Welcome to the week that was.
Beth picked up on our earlier conversations about job applicants bringing parent/s to an interview:
I am currently serving as a member of a selection committee. We have been seeing a number of applications from candidates who have none of the required training or experience. I was horrified when one of their letters informed us that she would call within a week to set up her interview. This disturbed me enough that I decided to poke around the Internet and see if this is a common problem. Imagine my dismay when I read a number of websites telling job applicants to include this phrase, and to actually do it! According to them, it increases odds of landing an interview by 25%.
So far, no writer has brought their mom to a meeting, but it wasn't for lack of me trying. I invited Donnaeve's mom to join us at Bouchercon, and the look on Donna's face (pure horror) was quickly replaced by a Southern Lady smile and she said "that's very kind of you, let me see if we can" which is code for "SharkForBrains, if you think I'm introducing my dear mother to this crowd of hooligans you need a cranial lube and oil change."
Speaking of moms and grandmas, Joseph Snoe said
My Grandfather's father was a Sniegorski before the name change to Snoe (For a while three children of the same parents were Sniegorski, Snow, and Snoe).
My grandmother was a Paluka.
My misspent youth involved a lot of Erle Stanley Gardner novels so I know that "palooka" is slang for a boxer who's not very good at his sport. I kinda love the idea of Grandma being a "Paluka" and teaching her kids how to throw a punch.
On Monday we should have had the contest results, but as we all know, I'm a total sloth, so the results were pushed off till Tuesday and we talked about what previously published meant.
SiSi picked up on my warning about unscrupulous beta readers who put manuscripts up for sale on Amazon.
I've heard before about beta readers selling an unpublished novel, and always wonder why they would do such a thing. Are they selling it as a novel they wrote? If so, then clearly they know this is a bad thing to do and I would think criminal charges can be filed. Or do they just sell it as an advanced copy by the original writer? Do they realize how much this can screw up the author's publishing hopes? Do they really make money by selling an advanced copy of an unpublished/unknown writer? (Assuming a well-known, previously published writer would likely have the book under contract.
The ones I've seen have been listed as for sale by the Crit Partner, and the book listed as by the author. The CP wasn't trying to plagiarize, just purloin. I can't begin to fathom someone's motivation to do that. But then I'm having a very hard time understanding why Donald Trump attracts voters and there are a lot more people doing that than purloining beta mss.
Jason Magnason asked:
So as long as I don't have an ISBN for my work I am still a debut author?
Let me repeat:
1. Does the work in question have an ISBN?
2. Is it registered at the US Copyright office as PUBLISHED?
3. Is it or was it available for sale?
You want all three answers to be NO.
And this really has nothing to do with the more amorphous "debut author" which is a marketing term NOT a contract term. Previously published involves your contract. "Debut" involves your publicist.
Bethany Elizabeth asked the question that always gets asked when we talk about this:
This is kind of a side point, but I wonder how often people steal ideas from unpublished authors based on short anecdotes available online, such as OP mentions. I just don't understand it. Writing a novel is tremendous work, and I think you have to love the craft to actually get your story into a publishable state. And if you love the craft that much, why would you steal an idea from someone else?
Not a lot. The plagiarism problem is with finished books. People steal the entire book, slap a new cover on it, and put it up for sale as their own. THAT'S a problem, particularly for self-pubbed authors.
As for people "stealing" ideas. You can't actually steal an idea. You can steal words, phrases, sentences, whole books. But ideas, and concepts, no. There's simply no way to prove who had an idea first.
What you can measure is how close the development of an idea or concept is to another work. Sadly there are some very public cases of well-known authors who published work that was entirely too close to someone else's and in fact seemed to lift turns of phrase from that work.
And there was the VERY unfortunate case of QR Markham who essentially stole all of his book from other sources, and was discovered by the fans.
But as you all can see in the flash fiction contests, even if two writers have the same idea, the actual story ends up quite different.
On the other hand, I'm not going to argue with Julie M. Weathers (I know better!)
I know for a fact people will steal ideas, but only you can write your story. If you're worried about your ideas, don't share them and keep your peace of mind.
I think however that E.M. Goldsmith really said it best:
I wrote 9 words today. 9! If anyone wants to steal them, have at it. I will probably kill them tomorrow anyway. I think the A to Z thing drained me of creativity much like a vampire sucks blood from the vein. Now I am all grouchy.
If you didn't click on the links from the Duchess of Kneale, you should!
If you wish two or three hard copies of something without worrying about losing your potential debut author status, how about a little perfect binding DIY? Just need to get the right cover.
If you don't have a book press (although they are easy enough to make; I made my own) a couple of strong rulers and bull clips can do in a pinch.
On Tuesday, the contest results were posted, but not in the timely manner, so I had you guess when I'd actually get them up.
Julie M. Weathers said
9:39 I hope the dog is the prize.Which was close, but sadly, no dog for the prize.
Colin Smith's entry cracked me up:
12:01pm. Or whatever f****** time Janet da** well pleases! Who's QOTKU around here, after all?? ;)
E.M. Goldsmith too
12:34 because that would be cool.
As did Lisa Bodenheim
O Great QOTKU, only you know!
Oh wait, there's a prize. 8:47 am ET.
and my favorite o'clock from RKeelan
3:14 pm, or Pi o'clock.And SiSi!
I'll guess Sooner. Or Later.
And, as I suspected, and Brian Schwarz confirmed, y'all have been conspiring
after reading all those entries, it would appear our conspiring together worked magnificently.
And Dena Pawling of course had the perfect answer. Not right, but still perfect
It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
Wait, it's May already?
Amy Schaefer actually was closest, and her comment made me laugh:
I'm off to bed. My husband is reading me scary stories about the crocodiles, tiny jellyfish, snakes, fish and spiders that want to kill us as we sail along the Eastern coast of Australia. I'm going to go read something cuddly and snuggly instead. Some Dennis Lehane, maybe.
The contest results were interesting. I think I made it too restrictive with both phrases and prompt words. It created too narrow a space for you to produce your usual flights of wild fancy. Back to the old way next time.
Brian Schwarz nailed the difficulty of these contests:
think the thing that is most difficult about flash fiction is finding the perfect balance between saying too much or not enough
On Wednesday we talked about what to do when an offer falls through.
I mentioned there's going to be some 'splainin to do, through no fault of the questioner.
E.M. Goldsmith asked:
If you are a writer that actually gets an offer and you have other fulls out, can you mention to the agents with the full the name of the agent/agency that is making the offer so that the other agents will be able to check and know you’re not being a liar, liar pants on fire writer? Publishing is a small enough community that the other agents could check if they are suspicious, yes?
I would suggest that you provide the information when asked, rather than offering it up unasked. Offering it up unasked might be seen differently than you intend.
And we don't assume writers are lying to us when they say they have offers. I believe what prospective writers tell me me until the evidence suggests otherwise. Where that confidence wanes is when I ask who the offer is from, they decline to tell me. Or they say they have an offer, we pass on the ms, and the author doesn't ever announce signing with an agent or getting a deal.
Okay, I'm going to be the bad guy here and say that, while I totally agree with Janet as far as being honest with those agents you are now going to try and contact again, why would OP jump the gun and tell everyone else she'd gotten an offer without waiting to sign 'on the dotted line' first? So, so many things can happen between the offer and the contract signing. Why burn your bridges before you're positive and everything has been ironed out? Can anything still happen after you've signed? Of course. Your new agent could keel over and you're left on your own again, but at least that doesn't sound like you're trying to pull a fast one.
and many of you knew the right answer: an author DOES want to let other agents know if an offer has been received. The sticky point here is that it turned out to be an offer the writer didn't accept. Generally we assume that if you have an offer you'll take it. Thus if you get an offer from an agent you know you won't work with (although why you're querying such a beast, I do not know) you would not contact all agents with your full because you do not have an offer you would accept.
Sam Hawk said:
@nightsmusic -you tell everyone else you've got an offer so they have a chance to offer too. If you wait til you've signed on the dotted line, you haven't given them a chance! The OP told the other agents that they had an offer, not that they'd accepted one, so they weren't burning bridges.
@Sam, I'm sorry, but I disagree. I wouldn't tell anyone else I have an offer until I knew all of the details. Then, and only then, would I tell the others. Because if you don't like the details, you're not signing anyway. Why do you want to play a game of things? Unless you're looking for better representation than the one offering and if that's the case, why are you considering the offer? Because you're desperate to be published? But getting an offer and immediately telling the other requesters that you've gotten one without knowing what the offer entails, to me, is exactly that. Burning your bridges. To me, it sounds like the OP did exactly that. Got the offer, emailed everyone else to tell them, then got into the details of the offer and didn't like what he/she heard. And not knowing what those unliked details are doesn't help the speculation here, but no. I'm sorry. Because now, OP has to scramble to try and get picked up with one of the others and Janet already mentioned that the red flags would be flying at this point.
It's NOT burning bridges, and it's NOT playing games. It's exactly the right thing to do. The problem is that if you wait to see the author/agency agreement, and have a long call with the offering agent, and decide this is an offer you can accept, you've spent a couple days here. And the offering agent at this point isn't going to wait around for you for two weeks while you alert other agents, give them time to read, potentially read THEIR author/agency agreements, and have long calls with them.
That's when agents get annoyed and pull the plug because now it feels like you are shopping their offer.
The right thing to do is notify everyone at the start. You've got between seven and fourteen days before you have to tell the original agent yes or no. While you wait for the other agents to read, that's when you read the author agency agreement, have the long call etc.
This happens ALL the time. This is what we expect to see. We do not view it as burning bridges or jumping the gun. Really!
Adib Khorram asked:
It sounds like it wasn't details that tripped up the OP, it was the terms of the author-agency agreement itself. Is asking to review such agreements something authors should do in their initial call, or is that considered too forward?
Definitely yes you should. I try to remember to send it to prospective authors after my initial expression of interest but sometimes I forget. On the other hand our author agency agreement doesn't have red flags like no way to sever the agreement, and a duration of years.
You don't, usually, have to tell agents who else you queried. Why tell them when you get the first feelers of an offer. It is not even really an offer until you accept it. When the sailing looks clear tell the other agents that your ship has sailed. Don't do it too early.
It IS an offer before you accept it. There are three parts of a contract: offer, acceptance, consideration (ie something of value)
When you have an offer (or expression of serious interest) it's time to take action. You do not want to wait around to see if you'll accept it or you've essentially prevented anyone else from offering.
What is the best timeline when you get an offer? Get offer--let other agents know--get details--sign/not sign? Or get offer--get details--let other agents know--sign/not sign? I can see advantages and disadvantages for both.
Here's the timeline:
Day One: Agent #1 either offers, or tells you to get in touch with other agents who have the full and tell them you have "serious interest" (this is what I do.) You email all the agents who have the full. You might email agents who have the query if it's been less than 30 days since you queried.
Day Seven: You have the other agents replies. If you have multiple offers or multiple expressions of interest, you tell ALL the agents about this.
Day Eight through Ten: You talk with each agent about the novel on submission, revisions, submission plan, future work. You ask about how they handle subrights and film. You get a sense of the agent and if you'd be a good fit.
You contact the agent's clients to see what it's like to have her as an agent.
Day Eleven and Twelve: you panic, light candles, sacrifice a goat, and make a decision.
Day Thirteen: all the agents who didn't get you weep into their vodka tonic and make plans to glue Joanna Volpe's keyboard to the ceiling.
Off topic, E.M. Goldsmith asked:
Slightly off-topic, I think I am retiring from the query trenches for a time. On my own, after my R&R rejection, and after looking at my manuscript with fresh eyes after the A to Z challenge, I think I am going to do a complete rewrite. I see ways to make my story so much better, so much tighter, and much more intense. This is just a gut feeling. My beta readers love the thing, but I feel like the book is good, not great.
Is that crazy? I have two requests, one partial and one full, from pitch sessions. Does this mean I have lost those opportunities? If so, that is fine. I can query those agents later and explain, can’t I? I think this could take me as long as six months. It may go faster as my vision is quite clear now, but I do wonder if I have lost my mind.
I think you should contact the agents NOW with that first paragraph. When I express interest in things, and the author doesn't reply in a timely fashion (weeks here, not minutes) I lose track of them, particularly if it's one of those wild pitchfest things.
Better to get your email address on their address book, and nice polite explanation of why you're going to contact them in the future. This isn't some sort of do or die requirement, but it's the kind of thing that says conscientious writer to me, and those are the folks I want to work with.
On Thursday we talked again about third party help with queries.
I outlined what has to happen for that to be effective for a writer.
Colin Smith asked:
Minor detail follow-up: Would the hypothetical me mention the Lee Child endorsement in my query trusting that he has contacted, or will contact, you to let you know how much he loved my work?
It never hurts to mention that Lee Child likes your work. However, if I don't hear from him directly, I discount it entirely. You think people make up offers? Let me introduce you to how people extract blurbs.
It's somewhat akin to how the loaner cat gets what he wants.
(Loaner Cat should not be confused with the Duchess of Yowl. For starters, the Duchess would never ask if I thought she was beautiful. It wouldn't cross her mind that I would not. Also, Loaner Cat is more the silent type. The DoY is … ahem ... Not.
They used to call people like the "I can get your book sold for you," Snake Oil Salesmen. I don't think much has changed there...Yes! Snakeoil salesman is one of my favorite phrases and I really don't get enough chances to use it.
Then Julie M. Weathers said:
Oddly enough, genuine Chinese snake oil actually is effective on arthritis and inflammation. Cowboy Clark Stanley's snake oil, while he put on an impressive show, didn't actually have any snake oil in it. But it works! Yup, because his magic medicine show patent medicine had red pepper in it.
Complements of JW, repository of useless information.
Julie, I'll stick to Sloan's. Tried and true all of my life. Snake oil or no, it worked on the horses and it works on me! :)
The main ingredient in Sloan's is *drumroll* capsaicin...chili pepper. The original Clark Stanley's snake oil ingredient.
Snake Oil aside, anyone heard of Blue Emu? I swear by it. For sore muscles. It won't get you an agent.
Her Grace, the Duchess of Kneale
(Dunno about Blue Emu, but His Grace is fond of Goanna Oil.)
Julie, yes, I did. I still have a bottle from 1875. Earl's father came up with the formula during the civil war and Earl started peddling it in the last third of the 1800's. Foul smelling, but still more effective than anything else I've tried.
I'm trying very hard to think if I've EVER seen a discussion of snake oil before.
It's amazing what y'all come up with. I'm kinda in awe right now.
Back to the topic:
Jennifer R. Donohue said:
My local writer friend told me to send The Last Song to her agent. He rejected it, kindly, and invited me to think of him for his next project. I know that whole "think of me next time" is a "nice" thing to say....but he also didn't have to. So I always take that as genuine.
And you should. Trust me. No agent said that to a writer s/he didn't want to hear from. We have plenty of dreck; we don't encourage more of it.
And lookie here, Claire wants to go to Carkoon:
This is OT, but I forgot to post it on the relevant day... Janet, I know you have more than enough on your plate as it is, but I wonder if some day it would be possible to do a post on how you go about judging the flash fiction contests? I'd be fascinated to know what process you go through as you whittle them down to the final one or two.
Yes Claire, that odd snapping sound you hear are my shark jaws on your britches.
There are a couple reasons this isn't going to happen. The first is time. I've been late posting the results twice in the last couple months simply cause I couldn't get it done on Sunday night, my night for reading the entries. To go into more detail than I do now would require more time than I have or mean the results would be delayed for days. Second, entering a contest is not asking for a critique. To critique someone's work in public without asking would be the height of hubris…and I should know, given I have an ego with a side of hubris that requires heavy machinery to lift.
And third: it's so subjective I'm not sure "I like this" would actually help anyone, and it would desperately hurt the feelings of everyone who didn't have that said about their entry.
I'm afraid you're going to have to make do here with just the comment column and other writers comments.
And Claire then said:
Well, it's been raining a lot here. I hear Carkoon is lovely this time of year... :)Which is true, but on Carkoon when it rains, it rains cats and dogs. Literally.
And Friday was the writing contest.
Let's see if I can get the results up on Monday this time.
Completely off topic but interesting:
Blog reader Nikola Vukoja has a good rundown on the road to self-publishing. Well worth the read.
The Duchess of Yowl continues her state visit.
She heard a noise
She discovered geography
And she's got a plan
When I wasn't staffing the cat, I updated my website here
If you care to take a spin over and see it, I'll be glad to hear what you think.
If you are a writer in the query trenches, let me know what other info would be helpful to include.
I may not take all of your suggestions (The Duchess of Yowl has already complained about a dearth of cat pictures, specifically hers) but I would like to hear them.
Sometimes when you think you can't do a thing, the best solution is to just do it anyway--kdjames
I'll sit here and wait, hoping for another Julie story.--Donnaeve
Reading all these posts is like watching a not-paid-for-view Special Event on Everything Books.
Ask one women what she wants in a man and she might answer, "A romantic." The next woman might respond, "A bullet."--Julie M. Weathers