Sunday, February 07, 2016

Week in Review 2/7/2017

Welcome to the week that was, the snow that really wasn't (at least here in NYC) and further expressions of dismay at how time flies by.

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.

allierat asked
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 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.

Craig asked:
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

In other words, more people have seen Star Wars than have bought Divergent.
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.

nightsmusic said;
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.

Laina replied:
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. :)

But I only ever started commenting at all because this IS a great bunch, and I wanted to interact with all of you.
I wouldn't think of it as trouble so much as providing subject matter. Sort of like a non-question question. A Seinfeldian question.

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)

Subheader noms:

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


Donnaeve said...

Morning ya'll!

First thing I thought about with the posthumous publications, which I've thought about before, *talk about getting blood out of a turnip.* Which also grosses me out at the same time. I can see publishers wanting to capitalize on an expired author who has sold well, but at some point, when does this cross the boundary of decency?

Maybe b/c it's Sunday, my own sense of morality is percolating right along with my coffee. Maybe there's nothing wrong with it. On the other hand, it smells of *they're dead - but let's keep making money.*

On the comp titles. I love finding comp titles and THANK YOU over and over and over again for saying FILM can be used. Yes, I AM SCREAMING. Little Dog is not amused at having his sleep disturbed. I am screaming b/c I've been struggling to figure out comps for the WIP. I think we (authors) should look at being able to use them as a favor to ourselves, agents and editors. What easier way to PITCH? If you need that 15-20 word sentence to pitch your book and can't think of one that's succinct? COMP TITLES! HURRAY!

Actually, I replied to this topic and then deleted my comment b/c it seemed self-serving. But yes, bottomline? I love me some comp titles.

And about Julie Weather's COWGIRLS WANTED - um, exclusive? Oh, dang it, you don't care for exclusives. Maybe the Shark ought to change her mind on that one!

Have a great Sunday everyone!

Donnaeve said...

Oh wait. I'm not done. This is what is known as a False Ending - like the preachers over in the Ukraine. We'd just come off what I think was soemthing like a 20 hour flight and three hours later had to be in church. Their sermons go for hours - and just when you think it's over, they rewind their voices and yell out another passage and Bam, it starts again.

What I wanted to say is I loved, loved, loved what Brent Taylor said. I read it like it was my own situation. The book that was passed over in 2012 and sold in 2015. Those sales for him must have been just as sweet as mine was for me.

No idea on the sub-header noms - I like Julie's but I don't know what a blue bear is!

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Love the WIR this week. Am surprised how much I actually missed.

Regarding comps and pitches, I am so caught up in my pitch that it is "the pitch" which keeps my interest peaked. Only problem - I never thought a good idea would take so long to finish. Wanting to get it right is stifling, I guess. Maybe I shouldn't try so hard.

BTW, "blue bear" all the way.

Lucie Witt said...

Morning, everybody. Hey 2Ns and Donnaeve!

Okay, so I am completely floored to see my comp/pitch made WIR and Janet's commentary. I assumed my pitch did everything wrong (and my god, would people think I am comparing myself to the incomparably Judy Blume?). So this is a very nice start to my Sunday.

And thank you everybody, again, for your kind words this week.

For subheader, like them all but can't resist one with a zombie chef.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

*yawn* sometimes, now matter how smart and charming they are, Dobermans won't let you sleep in even on your day off. I thought I'd check on the WiR, thinking no, no, it must be too early.....but it's here! Take your ball, Elka, I'm readin' (and right as I typed that, she nosed the serenity ball necklace I left on the coffee table...)

I actually....kind of don't like the whole "this author has passed, let's farm out his story/setting/characters" to other folks schtick. I didn't like it with the DUNE books, where ostensibly Brian Herbert in fact had permission and encouragement from his father, I know a whole lot of people who weren't pleased with it in the WHEEL OF TIME series, even though that, again, was with the author's blessing. I don't have a horse in that race with the Francis books, or the Parker books, as I'd read few of theirs if at all. But just seems weird to me, and especially with the Parkers, makes shelving at the library a pain in the ass! See, the title is "Robert B. Parker's ________" but then it's by Ace Atkins, or whoever else has the other series, and so they don't go with the Parker books, they go with the Atkins books (which are not to be confused with the "bacon diet" Atkins books, those are upstairs in the non fiction). Now they're doing it with Sieg Larsson, whose books I think would've been different in small ways had he lived to see them published (or maybe not, I don't know what was in his head). I haven't read the new one yet, though I know the author they got went to great lengths to be true and respectful to the original works. I'm not saying all these other authors aren't, not at all. There's just something about it I haven't gotten over, for some reason.

After all the talk of comps, I looked at the query I've been using...and I don't include comps anyway! I do include my publication credits. And the R&R letter on the full I've been waiting for was very very nice and of course pointed out things I've been considering anyway. Onward and upwards!

I also remembered, finally, to Google myself on a computer which I hadn't blogged from, etc. and yup, I do still come up as me: the blog and the publications.

My friends and I passed around the Beauty books in college. Anne Roquelaire was the pen name? Something like that. It's funny you mention Nancy Drew in conjunction, though. Nancy Drew (and Penny, in Inspector Gadget) end up tied up so many times, we've speculated if it's had an....effect....on some ladies' (and gents!) tastes.

Anonymous said...


The blue bear refers to one of my long-winded stories I can't find now. A trainer used to hang stuffed animals in the stalls to help horses settle in when they traveled. One mare's favorite stuffed animal was a blue bear. The mare was so upset about losing a race she stalked into her stall, bit the head off the blue bear, shook it to pieces, and ate the stuffing. The trainer repaired it and hung it back up and the mare went on to win her next race, a very big one.

So, I just adopt that attitude. Sometimes you just have to bite the head off the blue bear, get it out of your system, and move on. It's what I've done recently. The fantasy is on the shelf.

Lennon Faris said...

Donnaeve - I agree, I think there is a fine line between wanting to continue a good story/ world and just wanting to make more money. As Jennifer Donohue mentioned, Robert Jordan passed away before he finished his Wheel of Time series, and his wife and another writer finished it according to his notes. I didn't realize there was contention around that one, since R. Jordan was clear what he wanted and spent time in his last days making sure it would be genuine. My husband and his best friend are huge fans of the series, and I know that was incredibly special to them both. They were on the phone all the time around the time it came out, and my husband practically treated it like the Bible (they are both theologian types, too). I found it moving even though I never finished the series.

Then there are other book series where you think, really? another book? Find something new to latch onto, grinches!

Thanks for the WIR, Janet!

Anonymous said...

V.C. Andrews was the first one I thought of regarding writers who write from the grave.

"Sometimes though...editors will ask to see something else if the door is opened during a submission, and they are interested enough."

Not editors, but I have a list of agents who have asked me to contact them on the next project. It will still be with a professional query, of course.

"Nevertheless, I'm 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've never seen that before and I was querying heavily in 2015.

"Talk about making my blood run cold! Competition for Cowgirls Wanted! AIEEEEEE."

Meh. Not really. That was a while ago before I shelved the project. Oddly enough it did come up again this year at Surrey, but not with an agent. Jack Whyte commented about my voice after I left the elevator and a friend said, "Yes, and she used to ride bucking horses."

At a party later, Jack and I holed up in a corner and talked about everything under the sun. His new book, his first book, research. Celtic burial mounds, Sarmatian battle tactics against the Roman legions and the Sarmatian war, medical techniques and battlefield surgery in ancient Rome all the way through the Civil War, Texas. He asked about the bucking horses and we discussed that and I told him about Cowgirls Wanted. He was fascinated with some of the stories and said he'd read that book. Of course, he liked the premise of Rain Crow also, so maybe he was being kind. Anyway, when I was leaving, he yelled out, "Write the damned book!"

I may have one sale when I write the damned book.

I went to lunch with Will the Wonder Son yesterday. At lunch, we started discussing the be reachable thing again. He said the form I use works fine, but he uses a link that just brings up his email. "What you have to remember is, you're there for your client, not yourself. Make it easy for them whichever system you use."

Donnaeve said...

Julie, just when I was about to Google blue bear! I get it now.

Sleet and snow mix earlier - enough to leave a trace on the grass/landscape areas. The wacky weather of NC. 70's last week, snow/sleet days later. Which looks pretty darn weird with my Star Magnolia in full bloom.

Anonymous said...


Too funny. I'm reading a diary from 1861 now where the woman talks about how mild the winter was in the Carolinas. Camellias were in full bloom in December. Then in March they finally got winter weather with a foot of snow.


allierat said...

Oh my, Her Sharkliness liked my comment! Perhaps this wallflower is shallowly rooted and will move around a bit more. Or maybe I’m more of a wall tumbleweed. Thank you Janet! You made my day.

One of my fears of starting a blog is that it’ll become more fun to write a blog entry than work on my WIP. Hmmm, I need to work on that plot point, but I should write a blog entry… and I really want to chatter on about something funny/touching/interesting. I don’t have time to do both. What I realized is that very few people have time to write. If you want to do it, you make time to write. I once read a great quote that applies here: “Self-discipline is deciding what you want.”

I have a question for this wonderful group though, if I may. I have two very different WIPs. Neither of these are from a genre that I usually read. Both have sci-fi-ish or alternate reality components; I’ve read very little of either. Comp title? Uh… where do I begin? When I look in the sci-fi section of my favorite bookstore, I get lost. I feel like I wandered into the screws aisle of a hardware store, and don’t know to ask for a quarter-twenty two-inch socket head cap screw, which is what I need, but don’t know what it’s called.

Does anyone else ever get an idea for something totally different from what you usually write/read? How do you get a sense of what’s out there that is similar?

Thanks for the great blog, Janet. Your name will be listed in the acknowledgement page of my book when it’s published, even if you’re not my agent.

Donnaeve said...


Ha! See? Even in 1861 the Old North State couldn't make up it's mind! Classic NC weather, through and through! I love my wishy-washy state though.

Donnaeve said...

allierat, yeah, that would be hard to do if you don't read sci-fi/alternate reality books. One question I would have is why would you write something that includes those things? Was it just a world building sort of thing, or did it sort of organically happen as your story went along? Just curious. I wrote a "hard crime" novel and I don't read a lot of them either. I feel I likely made mistakes I didn't even realize I made with it. I might never know since it's currently back burnered.

I've heard here before to ask your local librarians. Maybe tell them a little about your book and ask them if they can give you a few titles similar. That would be at least narrowing it down "some."

Lance said...

Another stimulating and educational WiR. Thank you, Ms. Janet, for all the time and dedication you spend on the best spot in the blogosphere. Blue Bear all the way.

BJ Muntain said...

Thanks for another great WiR, Janet! And thanks so much for answering my question about comps. It really does make the idea clearer for me. Thank you.

And that's really interesting about using movies. I don't currently use comps in my queries, but I may have to rethink this.

Regarding the "tell me if you've queried me before" in agents' guidelines:

I read a lot of agents' guidelines. I don't think I've ever seen this. I might have seen it in an interview or something, but only once or twice. (Of course, now I'm going to be subconsciously looking for this when I do my researching.)

All three subheaders are hilarious! But I think Julie's is the most relevant. :)

Re: Posthumous publications: The 'author' is now the 'franchise'. They're a brand name now. So they'll be pumping out those books until the fans no longer buy them.

As for Brandon Sanderson's taking over Wheel of Time - I do believe that's very different from the franchises being talked about. Sanderson only wrote the final book in the series according to Jordan's wishes, to close off the series. The series itself didn't carry on past that.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Yeah, I am totally reading the book about the zombie chef. I know just what Julie means about Blue Bear. I have a good many novels sitting in drawers that will probably never see the light of day, but I had to write them. Practice. Practice. Practice. It's never a wasted effort.

I can't believe that ghost cat that is haunting my editorial endeavors got a sub-head nom. Fin-tastic that.

I do love the WIR. Always fun. Always informative and entertaining.

Theresa said...

Of all this week's great topics, I've been thinking a lot about comp titles and some of the great descriptions that were shared:

Dexter meets Emma (yowsa!)
Judy Blume and Lorelei Gilmore (absolutely)
a western League of Their Own (giddyup)

All sound like books I would pick up in a minute.

CynthiaMc said...

Our next door neighbors in Japan introduced me to Dick Francis books. He was a former jockey and she was an Army veterinarian. They said he was dead on accurate about jockey life and all the shenanigans that goes on at the track. He's still one of my favorite writers.

Stayed up too late reading yet another Jack Reacher book. I think my schedule has caught up with me. My body and my mind just crashed today and said "We're taking the day off. Deal with it."

I had an agent once tell me he loved my writing but the topic (Civil War) wouldn't sell and to send him something about Scotland. Kicking myself that I never did. I need to find those notes. I wrote myself into a corner on that one but now I think I know how to fix it.

Bad enough we have to compete with living writers. Now the dead ones are churning out new work?

It is COLD in Florida. Long pants and real coat kind of cold. I refuse to give up my flipflops. I don't know if it's the cold making me cranky or the character of Ouiser Boudreaux is finally settling in (she'd better - we open in 2 weeks).

Curling up with the cat and another book. Happy Sunday, y'all!

Anonymous said...


"I have two very different WIPs. Neither of these are from a genre that I usually read."

This really makes me twitch. How do you know what's been done to death, what's new, what works, if you don't know the genre?

I don't know. Maybe you can pull it off. I read widely, but especially fantasy and historicals because that's where my interest lies.


nightsmusic said...

Oh, Jennifer, you need to cover your baby in the morning. Both of mine as long as they're under the covers, will sleep until I am out of bed. I could read a book after waking and as long as I stay in bed, they're snoring away. :) However, I agree, once you're up and moving, there's no stopping them.

Sorry I got the order reversed with Rice. The real point to all of the pen name stuff, for me anyway, is this: if you use one name to write things like Interview With a Vampire and another to write things that are Christian fiction, people who search your Vampire pen name aren't as likely to buy a book you wrote that they're not interested in reading. So many times I see in reviews, "I thought I was buying such and such because this is my favorite author but I got something totally different instead." I think at least with two different names, you have a chance of not losing readers because they bought the "wrong" book.

End of semi-ranty comment. :)

Thank you so much, Janet, for all of your WIRs. This was a long week for me and though I read the posts, I couldn't always read the comments or comment myself.

allierat said...

Donnaeve— One idea came from a question: What would you do to get a better paying job in a time when jobs were hard to get? Not a recession/depression scenario, but a future when “average” people in their twenties have limited opportunity. You have a job, are picked to see if you would be good at a better paying position, and agree to go through the training, knowing that if you fail, you will be fired.

[I was in loathe with my boss at the time. I had fantasies of telling him I was quitting. It got me through a very rough time at work. He’s gone, I’m still there. Life and work are good.]

When I described this (in much more detail) to a writer friend of mine, he gave me what I call the “fantablegastic look.” (Imagine what the Shark looks like when she says she wants Julie’s Cowgirls Wanted book.) Then he said, “I want to read that,” which was enough to make me decide to work on it.

allierat said...

Yeah, writing something I don’t read made me twitch too. All I could hear was my dad’s voice, “You don’t know what you’re talking about.” My answer was, “Dad, this is fiction. I get to make it all up.”

So now that I’m some 60 pages in, I need to find out what has been done to death. These stories aren’t going away any time soon. Some ideas keep me awake at night. Some words just crawl out of my fingers, unbidden.

I figure the worst that could happen is that I find these ideas are totally mush. After hating myself for rehashing hash, I’ll figure it was worth it for the writing experience.

Anonymous said...


It's not that you have to write what you know, though that is in some ways true, but you need to know something about the genre. A story about a royal family besieged by political intrigue having to move to a desert planet where they control the mining of an element which controls the universe sounds awesome. It's also been done.


Donnaeve said...

Hey allierat!

"What would you do to get a better paying job in a time when jobs were hard to get? Not a recession/depression scenario, but a future when “average” people in their twenties have limited opportunity. You have a job, are picked to see if you would be good at a better paying position, and agree to go through the training, knowing that if you fail, you will be fired."

Ummm, isn't that the real world scenario today? I was looking for the alternate reality/sci-fi part in this, but it sounds like everyday America with the college grads needing a job. :) BUT, I suppose you're holding on to some of your story there, and I get that. I don't talk alot about my current WIP. If you got the fist bump from your friend, then that's all good!

Anonymous said...

I love reading the WiR each Sunday. It pulls all those awesome but scattered threads into a coherent tapestry. Surely a lot of work on Janet's part, and something I really appreciate. And this Sunday I was mentioned! Second-hand, a passing note in a quote by someone else, but still. That really made my week!

Julie, thanks for sharing the blue bear story. I will have to buy myself a blue bear to hang on my wall as a reminder.

Allierat, I'm with you. Not only will Janet's name be mentioned in my acknowledgements, but all of you, the wonderful community of Reiders. Thank you.


Janice L. Grinyer said...

And yet another fine WIR - notes on the comp titles taken.

Julie- make that two sales. Plus after I lend the book out to the neighbors there will be more...

Went to an old timer Rancher's funeral this week. Had a wonderful time!? They had their best piano player named Butch playing Cowboy songs in the style of ragtime. Everyone's toes were tapping, people were chatting, and when it was time for the preacher to preach, he didn't.
Instead, he talked about Dan's life and the impact it made in the community. His widow was the sweetest, and made sure everyone came back to the church (after the burying at the cemetery) to have cookies and coffee. Being raised Roman Catholic (I did my time parochially for eight years; nuns and all) this was the first time that I finally understood the concept of celebrating someone's life after their death. RIP Dan; we were grateful to have you as our neighbor.

I love living in Montana- everything here is a story waiting to happen.

Craig said...

Thank you my Queen for the WIR and especially for answering my question. I am sorry but I think I will have to pass on that advice. Using Reacher might make people presume that I am arrogant. Don't get me wrong; I am fully capable of being arrogant enough to be a beast but I don't wished to be presumed that it is all that I am.

I have been talked into going back and working on the query for the book I thought I would table. It is completely remodeled and has a new coat of paint but it is still the story you said would go nowhere. I beg to disagree.

On categories:
I consider the Christian tag to be a category along with MG, YA and the default Adult. They still need a genre to go with them. The category should only tell the perspective of the protagonist and direction to aim marketing. You can stay in one genre and write all four categories.

Anonymous said...


Agreed about celebrating life. It's the best way.

Joseph Snoe said...

You’d have at least two sales of COWGIRLS WANTED (oops - make that 3. I’ll be standing right behind Janice). I’m already saving up money for it.
I’ll buy THE RAIN CROW too. You got a real winner in that one.

Megan V said...

Thanks for another Great WIR! And thanks to everyone in the trenches for your amazing comments.

Stay Warm Cynthia.

And...happy Superbowl Sunday all!

Colin Smith said...

I have nothing to comment, except to thank you, Janet, for another great sum-up of the week's excellent articles, and corralling of our often wayward comments. :) There's gold in the hundreds of things we post every week, and you never fail to find it. You would have made a marvelous (and rich) prospector 100 years ago... ;)

CynthiaMc said...

Julie - I want to read everything you write - and I also want to be in the movies that are made from the books.

Megan - thanks. I took the dogs for walk in the park once the sun came out. Glorious day today, once I found my sweatshirt and gave up on the flipflops.

Donnaeve said...

CynthiaMc - have mercy, I still have on my flip flops, and yes, I went out to feed the birds in them, sloshing through the sleet/slush mix. I imagine I looked like a fool to my neighbors. Most likely.

Hey, I'm just trying to build the *eccentric, strange, writer woman who lives over there.*

Julie, make that four. I'd buy Cowgirl and Rain Crow. And anything else. Just sayin'.

Dena Pawling said...

Love the WiR. When I first started lurking here, Sundays were usually a cute photo and an exhortation to have a great day. I sometimes wonder whether Janet regrets giving herself an extra weekly assignment.

I always thought you wanted to use books as comps, not movies, because you're trying to identify your audience [“people who enjoyed X will enjoy this book”], and people who buy books are not necessarily the same people who watch movies.

>>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.

I read Cat in the Hat for fun on Friday nights [and many other nights] for years. This is because I have four kids. And my #2 is 19yo and disabled, and he still enjoys Cat in the Hat, altho [despite all the doctors assuring me it would never happen], now HE reads it to ME.

Looking forward to the contest results. I've made a notation of the ones I thought were winners.

We have fire and nosebleed weather this week. Hot [90s], dry [12% humidity], windy [25+mph]. Yesterday was weekly lawn-watering day in my city, and the water's all dried up already. I'll have to sneak out on Tuesday or Wednesday night and hand-water a bit, to keep my grass from spontaneously combusting.

The joys of February in SoCal.

Have a great week.

John Frain said...

Great stuff, Janet. But count me among the surprised that movies make good comp titles. Is it safe to assume that TV shows would also make good comps?

Prior to now, I thought it was sorta mandatory to stick with books for comp titles.

My understanding then is the biggest benefit to comp titles is giving a quick and clear understanding of what the book is about. So I guess you can use anything from a SNL skit to a one-act play to a viral video if you were safe that most people understand the reference. And understand the title you've attached to it.

Cast Away: Thoreau lands on Gilligan's Island?

This gives me new hope for finding better comps for my work. Which is to say, it's upgraded from hopeless to unlikely. Still progress!

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

I vote Blue Bear subheader.

As for posthumous publishing, I don't mind if a few books come out after an author's death, if the author wrote (or partially wrote) them, or to finish off a series (aka Sanderson finishing off the monster Jordan created twenty-five years ago). Unless my career takes off spectacularly and I can't keep up with demand while living, there's a good chance that my inventory could be put out after I've passed beyond the Veil. (Unless of course my career tanks and my heirs can't be bothered with the hassle of indie publishing.)

Allierat: a few ideas to help you with your comps:
a. Start reading more sci-fi. Start by picking up a book you think might match what you're writing and give it a go. You'll know pretty early on if it's a match for your work. If it isn't, and it hasn't completely sucked you in, you are under no obligation to finish it. Drop it and go pick up the next book.
b. tap into the clandestine sci-fi subculture lurking here. If we all head off to a dark corner somewhere and you start talking about your novel, I'm sure a few of us well-read folk can help you with comp titles.
c. Trawl Goodreads. The more popular sci-fi series will have reviews or even a few threads going on about themes, style and more. These conversations can be a good place to harvest info about potential comps.

I've written a few books outside of my usual reading sphere, mostly me experimenting during my apprentice years when an idea popped into my head. These books need to be written, even if only to get them out of our systems.

The Big Question to ask yourself is, if you got this book published, do you want to write another one? If so, you really do want to be reading more of your peers. Don't be afraid that you may be 're-writing' what someone else wrote before. The Muses maximise the value of a single idea by giving them to lots of people. However, how we write it can make all the difference.

If you're not familiar with the soft sci-fi genre, but are really familiar with another, this might work to your advantage for this first book. Let the story flow. It'll feel more natural. Don't think you have to stick to perceived tropes of the genre. You might end up with something quite viable.

Gail Carriger took Paranormal vampires and werewolves and stuck them in the Steampunk Victorian era. (Soulless) Mary Robinette Kowal took the Regency Romance era and liberally laced it with magic. (Shades of Milk and Honey)

Weather: last week in Western Australia, we got caught between Cyclone Stan up north and a deep low in the Bight. This brought us winter-like weather, with lots of rain (!) and temperatures so cool in the morning kids had to wear jackets to school. This week, we're enjoyig the 40C+ (105F+) weather typical to a February.

Karen McCoy said...

Dena, it's dry up in NorCal too. Hoping for more rain this week.

Julie, count me in line for Cowgirl and Rain Crow also.

Thanks for the mention! I can't take full credit--the Scholastic editor who happened to be next to me in line at an author signing said, "A success is different than a phenomenon." And now I know why.

allierat said...

Her Grace and all--
Thank you for your advice. I wonder if what I'm working on is a sub-genre. I tried to describe the story, and one person told me, "It's sci-fi." Another said it was alternative reality.

It really is something I can't seem to get away from. Neither would seem to have series potential, at least not so far. Anyway, thank you all for your input.

Enjoy the Big Game! Time for me to stand for the National Anthem.

Anonymous said...

Y'all are very kind. I appreciate it more than you know. It's been a rough week.

Allierat. Write your story. Do the best you can.

Donnaeve said...


Kae Ridwyn said...

Thank you, Janet! As always, this was a thoroughly comprehensive WIR that ensured I realise exactly how much I missed last week; and as Colin said - so many gold nuggets in there! We're so grateful you collect them for us each week!

I must admit some surprise at your comment that Christian fiction is akin to a foreign language market. Is that because the Christian market is so different to other audiences? Or that Christian literature is so different to other literature? And is this true for both fiction and non-fiction? Just wondering...

Oh, and I love the blue bear story! Definitely my choice for sub-header :)

Also Julie, count me in among those sales.

And finally - my website is up and happening again! It'd been months, most of that time with "ball not in my court" problems, but Colin linking to it through his 'list of blog readers and their blogs' was indeed the impetus to get nagging loud and clear until the problems got sorted. So thank you, Colin - and YAY!

Dena Pawling said...

My navy son is back in the US from the middle east!!!! (Sorry, got a little excited).

BJ Muntain said...

Dena: You must be so proud of both your sons!

I didn't enter the contest this time, and I feel like I'm missing out. :( But I've had a nasty cold the last few days and couldn't think. I tried to post something late last night -- and my computer froze up. So I'm just enjoying everyone else's entries now.

Allierat: Alternate reality is a subgenre of science fiction. :)

If we're using TV shows and movies as comps, I'd love to describe my novel as Man from U.N.C.L.E. meets Men in Black... but both of them are kind of old. Like me. Well, dang. I guess I'll only use them if pressed.

Anonymous said...

Allierat, I totally feel you on writing WIPs that are outside reading norms. I wrote a mystery into my contemp fantasy completely on accident, after being in denial that it was a mystery until after several rounds of editing, letting it sit, and editing it again. All that is probably why it got its own drawer under the bed, but I still wrote it. I'm writing a more traditional fantasy WIP now (traditional as in questy with lots of war and dragons, but the Japan-inspired setting should garner me some peripheral interest, even if the rest is crapoli with cheese), but I haven't given up on that accidental mystery. Maybe one day I'll do it right. Write what inspires you. We got your back. ^^

That blue bear story was amazing, so that's got my subheader vote.

I'm not really much for comp titles. When someone does a good job with them, they speak to me just fine, but many go right over my head, or I can't really imagine the pairing, and it leaves me feeling like using comp titles myself--even with permission from QOTKU to use movies--would be shooting myself in the credibility. I'd rather not use them at all than use them clumsily.

Anonymous said...


Congratulations! I know that is such a relief. My gosh you have to be overjoyed. Please thank him for his service.


Anonymous said...

I've surprised myself tonight by being interested in watching both the SB game and the commercials (not necessarily a Panthers fan, but I've disliked Denver since Elway, so…). Anyway, forgive me if this is disjointed.

Julie, I agree with EVERYONE ELSE: I'll buy and read anything you write. Loved the blue bear story and the advice to "mourn" and get over it and move on.

Those of you bemoaning the fate of unfinished or continuing work once a writer dies . . . you DO realize the writer can exert control over all that, right? You can, and should, make something called a Creative Property Trust and appoint a Trustee to control all your work after you die. Make your intent clear and name someone you trust to respect your wishes, whether that's to continue work in your name or prohibit it. I did this back in June last year when I made a new Will and wrote a post about it at the time (not going to link, but you can find it easily enough by clicking my name and looking at posts in June 2015, if you're interested). Not enough writers do this, IMO. Any decision in that regard is acceptable, provided it's what you want. Make plans as if you WILL leave behind a legacy.

Dena, I'm ridiculously relieved my kids just survived a week of skiing in the mountains of CO. I can't even imagine what you must be feeling. Please express my gratitude to your son for his service. And my relief for his continued survival.

Another great WIP, Janet. Glad something I said was entertaining. Loved the tweets from Brent Taylor. Such a good reminder that perseverance is all-important.

Mona Zarka said...

Yikes! I got a mention! *jumps out of her skin*

One of the authors I read frequently in high school passed off her world to another writer when she died (they did a couple books together before she passed). I stopped reading. It just wasn't the same—writing, vibe, characters, even plot—it wasn't what I looked for and enjoyed. I remember being disappointed. I don't think I've re-read her work since then.

BJ, I didn't get the chance this time either. Let's enjoy everyone else's entries together (virtually, you know, a little club of our own).


I also vote for the awesome blue bear.

Anonymous said...


Dena, hooray!! Must be a huge relief. Glad he's safe and sound.

Stephen Kozeniewski said...


Stephen G Parks said...


A) “a future when “average” people in their twenties have limited opportunity. You have a job, are picked to see if you would be good at a better paying position, and agree to go through the training, knowing that if you fail, you will be fired.” This how my South Korean co-workers described corporate life when I lived there. Samsung purportedly works this way. You’re hired in batches, 50% will be fired by year 3. You’re promoted in batches, 50% will be fired for not cutting it (no demotion allowed).

b) If you need to find comp titles for any idea, go to reddit (there’s a scifi subreddit) and post a question along the lines of “Know any good stories that involve A, B & C?” You’ll get bombarded with answers (PS, someone always says “The Expanse” Ignore than one ;-) Then follow Her Grace’s advice and go to GoodReads to narrow the list down.

I'm one of the more lurky sci-fi nuts on reddit, here, and GoodReads. There are a few others too (they can self-identify if they want). We're all (or the shark will eat us) contactable by clicking our names.

Miles O'Neal said...

Alliterat, I think I have written every genre there is at some point (lots of short stories) except erotica. I even wrote a romance, which I don't read. I did try once, but got bored half way through. It's only recently that I lost my insecurities and began querying. I don't even know where to query a romance yet.

Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Thank you Janet for explaining comp titles with that graphic and "They need the same kind of pacing and tension. What a book feels like rather than specifics. "

As K.D. mentioned the Creative Property Trust we should create I wonder who gets the royalties and other earnings to the posthumous works of the authors who are dead and gone. Is the authors name traded, in some kind of agreement, to a third party. Who owns the rights? I imagine Disney bought A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh somewhere along there.

I missed the flash fiction contest. But I did enjoy reading the entries. We were in Honfleur where a massive fire devastated three 17th century buildings on the old port. It took 60 firemen to squelch it. Luckily there were no injured or worse.

Julie, I'm waiting to buy your books. If you are interested I can send you a copy of one of my ancestor's memoirs from 1887. It's 30 pages of "fun" in the wild west. She had to cross Navajo country in a covered wagon. She talks about her orange panties she had to wear to school and all kinds of unimaginable things. Email me if you'd like.

CynthiaMc said...

Donnaeve -I love you. That picture made me laugh. It was so cold here only half the squirrels showed up at the peanut bowl.

CynthiaMc said...

Awesome! Give him a big welcome home hug from this Marine mom.

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

I believe what Het Sharkness meant about the Christian market and the Foreign Language market is that when it comes to handling Inspirational, it's all Greek to her.

Anonymous said...


That is so kind and I may take you up on it at another time. I'm hip deep in Civil War memoirs I'm trying to wade through now to set troop actions for one of my characters and the spy rings for the other. I can read other things while I'm writing, but I try to keep the non-fiction very focused.

I know I wouldn't be able to NOT read it if I had it now.

Lochlan Sudarshan said...

I agree Kafka is pretty heavy (and crossing him with "Cat in the Hat" is kind of counterintuitive) but I think I can understand Panda in Chief's thought process:

The only thing most people know about "Metamorphosis," is it's the one where Samsa turns into a cockroach. Even then, that's all you know about it since people very seldom discuss the content or tone.

The first thing Samsa tries to do is go to work, because that kind of concern with bleak mundane tasks even in the face of surreal obstacles is Kafka's whole shtick.

Discarding all this and looking for a comp, I can see how he'd reach for "Metamorphosis" as "that one where the guy turns into something," since it's a useful bit of shorthand, assuming that since he's doing children's books, that he won't be taking on Kafka's tone/style is a given.

I agree it's not, but I think that's probably what happened.

As far as "why would you read Kafka aside from class," it kinda does function like any academic work. I reread "Metamorphosis" before submitting a short story whose prompt involved your protagonist transforming themselves. I found it let me be more aware of things that came from one of the transformation genre's most significant stories, what were entrenched in conventions, and which ones I thought would or wouldn't be useful for the project.

You always remind us to read widely within a category to learn what's current, what's old hat, etc. Kafka is definitely one of the guys to look at if you're thinking about magical realism, if only to learn what's been done before.

Amy Wilson said...

Ocean's Eleven meets The Thomas Crowne Affair? I NEED THIS BOOK.