In last week's review Mona Zarka picked up on my comment about writers writing after death:
And given that even when writers die, they still "keep writing" ... As in their work is published posthumously? Or other writers take up their stories?A few writers were always more prolific after death: V.C. Andrews comes to mind. Of course t'was not Ms Andrews herself but a ghostwriter, but the books were published under the Andrews name and readers bought them as such.
Recently Robert Parker was added to the list with all three of his series continuing: Spenser; the police chief in Paradise that I always think of as Tom Selleck; the westerns.
Ian Fleming's James Bond books continued after his death too, but not under his name.
Felix Francis writes under his own name, but his father Dick Francis' name appears on the cover also.
What this means though is that instead of these dead authors becoming backlist, they're still front list every year, and that means less room for new authors. Shelf space isn't a metaphor: there are only so many shelves in the mystery section of a library, a bookstore, or your house. If you're reading and loving Robert Parker, you're probably going to keep buying "his" books rather than branch out and find someone new.
The only people that hate this are the ones who don't have one of these life after death deals.
I googled my name yesterday. My web presence is next to nothing. I have no website, no blog, and am not on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. Should O Great Sharkly One look for me, she will find some mis-information (I have lived my entire life in Michigan, and I am not Sagittarius). I have been mentioned in a couple of articles by a well-published friend of mine. That's about it.
I have thought about starting a blog, though it would be something that takes time from my WIP. Even if it is writing, which is a good thing.
What would it say about me if I blogged, say, once a month? I hesitate to take on a project that will get lost in the jumble of my life. Or do I just need a push (and some direction) to get started?
Any advice for us wall flowers who might like to dance, but know that everyone will laugh when we trip over our own feet and fall flat on our faces?
Right now all you really need is a place where people can find your contact info. For example, if I want to tell you your comment was amazing and wonderful, would I be able to?
Yes I can! When I click on your commenting name, a nice profile comes up, with an email address. I also see the books you like, your "other" job, where you live. That's all you need if an agent is looking at you during the query stage. It just gives me a sense of who you are if I want to get in touch. It's like taking off your sunglasses or your hat when you enter a home. You want to appear non-threatening, and more info means less scary. Unless of course your hobby is fishing and your favorite soup is sharkfin.
On Monday I was on a bit of a tear about people who reply to query rejections with another query (hint: this is NOT effective)
Sometimes though...editors will ask to see something else if the door is opened during a submission, and they are interested enough. (this is what happened to me) So back to that post/comments from a couple days ago...that's why it's good to write another book - and another - and another. You never know when you'll get that chance.
But...I wonder (cause you know I like to wonder) do any agents ever do this? Without a formal query? Hmmm, inquiring minds wanna know. :)
Yes indeed. I have on several occasions. It's not common, but it's not unheard of.
Megan V asked the blog readers:
Nevertheless, I'm curious...am I the only one who's been seeing an upswing in the 'tell me if you've queried me before and with what project' addition to agencies' querying guidelines? I wonder if that's playing some role in the, well you didn't like that so here's this mentality. IT doesn't excuse the lack of an actual query, but it still makes me wonder.
Since I'm not querying I have no idea if that's a factor, but I'll bet the commenters do!
On Tuesday y'all decided to worry about using bestsellers as comp titles.
Laura Mary asked:
As a slight aside, the other issue with, for example Harry Potter, is that those books are almost 10-20 years old now. I seem to remember reading somewhere that comps should have been written within the last 5 years - although if something is older but still/back on the bestseller list (film adaptations have this effect!) then is it a viable contender again?
Comps should be as front list as possible (ie as new as possible.) Three years is my outer limit. And they need to have sold well. You can know the first part but not the second. I change the comps on client submissions All The Time to make them more current, and better selling. It's one of the sections of a non-fiction book proposal that makes me gnash my fangs in frustration because often really terrific books don't sell well enough.
Bottom line: think newly published books and books you love. Don't use a comp you didn't like.
And it turns out that I will be hacking into a certain agent's email address to make sure to divert any queries when I read this from Julie M. Weathers.
I was at Surrey visiting with a Maass agent in the bar and she asked me what I was writing. I told her. She asked what else I had going. I told her about Cowgirls Wanted and said, "It's kind of like a western League Of Their Own."
"I'd like to see it when it's done and that's exactly how you pitch it."
Talk about making my blood run cold! Competition for Cowgirls Wanted! AIEEEEEE.
Colin Smith asked:
EM: I wonder if comps really are more useful for agents when they're pitching to editors. When an agent sees a comp, does s/he think, "I like the sound of that" or "ooo, I know an editor that would be a great fit for that"? Maybe both?Comps are most useful for film.
After that, they're ok and I always have a few tucked up my sleeve if I need them but most of the time I don't.
I write thrillers so it should seem easy to find comp titles. It isn't. Almost all of the thrillers near the top of sales lists have a protagonist with special forces in their background. Alas, mine is an inventor and Macgyver was such a long time ago.
If I can get a good enough query rolling I might skip the comp titles. Is that a good idea?
You certainly don't need comps for a compelling query, but you might want to rethink what you're looking for. Comps don't have to have the same kind of protagonist. They need the same kind of pacing and tension. What a book feels like rather than specifics.
For example you'd use Jack Reacher books as comps for something that has a brisk pace, doesn't get in to a lot of emotional backstory, and pits one guy against the blackguards. Your main character doesn't need to be ex-military to use Reacher as a comp.
BJ Muntain asked:
Janet, would you be able to give us a good idea of what makes good comp titles in a query? I searched your blog back a ways, and didn't find anything definitive.I don't think there is a definitive answer, it's only what actually works. I think Dexter meets Emma, mentioned by Megan V earlier works a treat.
Jaws set in the woods is another. You know instantly what that book is going to feel like.
Fabulous client Laird Barron's short story LD50 is comped like this;
No Country for Old Men meets Veronica Mars:
The continuing adventures of Jessica Mace, a young woman famous for surviving a massacre, hitches east to escape her haunted past. Along the way, she investigates a serial killer of dogs in the badlands of Eastern Washington
From that you know this is dark. You know it's violent. You know Jessica is young, and smart, and kickass.
I'm currently on submission with a book that is: Ocean's Thirteen meets the Thomas Crown Affair.
You know it's an ensemble cast. You know there's art. You know there's a world stage. You know that the bad guy might not be.
Notice that we use a lot of film titles for comps? Here's why
If you want a reference that almost everyone will get, film is it.
Lucie Witt said:
It's now confirmed - I'm really bad at this. "It's like if Judy Blume's Forever was about a feminist teenage Lorelei Gilmore - oh, wow, I've never gotten a form rejection this fast."Except I think that's a terrific line. Judy Blume is certainly her own category, and thus you might not think it suitable, but it works because I have a pretty good sense of what the book is about.
And most important: I want to read it.
Panda in Chief said
My unsuccessful query for Pandamorphosis (everyone loved the art, but didn't quite get the story concept), a wordless picture book, was Cat in the Hat meets Metamorphosis, but with pandas.
I don't know. I found it accurate as well as entertaining.
I'm not sure anyone reads Kafka for fun (and if you do, please tell me WHY!) so pairing Cat in the Hat which is nothing BUT fun with a terrifying book about a man transformed to an insect is wildly confusing (not a good thing in comps) Also Metamorphosis is very much a book for grownup whereas Cat in the Hat is sold as juvenile lit. That adults enjoy it is a bonus of course, but most grown ups aren't going to read Cat for fun on a Friday night.
You really don't want to cross adult and kidlit in comps, and you REALLY want to be careful crossing whimsy and Kafka!
I really like what Karen McCoy said here:
An additional question might be: is it a success or a phenomenon?
If it's a success--comp your heart out!
If it's a phenomenon (like some of the series Janet listed)--steer clear!
Her Grace the Duchess of Kneale said:
I'm tempted to desc one of my books as "for fans of Twilight who wish Bella had more backbone." However, dunno if that would work as well as I want. My book isn't contemporary nor does it have a single vampire. My heroine, on the other hand, is not going to throw herself off a cliff into an ocean at the sign of love gone wrong.I agree with your reservations. Anytime you use Twilight as a comp, the person reading it is going to expect vampires of some sort.
On Wednesday we talked about author's using different names for works in different categories
Julie Glover has experience with this situation:
I am in a strangely similar position. I write both mainstream young adult novels and a blog and books on Christian sex in marriage. In my opinion, those platforms are entirely different, so I selected different names and websites. However, both names are variations of my full name so I don't have to keep up with a pseudonym, and I always operate under the belief that the streams will cross. These days, you can't really hide on the internet; if someone wants to find you, they can.
It's very possible someone who visits my Christian sex blog will discover my YA world and vice versa. Of course, I think the best way to approach that situation is to be positive and authentic on all your platforms. But I do keep those areas as separate as I can -- even using two different browsers on my computer for my two mes.
Anne Rice, if I recall, started writing Christian fiction. Once she was an established author, she branched out.The Christian fiction came later. It was the erotica she wrote under a different name (the Beauty novels) and oh man…what a revelation to those of us brought up reading Nancy Drew!
Bethany Elizabeth said:
J.K. Rowling has a pen name for her crime novels. When her first post-HP book came out, everyone knew she was the writer. So obviously secrecy wasn't her goal.
Actually, Rowling's first post-HP novel was The Casual Vacancy. While that was released under her name, Robert Galbraith was presented as a debut author, and it wasn't until a couple months after it was released that it became known it was Rowling's book. People DIDN'T know it was a Rowling book when it was released.
Rowling's attorney was fined for breach of confidence for revealing she wrote the Galbraith books!
My point about names was that as Galbraith, sales of the novel were tepid. Once it was revealed the author was JK Rowling, sales skyrocketed. SAME novel.
Kae Ridwyn asked:
Also, I'm wondering about what OP's agent, when he gets one, would say. Janet is clear about which genres she reps, and which she doesn't, and I'm assuming that most agents are similar. What should OP do if an agent who wants to sign him for the YA fantasy won't sell Christian children's works, or non-fiction sex / intimacy? Should he hold out for an agent who sells all the genres he writes in? (Does this agent even exist?) Or should he look for a different agent for each genre? (But isn't multiple agents a big fat no-no?)
Generally I can learn a category if I have to or find someone to co-agent with me on a category that's too big or complex to learn well enough, quickly enough.
But the Christian market is where I wouldn't even try. It's akin to a foreign language market. If a client wanted to write for this market, I'd call Rachelle Gardner and ask if she was taking on new clients, and try to get my client a new agent. I've done that before (it broke my heart to let my client go) but it was the right thing to do.
This is one of those things you'd want to discuss with a prospective agent BEFORE signing. Anyone who blithely says they sell to both the general trade and the Christian market better be able to cough up titles and dates, cause it's not all that common.
And Robert Ceres link to the story of the kid who ran away to live with Piers Anthony is just utterly charming.
A little off topic, but Whenever I think about pen names I always think of Piers Anthony and the charming story of the teen aged fan who ran away to live with him
On Thursday I stood on my soapbox and raved about contact info on blogs
Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale asked:
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?)
Yes, it's sufficient. I clicked through to your contact page and there's a way to reach you that does not involve posting in some public place.
That's my benchmark for reachable: can I send you a message that you (or your designated mail reader) and only you will see. In other words, if the only way to talk to you is via Twitter, I won't. Or a comment on your blog post. Nope. When I want to laud you for astute comments, I want to be discreet. I can't have it getting about that I actually do not chew on writers 24/7.
Bethany Elizabeth (who made the comment that launched this post) said:
Don't feel intimidated, wordsofrablack and wordwacker. I only started commenting last week and I'm already in trouble. :)I wouldn't think of it as trouble so much as providing subject matter. Sort of like a non-question question. A Seinfeldian question.
But I only ever started commenting at all because this IS a great bunch, and I wanted to interact with all of you.
And kdjames cracked me up with this:
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 . . .
And on Friday, it was the flash fiction contest for Orphan X. (Notice no "diddy" this week!)
There's a new post up at QueryShark.
And I loved this (remember to read bottom to top)
The cat started talking to me about inter-dimensional travel. Which is probably normal cat behavior. Only I don't actually have a cat.--E.M. Goldsmith
"If you fail, bite the head off the blue bear and then get started on the next project."--Julie M. Weathers
"What if instead of a query I put my pitch in a comment on your blog? Picture this: a famous Italian chef is turned into a zombie. I call it PASTA FA-GHOUL!"--Stephen Kozeniewski