I'm not sure where this week went. Getting back to a regular schedule after several weeks of events, travel, and a reading retreat has been harder than I thought. WELCOME but harder. Next up is BEA but that's in town (so no travel involved) and actually does feel a bit more like work than closing down the bar at Malice does!
In the week in review for last week, there was a lot of discussion of fan fiction and copyright.
Megan V had very useful information to add:
Generally, Fan Fiction (particularly fan fiction that is for sale!) IS a copyright violation. It falls under what's known as derivative works. A derivative work is a new work that includes aspects of a preexisting, already copyrighted work.
There are two typical exceptions:
2. Fair use
Fan fiction works that are not for sale might have a good case for fair use. But if fan fiction doesn't fall under these exceptions, then it's probably in violation the original author's copyright.
If you want more details- check out some great scholarly articles on the the topic. I recommend Michelle Chatelain's Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Copyright Law: Fan Fiction, Derivative Works, and
the Fair Use Doctrine, 15 Tul. J. Tech. & Intell. Prop. 199, 202 (2012). (She argues that even Fan-Fiction that is sold falls under fair use -stating that fan-fic is unlikely to commandeer the market of the original)
That said, authors tend to turn a blind eye to fan fiction or even encourage it when the fan-fic author isn't trying to hoodwink the world- hence the muddling. It's just up to the author to enforce the copyright.
Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli asked:
All the comments about Fan Fic and copyright infringement spurred me to wonder how agents and publishers deal with it. What is done to protect the rights? A self-pubbed author should consider this before publishing. They stand alone. But the team who sells a book and represents an author and their own investments (the publishing house), what do they do? What about audiobooks put illegally on Youtube? What happens? Does the author-agent-publisher team hire lawyers and sue, actually receive money?
There's a difference between outright theft (audio books on YouTube) and fan fic. The publishing contract an author signs spells out what happens if any kind of lawsuit for infringement is contemplated (fan fact is infringement as is outright theft) Generally the infringement has to be something pretty major to warrant a lawsuit. The outright theft stuff is easier: the rights holder files a notice with YouTube that the material hasn't been properly cleared. It's called a Take Down Notice. This kind of theft is so common now that filing these kinds of notices is almost routine.
I must confess my jaw dropped when I first read this from Dena Pawling:
And DLM, happy bday to Gossamer! My youngest is 16 tomorrow and she wanted her ears pierced for her bday, so that's where we went yesterday.
Because I thought it was her cat getting pierced ears. Then I realized that some people have these things called "children" by which I mean not-cats.
AJ Blythe asked:
Question for Janet... I'm writing cozies so when I saw the announcement of Best First Novel (Agatha Awards) I bought it. I figure it must be a good example of where to set the bar for a debut, yes/no? In your exalted position as QOTKU would you recommend this as a strategy? Or is just reading widely in genre enough?
Very much recommend. I think you should read all the finalists (there are usually five) for Best First and Best Novel. You should also keep an eye out for the Macavity Awards which also tend to be cozier than the Edgar list.
On Monday, I posted some suggestions for how to interact with my ilk when you meet us in the wild.
S.D.King has demonstrated her desire to join the exiles on Carkoon:
If I drank, the plan would be: hang out at writers' conferences, wearing a prominent "Janet Reid" name tag.Nobody knows what she looks like, and I could request fulls from everybody. Happy all around. (until Monday morning email at Fine Print.)
The Sleepy One asked:
1. If an agent read a full from an author but rejected it (versus just rejecting a query), is it okay for a writer to mention it? I might be in this exact situation at a writing conference in June. (Note: I've never queried Janet, so she's not the agent in question.) I also don't want to create an awkward situation.
2. Would the advice change if the agent's rejection on a full also said she wanted you to query her with future projects?
Here's where you all need to remember that there's a difference between how you start a conversation, and where a conversation can end up. If the conversation flows in such a way that mentioning a previous submission fits in, well, have at it. But STARTING the conversation here is a bad idea.
If you meet an agent, start with something that's about him/her, NOT about you. And try not to steer the conversation toward your work. This is easier if there are more than two people in the conversation of course.
On Tuesday we talked about calls to writers that were not offers of representation, i.e. not The Call.
brianrschwarz summed up the situation handily:
It's easy to get caught up in "the way" it happens in the internet age. First you query, then you submit pages, then you get the call, then.... ect. When really, this isn't THE way, it's A way it happens. And everybody has a slightly different way and some strange circumstances that go with it. If by some mastery of luck and fate I end up with an agent, my story would include self publishing a novel by accident when I won a contest and didn't understand what self publishing was, going to BEA without a clue or a finished book, and submitting a manuscript to an agent and later withdrawing it to submit another...
Stephen Kozeniewski's story made us all groan with sympathy:
I once got a call from an agent. It was 7:00 pm on a Tuesday. My wife was working late so I was alone. It was a little late to get calls, and I don't get many calls in general anyway. I squinted at the phone, not recognizing the number, but, okay, I generally answer even if it's a telemarketer, just to make sure it's not something important."Hello, is this Steve?"I was a little bit groggy. It had been a long day."Yes.""Hi, this is Agent X."I sat bolt upright on the couch."Yes, hello!""Agent X with Agency Y.""Yes, yes, I know who you are.""Well, you sent me a query a little while ago.""Yes, I remember!""Well, I just wanted to call to let you know that you forgot to put your email address on the submission form. So I couldn't e-mail you back. But we're passing.""Oh...okay...thanks for calling.""Okay, take care, Steve."
On Wednesday we talked about prioritizing agents to query based on where they've sold work previously.
I like what Elissa M said:
Maybe I'm dense, but I don't pay much attention to what publishers an agent makes her sales.
When researching an agent, I make a list of her clients' books. I go to the bookstore and see if the books are on the shelves. I examine the books and buy the ones that look interesting to me. (I can't tell you how many great reads I've found this way.) If I I like the books, that agent goes on my list of agents to query.
It's pretty simple, really. A good agent will have clients whose books are easy to find and purchase. Otherwise, what's the point?
And honest to godiva, some of these posts are just pure prose poems. Like this from Christian Seine:
Sometimes I listen to my kids talk around the dinner table making their plans for the future and think of us woodland creatures ...
Oldest son: Well when I grow up, I'm going to drive a Lamborghini.
Mom: Sure you will, honey.
Youngest son: Well when *I* grow up, I am going to have a limousine, with a driver who knows kung fu and parkour. And it will have an ice cream bar and a button you can push and Nerds (candy) come out. And a thing to rub my feet.
Mom: Ooh, I'll have to drive with you often.
Oldest daughter: Stupids, you'll be lucky to drive a beat up old car like mine.
Mom: (takes a bite of food so no one can hear her laughing)
Other daughter: Not me, because by then Mom will have sold a bunch of books and we'll be bazillionaires. And I'll get my Harley. A red one.
Mom: *chokes on food*
Youngest daughter: Mommy are you okay? Can I do the Heimlich on you? I know it, because one time on Power Puff Girls this guy was choking and ...
Youngest boy: Power Puff Girls are stupid.
Youngest girl: YOU'RE stupid.
Oldest daughter: *snaps photo of choking mom with iPhone and posts it to Instagram.*
The point being, sure I *hope* I get a Lamborghini agent, or even a cool yellow Mustang agent, or especially a Dukes of Hazard car agent. But in reality I'll be beyond thrilled with a slightly dinged-up SUV agent that could use a new radio and a good detailing, because I know they'll get me where I need to go.
The conversation then veered off in to agent who are also writers. I like what bjmuntain said:
Rather than worry about what an agent does in their off time, it's more important to find out what they do in their 'on' time. That's what the research is for. When you get 'the Call' (and you can't copyright titles or phrases :P [though I know of a trademark owner that got out of hand - ask if you want that story]) - as Janet said, that's when you find out if you can trust the agent and what the agent will do for you. You could even ask, "If you ever decide to leave agenting for any reason, what would happen to me?"
Given that I spend considerable time on this blog, and over at QueryShark, I hope no one will fail to query me cause I'm busy writing something other than rejection letters.
And I should also mention that the discipline required to write every day, to be clear about explaining things, and to have to justify or defend a position, well, all those things made me a better writer. And being a better writer, learning how to be a better writer, makes it easier for me to figure out what does/doesn't work in novels. And it gives me some sympathy for those of you staring at a blank page thinking "what the hell am I doing here."
And yes, most agents who write for publication have an agent to represent their interests. Often it's an agent not with the same agency.
and to wind up the day perfectly, Her Grace, the Duchess of Kneale asked:
Colin, if you're wearing your underpants on your head, where are you wearing your mismatched socks?
Like the revolution, I hope the answer will NOT be televised.
On Thursday the topic turned to the hybrid author (one who publishes independently, and one who publishes traditionally)
AJ Blythe asked a good question:
What issues are there with having contracts for previous books? Surely the agent only has to worry about the books that come from the first contracted to them?
Sadly, no. The contract with the FIRST publisher often governs what can happen next. There are two contract clauses that can trip up the unwary: the option clause and the competing works clause.
The option clause gives the FIRST publisher the right to look at "the next book" and often provides a time frame for it. That can mean the author can't publish anything until the option clause at the first publisher is satisfied. A badly drawn option clause can mean you NEVER get to publish anywhere else again.
The competing works clause says you can't publish anything that diminishes the value of the work being licensed in the contract. Depending on how that clause is worded, and the expectations of the publisher, ANY work can be seen as diminishing the value of the book.
There's a reason I demand that my clients show me all contracts they sign and you're looking at it. Even if I'm not the agent of record on a deal, I am my CLIENT'S agent, and my job is to watch out for obstacles in their career path. If they want to jump over them, great. My job is simply to point out where they are.
Maybe the agent would still want to untangle the mess if sales were stellar.
Chances of that are slim to none. If sales are stellar, a publisher has ZERO motivation to alter or amend the contract. Often too, these contracts are garbage because the publishers don't know what they're doing and resist all efforts by some whippersnapper hot shot agent to "fix" things.
Amanda Capper said:
My agent-less contract with the publisher was for only the one book. Should I mention that in the query? I'm thinking it wouldn't hurt. This publisher would have nothing to do with any further books I produce. I also retained movie rights. Ever the optimistic possum.
Unless an agent can see the contract, it's hard to say. Just mention that your book was published by X Publisher. We know there's a contract with the deal. If an agent is interested she'll ask. This of course means you KEEEP a copy of the contract (yes, I've had people tell me they didn't.)
On Friday, we discussed withdrawing a query, and more important, how to evaluate if you're actually ready to query.
I posted a picture of my files that showed one for withdrawn manuscripts.
AJ Blythe asked:
The fact you keep the withdrawn mss is a little scary. Do you look at them when the resub is done? If not, why keep them?
First, I keep them so I can tally how many ms I requested/rejected/sent back for revision etc. in a given year. Second, that file is for emails about the manuscript. If someone withdraws their ms, I keep those on file for awhile cause the writer often turns up again, and I can easily see what my comments were (if any).
I don't keep reading the ms, nor do keep it to compare to the new one. Even if that seemed like a good idea, it's simply not possible to do that because of the time it would take.
Matt Blythe makes a good point, one I should have thought of:
But I do think there's a key point missing from Janet's list, which is that after you've completed the flowchart, you have to be willing to stop. You can make it as good as you can make it, but you'll never make it perfect, so you do have to willing to admit that. Plus, by the time you're through with all that level of editing, you're going to pretty much hate the thing. So tell yourself when you've done all you can do, you're sending it out. That's a key step, too. The willingness to face the rejections.
On Saturday, the topic was what does "send a list of submissions" mean.
Rob Ceres had a line that's going to get a mini-rant here:
I too would be sorely tempted to say none of your business, but isn’t that a bit of biting the hand that feeds you?
Let's just all remember that YOU the WRITER are the hand that FEEDS US, THE AGENTS. YOUR work is what I sell. YOUR work is what readers buy. YOUR work earns my living. It's easy to forget that, particularly at the query stage when so much of this is new and strange, but it's really important that you do NOT.
I agree with Rob that asking this, particularly at the query stage puts the writer in a tough position. And that SAYS SOMETHING!!!! about the agent who's asking.
The Sleepy One brought up a good point:
One agent asked if any publishers had seen my manuscript. She didn't request the manuscript before I said no.
That's a question I should ask cause it really does make a difference to me. If a prospective client has already sent this to editors at the major publishers, it's a less enticing project than one with a clean slate. I always forget to ask, and in fact signed a client only to learn during the submission process that several of my first choice editors had already seen the project. (Not a good day here)
Miscellaneous items from the week:
Susan Bonifant said:
It's not fun to be fearsome.
Oh yes it is!
bjmuntain's comment on marketing should be required reading for every writer. In fact, you should copy it, paste it to a new document, print it out, post it above your desk and memorize it. Today. Right now. In fact, there might be a test.
There's a huge difference between self-promotion and marketing.
Self-promotion: Buy my book!!!!!
- blog posts on similar topics
- chats with possible readers about topics covered in your novel
- book trailers (but only if they're done so well that people will enjoy them without ever reading your book)
- finding your audience and engaging with them
- finding a need your book fills, then talking about that need
- the big marketing slogan these days is: Engage, engage, engage.
You're right. 'Buy my book spam' sucks. I like how Sam Sykes does his on Twitter. He'll be talking about something totally different, answering other people with made-up conversations, and the conversation will end with 'Buy my book' just thrown in as a sarcastic afterthought. And you won't see it coming, so it's hilarious. He does other types of marketing, of course, but I don't think I've ever seen him use 'Buy my book' seriously. Unless he includes the word 'seriously'. Which is also just funny.
The ones that say, "My book is out! Buy it!" are okay when the book first comes out, sort of as an announcement to your current followers who - you might believe - will also be excited. After the initial excitement, marketing gets more nose-to-the-grindstone, less 'Buy my book!' Or you'll drive off all the folks who have been reading all your posts and are now tired of that message.
Thanks to LynnRodz for a new word: sosie!
And brianrschwarz provided this week's phrase I'd use as my blog subheading, except I don't think Blogger will let me:
I hardly ever swear...
But fuck the odds. ;)
And honestly, the week is just not complete unless Julie Weathers cracks me up:
Even after we finished talking about the book, the conversation continued on about how he done her wrong. I excused myself, saying I had an appointment to get my wrists slashed.
For those of you having a hard time on Mother's Day because your mom is gone, or you don't have children, or both, I posted something on my Facebook page about how I'll be responding to "Happy Mother's Day" greetings.