Thursday, February 04, 2016

put your contact info on your damn blog

Recently, a writer made a very astute comment on a QueryShark blog post.
A comment that gave me a real epiphany.

Naturally, being sharklike, I wished to send an email chastising her for being brilliant and insightful.

She, being clever, did not have her contact info on her blog. Or on her blog commenting profile.


But I will not be deterred.

Bethany, I'm looking at you.

And in case you're wondering, here's the comment (I underlined her comments I found particularly helpful and blue ink is a comment I added):

The problem with fantasy is that there's so much world building that it can be hard to write a sensible query without spending too much time on world-building. There's also a LOT of fantasy out there, and since high fantasy doesn't depend as much on current culture as other genres, you have more competition. There's no intrinsic reason why a high fantasy novel written in 2016 will mean more to me as a reader than one written in 1975. (This would apply to historical fiction as well)

So how do you set your query apart? I don't think the answer is by focusing on the plot. By all means, describe the stakes and the plot in the query, but that's not where your edge should come from. Your edge should come from your characters. There is nothing new under the sun, plot-wise. But fun, engaging, rascally characters? They're timeless.

Why should I care about Blackwater? Is he noble? Blah. Is he a reluctant hero? Yawn. Is he funny? Hmm... I could work with that. Brooding? I'm a sucker for brooding heroes. Is he finicky, whiny, feisty, big-hearted, foolish, intelligent, beautiful, ugly, sharp, dull? The only things I know about your characters are their circumstances. That isn't enough.

You've got a little of this with your first two paragraphs, though the shark is right. First person is confusing. But I sense reluctance, bitterness, and regret - three things that make characters interesting. You lose that in the rest of your query. Give me the regret, give me the heartache, give me the spilled blood. I want to see your character staring over the edge of a cliff. Gimme! :)  

My insight: What's at stake for the hero/heroine, what s/he wants, should reveal his/her character.

I don't think I've ever said that when we've talked about getting plot on the page, but I think it will be very useful.

Thanks Bethany. Now put your damn contact info on your blog so I can swim over with a thank you note.


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Bethany, a candidate for Carkoon ? Hell no.

How about New Hampshire? Not another one.

Arri Frranklin said...

I'm getting a dedicated email to stick on my blog! Maybe even two! I swear! Colin, I've been waiting to take Mona's advice about being added to the list of blogs until I have that.

Sorry to hear you angered the shark, Bethany. I've heard that Scotch might help, but an email address will probably work best in this case.

Anonymous said...

I'm terrible at updating my blog, but hopefully people can at least find me to tell me I'm being slack with the helpful contact me link.

(New shy woodland creature here. Hello!)

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Those are AMAZING thoughts with regards to fantasy. I do hope Bethany sees this and updates her blog posthaste.

I confess, fantasy novels don't always appeal to me once I'm holding them in my hands and trying to read them, even though it's one of "my" genres. And I think Bethany is right, it comes down to character. Sure, sure they're gonna be saving the world or something that's a given, whatever. Epic fantasy heroes don't fail at that ( there an instance where they do? Should I be writing this right now? Or will this be a project only I'm interested in? LORD OF THE RINGS meets ON THE BEACH or something.)

The most recent fantasy novels I've read are Richard K. Morgan's STEEL REMAINS and COLD COMMANDS, and Naomi Novick's HIS MAJESTY'S DRAGON, and my love of those stories has far less to do with the plot and far more to do with the characters, their, er, character, and the decisions they make.

Richard K. Morgan is also the author of ALTERED CARBON, which is one of the science fictions I've loved best in life, period. It's far future noir, with replacement bodies and a dryly sarcastic former mercenary (or was he full military? hmm) problem solver and I need to read it all again right now. Netflix just ordered 10 episodes of it.

Colin Smith said...

Those of you who either don't have blogs, or don't feel your blog is ready for a Shark visit, AT LEAST update your contact info in your Blogger profile. Of course, if you don't want to be getting emails or blog visits from one of New York's finest and most respected literary agents, then I suppose that's your choice... ;)

Arri: As soon as you're ready to be listed, just drop me an email. Guess where you can find my email address? Try my Blogger profile... :D

Hello, wordsofrablack! Thanks for peeking out from the covers. Likewise, if you want your blog listed with the other Reider blogs on the list, just drop me an email with your deets. (Do people still say "deets"? You know, I don't care. I'm saying it.)

Tony Clavelli said...

I sort of pride myself at my search engine skills, and it I thought: "Okay, Bethany, I'll find that email address." But nope. Really, bizarrely hard. Got the family name, got the website... didn't get the e-mail. Found a twitter and thought "yes!" but then it hadn't been touched in 3 weeks (and only linked to a website that linked to the OTHER website I'd already seen). I'm with the Shark on this--it should be WAY easier.

Also--yes: characters are it. They're all of it. They're the plot; they're the story. There can be goblins oozing magic from their armpits but unless they're interesting people, they're not worth anyone's time.

Amy Schaefer said...

A good plot won't save you from cardboard characters. And showing a bit of their sizzle in your query letter can only be a good thing.

Enjoy your forthcoming Sharkmail, Bethany!

nightsmusic said...

I made a point of putting a Contact Me: tiny form on one of the sidebars on my site. Then I removed it while setting things up and it will go back when I'm done with the overall redesign. And I only did that because I was at a conference where Angela James spoke, a couple years ago, and that was one of the first things she stressed as well. "I need a way to contact you!" And I hear that a lot (see? two words!) so that is always there somehow. Not that anyone ever does. Contact me. But it's there :)

Robert Ceres said...

Huge epiphany. HUGE. Time to write a new query variant right now. One focused on the characters and their own personal struggles right up front. Huge.

Anonymous said...

Yes, let's all say it in unison: IT'S ALL ABOUT THE CHARACTERS. I sometimes get stuck figuring out plot issues and forget to ask my characters what they would do in this situation. They usually know, and it usually goes someplace new and interesting.

ummm... okay, I just updated my email on my contact page. It wasn't wrong before, just not the email I've specially set up for my writing persona. All fixed now! Thanks, QOTKU, for reminding me to do this.

wordsofrablack - welcome. I've been lurking in the shadows for a year, soaking up the wisdom of the shark and loving the drollery and insight of the commenters, and I'm just now stepping up to commenting now and then. Lordy, this is a SMART bunch, and it can be intimidating, but it's worth hanging with such a crowd.

Amanda Capper said...

Bethany, Bethany, Bethany. We are going to track you down. We are going to swamp you with email. We're going to...

Hmmm. Maybe that's her plan. Be mysterious, Bethany.

Welcome wordsofrablack (mind if I call you wordso?) to insightful mayhem.

DLM said...

Tony, remind me never to drop any hints you might want to follow up on ... :) You're reminding me of a guy from my last job who, when I offhandedly asked if he might have the home address of a guy on his team whose wife had just had a baby, within an hour provided me with her Pinterest, two blogs, and the fact that he'd found out their real estate tax debt for that year.

This is a father of daughters. Potential suitors: beware! (Extra bonus advice: do not cheat on this guy and expect him not to find the texts and Ashley Madison accounts.) - "drollery" is OSUM. You get a gold star for the day - and since I was handing out bops on the head yesterday, that's a win on both sides.

wordsofrablack, welcome!

Tony Clavelli said...

Diane--oh no! Time out! I just had the hubris to think I could do better with the search (and absolutely couldn't!). I don't want to be associated with that kind of father who thinks his daughter can't make her own decisions! (not that your coworker necessary was, and I have no children, but still just in case: that's not me!)

I only wanted to see if contact was merely inconvenient or genuinely difficult, and it was both.

Susan said...

First, I'm catching up on yesterday's post and comments: Lucie, I'm so sorry for your loss, my heart goes out to you and your family. Janice's comment with the "Our Town" quote was beautiful and, actually, the whole play is appropriate when dealing with such a loss. You're in my thoughts.

When I was in college, one of my professors said that there's nothing new under the sun when it comes to modern fiction. He said that all stories can be traced back to the bible, mythology, and Shakespeare (and I took a Shakespeare adaptations course that pretty much cemented that last one for me). What is new, and why there is no end to creativity, are the details: new places, new characters, new motivations, new dialogue, etc.

The same thought can be applied on a larger scale: when you look at our lives, our plots are very much the same: birth, adolescence, love, career, family, death. But it's the details that makes every life individual and unique. We've still got the same basic plot line, but how different would the details of my life be--how different would I be--if I grew up where I was born? If I chose to do x instead of y?

I think that's why storytelling is so powerful (and why we'll never run out of ideas and books). I think this is why Bethany's assertion about character is so true--we can read variations of the same plot millions of times, but it's the unique details that creates the package.

DLM said...

Hee - I should hasten to say, he is entirely honorable, but he was just THAT tech nerd and loved to research stuff. I mean, I do too, but what I research is like ancient horsebreeding and pattern-welded steel, not so much people I want to send a baby gift to. :) Aww and now I miss the guy.

Side note on a sidelong glace, the alignment of this page on my current screen makes it look like Gossamer TEC is peering at the cat in today's post. Gossamer is the sort to trifle with someone just for fun, too. This is a cat who plays with Sharks.

Jenny C said...

Bethany - Great insights! I am in the process of rewriting my query. Loved this sentence: Give me the regret, give me the heartache, give me the spilled blood.

On the slight chance I might someday say something equally as brilliant I went over to my blog and checked that my email is there even though I was 100% certain that it is and even though Janet has my email from the time I won a FF contest but I am just so frightened of those sharky teeth so how could I not make sure I am in compliance???

By the way, my blog contains mainly comics about writing so if you need a laugh, stop by.

Theresa said...

I wonder when Bethany will realize the Shark is in pursuit.

This is a great reminder about the importance of sharply defined characters. I remember reading this comment on Query Shark and thinking how helpful it was.

Craig said...

Congratulations Bethany. you have updated the online game of HUNTING GARY CORBY. Now we can focus on HUNTING BETHANY. Hopefully you won't be digging a hole in Africa when you are found.

If you follow my Queen's four C's of query writing you should already realize that query is about character. The synopsis should cover the plot.

Enticing someone to want to read more should show the character of the protagonist, and a conflict they are stuck in. Their choice in that conflict is the true heart of a query and the consequences/stakes should be used to raise the tension or suspense of the query.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the welcome!

Wordwacker - one of the reasons it's taken me this long to raise my head is that I've huge respect for the insight and eloquence here and wasn't sure I could add anything myself. Maybe I can offer cups of tea and plushie animals to hug if people are having a stressful day. (I should really get myself a shark.)

Amanda - you can call me word so if you like, but that does make me sound like a robot and I don't think those are allowed here. I usually go by RA or Rose.

More on topic, the fantasies I loved most growing up were the ones where I wanted to spend time with the characters.

Bethany Elizabeth said...

Recent Google searches:
1. Search on my name (is my email really nowhere? I know it should be easy, but NOWHERE? Dang.)
2. How to put a new widget on Wordpress STAT
3. Shark repellent
4. Best brands of scotch (Thanks Arri!)

Okay, so my contact info is updated (with a brand new email specifically for the blog - does that earn me bonus points?) and I'm feeling properly chastened. I never got around to updating my email because I'm nowhere near ready to query - the more fool I! Lesson learned.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Bethany, you'll be ok with the shark. Just give over that email. That cat, however, scary!

I write fantasy and am reworking query in conjunction with my R&R. Yes, character is the thing, but you can do the query without the world building. There is a sample of one for Game of Thrones bouncing around out there that gets the job done in 250 words. It's a sample written by an agent to show how it's done. I doubt George RR Martin has had to write an actual query in quite a long time.

Also, there are some great query examples on some agency sites. JABberwocky comes to mind and they do lots of fantasy (home of Brandon Sanderson). One query that really worked for Sam Morgan that he cites pretty often begins with name of main character meeting his guardian angel when said Angel shoots him in the face. I can't find the actual sample but it's brilliant and hilarious. That's a hook at sentence one.

The epic fantasy query is daunting, but it still needs to hook that agent quickly. Agents simply won't spend a lot of time waiting for you to get to the point. So find your hook. Epic fantasy doesn't relieve us of the same burden as writers in every other genre of fiction. That's a lesson I learned the hard way.

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

1. Quick, someone strip Bethany of all her good ideas before she's trebuchet'd to Carkoon.

2. *bing* -- I think I just got some insight into how I need to write this Fantasy query letter that's been bothering me for nearly a year now. Thanks, Bethany. Sometimes I need the trees of the forest pointed out to me.

3. Looked at my Google profile. Don't list my email (once had a bad experience that nearly killed me because I had been too easy to find online) but I do list my web site which has a contact form. Sufficient? (Granted, I'm still too easy to find online. Redundant?)

4. This next week the weather is bringing us a heatwave as an apology for the unseasonable winter weather we Western Australians suffered last week. Okay, it wasn't all bad as the winter weather did bring us some much-needed rain. Only hope the 40C+ temps don't reclaim it all back.

5. I am not a robot, but I played one on TV.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

"Lordy, this is a SMART bunch, and it can be intimidating, but it's worth hanging with such a crowd."

Finally some respect. Wordwacker will you marry me?

And as for Wordso, welcome to the kale and lima bean chewing maelstrom of misfits and malcontents. We may be woodland creatures scurrying to find our Ps and Qs but oh do we have fun. And we learn. Did you know that Janet is really very nice? Don't tell her we know. It hurts her fins.

LynnRodz said...

Bethany, you mean there's something else I have to think about when writing my query? I've left mine alone since the middle of last year. I got some great tips from a few Reiders (You know who you are, thanks guys!) but I think you've given many of us something to gnaw on. I plan on taking mine out today. Thanks.

RKeelan said...

My WIP is a fantasy, and it's great to read a tip targeted at "my" genre, but this blog sure isn't for the faint of heart. Every day I read things that never occurred to me, things for my damn-I-wish-I'd-written-that-file, things that make me certain I'll never sell a book in my life. A guy I work with is making plans to go part-time, or perhaps quit, and write for a living. I'm unspeakably jealous. I don't think I'll be ready for that even five or ten years from now. Maybe never.

Congratulations, Bethany, on writing something to make the Shark sit up and take notice :)

Colin Smith said...

RKeelan: Is your co-worker already a published author? Maybe he has a supportive spouse? Or he won the lottery? If I recall correctly, JK Rowling was still teaching when the first two Potter books came out. Even if you get a nice advance on your first novel, there's no guarantee the second will sell. If you don't have some other means of income, you could be living off that first advance for a long time.

I know it's tough working a full-time job and finding time to write. But be thankful for that job. It enables you to keep yourself fed, watered, a roof over your head, the bill collectors from your door, electricity in your computer, and ink in your printer. At least until that wonderful day when you can hand in your notice, sure of a steady and sufficient income from your words and stories. :)

BJ Muntain said...

Hey wordsofrablack! Welcome!

Bethany: great comment on QueryShark. Ya done good, girl. :)

When it comes to querying anything, it's completley unnecessary to include worldbuilding. You may have the best-planned world, with the most gorgeous scenes anywhere... but a query letter is about conflict and character - most specifically, the character's conflict.

I have a very well-developed, expansive universe for my science fiction. My query is about my two main characters, what they need to do to save the Earth, and why they don't want to do that.

Link to Jenny C's blog

John Frain said...

Yond Susan sports a lean and hungry look. (Okay, I know Cassius didn't "sport" anything, but the exact Shakespeare quote escapes my mind and it's no fun if you have to look it up, right?)

Unless you're looking up Bethany, which sounds like as much fun as finding Waldo in his red and white striped shirt. Bethany, thanks for the words of wisdom and congratulations on stirring up the shark's interest. Keep swimming!

CED said...

I recently had the importance-of-character epiphany myself. I'm usually a high-concept kind of guy. Start with a conceit, develop the world, and let my characters explore the contours of the idea. This has resulted in thin but serviceable characters and stories that seem to lack something.

More recently, I tried a new method of developing an idea (Stackpole's 21 Days to a Novel, if anyone's interested) that starts with the characters, and lets the plot develop naturally out of their wants and needs and interactions. I've been pretty happy with the results so far. I know my characters really well and have a good handle on their arcs, even though I haven't started writing the narrative proper yet.

I know, I know, rookie mistakes. At least I'm learning.

An interesting footnote: this new WIP is based on an entry into one of the Shark's FF contests. :)

Anonymous said...

First off, Rose and, welcome. Hot six-week muffins are on the table next to the fresh butter with the cute little rooster stamp on top.

Bethany had some great advice and the rest of that blog post was spot on as well. Fantasy ain't easy. Nor is historical as the queen has pointed out. World building is essential to them as it is to science fiction.

Characters trump all. I'm usually pretty good with characters, especially batty old ladies, I'm told. Probably because I am one.

The trick seems to be getting all the elements to play nice together.


"I doubt George RR Martin has had to write an actual query in quite a long time."

Considering it's about ten years between books it seems, probably not. Ducks to avoid flying tomatoes.

I received some pretty insightful comments from an agent last night about a suggested revise for Far Rider my fantasy. More world building, more in depth exploration of the magic system, go deeper on some characters among other things. It will require a major gut to the bones, so I'm shelving my darling for now.


"A guy I work with is making plans to go part-time, or perhaps quit, and write for a living. I'm unspeakably jealous."

Don't be. I can't tell you how many times I have heard people say, "I thought I'd get so much more writing done once I didn't have a job."

A former writing colleague who's an award-winning writer and editor, has books and short stories published hasn't written a thing to speak of since she became unemployed and now has all the time in the world to write what she wants. Before, with a very demanding editorial job, she managed to sneak her other writing in.

You sit around the house and think of a dozen things that need to be done and at the end of the day, writing wasn't one of them.

Writing takes more than talent. Above all, it takes discipline.

Bethany, go get your contact fixed. I have that irksome form thing on mine. I'd rather just have an email, but my techy person says the form is a spam preventer. Heaven knows I have enough of that.

Lennon Faris said...

Theresa - "I wonder when Bethany will realize the Shark is in pursuit." - It made me think of all of us sitting on the coral reef, watching Bethany swim by humming to herself, the shark grinning behind, and all of us just commenting and munching on chips.

My sister and I always joke about the Lord of the Rings plot - take a ring, throw it into fire. Ta-da. But I do love those books. It's definitely the characters & their relationships that I find so appealing. Well said, Bethany!

Hi wordsofrablack!

RKeelan - I understand the sentiment. I have daydreams (usually when I'm getting ready for work) about being a full-time writer. But as Colin pointed out, there are some solid bonuses to the 'day job.' I do feel like my creative side is much more active when it knows it doesn't have to be.

Kregger said...

Guilty as charged.

Now I have another thing to figure how to make my blog up to snuff.

I will say, and as a few Reiders will attest to, I can be found.


Anonymous said...

A gold star??? *pinches arm - ow!* Thanks you, DLM. High praise indeed. I'm writing "drollery" down in my little book right now. And Carolynnwith2Ns - Sorry, already married. But we could run away to a tropical island for the weekend, as long as it's not Carkoon.

Wordsofrablack, I'd love a plushie to cuddle when feeling intimidated. Thanks, and thank you also, Julie.M.Weathers for the muffins. Yummy!

~~Celia (aka WordWacker)

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Welcome to wordsofrablack and wordwacker.

RKeelan: In the winter of 2009/2010, after moving back to the States, I house-sat and had no job. How well did I write? I journaled, stream-of-consciousness style. I wrote another daily devotional book--submitted, rejected, and now tucked away because it needs a lot of work. I was too anxious about not receiving income. My focus and discipline and creativity work much better when I have a salaried job and no pressure to earn a living from my writing.

And because I had all day to write, it WAS difficult to focus and write lots. I'm envious of King, Rowling, Picoult and others who are NOW writing full-time as professional authors. However, the road that took them to their success...I'm not envious of that part. I'm willing to work hard but I'll do it at my pace, following my own road, and not worry about writing enough to live off advances and royalties. Although....I certainly won't turn it down if it comes my way.

Bethany Elizabeth said...

Don't feel intimidated, wordsofrablack and wordwacker. I only started commenting last week and I'm already in trouble. :)

But I only ever started commenting at all because this IS a great bunch, and I wanted to interact with all of you.

racherin said...

I've been around here long enough to have heard this rant a couple of times, but here's why I've excused myself. I'm still in the middle of the first draft of my first WIP, so I've ways to go before I'm actually ready to send a query.

I have an inactive blog about knitting, knitwear design, and Italy with an email address that got lost in a computer switch - I could link to it, but why? It's unlikely I'll ever design professionally again, and I've only left the website up for the technique tutorials. I'm not in a position to maintain a blog right now.

What I'm about to admit makes me feel a little foolish, but I'm going to assume there's someone else in the crowd who's also worried about the same thing. I don't want an email address I actually use up on blogger, b/c I have a strong impression that non-professional profiles like that get tons of suggestive spam, which has driven me to abandon other social sites with no privacy controls in the past. (I'm completely unremarkable, from my research it's just a risk of being female on the internet). I don't have the energy to deal with it, and it honestly makes me feel unsafe online.

Those of you have don't have a blog, are still working on unpublished not-yet-ready-to-query, but participate in the online writer/publishing community, how have you solved this? What am I missing? Do you really have a single page website with a dedicated email address already? Can someone link to some examples? Do you check the address? Have you had problems with unwanted contact? Am I being overly scrupulous?

Since I've already made myself look dumb, I'm going the whole nine yards and ask why I need a dedicated email address? What's wrong with my

I know its over the limit, but I feel like this is the unanswered issue every time Be Reachable comes up.

Anonymous said...

Good job, Bethany. Congrats on surviving the chastisement "for being brilliant and insightful." *snort* Care to share the name of your preferred brand of shark repellent?

Welcome, wordwacker/Celia and wordsofrablack/Rose/RABlack! Always nice to have new vict-- um, chum over here.

I've said it before but maybe if I keep saying it, the universe will cooperate . . . on the list of Rules for Writers over in the right sidebar, I've always read "Be Reachable" as "Be Reacher-able." And I am. So very Reacher-able. Waiting patiently . . .

AJ Blythe said...

Welcome to all the new Reiders =)

I have now triple checked my contact details. Email on blogger profile... check. Contact me on blog.... check. *wipes brow* For now I will escape any sharks swimming in southern waters. Must remember to have contact details when I set up my webpage, which I am starting to think about after reading JRs recent posts.

Her Grace, you can send the warm weather here! Canberra only gets a 6 weeks of hot and we've missed most of it. I'm cold-blooded and need those weeks of heat to survive winter!

RKeelan said...

Colin: No, he's not a published author. And he wants to write non fiction. On a subject in which he has no credentials that I know of. I'm intensely curious to know how (or if!) he plans to make money. Alas, I don't know him well enough to just ask.

Julie.M.Weathers: Maybe I'm weird, but I feel like I have discipline in spades. I never worry about that that. It's the talent part that turns me into a woodland creature :)

Lennon and Lisa: I'm very risk averse. It's hard to imagine ever making enough money writing that I'd be comfortable quitting my job. So I (mostly) focus on the next step, which right now is getting my WIP to the stage where I can show it to my wife.

Sam Hawke said...

Welcome new Reiders! Always lovely to have new members of the community speak up. I've felt a bit out of things lately because the time difference has been killing me - used to be I could see the new post before I went to bed at night but now by the time I get up in the morning everyone has already finished commenting and I've missed the fun. Ah well, I'm still lurking about here reading your wisdom after you've all moved on! :)

Lovely to see a note about fantasy, too. My genre as well, and it sure is a tricky one to query in a paragraph or two. I think what Julie said is right - finding a balance between the different elements. Sometimes the worldbuilding - the big 'what if' of your world - is something that really captures the imagination and wonder side and needs to be woven in. I just read a few reviews of Fran Wilde's Updraft and it's clear from all the reviewers that the inventive, unique world is a big drawcard. This is from a review in Strange Horizons, before the first character is even mentioned:

It’s a world of towers made of live, growing bone, occupied by people who have mechanically mastered the art of flight. The towers grow up from the earth like endless spines, and the populace makes their homes in the hollow vertebrae, swooping from tower to tower to trade their few, precious commodities. But only the bravest and best fliers make these journeys because of the skymouths: invisible maws that open in the sky and swallow humans whole.

Obviously this isn't for the purposes of a query. But it's an example of how important the worldbuilding can be to the story. Finding a balance between an intriguing set up and fascinating characters is the key!

Karen McCoy said...

*hastily updates blog profile and website information*

roadkills-r-us said...

Whoa! I had turned off displaying my email address on my older blogs when I was fighting spam on an address I personally managed. I never fixed that after switching exclusively to gmail addresses.
Until now. Thanks, QS.

Nightsmusic, congrats on your hubby's Daytona motor win!

Timothy Lowe said...

I honestly don't know what people did before all the blogs, and the emailing, and the 'interweb'. Oh, yeah. They stuffed envelopes and put them in a metal box. Then, a few weeks later, they had a little slip of paper that told them nothing. No wonder I chose now to be a writer.

Anonymous said...


I remember the good old days well.

nightsmusic said...

roadkills-r-us, Thank you! It's been a good week at work for him, that's for sure. I just hope the rest of the season goes well.

Welcome to all the new Reiders! Don't be afraid. There's nothing to worry about here. Except exile, Carkoon, kale...teeth...'re gonna love it here :)

Donnaeve said...

New Reiders!!! Welcome, Bethany, wordwacker, wordsofrablack, and...anyone else I miss?

I don't have anything to add. Just wanted to say "hi!" to the fresh meat - oh, maybe not a good choice of words considering it's like chum, and that's the Shark's FAVORITE SNACK - well - that and author asshats and people trying to scam writers, ya know?

I'm glad ya'll are here!

racherin said...

I totally lost an earlier comment, and now it's bedtime, but I really have a question that bothers me every time the Be Reachable rule comes up.

Can someone link to a website with contact info that's a) not a blog, b) by someone who is still writing their first WIP and is months away from querying, c) is secure or private enough that there's no fear of being overwhelmed by inappropriately suggestive emails from strangers?

Blogger profiles don't inspire confidence for c, I don't want to start a blog or link to my old one about knitting (plus I don't check the email associated with that anyway), and I'm so far from querying it seems absurd to set up a little page with a contact me page saying I write fiction. I plan to do that between query-perfecting sessions once the book is done.

What am I missing? En-wisen me, please! And, while you're at it and I'm asking silly questions, why do I need a dedicated email? What's wrong with my

Colin Smith said...

racherin: Do you mind if I throw some thoughts your way re. writers and social media? I'm sure Janet's answers will be more valuable, but for what they're worth...

* You don't need social media to write a novel. I know, obvious, but just to get that out there. Your ability to write a book is not dependent on social media.

* When you start querying, agents might like to get to know you. If they're torn between yours and some other good queries, they might want to see how consistently good your writing is, or get an idea of the kind of client you might be (what other interests you have, what scary ideologies you espouse, are you pleasant, or are you pugnacious...). In that way, even a blog about knitting is useful for an agent.

* When you get that publishing contract, it's good if you already have a way of letting people know about it. Some kind of online presence can be useful like that. But it takes time to build a readership, so the earlier you start, the better.

* Writers like to connect with other writers (see the List of Blog Readers and Their Blogs on the top right). Your online presence will help to build relationships with others who share your passion for writing, and could help you progress in your writing career.

* When Janet talks about a "dedicated email address" I believe she means your writer email should sound professional--not Using your name is perfectly acceptable.

That's my understanding, anyway. Hope that helps.

RKeelan said...

racherin said...
I'm so far from querying it seems absurd to set up a little page with a contact me page saying I write fiction.

I'm in your exact situation, and that is literally what I did :) Right down to the website with nothing more than a contact form and a page saying I write fiction. It took no more than a couple hours, and that only because I was so proud I needed to have a domain of my own.

John Frain said...

Another night sittin' on the front porch in this lil' neighborhood. Leaning back in my chair, just listening to the neighbors chatting. Somebody tosses out a question, one of the new folks just moved in up the street.

Without even knowing Julie Weathers just sauntered over, I can tell the answer by the voice. Now I don't remember the exact question as I was watching a black pickup truck turning around in the driveway next door, wondering what that driver was up to. But the question was something about starting a blog.

Somehow the answer, yet again, involves a rodeo and the way a fella wears his chaps and a couple of show horses thrown in for good measure, but everybody on the porch is nodding their head in unison when the story's wrapping up.

"Yup, she's exactly right."
"Julie's got a story that fits every question."
"Listen to the block captain, her answer's always spinning in the middle of her story."

I just shake my head and smile. Watching that pickup pull away. Guy probably wishing the house next door was for sale.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, John. I couldn't stand the typos. Do over! Do over!

Repost John replied to:


Here is my site. Go across the top bar to "contact Julie". That will bring up a form that sends me an email. It doesn't put my email directly out there so I am flooded with spam. It's a bit round about, but the lady who built my site says it's a secure approach. So far it's worked.

Forgive me for linking to my site, y'all.

I had the blog before I was querying. Then Deleyna insisted I needed a site and built me one, complete with old lady background. *Fans self and drinks sweet tea.*

It isn't about querying. It's about:

Become familiar with the medium. The time to learn to ride is not the week before the Kentucky Derby. Establish a presence now. Have fun with it.

Colin pretty much hit the high spots. He's the consummate professional as usual.

Don't let the idea that you need some kind of presence scare you. You might start with twitter. Set up a Facebook account. I recently started a new one for my author presence. I'll start transferring all my writer buddies over to it soon and be all professional and stuff, kind of. Who am I kidding? I'll still have stupid animal videos all over it.

You definitely want a name like firstname.lastname@somethingmail. You also it to be a dedicated email for professional purposes. Otherwise, while you're using that email to shop at great deals r us and your account gets hacked you may be getting emails from agents gently reminding you that you've been hacked. Luckily, some of those agents are understanding and will be nice. Others may just block you.

One thing people don't mention about these steps is the mental aspect.

When you go to a rodeo school the students put on their gear, their chaps, vests, spurs, etc even when they're standing around listening to lectures. They get used to being a rider. The equipment becomes part of them. They get in the zone mentally.

You can't wait until you're ready to query a book to decide you're a writer. You need to get in that zone now. Whatever it takes get your mind right.

At Surrey, one of the keynote speakers advised the writers to take their name tags and write "writer" under their names and not forget who they are.

John, I owe you one. I'll be sort of kind to Dr. Frain in Rain Crow.

Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Road Kill and Racherin,

A good way to avoid spam when you list your email is to make a graphic instead of linking text. To explain, write your contact email in excel or word and save it as a gif. Then insert this gif. into your blog or web page.

This will cut your spam BUT it may also annoy a busy agent who reads blogs on her phone. A simple click leads directly to you.

If an agent wants to contact you and has to type in your email, after reading one of your blog posts while she's riding the train, she might get distracted when her stop is announced. She flips closed her phone. On the way to the office she waits in line to buy frothy cupcakes. She opens her phone. Does she find your link or does she have to remember to type in that squirrelly email address she forgot?

John Frain said...


The kindest thing you could do is make sure you have the good doctor's malpractice insurance paid before that upcoming scene where he amputates the wrong body part.


By the way, under the Things That Are Hard To Explain To Others category: Why I get such a kick from using italics here!

racherin said...

Just to respond, once again because I'm sure there's someone else with my question - I love Twitter, visit Facebook mostly for a writer support group, and I've even entered a few writing contests here. I continue get more involved with writers as the writing continues. I'm not worried because I don't know how to have a presence, I just have strong ideas about where and how I'll put my contact info out there, and I've avoided generic profiles for security reasons.

Please believe I cannot maintain a blog right now. I know this has come up before, and some suggested everyone can find the time if the really want to, but what I really want to do is finish my book, and then write the next one. words matter to me-some weeks that's all I get. I'm not worried someone will find my knitting blog, although the writing is only so-so. It's just not active or particularly good for contacting me. I only knit for networking purposes now.

I'm encouraged to know so many people have not had issues with spam - and I don't mind ordinary spam, it's stalker spam that creeps me out. I think I'll resurrect the knitting email (it's a variation of my name) point it somewhere useful, and reorganize the knitting website to make it clear the death of the blog was intentional, and generalize the site content a bit.

And on the email, I thought I understood Janet to say at other times, that you should have an email address you use for nothing other than writing/querying work. Did I wildly misunderstand?

Thanks for your patience - I love seeing all your solutions.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

John Frain love your 11:46 comment. My rocker is rockin' too.

Anonymous said...


Since the good doctor is a Confederate spy in Baltimore in a time when habeas corpus has been suspended and people can be tossed in prison and held indefinitely on mere suspicion, and spies are hanged, malpractice insurance may be the least of his worries.

I guess being sort of good to him is relative in this case.


Anonymous said...


And on the email, I thought I understood Janet to say at other times, that you should have an email address you use for nothing other than writing/querying work. Did I wildly misunderstand?

Yes, she did and for the reason I explained among others. There's far less chance of being hacked if you use it for nothing but business. The trick is to use a professional sounding email like the one you referenced.

Set up a writer email with your name. Use it just for writer stuff, not shopping and sharing cute cat pictures with your friends.

BJ Muntain said...

Racherin: You don't need a blog, as such. You could set up a 'blog' as a static page. Just one page, that points people to ways they can contact you. Maybe that's a form. Maybe that's an e-mail link.

Maybe you could use a page on the knitting blog webspace as a static page for your contact information?

As a way to make it clear your blog's death is intentional, you could simply have a big heading that says 'Archived' across the top. :)

As for Janet saying having an email address for nothing but writing: That's always a good idea. I created mine long before I started querying. I use it when I want to get on a writing-related newsletter, or get information from others regarding writing.

I first used it when I joined online forums for critiquing purposes. For the longest time, I rarely got any mail at all there. Now it's full of good information, writers group work, and other writing-related items.

It separates your work habits from your personal ones, and can actually make you feel like you're a real writer (you are, of course. If you write, you're a writer. But this gives you more... strength behind it.)

It's cheap and easy to set up e-mail addresses at places like Gmail and Yahoo. It's also possible to set up e-mail addresses to forward mail to another address. That way, people would only have the first address, not the second.

I've also found that it helps to only have an e-mail link - that is, a link to your e-mail, without actually having your e-mail on the page.

Panda in Chief said...

Julie, you are so right about the formerly employed person who somehow never found time to write once she was unemployed. I had a friend who worked full time, and somehow kept painting, but when she retired, her art output plummeted. I think some people do better with some external structure, and when they don't have it, their schedule goes to pieces.
I do much better when I create a written schedule/framework for my time (and stick to it mostly.)

I have a contact me page on my blog, which has one of those forms. It's the best this paranoid panda can do, when it comes to exposing my fluffy pelt to the universe. We are endangered, you know.

bass said...

As a reader who rarely comments whose irl name is also Bethany, this post made me panic for a minute that I was making brilliant comments on this blog as I sleep. Unlikely, but you never know.

Anonymous said...


My former editor takes a medicine with odd side effects. We had a Tuesday noon hard deadline at the magazine, so that meant editorial had to be to her by the latest Monday night. I would usually pull an all nighter Sunday night and send stories to her through the night. Then I'd finish up and send the rest to her Monday.

She'd often contact me late Monday and ask where the rest of my stories were. I'd say, "You already edited them. I did the corrections and sent them on."

This went on for quite a while before she admitted she got up in the middle of the night to check emails, pulled stories, edited them, and mailed them back while she was "asleep". She asked me how the edits were. I said, "They're great. Gloria okayed them, Connie okayed them, and they went to press."

Who knows, maybe the pharmaceutical ought to advertise sleep writing as a side effect.