Dena Pawling hearkened back to the post on payment, and the comments on 1099s and said:
>>And yes, some contracts do spell out IN DETAIL that you are not an employee, and on and on. I see it most particularly in contracts my authors sign when they are providing content to a website.
The definition of employee vs independent contractor is currently a VERY HOT ISSUE in employment law. The recent UBER case being one such very visible reminder.
Authors aren't employees OR independent contractors with the literary agency. The tax form we provide clearly specifies the money received is for royalties. Royalties are licensing fees for the books the author writes. That's not a wage, or money exchanged for labor.
Where authors see the independent contractor vs employee contract language is when they are doing work for hire. For example: providing content to a website. Generally they are paid for their work by word or project, and more important: they don't own the work, and get no royalties.
I think this is why it just galls me (beyond what it should) when I hear people talk about "hiring a literary agent." You actually can't hire me. You can agree to be a client, but you're not paying a salary, and if you were, I'd really like to discuss benefits too.
Joseph Snoe offered up the reason for his word choice in a comment (a word choice I struck out with probably more fervor than was deserved.)
Which of course makes perfect sense in the context of trying to write a policy covering all sorts of work. You could use Artist right up until you have scientific researchers. I guess I'd have offered up Student or Teacher if the policy is for the school: The Student or Teacher owns the work s/he makes. From research to art to code.I used Creator because I was on a committee developing an Intellectual Property policy for the school. We have writers, software and program developers, scientific researchers, artistic designers, photographers, artists, movie makers, etc. The word we used to cover them all was Creator. Even with books there may be wordsmiths and there may be illustrators. After working on the policy for over a year it seemed secondhand at this point to use Creator.
Which just underscores that the very simplest things are hardest to write about clearly. Just try writing directions for tying your shoes.
Christina Seine (flying under the radar as Unknown here) picked up our conversation about bees, and their transport:
Ooh Janet, you're brave! I bet that was a helluva drive. 10,000 bees is not a lot to look at actually. Just two boxes each about the size of a toaster. They arrive at the distribution point all boarded together. A guy with a chainsaw cuts apart the individual nucs, or boxes. This makes the bees very excited (bees love chainsaws).
It's a hoot to watch the collective muscle-tightening of the group of waiting beekeepers with every cut.|
Once we get them into the hives and they're all settled into their wee happy housekeeping, they're calm as doves though. And they're super cute close up. The bees, not the keepers.
Now, if this scene were in a book I was editing, there would be a BIG purple slash between "with every cut." and "Once we get them into the hives" cause really, how the hell do you get them IN TO THE HIVES?? This is known in editing lingo as "getting it on the page."
This reminds me of a story my dear grandmama told me once: she and her bevy of sisters loved to go to the movies, the more unsuitable for youngsters the better. The Perils of Pauline, westerns! Great Grandmama would have been shocked to her marrow to learn her supposedly refined children were B-movie hooligans.
Anyway, one Saturday afternoon down at the Bijou, Our Hero is captured by The Villain. He's tied up so tight he might as well be mummified in rope. He's then dropped into an deserted mine shaft. No light, no ladder, no hope of escape. And then the villain drops a burlap sack of annoyed rattle snakes into the mine shaft, aiming right for our Hero's ten gallon chapeau. Cackling with the Snidely Whiplashiest of Evil, the Villain adds insult to injury by capturing our Hero's trusty steed, and riding off into the sunset.
How will Our Hero escape?
Come again next week for the continuing saga!
My grandmama and her bevy of sisters discussed this dilemma all week. They drew escape plans instead of doing their homework. They whispered ideas back and forth after they'd gone to bed. They mounted full scale models of prospective rescue plans using knives, forks and glassware as they washed the dishes after supper.
All the while, they are scrounging up the nickels required for admission to next week's thrilling episode. Some fast talking and sleight of hand may have been employed, but this was too important to leave one of the sisters behind due to lack of funds.
Saturday dawns. Chores are completed. The children are shooed off after lunch, told to make themselves scarce till suppertime. The sisters run to the Bijou, pay out their scraped together admission fees, huddle in their seats, and wait for the show to start.
Cue theme music.
Cue voice over
Cue scenes from last week's thrilling episode. Hero captured! Hero tied! Hero dropped! Snakes!
No one in the entire theatre drew a breath as they waited.
Voice over: "Once our hero had escaped the mine shaft he found.."
How did he get out??
Grandmama was six when she saw that movie. She told me the story when she was 106. She was STILL MAD!
So yea, get it on the page.
I really liked the idea in Lilac Shoshoni's comment
I asked a good friend of mine to read my MS aloud with me-- we took turns. We did the reading over Skype since he is an American who resides in Canada nowadays. It was a great way to detect typos and questionable grammar. But it was also an amazing experience to hear him laugh at the funny parts. (Sometimes he laughed at the serious parts as well, but that's beside the point;-).)
Getting a crit partner to read it out loud sounds like a terrific tool for finding typos (and other assorted problems)!
Lisa Bodenheim picked up on a comment I made:
The one point that the Shark made that clouted me over the head-- 'Keeping an author published: that's the hard part. It's one of those new challenges we're all having Lots of Fun with.' What are the "new challenges" in keeping an author published?
There's just more competition now. A writer has to increase sales, or at least be on an upward trajectory to stay published. Steady sales just don't cut it much, at least below the 100,000 copies benchmark.
I can remember saying "we should publish fewer books" 15 years ago. The idea was to focus book buyers on fewer titles. If you have 100 readers and 100 books, figure 80% of those books will find a reader. If you have 50 readers and 10,000 books, a lot more books will go unread/unbought.
On Monday we talked about what happens when you find yourself with multiple manuscripts requested independently within an agency (things that happen much more often now with #Twitter manuscript pitch fests)
Robert Ceres asked the question many of you were thinking:
Ack, how does the initial offer fall through? That has to be frustrating!I've only been on the other side of that, but it's just awful. You read a manuscript, love it, then things go south in ways you didn't see coming. Author can't revise; author won't revise; author demonstrates herself to be an asshat. All those have happened and more.
It's not common, at least it isn't with me, but I see it happening in the YA world more and more.
I've seen authors get offers on manuscripts that aren't finished; and then, problems arise.
And if you think I haven't had a deal or two go pear shaped, well, I could tell you some stories. (For those, you'll have to ply me with liquor and take a vow of silence foreverafter.)
I liked Wanderlustywriter's comment
It always astounds me the number of times I see agents advising writers they need to be nice and polite! I can't imagine being any other way ever, but especially towards the people I need to help me with my career!
I think it's actually something AGENTS should remember! It gets very easy here in Agentville to think authors should just suck it up and make our lives easy. We need to remind ourselves pretty regularly that the ENTIREFUCKINGINDUSTRY including our income relies on the work of the writer. So maybe, we should be nice to them. I think some of my ilk forget that. There are a lot more good books out there than there are slots on all the agents lists, but still: you are my income source, I am not yours.
On Tuesday I jumped up and down screeching about the woeful error of having someone (particularly an idiot) pitch your manuscript to an agent. I doubled down on my rage if said pitcher was actually being paid for this disservice. The lollygagging rant from Bull Durham was a visual aid.
Intercostal Clavicle** (which has to be one of my favorite screen names EVER**) said:
Maybe I'm extra cynical, but my first thought was that this was actually the author speaking, but posing as a third party in order to show off an "unbiased" opinion on how superduper their manuscript was.
I edited out some of the more identifying description but the original was clearly the work of someone Not The Author. And yes, what you suggest has happened.
and so I googled Intercostal Clavicle
Sam Hawke said
I'm assuming that you changed the name in the email Janet (otherwise, I think this might be a spoof - Dewey Cheatham? From Dewey Cheatham and Howe, reputable law firm?). I never know whether to feel sorry for people who sign up to these things or not, since a bit of basic googling should tell them how to query, and this ain't it...
I did indeed change the name. And yes, I stole it from Click and Clack the CarTalk gods.
One of the most difficult things I'm still trying to come to terms with is how many people write seriously bad queries (or do the kind of querying by proxy that was the subject of the post) when so much information is out there on how to do it right.
Then I remember some (ok MANY) years ago, standing off set of a local live morning talk show. One of the evening news guys was going to be on the show that day, and he was standing next to me. In the way of all good reporters (and he was that) he was friendly and expressed interest in why I was there. I explained my job (book publicity, author on show) and he asked some questions to keep the conversation rolling.
Then a lovely young woman came through the swinging doors that led to the newsroom. She had something for the reporter (I don't remember what) and they had a brief conversation. When she left, task completed, he said to me, just very offhand "she's the only person I know who actually did the things I'd recommended about getting a job in local TV." As an on-air reporter, he's face familiar to about half the media market. Thus he gets approached to talk to students about "how to get a job in TV" a lot. He'd probably done a hundred or so. And ONE person actually followed through well enough to get a job.
I'm lucky I guess. Only half my queries are completely clueless.
I'm back. Still stumped by the tactics here, and all I gotta say is...it's my career. I want to manage it. I mean, honestly, you gotta wonder...would this person also let someone else go do their job interview?
I've heard of some young kids bringing their mom or dad to a job interview. I literally did not believe it when I heard it.
Long time lurker here, but had to pop in and comment, as I am still boggling over someone who thinks "you're part of a limited group of agents to whom I'm sending it" is a GOOD thing.Amen.
I still get queries offering exclusives on reading the manuscript, or WORSE, telling me I'm the only agent they are querying.
CED cracked me up with this:
I think we're all taking the wrong lesson from this post.
The right lesson: there's a thriving business for writing consultants out there!
Anybody want me to send out their query (for a small fee)? I know some people.
Jason Magnason said:
This is what I want for my Birthday: a Reider's Reef Badge.A lot of you chimed in on this, including some very generous offers to design them etc. I can't stop anyone from doing this but let me say this: let's think about this for a second.
Is this what you want to be investing your time in? Prioritizing things, balancing demands of work and home life plus trying to get in writing time, let alone reading and thinking time, all those are hard enough without getting distracted by something that sounds fun. And yes, it does, but ask yourself: does this get you closer to being pubished? Does this get you closer to where you want to be?
It's so easy to lose focus doing things that are fun, but not actually helpful to your career.
A former beau of mine came to my apartment one Friday afternoon and asked what I'd done that day. In fact, I'd organized my filing and was pretty proud of how nice it looked. He got a funny look on his face, and said "no, what did you do today that is going to earn you money."
Oh, right. That.
Will it get you closer to your goal?
On Wednesday we discussed the stock phrase in query letter form rejections "not right for my list"
I really liked Sam Hawke's insight here:
And though you might learn something about the agent's personality from their form, you won't learn anything about your own work.
JSF nailed it here:
One thing that keeps me going lately is a layman's understanding of relativity (I think.) I formulate it as there is no central authority controlling right or not-right, which is a borrowing from conversations I've had and books I've read. I sometimes browse the book store by strolling down an aisle and reading titles that catch my eye. No specific section. I think there are probably as many tastes as there are people, and those tastes change on a whim. It seems to me there is a place for all books, it's just a matter of finding that place, and finding that place at the right time.
Robert Ceres said:
I also think agent workload for reading queries would go way down if all agents put a real one liner about why they are rejecting.
I found four typos in your query.
Your writing too choppy for my taste.
I couldn't get into your MC's head.
Too much backstory.
It seemed like your opening scene was too improbable...
All might send a writer back to the drawing board. Of course that's never going to happen. But for the agents who do provide this kind of pithy feedback, you've really earned my goodwill.
This actually elicited a reply in the comment section of the post, but let me elaborate.
The reason at least 80% of the queries are Not Right For Me isn't anything you list. It's bad writing. Just plain bad writing. Am I ever going to tell someone that? No. Why not? Because it's not really my job to crush hopes and dreams. It's not my job to be discouraging. And one thing I know with ironclad certainty: good writing is learned.
The second reason most queries are rejected is they are writing a book I don't want to read. And that's not something a writer has control over.
In other words: a personalized rejection isn't going to help them fix the problem. The only thing that fixes their problem in the first case is to keep trying. And the second: query widely.
And you know what? My form rejection says both those things.
Given my job is to find work, not help writers who have work I'm not interested in, I'm ok with responding as I do.
And if you think writing back to anyone takes LESS time than a form rejection, well, come work for me for a week. You'll see. I hope you like sushi!
I think the best thing I've ever read about rejection was a comment on this blog post by Terri Lynn Coop
A couple of years ago I subbed a story to a highly competitive anthology.
When they announced the list and 99.1% of us were not on the list, a flaming sour grapes war erupted on their message board.
The editors were cool enough to break down the stats and discuss the process a bit. It went something like this:
2200 subs for 20 slots.
10% totally ignored the sub guidelines.
30% were not of publishing quality, even with extensive editing.
That left 60% or 1320 for 20 slots.
They cut that number in half by eliminating stories by editing priority. The more editing it needed, the farther down the stack it went. Then they cut it at the halfway mark.
Down to 660 for 20 slots.
Next, they sorted by duplicate tropes. The anthology had a definite theme, so naturally many had similar storylines. They did a cage match between competing stories and kept the ones they liked best.
This brought it down to about 400 for 20 slots. The field has been reduced by about 80% and is still unmanageable.
Next up they did sort of a jury-selection thing. Each member of the editorial team got a certain number of vetoes. They could eliminate a story that just did not appeal to them, even if another editor loved it like fire. At this point it was, "This one has a cat named Fred, my ex had a cat named Fred, reject."
300 for 20 slots.
After all this, 90+ percent were still going to be rejected. 280 stories that had passed several rounds of selection. From these 300 they chose stories for length, variety, and gut-feel for adherence to their vision to the theme.
The same cry went up, "Where's my feedback? Why do you hate me?"
2200 is probably a typical month for most agencies. And they don't have 20 slots a month.
I have no clue where I ended up in this continuum. It doesn't matter. I revised the story away from the proprietary theme and it was short-listed for another anthology, so I would like to think I made it to the final rounds.
Some days it is quality. Some days it is theme. Some days it is a cat named Fred.
Adib Khorram provided an interesting benefit of form rejections:
So far in 2016, four of the agents I follow on Twitter have done "query feedback" windows, wherein queries sent within a certain timeframe would get a brief personalized response.
I got four different responses. What one agent loved, another didn't respond to.
I think, if EVERY agent did that ALL the time, it would drive writers even crazier than we already are.
I actually like form responses. That way I'm no longer in limbo, but I don't have to take any more out of it than "not for me."
John "ol chumbucket' Baur said
I heard "not right for our list" a lot when my agent was shopping a book I co-wrote. One editor said it was "laugh-out-loud funny, but it's not right for our list." I eventually figured out that when a publisher says it, it means, "It's not like what we're already selling, and we don't know how to sell things we don't already sell." Sound cynical? Yeah, I thought so. But that doesn't mean it's not true.
Judy Moore asked:
My questions are....how can you BUILD a platform? And, Twitter followers, the people who like their stories delivered in 140 words or less? Do they even buy books?
I still have pages out with one agent and am hopeful. But I'm not ruling out the possibility of changing my last name to Kardashian.
Two good resources are Christina Katz book on platform, and Susan Rabiner's book on editing. You should have both in your personal writing reference library
Sherry Howard said:
Chum Bucket? Did I hear Chum Bucket? I look at Gossamer every day hoping for a sign of life. It seems like it's been a long, long time.
Oh how I miss the Chum Bucket! But I had more than 30!!! unread requested fulls when I put Chum Bucket on hiatus in 2014. I had to make headway there, and the first step seemed to be NOT requesting more. Chum Bucket tends to produce requests at a MUCH higher rate than the general incoming query pool (I don't know why) plus of course I started doing these Week in Review posts and I work on those on Friday night when I was doing Chum Bucket.
In terms of prioritizing what I do for non-clients, the best use of my time is this blog: it's got the broadest array of subject matter of use to the most eyeballs. Second is QueryShark: specific topic, of use to querying writers. Third is ChumBucket: specific advice, useful only to the one writer.
I love ChumBucket, I do, but I have to prioritize.
On Thursday we discussed the perils of having a duplicate name
Lucie Witt makes a good point here:
This is also why it's handy to keep a uniform avi photo on different platforms. Makes it easy to know you've got the right Janet Reid when it's a picture of a shark in the profile/about section.
|Be my chum!|
Dena Pawling said
I have the opposite problem. If you google my legal name [not this one], you will find LOTS of sites where people complain about me. And yes, my legal name is sufficiently unusual that it really is me they are complaining about. This is because I am an attorney who evicts people for a living, and well, some people don't like that. Apparently, if you take some of these sites and complaints at face value, it was MY fault they stopped paying their rent or mortgage. I'm hoping an agent won't use that against me, but it is definitely a subject I'll have to discuss with any agent brave enough to offer to represent me.
I'm trying to think of a job or profession that would make me think twice about taking a writer on as a client. Flim flam man? Drug dealer? Mime? Not enticing, but not a deal breaker. I think the only job that would be an auto-reject is 2016 Republican candidate for president.
While eviction is certainly an unpleasant topic, remember, I'm a Republican by choice, and I actually have some sympathy for small business owners.
DeadSpiderEye said cracked me up completely with this:
This is fun, the first notable Google returns for my name, is a suspected drug dealer who's on the run. After that I'm a priest, an attorney, a judge, a grocery store employee in Virginia who's won the lottery, east Lancashire's most wanted man, on the run in South Africa (I suspect the drug dealer again), a chronic stammer sufferer (actually, I did have a terrible stammer as a kid), an artist and a head coach. Meanwhile, the incredibly talented individual, envied by his peers and adored by women, seems to be missing from the list.
Who knew that SpiderEye was such a common surname!
And this from BJ Muntain and Cheryl just made my day:
>we're from Bukovina, which straddles Ukraine and RomaniaAnd of course, I always like to look up places on the map, so here's a map of showing location of Bukovina
Holy crap, BJ, that's where my grandfather's from. I'm not sure I've ever encountered anyone else with history there.
And I think the last word on this topic has to be this from roadkills-r-us
I wouldn't want an agent who couldn't tell the Balinese stripper with a wooden nose and bionic butt cheeks doing poetry slams calling dragons "Satan's fluffy minions" wasn't me."Satan's fluffy minions"
And while it's true this wasn't exactly on topic it was still great to know, from kdjames
This is completely off topic, but I'm too groggy and exhausted to care.
I DID IT. I just posted the last entry and finished the stupid A to Z thing with all 26 (stops to count letters), yes, 26 posts and a grand total of 40,196 words of story. Where else could I share that and have people understand?
What an epic feat of sheer something-or-other this has been. It's like the writerly version of a bunch of guys sitting around drinking too much beer and suddenly one of them gets up, staggering, and says, "Hey, y'all, watch this!" And ends up in the ER. Only I can't even blame alcohol, I was completely sober when I decided this was a good idea.
I expect one of you all to stop me next time. If there is a next time. Which there won't be. *falls over dead*
I've been on a reading tear this week:
The Defense by Steve Cavangh.
One of the great lines in the book: "It was like a slow motion riot, but with catering" describing a scene in a diner.
Dark Money by Jane Mayer
The most cogent explanation I've seen so far of what the hell happened to the Republican party in the last 20 years. I think it should be required reading for anyone voting this year.
The Invitation Only Zone by Robert S. Boynton
Fascinating topic, but the book suffers from the fact that the author spoke neither Korean nor Japanese, and most of the people involved in these events were unwilling to speak candidly. Still, it was worth the read.
and of course, the Duchess of Yowl is making a state visit and it's been interesting. Very Interesting.
The Duchess of Yowl reaches new heights
The Duchess of Yowl slays her foes
The Duchess of Yowl discovers Macmillan Library Cats
The Duchess of Yowl discovers books
The Duchess of Yowl discover iTunes
The Duchess of Yowl lodges a complaint
The Duchess of Yowl on the evening's entertainment
Which brings us to the end of the week, and the writing contest.
Tuesday. I'm pretty sure.
And how the hell did it get to be May already??
The brand new newsletter went out to the mailing list just this morning. If you signed up, but didn't get it, check your spam folder first of course, then let me know.
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Subheader noms this week:
With this site we have the opportunity not only to learn from our mistakes, but from the mistakes of others. --Celia Reaves
Aren't we an amazing bunch of word-whores.--CarolynnWith2Ns
Some Lents are just there to give us striking things to write about.--Brigid
"Your job is to write well, and not be an asshat." (nominated by Celia Reaves, written by The Shark)
Some days it is quality. Some days it is theme. Some days it is a cat named Fred. --Terri Lynn Coop