Yes, this is filled with whisky

Yes, this is filled with whisky

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Dog vs the Big Blue Intruder

Once upon a time, there was a very large dog who was absolutely certain of his job in the world: making sure Big Blue Intruder did not break into the house. He protected the house every day, rain or shine, by barking furious threats at Big Blue and when Blue had been chased back into his van and driven off cowering in fear, Dog peed on the fence posts around the yard to make sure everyone knew this was HIS yard, and woe unto him who tried to enter.

As you might imagine, Fence Post didn't see things quite the same way Dog did. Fence Post knew his job was to keep Dog IN so that the postman didn't smack him on the nose and pepper spray him. Fence Post was pretty good at his job but the peeing was really getting annoying. And kind of wearing him down frankly.

So one day, when Mr. F Post had had just quite enough of Dog P, he tilted. Just enough to let Dog out, and right when the Big Blue Intruder arrived.

Sure enough Dog got a snoot full of pepper spray, a not soon to be forgotten smack on the snout, and Fence Post got a good laugh.

To this day, Dog has no idea quite what happened. And no idea why. And hasn't even thought to ask Fence Post. Dog is kind of a doofus, I'm sorry to say.



The reason I mention this is because where you are in the story, post or pooch, makes a difference in who the good guy is. And yet, as a reader, it's so very satisfying when you can see the world view of both the good guy and bad guy. Thus: the antagonist is the hero of his own story, much like Dog is the hero of his.

When I get queries for stories with one or two dimensional characters, particularly the villain, I lose interest.

How do you convey three dimensions? Words of course. What's said, what's not said.

And honestly, you're the writer here. You probably can figure out a dozen ways.






Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Planning on hanging up your dancing shoes any time soon?

I am in the throes of querying and have been corresponding with an agent who is in the process of reading my novel. They are very positive about it and have asked me questions which indicate we might be moving towards an offer. They asked if I have any questions for them - which of course I do, having done my homework on this and other blogs - but there's one essential question I'm not sure how to approach.

It's clear from the dates on this agent's LinkedIn page that they are already past the age of retirement. Of course no one should be sent off to the glue farm to play bridge against their will, but the agent's intentions in this area would affect me. Could you please suggest a way for me to gather information about their plans over the next 3-5 years without asking for their Social Security statement?

I understand your trepidation here but let me just say that the biggest discombobulation about agent's leaving the biz has, in my experience, come from younger agents.

When an agent retires, it's generally not abruptly. They slow down, stop taking new clients, wind up deals, make arrangements.

That said, you want to know his/her plans, and in fact, are entitled to know if you're being asked to sign on the dotted line.

So, ask!  "I envision a long term relationship with an agent and agency. Do you plan to remain active for the next few years. If not, would someone else at the agency be stepping in?"

This is not a question you're going to ask before you're offered representation though. It's a difficult enough question to get without the burden of being seen as presumptuous.

Many agents keep working long past traditional retirement age.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

please please please

Some years ago I received a call from a former publicity client. He was tennis friends with a woman who'd found herself the executor of a literary agent's estate, and she didn't know what a literary agent was. My client knew I'd gone over to the dark side; could I help?

Of course.

I ventured upstate to the now-gone agent's  home/office. Sufficient unto this blog post to tell you that I ended up going through her check register to find the names of her clients, then cross referencing it with her 3x5 file box of cards for phone numbers.  (This was before email was as common as it is now, but still, email is not how you made the calls I now had to make.)

I called her clients with the news. Most of them wept. They loved her. Many of them had worked with her for decades. Some were grand-clients: the grandchildren of clients long since departed to the great library in the sky.

Every phone conversation started that way. And they all ended with "and what do I do  now?" Because there had been no planning for "what happens next" I was unable to help them very much.

I'm reminded of this now because it's become public that Prince, gone too soon, has died without a will.  What will happen to his income is less important to me (and to him!) than what will happen to his music. Who decides on license renewals? Who decides on going into the vaults and bringing out the unfinished work? Who decides on who will finish the work, if that's an option?

The person who makes those kinds of decisions for writers is called a literary executor, and yes, you need one.  Even if you're not published.

Please please please make this a higher priority than you think it is.

One of my clients heeded the lash last year and was in my office with the lawyer to sign all the paperwork that goes along with organizing your affairs.

I must tell you: his lovely significant other and I both had tears in our eyes when we were reading those papers. It was Not Fun to contemplate why we'd need them.

But as my client said then, it gave him peace of mind to know that someone who loved and respected his work would be his executor (it was NOT me, since I have a financial interest in my client's works) not simply his next of kin as defined by the state of New York.

Please please please get your literary affairs in order. Here's what I mean by in order:
1. You have a will that specifically designates a literary executor by name. It should also designate an alternate. (You need to ask someone to perform the function; you can't surprise them!)

2. You have written copies of your work, clearly labelled, in a file folder, and your literary executor knows where it is.

3. You have your final draft of every published book or story in a file folder. This is particularly important for those of you who write and publish short stories. Some short stories might have been edited for publication in a way you don't like. Unless you want THAT version in anthologies forevermore, you need YOUR version in your estate.

4. Your literary executor knows who your agent is.

I never want to need this information, but the week Prince died was a sad reminder that I am still not the Queen of the Known Universe.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Part two, first

Do agents ever consider starting with the second of a two part series?

I published my first novel, of crime plus supernatural, several years ago via a local micro-press. We're a co-op arrangement. We share several editors and cover designers, publish both paperback and ebook via Amazon and Smashwords, and have a distributor to gain better access to bookstores and libraries. I've had 'modest' success, as in I've sold to a few bookstores and libraries and to all my friends and family. All of whom want to see the sequel, of course. However, our press only does first time authors, so I am now looking for an agent.
After several months and some twenty queries, I've had no takers, with just form letter responses.
Is this type of sell a difficult one? Would I be better to self-publish this to satisfy my possibly limited audience (and myself) and focus on sending out the several other novels, in sci-fi and fantasy, that I have written since then?


Let's all remember what my job is: finding books that publishers want to make available for sale in bookstores.

With that in mind, the real question is what book buyer (ie reader) wants to start with book 2?  It's not so much will I take it on, as do I think there's a reader for this?

You see the answer coming don't you?

I know a number of readers who get hives at the thought of reading books out of order.

And here's the real problem: you haven't sold enough books yet to convince a publisher that Book #2 will make them money.

If a reader sees buzz for Book #2, and sees it's a sequel, they are likely to buy Book #1 instead. (Hives, remember)

A publisher looks at that and says: all MY promo money and time and effort is going to benefit Book #1, a book I have no stake in, AND a book I don't know will do the heavy lifting of bringing readers to Book #2.

Publishers are not lying on their backs gazing at clouds wishing for things.
They're sitting in their counting houses scheming about how to make more money than last year. Risk taking is not their first or tenth choice. You and I may not like that much, but it doesn't change that's how things are.


I find it strange that a publishing collective only does first time authors. It seems to me there might be quite a passel of writerly types there who are now in your situation. Perhaps you need to create Son of Collective to publish the loinfruit of those first books.



Sunday, May 22, 2016

Week in review 5/22/16

Welcome to the week that was.

In last week's review Steve Stubbs said:
Leatherface from the Texas Chain Saw Massacre becomes Snow White and Her Electric Toothbrush.

and, of course,  I am adding that to the list of what I'm looking for on my #MSWL

KdJames said
Although, got to say, Julie's subhead makes me want to consider a career in nursing...
[Julie's subheader nom: "Cowboy logic: Ride bulls, meet nurses."--Julie M. Weathers]

John Frain referenced an old favorite of mine:
I think JR was the model Lawrence Block used when he wrote "The Thief who Couldn't Sleep." Fun book, read it a long time ago, and this thief got almost as much done in 24 hours as the Queen does. Almost.
Good old Evan Tanner! I read all those books Xyears ago and loved them!


And this from Stacy just cracked me up:
I'm always late to these discussions, but I just saw something that reminded me of a conversation from a while back about grammar. Have trouble remembering the difference between "desert" and "dessert"? Eagle lyrics can help.

On a dark dessert highway
Cool Whip in my hair...
I think the conversation began with my spam filter Priscilla Queen of the Just Desserts
which someone thought should be deserts. Which it should if you're not trying to be hilarious, but clearly this joke is too subject to misunderstanding to keep using. Thus Priscilla has been demoted to Duchess of the Last Desserts. She's still one helluva pricklepuss though.



On Monday the writing contest results were posted. Ya'll are getting downright diabolical in your clever use of the prompt words. I'm not even sure we can say "words" now, just letters in a certain order.

Timothy Lowe said:
BTW, I wonder how many of the rest of you looked at the words for this week's contest and said "Ffffuck..."


and french sojourn just takes the knife and strikes:
And most importantly, the painting...choosing innumerable variations of cottage white. (insert scene of Cary Grant and Myrna Loy meeting with the painters)

Paint! It's almost painting season! I have to wait till the Duchess of Yowl decamps before prying open the paint cans, but I can hardly wait. Well, I don't want Her Grace to leave of course, but painting will be kind of a solace when she's gone.

And yes, I saw that movie, and yes it was funny…but not really. I mean I have 27 paint sample cans here, I am long past the point of laughing!


I like what Lucie Witt said
I think it helps to understand what type of revisions you're doing. After the first draft and any major revisions, I think it's important to let the draft sit at least a few weeks. If you're doing smaller revisions you sometimes don't need any down time at all. For example, near the end of editing I read my book out loud to myself and circled typos, made notes. I started fixing them the morning after I finished the read through, no down time needed.

and MB Owen too
    I always have two projects I'm working on. When I'm finished with one, I'll turn to the other. This gets my head (and heart) in another place, and another voice quicker than anything. The time between revisions varies, (few days, weeks, even months) but because I'm not stuck on the one project, it always has a freshness when I return. That's when the revisions are most valuable: when the heart isn't connected.
 
and Brigid too
I'm noticing a common theme of stories starting later than we expect. We're the mamas and papas, proud as punch that little Johnny Novel learned to crawl early and almost won a spelling bee in 5th grade. But Johnny's employers expect his resume to start with college, since he's grown.


On Wednesday we talked about what to do when the world of publishing is kicking your asterisk up and down the block.

Lucie Witt identified the problem exactly:
I could be way off but I was under the impression it's not the first book's sales that are the problem, it's the second book.

Yes. While some slump in second book sales is the norm, this was a huge drop. It's the kind of drop that gives us all the shivers because it means we're no longer talking about just increasing pr and marketing efforts for Book #3, we're talking about whether anyone will even publish the book.

When I take on a book, I have confidence I can sell it. That confidence may not always be warranted but I start out with it at least. I would not have that confidence here, due solely to those sales figures.

Adib Khorram asked:
For those who wonder about 30,000 being good sales (Janet, correct me if I'm wrong!), the problem is that the 30,000 was followed by 5,000. And in sales you want that trajectory to be going the other way. A 5,000 debut followed by a 30,000 follow-up would sound much more enticing, no?
yes indeed.


DLM said
But there seems really to be no "middle class" in traditional publishing now. You can't be *dependable*: you have to be a breakout, and - never mind the pressure, it's just a matter of numbers, and the numbers dictate, we simply cannot all be The Next Big Thing.

We call it mid-list but you're right. It's like the Army; you can't spend five years in the same rank or your career is pretty much over. Get promoted or get out. Like baseball: you can play on the farm teams for a while, but either move up, or hang up your glove.

Publishing is not the only place this up or out pattern applies.  But it only applies to COMMERCIAL publishing.  You can publish and sell your own work forever. That's one of the many great things about the electronic marketplace: it's easy to access and it actually works. I'm not saying it's easy to self-publish (well, it is, but let's assume I mean self-publishing well here) but that the barriers to buyers are much diminished from where they were 20 years ago.

Dena Pawling asked:
Is there anything OP can do to promote book 2 to generate more sales?
Can OP get his/her rights back and self-pub to generate more sales?
Would doing either of those things help get an agent and traditional publisher to look at book 3?
I don't know the answers to those questions, but they are good questions to ask. And they speak to the importance of having a contract that allows for reversion of rights when sales fall below a certain threshold.

I really liked what Lennon Faris said:
"the world and publishing are wired to kick your ass"

- that is actually one of the most encouraging things to hear, even without the sentence that followed. It is so easy to think, "what's wrong with me. My writing must suck. I must suck," when actually that's just the way the system is. They really are out to get you. Or, leave you in the dust might be more accurate. You have to break the system to get what you want. Even then it may not work out, but at least you know it wasn't ever supposed to be easy, or even possible.

And frankly, I just loved the writing in DLM's comment to Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli
Angie: you made my day even more than they did, and that's a job. I want a t-shirt that says Clovis is my king on it. THOU ROCKEST MIGHTILY WITH THY BAD SELF (and, for everyone else, no indeed, I do not indulge that sort of gadzookery of language in my histfic!). I shall have to go home and perhaps do a booty-wiggling dance when Penelope the Publishing Pup and I sally forth on our walk this evening. Like nobody's lookin'.

and then everyone kinda went nutso and started talking about knives.

Rachel Erin said
Wow. Knives. Now I have an image of woodland creatures with bundles of knives like chefs, only next to the paring knife, the chefs knife, and the cleaver is an obsidian blade, an army tactical knife, and depending on genre, a silver blade.

I'm at the broadsword stage of editing myself, hacking and whacking and breaking scenes cracking.

I think the Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale had the very last word on that:
I use a laser scalpel. Cuts and cauterises in a single swoop.


On Thursday we talked about how to break the news of a series in a query letter.

I pointed out that telling the agent that several plot points were unresolved was the problem, not the fact it was intended as a series.


Jennifer R. Donohue made me laugh with this one:
But when I first read the post title, I was all huffy "It isn't an agent's business if you decide you're going to have childr---oh. Of course."
Then AJ Blythe offered up:
Hah, I thought the post was going to be about this




I've always wanted another me so I can write all day. The copy can do all the drudgy stuff that gets in the way of writing.
all I could think was ME TOO! (pardon the pun)


nightsmusic's comment exemplifies the readers I was thinking of when I wrote the post:
From a reader's POV, I have quit three 'first in a series' books because:

1. I didn't know until the end that it was a first in a...

B. Thee major plot point/romance/big blue hairy bear was left hanging with no resolve in sight

8. When I get to an ending like that, it's a wallbanger moment because I've lost all trust in the author to be able to bring things full circle in a reasonable manner.

Please, don't do that to your readers. Or your prospective agent. Just...don't.

SiSi said:
As a reader I agree completely with Janet. It's bad enough when TV shows end on a cliffhanger then get cancelled. It's even worse with books.

Oh my god do not get me started on the last season of The Glades, and the final episode.


And if this doesn't beg for elaboration, I don't know what does. Where There's A Quill:
I live in fear of middle-of-the-night phone calls. Nothing like getting a call at 2am from frantic clients who have been denied boarding because their passports don't have enough validity/they opted to organise visas themselves and WHOOPS we screwed it/we forgot our kid's birth certificate and South Africa dun' want us!

Apologies in advance to any agents who might call me at 2am one day if I answer the phone with "Let me put on my pants and I'll meet you at the airport".

And then Craig just upped the ante with this
You can call all you want at 0300. I will not be answering.

I still get cold sweats from one of those calls. It was right at about two years ago. It went like this:

"European Championships are coming up."

"I hope you guys have been practicing."

"You build us special boats. We need them faster."

"I think you need to practice more."

"You build us boats or we send people to visit."

"I build you boats and your neighbors will send people to visit. Practice harder. I am going back to sleep."

Two days later I went to Miami and bought some things. I will not tell you what those things are. Plausible deniability is a lovely thing.

 Julie M. Weathers said:
Ringing me at 3:00 am is going to merit a prayer. It is the witching hour after all. Yes, I have been known to pray for people who call me in the middle of the night. Crazy comes in all forms.

I got a call one Sunday morning from a nice young man some years back. It was a wrong number and when I was pleasant to him, I reaped the reward of a return call. He was interested in a date. Being fresh out of jail,  he really was a "wrong number."  I told him I didn't date,  I was a nun and he'd reached me in the office of the convent. Which was hilarious right up until he asked "Sister, do you think God still loves me?"


french sojourn cracked me up with this:
When my book is done, even someone like you may like it.

Sherry Howard hit the nail on the head with this:
I'm a pragmatist. Putting aside the boot-in-the-ass issues pointed out, why would anybody include that in a query letter?
That is a VERY good question.


luciakaku cracked me up with this reminder:
I'm reminded of a moment in Castle, specifically the face Castle made as his mother said this:
"Never mind them! Harper Lee only wrote one book! You've written dozens! ...Of course, hers was literature...."
He appeared torn between suicide and homicide, in fact.

Claire said:
Umm. A bit of a tone fail on the part of the querier. But I have some sympathy with him/her. It's because of the popular, simplistic misconceptions of literary vs. commercial fiction that writers are reluctant to self-categorise as the former. Because to describe oneself as writing literary fiction can come across as making a qualitative statement about the value your writing, rather than a simple one of genre. So then you get this silly pussy-footing around the term, with the author simpering that "I'd like to think of this as literary fiction, but really that's not for me to say..." And then The Shark gets enraged.

I'm not sure what the answer is. Does there need to be a better term for character-driven, thoughtful mainstream fiction that doesn't fit into a particular genre? 'Cause that's a bit of a mouthful...

There's a big difference between "that's not for me to say" and "my ego would like to think it's literary" Tone deaf indeed but indicative of a state of mind.

And John Frain, now gussying himself up as John Davis Frain cracked me up;
I would reward you with my comment, but my ego doesn't allow me to post beside all you commoners. Had my ego not intervened, you would be reading three poetic remarks, each assembled at 100 words, discussing the literary relevance of blogging. But I'm above all that. And above you.

Meantime, will you Like me on all my social media outlets?


Joseph Snoe has a very funny, and pointed, comment:
At the conference earlier this year, the moderator read the first page of submitted manuscripts. Four agents listened and were instructed to raise their hand when they would reject the submission. Attendees were told to put the genre at the top of the page. One person denoted his or her entry as something like “Literary Romance.” Bam! Rejected before the first sentence.

Two agents jumped all over this. “How dare you call your novel Literary. It is not for you to decide that. It is for us to decide.”

I felt bad for the writer. She classified it the best she knew how.

Ironically, one of the agents gave me her card. She called herself a “Literary Agent.” I wanted to make a joke about it, but she would have been the one to decide if it was funny, and I didn’t risk it.

I hate those Literary Idol events. They seem to bring out the worst side of us. While it's true that "literary romance" isn't a category at all, you'd think most agents would have realized that writers get category wrong at least half the time. 

It's one thing to comment on flaccid writing; it's another thing entirely to castigate a writer for not knowing the mores of category.  It's not like any of us were born knowing this stuff OR that we don't struggle with it ourselves in our pitch letters.

And the scene Timothy Lowe sets here cracked me up for days:
I guess this sort of thing is equivalent to describing what you look like to someone across the table from you at a speed dating event. Even if you do it in modest terms, you still come off as pretty stupid.

"hi, as you can see I'm a good looking smart well-read hunk o'love, just looking for a good home."

And this from Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli made me laugh:
So... Back in February I read seven of K'Wan's Hood Rat series. While I was overdosing on the violence and the sex, I had dinner with a friend who is a director of lyric opera. I raved about K'Wan and she raved about Moliere. She said Moliere wasn't much different, he rode around France in a wagon with a bunch of hooligans and performed in the streets. And she said Shakespeare wrote for the thugs.

Literary writers. Yowl.

On Saturday I posted an excerpt from AnthimriaRampant on editing

kdjames said
Gee, thanks a whole hell of a lot, Janet. And by extension, Mr. McIntyre. I just spent way too much time reading and enjoying all the posts on that site (subscribed now). OK, fine, not all-- I skipped the one about Star Wars language.

Throughout the week on Facebook, there was more from Her Grace, The Duchess of Yowl:

The Duchess of Yowl at your serviette 

The Duchess of Yowl has some notes

 The Duchess of Yowl gets ready

The Duchess of Yowl is peckish

The Duchess of Yowl makes an observation

The Duchess of Yowl is set upon


Is this the first week with no subheader noms?
I must be losing my eye.


I can't believe it's almost the end of May! 

Have a great week!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

oh my god this this this!

Editing isn’t just asking if all the words are spelled right and the subject and verb agree. It’s asking the questions that come after that: Are these the right words? Have we said enough? Have we said too much? Is this even true?

Do the ideas flow intuitively from sentence to sentence to illuminate the subject? What’s being implied here that we might not intend to say? What’s not being said that we might be assuming is implicit?

Are we repeating ourselves unneccesarily? Are we repeating ourselves enough to make the case for our premises? Is the tone appropriate to the audience, and does it need to reflect a larger body of work so that everything speaks with a single voice? What’s the story here? Who is telling it, who is listening, and why should anyone care?

oh my godiva, hold me, I may faint from pure heartfelt love.

This is from the blog Anthimria Rampant  recommended to us by none other than John McIntyre of the Baltimore Sun.

Friday, May 20, 2016

So, would you like to shoot the other foot too?


A recent query included this line:
My ego would love to tell you that this is pure, unadulterated literary fiction, but if I’m being realistic, it’s probably much more commercial (although my ego would also like to add that there’s definitely at least one or two very deep literary elements present). 
I'm going to give the query writer the benefit of the doubt: he didn't actually intend to insult me, or my clients who write commercial fiction.

And maybe I'm just being too prickly.
That's always a valid choice since I am by nature crabby, prickly and easily annoyed.

But the problem is: he's querying me for a novel and this is probably the least effective thing to say about a book you want me to read. Well, there's "fiction novel" but I stop reading when I see that.

"My ego wants this to be literary fiction" implies your ego would be ruffled were it to be called commercial. I don't need a degree in logic to understand you mean commercial is somehow lesser.

Yea well, fuck that noise.

Honest to godiva, do you think I sneer at commercial fiction? The kind that makes money and sells a lot?  Man oh man, you need to look at my list again.

And even the agents who specialize in more literary fiction don't exactly turn up their noses and refuse the lovely lolly when their books sell well.

Your take away from this: if you think commercial fiction is beneath you, self-publish.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

I intend to multiply; when do I break that news?

I’ve been querying agents and getting full requests (again — thanks to queryshark), but I’ve been conflicted about something. I intend to write a series, but I’m not sure when to bring that up. Everything I’ve read online says to NOT do it in the query letter, so I’ve avoided doing that. But I can’t find a solid answer on WHEN to say “hey, by the way, this is totes not a stand alone.”

Agents who read my book will know it is not a stand alone because it ends with a lot unresolved. But I’d rather them not get to the end and say: “Wait, what? Where’s the rest?”

So far, when an agent requests a full or a partial, I’ve been saying “By the way, this is meant to be the first in the series. I didn’t say that in the query letter because everything online told me not to. Hope I’ve acted appropriately.”

I’m just trying to be transparent with the agents I’m querying, and respectful of their time. I figured if they’re not interested in representing a series, they’ll say “pass” and won’t bother reading the full they requested. But I’m still not sure if I’m acting right? Is there a magic answer, or does it vary so much agent to agent? Or am I doing that thing authors do when they worry too much and lose all their hair?


No, you're not wrong to be worried, you're just worried about the wrong thing.

Here's the line that made me reach for the cluegun: Agents who read my book will know it is not a stand alone because it ends with a lot unresolved.

Do that to me, and you're getting a call when I finish reading the book (usually that's around 3am) and it's going to sound something like this:





Your book must complete the narrative arc of the book. It doesn't have to complete the narrative arc of the series, but at the end of the book I better not wonder if President Bartlett is dead or alive.

And the reason for this is not that I'm some sort of obsessive freak (although I am) it's because your readers will go batshit crazy if you leave them hanging.

There's a huge different between leaving things hanging, and laying in anticipation for the next book. You want the latter, not the former.

The reason you want the latter is:  there is no certitude about Book #2, even if Book #1 gets published.

So, what you say now to agents requesting your full is this: "I left some unresolved plot points, but I'm going to fix that."

And I'm not sure you've read all the QueryShark archives when I hear "Everything I’ve read online says to NOT do it in the query letter" because the correct way to say this book is part of a series is this: I envision this book as part of a X book series. It does however stand alone.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

So, the world of publishing is kicking your asterisk. What to do next.



My first crime novel was published by LastGasp&Die just before they collapsed and has sold 35-40,000 copies. My second was published by Thugs&Malcontents and has sold only 5,000 copies. T&M did absolutely nothing to promote it--didn't even announce its publication let alone send out review copies. My agent has now left the business and I'm searching for a new one. Will an agent and/or publisher ignore me because of the low sales of the second book? Should I query under a pseudonym and not even mention that I have two novels already in print?
Yup, you're in trouble.

You recognize it, which is a good first step.

If you queried me and I checked out your website and saw the two previous books, and looked up the sales stats, I'd say no before reading the pages.

That seems harsh doesn't it?

It is.

But, it's also the result of my experience trying to resuscitate careers of writers who've had a couple publishers and are now out of contract, with numbers that don't make publishers salivate.

Querying under a pseudonym is the answer that appeals to authors here; it's quick it's easy and it seems to solve the problem.

It doesn't though. In fact, if I found out you were trying to hoodwink me by concealing this info, you'd again receive a pass letter, and it would be a bit chillier than you'd like.

Thus, your reservations about doing so (writing to me rather than just proceeding) speak well for you.

Here's what you need to remember right now: the world and publishing are wired to kick your ass. It's the default position of life. What you DO when that happens is what makes you a real pro.

And here's what you can do:

1. You're going to need a big HUGE new novel. It's got to be what we'd call a breakout novel. Bigger, wilder, better than anything you've ever written. It's going to take you a while to figure out what this novel is about, let alone actually write it.

2. You need to bypass the two dimensional communication of the query letter trenches. You need to meet me (or my ilk) at a conference, talk about your book, let me help you with a query, make me fall in love with your BigNewBeautifulKickAss Book, and I will request pages.

3. Smaller presses can often take on authors who aren't selling 30K copies. They can make money with authors who sell 1000 copies. It's entirely possible to be very well published by a press that's small and nimble.

4. Larger presses will overlook just about anything for a book they think will sell hugely.

The bottom line here is this: You've played well in the minor leagues. You can probably keep playing there if you want BUT, if you want to play ball in Yankee stadium you're going to need to up your game. Most agents want books they think will work for Yankee stadium, not the Toledo MudHens.

There's no shame in deciding to stay semi-pro, or even withdraw from playing on someone else's team altogether.

A lot of readers bought and liked your books. Putting together a publishing team and putting your own work out there is not failure. It's a business decision.

Bottom line: it's a whole lot harder to stay published than to get published and you wouldn't have believed that if I told you so before your first book deal, would you?

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

How to measure "letting it sit"

I really need a better plan for letting a revision go, putting it away, and then coming back to it with enough time for polishing.
I’m sure there’s a good question in there somewhere, I just don’t know how to articulate it.
Well, since I understand what you're asking I think you've articulated it just fine.

Our blog readers who write novels will have some opinions and advice on this, and I think they are the ones you should heed first.

My writing experience is limited to this blog, and pitch letters to editors. [And letters to queriers. It took me 10+ years to get the form letter I send to writers when I'm passing on their work. There were about 20 iterations.]

I know that the more days I have to tinker, the happier I am with the outcome.

Recently, a client and I went through 27+ drafts of a proposal over a year and half.
Another client and I did 19 rounds on his proposal, over the course of about six months.

The first couple revisions were getting all the furniture in the house, then we moved the furniture into the right rooms, then we got it in the right place in the rooms (that takes several passes as you well know if you've ever gotten a new couch)

Then we hung the pictures and plugged in the lamps.

In other words the big structural stuff first: all the pieces, in the right order.
You don't need as much lying fallow time here because the big structural stuff is more obvious.

To me, polishing is not getting the pieces in the right place, it's where to hang the pictures in the room, and where the lamps go.

I don't think there's a hard and fast rule for fallow time other than this: at least overnight. And two days is better than one.

Thus, you write and revise till you think it's done. Then you let it sit overnight. Then you go back and polish.

Using the flash fiction timeline: you write on Friday till you're done. Let it sit overnight. Revise on Saturday morning. Let it sit overnight. Polish on Sunday morning. Hit send before the deadline!

For a novel, I'd say let it sit one day for every five thousand words. 


But again, pay more attention to the comments. That's where the voice of experience will be found.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Duchess of Yowl Writing contest II results

 You really outdid yourselves this week. Honestly, any one of the finalists this week could have won, and the caliber of the entire body of work here is outstanding.

Herewith the results:

Special recognition for a creep factor that's off the scale!
Timothy Lowe 9:12am
Just Jan 4:30pm


Poems for the Duchess of Yowl!
Sherry Howard 9:45am
(The DoY congratulates you on selecting the perfect main character for your work)

The Duchess of Yowl is pleased with this
Cynthia Mc 10:09am
LynnRodz 11:00am (and would now be packing her bags, but of course, she has staff for that)

The Duchess of Yowl is sleek not fluffy but is otherwise pleased with this line from Christina Seine
“Cat burglar,” Cop said. Miffed, Duchess flounced her tail at him, a fluffy middle finger.





The Duchess of Yowl approves of this
kdjames 8:07pm

The Duchess of Yowl likes this entirely too much
Kate Higgins 10:26pm

this really isn't a story but the structure is just beautiful (first and last lines so nicely paired) that it deserves special recognition for mastery of craft and form.
Brigid 9:47

You have to really read carefully to see the beauty in this, but it's well worth it. It's like sudoku: you have to look for what's not there.
Cheryl 10:57am

Not quite a story but the twist when you realize the POV is delicious!
abnormalalien (Jamie A. Elias)

A great line in a wonderful poem 
Sara Halle 9:59pm
Was exposed as a dastardly dwarf sympathizer.

I love these pieces about Fred The Dragon!
Rene Saaenger 11:20pm

I love this line
Jason Magnason 8:50am
Fluffy clouds pass through me as I fall. What was that the pilot said about a parachute?

These entries are on the long list
french sojourn 10:02am
Donnaeve 4:21pm
Tim Archer 9:33pm
Ashes 2:34am
Emily Kate 9:39pm





These entries are on the short list:
Marie McKay 10:02am
She fashioned earmuffs from cushions. She'd kept a stiff upper lip for long enough. She'd damn well sulk; had every right to feel miffed. Hell, eight weeks ago she'd huffed and puffed climbing stairs.
The. Way. She. Liked. It!
So meteors and straightening irons don't mix. Shit it! She hated flying. X-ray vision was gross. She fluffed press interviews. NO, she'd nothing cool to say to young people! Her costume looked like it was made by her maiden aunt.

A scream from eight blocks down rises above the city's din.
She straightens. The cushions are off.
And. She. Is. Flight.


The imagination of this piece caught my eye: reluctant superhero! And I don't know why but "shit it" just cracked me up. And when you think about it, X-ray vision IS gross. But then, that last sentence just turns the story around: And.She.Is.Flight.
And you know that Our Girl loves the flying part.

This is charming and well written!



Amy Schaefer 4:48pm
He looks miffed, my handsome husband-to-be, as he stands by the judge. Henry hates waiting. My heart swells.

I notice lint on his jacket. I turn to my father. “Henry has a fluffer—“

“Shhh.”

Right. Not my turn.

I realize the string quartet hasn’t arrived. I sigh but won’t sulk – it wouldn’t do on my big day.

“The court finds for the plaintiff,” says the judge.

Henry’s smile is dazzling. Father tugs me out the door, handcuffs jingling, those silly things on my ankles making me shuffle.

I catch Henry’s eye and blow a kiss.
Until next time, beloved.


ohhh! Do you get it? The clue is "plaintiff" I love these stories where All is Not What It Seems! And there are some lines that just convey so much, but with such minimalist style: "Right. Not my turn" and
"I realize the string quartet hasn't arrived."

The is elegant.


Lennon Faris 6:14pm
“Calvin! Whatchya doin’?”
Gnarled joints fail, and I fall at the feet of a white-haired woman in coveralls.
“My game consul. Kids stole it.” I jerk my head to the punks in scrubs drinking coffee. “I’m outta here.”
“That’s ‘console.’”
“’s what I said.” Stupid girl.
“There’s a bubble over your head, you know.”
So practical. Always was. “Go home,” I huff.
She’s miffed. “Here’s a thought: what if friends helped each other, for once? Here: on my walker. I’m coming with.”
She’s not so bad, I think. I must be ill. Next thing y’know, Hobbes’ll be made of fluff.


I tripped up on "consul" at first, thinking it was an error. Of course, it's not. It's a brilliant clue.
I love the line "there's a bubble over your head, you know" because it could mean two different things.

And I love "punks in scrubs"
And honestly, any Calvin and Hobbes fan fiction is just my cup of tea.


kregger 9:21pm
The ship’s captain grabbed me by the scruff of my neck.

I rewarded him with a six-toed hind kick.

I drew blood and smiled.

This was my boat and I was going to stay.

“Aww, come on Missy Snow White,” he said. “Don’t be miffed.”

The hair on my back went stiff.

What a kerfluffle!

We shuffled in a huff down the gangplank to tre' elegant Key West.

Along fragrant Whitehead Street we strolled.

The captain knocked on #907 and Earnest opened the door.

It was love at first sight.

Eventually, I would have to get rid of Pauline.

Prrrrrr!


That penultimate line elevates this from a sweet anecdote to something with a lot more cosmic horror.  What you have to know to get this: Ernest Hemingway had six toed cats and his second wife is called Pauline.

Points off for spelling his name wrong though! Yikes!
And did I miss "sulk" here?


Mark Thurber 11:48pm
The consul keeps to herself more and more--a fish out of water, shuffling dispatches in a foreign land.

“Take me sailing,” she says, eyes distant.

I am iffy--she uses a wheelchair--but I obey. “Thank you,” she says over the stiff breeze. When I look away, I hear a splash that freezes my heart.

I sail back to where she fell off, luff the mainsail. No trace. Only then do I notice the empty dress and false legs, still on board. I hear laughter and look out to see long hair and green scales slip beneath the surface.


I'm a sucker for a mermaid story. I blame Tom Hanks and Darryl Hannah from Splash for this.
I love that up front clue "a fish out of water, shuffling dispatches in a foreign land" that isn't  understood until the last line. Lovely story telling.



Claudette Hoffmann 4:13am
Graduation brings a PhD. Alice returns to dorm and cat.

Cheshire, rescue tabby gone mature fluff ball, curls around Alice’s mobile. He paws her hand.

“3pm. South lawn,” reads text. She shuffles papers into her bag and adds Cheshire.

Once there, Alice notices a library chum, by face not name.

“Hi! Alice.”
“Dodge,” he says stiffly.

Cheshire goes over to the elegant feline, sulking near Dodge. They rub noses. She purrs.

“Friendly sort,” Dodge says.

“She was miffed. He didn’t call.”

“Feline Ethology your degree?”

“Not mine. His.”

Cheshire extends his paw with opposable thumb to Dodge.

As you might imagine, Her Grace, The Duchess of Yowl loved this one a LOT.
I love the imagination at work here. And of course that sweet twist on the first sentence (Graduation brings a Phd.D/His" is just purrrrfect!



Where There's A Quill 8:19am
They talking 'bout keeping Fynn.

Fynn’s the best. Shoulda been kept ages ago, but foster folks always catch him being bad. Like when they found Sister Eight's dollies all burned up in his room.

Couple houses back, Fynn nearly got kept. But then they found the cat and got real scared and didn't want him.

If F
ynn’s not good enough none’s good enough, I say. He just huffs and sulks but. Says You got fluff for brains, Tiff; I’ll age out ‘fore someone keeps me.

But Fynn’s the best. These folks might keep him.

I hope a cat’s enough again.


Took me twice to get this one, and it made me gasp out loud.
Do you see it?



The narrator is the one doing the stuff that Fynn's getting blamed for, so that s/he won't be separated from Fynn. Elegant elliptical writing with just enough information to take the reader to the final twist.

This is perfect.

Except: where's "miff" I can't see it. Can someone spot it for me?
Holy smokestacks, that took me five tries.  You guyz are getting diabolical on these prompts!




It's getting harder and harder to choose finalists let alone select just one as the winner. That means of course that it's getting more subjective. Not only what I like, but my frame of mind when I read the entries.  

This is the reason I never read queries when I'm in a snit, hungry or really tired. Nothing looks or sounds good.  You'll be glad to know I took a nap before reading the entries this week, AND ate dinner!


This week's winner is the one that made me gasp out loud: Where There's A Quill 8:19am
(You will be glad to hear the prize is NOT the Duchess ofYowl arriving for a petting.)
If you'll send me your mailing address and what kinds of books you like to read, I'll get a prize in the mail to you.

Thanks indeed to all who took the time to write and submit entries. It was a real pleasure to read your work.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Week in Review 5/15/16

Welcome to the week that was.

First, thanks for all the help on the redesigned website. I did figure out how to make the text darker.

I've not yet figured out how to optimize it for mobile devices.

I can't seem to fix the white space at the bottom either.

Some of these are just a matter of tinkering which is actually kind of fun and gives me sympathy for all those writers I've told "get a website, it's easy!" 



Colin mentioned the pictures of NYC on the new website made him want to visit:
The pictures of NYC are cool, and make me want to visit properly. Of course, I would love a guided tour. In fact, that might have to be part of the contract should I land a NY-based agent:

"Must give author guided tour of NYC at least once in the life of this agreement." Perhaps if the advance is good, I'll bring the whole family! :D

Oddly enough, I'm the world's worst tour guide for NYC. Unless you want to see the L-train, my local bodega (turkey and cheddar on a roll), the local bakery (coffee and a muffin) or any of six zillion watering holes, I'm kind of useless. Well, I can take you to the Met, or MoMA of course. Mostly though, I just live here, I don't go see "sights" In fact, I actively avoid the places big crowds of people are. One of my favorite websites is this one: Quiet City Maps.


And Donnaeve comes clean about why she didn't want her dear mother hanging about with us hooligans at Bouchercon
Having said that, HA! Ms. Janet, I thought I was so subtle. NOT. The thing with Mom...ya know I tell stories right? Yeah. So, Mom tends to tell stories too, and she EMBELLISHES them. And they're about ME. Running around the back yard in my underwear. Um. No. If I can't keep my eyeballs and ears tuned in to Mom? She will have you thinking I swung from the power line attached to the house playing Mighty Mouse with my brother. Oh wait. We did that.

Colin, you and I are going to need a plan to wrest Donna's mum away from her get the dirt on Our Donna! I love hearing those stories! And my sisters have EXACTLY the look that was on Donna's face at Bouchercon when my nieces and I get together cause they love love love stories of when my sister/their mom was little. And I have no qualms about telling those stories. Payback baby!!!


On Monday, the results of the May We Have (a writing contest) were posted.

nightsmusic picked up on the common refrain about not getting some of the entries:
*disclaimer: I still don't get some of them, but what do I know?

you know a lot. I didn't get some of them either. When I don't get an entry, I do read it more than once, and look carefully for clues. But if I still don't get it after looking at it twice, I pass on it.

Claire scramble to clarify her comment from last week on the writing contest judging
Gadzooks! I'll stop labouring this point now, but I feel the need to make absolutely clear I was not looking for critiques of anyone's flash fiction entries! Perish the thought. Was simply interested in the process by which you go about whittling down so many entries to a final few - i.e. is it simply a gut feel, or does it start with scanning every entry for the prompt words, then eliminating ones with errors of grammar/vocabulary, etc. As applied to the contests in general, not a specific one.

Completely understand you don't have time for this, but didn't want to let a heinous misconception stand!

(Packs bags for Carkoon...)
I read for stories first. If a line or lines, or a phrase stands out, I flag those too. Once I've culled for story, I read them all again. The ones that are too oblique get a pass. That's a real tightrope with flash fiction as someone pointed out recently: the difference between not enough, too much, and just right. I think that line moves depending on the reader and what she brings to the story. I'm not going to understand any oblique Dr. Who references. I mostly get the math and science references. Any kind of high faulting' poetry form, not so much.


A good example of this is the Kae Ridwyn entry
Daddy, quick - watch me slide! Whee!
Sally, four. All giggles, sloppy ice-cream kisses.

Daddy, please may I have Jaimee over to play?
My daughter, nine. Nudges and whispered secrets.

Daddy, I love you. Father’s Day, thirteen. No more under-the-table cubbyhouses…

My own car? Thank you, Daddy! Squeals; hugs of gratitude.

An aisle; a walk; a bride on my arm. Tears, threatening, choked back. My heart too big for my chest.

These memories should be treasured forever.

But they’re ones I’ll never have.

The tiny limp body in my arms? My Sally?
Stillborn.

I curse the day brie was created.

Kae had to decide whether to explain brie or not. Her choice (not explaining) worked out because I'd watched The West Wing and knew brie isn't good for pregnant women. She'd probably have been ok if the judge was a person who'd had children and been warned away from brie during pregnancy. That's most likely a large swath of the population.

This is a perfect example of the knowledge wars about what should be in "the canon." In other words, what must a person know to be considered educated. As one wag put it "how much do you have to know to get the jokes."

There's no one right answer to this, as these contests show. The more contests we have, the better your sense of what I know (and don't!)

And once you know something (Dr. Who trivia, the names of the Star Wars planets; the rules of bridge) the more likely you are to think everyone knows it. A lesson I relearn often when what I know about querying isn't the same as what the QueryShark readers do.

abnormalalien (Jamie A. Elias) said
I'll admit there were a few I had to read more than once to understand.

Yup, me too.

And I needed help to find "whee" in Christina Seine's entry which Solidus and Kitty provided:
Re Christina Seine - "whee" is in there, split across three words: "how he even". Subtle! :-)
When I can't find a prompt, I use spell check and look for "wh" or other parts of the word. That little trick didn't even help on this clever entry!



Craig's entry got attention for burying a great line:
Even more amazing it seems like my Queen was insinuating that I might have been a contender if I had formatted differently. Maybe more like this:

At the bottom of the picnic basket I found a gun instead of dessert. Her face was a plea.

Consider this: At the bottom of the picnic basket I found a gun.

You don't need "instead of dessert" and it undercuts the power of the sentence. I think this is one of the places where reading something aloud would help. You get all the power in "At the bottom of the picnic basket I found a gun" and then you would hear the drop off with "instead of dessert."

Do you guyz read your entries aloud?

This from CynthiaMc just cracked me up:
I hadn't intended to kill anyone off (I'm usually a sunshine and lollipop kind of person. I finished writing and went "Whoa! What just happened?"

It was fun, though. I might do it again.

And in honor of her great entry, Christina Seine decided to burn down her house:
That I still have a home to sneeze in is nothing short of a miracle in my book. We all decided to celebrate by getting the flu.

I am very grateful that life is never boring.



On Tuesday we discussed what to do between getting an offer and accepting the offer.


kittykat asked:
but do you email only the agents who have fulls to tell them about your offer, or all the agents, including the ones who only have queries?

It depends where you are in the process. If you've sent queries within 30 days of the initial offer coming in, I'd let those agents know because they may not have had time to read the query yet.

If the offer comes in and you queried (and didn't hear back) six months ago, no you don't alert them.

General guideline to offer alerts: everyone who asked for a partial or full AND those agents you queried initially within 30 days of the offer.



Lennon Faris asked:
Couple questions - on Day 1 - So you actually *say* to your agent that you are taking a little time to notify other agents? I thought that was something you just skirted around ("I need time to... consider"), and it was assumed by the agent, but would be rude to actually say out loud.

Also, when you contact the other agents, you politely give them say 4-5 days to get back to you, I'm assuming?

Yes you say exactly that. Being oblique does not help at all here. You want to be very clear in your communications.

So: Dear AgentGood Taste,

Thankyou! (insert joyous remarks about offer/excitement etc)

I have a full manuscript out with XNumber of agents. I'd like to give them a heads up on your offer and some time to get back to me. Will a week work for you on that?

While I wait for those slackers may I get a copy of the author agency agreement from you? And of course, I have some questions. Can we set up a time to talk, or do you prefer answering by email. And it's ok to talk to your clients?

Again, I'm thrilled beyond measure at your offer and look forward to talking with you further.

Yours truly, madly, deeply

Woodland creature on a roll



nightsmusic asked:
kay, I'll up the ante for a trip to Carkoon...when you offer, do you send the paperwork at the same time to give the client an opportunity to look things over? Or do you send it on day two - four? And is it a terrible thing to ask for that up front during the offer? The reason I'm asking is because it seems to me, when I got in trouble for what I was thinking on the last post regarding this, that OP there had not either had the paperwork up front or didn't ask all the questions (of which you have a great list here!) prior to informing the other agents she'd had a bite from. I had a huge red flag that went off when I read that initial post as well, but I'll shut my mouth now..


I try to remember to offer to send it but I forget a lot (a lot!) If however the potential client is savvy, s/he asks for it and of course I send it right away. It's TOTALLY OK, in fact it's smart to ask to see the agreement as early as you can. I'd rather have more time to answer your questions and give you time to think than have you rush into a decision you later regret.

Having a client become unhappy isn't any picnic for us either.



Robert Ceres asked:
You initially had us giving the agent a week to decide, but you don't notify her of your decision until day ten??

A week is ballpark. If you have ten agents in the scrum it takes longer to sort things out than if you have two.

If you have ten agents reading fulls and nine drop out, you need less time than if all ten make an offer.

None of these guidelines are legal requirements or sell-by dates on perishable produce. They're more like guidelines: useful most of the time, but will also help you sort out what's really out of bounds (like asking for a month to decide, or an agent who says "say yes now or the offer is rescinded")


LynnRodz asked:
But! I think you did mention before we could have two weeks before accepting an offer. Or was that wishful thinking? I need that extra time. Day One would be spent jumping up and down. Day Two would be hubby picking me up off the floor because of Day One and then Day Three would be convincing myself I wasn't dreaming on Day One. So is two weeks too long to ask an agent to wait, especially if there are other agents that also have the full ms?

This is really agent-dependent. At this point in the conversation with my potential source of income, I'd hope s/he'd say something like "I need three days to calm down" or (worse) "Hey, there are ten agents with fulls, and one is LaSlitherina Herself so I need some time here."

In other words, this time line does not happen in a vacuum. Tell the agents what's going on. We get it. We've been the ones juggling 12-editor auctions (oh wait, that wasn't me, that was Brooks Sherman.)

E.M.Goldsmth asked:
I reread this post with my brain turned back on (more or less). On step 6- schedule a phone call- I had the impression that an offer usually came with a phone call and that was how this whole week to 10 days started. Is that not so? Can offers come with just an email?
I've taken on clients who've only had email conversations with me. Several in fact. If a potential client wants to talk on the phone, of course I call them but I LOVE email: it's permanent for starters. I can remember what I said, they asked, and I can revise and spell check before sending.

Amelia Creed asked:
I'm a bit confused about No. 4, though. Maybe y'all can help me out. I always thought you asked the agent questions during the call. I didn't know it was kosher to send an entire list of Qs to a probably very busy agent. Maybe I misunderstood. Or maybe my entire paradigm has shifted.

It's faster to write answers than talk them. And wouldn't you rather have the questions and answers in writing and not have to depend on your notes? And I'd MUCH prefer to answer in writing because I can, again, revise and clarify before sending.

Lisa Bodenheim asked:
The one question I had, I think you answered in the next sentence. Under #4 you mentioned an editorial letter. Your description sounds the same as some of the commenters here who have referred to an R&R, a revise and resubmit. But just to make sure creeping charlie and quackgrass haven't overcrowded my brainspace...is an editorial letter and an R&R the same thing?

Not really but often the terms are used interchangeably.

An R&R is shorthand for Revise and Resubmit. It's used almost exclusively by authors to describe where they are in the querying process. In fact, someone had to explain what R&R meant when I first saw the term crop up.

An editorial letter is the actual letter describing what changes are being suggested. It can be written by an editor to an author with a book under contract. It can be written by an agent to a client with a book being prepared for submission. It can be written by an agent to an author with a book being considered for representation.

An editorial letter is what is sent to an author who is being asked to revise and resubmit.

Nancy Adams asked:
I was surprised to see that you’re not supposed to discuss the particulars of revising the ms., because for me what I most want to know is whether the agent’s vision of the novel matches mine. (For example: A writer at a conference once told me that her agent had actually asked her to change the MC’s gender and she complied! For me, that would be a deal breaker.) I never realized that asking for that would be a problem, and though I can now appreciate this from the agent’s point of view, is there some way of at least getting an idea of what she might want to change without being too presumptuous?

Let's distinguish between broad stroke revisions and a detailed editorial letter too.

Changing a character's gender isn't an editorial letter, it's a huge revision. DEF something you'd want to know about first. On the other hand, if I wanted such a major revision, I'd ask to see it before I offered representation. I'd assume some risk in this: the potential client might query the revised ms all over town.

A more detailed letter with specific suggestions on how to fix things like ramping up the tension, etc. Those you don't get till you've signed on the dotted line. I assume some risk in that as well: if you can't deliver, I've got a ms I can't sell, and a really Unhappy new client.

There's no one right answer here. Each agent handles this his/her own way, and it may depend on the potential client too.

If you've got ten agents wanting to rep you, this is def something you'd ask about: Do you envision revisions? Can you tell me what they are in general.



Julie Weathers
weighed in on revisions with this:
Nancy,

When a friend made a choice between two agents who had offered, the suggested changes to the ms did come up. Super agent one loved the manuscript so far, but wanted some significant changes that would have meant writing three different books instead of one. Second super agent had some different ideas how to deal with big ass novel.

Their different views did weigh her decision.


kdjames
asked
OK, so when you say: "The most important question you'll ask is whether the agent wants you to revise before sending the manuscript on submission."

And then go on to say there are agents who won't give a prospective client an editorial letter, does that mean you should expect an agent will at least discuss it with you in general terms but specific enough that you can tell if the vision you each have for the work is similar or wildly different? I hope that's what you mean. That's sort of a big deal.

An agent should be willing to tell you how much more work s/he thinks you need to do before the ms is ready to send.

Generally I'm not going to be discussing representation with anyone until the manuscript is what I believe to be publishable.

That means any kind of revision is generally limited to fixing typos, answering questions (did the ancient Greeks have apples?) and making sure all the character's names are spelled right (you'd be surprised how often Katharine becomes Katherine in a manuscript!)

Often the major revisions come in a second novel with already signed client. Those are the ones with things like: ditch the entire middle section; the tension isn't tense enough; what were you thinking here?; have you ever read a book before?

And there's no way to foresee that, so don't even worry about it.



S.P.Bowers
asked
Okay, I'll bite, what's a three year agency commitment? I'm assuming that it's a contract for three years, rather than the life of the author or until either party wants to separate. And at the end of three years they would once again be discussing whether the agent is the right one for representation. I'm off to google and see if I'm right.

It's a requirement that you stay with the agency for three years, OR (worse) that if you leave, you still have to pay the agent if you sell the work s/he represented within three years. That is an undue burden on a writer and you should NOT agree to it.

A good representation agreement allows you to leave within a reasonable amount of time with notice. Mine says you can leave anytime with 30 days notice. It also allows me to collect the FULL commission on any work I represented if sold within six months of my submitting it to the publisher.

If you decamp from The Reef with your submission list in hand, turn around and sell the ms I pitched to BigAssMoneyBags Publishing LLC, you owe me 15% of not just the advance but all the royalties too. Just like I'd sold it directly. And if another agent sold it? You get to pay them too.

Clearly this is designed to prevent both clients behaving badly AND client poaching. Generally, if this is happening, there are many MANY other problems in play as well.



Craig asked:
I would personally like to call the client you didn't hear about from the agent.

Generally I direct prospective clients to my client list on the right hand side of the blog. That's the list of clients for whom I have sold work. There are others, yes indeed, but I haven't sold their work. If you asked, I'd probably give you a list, but don't you really want to talk with the guys who've had a complete publishing cycle experience? Lemme tell ya, the ones who've just signed and are out on submission are a whole lot less likely to tell you something valuable than the ones who've had multiple books published, are now out of contract, and finding out just exactly how hard an agent works when you need to reinvent yourself. You want to talk to the clients who've been through hell. Not the ones who are just now entering the fray.

If you really mean you want to talk to former clients, you're out of luck. I don't give out that info. I'm sure you can find it if you cross reference enough, but I won't make it easy. Except for Kari Dell of course.


Julie Weathers said:
Carolynn,

I've tried offering my first born to agents. I've even penciled it into the contract. Unfortunately, they cross it out with extreme prejudice. It seems no one wants a cowboy.

*note to self when making offer on Cowgirls Wanted; addendum one: firstborn*



Colin Smith said
I don't plan to offer my Firstborn to agents, but I will offer her tasty cakes and pastries. That shouldn't be construed as a bribe, BTW. ;)

*note to self when seeing Colin's query: ask for R&R--revisions and refreshments*



On Wednesday I urged you to celebrate the milestones along the way, not just keep looking toward the end.

It generated the most comments of any blog post in weeks!



Donnaeve said:
Congratulations to QOTKU and her new client!

aha! You guyz assume this was a new client. Nope. No indeed. I signed her for a novel that didn't sell. We put our heads together and came up with the idea of non-fiction essays. She shopped those and had some nice successes. Then we came up with the idea of the non-fiction book. 19 revisions later it's on submission. We've been together for eight YEARS now. When I sell this book it will be a HUGE milestone for both of us, but along the way, we gotta celebrate the smaller stuff too.



I really loved what Susan Bonifant said here:
First of all, Colin, not for nothing, I've been reading and thinking about your advice since long before you became a platinum level commenter.

Second, I am celebrating a different kind of milestone. Last week, for reasons that had to do with good timing and miles traveled thus far, and maybe an assist from my God, I decided to let my book go.

It didn't happen because of stats, I wasn't depressed, and it didn't fail. It just happened that one day, I woke to a head full of the next book and there was no longer room for the other.

It was so clear and brilliant and natural, it seemed to be writing itself. Characters, conversations, personalities, conflict - all there.

I guess I'm the type who doesn't leave until there's somewhere else to go. And so, book 3 and I have parted friends. And now that I'm sure I wasn't just remembering a movie I once saw, book 4 and I are now in a relationship.

and what Brian Schwarz said:
This might be of some service to someone!

2 months ago I started a draft of a new book. I spent 4 months plotting it (something I’d never done), and all that was left was the execution of the words. I figured on writing a chapter a day for a month or two and I’d be completed with a better-than-rough draft. This is my third book, so I wasn’t under any delusions, but after a week of writing a chapter a day, I stalled. And stalled. And then stalled some more. 45 days of no words. None.

Until finally I decided I needed to go backwards to go forwards. My problem wasn’t the goal. The goal was achievable. My problem was what I did when I didn’t hit the goal. I felt bad, and I wanted 2 chapters in a day. And then when that didn’t happen I just got more frustrated. And it snowballed from there.

So I went backwards. Forget 1 chapter. How about 100 words. Just 100 words. You can’t screw up 100 words, right? At that rate, I’d be done with the book in a year. But perhaps some days I’d do more than 100 words? Maybe it’d be quicker. But 100 words is forgivable. I could miss a whole week and sit down and write 700 words to make up for what I’d missed.

The first 100 words took 6 hours at a coffee shop. The next 100 took 2 hours. And then it steamrolled. Now I’m averaging a half a chapter to a full chapter a day, but if I ever miss a day, I only missed 100 words. So I do 200 instead.

Maybe I finish. Maybe I don’t. But I found something that works, something with enough built in grace to keep me moving, and something that I shoot higher than but gives me a soft landing when I fail.


and Panda in Chief corrected a typo for me:
Forgive me for correcting the QOTKU, but I believe the proper term for "woo-woo" is "woo-woo". Wu-Wu is the junior panda living in San Diego (Xiao Liwu, Mr. Wu or Wu-Wu to his friends)





Cheryl said:
I'm celebrating that I'm not imagining things and I did see this post on my Feedly feed last night -- but when I came to comment it was gone. I searched every other writing blog I read and nope, not there. And then I was wondering why Janet didn't post this morning.
Ah, the case of the disappearing post! What happens is that I revise a post and have it slated for a future date (like this one) and the "scheduled date" gets lost somehow. I usually catch it within seconds, but that can be enough for a couple people to "see it"… except of course, it's now gone cause I corrected the date.

Just another way the universe has provided me with tools to torment writers! Ah, it's a good life!



Julie M. Weathers
said:
I've been going down to my son's house to bake cookies when the munchkin gets out of school. Warm cookies when you get home from school isn't a big milestone, but it's a comforting memory and maybe those are just as important.

Warm cookies were often the difference between a bad day and a really nice day when I was a kid. I was not a successful child. I hated being told what to do. I hated not being able to do stuff well. I really wanted a horse. Or alternatively, to go visit Misty on Chincoteague Island. It actually never occurred to me until today that when I read those books Misty would have been my grandma's age when I planned to visit her. So, now I need MORE warm cookies.



And let's all welcome Emily Kate to the fray
Today is the first time I've commented after being a lurker for 2.5 years.



On Thursday we talked about what happens when you're doing a revision for a small press editor and still want an agent

nightsmusic asked for some clarifications:
OP subbed to a small publisher?
yes, many small publishers take direct queries and submissions.

No querying involved?
Yes, querying was involved. The writer queried, and got a bite, and the editor liked the project but is suggesting revisions.

The publisher's editor, one of them anyway, did all that work to make it more appealing for publishing but OP still has no idea if that publishing house would want it?
That's actually the norm.

So query an agent and...what? Would the agent just rep OP to the publishing house?
That's largely dependent on the client. If I liked a project and thought it would sell to a large house for oodles of cash, I'd advise the author of that. The author decides though.

Or does agent then have the right to rep OP to others to see if there are any bites?
Not without the writer's ok s/he doesn't.

And what if OP can't find an agent?
Then she gets in touch with me, and I refer her to a contract review specialist to help her.



As did CarolynnWith2Ns:
Do publishes really devote that kind of effort without the author being on their list?

Sometimes, sure. We do it here a lot too. I have one author revising madly on a proposal and she's not a client. I hope it will get to that stage of course, but she's free to look around and see who else is out there.

I actually prefer to sign a client who has actively queried and has options. That way I know s/he chose to work with me rather than got me as a default.  Writers who've been through the query trenches understand that getting an agent isn't just a matter of picking a name off a list and saying "hey there."





Kate Larkindale is the voice of experience here:
This OP is in almost exactly the same situation I found myself in a couple of years back. A publisher opened for submissions for a brief period, and I submitted a book. A LOOOONG time later (I'm talking really long here; I think I'd written two more books in the time) they came back with an offer. I was querying a different book at the time and had several fulls and partials out. So I quickly emailed all the agents who had those, telling them I had an offer from this publisher, not for the book they'd requested, but for an earlier story.

I spent a week having some very intense conversations with three or four of these agents, but ultimately, none of them were interested n representing the book for this particular deal. Not necessarily because it was a smaller press (although I'm sure that was a part of it), but because they hadn't chosen the publisher, and weren't sure it was the best fit for me or my work.

I ended up taking it anyway because the book was an older one I wasn't so in love with anymore and wanted to go through the publication process so I knew how it all worked, but that's an entirely different story… But that offer wasn't how I got my agent. That happened about six months later and is another entirely different story, although once again, there was a publisher offer tangled into the mix.



kdjames said:
Back when I first joined RWA (long ago), it was generally accepted that you not only didn't *need* an agent to get published with certain publishers (primarily Harlequin), it was a waste of time since some of those contracts were non-negotiable. I know, everything is supposedly negotiable. But at the time, word was that either you signed or you didn't-- those were the only choices.

I'm not as versed on this as agents who work with Harlequin, but I believe they have a boilerplate contract, one size fits all for certain types of books. As a businessperson, I think this makes a lot of sense. As an agent, I think it's often not in the best interest of the writer.



As for the cat in the jar. The Duchess of Yowl has wriggled into places that were previously listed as much too small (including my very cold heart) so I thought this picture was pretty funny.

Unfortunately there are people in the world who abuse animals in ways that I will not go into because no one needs that in their mind ever. It was mentioned to me privately that this kind of picture might encourage some witless fool to actually DO this. I am pretty sure no witless fools read this blog but still…I'm not prepared to answer to God for anything that involves animal abuse if I can help it. So I changed the picture.



Celia Reaves has a cat who also likes small places:
Of course, my last and biggest thought as about that crazy cat in the jar. Some cats REALLY love tiny spaces, and they generally have no trouble getting out of things they can get into. I had a cat once that spent most of her time in places you'd have sworn she couldn't get into. She climbed inside the machinery in a fold out sofa bed, discovered when someone sat on the sofa and leaned back, eliciting a yowl. She crawled up the swell pedal on a small electronic organ into the guts inside; fortunately she was spotted coming out before someone switched it on (and we had to put a wire cage around the inside of that pedal to keep her out). She once got taped into a box we were packing for shipping, and we figured it out before we shipped it when we heard her scratching around in there. So while others here are all worried about the cat in the jar, I'm thinking, "Serves you right."

And then all of you just went completely hilariously off the rails and opened some sort of musical theatre blog in the comments column. It was great!

Then it was time for the writing contest, inspired by the Duchess of Yowl, who also thinks for herself as musical. The neighbors think of her as Florence Foster Jenkins.







The Duchess of Yowl generated a question from nightsmusic
I have to ask; Janet! Did the NYPD really show at your door in the middle of the night last night???

When don't they?

Hopefully the writing contest results will go up on Monday.


Here are the subheader noms:

And some weeks there's Fred, who is opposed to subheaders on some principle.--John Frain

Never expect the rainbow to carry you to a pot of gold. Expect something to get in the way.--Craig

This site is like: writers 101, a guide on what not to do.--Jason Vierra

expect the unexpected, and when the unexpected happens, act accordingly.-Donnaeve (author of the forthcoming Education of Dixie Dupree)

"Cowboy logic: Ride bulls, meet nurses."--Julie M. Weathers

Some days after reading this blog I feel so prepared to be a good client. If only I could convince an agent this is so.--Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale

I've been dating Debbie Downer, and just the other day she let me complain about something--Mark Ellis