At long last we resume the week in review. Yes, it's more work than the daily posts but I really do enjoy doing it and from your comments it's clear you like reading it.
On Monday we talked further on the topic of meeting agents at conferences and how to distinguish between social and business conversation.
I resonated with Lisa Bodenheim's comment:
Janet's distinction is where I'd be in trouble. The difference between social and business . When I'm in a new social setting, I tend to get task-oriented because otherwise I'm tongue-tied and feel awkward. Which means I'd be at risk of either stepping over that line or blending into the wallpaper.
I feel EXACTLY the same way. One way to overcome this at a writing conference is to volunteer to do one of the MANY jobs they need help with. For people going to Boucheron in Raleigh, this is for you. I always like working the registration desk: you get to meet a lot of people.
For years, my favorite volunteer job at the Pacific NW Booksellers Association was checking badges at the door. That was the one job where you met EVERYONE, were the go to person for information, and people knew where to find you. The Exec Director of PNBA thought I was nuts for loving that job, but since I was looking for publicity clients, it was genius I tell you, genius.
So, feeling like you might be shy and tongue-tied? Volunteer!
Susan Bonifant didn't agree with my post:
I'm a big fan of timing and placement at things like this and parties attended by doctors and lawyers. But to worry about the proper framing of an appreciative comment, in a setting where hopeful writers are expected to converse with kind agents seems like micro-etiquette to me.
This isn't just an "appreciative comment" You're overlooking the part about "asking about next work." Also, thanking someone after they rejected you is a VERY difficult thing to do without making the agent feel awkward. This isn't the same as "thank you for taking out my gall bladder and saving my life." It's more akin to "I know you tried hard to save Mom's life."
My goal here is to tell you that even with your good intentions, from MY side of the conversation this is awkward, and may not lead to a result you intend.
E.M Goldsmith found another nugget of TERRIBLE advice at a writer's conference:
At last conference I attended, at one of the seminars, the presenter said if an agent rejects your work either query, partial, or full, you may never query or even pitch to them again.
This is just plain wrong. Who ever said this should be confined in the library WITHOUT their reading glasses till they come to their senses.
Again: there is no such thing as the Query Police.
Also: querying on new projects is TOTALLY expected.
Remember: we are looking for good work to sell. Why on earth would any agent EVER not want to look at something because five years ago you weren't the writer you are today.
Some of this advice makes me wonder where they hell they ever worked that they'd think this is true.
I do like brianshwarz's pithy comment:
Here's my rule for writers - Act like you're going to be around.
And on the subject of thank you emails: it's never wrong to send one. You don't have to. It's not rude if you don't, but don't fret if your sense of self requires you to do so. I get that. And I get a lot of thank you emails too. I do read them, but I don't generally reply.
And of course, the conversation veered wonderfully off topic with new information about BettyWith2ts Buttonweezer.
On Tuesday (just one t) we talked about including awards in the writing credits part of your query letter. "It depends" was the less than helpful answer (like so much of publishing of course)
Calorie Bombshell shared this:
A few years ago, I won the short story competition held by the Pikes Peak Writers Conference in Colorado. The prize was free admittance to the three-day conference, an award, and attendance at the award dinner. It was an amazing three days of learning, networking, and binge snacking on bite-size macarons. I'm usually surrounded by overstuffed, linear-thinking lawyers, so the creative vibe blew my mind. That being said, I'm not sure I would include it in any query.
Writing conference contests can be good things to mention IF the person who judged the contest is someone like an editor, agent, or known writer. You'd mention the judge in that case as well. Don't know who judged the contest? Less valuable as a pub credit.
One problem with conference contests is often they're limited to people attending the conference. Conference contests open to anyone (The Golden Donut is a good example) are more competitive, therefore more valuable.
Susan makes a good point about the value of contests:
While I'm proud of that book, my best friend is self-doubt, especially when it comes to my writing--I'm working on it, but as we all know, that beast is a bastard to tame. So I entered these contests because I've rarely ever won anything and I wanted to see what would happen. I ended up winning a category in one and was a finalist in another.
Just because it doesn't go in your query doesn't mean you shouldn't do it.
Colin asked the $64,000 question:
Will an agent form-reject the query, or think less of the author making it harder to convince the agent to take the project, or will the agent ignore the contest wins and evaluate the query (and pages if applicable) as if the author hadn't said anything?
I think the underlying fear for some is that they HAVE mentioned such things in a query, and these are what got them the form rejection. Or maybe they have a contest win they are not sure is valuable, and wonder if mentioning it on the off-chance the agent is impressed would hurt their chances of getting a fair shake in the event the agent is not impressed.
The only thing that I really care about is the writing. If the query isn't very good, something good in the pub credits column will get me to read pages a little more closely.
I'm never going to say no ONLY because you mention you won the Felix Buttonweezer Lettuce Haiku Contest in your query.
Good writing trumps everything. (I need a new word for trumps. That man should be stripped of his NYC residency permit)
Jennifer R. Donohue opens a can of worms with this one:
Whew, I guess I underestimated the importance of geographic veracity in fiction! Here I thought we were allowed to make things up ;)
One of my GREAT annoyances is people who get geography wrong. EVEN IN NOVELS. If you set something in NYC, you better make sure you know Sixth Avenue traffic runs one way north, and that Broadway runs one way south, and Pershing Square isn't an actual place (like it is in LA.)
And trust me, I'm not alone in this. You want letters from readers? Fuck up the geography.
I see those little side notes "I played with the geography for purposes of the story" and think "pshaw, you just didn't work hard enough."
Of course, this is MY personal position, nowhere close to a rule or industry standard, but if you query me, you better have your historical facts in order and your geography accurate.
To your last point, this is where publication credits are perhaps more important than contest wins. If I was querying Janet, would she be more impressed with getting published in AHMM (I haven't--just hypothetically), or winning a Writer's Digest contest?
AHMM. Very definitely.
On Wednesday we talked about how to talk about a self-pubbed novel in a query for a new novel
I added a plea to think carefully about self pubbing this first novel.
I really like what Stephen G. Parks said:
Writers build reputations among readers. Once that’s blown, it’s hard to get back. A first book really has to set a foundation — a standard of quality — to encourage readers to commit to your later works once they arrive.Readers are fickle, and inundated with choice. I’ve given up on two established writers (published writers, not self-pubs) whose most recent books read like they’re fulfilling contractual obligations, not telling stories for the love of the story. I’ve found replacement authors to fill the slots in my reading list.If your book doesn’t soar, don’t publish it now. Put it on a shelf and revisit it in a few years. If you're still passionate about the story in a few years' time, read it with fresh eyes and see if it can't be encouraged to fly.
W.R. Gingell concurred, with the added benefit of having self pubbed herself:
SO very grateful I didn't self-publish my first novel :D
Make no mistake, I'm a self-pubbed author, but my first novel was only published after it had had a complete rewrite from the bottom up, and is in fact my fourth published book now. It bears very little resemblance to the novel it once was.
The first one I actually published was the fourth I'd written :D
I do love self publishing, but I think it's a mistake to self publish if your sole reason is that no one else would take your book. You can still make it if that's the case (lots of niche stuff doesn't find a home in trade publishing) but it's a LOT of work and you need to have more in your arsenal than 'My book is awesome and I'm gonna SHOW YOU ALL.'
It helps to have that, too, but it shouldn't be all you've got...
(Also, I wouldn't actually have thought of mentioning it in a query at all, if I ever went back to querying. But that's just me.)
Brenda Buchanan also has some insight on those early mss:
That recycled/revised/rewritten/retooled manuscript is the second book in my Joe Gale Mystery series, to be released September 28. I was fortunate that I didn't have to let it go for good. I only needed to set it aside long enough to learn some stuff I did not know several years ago.
I've known Brenda for a long time (CrimeBake rocks!) and I read several earlier drafts of what is now part of the new series. Brenda's a very good writer. She's correct in her assessment: those early drafts needed work. I am VERY glad she took the time to do that work. Now I'm a fan as well as a friend.
Poof gives a valid exception to the rule. Now I am worried about timing after all this convincing myself to be patient. My book is post-apocalyptic and I have it on authority the apocalypse is starting this Sunday, September 13th (So says the book, The Harbinger) and it's very convincing. Will my book still have a market if the apocalypse actually comes? What do agents do during an apocalypse? What to do. What to do.
Of course I'm prepared for the apocalypse. Aren't you? I have enough reading material to outlast even the cockroaches.
And if you haven't read Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, just do yourself a favor and go do that now.
Ignore everything that makes you think you might not like the category. This book doesn't have a category other than EXCELLENT and MUST READ.
Susan has an interesting comment here:
For many people (yep, myself included), the decision to self-publish stems from a variety of factors, one of which is a knowledge of the publishing industry itself. I spent 3 years on my book before deciding to publish, then took over a year researching the industry--both traditional and indie models--before making my decision to go indie (with a personal situation cementing that decision). There wasn't a market in traditional publishing for my book (a 'quiet' novella), and I knew that. But I didn't want to pad it to bring up the word count, nor did I want to cut it to make it a short story. It was the story I wanted to tell in exactly the way I wanted to tell it, and I have no regrets.
It was hard work. I had to decide on a cover design that would be appealing, I had to determine which audience to market my book to, I had to create marketing initiatives and events to increase sales. That research and experience in self-publishing has given me a firsthand look into what goes into publishing a book, and to me that is invaluable as an author.
But now I do have a few novels that I would like to see go bigger, and I'm looking forward to working with others as a team to help bring that to light (self-publishing is exhilarating and exhausting!).
That's why when I query, I include a mention of my book. I'm still in many ways learning, but I've also learned from this experience. Whether agents will look at it that way or not, I don't know...I just think that there's value in all things and wish it weren't always so quickly dismissed.
The problem here is that you are exception to the normal experience. It's clear that your decision was thoughtful and well-researched. Mostly I see queries from people who were impatient (which you were not) and are now disillusioned with how much work it was (also not you.)
That's one of the biggest problems self-pubbed authors face: they're judged by the company they're in.
Do I make unwarranted assumptions about authors? Maybe. But I make assumptions based on category as well: I don't do vampires. If your query mentions vampires, I'm going to say no without even reading pages.
If you've got a book that you self pubbed cause it was a quiet novella, at least say so in the query. It may not be a pub credit, but you don't have to hide it. It's part of your bio. I totally understand that general trade publishing is not a welcoming place for quiet books (and I've got the rejection letters to prove it)
On Thursday the conversation turned to pseudonyms, a topic that has taken Cyberia by storm recently after a poet was found to have used a female Chinese name when he was in fact neither of those things.
I am NOT weighing in on that firestorm but I did address the question of pseudonyms in general.
Angie Brooksby Arcangioli reminded me there's an e in nom de plume (or actually there are two, one should be on the end of plume)
Just a reminder that I do appreciate catching my typos and telling me either in the comments or by email. A lot of these posts get linked to later (sometimes years later) and I really want them to be as clean as possible.
(Hands off the writing and grammar though, ok?)
Friday we marked the 14th year of 9/11/2001
Saturday the topic returned to business: the clueless promotional pitch from an author asking for reviews.
"Oh, and one last thing: As a huge favor, in your review, please DO NOT write things like "I received a free copy from author for an honest review.." That's an automatic turn off in review world and discredits your review from those who need to read it, so please don't do that. Pretty please :)"
Is that...actually true? I'm curious, if anybody's willing to share--if you're checking out a review for a book, and the reviewer discloses that they received a free copy in exchange for a review, are you going to think less of the reviewer/author/book itself?
Like others here I'm "justa reader" but I appreciate it when a reviewer notes that they received the book for free (or as Dena mentioned, that she got her copy from the library). I'm not necessarily going to give more or less weight to what the reviewer writes after that, but I appreciate knowing all the same.
It's not actually true. It's actually pretty clueless, since ALL books sent out for review are free. The fact that people mention they got the book in exchange for a review is due to that relatively new FTC ruling that you have to disclose that kind of stuff. Which misses the boat completely of course. Where you get the book is a whole lot less telling about subjectivity than how you know the author (if you know the author) or the publisher, or the author's agent etc.
and Elena followed up with:
So if an indie book reviewer (who's not affiliated with a news site or radio, as then it would be implied that they got a free book) writes a review on Amazon or their personal blog or wherever saying "I won an ARC of this book" or "the author sent me a free ebook," that's fine.
Yup. It's more than fine.
The letter-writer's concern is that someone will disclose the exact nature of his or her insidious request: that the "free ebook" isn't really free, but essentially payment for a positive review.
Now that you mention it, yup, that's it exactly.
At the risk of getting myself in trouble here, I'm wondering how old the author of the letter is. It almost reads early teen in which case, I could cut the author a slight bit of slack, but still.
This isn't t-ball. You don't get separated into age divisions. You publish a book, you get treated like a grownup.
And I like this wrap up from Bibliotropic.net a lot:
It took me a little while to figure out just WHY that author might not want someone to say they received a review copy. Finally my brain twisted into just the right shape to understand it: the implication is that the reviewer happened upon this book randomly and thought it sounded so good they had to read it. And then if all those reviews are positive ones, it looks like the whole package is just blow-you-away awesome! It has nothing to do with "reviewer credibility" (which is a ridiculous statement to make to anyone who's been reviewing for a decent length of time) and everything to do with wanting it to seem like the author and their books are appealing. Covered in an, "I'm doing you a favour by giving you this advice" wrapper. Ugh.
I always think it's crass to only ask for positive reviews. I can get why an author would want positive reviews for their work (who wouldn't?), but the guilt-trip of, "If you don't like it, please don't say so, because you and you alone might be utterly ruining my career," is just tacky. Thankfully, as a reviewer, I've had to deal with relatively little of this. Not sure why; maybe I just got lucky. Pretty thankful, though!
Have a great week!