We're hard at work here at The Reef on the end of the year tax forms we send to clients. Making sure we've got updated addresses, and all the decimals are in the right place. I actually like this task. It's got a start date, an end date, a measurable success rate, and it only happens once a year. In other words: the exact opposite of what I do most of the time.
The rest of the week was taken up with negotiating contracts and pitching projects. That doesn't change much week to week, month to month, year to year, but what I actually DO during negotiations and pitches does change. Even boilerplate contracts change as publishing circumstances change.
As an example: routinely First Serial Rights were licensed to the publisher. Now, I never do that automatically. That's because most publishers don't actually have the staff to do those placements anymore, and there's a shortage of big magazines that actually buy first serial rights. Time to clean up the boilerplate to match reality.
My Saturday reading was Bill Loehfelm's THE DEVIL IN HER WAY. I loved the first Maureen book in the series THE DEVIL SHE KNOWS but hadn't managed to snag the second book till last week. When you need a really good break from the work week, you want a book that's utterly captivating and this one was up to the job.
Here's just one paragraph that will show you what I mean:
She breathed in the tainted air again and wondered if crime scenes became like wines, each with their own smells and flavors --top notes, grace, notes, and finishes. Girl, she thought her own ideas making her queasy, you did not get out of the cocktail business quite fast enough.
This week I was asked to lead a workshop on query letters on Feb 1, 2015 here in Brooklyn. Of course I agreed. The details are here on my Facebook page. I'm working on the workshop handouts during spare minutes here and there. So far it's ten pages!
The comment section on the blog continues to amaze and delight me. A couple questions popped up that I though deserved some further attention:
Monday's blog post was about a writer whose retiring agent wanted to hold on to her manuscript that was on submission. I'd listed the steps the writer needed to take in the situation:
Blog post: 5. You start querying. You mention your agent left mid-submission and you have editors who were considering the work.
sagelikethespice asked: Will this work for or against the author at this point? Assuming they were good editors for the work in question, would a potential new agent look at this list as a positive, a negative, or neutral? I know that when an author has been rejected by editors already, agents see it as a negative because they can't pitch to those editors. But these subs were pulled. Will a new agent be able to pitch to these editors again?
Short answer: yes. If a submission is withdrawn at the agent's request, then another agent can resubmit. This kind of thing (withdrawing subs) doesn't happen a lot, but it does happen. Editors are aware that circumstances can change. I've had to withdraw submissions on several projects over the years. Some were because the author wanted to make extensive revisions. We actually were able to go back to those editors with revised manuscripts when he did.
Editors, like agents, are looking for good work. That's the bottom line.
Kelsey Hutton wondered if my use of UK spellings meant that perhaps I was from Manitoba, a fact I quickly corrected and reminded everyone that I'm from the West Coast. Go Ducks!
Kelsey replied: Janet, we would welcome you as an honourary Manitoban any day!
Summer reports of our moose-size mosquitoes are almost all exaggerated, and a slug of Caribou keeps you warm in the winter. Go Jets.
Well, that's certainly an enticement to visit, but honestly we need to work on the geography here. The Jets play in New Jersey! They may pretend to be from New York, but everyone in Jersey does that.
Go NETS! They at least play in Brooklyn!
On Thursday's post about which query to use, the one that got results or the "good one" Colin Smith asks:
@Janet: Would you say crafting "the perfect query" is more important when the agent does not ask for a sample (e.g., first 5 pages)? I can imagine an agent reading a query and saying "This query sucks, but I like the idea, let's see if the writing's better in the pages." But if those pages aren't to hand, might that agent be more likely to just hit the "form reject" button?
Impossible to know, but certainly logical. If the query is the ONLY thing the agent will see, it does seem like you'll want it to be perfect. But what is perfect? Perfect means only that the agent wants to read pages. That's it. I've gotten some horrendous queries that enticed me to read on. Would I suggest writing horrendous queries? No, no I would not. I think they enticed me to read on mostly cause I had more than a passing interest in the subject matter, or concept of the novel. I'll read just about anything set in NYC. Same for horses. Africa is high on my list too.
Later in that same comment column DLM said:
I just wish I could in-person pitch 'em all. My in-person pitch rate is 100% - at least for full requests.
As you all know I hate in person pitches. I hate them with the passion of a thousand suns. I might have ranted about that a time or two.
And DLM's comment just makes me hate them more because they induce false hope.
Here's the horrible truth about in-person pitches: It's VERY hard for an agent or editor to say no to your hopeful face. Most editors won't. Most agents will say yes to things they KNOW aren't right for them because unlike ME they can't bear to break your hearts. Me, I just chomp on you till you bleed and then swim merrily away.
If you do have an in-person pitch session, take your query and ASK if it's effective. Three minutes of help is going to do you more good than a request for a full that is getting rejected UNREAD in a month.
Still in the Thursday comments, SD King notices we're painting the new office!
This is completely off the topic, but didn't we just read that the QS office was being painted? Reading the archives (as directed) I noted that the office had just been painted in 2013.
I always think that after living with a paint job for about 10 years, you should take a good long look at the walls and plan to choose a new color in the next five years, or so.
The only reason to put yourself though the trouble of drop cloths and mess is if you smoke 3 packs of Lucky Strikes a day and the paint breaths smoke back at you.
No Shark could smoke like that and still swim.
I painted my apartment in 2013. Well, let me say "I was painting my apartment in 2013. I'm STILL painting it in 2015."
The office paint is new new new. Yay! And I'm NOT doing it, we have a nice guy who comes in and does a much better job. DOUBLE YAY!
And no one smokes in the office. Occasionally however we set our hair on fire.
@SD: New offices. New paint job. The last re-paint was in the old office space which, I believe, FinePrint moved into in 2011...?
We moved in to our new office on 29th Street in August 2012. Trust me, I will never forget that day, week or month. The move next door will be child's play compared to that move.
On Friday's rant about not wasting my time, Colin Smith asked:
Okay, Janet, call me a woodland creature, but define "least suitable client." Are we talking axe-murderer crazy, or won't-answer-the-phone reclusive, or...? It's a bit off-topic (like that's ever stopped me before), but I often hear "agent success stories" where either the writer or the agent talk about how they knew they would have a great working relationship because they "hit it off" over The Call. Is that what you mean?
I suspect you might answer something along the lines of "they need to be serious about their work, meeting deadlines, listening and responding to editorial comments, etc." But it seems to me that's something you would only know AFTER the query has done its job and you've had The Call. Or are there signs of problems to come you've learned to discern over many years of swimming these waters? Things you can pick up even from a query or a brief phone conversation?
Yes, I'm getting picky over a detail. Don't get me wrong. I love the spirit of your rant, and I wish you could be QOTKU so all agents would think this way. I just saw that phrase and wondered... :)
Figuring out who will fit well into the ranks of The Fabulosity is something I've honed over the years. First, of course, they can't be the wrong kind of crazy. Generally I can pick up on that in a phone call. I can pick up on unrealistic expectations there too.
But one of the best tools I have now is Twitter and Facebook. Here's where you really find out about someone. Is every Facebook post about them? All the pictures of themselves? Is the Twitter feed only about them? That's an author that you're going find is pretty self-involved.
Are they absent from social media? That's a big clue and I'll want to ask if that's intentional, or they just don't know how to use social media tools effectively.
Do they have bombastic posts on every hot button topic of the day? Probably not a good fit for me.
Do they tweet too much? Probably someone who's going to need a lot of attention…also not a good fit for me.
And the turnabout here is: authors can find out a LOT about agents by reading their social media sites. Don't want an agent who drinks whisky and swears like a sailor? Cross me off your list.
Need an agent who is available night and day to ease your fears? Nope, not Janet Reid.
Don't want an agent who HAS a social media presence at all? Cross me right off the list.
And Colin, you're right, sometimes the suitability is discovered only after the contract is signed. And that's why there's a 30-day, at will, get out of the contract clause in my author/agency agreement. If it turns out we're not a good fit, you get to decamp posthaste.
And my all time favorite question of the week was from GingerMollyMarilyn
Two things. First and foremost, thank you for your solidarity, Janet. You really "get" us writers. Second, if you're the Queen of this universe, who is Queen of the next one over?
That would be Barbara Poelle.