And what a week it was.
First things first. For those of you who did not see the addendum to Friday's post: our regular blog commenters in Paris and nearby are all reporting they are safe and sound as are their loved ones.
There's a map on the upper right hand side of the blog where you can pin your location
I encourage everyone to put themselves on the map! I'm a map devotee and it's fun to see where y'all are. (Some of you are having entirely too much fun with this. Yea, I'm looking at you Russ B.)
Happier news: Colin Smith is putting his time in exile to good use. Either that or he's procrastinating mightily on that novel. Either way, he's compiled an Excel spreadsheet of all the flash fiction contests and winners. It's a very cool list! You can download it from my dropbox file here
Now back to looking at the week that was!
Round one of last week's review was the answers to the Query Letter Quiz asking which of all wrong answers was the least wrong.
As usual, there was some grumbling in the comments about misleading questions and unclear directions. All valid of course. It's one of the great joys of my life to torment writers. You thought this would be an exception?
Julie Weathers summed it up quite nicely with this comment:
You're making my brain hurt.
Round two was the more comprehensive review
John Frain asked:
Excellent recap. Spot on. But I'm troubled by one small piece. You're not attending ANY conferences next year? Is that a set-in-stone kinda thing or something you're bouncing around in your mind? Somebody, I mean, like, a friend, was thinking they might stalk you and try to show up at the right conference next year.
At the end of conference season, I'm usually of a mind to stay home for the next decade or ten. The idea of packing my steamer trunk and polishing my fangs for actual interactions with people is somewhat akin to eating lettuce for a year.
By next spring I'll probably have recovered my wits enough to think about travel, but right now I don't have anything booked until fall of next year.
If that changes, I'll keep you posted on the blog of course.
And it looks like Brigid is getting her one-way ticket to Carkoon for this one:
QOTKU, would it ever be helpful to do a beta reader match up here? I am a lurker but I've been doggy-paddling in these waters since '08, and I love the engaged commentariat here.
I'm envisioning something along the lines of several posts going live at once, with comment threads for different categories. "Comment on this post if you're looking for beta readers for YA novels" and "This is the thread for those writing mysteries and thrillers", with the commenters then being able to sort for themselves between literary-werebadger-urban-fantasy YA and commercial-historical-fiction-about-plants YA.
It may be unfeasible, and it may also be outside the realm of what you want to be involved with. But I figured it couldn't hurt to ask. Unless I get sharkbitten. Think thick-skinned thoughts...
I very much appreciate and value the engaged commentariat here as well. I encourage you to talk to each other both in the comment column and independently. If you are looking for a beta reader, say so. Keep it BRIEF, and take the ensuing conversation off the comment trail and it's all good.
I'm NOT going to add a feature like that to this blog. I'm not going to add anything to the blog in fact. The amount of time it takes to write what we've got going now is all the time I'm able to devote here. I have these people called clients who are very generous in their understanding of my time constraints, but telling them I'm not reading their manuscripts cause I'm doing something on the blog: not a good thing. Not At All.
But, again, you don't need me to make this happen. Youse guyz can do it on your own. I know this cause some of you already have.
We had good news to celebrate with Kaitlyn Sage Patterson
Yesterday I signed with Brent Taylor at TriadaUS for my YA Fantasy. I couldn't possibly be more grateful for the wonderful advice I got on this blog and Query Shark.
Monday was the day we saw the results of the flash fiction writing contest
We all recognized the superlative work of the finalists, particularly that of E.M.Goldsmith our winner.
None said it better than Sam Hawke:
I'm not sure about the use of profanity in these comments so I will go with my Sis the Younger's preferred abbreviation and say HOSHI, guys. HOSHI. You are too good.
On Tuesday we turned to the problem of the terms of a writing project terms changing and how to negotiate for something after the work is done.
Jamie Kress asked:
I'm curious about one detail. The OP says she 'found and collected' the interviews. I am taking this to mean that she/he actually found people, interviewed them, and collated the resulting product. However, another interpretation is that these were extent interviews that were researched, rounded up, and put into a collection. If that's the case, aren't there potential copyright permissions needed to (re)publish them?
I understood it to mean the writer had initiated the interviews as well. If that was NOT the case, if she had found the interviews in a library or archive, yes, there is copyright to consider and permissions.
You can't simply copy someone else's work and sell it under a different title without being in serious legal trouble. Even if the work is not under copyright, credit has to be given.
In other words, you 're not entitled to publish Hamlet and put your name on it. The version (and yes there is more than one version) you use was created by someone else and that someone gets credit even if no royalty.
Dena Pawling asked:
And come to think of it, will the people who agreed to be interviewed want a cut too? Is that common?
Generally no. Most of the people my clients interview for biography are not paid for their contribution. They are credited in the book though. And of course, they agreed to participate, even when they are under no obligation to do so. (Which is why David Halberstam could write a book about Michael Jordan, and never interview Jordan himself)
Matt Adams said:
Opie, I'm pretty sure that since the company was paying you to do the work, the material belongs to them, or at least that is what they would argue should it ever turn into a fight.
A lot of you misunderstand work for hire. You own the work you produce UNLESS you have signed that ownership away in a contract with your employer, or a publisher or other entity.
Absent an agreement with your employer that says what you write belongs to them, it belongs to you.
Copyright is yours until you license it.
Most people don't know this because companies take those rights before you write anything. It's part of an employment contract.
In this particular case, it was not clear to me that an agreement existed at all. And the initial terms were that the work would be made available at no cost to readers/users.
Once the work is available for sale, there needs to be an understanding of how the money gets divided if it is to be divided.
And yes, it's MUCH better to do this before rather than after, but that's not what happened here so we've got to make the best of a confused situation.
Brian Schwartz said:
In my experience that's how this works with music contracts. In fact, in music they actually level out the advances against the life of the contract so lots of artists never make a royalty. For instance, if you get paid 10,000 in an advance to put out your first record, and 20,000 in advance for a second a year later, and your first record only earns $3,000 in sales, you won't be seeing a royalty until you earn $27,000.But, and this is a big but, to my understanding not all advances are considered recoupable by the publisher. (Janet, correct me if I'm wrong here.) The contract dictates what is considered recoupable and what isn't. So there is a chance your 10k advance is a freebie.
The music industry works differently than publishing here.
What you're describing is a series of contracts that are jointly accounted or cross-collateralized. That is: the earning from all contracts are in one big pot.
Any agent worth her salt makes sure to have the contracts separately accounted, i.e. not cross-collateralized.
That way, you do get paid when Book 1 earns out, no matter what has happened on Books 2-N.
And all advances are recoupable unless they're called something else. The term advance against royalties means just that.
On Wednesday I was tearing out my hair at the new and really idiotic ways people screw up their queries STILL!
E.M.Goldsmith fessed up to writing some howlers back in her misspent youth:
I wish there was a way to permanently erase the queries I wrote prior to discovering QOTKU. I think there were some even worse egregious errors in them. I was a rather feral woodland creature back then.
The problem of course is that we've all seen that EM Goldsmith is a writer of amazing talent and skill. I should remind y'all that very few query pitfalls will actually make me reject good writing. That said, it's better to get it right than hope I'll keep reading when you get it wrong.
Susan Bonifant said:
But, as E.M. Goldsmith points out, all of us were once before-Janet and eventually, God willing, we will look back and laugh at the time when, as wee writers, we sent our first pitch letter (ever) to a magazine editor on 32 lb. bond paper because I, I mean we, thought it looked nicer.
I'm a sucker for nice paper too. In fact, I have special paper in the office just for MY printer that no one else is allowed to use. I think back in the day when all queries came on paper, it was rather nice to get on a good quality stock. Of course, it was what was ON the paper that determined the reply. Even a pen and paper snob can't choose projects merely by rag content and pen nib.
Theresa makes a good point:
I think some of these mistakes are made because the writers are afraid of being blunt (thinking specifically of the prologue here). Not everyone grew up in New York. Some cultures think it's rude to get right to the point. This, of course, is an explanation, not an excuse.
I think you're right. In fact, I was cogitating on that very idea this week, and have a blog post ready to go on this subject. I believe it goes up on Wednesday of next week.
and Theresa says further:
I'm sure even the QOTKU would overlook any one of these mistakes if the query otherwise knocked the socks off her fins. I'm equally sure that most great queries don't make these mistakes.
Most great queries don't, but a lot of good writers do. And yes, good writing trumps all.
and it's clear Dave Rudden is a very funny guy:
Janet - I am working on my query letter, synopsis and having my first few chapters reviewed for a novel now and I appreciate the guidance. I enjoy reading your thoughts and tips. Should I put "I want to be a paper back writer" at the end of every paragraph?
Yes, you should. No, wait, you should embed audio at the end of every paragraph. Autoplay audio.
CarolynnWith2Ns is also pretty damn funny:
Like "fiction novel", is the term "query letter" redundant?
Just asking because I use the term often.
I sure as hell hope not or I'm going to spend the next year scrubbing a lot of blog posts.
And Her Grace, the Duchess of Kneale hits the problem square in the face with this:
Research long enough and you can get an excellent sense of what not to do in a query.
What to do right in a query, that je ne sais quois that hooks an agent? That's much harder to define.
I'm about to jump on the query train for my next project and I'm freaking out over my query letter. I believe I have written an excellent book. However, can my query letter adequately communicate my book's excellence?
The only way to find out is to send the query. But if my query lacks je ne sais quois, it's not like I get a second chance.
On Thursday, the topic was how to determine the number of queries to send before pausing
I was quick to say my opinion (N+1) doesn't matter as much as the opinions of the people doing the actual querying.
I really liked with S.P. Bowers said:
For me, I queried until one day I woke up and knew it would be okay to stop. I was at a point where I could move on. I had already learned enough writing the next book to know the first book wasn't there yet, I was ready to let go. So go with your gut. And if you're still wondering, then keep querying. Because you'll feel peaceful when it's time to stop.
and I like Sarah's advice here too:
The reason I wanted to comment is to say I'd be really wary of waiting for feedback. Feedback is like the Great White Buffalo for me. I don't know who these lucky souls are who get helpful feedback on rejections, but I've never been one of them. I get one sentence emails with, "I'm passing, best of luck though." And THEN I want to say this doesn't necessarily mean anything deep about the quality of your book, because a year later, this was an MS that got 3 offers of rep, 3 offers of publication, and a whole pile of NYC dollar bills.
And I liked this from Craig too:
How many queries do you need? In the long run you only need one. The question is which one that is. Maybe it is the next one.
And Amy Schaefer's comment is spot on:
The only time to stop querying is when something in your situation changes:
-your query isn't leading to requests
-you get useful MS feedback from an agent or other reliable source and decide to revise
-you run out of appropriate agents to query
-you get an offer
-you've had enough
Otherwise, keep going, OP. As a statistician, you know that a large sample size is your friend. Keep chugging through your agent list, no matter how many requests are outstanding.
and Julie Weathers gave us the best image ever
Friday was the flash fiction contest, with a suspension of the rules on no off-topic comments.
Our heartfelt wishes for the citizens of Paris, and all the other people around the world who are beset by violence and tragedy.
Subheader noms this week will be rolled over to next week:
It's nice to finally find a place where you feel like you belong--or, at least, where you can set aside your writing woes, learn a little (or a lot), and know you're welcomed with threats of exile and kale juice.--Susan
patience isn't just a virtue when you query, it's a necessary survival skill--Lucie Witt