Welcome to the week that was and oh boy was it.
Sorry to be late on the posting.
During last week's review Jed Cullan offered up this story of how he came to be the scallywag he is today:
When I was a kid, we had a mobile library come round the area and I enjoyed getting books every two weeks to read. However, when I went to check out some of the James Bond books, I was told I was too young.
This didn't put me off.
I browsed around the little truck and, when the librarian wasn't looking, snuck a book under my jumper. Of course, I did return the book the next time the library was in town, and, since I didn't get caught, did it again. And again, and again. Got to read all those Bond books over the course of half a year.
Can't believe I was such a rebel when I was a kid.
And I loved how Lisa Bodenheim characterized me and Barbara Poelle at ThrillerFest:
And I'll be imagining boon companions, Ms. Slippery and Ms. Slithery, enjoying their time at Thrillerfest.
On Monday we discussed how to mention that personal experience has influenced your novel.
As it turns out, everyone in the "How to Pitch Your Novel" panel at ThrillerFest should have read this because some VERY bad advice was handed out there: lead with your credentials, or lead with the fact that something akin to the plot happened to you.
This is TERRIBLE advice and I said so on the blog (I also turned purple and sputtered in the panel but couldn't actually leap up and shriek NO NO NO as I wanted to.)
As Tony Clavelli pointed out:
Real life is full of wonderful vignettes but seldom actual stories.
Julie M. Weathers got me jumping up and down with this comment:
I have a story on the back burner about a group of lady bronc riders from the '30's, a sort of western League of Their Own. If I ever get it done, I'll mention I used to ride bucking horses and my family rodeos and leave it at that.
I was rather enthused about that story.
oh dear god Julie, I want that book about lady bronc riders. I WANT THAT BOOK.
*fans self to cool flames of desire*
PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE write that book.
I hate to be obtuse, but are your writing credits really supposed to be in a separate paragraph from your bio? I thought those would go together.
You're not obtuse. In fact it's a perfect illustration of the complexity of how to write a "very simple query"
It really doesn't matter if they're in the same paragraph or not. Just put them AFTER your description of the book.
A query letter needs to have some flexibility for style and voice. As long as you get the plot down, and it's enticing me to read pages, the rest of the information can be arrayed in the way that feels best to you.
And our own Jennifer R. Donohue had a terrific story published in Science Fiction Daily.
There's a lot to love about that story, and one of them is the second person voice! Always one of my faves to see that carried off with elan.
I really liked what Christina Seine said here about readers assuming fiction must be based on the author's experiences:
However, as much as I denied it, people figured the story had to come from somewhere, right? I was judged accordingly. Since I had zero emotional investment in the story (other than the usual blood, sweat and tears that went into the writing of it) I shrugged it off. If any of it had been true, though, the resulting critique of the character's actions within the story probably would have been too much to bear.
It's one thing to see people shredding the actions of your character, and another to have the general public weigh in on the story of your life, pointing out in infinite detail how you messed up and what you should have done better. I might tell an agent *privately* that I know my stuff because I've lived it, but not for any amount of money would I admit publicly that anything I write is about me.
On Tuesday we discussed what makes a series, versus standalones.
Dena Pawling asked:
Is there a desired number of books to the series? Sue Grafton is up to X. Janet Evanovich is up to 22 in the Stephanie Plum series. But are these part of a true series? Based on your description, they appear to be defined more as connected stand-alones.
Publishers want authors to continue writing books with characters that sell. You can bet there would not have been D is for Deadbeat if Alibi, Burglar and Corpse had not done well.
Publishers want to continue a series even after the author is dead: Robert B. Parker; Robert Ludlum; V.C. Andrews; Dick Francis.
. I read a lot of “two book deal” and “three book deal” on PM. Are these descriptions used for both series books and stand-alones? Do publishers have a desired number, at least to start? Does it depend on genre?
It depends on the individual contract. It can be for three books (write anything you want) or "three Felix Buttonweezer books"-books with Felix Buttonweezer as the main character.
And if the first Felix Buttonweezer book tanks, you can bet that contract can be amended lickety split to make books 2 and 3 about The Brigands of Carkoon, an ensemble piece about literary pirates on a reality TV show.
Adib Khorram asked a very good question:
Is the desire for series fairly universal across all genres? Or are editors acquiring in, say, literary fiction or YA contemporary less worried about series potential? I seem to see far fewer series in those spaces. But maybe I'm just not noticing them.
My colleague Stephany Evans weighed in on the idea of sequels in womens' fiction and romance:
In a romance series, typically you will have the same setting (e.g., Molly Harper's Half Moon Hollow, Jennifer Snow's small town NJ, Brookhollow), but in each book the focus is on a different couple (hero/heroine) and the main characters from previous books may become supporting characters in subsequent books, while supporting characters in earlier books will become the main couple in subsequent books, and in fact, are usually "set up" in earlier books in order to become the main couple later. Since the goal is different - a HAE (happy ever after) - you can't have a couple whose story you've already told be the main couple in the rest of the series. Whereas in mystery series, the same main character can solve multiple crimes.
An "anthology" is typically the gathering of a few different authors with (usually) thematically linked stand alone stories that need not be linked in any other way.
A "continuity" is several different authors each writing a stand-alone story that is linked narratively to the other authors' stories - each having its own distinct mc couple, but will share characters, as well as developing situations, as in the romance series.
Kate Larkindale is worried:
This is one of those posts that stokes fear into my writer's heart because I just don't want to write series. I've written 11 or 12 books now (is it bad that I can't remember?), and there isn't a single one I would want to write a sequel to. Once I've finished a book, I've taken those characters on their journey and I'm ready to move on to torturing a new set of characters. Once I tried to take a minor character from one story and make him a major character in another, but I never really liked the result.
Guess I'm doomed….
Not at all. Many writers write wonderful standalones. You'll be one of them.
And it turns out I'm behind on my Kristan Higgins reading because the dear lady herself comment;ed:
I DO have a series, Ms. Reid! The Blue Heron series. Hope you like the books! xox
Of COURSE I'll love it. The books are
The Best Man (Blue Heron #1)
The Perfect Match (Blue Heron #2)
Waiting on You (Blue Heron #3)
In Your Dreams (Blue Heron #4)
If Only You Knew (coming August 25, 2015)
Anything for You (coming Winter 2015)
Well, now you know what I'll be reading over Christmas break! I can't wait to dive in. I'm a rabid Kristan Higgins fan, and if you haven't read her books, well, get on it!
On Wednesday I was miffed about writers defining words in queries.
Amanda Capper's sister has clearly not learned that unasked for advice is seldom welcome:
My sister's aim in life is to ensure I am properly educated. She corrects every word in every email I've ever written. My spelling, punctuation, grammar, pronunciation when we speak on the phone, I'm always wrong about something.
I learned that lesson the hard way. For some years I corrected query letters, or wrote notes trying to help writers. HUGE mistake. I got replies that were blistering. I was always a bit perplexed because I was only trying to help. At some point I realized that query writers weren't asking for help. They were asking for yes or no. So I stopped "helping" and started Chum Bucket. (Which has been on hiatus this year and I'm sorry, and I miss it a lot)
Julie M. Weathers relayed a tweet from an agent on the topic of Big Words:
An agent doing ten queries a couple of says ago said one person had used to many big words it looked like they'd looked up every word in the thesaurus in an effort to look intelligent. Some people just like to give fifty cent answers to a nickel question and it doesn't make them look as smart as they think it does.
"The difference between Big Words used to Flaunt Your Subscription to Word A Day and The Exact Right Lesser Known Word may be a fine line," I opine, "but it's a a straight or curved continuous extent of length without breadth you should have the ocular ability to recognize."
I'm STILL laughing at this comment from Laura May:
“Composer” is a word which here means “a person who sits in a room, muttering and humming and figuring out what notes the orchestra is going to play.” This is called composing. But last night, the Composer was not muttering. He was not humming. He was not moving, or even breathing.
This is called decomposing.”
And the conversation just went completely off the rails. I mean there wasn't even a shimmer in the distance of the original topic. It was GREAT!
On Thursday our discussions was the competition clause in contracts
My comment that contracts are negotiated, not handed down on stone tablets, prompted this tidbit from Colin Smith, from exile on Carkoon.
Contracts are negotiated--good to know. Completely irrelevant to Carkoon, however, where contracts are executed, as are the authors who fail to comply with them.
Completely off topic (as the best parts of the comment trail often are) Amanda and LynnRodz mentioned my keynote speech to be given at the upcoming MidwestWriters Workshop conference:
Amanda, did you hear that through the Carkoon grapevine? Well, it's true! Janet will be the banquet speaker for Midwest Writers Workshop 2015. The title of her speech is: Forget Kindergarten, Everything I Know About Publishing I Learned From Jack Hanna.
Apparently there's a 10 foot snake autographed by Lee Child in there somewhere. Oh, did I forget to mention, the snake is stuffed and not a real one because Lee Child said that goes beyond his author duties signing real snakes. Janet was disappointed, but what could she do? There are limits, you know.
This is my long standing Herpet-American assistant.
Janet, how often do big deals with big advances end up hopelessly unrecouped? I think you've mentioned in publishing this doesn't fall back on the author, nor on the authors future works, but I'm just wondering if a large number of new authors signing six-figure or big deals end up performing much closer to all the other debut authors.
It's entirely the norm for big advances not to earn out. Most books in fact do NOT earn out. I'm not sure what "hopelessly unrecouped" means in terms of dollars but I'm guessing you mean the advance was about 100 times more than the earnings. That's not as common as just not earning out.
And let's all remember that the publisher makes money on a book even if the advance does get fully recouped.
Christina Seine asked:
Regarding the actual topic at hand (literally, because I had to hold the screen right up to my face to read it) (see what I did there?): I wonder what happens to said books once taken off the market in accordance with said contract. Do they just ... go away? Are they relegated to a vault somewhere in Area 51? Are they re-worked into reality TV shows for NatGeo
The books that come down don't just go away. They're in what I call my client's inventory list. We periodically look at that list to see if any of the projects can be monetized. Depending on the governing contracts there are all sorts of clever things that can be done. A good agent will always be looking for ways to put money in her clients' pockets.
No, seriously, I have a question about this. What if a writer gets a two book deal and both books get published (see how cavalier I'm being about that? like it could happen?) and maybe things don't go as well as the publisher expected and they decide not to offer a contract for anything further from that writer. In the meantime, the writer has written a third book, maybe even a fourth, and they are absolutely similar material on the same topic, with recurring characters. Or maybe things didn't go as well as the writer had hoped and she wants to find a different publisher or even self-publish the related books. Is the writer then stuck complying with a non-compete clause and those books are dead in the water, forever?
This is why most of us get the non-compete clause taken out of contracts for novels. And most publishers aren't going to fuss about books with recurring characters in subsequent books, because if the series didn't do well enough to generate another deal, they don't care enough to stop the author from doing anything.
On Friday we had a writing contest and I must say it was with some glee that I picked "dongle" as one of the prompts after reading this from Colin Smith on Thursday:
so I doubt "dongle" will be one of the words. Aren't you glad? :)
While it's true that I do write many of these posts in advance, there is the revision feature. I can change/update/delete/revise up till the actual moment of publication. Aren't YOU glad?
And you've all spotted the varying post times this week. LynnRodz said:
Today Janet posted hours earlier than usual. Now that I think about it, poor Janet. She can't do anything out of the norm without all of us (me) commenting on it and wondering what's going on.
you know I do that just to torment you, right?
I was sad to see that someone posted a contest entry on the wrong blog post. It was deleted (sorry)
Contest entries are always on the contest announcement post. If you can't post there, it's because the contest has not opened yet, or it's closed. You can't post an entry in another place, and you can't send them to me in an email. Well, you can but it won't do you any good. I don't read them.
This week was ThrillerFest and it was wonderful to see a lot of Author Friends and clients. My bar tab wasn't quite the staggering sum it has been in years past but not for lack of trying.
I was felled by a really horrible sinus headache on Friday, and didn't return to life until Sunday. It's amazing what something that simple can do to your will to live!
Fortunately cold compresses and inhaling steam finally got me vertical enough to go get some meds on Sunday morning. Never again do I run out of meds for this stuff!
Thanks for all your good wishes as I lay around feeling sorry for myself.
Next week promises to be a good one. There are some good questions pending, and I got some great book at ThrillerFest to dive into.
Subheader nominees this week:
"You're writing what you know, so write it well."--JEN Garrett
"Lucky for me that I read this blog. I now know that the setup is to torment Agents. One of the many perks of the job of being a writer."--Craig
"Writing a great book is like being married to your best friend. Having fun, turns to commitment, doubts, satisfaction, love and a whole lotta Jim Beam."--CarolynnWith2Ns
"I edit with bright green and bright pink pen, and thus avoid the dreaded red pen. It's hard to feel dismayed by edits that are so obnoxiously cheerful."-- W.R. Gingell
" Some people have common sense and some just have to pee on the electric fence for themselves. I suppose they'll figure it out sooner or later." --Julie M. Weathers
"Your agent can't help you solve a problem she doesn't know you have." --Amy Schaefer