Friday, March 27, 2015

Query Question: so, I did this small, really TINY novel. Am I published?

 I'm getting ready to send out query letters and I want to be as transparent as possible with potential agents. When I was 17 I wrote a ridiculous teen fiction book, and e-published it on Amazon for my friends. Only 15 people in total bought it, and then I took it off of Amazon. My current manuscript is not related at all to my past manuscript, they're not even in the same genre, but I'm worried about being technically previously published.

Does my silly teenage fanfiction mean I'm previously published, and do I have to mention that in my query letters? I feel like this is probably a stupid question, but I want to make sure I'm not doing something inadvertently wrong. Thanks for your help!
It's not.
You're welcome.

Now, let's elaborate.

First, yes, you've been published. Putting something on Amazon, and letting friends buy it is indeed "published."  


You really don't need to mention that youthful peccadillo at this stage.  When you are published, and your novel is being considered for awards however, you are going to have to come clean.  That's when you mention to your AGENT (and no one else) that you had this teen novel, and together you can decide what to do from there.

This is NOT a silly or stupid question. This is a question that gets asked a lot these days cause all those folks at Amazon want your money and don't think they need to advise you of any pitfalls.

And sadly, this is the day and age of forever.  Back in my youth (when The Divine Comedy was taught as Contemporary Literature) a wordslinger could move to the next city-state, change her nom de plume and have no one the wiser. Now, not so much.

This won't kill you. It probably won't hurt you.  Just don't do it again if you get frustrated with querying and figure "oh hell, I'll just self-publish and see what happens."



Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Isn’t this like:
I love you.
Have you ever been with anyone before?
Not seriously.
What does that mean?
Only once and I did it for my friends.
So you did it FOR your friends.
Sure, everybody did/does. Don’t get me wrong, I did it for me too. I liked it, even though now I’m a little embarrassed by my immature technique. Hey, I was young and I wasn’t very good. My choice kind of embarrasses me a little too.
So I’m not your first.
Well, you are sort of.
Sort of?
Like I said I love you. I want to be honest, totally. I didn’t love the other one. It was just a fleeting thing.
So now you’re serious.
Yes I am, very serious, you’re the only one for me.
Lights dim, music builds, she signs.

Amy Schaefer said...

Carolynn, you crack me up. That is the best rendering of "I was young and it meant nothing to me" that I have seen in a long while.

Full props to the questioner for even being aware enough to even ask this question. I find it entertaining that the answer is as applicable to a agent as to a new lover: provide full and honest disclosure when and as the situation renders it necessary.

Good night to you all, dear vommenters. You may be brushing the sleep from your eyes on Friday morning, but some of us have already helped a friend to murder a bottle of wine on Friday evening, and are ready for a little light reading and a lot of heavy sleep. I wish you many happy returns from The Future.

Amy Schaefer said...

P.S. All typos are grape-related, the responsibility of the author, and will be heavily regretted on the morrow.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

That was aces, 2Ns!

I'm sure most of us are happy our youthful foibles are not and were not able to be on Amazon at the time. When I was 17, I thought what I was writing was goddamn amazing. And, I mean, I guess it was. Just not in the same sense of the word.....

Colin Smith said...

As with the scars left by our youthful foibles, it would be foolish to imagine these things didn't happen. But they are not insurmountable objects to future happiness. Good analogy, 2Ns!

This does serve as a timely reminder to us all, though, to be careful what we say and do online. Whether it's fiction or a blog rant, we should consider the consequences not just immediately, but years later. If one were to go off on a youthful rant about the publishing industry, calling everyone involved whores and whoremongers, that will exist online, and publishing professionals could find it, and that might make it a little awkward in later years when one wants these "whores and whoremongers" be your pimp. ;)

DISCLAIMER: I'm not saying the publishing industry is a red-light cave full of street-walkers and pimps. You are all wonderful, wonderful people who make dreams come true every day and we all love you dearly. :D

Anonymous said...

2N's, your synapses are on fire this morning! I looked at the time stamp of your vomment - 7:18! Even if I were drunk like Amy, I wouldn't have been able to wrangle my little neurons into cooperation.

Having said that, no wonder we compare publishing books to having babies, what with all the references to sex, dating etc. Isn't it the natural course of events - eventually?

Good for the OP to think to ask this question, and to get advice from QOTKU.

Colin Smith said...

While I'm here, I think I need to clear up a little misunderstanding about the nature of Carkoon. This isn't a holiday resort, nor is it a dictatorship run by woodland creatures. It's an exile planet. An outer space Patmos. An intergalactic Australia. Its supreme ruler is she of the thick-skinned fins and large spiky teeth. We who are here have been exiled for such comments that have caused her QOTKU-ness grave displeasure (e.g., suggesting a separate blog for writing contests).

Since our term of exile here is at QOTKU's discretion, and since she seems to take great pleasure in keeping us here, she has given us a branch office of FPLM to run. Naturally, we must rely upon the meager resources of this galactic tumbleweed of a planet to do the work of such an agency, but that's to be expected given what this place is.

But QOTKU is not without mercy. She has also given us a well-stocked mini bar in every cave. And occasionally, people drop by with supplies to keep us going.

But I am not the mayor, and I would appreciate such talk be kept to a minimum. There are overlords here, subject to QOTKU, and they don't take lightly to challenges to their authority. And I like my legs. :)

So, what is FPLM-Paradise, you may ask? QOTKU's vacation branch, of course, managed by Atoll Amy, she of the sunshine and sunscreen. Hers is the Abraham's Bosom to our fiery pit.

Now, I need to get back to the slush pile. Which here on Carkoon, by the way, is a very literal term. I do wish these people would learn to use paper...

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Ha Donna. It must be the coffee because after I commented I started, edited and sent a new column to my editor, 650 words. I'm off to work now, it's all down hill from here.

Colin, you naughty boy, cover up. Of course we know who the real leader is.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

"And sadly, this is the day and age of forever." And it's so good for newbies (at whatever part of the book-writing process we're in) to have the Shark's expertise, offering her wisdom for how to deal with our youthful follies. I guess that's why I don't have a website. Too unsure of my worldly wisdom yet. So I test the waters as a blog lurker, who sometimes comments!

2Ns: I'm with Donna. Amazed at how sharp your synapses fire in the morning.

Atoll Amy: grape-related?! Ha.

Colin Smith said...

Lisa: I don't mean to scare you, or discourage you from commenting, but have you seen how many people read this blog? The encouragement side of that comment is this: if you feel confident enough to post a comment here (and you should feel confident--your comments are good), then you should feel confident to blog. Yes, your blog is public, and it's sort-of-kind-of-like self-publishing... but unlike actually publishing, there is an understanding that it's an informal format. So yes, you should be as polished and as grammatically correct as you can. But it's really an opportunity to let your voice shine. And a great voice will forgive a multitude of adverbs. Well, some anyway. :)

So, go blog. Talk about what makes you tick. Post some of your favorite QOTKU contest entries. Wave your hand at the world and let them know you're here, what you're about. Just don't say anything that may get you into trouble later. :)

Colin Smith said...

That's all very well, Colin, but what if Lisa doesn't know what to blog about? It can be scary launching a blog, especially if you don't know what to say.

Colin Smith said...

Colin: *sigh* not you again! Bleedin' troublemaker.

A good place to start: share links to blog articles that you've found helpful or insightful. Articles that speak to your interests. Perhaps offer a few lines that interact with those articles. Say why they're important, or where you might disagree. I think you'll be surprised how easy it is to start racking up the word count when you have something to bounce off of.

A good example of this are Diane (DLM)'s "Collection" articles she posts occasionally on her blog (like this one, for example).

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the clarification on the world of Carkoon!

I've been trying to figure out what the QOTKU acronym means. So far I've come up with the following -

Queen of the Kingfish Underworld
Query Obliterator: The Kung-fu Unicorn
Quiet: Or This Killer Unravels
Questioner of the Kommenting Underbelly
Quibbler of the Kahlua-flavored Undertow

Or I suppose theres -

Queen of the Known Universe.

Am I close?

S.D.King said...

Somehow I thought Carkoon was basically the Black Hole of Calcutta.

Lisa - glad to read your comments!

Questioner: When I hear that you were writing with serious intent at 17, it makes me think more highly of you - not less. It shows seriousness of purpose, persistence and a calling to the written word. Hope your most recent work finds a good home with an agent and publisher.

LynnRodz said...

Am I wrong to think "this is the day and age of forever" only applies to free blogs? When I started blogging, I paid a web hosting company for my blog and when I wasn't satisfied with their service after a year, I didn't renew my contract and everything I had written was gone forever. The hosting company I have now, I've been with them for seven years and just yesterday I signed up for another year. (Why, I don't know, I've been blogging less and less over time.) Anyway, we discussed this very issue, if I end my contract with them, my blog is gone and everything I've written on it is gone forever.

On a free blog, I believe, you don't have total control of your content and this was the main reason why I preferred paying rather than go with a free blog.

Janet, we must've taken that same class together!

Colin, I'm beginning to worry about you, but there is an asylum here you know.

Bingo, Brian, the last one is correct.

Colin Smith said...

LynnRodz: Have you visited the asylum here? There are people there writing 50 SHADES fan fiction. That's a level of insanity I don't even want to visit! ;)

brian: Definitely the last one, but all of the above count too. :)

french sojourn said...

Carolynn - nailed it, very true.

Amy - (sour) grape related, I like it.

I was going to mention my pub cred's in Colin's Repenthouse magazine... specifically the "Girls gone wild on Carkoonian" issue, but thought better of it?

Nice post J.R., cheers

Sam Mills said...

I am happy that the publishing field is so diverse these days, and that there are a variety of options to suit authors' needs and goals.


I am also reaaaally glad that the Amazon self-pub option didn't exist when I was 16, because I would have been aaaall over that with humiliating results.

Bad enough I printed out an entire 168,000 word manuscript (I thought 400 pages single-spaced = 400 book pages) and mailed it directly to a publisher I found in Writer's Digest. I'm sorry, publisher, thank you for the form rejection!

Colin Smith said...

french: If that was the one with the "When Harry Met Sully: Magic with Monsters" feature, then... um... probably not the best pub cred. I hear that one's very popular over at the asylum, though. :)

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Thank you all for reminding me that sometimes my synapses actually snap right. This is a good day I guess. Ah, what day is it, did I eat breakfast, no wait, it's lunch time, right.

Lisa, start your blog babe. Find your voice, jump in with both feet. You have a lot of folks here who will drop over to tell you EXACTLY what they think. Go for it. You will either eventually make the NYT best sellers list or take up knitting. Knit one, pearl one, don't drop any stitches.

Karen McCoy said...

I agree with Colin's second head that a blog should have a scope and a clear direction, and one shouldn't blog just for blogging's sake.

For those interested in going into the blogosphere,this Jane Friedman article offers some good ideas.

There are some that think blogs are going the day of the do-do, but I'm not sure I agree. I think we'll have to wait and see what happens.

Colin Smith said...

Karen: If one looks at the blog as a social media platform by which someone seeks to build an audience (i.e., something impressive to put on a query), then I think the number of hits required is in the 30,000/month ballpark? Certainly upward of 1,000/day is I think what's been said. According to The Fount of All Knowledge (AKA Google), there are 335 million English-speakers in the world. And about 3 billion people globally have access to the Internet, so it's not unrealistic to suppose that each of those 335 million people has Internet access.

Even if blogs are on the decline (and I see no evidence of that), if you plan to blog for platform (which is not everyone's reason, but stay with me here), then you just need 1,000 out of 335 million which, if my math serves me right is about 0.0003% of the English-speakers in the world to log in to your blog every day to have a viable platform.

Of course, getting those 1,000 people/day to visit your blog is a whole other kettle of wax, ball of fish, or something (and one I certainly haven't cracked yet... and am I now cracking kettles of wax or balls of fish..? I digress.)

Anyway, put like that, it certainly seems like blogs are still a good way to get yourself out there.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Colin a.k.a. bleedin' troublemaker: I see you responded for me up above. Patience, patience. My response? "Just don't say anything that may get you into trouble later." eeep. Oh ye who lives in exile in Carkoon! Although I do like kale and brussel sprouts. Oh, and bleu cheese dressing--but on my burgers. Sorry.

But fun aside, yes, I am aware lots of people read Janet's blog and vomments. But here a woodland creature's comments lay among all the other leaves and debris that are a part of this forest floor. It's another good way to watch and learn internet savvy--from QOTKU (now you know Brian) as well as some of the brill vommenters who stand out.

Anonymous said...


Honestly, it doesn't matter where you put something online, it's always there somewhere. It may not be easily found now, but it's probably in someone's browser cache, just waiting for the day when it will most likely humiliate you. You might try searching very specific terms on your blog content, to see if it is cached somewhere publically. If the cache itself is behind a paywall, though, there's less chance a search engine's robot spiders will find it. It might even be in someone's desk drawer, printed out to be read later (much, much later).

Even if it's hard to find, you can never be sure that it's not out there somewhere. Once you put something out on the internet - no matter where - you no longer have control over it. Despite security precautions and content protection, it's out of your hands. (You still have copyright, but you don't have control. Neither does the website it was posted on.)

Lisa Bodenheim said...

LynnRodz: free vs. paying blogs. I had not known about that difference--good to know.

Karen and Colin: yes I agree. A blog isn't used just have a platform for the sake of selling your book(s) but because you have a voice, an opinion, a story, a passion...something for a community to center around.

Colin Smith said...

Lisa: Might I also suggest (and risk the slings and arrows of outrageous vommenters) that you can blog because you love writing, and blogging is another medium for the written word. Albeit a very public one, but nevertheless, like the poem, the flash story, the novel, the biography, etc, it's another form of writing. A piece of you on the Information Superhighway (yes, I know that phrase makes me seem old, but I am old--get over it!). Clearly the best blogs, the ones that attract attention and get people commenting, vommenting, linking, and blinking are the ones with purpose and voice. No argument. But I think it's okay to blog just for the love of the written word, too.

Susan Bonifant said...

Oops, I scrolled up and see I've created a rant and I have no time to edit.

Lisa Bodenheim, I'm going to take your cold feet seriously and offer two suggestions while you're considering a blog launch.

First, you will be offered more rules than even querying writers try to follow, from the "best" word count on a post, to making sure it's theme-based, updated on the same day of the week, at exactly the same time, while you're wearing the pink slippers, not the lavender ones, and only if the cat is in the room and the sky is the right shade of blue.

Second, you will probably stumble over the worst of angsty-blogger questions which is: who else cares about this topic?

The answer to that is you can't know the answer to that.

Very successful bloggers often do nothing more than make common observations in such uncommon ways, it teaches a reader nothing, but charms them into looking at something they already know in a different way. And don't we love that?

I say do it.

LynnRodz said...

Sam, wow, I'm impressed you even got a response to your 400 single-spaced ms.

Hank, GGWoC in Repenthouse, now that's hilarious! This place is booming by the minute.

Colin, I don't need to visit the asylum, my cave here is one!

2Ns, you and Julie have spoiled me to expect nothing less than great vommenting from both of you.

bjmuntain, you're probably right, but I never did find a word of what I wrote that first year and then stopped paying for, but as you said, things can come out much later. I don't worry because I don't post things that will likely humiliate me. At least, I don't think so...but I am becoming somewhat forgetful with the years so who knows.

Lisa, go for it!

Lilly Faye Poodle said...

Lisa, I agree with Colin. You shouldn't be afraid to start your own blog. If I can blog, anyone can.

Blogging has taught me to produce work on a regular schedule, edit for brevity and clarity, and give my readers what they want (more romance!)

Best of luck to you!

Christina Seine said...

Another excellent blog post! This one hits home for me for a different reason, though. Twenty years ago, when I was in college and pursuing my dream of becoming a Real Life Writer, I had a different name (a different FIRST name. It’s a long story). And I got published (small potatoes) under that different name. And then I had babies and set all that aside to become a Stay Home Mommy. Now, my kids are old enough that I am able to attempt both (note the key word "attempt" here!). So I do have a few wee pub credits, but they are all under that other name (belonging to that woman with the skinny hips and gray-less hair and wrinkle-free face who wore utterly NON-sensible shoes every day and stayed up late watching movies and drinking wine because she could).
I hope that when I do start querying my WIP it will stand on its own merits, but I’ve gone back and forth about what to say in my bio. I swear (although looking in the mirror sometimes, I doubt it myself) that the person who wrote all that other stuff was me.
But that got me thinking. If, for example, a person wanted their previous publishing history to sort of go away, say if they’d self-pubbed some really awful sparkly vampire dino porn but now they’re querying a memoir, or , should one consider using a nom de plume? I mean, it worked for JK Rowling. Well, or not. Not to imply she wrote sparkly dino porn. Although she might. If she did, it would still sell a bazillion copies.

Unknown said...

Just think - if your new book really takes off and hits bestseller lists, wins big prizes, sells movie rights and big-name actors sign on and maybe even gets nominated for an Oscar - well, then those 15 people will be thrilled to have your first teen novel when they sell it on eBay for enough money to send their kids to college and retire to Maui. Or Carkoon, which, until today, I thought was an island in the South Pacific.

I honestly can't imagine anyone would be mean enough to hold your teenage efforts against you. I say, good for you and good luck with your new book.

Colin Smith said...

Jenny: "I honestly can't imagine anyone would be mean enough to hold your teenage efforts against you."

A female tiger uses the same mouth to groom and care for her young as she uses to tear apart an antelope. People aren't too dissimilar. :)

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Is it Colin that said, blog because you love to write? Right.
Nike !

You will learn tons, it will teach you to edit effectively (or is it affectively, I forget)and you will connect with others.

Relax, don't take yourself too seriously and enjoy the process.

I have had 4 blogs. One was a dream come true that ended badly (Donna remembers that Wry one), another is a great idea still noodling around in my head, and the two I have now: one with most of my published columns and the one I currently have which I have pretty much ignored (of late) because of deadlines, a full time job and a third novel rewrite, (I've changed the POV and I am loving it...again).

Like I said, NIKE, just do it.

Amy Schaefer said...

Christina Seine: it can't hurt to include your Small Potatoes credit in your bio. It is always nice to be able to show that someone other than your mom liked your work. As for using a pen name, Janet has covered the topic before, so you should be able to find posts in the archives. She suggests signing a query letter with: Christina Seine, writing as Jasmine Silkyshirt.

As Colin has clarified the way of things on Carkoon, I should draw back the curtain on Paradise. But just a little; the Paradise branch thrives on mystery. It is a tiny island in the South Pacific that is both here and not-here. It is a Second Star on the Left kind of place. Paradise can be reached one of two ways: either physically (by boat, which can take weeks), or mentally (much quicker, but more painful). Those taking the mental route generally fall into Paradise through a photograph, powered by their own overwhelming longing. Sadly, our mental visitors usually fall back out of Paradise very quickly when they remember that travelling here is Impossible. It is sad to see; we enjoy seeing their happy shades when they manifest under the palms.

Occasionally, proprietress Atoll Amy sends beautiful photos of her domain out into the world. This is both a public service to grant more people temporary access to Paradise, and a self-serving way to keep the island powered. Paradise Power & Water is fueled by the longing of our far-away guests. So keep dreaming, my friends. Mama needs the dishwasher to work.

Colin Smith said...

What Amy failed to tell you is that the burning hot suns of Carkoon are kindled by those pictures of Paradise. Such is life on the exile planet.

And as for Jasmine Silkyshirt--does she write 50 SHADES fan fiction? ;)

Anonymous said...

Carolynn, yeah, Wry Writer as I knew you is definitely a blast from your past. Still miss referring to you like that and the blog. But, we move on and your new one is great.

I was reading about all the rules above as far as blogging (some exaggerated I know) and I've never followed any rules. I just write something when I feel like writing something (although I do try and stay within a four to five day cycle of posting) and tend to ramble on about writing and my troubles or successes doing so with the occasional personal post with Little Dog or pictures I take or something I've baked or..., you get the picture.

I use WordPress - which is free. But I do pay for my domain name ( from Go Daddy and a couple other things I forget at the moment. I've linked the domain to WordPress - somehow. Darned if I can remember at the moment, and I doubt it matters. I've thought of stopping. But, then I get another follower or two, and I feel guilty.

That's my blogging input. Which is off topic. And Colin's talking to himself again.

Michael Seese said...

"Vommenter." If ever a word NEEDED to exist....

Karen McCoy said...

Colin's second head: Very valid points indeed--I wished I got up to 1000 views a day (most of my posts are in the low 100s). Perhaps we should get balls of wax and kettles of fish together to see what happens?

DLM said...

I kind of both love and am a bit embarrassed that "vomment" is still a thing. Hee.

Colin, thank you for the link-o-rama, I'm flattered to be an example!

I don't get 30K hits in a day, or even a month, but I've worked hard on that blog and figure when I *am* published and the thing takes off, all of you can feel smug for being early adopters. Being a historical fiction author, content would be dry and limited if I chose to write only about that, as such - so I throw around a lot of links (NETWORKING!) and mix in essays, work, what's up with the writing, and Gossamer the Editor Cat and Penelope the Publishing Pup (that's PubPup for short!) as needed.


As for the writing? Latest update is I've found more agents to query, but am going to let that dictate its own pace while the WIP gets exciting on me. We shall see.

Anonymous said...

But as Christina rightfully pointed out -- The Cuckoo's Calling (despite its clear sociological impact) did not perform as expected (aka failed) until it was revealed that she had written it.

The interesting part about this little experiment IMHO is how we in the art community (and I mean all art communities) seem to stand firm to the belief that good art rises above all -- no matter what. As it turns out, marketing and promotion and publicity cannot alone make a ship float. (Either that or books are so dang fickle that JK should have waited a half century to see what happened to the book first).

Personally, I always wonder on this notion in relevance to what everyone has been discussing - the permanent-ness of the internet as a whole. In my mind, by the time I've sold a boatload of manuscripts and movie rights heavy enough to sink the whole of Carkoon, I'll probably be surrounded by some pretty smart people who could squash my young and naive college political ramblings (and don't search for them, because you'll NEVER find them).

I guess my point is -- marketing covers a multitude of sins. Both previously committed violations on the perma-net as well as miskeys and texts-from-last-night when in the center of the public eye.

After all -- Hemmingway was probably an a$$hole and no one seemed to mind... :)

All this to say -- start your blog. Throw caution to the wind. And enjoy the heck out of it. Leave the damage control to your fleet of lawyers after your fifth trilogy makes millions. :)

Unknown said...

Fair enough about the tiger and the antelope, but I honestly believe that anyone mean enough to hold a person's teenage efforts against them is not a person you'd want or need in your life. Writing is a lifetime journey and we all start somewhere around silly, dreadful or dismal. Anyone in the writing community should have the sense to recognize that.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Go Jenny !

Colin Smith said...

Jenny: I agree. While I'm not surprised that people can behave that way, thankfully a lot of people don't, and, as you say, those that do are not the kind of people you need to be hanging around.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

(wanders in, hair exploded, through the quietness of the morning after. skims through the vomments again)

well, THAT was totally unexpected. One innocent little remark in response to the blog and previous commenters. I felt like I was in the midst of my IRL gazillion cousins daring me to do something! But, woke up this morning with a little vignette in my head. Guess I'd best dust off that digital page. A new blog is coming.

Great community here, Janet.