Yes, this is filled with whisky

Yes, this is filled with whisky

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

So, how do you get paid for your time?

 How do you get paid for your time?  

I don't.
And you can't buy it either.

I get paid for results.
I sell your book, I get 15% of the proceeds.

All of the work you see here on the blog, or that you get at a conference is unpaid.
Why would anyone do that you ask?
Well, I ask myself that question sometimes too.

The real answer is: the value of something is not always measured by what you're paid for it.
I value the camaraderie here on the blog more than any amount I'd be able to charge you to read it.

I value the thanks I receive from writers who've been helped by QueryShark more than any amount of money.

I value how much I've learned about writing by having to write this blog.

I value how I've learned to explain things by answering questions.

I value the varying perspectives I've heard from the comments on the blog posts.

And you simply can not put a dollar amount on how wonderful it is to be one of the first readers of amazing new books. To have a hand in shaping them. To have a big hand in helping that book find more readers. To be a stalwart source of information and expertise for the writers of those books.

There's a lot that money can't buy. My time is just one of them.

 

93 comments:

french sojourn said...


"I value how much I've learned about writing by having to write this blog."

and to reciprocate, how much we have learned from reading it.

Cheers Hank.

Marc P said...

This is a great comment and you are extremely good to do what you do. I am not sure people realise how much work goes in to reading and critiquing things. Well reading is easy but not with a mind that a critique is to follow. It's harder work to do that sometimes than to write the thing that is being critiqued. So hats off to you for all that you do! :) Rhyme not intended. And how great Publishing is generally!

AJ Blythe said...

I've heard people ask why have an agent when you have to part with 15% of your profits? All those reasons you've just given are why. To have someone so passionate about what they do, with a wealth of knowledge, who is in your corner... worth every cent of that 15%.

As Hank said, I value everything I've learnt here, and I value the camaraderie as well. Thanks, JR!

Nikola Vukoja said...

Damn I love this post!

W.R. Gingell said...

Ew, yes, AJ! I hate to hear people complaining about the 15% agents get, and saying that it's not value for money. To have an enthusiastic agent on your side is worth more than money can buy. IMHO, to trade publish without an agent is crazy.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Echoing what the others have said. Money can't buy the knowledge, wisdom, and earthy humor found here--on the blog and in the comments. I enjoy starting my day on this blog.

CynthiaMc said...

This my favorite post yet. My life is full of things that can't be paid for except in full hearts and sound sleep at night. Yes, I would like more of the things money can buy but not at the price of my soul. Hopefully the twain shall meet in an acceptable place for both of us.

Kitty said...

We love you, too, Janet.

P.S. I didn't enter the last flash fiction contest because my mind was preoccupied. (My daughter got married!)

S.P. Bowers said...

Your time is a gift, as with many gifts, it's priceless.

french sojourn said...


I love the concept of how you find a book, a voice as it were and you immortalize it. You have a hand in sharing it with the world, and releasing it to the readers, and to time.

Different thing, but I always loved building clients houses. Starting from plans and team building, liaising with the consultants, inspectors, and clients. Then watching it take shape. I miss it, it was the closest to me giving the gift of life...now writing fills that need. Such a cool post. Thanks for sharing.

Colin Smith said...

I'm sure there are agents in the world whose efforts are NOT worth that 15%; you certainly are not one of them. Writing blog articles for every day can be very time consuming... and the WiR?! Not only does that involve reading EVERY comment (and it appears you do read EVERY comment), but interacting with our daily insanity. All this as well as keeping up with your clients whom you love even more than us--and rightly so! :)

This does touch on a topic that has intrigued almost to the point of bugging me... but it's a bit sensitive so I've been afraid to ask. But you know what? Caution to the wind. If it's too sensitive, you don't have to answer. It's your blog, Janet! Here goes:

How exactly does a Literary Agency work? We know agents get 15% of revenue earned by the author from his/her books. But what about a new agent just building a client list? Do they not get any income until they sell a client's book? Or do agents get a base salary from the agency and add to that from their 15%? I'm not necessarily looking for specifics of say, FPLM, but as much as you can generalize what appears to be standard practice in the publishing world. To what extent might pay draw an agent away from one agency to another? If an agent's sole income is that 15%, why might an agent leave one agency for another? Money's always a touchy subject, so if you'd like to leave that one alone, I understand. However, I don't think I've seen this addressed anywhere else... :)

OK, back to the slugs. You may think hydrating thousands of mollusks in the salt mines of Carkoon is easy work. But these things have fangs and are as big as eggplants. This isn't a problem while they're dry and shrivelly since they're pretty lethargic... but once you water them, they become like... well... sharks around chum. They do keep the ROUS population down, though. Ah, ecology! :)

Marc P said...

Agents don;t leave companies for more percentages Colin. Some charge less and some more but 15% percent for books is quite common, for tv 10/12-5/15 %. An agent is like a company in that it is her or his list that is their revenue provider in the main. Within agencies there are profit shares and with larger agencies management roles and etc... Agents would only probably move for personality reasons and or for opportunities to specialise in certain areas. Writers go with agents pretty much always when they move remember. Sorry Janet... jumping in invited! :(

Marc P said...

Uninvited I meant.. and I hear these waters are dangerous!

french sojourn said...


Colin; in answer to your mollusk dilemma...it's simple your cologne should be "Eau de Ail" (oh - d - eye) or scent of garlic...for some reason a little garlic, basil, and liberal amounts of butter makes em real skittish around hot water.

Colin Smith said...

Marc: Yes, 15% is indeed pretty much the standard percentage for agents. And I could see an agency wanting to attract an agent with a pretty cool list. But what enticement would they use? There seems to be a lot of inter-agency camaraderie. For example, Janet and Barbara Poelle are best buds, but does that mean Barbara wants to join FPLM, or Janet join Irene Goodman? I don't think so. If there's a base salary involved, that might be an incentive. Janet has said previously (to me, rather sternly--which makes me hesitant to bring it up), that Mr. Rubie is NOT her boss. In which case, the only promotion options appear to be Intern to Associate Agent/Junior Agent to Agent. It seems each agent is his/her own manager, which makes any offer of a management position a bit pointless.

Other types of agencies may follow certain practices. I keep getting the impression, however, that literary agencies are different. Maybe they aren't. And while money may not be a driving factor for why agents do what they do, it's still a business, and they have to generate income to keep the company bar stocked.

Thanks for your thought, Marc... but I still have questions! :)

Colin Smith said...

Hank: Now that's an interesting suggestion. I need to get myself a zkink. These are small, ferret-like creatures that let off an odor very much like garlic when alarmed. They tend to feed at night, so I know what I'll be up to after suns-down. :) Thanks!

This job's getting more like The Legend of Zelda every day. Oh for some water bombs, arrows, and a hawk-eye mask... ;)

Julia said...

Good Morning, Megalodon and Fellow Sharkbites -

1) AMEN, SISTAH!!!
2) I, too, adore this post and am so grateful it's here. When I figure out how to shoehorn infinite time into finite time, I'm going to post a list (constantly updated) of my Top Hundred Carcharodon Posts. And this will be way, way up there.
3) Doing my Conf homework today. Bite me if I'm here too much.

MWAH!!! I recently realized how good life was and how much you all add to it. :) Have Spectacular Days. Maybe Julie will post a Stupid Julie Story.

Squidward

Marc P said...

It's like a partnership is a better way of thinking of it Colin. Think of Boston Legal. I often think of Boston Legal. I loved Boston Legal. In fact rather than keep thinking of Boston Legal I am going to see if I can buy the whole series and start watching them from the beginning. I think that clears up any further questions for you. It's worth it just for the Jibber Jabber Judge alone.

Jillian said...

wonderful post! This was a joy to read.

Karen McCoy said...

Preach! Some of the best aspects of life cannot be measured or categorized. What matters is what's found in the inbetween. You've impacted a large number of people, and I'm sure it will carry on to countless others.

brianrschwarz said...

See, this is why you're the best Janet!

And I agree with W.R. and AJ. While we're lamenting the woes of an agent taking 15%, lets also lament the radio station for getting ad money between songs... how dare they not remain pure and provide a service for free that helps artists reach/make millions. And also those dang unions, for taking dues when they negotiate contracts with big companies. Anyone could do that. Jeez. Oh, and the sales guy from Big Box Electronics for taking a 15% cut on the television he sold me. Why should he get PAID for the work he does?

*heavy sarcasm rant over*

Love the work you do Janet. You're teeth may be sharp like knives but your heart is soft like butter.


Marc P said...

Getting the deal is only the tip of the iceberg of the work an agent does for her or his 15%. In no way is the situation like a realtor, or as we like to politely call them over here Estate Agents.

Colin Smith said...

Marc: Ummm... I've never watched Boston Legal. :) But perhaps it is like a law firm? I don't know. Like I said, literary agencies may be like other types of agencies (or partnerships)--but I get the impression they aren't.

Colin Smith said...

So, if realtors deal in real estate, do fantasy writers deal in unreal estate? :)

Marc P said...

No.. they are Colin. But then again every agency is different. Idiosyncricity is the watchword. And Boston Legal has James Spader and Captain Kirk. It's a recipe better than any you will find in Martha Stewarts cookbooks!

Marc P said...

Fantasy writers deal in the building blocks of the imagination! ;)

Colin Smith said...

And if there isn't a Boss in a Literary Agency, who handles hiring and firing? Do all the agents get together and decide--vote on it? I've never worked in that kind of business, so I'm genuinely curious.

Marc P said...

Boss is a loaded word. There are Managing directors, Partners.. majority shareholders etc. But they will shape overall strategy and etc... not boss the agents as it were. And there are differing levels of agents of course. Autonomy within hierarchy. Really depend on the agency, how big or... not small, never small... boutique they are I guess.

Colin Smith said...

Marc: But bottom line, who decides to invite Marsha Q. Buttonweezer to be an Associate Agent? Who determines that Poodah Z. Buttonweezer isn't pulling his weight and needs to go? Who decides the company logo needs to change, or the business needs new office space, or the agents need to start getting 16%, not 15%? Is it one person, or a team? Some partnerships have senior partners who, I presume, would assume responsibility for such decisions. And maybe some literary agencies have senior agents..?

This all leads back to my original question: how does a literary agency work? How do they make decisions? How do they pay their agents--salary & income from clients, or just income from clients? How do they handle HR issues? Most literary agencies seem to chug along without any major personnel issues, but I assume they have procedures in place to deal with them should they occur...?

Colin Smith said...

"All of the work you see here on the blog, or that you get at a conference is unpaid."

Janet--I presume you mean by this that FPLM doesn't pay you for going to the conference. If my work sent me to a conference, I would still be paid for a day's work each day I'm out. Not so with a Literary Agency--correct? However, the conference organizers take care of your travel and accommodation, yes?

And people wonder why Janet's blog is so popular. Where else could you ask these questions? :)

Colin Smith said...

And in case anyone's wondering--NO, I'm not interesting in becoming an agent. I'm not nearly well-read enough, and my phone skills are worse than bad. But I've wondered these things for a while now... and there may well be people out there in Lurkville who are considering a career as a literary agent who might be interested to know how agencies work.

brianrschwarz said...

Colin,

Are the rumors true that Carkoon hires un-literary agents? Where knowing things about books puts you at the bottom of the pile?

If so, I'd like to officially submit my application. It's four words, no address or phone number and just a single job qualification:

I don't read books.

Did I win? ;)

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

This line - "...the value of something is not always measured by what you're paid for it." - is a wonderful reminder for writing and for life in general. Maybe the next blog header?

SiSi said...

We live in a world where businesses and individuals work hard to monetize pretty much everything. Thank you for being a stellar exception to that business creed. I can't imagine anyone reading the blog thinks otherwise about you, but you wrote an elegant explanation for anyone who didn't know. This should be required reading in business schools!

Donnaeve said...

You choose a dress, and then don't like it. You choose another, and another, and finally, you have on "the one." Then you decide on the pair of shoes, not that pair, these, no, maybe those. You carefully apply makeup, paying special attention to shadow to make your eyes stand out. You apply the just the right hint of lipstick. The comes the jewelry, this necklace or not, those earrings, or not, this pair because they add a special glitter to your eyes. A spritz of perfume, and you're done.

You walk downstairs, and your husband WHISTLES. It makes you feel great that you took the time and care to look nice, and he noticed. You go to an event and you are complimented many times over and again, you're glad you took great care. It's so nice to get those compliments. It makes you feel good, right?

Now, think about that book you've written. The one you've nurtured, torn apart, cussed at, given up on, started over, tweaked, picked over, changed, finally finished. And an agent says, "I love it."

Yeah, the dress scenario times a bazillion for the "feel good" that gives you.

"There's a lot that money can't buy. My time is just one of them."

The other thing money can't buy? That feeling you get when an agent wants to partner with you. 15%? I'd give more and then some, given the dedication and true love most of these folks have for the art of writing.

Colin Smith said...

Brian: I have mentioned before that literary skill is not a prized talent here on Carkoon, which is why most of the blog readers wouldn't get signed by most literary agencies here, and why LynnRodz spends her days editing dino porn. (Speaking of which, someone misunderstood what that was and sent a particularly disturbing piece of Flintstones fan fiction. C'mon--even Carkoon has standards!) From that I would presume that most Carkoon literary agencies don't require much by way of literary experience from their agents. The main problem for non-Carkoonians is the fact that to be resident here you have to be exiled. I don't think you've had that dubious pleasure yet, Brian, have you? If not, I'm sure QOTKU would be happy to oblige... :)

Julie.M.Weathers said...

Janet,

Thank you for posting this. The next time someone rants about "the Man" and how unfair traditional publishing is and people are stupid to scramble to get an agent, I will point them to this.

Janet didn't mention the time she spends on queries, on partials and fulls, and sometimes the back and forth with people who aren't her clients. When an agent requests a revise and resend, they have no guarantee the person won't take that valuable advice to improve their manuscript and go with another agent. Sometimes it takes more than one R&R. There are still no guarantees. It could turn out the person goes with someone else or they simply can't get the manuscript to a marketable place. Or, the agent may decide they just aren't in love with it enough proceed with an offer of rep.

I know people personally this has happened to. The agent and author just never hit that sweet spot and move on.

The agent gets nothing for his or her time.

The agent has to deal with not only clients, but also publishers and other agents. I read a postcard written by Jack Kerouac to Viking recently. They were dawdling on a contract regarding a book they wanted. He informed them they would either get it together and get him a contract and advance or return his manuscript and they were done. "I'd rather it be unpublished than demeaned."


Colin,

I don't know how real estate agencies work, but I can tell you how real estate works. The agent is an independent contractor. They don't get paid until they close a deal. The agency takes a cut out of the agent's commission, so that huge check the seller thinks the agent is getting is really half that.

The agent doesn't get paid until a deal closes. Period.

In my case when I had an agency, they also didn't get paid until they checked the sign back in from the property. I had a check list of things they had to do to close a property and everything had to be done before they funded.

Agents thought it was a horrible policy, but they stopped leaving signs on properties that they didn't have to pay for.

"So, if realtors deal in real estate, do fantasy writers deal in unreal estate? :)"

As a fantasy writer, creating an intriguing world: magic system, religions, cultures, political systems, and the world itself is my stock in trade.

I research heavily, even for fantasy. The Sarmatian light cavalry engaged in a very successful war against the Roman legions for a long time. Their society revolved around their expansive horse herds. Even their armor was made of pieces of horse hoof and pieced together so that it looked like a tightly closed pine cone.

I combined bits of Celtic lore and history with the Sarmatians and added in military tactics of Mosby's Rangers and J.E.B. Stuart to create one of my cultures in Far Rider. Then I took the story of the teenaged Jewish resistance fighters in WWII and said, what if this were a fantasy?

I know you were joking, but I think a fantasy writer often draws from history, mythology, and lore to help create their worlds. Tolkien certainly did.

Incorporeal is our middle name. I have a quote on my twitter profile. "One of the god makers and world destroyers. (aka epic fantasy writer.)"

Colin Smith said...

Point of Clarification: My comment about LynnRodz editing dino porn was not meant to reflect upon LynnRodz, but upon the quality of submissions here. Indeed, the only reason LynnRodz has such a squalid job as part of her exile is she's too good a writer to be published here.

Julia said...

Oh, dear.
It seems to be devolving.

brianrschwarz said...

Colin,

Oh I was exiled on the first day I emerged from lurking to propose the QOTKU was wrong... bad move... I've been thirsty ever since... :D

Also, for those trapped in the query trenches, search twitter for hashtag #MSWL today to see what editors and agents are looking for in their inbox! But be SURE to query them normally. Use the hashtag as a way to further research what agents/editors are looking for right now and not to pitch your book! :)

Colin Smith said...

Julie: That's interesting. I've often heard one of the advantages of writing fantasy is that you don't need to research--you're creating the whole world, so you are your own encyclopedia of that universe. HOWEVER, you raise an excellent point. For a fantasy world to be relatable, it needs to be believable to some extent. In other words, the more it feels like the real thing, the more accepting the reader will be of its more fantastical elements. Which is why those who are well-versed in history, folklore, and mythology tend to write better fantasy. While they are writing about unreal estate, they have their feet planted in real estate (or, in the case of myth and folklore, estate that resonates with real people). :)

Colin Smith said...

Brian: Yes, I remember now. Ha! Well... if you're in need of work, the slush pile here at Fuzzy Print is getting a bit out of control. We keep the pile in our new location: the fourth cave after the water hole. Pick up some gloves at reception and have at it! If you're desperately thirsty, we do have coffee-ish. Or tea-ish if you prefer. :)

Colin Smith said...

I need to be keeping a list of all Carkoon exiles--so easy to lose track. Oh Mighty QOTKU, am I correct in thinking Amy's brief exile has been terminated thanks to her securing an agent? After all her credibility on Carkoon is shot now. ;)

Joseph Snoe said...

I was wondering the other day how you found the time to write this blog (since I'm a slow typist and I daydream ideas too long, it'd take me hours a day to do it; and my cat is attracted by the sounds of my keyboard clacking, which delays me more).

Before I forget, I do appreciate and thank you for this blog and for Query Shark. I've spent hours over days and weeks reading Query Shark - I'm still searching for a way to do all those things in one page. There ought to be a bumper sticker that reads, "Don't judge a book by its query letter."

I can almost hear you count your blessings as I thought about you writing today's entry. It made me do the same for my work (?). I'd say at least half of what I do is not required and I get no extra compensation for it, and only the people involved (usually students or former students) even know about it.


Anyway, thanks for today's entry. You answered the question in two words. It was the rest of the entry that mattered.

Theresa said...

What a wonderful post! It seems that the people most committed to their professions engage in this kind of unpaid work. We can only hope that some day Janet is repaid by negotiating the mother lode of book deals for a very talented client.

Scott Sloan said...

Your dearest Sharkiness…

Thank you, for your time, and for your consideration!
(8^)>

Steph said...

Adding in my thanks, Janet, for all of your work here and at QueryShark. My writing - and not just in query and story format - has gotten so much sharper (The cover letter I'm sending out to potential employers is working so much better than the query letters I over-eagerly sent out to agents!)

Julie.M.Weathers said...

Colin,

"Julie: That's interesting. I've often heard one of the advantages of writing fantasy is that you don't need to research--you're creating the whole world, so you are your own encyclopedia of that universe."

I'm sure some fantasy writers don't do much research.

The joy is that if I want to have flying enchanted jars, I can. I get to create wonderful cities and worlds. Citadels that float in the clouds or buildings made of molten metal.

However, if my army is traveling horseback, I can't have them covering 200 miles in a day. As a fantasy writer, my world doesn't have to be real, but it must feel real. The more solid details I add in, the closer I come to that goal, I think.

I am having a wonderful time writing the Civil War piece, and yes, I've started the lady bronc riders. I love both stories, but they are challenging. The CW story will be particularly so because my MC's plantation is near Luray, Virginia. The Shenandoah campaign is still studied extensively by military people all over the world. CW enthusiasts will hang me out to dry if I get details wrong.

I posted part of it on B&W and people commented, "A spy wouldn't act like that."

Well, yes she would. That scene was based on a true event.

Shoe sizes were different then. My lady with the small foot wouldn't wear a size five boot.

I have a scene with my spy and smuggler being stopped on her way back from Baltimore by a unit of Zouaves. I had planned on using the 5th New York Zouaves, but their activity in the area would have been later than when I want to start this story. They lost most of their men in the second battle of Bull Run in ten minutes and were disbanded after that. If someone is from NY, they should take great pride in the skill and bravery of this unit.

If I can't reconcile dates and troop movements to coincide when she was traveling, I'll have to use a regular unit.

Writing good historical is more exacting for sure, but hopefully the effort shows in the end product.

Craig said...

I hope it isn't something dire.

Whether it is or isn't I hope you will accept my gratitude for all you have done. The sheer volume of the amount of knowledge you have given us is astounding. I am forever in you debt.

I just hope it isn't something dire.

Marc P said...

Yes Julie .. sometimes Truth is stronger than fiction. Research is a great creative tool especially when it is facts :)

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

At lunch, no time to read comments. I'm going to turn this around. Do I get paid for the time it takes me to turn out a column? He'll no. BUT I value that when I wrote about my dog passing away I got so many emails about from reader's telling there own pet stories. They were heartbreaking, I answered them all and learned that when the animals we love die, the bond we have with does not.
My words helped, I value that a lot. It's priceless.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Pardon the typos, I'm typing on my Kindle rear view mirror. It sux.

Janice Grinyer said...

This is a beautifully written piece - one that is most heartfelt. If you do what you love, then the rewards are boundless. Its very obvious now that you live to read, and love to do so. That is why you are who you are!

And now I know another reason why I have been reading your wise advice for a while; you are a kindred spirit in the literary world of readers :)



nightsmusic said...

So, underneath all those sharky teeth and eyes of steel, beats a heart full of love for us. Shhh...we'll never tell and ruin your image.

REJourneys said...

And this deserves an extra thank you, Janet. This was the first blog I found that pointed me in the right direction for the publishing industry. And let me tell you, there were quite a few articles/blog posts I read that were not as helpful as they were trying to be.

Because of the community here, I have names to look out for when I attend a writing conference. Of course, no one will know who I am and it'll be an awkward "Hey, you!" as people quickly find the need to use the bathroom.

Also, I hope all you Writer's Digest conference goers have fun and safe travels.

I'll be in that neck of the woods in October.

Julia said...

@Julie & Colin, re: Fantasy & Research -

This is one of the dual joys and frustrations of my Angylaidd writing. I spend absolutely immense amounts of time doing research into wildly various things, all of which relate in sometimes anticipated and sometimes unusual ways. In the last year, I've contacted individuals and libraries, looked up online, translated, and/or read from books/magazines/journals & dictionaries, subjects on things such as the following: Welsh translations of certain Biblical verses, in both modern and medieval forms; medieval French literacy rates and topics of interest to those who were NOT in clerical roles AND were literate; climate change in England in the 14th and 15th century; castle design and design changes in England, Scotland and Wales over the 14th - 16th century; how thick an average cathedral wooden door might be; whether Eleanor of Aquitaine was ever herself unfaithful to Henry and who her male companions might have been; angle of incidence of the average English cannon in 1513; weapons used at the Battles of Bosworth and Flodden; and arguments for and against romance in Angels.

You see my point.

It takes up a HUGE amount of my time; you'd be amazed (no you wouldn't; it's an idiom) how hard it is to come up with something truly unique out of whole cloth, but in order to create a world, one needs actual facts. (Shrug)

I'm supposed to be polishing manuscripts.

Yet here I am.

Oops.

Adib Khorram said...

I suppose this structure is why some schmagents take the unethical step of charging reading fees and the like. At Midwest Writers, Janet mentioned that the reading-fee business model could in fact be ridiculously lucrative!

This time the robo-proofer asked me to select the cactus, which bothers me, because there were two cacti.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Julie: everything you say about your books makes me want to read them!

I find myself easily (joyously?) bogged down with research, regardless of what genre I'm writing. Regardless of how central the research topic will be to the story. I can get consumed with minutia like "are Lucky Strike cigarettes still produced?" and "how does getting a wolf or wolf hybrid into a sanctuary work?" and "does cyanide go bad?"

Marc P said...

People say the devil is in the detail and I think that is true in both ways of interpreting the saying. As a writer we are presenting stage sets of a world, the audience don;t need to see every nut and bolt behind it. And whilst we should know as much as we need to know about the world an awful lot of it is going to be metaphorical and relevant to our Universal experience - otherwise there is no point really. With grand fantasy some writers approach the novel as they do a war game and it is clear that some of them are really creating a huge war game manual for their world in a way. Robert Jordan for one... I know he is was hugely successful but I much preferred his original novel to the ongoing saga of what followed. Maybe it is just me.. but in these kind of fantasy novels there is a tendency to go a tad LOST and not have a structured arc in mind for the narrative as a whole. So backstory is important but as a creative writing technique it is a good way to waste a degree of time, for me it is the narrative that is important and in creating worlds that should lead us into discovering the detail. Julie is quite right in terms of historical fiction to get the details right - and that research will often throw up storylines. But as in ART storytelling is using brush strokes to magic the world forth and not using a camera to show every detail. But in truth Robert Jordan has sold more copies of books than I have :)

debradorris said...

To be willing to share your knowledge and expertise with others takes a very special person. Years ago it was the norm. Not so much in today's world.

I'm grateful to have found this blog as well as the QueryShark. You've been a Godsend to me in your inspirational, informative ways, shark teeth and all. :) Your exercises in Flash Fiction help me to understand the importance of concise writing and even though I may not be very good at it yet, I'm actually participating (which is something I thought I'd never, ever attempt).

Thank you for all you do for us, you are much appreciated!

Janice Grinyer said...

debradorris - EXACTLY why I started attempting Flash Fiction too! You only have so much to work with in a short amount of time, and it makes you think of what is important and what isnt while writing! I absolutely suck at it :D but dang it if Im not going to keep trying !

Julia said...

Threadbomb...
For amusement, on Twit... #Tenthingsnottosaytoawriter

Yup.
Dead on.

PS: Marc / Jen - I'm not ever going to put my entire Welsh Biblical translations into the dratted books. Nor am I going to say, "The door to Notre Dame in Paris was 'x' thick in 'y' year." However, you'd better bet that I have an actual Welsh translator telling me that my phraseology is correct when my Welsh Demi-Angel is whispering to his dying son, and when that same son (who - spoiler - made it through) ends up pounding on Westminster's door in the middle of the night trying to save Lady Elizabeth Tudor, whether the guy in the Chapel on the opposite side has a holy chance in you-know-what of hearing him.

So... it isn't that I'm really going to drag boring "Daniel knocked on the sixteen inch oak door" type stuff into the story so much as "Daniel swore as he looked for something harder...," if you see what I mean.

Blast.

Clean Manuscript for Janet.
Clean Manuscript for Janet.
Clean Manuscript for Janet.

Bye.

Julia said...

Seriously.
Is "My kidney failure ate my homework" an acceptable excuse? Because I'm about five weeks behind.

Julia said...

Ugh. Forget the d**n thriller. Save it for MWA in November.
Focus on Angylaidd and get it to a fantasy agent who cares.
Right?
Right.
I mean, it's clean, it's ready, and I poured my guts into it and the three sequels.

But... but...
Thud. <--- my head on the desk.
I SOOOO WANTED THIS READY FOR THIS CONFERENCE!!!

Marc P said...

Damn your hide Julia if I don't want to read that book now! lol. Actually.. am I allowed to say 'Damn your hide" ???? :)

Deb Vlock said...

Janet Reid, this is why I am devoted to you!!!

xox

Julia said...

Staring at one page for thirty minutes does not help me clarify whether line editing it is more useful than rewriting it entirely.

Really.

It doesn't.

And Marc, you can damn my hide all you want. Feel free.

S.D.King said...

When visiting agency websites, they often list their books and authors. Some agents seem to have only one or two authors/books published. And often those are middling authors. I can't imagine how one could live in NYC with a spotty, on again, off again income.

I picture agents holed up in a third floor walk-up, shoebox-at-best studio apartment with only a hot plate and bookshelf - popping and peeling open a can of cat food, and diving into the slush pile they brought home from work - hoping to find the next Rebecca Stead - instead they read my query and sigh.

Meow.

Colin Smith said...

SD: In part, that's what makes me wonder about how agents make money--especially new agents. I can't imagine they would have time to work a second job, but they don't yet have the client list to live off their 15% cut. The other part is the fact I'm incurably inquisitive. Dang my hide! ;)

Julia said...

Er.
OK. Well, I retract. You may darn, dang, or otherwise inoffensively attempt to toss my hide into the flames. But there it ends, Marc, there it ends.

In other news, I taught in a school in AR once in which a parent took offense to the line in some book, not sure what, probably junk, but anyway, she wanted the book stricken entirely from the curriculum, or at least the words changed.

I remember the line, if not the trashy novel, and she wished the line changed to this: "Out, darn spot!"

I don't think she was successful with the school board; but, then again, I could be mistaken.

In any case, I keep trying to remove my post, but it repeatedly lists it as the Carcharodon's post, and I seem to recall it usually listing them as mine when I try to do that. This makes me nervous, so I'm leaving it with my above retraction.

SpongeMcBath

kdjames.com said...

What a wonderful post.

Makes me want to dust off that thriller I've set aside and re-write it into something fabulous that will earn both of us gobs of money. Well, I can dream.

Thank you for all the (unpaid) heavy lifting you do. I hope you continue to find it valuable. We sure do.

Marc P said...

Duly noted Julia, your Hide is Bound henceforth. In future I shall say 'well butter my parsnips I'll be darned like an old sock if I don't wish to read your fantasmagorical novel now!

Melissa Guernsey said...

Thank you for your time.

LynnRodz said...

Janet,

You are one classy lady! I mean it sincerely. I can't tell you how many times I've thought you've gone beyond what anyone would expect you to do for writers who aren't your clients. Every WIR amazes me because of the time you've spent, not only reading each comment, but responding to many of our questions.

Each one of us here has been blessed when we found your blog. The wealth of information goes without saying, but you're probably not even aware how important this community has become for us. From my own experience, several people here have helped me with my query and have offered to be beta readers. And I know others have had similar experiences. This wouldn't have been the case if you hadn't let us go a little crazy and be ourselves.

Time is precious, so thank you for all the time you give us. I think I can speak for everyone here and say we are grateful.

Jenny C said...

I value all the wonderful advice you give to writers. Thank you, Janet. As my 16 year old would say YOU'RE A STAR! (If we ever meet in person I will give you one of her you're a star pencils. She gives them out to friends who do great things.)

LynnRodz said...

Colin, I will gladly hand over the Dino Porn to Brian. I hear they're hiring at the Carkoon Cineplex where they show old B&W westerns and our own Julie W. can be seen as the stunt double. I can't remember the last time I had a box of popcorn!

Julia said...

Among the things money can't buy - great libraries, sunshiney summery days, the dewy kiss of lake mist in the morning, and the ability to sit and pray one's manuscript into perfection in 36 hours.

But.

What money fortunately can buy is an awesome weekend in NYC learning how to WRITE ALL THE THINGS!

And maybe... just maybe...

I won't even say it. Or type it.

Looking forward to meeting one or two of you there.

Gosh - I'm here again. Library closes in an hour twenty. Maybe I can hide and they'll forget I'm here, although I doubt it - they all know who I am.

Julie.M.Weathers said...

Criminy, I dreamed I got "the call" from Janet. She didn't want to talk about the fantasy or the Civil War book, but she did want to discuss the book about devil dogs. The phone kept disconnecting and I couldn't tell her I wasn't writing a book about dogs.

She was pleasantly persistent about wanting to discuss these Marine mascots. Maybe it's a sign.

I got nothing.

Lance said...

Ms. Janet, thank you for providing this incredible blog that teaches the wee, furry creatures of the forest so much. As much as we profess our appreciation and fealty, it will be years for some of us before we truly realize the incredible value of what we learn here.

Where else could we openly discuss dino porn, Buttonweazer genealogy, and Carkoon lima-bean monoculture?

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Ginger Mollymarilyn said...

Lovely, Janet, lovely. :)

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

80 comments in, 9 at night, I am sorry but I have no time to read everyone's wonderful words. To bed early tonight and out early tomorrow...again. Ugh.
I have to chime in.

Janet, I have been around these parts for a long, long, and long time. When I say these parts, I mean writing, learning and reading blogs about what it is we do. You, my dear, stand out because of what YOU do. Not only do you not get paid for your time but you hand out, to all of us, every single day, freebies, that make the difference in our careers and dreams of careers. All the accolades your way, some may say, is us sucking up.
IT.
IS.
NOT.
For many of us, you are our lifeline. It is to you we go when we need answers because of the trust you have shown us, the honesty you hand out and the humor you allow us to express when we highjack this blog and go sooooo off topic.

When the day comes, and you swim up to the pearly gates, they won't ask you how many books you took on that made money, how many authors did you make famous. They will ask you, how many people with dreams of success, how many folks with a passion for words and a love for communication did you help and guide along the way?
Your answer will be "...all the ones I didn't chump on and spit out".

They will let you in with resounding cheers from us, your school of 'misfish'.

Julia said...

@2N - I ain't no misfish.

And then all of my great follow-ups came out wrong:
I's a Mr. Fish.
I's a Mr. Shark.
I's a Mrs. Shark.
I's a Mrs. Whale.

So I give up.

Nighty-night.

And to Julie: Devil Dogs are yummy.

That is all.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Julia, hahahaha !

I ain't no misfit.
I's a misfish and proud of it. :)

Colin Smith said...

Julie: Yeah yeah... "write what you love"... blah blah blah. Just write what Janet tells you. It'll be awesome. ;)

Julia said...

Colin, what I _love_ won't _SELL!_

Julia said...

And so goeth my soul.
Actually, I'm coming to love KennedyCo. Unfortunately, as I do, the plots are growing more and more complex and lengthy.

This...
is not a good thing.

John Frain said...

I'm on vacation with my family (speaking of priceless), but had to chime in with a comment of thanks.

The day I discovered Janet's blog was a Top 10 Day. It is inconceivable to me how much time you dedicate to this blog and other endeavors you undertake beyond your Recommended Daily Allowance of real job stuff.

This blog inspires me to become a better writer. I'm sure you've received better compliments, Janet, but that's as good a compliment as I can dish out.

Thank you. (Now back to charades, which is priceless in a whole other way.)

Her Grace, the Duchess of Kneale said...

I value the business savvy I'm gaining from reading this blog. I've made some smarter decisions thanks to general and specific advice I've gotten from Janet.

When my query train comes to the end of its journey, I hope it stops at the station of an agent as good as Our Lady of Sharks.


(Curse you, Your Sharkness for not repping Fantasy Romance. I weep.)

Poof! said...

Janet -

Thank you especially for your wise mentoring.

Pam

CynthiaMc said...

I found this blog totally by accident. I was cleaning out a whole stack of old Writer's Digests and Query Shark was listed on the top 100 websites for writers. As a beach baby, I love sharks and hate queries so of course I had to check it out. I'm so glad I did.

Tara Tyler R said...

How awesome! You are tremendously appreciated and it's great to see you are thankful back! A rewarding job, if little money. So glad you are here =)

racherin said...

A few posts ago Janet said that specificity communicated sincerity in praise, so I am coming out of lurkdom with a list of things I only started doing because of this blog:

1. Made my reading list for 100 current books in my genre, to be read while I work on mine. (I have a tendency to reread old favorites)
2. Started writing Flash fiction, which is helping me understand what makes a story, what is essential in its telling. This is helping my article writing, too.
3. Writing when I can, because I know many authors really do write in-between jobs and family. I have four young kids, move every other year, and my husband is changing careers, but I can't use those as an excuse because other people have made it work. Others have made it work in far more difficult circumstances. So if I don't write, I only have myself to blame.
4. I have a plan to write my million words in the next three years (approx. 1000 words a day, but these won't all be fiction).
5. I used Query shark long before I will query. I actually write pre-first draft queries to help me focus on the main conflict and stakes, and update it as I revise the novel.
6. Realistic expectations - I know my first novel (or three novels) may not be publishable. This is hard. A few trunk novels does not equal failure.

I probably could have found some of this from another source, but I am drawn to tough-love idealists.

So, thank you, from all lurkers who are listening.

Patricia Harvey said...

Janet,
Your post touched me in a most profound way. Thank you.