Welcome to the weeks that were. This post goes back two weeks cause I was lollygagging about last Sunday.
Mister Furkles asked:
what if a robot writes a killer novel and wants to comment about querying. How is it to comment on your blog?
They** will have to suck it up and lie about their cold mechanical heart, just like agents do when asked about their humanity.
**they singular of course, per the first part of Mister Furkles comment
Sarah Meral found my diddybop mentions in What It Takes! I had it as two words; it's actually one.
Janet when I use the look inside feature on Amazon.com for WHAT IT TAKES and enter "diddybop" (without space) I get 15 results, let me know if you want me to send you screen shots of them :)
Just another example of the value of the blog readers! (there are so many!)
Jessica Snell mentioned my favorite books as a young reader:
Lucie - I remember Trixie Belden! When I was younger, I read a few of the Nancy Drew books, but Trixie Belden? I read them all, and more than once.
I think what made me love those books was the group dynamic. Trixie was the focus, yes, but you couldn't understand Trixie w/o knowing her family and friends. And she wasn't a perfect little saint of a detective: she was a smart girl, but one who messed up a lot and then had to fix it.
Come to think of it, I still love heroines like that.
Oh my god YES! I loved Trixie Belden too. I had the first ten or twelve I think. To this day I can name the characters and probably tell you the plot basics of each. How I wanted to live at Crabapple Farm!
Turns out quite a few blog readers did too!
Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli asked:
Janet, I think there may be a t missing in promoing. Or that's how it sounded when I first read it. Maybe you do want to write promoing.
I do use promo-ing without the t. I'm not sure how I got started. It's probably not a real word, but it's what we use in the office to talk about book promos.
Janice L. Grinyer mentioned the Loaner Cat posts.
Another great WIR - Did Loaner cat assist? Bet they did - at 2:14 am...Your posts on FB were hilarious!
Here's the link to the Facebook page with the Loaner Cat stories.
Speaking of cats, kdjames cracked me up with this cat story:
And that Shopkins video! I'd never heard of them so I watched it. The cat was sitting on my lap and I think she was attracted to the crinkly wrapper noises and got all tense when she saw the cat come on screen. I don't think she's ever "seen" anything on my laptop before. She put her face all up close to the screen and then the cat walked off and she went around to the back of my laptop trying to find it. Gone! And then she ran to the windows looking out at the deck to see whether it was outside. Then she glared at me for a good 20 minutes, unhappy that I was hiding other cats from her. It was pretty funny, so thanks for that.
And John Frain just cracked me up with this:
My assumption is that car dealers started this Loaner concept when they give you a loaner car while yours is in for repairs. So my first thought was that one of Janet's cats cashed in one of its nine lives and she had a temporary Loaner Cat while hers reincarnated.
So it could work anywhere, right? I'm ready to march into Subway with an old bologna sandwich and see if I can upgrade to a Loaner Roast Beef. And my shoes need new laces. Could take a while to get to Target, so I've confiscated my son's Loaner Shoes because of course ALL his shoes are better than my best shoes. Imma start calling my dog Loaner, see how he reacts.
Oh, I do love a WiR that gets me thinking of story ideas, and this one does the trick again. Thanks, Ms. Reid. You're awesome. Did I mention I misplaced my agent? I might need a Loaner for a ms I'm working on...
And I love love love Janice L. Grinyer's Sniper Writer designation, and her point about being visible:
FOR SNIPER WRITERS;Yes, you who writes great flash fiction and then has NO LINK on your name, I'm talking to YOU. I have a small jar of cash (and lots of screws & bolts in others, and...nevermind) with a book budget. If I like your writing (even if you don't make it to the mentionables/semis/finalists!) I would be willing to gamble to buy YOUR book. BUT HOW CAN I IF I DONT KNOW WHERE, SNIPER WRITER??? And if you don't have a book, I might want to follow your writing. WHY? Because, WRITING. I like to do it, read it, and enjoy it. We all do. You write good stuff, it's okay to come out and own it! Do we need to get Glinda the good witch out with that wand and have her wave it around a bit, singing the "come out" song? I have my own cat I could dress up; she sings pretty good...at 4 am.Okay. Can you tell we are on day four of snow here? Yes. Day four. I'm feeding everyone and everything in sight, keeping things from getting frozen and I need at least three days to sleep to catch up. IN the meanwhile, I am now an official member of "Women writing the West", "a nonprofit organization of writers and other professionals writing and promoting the Women's West." Though I won't be posting comments over there until I get that sleep. Don't want to scare anyone or get kicked out too soon.
on Monday 1/18 we had the results of the flash fiction contest
A LOT of you ran into trouble with ditty versus diddy. That was an interesting lesson for me.
And of course, this was the contest where I got the name of the winner wrong: Ink Stained Wench, not Wretch. I'm sure it says something about me that I got that word wrong. Sorry Wench!
And of course your comments on wench/wretch were hilarious, particularly this from french sojourn
Way to go Wretch....I always read it as wench as well...must be my aixelsyd?
And John Frain asked:
And, confession: To further prove my ignorance, even on second reflection I'm still not sure why Colin's entry isn't a story.
As in all things flash-fiction, the results are subjective. As sorry as I am to admit this, it's true: my opinions are not actually facts. In other words, you can think it's a story and both of us can be right.
I didn't think it was a story because it doesn't have an arc to it. It's more of an elegy, a prose poem. If you look at the entries I picked I think there's more movement in them. But, you can disagree with me. Colin himself has pointed out that a different judge would have very different results most weeks.
And OnlyTheGoodDieYoung asked:
PS - am I missing something with the 'your not Sam" line? Isn't the word "you're" or is there something there I'm not seeing?
Ahhh…this is the "on purpose mistake" that a careful reader has to watch for. Yes, you're quite right that "you're not Sam" is correct grammar. But recall that the story is essentially text transmissions, where "proper" punctuation goes by the wayside.
But more important to the story, this is the reveal, the moment when folks realize something has gone horribly wrong. The lack of proper punctuation SHOWS the reader this.
This is why you know the rules of proper punctuation: you can break them to great effect when you need to.
On Tuesday we talked about the query submission service Authors.me
Interestingly I heard from the CEO of Authors.me after the blog post. She emailed:
I smiled this morning when I read your blog, "They certainly didn't ask ME what would improve the query process."So I'm reaching out now! Of course I'd love to get your opinion and show you how it works. We've interviewed so many agents before, during, and after the release of the platform. You perpetuated a good bit of misunderstandings in your blog, but I understand why writers and agents are a suspicious group. They've put up with a lot through the years. And we are always trying to communicate better on the website-- you have certainly pointed out areas for improvement.I can point out the terms which are very protective of the writers' manuscripts, and also tell you about the problems we do solve for the agents and publishers. On our last customer survey we got 10 out of 10's on the question, "How likely are you to recommend AUTHORS to a friend or colleague?" So, we're doing something right.Let me know when you want to jump on the phone or skype. I have several windows available this Thursday and am pretty open next week or over the weekend.Look forward to talking to you!
Since I'm not going to spend any time at all on the phone with these folks, I'll just post the questions here:
1. What's the vetting process for agents and publishers wanting to use your service? In other words, can anyone calling themself an agent or a publisher sign up?
2. What exact problem are you solving for agents?
3. Do you offer writers information on the status of their query? (ie Open/Read/Requested/Passed) ***
And in what can only be described as a hilarious coincidence, and from which nothing should be concluded I ran into an agency that uses this service. It was an agency I was researching for a blog reader who couldn't find an actual physical address for the agency; one she could use to send a termination letter to.
I'd never really thought about having an actual physical address being something you'd want to verify for an agency. The Publishers Marketplace page for this particular agency says "NY NY" but no street address. There's no address on the website, or any other place I could find.
I thought that was strange.
Dena Pawling asked:
>>There's a fundamental flaw in the logic here. "Making the process of discovering new manuscripts better for writers" implies that the process in use now doesn't work well. It works just fine. You write to me about your novel. I write back. There's direct communication. No forms to fill out, no perplexing multiple choice. No money changes hands.
Here's the fundamental flaw in Janet's logic. “You write to me about your novel. I write back.”
More and more agents are NOT writing back. Colin's NORMANs. Shall we blame all our writer angst and the proliferation of these query outfits on them thar folks who don't write back?
Maybe. On the other hand, that's something we don't know here. Does this service let an author know when their query has been read and passed on? ***
Mark Ellis had an experience with this kind of service for scripts:
Years ago, when I thought that screenwriting was my ticket, I tried a service, ostensibly run by people with Hollywood cred, that promised to scattershot a pitch for my script all over Tinseltown. For $100 bucks they rewrote my pitch (made it better, actually) and pushed a database button. When I got home from work that day I had approaching 200 emails. Most were form rejections, many were out-of-office notifications (one from Farah Fawcett Major's production company) and about six requests for the script, which came to naught (there were inherent flaws in the script).
Manuscript querying is a horse of a different color, of course, but I didn't feel the pitch site ripped me off, because I got six requests and had my chance. Later, at a conference, a big-time Hollywood agent told us that when he or most of his colleagues received such mass pitch emails, they were summarily deleted.
My books to film agent is adamant about discarding any kind of unsolicited script unread. Particularly in film, where ideas get thrown around a LOT, we need to make it abundantly clear that the scripts were not read at all, lest someone come out of the woodwork later and say "hey, that was MY idea you used in that mega-successful film." And that kind of thing happens ALL the time.
And Colin Smith has been back from Carkoon for less than a month but clearly itching to return:
In other words, if writers had to stick to the "rules" of querying, writers wouldn't be so quick to query, and agents would get fewer and better queries?One solution to this problem might be for every agent/agency to have a Query Form on their website. This form would have fields like: NAME, PEN NAME (if different), AGENT TO QUERY, HAVE WE MET (Conference, Twitter, Comments, etc.)?, TITLE, WORD COUNT, GENRE (as best you can determine), COMP TITLES (optional), BRIEF DESCRIPTION (250 words), PUBLISHING CREDITS (if any), OTHER BIO, BLOG (optional), WEBSITE (optional), CONTACT INFO (email, phone), FIRST FIVE PAGES (copy and paste).
If every querying writer could ONLY use such forms to query agents, might this help increase the quality of queries? It would certainly help agents get to the info they need, and force writers to be succinct and keep to the point.
It sounds like a good idea doesn't it? I'll make it even simpler: write me an email and tell me about your book. That's all. You know how many people do that? Fewer than half.
I've kept a blog for MORE THAN TEN YEARS about how to write effective queries, and I still get stuff that's half-baked, half-assed, and half-witted.
A colleague of mine did subscribe to one of those services that regulated submissions into that kind of format. It didn't help.
And truthfully, direct queries help me weed out the folks I don't want to work with. People who can't write even a half-assed query letter are generally not people I want to work with.
On Wednesday 1/20 we talked about writers working as lit agents.
This was the post that got the most comments (well, a content-based post anyway. The post saying I was out ill got more but that was just ya'll being nice and sympathetic)
Lucie Witt mentioned her experience agreed with my assessment that doing two creative things is really hard:
I've done the teaching thing on the side for almost five years. The first two years of teaching my writing output plummeted. Horribly. I was creating new classes, developing my materials, and getting used to managing my time reading, preparing lectures, answering student emails, and grading. This consumed my time and my creative energy. After a few years I got a system in place (and experience), and started writing regularly again.
Donnaeve made my blood run cold with this:
On the other hand, and depending on the position in the publishing company (agent maybe) or editing assistant, or...whichever it is, I could almost see inspiration coming from seeing other people's work. Sort of like when I read REALLY good books, and I'm so inspired I want to get up out of bed at 2:00 a.m. and go write something down. If you're driven like that, it MIGHT work. It depends on your inner gumption and drive, I suppose.
Some years ago when interviewing prospective interns we had an applicant who said she wanted to be an intern so she could be inspired for her own writing. That was the end of the interview although she didn't know it.
Nothing makes my hair stand on end faster than the idea that an agency employee is reading queries while thinking of her own writing. Or worse, reading client manuscripts! Or worse reading manuscripts on submission!
Talk about a situation just begging for problems!
Several of my clients say they can't read novels at all while they're working on their own stuff because voice and ideas from elsewhere can drift into their heads with little cat paws.
The last thing I need is a writer I rejected thinking "wow, that plot sure looks familiar" about a book written by an employee.
I really liked what Colin said here about passion:
If this is what I'm stuck with as a full time job, I can live with that--it can be fun and creative at times. But my passion is elsewhere, which means I'll never be as good at my job as I could be. *looks over shoulder, checks boss isn't reading*
And BJ Muntain pointed out something that I think is really important:
One thing I found was that, if you want to make writing a career while you're working full time, you have to understand that it's going to take longer. If you think that starting a career takes a certain number of hours, and if you can only afford an hour or two a day, rather than eight or more, it's going to take longer. Unfortunately, writing doesn't compress into the time you have available. You just have to make sure that you spend that time productively.
And congrats to Kat Waclawik on the birth of your daughter! I love what you said here:
Laura Mary: Congratulations! I just gave birth to my little girl 11 weeks ago. (Eleven weeks?! It seriously does go so fast!) I had all these grand ideas about using my maternity leave to make a serious dent in the WIP. Ha. That was crazy. I think I had two main problems:
The first, obviously, is time. Newborns consume all of it. I know you've heard the old adage about sleeping when the baby sleeps. My favorite response to that: so am I also supposed to do laundry when the baby does laundry, dishes when the baby does dishes, etc.? There is SO MUCH TO DO, and so little time when your arms are not full of baby. Besides, if you're anything like me, you need sleep to be creative. Writing takes mental energy. Don't worry--it gets better!
My other problem (which is not a real problem) is I've just been too darn happy. We tried to conceive for five years before finally having success with IVF. She is everything I'd ever dreamed of and prayed for and more. I couldn't make conflict for my characters when my entire world was floating in a rosy, baby-scented haze. Now that I'm back at work part time, I've relearned how to make trouble for my characters.
In her first 8 weeks of life, I wrote about 100 words. I was really beating myself up about not writing, which was dumb. So I hereby give you permission to take a break, if it's what you need. You still get to call yourself a writer. Your stories will be there when you're ready.
From Thursday 1/21 through Monday 1/25 I was lying on my couch contemplating death. Your comments were very cheery and as therapeutic as chicken soup. Thank you!
Sherry Howard offered up an idea for using this time wisely:
There once was a shark named JR
Who ruled her kingdom from afar
One day she fell sick
Now's our chance, hurry quick,
Entertain her today
Make the blues go away
And she'll unbanish all Carkoonish miscreants.
And of course Adib Khorram had to do it:
I'm surprised no one has started a flash fiction contest in the comments section yet.
And Colin Smith was right there aiding and abetting:
Prompt words: snark, malevolent, evil, booze, vitriol
"Contest" closes: Midnight according to your timezone.
2ns "entry" just cracked me up completely (particularly the parts I underlined)
Okay, so I made up my own prompt-words. Not sure which ones they are, just pick five.
Here goes, my less than a hundred (96) begins here:
Janet liked books, the authority of books and the power of the words in the books. So one day she decided that her passion was to help word-people share with the reader-people, that which itched their souls.
Word-people from all over looked too Janet for the guidance she offered which soothed their writing irritations, their tickles and tingles and made them feel worthy.
They wrote, readers read and everybody lived happily ever after.
Janet found fame and fortune as the really smart agent-queen.
Moral of the story:
Read this blog and learn, once written twice sly.
Turns out Jearl Rugh is on the injured reserved list as well:
Wow, and I was feeling bad yesterday because my arm had ached for 26 hours, only to find that I broke my the elbow of my mouse hand, my fork hand and, most importantly, my coffee hand.
as is Susan Helene Gottfried
Three days? Lightweight.
Today marks three weeks since I fell off my bike. I still have six weeks to go... minimum.
And the impromptu flash fiction contest has a winner:
LC-2 leapt at snarky lark on the window sill.
One down – Eight left;
LC-2 od’d on booze tainted milk.
Two down – Seven left;
Prancing 200 feet above on high-voltage powerlines, sneezed.
Three down – Six left;
Attacking the evil live extension cord.
Four down – Five left;
LC-2 caught a plague carrying malevolent mole.
Five down – four left;
LC-2 took vitriolic advice and smoked sulfuric-acid laced catnip.
Six down – three left;
LC-2 played tag with neighbors Doberman.
Seven down – Two left;
LC-2 got a shark sick.
Eight down – one left;
Shark sick, day 2.
Nine down…countdown reset by QOTKU.
LC-2 now immortal.
Congrats french sojourn! This is brilliant. And those prompt words were brutal!
S.D. King's comment made me laugh with horror;
Aside: people really need to be more aware of how they look on a FUZE screen sharing meeting app. We had one woman who seemed to think the screen was more a mirror for her grooming (some of it quite personal). It is going to be awhile before I can get some of those images out of my head.
and honest to godiva, Lance knows how to set a scene:
I was in the most unusual bar the other night. Not in the classiest part of town. The clientele had evolved as a hangout almost exclusively for retired, female, Marine gunnery sergeants and nuns bitter over not making Mother Superior.
and if I hadn't been feeling bad already, this from luciakaku would have sent me wailing with despair into a tailspin:
On a writing-related topic, someone was stirring up the woodland critters in my writer's FB group with an old article (written five years ago about experiences five years before that) about how your query isn't "done" until you get a 75% request rate.
To make it better, the article starts off by calling everyone who disagrees with him "wrong" in so many words. Gotta love it.
I'm so glad you recognized this "advice" for the crapola that it is.
Megan V offered up "sick movie"
Oh, and sending you some dvds. If you don't have some comfort movies—you know, the ones you have to watch when you're sick because they make you feel a little less miserable—it'll have to be a copy of our favorites.
*Packs Newsies, You've got Mail, Funny Face, North By Northwest, LOTR, Sense and Sensibility(1995 version), Gladiator, Flight of the Navigator, Monty Python, Gone in 60 seconds, Matrix, Jurassic Park, Oceans Eleven*
All five seasons of The Wire for me. Followed by seasons six and seven of The West Wing.
Lennon Faris's comment here
Spammers, ugh. In undergrad, a friend from Korea pulled me aside one day after ESL class. She seemed slightly embarrassed but showed me an envelope she had just gotten in the mail. "YOU'VE WON A MILLION DOLLARS!!!" it said. As a super intelligent, grown woman, she suspected it was false, but still felt the need to confirm because she just didn't know for sure. So, as BJ Muntain pointed out, I could see how someone not very computer-savvy would think it harmless to click something to investigate.
reminded me of an incident when I was an undergrad. I had an engineering class in Statics and Dynamics (don't ask) and the man who sat next to me was from a different country (Asian as I recall only dimly now) We had used textbooks for this class and one day as we were working through some sort of example he pushed his book over to me and asked what a penciled in word meant, as he could not find it in his dictionary.
I was one of three women in the class. I think I turned the color of Superman's cape and fumbled to explain like Clark Kent. There was NO WAY I was going to tell him what it meant of course but what to actually say? I wrote "obscenity" on my notebook and said "that word is one of these."
He thumbed his dictionary again, his face turned brick red (we were a pair, oh yes) and I don't think he spoke another word to me all term.
Oy oy oy.
And no, I'm NOT telling you what the word is.
And I was delighted to see this from Jessica Snell
I also wanted to post this morning because I am feeling very thankful to the QOTKU and to all the other Reiders. Some time ago, Janet congratulated a commenter on her (his?) first fiction sale, and I'm sorry that I don't remember who it was (sieves-for-brains here, I blame my four kids), but that link led me to my first sci-fi flash fiction site, which led me to others, which led to (deep breath!) my own first fiction sale*!
And I'm not sure how AJ Blythe got pictures from inside my apartment:
So I was imagining Janet with no power: snuggled under every dropcloth she owns, loaner cat wrapped around her neck, empty whisky bottle at her feet, muttering "Reiders, Carkoon, Rant, Kale, Flash Fiction' over and over while staring at a blank screen.
Finally on Tuesday 1/26/16 we got back to normal. Our topic was proposals for a novel.
I'd never really seen one but reader Joyce Tremel has
My Brewing Trouble mystery series was sold on a proposal. An editor read a previous manuscript that didn't quite fit their line, so she asked my agent if I'd be interested in writing a cozy. I wrote a synopsis and three chapters, plus ideas for the next two books. I also included info on why this series would fit their line, comparing it to some of their published books. Maybe this is different than a proposal for a single novel, but I know several mystery authors who have proposed series this way.
This is good info, thanks Joyce. I should also mention that I read and loved Joyce's debut novel. We've been pals for a long time (thanks to the PennWriters conference!) and it was great to finally get to buy a book with her name on the cover.
Megan V also mentioned she'd seen requests for novel proposal on agent websites:
As to the OP-the few times I've seen agency website request a proposal for a novel, it said to include the query or cover letter, a synopsis and/or outline, and a partial or complete manuscript, a bio, and anything else the editor has requested.
On Wednesday I was waving my arms and harrumphing about bad first impressions when I google you:
DLM made a very good point:
One tip: try Googling yourself from a computer or device YOU DO NOT USE regularly, and if possible, not from a friend's, if they happen to read your blog.
With Google's algorithms, you're a lot more likely to find yourself with ease on your own devices because Google's intuitive search will "learn" that you spend a lot of time on your own blog. Try it at a library or something, see what the results look like from a computer that's ignorant of your patterns. You may discover you're not as close to the top of Google's stats as it looks like when you use the laptop you blog with to search.
Colin Smith asked:
What I want to know is, what on earth do you look for from Goodreads? I have a Goodreads account, and up until a few years ago, I listed every book I had read along with a review. When it got to the point the thought of writing a review for every book affected which books I chose to read, I stopped doing that. Now I review selected books on my blog, and only enter those in Goodreads. So, what should my Goodreads account be like? How do I make sure it's not off-putting to a reader or agent? Are you looking to see what I'm reading? Or more? Or less?
I just wander over to see what you're reading. Goodreads is much lower on the priority list for what I like to see about a prospect, but if it's the only thing I can find, I'll look. Plus, yanno…if you're writing Goodreads reviews, that's writing.
Kitty makes an excellent point:
Most of the blogs I've visited by the BIG NAME writers have been a waste of time. They don't respond to comments, so I quit going. I cut them some slack because I figure they're busy writing the next book, which of course I'll read.
I have stopped following some big name authors on Facebook and Twitter simply because I want social media to be social. Without interaction, it's just broadcasting. There are some exceptions: Bloom County. The Rockettes. Humans of New York. But not authors.
this from Amanda Capper just cracked me up:
Recently Donnaeve replied to something I posted on her website and though I could see she responded(my smarter than I android phone told me), I couldn't find her comment. I checked my website, Google, Gmail, everywhere. I thought.
There was a clue. My phone showed a WP icon. So I checked my website (again) because it's a WordPress. Nothing there. But I didn't even think of my WP blog site (that I don't remember ever setting up), so when I finally thought to click on the icon next to my post on Donna's site...up came this sprightly little lamb and...nothing else.
In my enthusiasm to be known I created my presence everywhere and then forgot where I was. If it wasn't so pathetically needy it would be funny.
And DLM had a great suggestion:
Amanda, hee. I think most of us have defunct profiles lying around; you should perhaps write the detective story hinging on these clues!
Janice Grinyer asked:
My blog is basically for my enjoyment and others entertainment - "Gowestferalwoman" is basically what I am known by or "feral woman" :D. However, I do list my real name. I have combined followers of over 400+ who are a great bunch of people, and a good amount of traffic per month.
But my blog is just for fun - funny writing, poetry, photos, stories, what's going on with the animals/work etc. There are no rants of any religious/political/cursing nature, but there is no mention of any writing process as a writer. I also have a Forestry business website but I do not link to my blog. I am currently working on setting up an author website for when I query. Should I link to my blog I currently have (do I have to go and grammar check all 350+ posts?! wah!), or should I set up a new blog that is more "professional" and link to that?
Link to it if you don't mind me reading it. I strongly urge you NOT to set up a blog just for writing if you've already got one going. Keeping two blogs going is HARD (trust me on this!!) A website yes, a blog no.
The purpose of reading your blog is not to find out about you as a writer. It's to find out about you as a person. How you write your blog is more important that what you write about (unless you're trashing publishing, my clients, me ---in that order)
Lucie Witt asked
Am I the only one who thinks comments on blogs are not the metric they once were? In the age of Twitter and tumblr it seems less and less people comment, with the exception of communities like this. In my mind, if you have a nice, accessible website/blog with good content and contact info that would be a plus to an agent even with low comment count
I don't really look at how many people comment although I do look at the comments. I understand that most writer blogs don't get lots of comments. The effort required to build a blog that gets 30+ comments a day is effort that could be better spent WRITING.
Julie M. Weathers said
I am totally disappointed my posts on Wrangler patches are not what I'm supposed to post. Or how to starch Wranglers. It's my most popular post. The legend of black eyed peas complete with recipe gets lots of hits every New Year.
Your posts on Wrangler patches and ironing are exactly what you should post. The purpose of your blog is to introduce me to you, the person. I can't think of a better way to do that than talking about real stuff. Like ironing.
And here's Botanist, headed for Carkoon on his debut comment:
Janet, you did such a brilliant job with Query Shark coaching people on their queries. That forum has quietened down because you must have shredded almost every possible example of bad query form, and amassed an impressive reference archive in the process. How about a similar venture for web sites now? Seems you have a lot of valuable advice to offer there too...
Actually I was thinking of first pages. But don't tell anyone.
On Thursday we talked about agents who only do very limited submissions then call it day.
I really liked what Matt Adams said:
I am always amazed at how easily the words "Write another book" slips from the mouths of people other than the one who's being told to write another book. The singer Dar Williams described it as "the easy courage of my distant friends," the idea that something as hard and personal should be discarded simply because it's the logical next step. Or as if just writing another book is a minor thing.
And he's right. I did just blithely say "write another book" as though it was some sort of do-over on a fallen soufflé.
And it's not. But, my experience tells me that most writers have inventory. If this one didn't sell, there's more in the hopper. When my clients have come up short on submissions, we've moved on to the next book fairly quickly.
As to whether the book is dead, I should have been more clear. This book is dead in terms of acquiring an agent. As several of you pointed out, the next new agent may be able to shop it as a second or third book. It's not so much dead as not useful for right now.
Janet: Is this kind of scenario more likely among newer, or junior agents, or is this something you see across the whole spectrum of agenting?
Actually I see it most amongst established agents.
Karen McCoy asked
My other question to Opie is one that has been addressed in the past: does this WhamBam agent have other clients, and if so, is Opie allowed to contact them to see if they had similar experiences? That might help put some of the puzzle pieces together.
Allowed is an odd word choice here. No one can prevent you from talking to other writers, or other writers who have the same agent. It was a bit daunting the first time I realized my clients were talking to each other but experience has proved it to be a very good thing. They help each other, torment each other, cheer each other on, and so far at least, have not decided to fire me.
I think it's entirely appropriate to ask other clients about this. If the agent objects, well, now you know something more about that agent.
I think it's entirely appropriate to ask other clients about this. If the agent objects, well, now you know something more about that agent.
I'm always a bit dubious about the idea that certain topics are 'in' or 'out', like Capri pants or hipster beards. Surely if the book is good enough, it doesn't matter what it's about? Like I might enjoy a really well-written novel about the Gold Rush, but it wouldn't necessarily make me want to read other books by other authors about the same subject.
Certain topics or tropes or even genres go in and out of fashion. Chick lit (those delicious frothy tales of young women making their way in the world) are largely out of fashion now.
Dystopian YA? Tough sell
Vampires of any kind? Tough sell.
Westerns? A small but devoted niche market that probably won't be expanding any time soon.
What makes things in and out of fashion for a publisher is largely how many successful writers there are working in that field right now. If you're publishing a dozen successful thriller writers, there isn't a lot of room to add even one more. And given that even when writers die, they still "keep writing" that shelf space isn't loosening up anytime soon.
Charlotte Grubbs asked a very astute question:
Janet, I had a question: I know that, when talking to an agent that has offered representation, you should ask what happens if the book doesn't sell. Is it also appropriate to ask where the agent plans to submit, how many submissions they plan to make, which editor do they think would be a good fit for the book, etc? It seems like knowing an agent's submission strategy before signing with them is the only way to avoid the OP's situation, but I don't want to offend an agent by micromanaging or appearing to doubt their abilities. If I signed with an agent who then told me "oh, btw, I'm only submitting to ten editors," I would feel very misled, but at the same time I'm worried that asking "you're not just going to submit to ten editors and then call it quits, right?" would make me seem pushy and paranoid.
It's certainly fine to discuss submissions in general. I do that with prospects all the time. I do NOT get in to specifics. For starters, I'm not going to invest time in creating a submission list until I know I've got the client.
And second, there's no way I'm going to tell a prospect about my sub list on the off chance they sign with someone else and then pass along all that info to a different agent.
I've seen some very unhappy things happen when prospects get revision notes, and shop a revised manuscript widely and sign with someone else. I see this particularly with younger agents; those who have more time to offer revision notes and then get left in the lurch when the writer uses those revisions to query others.
I will talk generally about submissions means I'll talk publishers but not editors. I'd never share a pitch unless a writer had signed with me.
A.J. Blythe asked
Janet, at the risk of finding myself with a one-way ticket to Carkoon, I was wondering if you could blog about what authors should do/ask an agent before signing (a la the things Charlotte mentioned and anything else we don't know to ask) and accepted protocols? By the latter I mean things like... Is it okay to ask questions and then think about saying yes? I'd be so worried they'd think I wasn't keen that they'd change their mind, so I'm liable to agree in panic and excitement.
I know you've talked about a lot of these things in the past, but I can't remember a post where it's all on the one page. Please forgive me, your Sharkness, if my brain is just faulty.
Google is indeed your friend. Search terms "Janet Reid" and "Questions to ask agents"
will cough up a couple places. This is the one I wrote.
Colin Smith had another
Panda in Chief related this
When I was first dipping my toes in the kid-lit river, I went to a SCBWI event to hear an agent speak, and she said she rarely (if ever) gives up, and had submitted work as many as 32 or more times before selling it. And that she would have kept on submitting until it sold or there were no publishers left.
And let's all just remember that Phil Spitzer had James Lee Burke's first Robicheaux novel on submission for 17 YEARS before he sold it. I revere Phil Spitzer, and that's just one reason why.
But, I'm also really clear with prospective clients: if this book doesn't sell, I'm not kicking you to the kerb for that reason alone.
On Friday we talked about the importance of consistent email addresses:
Colin Smith said
Of course, I would never presume you actually *want* to get my emails, so I would never presume to bother to notify you with a change of email address. I would just hope you check the spam filter once in a while, and that somehow you would recognize my message as not being spam and fish it out. :)
While that is generally true, if a writer has sent a manuscript and doesn't hear back from me, it creates anxiety. I prefer to induce anxiety in writers only when I can sit back and enjoy it, not inadvertently with an email glitch.
Janet: Do you only look at the social media someone says they have, or do you search Goodreads (for example) to see if that person is there, or do you just Google that person's name and see what comes up? At the moment, I'm operating on the assumption that you (or any agent I query) might visit my blog because that's listed on my email signature, and you might then visit any social media I list on my blog. So if I have an outdated MySpace account, if I don't mention it, you'll never visit it or go looking for it. Is this incorrect?
if you've sent a query, I generally look at the sites you reference in your query letter.
If a client or a blog reader or someone-not-you says they are referring me to you, then I google you. Thus you want to clean up your electronic presence before you ever whisper to a soul that you're agent stalking. As in: start NOW.
At least one request got bounced back to me due to volume. I do wonder if agents have a way of keeping their inboxes from becoming full because that will bounce your request as well. I think this was how this agent took vacation myself- spam full the inbox, hit the sunny Caribbean for a week, clear out the inbox, and resume the madness. It's better than Norman- you get a lovely notification that your email was not delivered because there was no room for it. Sigh. I needed to do one more revision anyhow.
We had that problem here till we figured out not to leave mail on the server after it had been forwarded to us. Fortunately we realized we had a problem before too much time had passed.
That's one reason I run everything through gmail: no volume limits.
Colin Smith asked:
Since we seem to be tallying, let's see how I do on the "friend of the Shark" checklist:
* Contest Winner: CHECK!
* Regular Commenter: CHECK!
* Have corresponded with QOTKU via email in the past: CHECK!
* Has a Carkoon record: STRIKE!
* Consistently and painfully violates commenting rules: STRIKE!
* Likes kale and lima beans: STRIKE STRIKE!!!
* Uses italics: STRIKE STRIKE STRIKE!!!!
Does your spam filter have an address, Janet? Maybe I should just cut out the middle-person... :)
Priscilla, Queen of the Just Desserts does indeed have an email address; FictionNovels@JetReidLiterary.LOL
On Saturday, the question was why big name authors don't just self publish and it was a chance to trot out my Econ 201 notes from undergrad school.
Kitty's comment here
reminded me to emphasize POD is a way to print books, NOT a way to publish books. Trade and academic presses use POD technology all the time.Self-pub books used to be called PODs (print on demand). Ten years ago Goldberg thought PODs were a waste of time and money, that a great book will get noticed eventually. Then he discovered Amazon’s self-pub service. He’s written a lot on this subject. I searched his blog for “POD” and “self-publish” and found quite a bit.
The reason it came to be associated with self-publishing (which simply means that you the writer are the final word on the book being published) is that POD made self-publishing affordable.
Previously, you'd need to order hundreds of books to self-publish something that looked like a real book.
With POD technology you can order one or a hundred or a thousand.
The difference is there is no price break for multiple copies
One book costs $5.00
Ten books cost $50.00
100 cost $500.00
When you buy books from an off-set press, you pay $75.00 for one and $500.00 bucks for 100.
It's like pricing at Kinkos: one copy is 25cents. 100 copies is $10.00
The problem with POD printing was the lack of quality control. It looked like a book but the production values were often so bad they were laughable. And of course, the content was ..spotty.
I notice you didn't put Patterson on the list with Rowling and King. I know why I wouldn't have done it; he is a franchise and not a writer. Would you explain yourself or can you not read formulaic crud either?
I don't think James Patterson was included in the questioner's list. And I suspect James Patterson doesn't actually write his books anymore. I think he has writers. He's the creative leader (he comes up with the concepts or the stories) but the actual writing is done by others, or certainly with others. Thus his opportunity costs are much different.
This is a long week in review since we missed last week. There wasn't a lot of time for revision and letting this sit for a while to catch those pesky typos. Let me know when you find them!
I can't believe January is ending!
I can't believe January is ending!
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