess of Yowl: (from inside the shopping bag) I heard that.

Friday, June 08, 2018

Tell me a story!

I have really amazing clients

Two new Girl Scout merit badges!

Use them for your writing prompt!

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

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

3. 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.

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

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

6. 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.

6a. 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 when results are posted...just leave me out of it.)

7. 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"

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

9. 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.

10. 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: 9am, 8:50am Saturday, June 9, 2018

Contest closes: 9am, Sunday, June 10, 2018

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

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

Questions? Tweet to me @Janet_Reid
Ready? SET?

Not yet!

Sorry, contest is closed.

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Do I really have to thank the editor who didn't do much?

The editor for my book was a not all that useful. She was late on editorial letters, haphazard in her comments, and as far as I can tell really didn't do that much.

I turned in the acknowledgements section of my book and said thank you to her, but my agent is saying it sounds too terse. Do I really have to say something nice about her?

There are ways to acknowledge effort without saying thank you if this is something you really want to do.

Thank the editor for acquiring the book, or if she inherited it when the original editor left, thank her for stepping up when the job needed doing. Acknowledge her contributions made the book better if you think they did, even in a small way. Acknowledge the time she spent on your book even if you didn't think it was enough.

It's never wrong to be generous in these matters. You don't know what was going on with her during the editing process. A terse thank you is better than silence (I've had a few of those) but a little butter on the toast is a good thing.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

White folks writing characters of color

There has been lots of twitter kerfuffle today about the stats surrounding authors of color not being properly represented in children's book publishing (and I'm sure other genres as well). Some smart agents tweeted that it is exploitation for a non-POC to write about POC. One smart agent went so far as to engage in commentary with a white female teacher who had researched and wanted to write a story involving POC; smart agent told her to recommend books to her students written by POC rather than write her own. Huh?
I am a female writer; therefore, historically I've been underrepresented in the field of writing. However, the best female MC I have ever read in my life is Jane Whitefield--not just female but half Native American--written by Thomas Perry, a white man. It's a series and I've read it four times. I learned a lot about Native American culture from these novels (he was a professor of Native American history before he was a writer).
I always thought that writing was about imagination, and about observing life and writing what you see. Now I can't write about anyone except people who look like and talk like me or else I'm being exploitative? Another tweeter remarked she'd been rejected by several agents because her well-researched novel about an undocumented immigrant was not #ownvoices (this was actually written to her in the rejections).
I ask this because I am querying a book that has diverse characters. They are actually based on my real and true life friends right now (I made us all 11 years old), and I had them read it to make sure I wasn't saying something stupid (I wasn't). But even if these characters weren't based on real people, do I not have the right to use my observations and imagination to write about what I see? We're talking fiction here, not non-fiction where life-experience and platform come into play.
I try to be very sensitive to other people's feelings, plights, and general existence. So my ponderings are not just self-serving (hey I wrote a book are people going to hate it?) but also, am I doing something wrong by writing from imagination and observation rather than just personal experience? What if Thomas Perry had been discouraged from writing about Jane Whitefield -- egads, life without Jane Whitefield!!
*runs to bookcase*
*sleeps with Dance for the Dead under her pillow*
I have a feeling I'm preaching to the choir here, since your answer is generally (and rightly): IS THE BOOK ANY GOOD AND DID YOUR QUERY MAKE ME WANT TO READ IT? I guess I want your thoughts on this because there seems to be a general smart-agent rallying cry right now, and I'm feeling out of sorts and I want guidance from the QOTKU. Also I read your blog every night because you always make me laugh, and I'm able to look up from the query trenches, cheer up, and stop being so serious about it all.
Insert hamster wheel.

I love Jane Whitefield too. A lot.

And I love Stringer Bell. And Omar. And don't get me started on Bubbles (all from The Wire, all written by white men, who as far as I know are not gangsters, thugs, or drug addicts.)

Right now, publishing is experiencing a paroxysm of self-awareness. It's a very white industry that hasn't been too interested in reaching past the usual voices for a long long time. I'm old enough to remember when Terry McMillan's books about adult black women were "a revelation" that adult black women read books.

And I think there should be more writers from different backgrounds writing the stories they want to.

And for a while, the voice of reason and temperance which is "everyone gets to write what they want" isn't going to be well received, cause right now we're kicking ourselves for being stupid and shortsighted for a long time.

You'll see this in the juvenile markets MUCH more than you will the adult markets; in fiction more than non-fiction.

The central question is: can people write honestly and truthfully about a culture that isn't their own?

I don't know the answer.

I don't know if there is ONE answer, or even one TRUE answer.

I know that a lot of writers get a lot of stuff wrong in books about things I know about: geography and history.

I know that every time there's a news article about an event I was involved with, the reporter gets at least a couple things wrong--or at least wrong based on my view of what transpired.

And in a conversation today at Mysterious Bookshop with Laird Barron and some of his devoted readers we were talking about "we don't know what we don't know."

And I don't know what it's like to be black in America. Or a man. Or a teenage boy. Or a lot of other things (nice, polite, sweet all come to mind.)

But if the question is whether I want the stories told or not, I vote for having them told.
And I'd vote for having people tell their own stories, but sometimes that's not an option.

I'm facing this problem with some of my writers. We handle each author and each project differently.

I think the only thing to do is keep querying. You don't need every agent to say yes; you don't even need two. You need one, who sees the value of your work and wants to champion it.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

licensing your self-pubbed book for translation

I'm in discussions with a reputable European publisher interested in translating and publishing my English language self-published novel. They haven't offered me a contract yet, but I'd like to have the answer to my questions ahead of time just in case.

While I've been self-publishing my book series with minor success, I do have hopes of going hybrid with two other novels not related to my self-published series. My questions are:

1. If this publisher offers me a contract, would I be wasting my time querying U.S. agents with this contract offer?

Answer: yes. US agents mostly do domestic deals and have a separate agency handling their subrights. Whether those dedicated subrights agents would be willing to take on a single author as a client I don't know. You can find these agents in Publishers Marketplace under international deals.

2. Should I pursue agents in the same nation as this publisher instead? Or, at least one that is European based?

Answer: You can certainly try, but my understanding is that most European publishers are not interested in self-published books. You seem to have interest from one who is. I'm not confident you can generate enough revenue for an agent to be interested, even long term since it sounds like you intend to keep selfpublishing. Again, you can find agents working in foreign countries in Publishers Marketplace under international deals.

3. Is it realistic to believe that an agent who rejected my self-published manuscript only because they "didn't know how to sell it" be more interested in taking me on as a client knowing that it can be sold due to this contract?

Answer: no. You have an offer for a sub-rights deal. That doesn't change the domestic side of things.

4. Do I start my query with information about the contract first instead of book, or does that rule still remain?

Yes you would. Always start with the book.

I strongly urge you to find other self published authors who have gotten translation deals for their books and get in touch with them to see how they handled the deal.

While I've sold books directly to overseas publishers, I've also sold a lot domestically so I had some background in terminolgy and contract terms.

You'll be signing a contract that is governed by the laws of another country so you'll need to make sure you understand those terms. The contracts are generally in English but there are some very interesting differences between countries (including the US) about what's included and left out.

As self-publishing grows, there will be a lot more people to help you out here. I'm not well-versed in this area. Make sure you talk to people who've actually DONE deals

Monday, June 04, 2018

No hero queries

I’ve written a spy thriller in which there is no “hero” per se, just three guys―one a real “baddie,” one an unwilling collaborator, and one a poor “shnook” caught in the middle of their interactions. While the baddie gets his comeuppance at the story’s end, that is actually organized by an off center-stage player (the Mossad).

Though each of the three men is a fully fleshed out character with their own history and motivations, there is no specific "heroic" protagonist upon which to structure the query as is typical when soliciting an agent. The "baddie" is the dominant character. Yet, something tells me, perhaps mistakenly, not to focus on the "baddie" or his mission in the query itself. That leaves me with a real problem in preparing the “usual” query and I'm not clever enough to figure it out. Is it so simple as to say I can focus the query on the "anti-hero?"

I would appreciate any suggestions as to how to proceed.

What does your bad guy want, and what's keeping him from getting it?
What does the unwilling collaborator want, and and what's keeping him from getting it?
What does the shnook want, and what's keeping him from getting it?

Which character, if you removed them from the events unfolding in the book, would cause the plot to splat? That's the character to focus on.

Don't let good/bad dictate who is the protagonist of your novel. We use that as shorthand since the good guy is most often the guy we're rooting for.

And if the resolution of your plot happens off the page, and I was reading this novel, I'd send you a note that says "fix this."  Resolution off the page, no matter who is good or bad or a bag of chips, is emotionally unsatisfying to your reader.

Remember agents are looking for things that aren't the usual fodder. If you've got something that's offbeat, that's a good thing.

Sunday, June 03, 2018

The Duchess of Yowl wants to warm her toes


Duchess of Yowl: Open the window, I'm going out.

Me: Out where, Your Grace?

DoY: Onto the royal balcony. It's sunny. I want to warm my toes.

Me: The royal balcony looks a lot like a fire escape.

DoY: Now that I am here, it's been upgraded.

Me: Of course. But Your Grace, I can't let you out there.

DoY: It's not a request. Get cracking on that window.

Me: Your Grace, there are pigeons on the fire escape.

DoY: They will flee in terror when they see me.

Me: (aside) as so many do.

Me: Your Grace, do you remember that movie you watched called The Birds?

DoY: (pause) I'll warm my toes on the royal radiator.

Saturday, June 02, 2018

More plotting and planning for blog hiatus

Last week I asked for ideas on what to do for the coming blog hiatus (June 30-July 8)
Many of you had ideas.

Some of you asked for guest posts by authors, or other agents.
That's more work than you know, so we'll do that another time.

Steve Forti  said nine days, nine contests, results for all nine on day ten.
Mr. Forti is on his way to Carkoon.

There were ideas for pictures:
of writing spaces
of places in nature that inspire you
of ordinary things at your home
of vacation spots

There were ideas for listing favorite bookstores, or favorite books.

And the idea that seemed to get the most traction was nine days, nine questions.

I'll need some help on what the questions should be.
If you've got some ideas, post them in the comment column here.

And if you have another idea for blog content, do post that as well. We've got some time to cogitate!

Friday, June 01, 2018

Your agent employs a thief

This article in the Post made my blood run cold.

For those of you with agents, I imagine you're feeling the chill as well.

And the next question is of course: how can you guard against this kind of thing?

When you ask your agent about money if you hear anything other than "the check has been received, and your funds are on their way to you via EFT or by check #123" TAKE NOTICE.

Royalties are issued on an established schedule. That time frame is listed in your contract. If you don't get royalties make sure you see the royalty statement.

If you think you're owed money, ask your agent.
If your agent is making excuses, ask your editor.

Find authors at the same agency or publisher. Ask about their experience. If everyone from your publisher is getting paid, but no one else at your agency is, you know what the problem is.

If no one is giving you straight answers, get an accountant, and ask him/her.
Your contract should contain an AUDIT CLAUSE that allows you or your designated representative to examine the books of the publisher at least once a year. If their books are in order, you know the problem is closer to home.

How someone managed to steal this much money for so long boggles my mind.
How no one seemed to notice stymies me.

Any questions?

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Querying a novella

I wrote a novella (about 22,000 words). What do I do now? Novellas seem to be squarely in the sour spot, being too long for online zines that specialize in short stories, and too short for agents who specialize in novels. I know some publishing houses (Tor, for instance) have shown a renewed interest in novellas, but as far as I can tell, it's not yet widespread in the industry. Should I look for small publishers myself? Self-publish? Wait until I'm a rich and famous author, and editors are begging to publish anything from me, up to and including my grocery lists and third grade ode to the A-Team?

PS--It's a horror novella, if that helps (or hurts).

PPS--My question actually goes deeper than this single novella, as I've discovered I enjoy the form and am likely to write more novellas in the future. Am I unwittingly limiting myself to a career of self-publishing? 

You're in luck.
Novellas are making a comeback.
Short fiction in general is experiencing a resurgence.

For querying an agent, generally a novella is paired with several short stories to make a "book length" book.

You'd query the entire project if you're going the agent route. At least a few of the short stories
should be already-published to demonstrate you've got an audience.

And a fan audience is key here. To get fans you publish stories and build your name recognition.
That can be through smaller presses first, then when you've gotten started, editors and agents are more likely to take a look.

I have two clients, Laird Barron and Jeff Somers, who are actively involved in writing and publishing short stories and novellas.  Tenacity and consistency are key here. Send things out regularly, don't get discouraged.

Now, if the ONLY thing you want to write are novellas, you can combine two of them (or maybe three) for a book length project.  You'll need an over arching theme of some kind and you query both of them in one query letter. This is trickier than querying a novel, but if you've got a compelling query, I'll read the book. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Can we invite visiting agents to our SiC meeting?

I'm a member of a local Sisters in Crime chapter and our usual meeting date is on a Thursday night, which happens to coincide with the Thursday before the big regional conference in our area. All kinds of cool agents and editors who represent and publish mysteries are attending (alas, you are not!).

We would like to invite several of those agents and editors to come and speak to our group Thursday evening but wonder what we could possibly offer (besides transportation from the hotel to our meeting site) that would be attractive to a group of agents who are about to plunge into the hubbub of a three-day writing conference.

We could promise not to pitch them and just sit quietly and admire their expertise. But I assume they would rather be at the hotel bar, talking shop with each other. Or perhaps the conference organizers offer a special reception that night?

Well, if everyone in the chapter buys a copy of a client's book, I'm already there.
In other words, give me something of value, and I'm all yours.

The first thing you want to do is find out if any of the visiting agents are members of Sisters in Crime. It's a whole lot easier to persuade an agent who already understands the incredible value of a SiC membership (which is available for gents as well) to come hang out with y'all.

And I've actually done this...sort of.

Some years back, when I was canoodling with Penn Writers, the local SiC chapter met for dinner at the conference site; I joined them. We had a rousing good time, and some of the Sisters I met there became true friends (hello Joyce Tremel!)

But honestly there's not much in it for the agent particularly if they have to travel away from the conference site (after a day of travel TO the site!).

If you've got a super spectacular something (like the best bourbon bar in the world) that's an enticement.

But generally you're asking for a favor and you'll need to be clear about what exactly you're asking. Come have dinner and just hang out? Do a Q&A?

The other thing to remember is that even though I'm at a conference, I'm still working. Client needs don't drop off cause I'm hanging out with Sisters in Saskatoon (sadly.)

That last night before the conference may be a time I've set aside for last minute items that popped up while I was travelling. Or for reading stuff for the conference the next day. Or putting the last minute touches on a conference workshop.

Think about what you have to offer that's distinctive, and then invite.

Do NOT be hurt if the answer is no. Conferences are exhausting for us (ok, for you too!) and adding to the schedule may not be high on our list.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Sox Knocker

I can't remember who mentioned this book to me -- I think it was Bill Loehfelm, a writer I buy in hardcover on his pub day--and I wish I could remember cause The Lonely Witness by William Boyle is just hands down terrific.

So, what makes this book terrific? The writing for starters. There are some drop dead gorgeous sentences here, all of which I forgot to write down. But the sentences are also placed perfectly in paragraphs, so the rhythm of not just of the sentences but also the paragraphs builds tension. (This is very very hard to do.)

The pacing is so taut that I had to stop every couple pages just to breathe. That means there's not a single extra word, or phrase to slow the reader down. This book is a perfect example of making every word count, and NOT in a way that draws attention to itself (like James Ellroy's books do.)

I could see how the author had used certain sentences, lines of dialogue, and images to give the story depth, but that never distracted from the story.

It didn't hurt that it's set in Brooklyn, a place I love to read about cause I call it home.

And the author is a gent, writing a woman as the main character, with several other very strong female characters, and he gets it right. Not a single misstep. For that alone, he's got my respect.

But the very best thing about this book is just when I thought I knew where we were heading, the writer said "nope, turn left, we're going another direction."  In other words, he surprised me in a very good, and very emotionally satisfying way.

I didn't want the book to end.

This is a book all crime writers should read, not just for enjoyment (but you will enjoy it) but to study, analyze and hone your own writing.

Added it to my sox knocker list of 2018.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Your input needed!

I'm going on a reading retreat the first week of July.

My requested fulls are so numerous, I'm too mortified to request anything new since I'm so behind with what I've got.

To assist on focusing my eyeballs on those mss, I'm going to step away from blog posting for nine whole days. (June 30-July 8)

I know. I'll be in withdrawal too.

BUT, let's not go dark here. If I can post content ahead of time that is more fun focused, reader focused, I'd like to do so. In August 2016, we did pet pictures. We can certainly do that again, but I thought I'd ask for input here.

Let me know your thoughts in the comment column.


And for your Sunday amusement, here is the latest from Her Grace, The Duchess of Yowl

DoY: Leave the door unlocked when you abandon me today.

Me: I'm not abandoning you, I'm going to work! And I'm not leaving the door unlocked.

DoY: I know you're worried someone might steal me while you're off indulging your filthy employment fetish.

Me: Yes, that's it exactly. But, why do you want the door left unlocked?

DoY: The photographer is coming today.

Me: Your grace, why is a photographer coming today?

DoY: I need headshots.

Me: You need headshots.

DoY: Casting agents sounded skeptical when I informed them I am the most beautiful cat in the world.

Me: What kind of theatrical work are you thinking of doing, Your Grace?

DoY: I will let them feature me in cat food commercials.

Me: You know the food in those cat food commercials isn't real, right?

DoY: I will let them feature me in Animal Planet commercials.

Me: You really aren't a major predator.

DoY: Tell that to your curtains.

Me: I'll leave the door open.

Her Grace, The Duchess of Yowl

Saturday, May 26, 2018

How should I prep my website before I query?

After 6 years my novel is ready to be queried. I am redoing my website to include showing me as an author in addition to the other ways I'm known in the world before querying it so that my platform looks professional and thought through.
 If I'm querying a novel, is it a no-no if I present it, talk about it, post images that reflect it, say I am currently querying it, offer excerpts, read excerpts or in other ways make it look it juicy and fun on my website? Or should I keep it under wraps until an agent decides they would like to work with it/me. Is it OK to show or record, for example, a few short stories I've written that haven't been published or articles that have been published, etc. I would like to create a sense of intrigue or excitement around it without giving away the goods.

You misunderstand why an agent would be looking at your website.
It's not to find out more about the book.
Everything I need to know about the book should be in the query; the pages with the query; and/or, the requested full.

In other words the LAST thing you want to post is writing that might not be as fluid and stylish as your novel.

The reason I prowl around your website is to know more about you.
Are you nuts?
Are you really nuts?
Are you only creatively nutso?

Thus post pictures of you doing fun things like hanging out with your backyard chickens.

or of your handsome dog

or of places you've been

or of books you've read and loved

Leave off anything about the querying process, your frustrations with publishing, and things that makes you sound cranky.

I like to work with people who love books. And aren't asshats.  All you need to do with your website is demonstrate what you are, and what you are not.  It's easier said than done of course for rodent wheel running writers, but it can be done.

Any questions?

Friday, May 25, 2018

Publishing poetry

I know poetry is technically non-fiction**. I have an idea to pitch a book that is humorous poems about parenthood with drawings (like Shel Silverstein for grown ups). Since it's poetry, would I query once the entire MS is completed, or would I send agents a book proposal similar to what would be sent for a NF MS?

From what I've seen, most agents don't rep poetry at all. Is it best to just submit to small presses directly?

I'm glad you asked this question because it gives me a chance to talk about a terrific new kind of poetry that's appealing to a whole new audience.

Instagram poetry.
No, I'm not kidding.

There are a lot of folks posting poems on Instagram and building a fan base for their work.

This isn't the formal poetry published by Graywolf, FSG, Norton, Copper Canyon Press, etc.

The Instagram poet I'm familiar with is Christopher Poindexter.

If you're interested in publishing your work, getting it up on Instagram and building a follower base is the way to do it.  Non-traditional poetry publishers are very interested in Instagram poets, but they don't assess the work so much as evaluate the platform. (Notice the number of followers Christopher Poindexter has.)

If you don't know how to post stuff on Instagram, or use hash tags effectively, that's the first thing to learn.

In other words, you don't query agents with your work, you post it and build a following then agents will come for you.

Good luck!

**PS Poetry isn't fiction or non-fiction. It's its own category.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

My query covers more than the first 30 pages of the book!

I have an issue I haven't seen addressed elsewhere, and I'm hoping you can offer some guidance. I nearly fainted when I read that a query should cover roughly the first thirty pages of a story. I can't think of any way to make that work with my three-act manuscript. The first act has the main character as a child, along with the life-altering event that shapes him. However, in the two remaining acts (the meat of the story), he's an adult, and the antagonist is introduced to wreak havoc on his life. My query covers escalating events almost to the end without revealing the ending.
Is this style of query all that unusual? If it is, could it possibly irritate an agent as they're reading the manuscript, thinking they've been manipulated or deceived? Am I setting myself up for a world of querying disappointment, or just greatly overthinking things?

Nearly fainted? I was hoping for full loss of consciousness, and ongoing consternation. Tormenting writers is really the only reason I love this job.

But enough jocularity.

There are no absolutes in querying. There is only what works.

While I jump up and down and insist you tell me about the book in a query, there are a couple books that could be an exception to that rule:

1. The Duchess of Sussex' memoir.
2. The Duchess of Sussex' rescue dog story.

3. Ivanka Trump's memoir.

You get the idea. I call those cocktail napkin books. I can sell them on a cocktail napkin.

And thus your question, can you talk about more than the first 30 pages of the book in a query, is really "can I do something not the norm in my query?"

Yes you can.

The only benchmark for an effective query is does it work?

You can not assess whether it could "possibly irritate an agent as they're reading the manuscript, thinking they've been manipulated or deceived."

You can only evaluate the query by the responses you get from readers before you send it out. Do they want to read the book?

The purpose of QueryShark and other query crit opportunities is to help you get out of your own way, include the information an agent usually needs to assess a project, and help you talk about your work in a compelling way.

QueryShark et al are NOT the way to figure out the right way and the wrong way. Every query is different and every agent is different.

You're not overthinking this, but you're also too worried about rules. Learn the rules so you can break them with grace, and style.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Someone stole my NF idea.

Last year at a conference, I pitched an idea for a non-fiction book to two people from a Big Publisher. I was convinced my idea would be a perfect fit for BP. I gave them a synopsis, a list of chapters and my contact details.

For months, I heard nothing.

Recently, I learnt that the very same publisher has an Already Established Writer working on the book I pitched. This is definitely not a coincidence. The subject and approach are exactly what I pitched to them. They are a bit too specific to be a matter of chance.

I know that an idea in itself is not legally protected. But this seems a bit unfair.

When does an idea stop and the execution of an idea start? Is there anything I can do about this? Can I ask for a credit for example?

I sure wish I had really, really, really sharp teeth now too.

Thank you in advance for your time and advice!

Where does the idea stop and execution begin? In the writing. The actual words. Not the approach and certainly not the idea.

I'm sure you are convinced your idea was stolen but it probably was not. Here's why:

1. The people you met at the conference from Big Ass Publisher are two of THOUSANDS of BAP employees, and two among hundreds of editors. Unless those two specific people are the editors of the book similar to yours, the chances they told someone who then ran with the idea is very very low.

2. Non-fiction is often years in the making. If you've heard about a book similar to yours it's entirely possible that book was under contract long before you pitched your idea.

3. You'd be surprised at how many people have the same kinds of ideas. Just recently a client of mine and I were tossing around ideas for her next book, and we were pretty excited about the topic we hit on. A couple weeks later, that topic was a deal announced in Publishers Marketplace. If my author had mentioned that book to a publisher at a conference, it would look very much like what you described.

But it wasn't. Two authors had the same idea. It happens, PARTICULARLY IN NON-FICTION all the damn time. Nobody's stealing ideas, but we're all looking at bookshelves to see what's not there. We all see gaps, then propose books. It's not beyond belief that two people would have the same idea.

Now, where you are headed for real trouble is contacting Big Ass Publisher, or author, or author's editor/agent and asking for credit.

This will get you flagged as a crackpot, and honestly, it would get you noted as someone I'd never work with or communicate with again. There is nothing you're going to do about this, other than write to me and believe what I tell you.

Never discuss this with anyone or mention it again. Don't let it fester. Don't hope the other book fails.

You're going to come up with another idea, or a different approach to your first idea, and you're going to write a proposal and query again.

If you had one publishable idea, you'll have others. Time to dust yourself off, count this as an experience you don't want to repeat (don't pitch editors at conferences) and get back to work.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Querying another agent at the same agency

Some agencies have an explicit policy of only allowing one agent at the agency to be queried for a project (One Off and Bust Off.) That is clear enough. Others, though, do NOT make it explicit that OOBO is their policy and have separate e-mail addresses for each agent. Presumably they do not read each others' mail.

it seems courteous not to query more than one agent at the agency at a time. But is it OK to query an agent, then have fun getting rejected elsewhere for a couple of months, then query another agent at the first agency? Or should we assume the policy is OOBO even if it is not explicitly stated.

Obviously one e-mail address for everyone implies OOBO even if the policy guidelines do not state it.

Well, not obviously, cause we have Query@New Leaf for our incoming queries but you can query as many agents as you want to, just one at a time.

Unless an agency says one and done assume you can query more than one agent. BUT only one at a time.

And you're right to give it some time between queries. While we say 30 days here I know I've been much farther behind than that at times, but you have no way of knowing that.  Giving me some extra time is a good idea.

In the end the most important thing to remember is this: there's no such thing as the query police. Querying multiple agents here doesn't get you blacklisted; it might get you ignored. You can recover from that since we don't keep a list of inept queriers. (it would be in the thousands by the end of the summer.)

Any questions?