In last week's review, this from E.M. Goldsmith just cracked me up:
The heat has arrived in NYC just in time for ThrillerFest this week. I got my window unit installed in the nick of time. Once these old converted tenements get hot, it's hot till September, no matter what the weather.If there was air conditioning in Hell, peace would break out immediately. I am sure of it because all the demons would just stay home playing video games in climate controlled bliss.
We had talked about the value of library sales earlier and the question of how requesting a book at the library could help authors. Jennifer R. Donohue gave a good example here
So far as library circulation and book orders and all that, as an insider, I can tell you how we do it in my system/at my library specifically. About monthly, somebody at "headquarters" runs a report and sends the member libraries a list of all of the items which have 5 or more holds on them. Based on how many of OUR patrons have those holds, and how many copies we have, my library will purchase more copies. With The Girl on the Train as a for instance, I think at one point the total system holds (that's 42 libraries) were in the hundreds. My boss bought us up to 14 copies at my library, and when things died down, we pulled 10 of those to make a book club kit. I read it before it went nuts, because I'd liked Sharp Objects so much, and then the reviews rolled in, and then the movie fanned the flames. I think we're down to a more typical 2 copies as of this writing (weeded items go to the library booksale)
I'd mentioned earlier that I made other people wear my name tag at events. Lennon Faris asked
I love how Janet has made other people wear her name tag. Janet, did you stand nearby and listen to the conversations? Or join in the conversation? I could see you doing so.
I was standing right there next to Suzy and Meredith. It was a cocktail party of vulture writers who would come up, stare at a name tag then say "can I pitch you my book?" As you might expect this is terrifying. At the time Suzy and Meredith were my beloved minions so I just smacked my name tag on one of them and said "talk to her!" and then hid under the tablecloth.
It was actually good practice for both of them. As apprentice agents at the time, they were both looking for books (I was not) and needed to practice the deft art of writer interaction. I actually stopped going to that annual party for several years cause it was so terrifying to be swooped upon by writers.
And now that neither of those now-very-accomplished ladies is available for cover, I might take Colin Smith up on his offer:
Terse or not, still a good WiR, Mighty QOTKU. Next conference/convention we meet, I'll have to wear your name tag for a season and put on my very best Brit accent. That might be somewhat entertaining:
Startled Woodland Creature: Uhh, Janet? Nice beard. Uhhh... can you give me some query advice?
Me: Why, certainly dear chap! Be absolutely certain, whenever you query the delightful Ms. Barbara Poelle, to refer often to your fiction novel, and be sure to say very little about your main characters, but say a lot about Ms. Poelle's drinking habits and handbag addiction. It's the personal touch that makes the difference you know, old sport!
This vignette from CynthiaMc sounds like a picture book in the making:
The woodpecker has taken to hanging out while I weed and we chat. One of the squirrels I suspect was once a pet or someone's gardening buddy (I think probably one or more of the elderly couples on our street who are sadly no longer here) and insists on being hand-fed his peanut. We normally don't but the lengths he went to in order to teach me were hilarious. He must think I'm an idiot. When I finally gave in and hand fed him the peanut he acted as though I were a baby taking my first step. I swear he said "Yes! Finally. Now may I borrow the car?"
Jessica Snell picked up the thread on book reviews (and how readers find books) with this:
Although many of the books I read are ones I've heard of via word-of-mouth (mostly from my brother and my mom, honestly; I know and trust their taste), I probably find most of my books via book reviews.
And the thing is, those book reviews don't have to be positive. Sometimes the reviewer doesn't like the book, but if she's a good reviewer, she'll say *why* she doesn't like it, and I'll know whether or not that reason would be a deal-breaker for *me*. Sometimes I know I'd like the book for the very reason the reviewer hated it, and I'll go ahead and pick it up.
So, I guess what I'm saying is: dear authors, don't be too discouraged by bad reviews. Well-written bad reviews might get you just as many readers as the good ones.
Very very true. One of our sayings back in my publicity days was "Get reviews. Good or bad, doesn't matter."
Now it's even more important because any mention of a book increases its discoverability.
Panda in Chief cracked me up with this:
Mehitabel is jealous that other cats get to go and stay with Janet. I would send her, but she would not enjoy the plane ride, and at 20, she is not all that entertaining anymore. (Unless you think a cat yelling in your ear at 3 AM is entertaining. If that's the case, I'll pack her bags.)
You'll all be glad to know that I will be visiting the Duchess of Yowl at the end of July. (When it's a short visit, I go to her since she really does not like to travel.)
BunnyBear had asked about QueryManager (a new way to query offered by QueryTracker) but I didn't understand the question and asked for more info:
I asked if QueryManager creates a thread for requests, and Janet asked for clarification.
When you query by e-mail, the agent replies (hopefully with a request for more material), and then you reply to that reply, creating an e-mail thread. Agents like to keep track of your communications this way.
When you query using QueryManager, I assume the agent replies to you in an e-mail. If she asks for more material, do you then reply to that email with your response or does she give you a secret code to unlock the next tier of awesomeness in QueryManager where you enter your response? If it's the former, you're creating an e-mail thread and QueryManager is used only for initial queries, right?
Does that make sense?
It does make sense. And the answer is I don't know (yet!) I haven't requested anything from the queries I've seen so far.
I do know that the QT team is working on refining QueryManager as we speak. I've got an incoming email from him that I haven't had time to read thoroughly yet, and I think it's about this
very topic (replies etc.)
I'll keep you posted!
On Monday we celebrated the 4th and I mentioned I'd missed one question on the quiz giving to people wanting to become citizens.
Julie Weathers was first to ask
Which one did you miss?
What year was the constitution written? I answered 1789, but that was of course the year it went into effect. It was fully ratified in 1788 and written in 1787.
I think all the presidential candidates should be forced to answer these questions before being allowed to run for president:
1. How many articles and amendments are there in the constitution?
2. Name the capitals of the states
3. How does a bill become a law?
4. Name the presidents of the US, not even in order.
5. Name any three provinces in China and locate them on a map
6. Name any ten countries in Africa and locate them on the map.
7. Name the forms of government in any six European countries.
8. Name the countries in NATO.
9 Name all the countries in Central and South America.
I can hear someone saying "look the president doesn't need to know all that, s/he's got advisers for that." but don't we want a president who at least knows his/her advisers are messing up
when they talk about missiles in Kyrgyzstan?
Speaking of people who want to be citizens, I loved this from J.F. Constantine
My grandfather, of blessed and eternal memory, who came here from Greece, would be so proud. He had to take a test with similar questions to be an American. He carried his papers in his wallet until the day he died - which is where we found them, with heavy creases from all the times he had unfolded and re-folded them. He was so proud to be an American and to live in this great country.
John Davis (manuscript) Frain said:
Colin, that last question you had on your citizenship interview pushed my mind directly to the internment camps of WWII. Internment, of course, being a euphemism for incarceration. More than half of those Japanese Americans were US citizens at the time.
I'm not educated enough on the topic, but it strikes me that the same wasn't done for Italian Americans or German Americans. Now I feel like getting more educated. Again.
Both German and Italian people were interned here in the US, including US citizens. Not on the scale of the Japanese internment, but it did happen.
and this from CynthiaMc is just perfect for the 4th:
We will be at Winter Park, Florida's Olde Fashioned Independence Day Celebration (9 am to 1 pm if you're in the neighborhood). Free hot dogs, water, watermelon, red-white-and-blue necklaces, classic old cars, horse-drawn wagon rides, and vendors selling barbecue, sweet tea, lemonade, cotton candy and just about anything else. The orchestra plays patriotic songs and the anthems of all the services and asks veterans to stand during their anthem. For a few minutes this airman will stand at attention in the scorching heat (albeit in Bermuda shorts, flip flops, and a polo shirt instead of Air Force blues) sing "Off We Go Into the Wild Blue Yonder" (not its official name, but what we called it) in my heart and give thanks that we made it to celebrate freedom for another year. We will spot others both older and younger out of the corner of our eye standing during their anthems and afterward we will exchange handshakes and maybe years of service, squadron/platoon/command info with those next to us. We will say thank you to those older than we are, those who held the doors of freedom open long enough for us to slip through and thank the younger ones who picked up where we left off. We will look in each other's eyes, nod, probably swallow hard and we may even blink back tears.
Freedom isn't free, y'all. It comes at a very high price. But it's always worth fighting for.
And we also had the writing contest results on Monday
Dena Pawling said:
There were several this time that I didn't understand, but that's no different from any other contest for me.
Don't feel stupid Dena. There were several I didn't get either. Or, we can both feel stupid together!
On Tuesday we talked about category (an evergreen topic!)
I liked what Celia Reeves said
This reminds me of discussions we have about advising beginning college students. Most of them have only the vaguest idea of what their goals are with regard to their education or their career plans, and scream, "Just let me be myself! Why do I have to fit into your categories of majors and schools!" (Sometimes they scream this internally, but we hear it anyway, because we're awesome like that.) What's amazing is that within a few years almost all of them have found their academic home and their career path, and are moving ahead with conviction. This happens through exploration of lots of alternatives and honest assessment of their own ideals and strengths. I see the book genre/category issue the same way. Write the book you want to write, let it meander across genre lines as it will, honestly assess where it sparkles best, and in the end it will find itself, and its zebra herd.
Karen McCoy added some valuable perspective to the "librarians know how to categorize books" statement I made:
And, I love me some librarians (I am one) but I must risk possible passage to Carkoon and share with the reef some things I learned as a selector within a 28-library system:
To start, science fiction and fantasy have very different readerships, and as such, cannot be found together in all libraries. Luckily, since most is arranged by author last name, findability isn't usually an issue.
Except when there are librarians who think that anything supernatural-like counts as science fiction.
Yes, this happened.
Yes, the system I worked for had Game of Thrones with alien science fiction stickers on them, and many catalogers decided it was too much work to fix mistakes that happened years ago because they were too busy categorizing new stuff. And no, I don't blame them. Because when there is no fantasy sticker, what do you do?
This also means that science fiction romance stories will have pink romance stickers slapped on them, which may limit readership.
And sometimes categories won't reach all age groups. For example, I couldn't label anything YA as urban fiction, as much as I wanted to, because only adult books could be labeled that way. Etc.
Unfortunately, even the best ninja selectors who choose the best categories have to accept that there is a lot of reverted stuff that cannot be corrected. And, when master decisions are made by catalogers who don't often see the front lines of how readers pick their books, their actions can often affect years of how things are categorized after that.
Please know that I am not criticizing catalogers. They are rock stars as far as I'm concerned. They often have the very difficult job of choosing where all the things go--and the decisions aren't easy, especially when a 28-library system has a diverse audience depending on the needs of each branch. Which is why executive decisions have to be made for the system overall, because otherwise, chaos.
Luckily, most novels in libraries are placed the major umbrella of "fiction," and as such, most of these problems can be avoided. This is true for Patrick Lee's Runner which also has a subject sub-heading of Suspense Fiction. (Subject headings are a rant for another time, but in this case, the catalogers got it right.)
Okay, phew! Rant over. Sorry gang, and thanks for reading this far. I'm not saying librarians don't know their stuff--but if you're looking for stuff in libraries, chances are some of the categories might get muddled due to some of the issues listed above.
Bottom line: if it's stymieing librarians, it's no wonder it's a perplexing problem for you writers as well!
Lennon Faris asked:
Going to be devil's adv. here - doesn't everything fit into SOME kind of category? Even if it's a mix of a couple? On a basic level, the genre lets the reader (or agent) know what they're getting into. 'Commercial fiction' covers so many things in my head.
It drives me nuts when I research an agent, and this is what they say they represent.
well, sure, everything is either fiction, non-fiction or memoir.
but this is like saying something is either animal, vegetable or mineral.
That's info but sometimes what you really want to know is carnivorous or herbivorous?
When an agent says "commercial fiction" they generally mean "not literary fiction" and "not genre fiction."
And how would one describe a more-literary-than-commercial novel in a query letter? 'General fiction' seems wrong. Contemporary fiction? Mainstream fiction? In some ways it seems completely unimportant, as the agent will read your pages and draw their own conclusions... yet you still need to put something.
I'm not sure I understand why the author has to specify the genre or category in the query anyway. Shouldn't it be obvious from the story? And if it isn't, won't the agent who chooses to take the author on be able to guide the author into one or the other if necessary?
I mean, if I'm not clear on whether my novel is women's fiction or non-category romance and the agent represents both, aren't I better off just not specifying in case I'm wrong?
There's a book. It's a very good book: skilfully executed, charming, and engaging all the way through. My husband found it in the SF section of the library. It could have fit equally well as a steampunk romance. It just depended on who published it. In this case, it was an SF house so that's where it ended up.
I agree with you that category is a minefield and leaving it out of the query seems like a good idea. There is a however though.
However. It's helpful to know what kind of book the author intends this to be. I expect different things from a YA novel than an adult thriller. I expect VERY different things in a middle-grade book than I do in a romance.
You'd think it would be obvious. I'm sorry to report from the front lines of the query inbox that it is not.
I had this exact discussion with several writers at ThrillerFest. Because it was ThrillerFest I thought I'd be reading queries for thrillers. Surprisingly quite a few people writing something else turned up. It was actually pretty interesting, once we both knew that it wasn't a thriller!
Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale sums this up very nicely:
It's good to be able to categorize your book one way or another. This is so you can answer the question: "Who will read this book?"
This is probably the most important question of all.
Who will buy this book? Who will read this book? Who will enjoy this book and tell their friends they need to read it?
If you're not able to assign a genre (or know which shelf in the bookstore/library it goes on), at the very least, know who will be reading it.
"For fans of Mary Robinette Kowal and Georgette Heyer."
"Frederica meets The Magician."
Sure, we want our books to land in the hands of readers; it's so important those hands are the right readers.
On Wednesday we talked about rights sales in the UK
Honest to dog we're going to need a whole new blog for the HILARIOUS writing you guyz do here. Latest entry "Spesh is missing" by Julie Weathers.
Angie Brooksby-Arcangoli asked
Dear Queen of the Reef, what exactly are open market rights?
I've wondered all night. Does this apply only to the languages a book is translated in or is it more than that. Like audio formats and other doodads.
Open market rights are the rights to SELL a book in countries that are listed as open market.
Generally North American English means you have the exclusive right to sell in the territory of: the United States of America, its territories and possessions, the Philippines, Canada
Generally UK territory starts with England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The publisher then includes the OTHER English language countries where they want exclusive selling rights.
If I've already said Australia is on the US publisher's open market list, I can't turn around and license exclusive rights to Australia to the UK publisher. The UK publisher wants as much territory as he can get. So does the US publisher. Thus the brawling.
The comment trail went haywire with talk of beer, perpetuities, editors, manuscripts and all variety of wonderfully off-topic things.
In other words, just the way we like it.
On Thursday I posted a list of ten queries and why they heard no.
Colin Smith picked up on a comment that the writer had gotten both my title and my agency name wrong:
Just to prove the author isn't paying attention, my agency name and my title are wrong.
How..? Slip of the keyboard (FinePrimt), or complete facepalm (FuzzyPrint)? And your title?? You mean they called you Ms. instead of Your Most Royal and Majestic Queen of the Known Universe? Seriously, how do you mess that up? Okay, I did accidentally mistype the name of one agent on my last querying bout, but he seemed to be forgiving of that (clearly a common error), but I was mortified when I discovered. If I hadn't been trained in the QOTKU school, I would have emailed him and apologized vociferously. As it is, I let it go. After all, the number of times people have addressed me as "Collin" (yes, even here), if I can be gracious, I had no doubt he could too. So what egregious mistake could this be that would make Our Shark of the Blogisphere bristle?
The agency name wasn't even close. He had Janet Reid Agency. And my title is not "agent"
If you want to be funny, it's Queen of the Known Universe. If you want to be businesslike it's Ms. Reid. If you want be incorrect it's "Agent Janet"
None of that is important, and had the query been otherwise good I wouldn't have rejected just for that. It just underscored that the writer hadn't done even the slightest bit of research, and that says something about the kind of work you do.
Rachel Erin asked
#4 brought up a question for me - I clicked on your QueryTracker link out of curiosity (no query yet, alas), and noticed that the list of genres is limited to what I imagine is the same list you have in your submission guidelines. The genre label is also required.
Is that required by the software running QueryTracker? Are you assuming that it's fine to miss the one or two great people who choose not to query you because what they think their book's genre is is not on the list? Can I classify my YA fantasy as an adventure if I use that form =) (even though I know that quests in secondary worlds are not the kind of adventure you mean)?
Just curious how that system works, and if it has constraints that might make it difficult to query as widely as possible.
I'm not sure. Some of the more detailed question about how QueryManager works have yet to be sorted out. I don't know if that system won't let you query if you list "the wrong" category. That would be a bug for me, since I like to see everything. It's probably considered a feature by other agents who are less clever forgiving than I about category.
Claudette Hoffmann asked:
Still confused about first line of Query: Dear Ms./Mr. Last Name? Hi First Name? Good morning First Name Last Name, Title?
Best: Dear Ms. Reid
Second best: Good morning Janet Reid
Ok, but will get you in trouble with some agents: Hi Janet
Never under any circumstances: Dear Agent
When you're uncertain of gender: Dear Janet Reid
When you're querying through an all-agency portal: Ladies/Gentlemen of the Agency
When you're talking to me at the bar: Can I buy you a drink Snookums?
Dead Spider Eye said:
Interesting list, it leaves the impression most e-mails get a full read through. I'm kinda curious about the other cases, the ones that prompt the abort switch at whatever particular point: bio, first or second para, salutation, subject line, sender. I'm supposing those don't get a 'no' just that eerie vacuum that begs augur.
I respond to everything, so no eerie vacuum of silence. Well, mostly everything. Here's a list of reasons I wouldn't respond.
Joseph Snoe said
My stomach cramps and my shoulders shrivel every time I read a post about queries.
Well, my work here is done. Tormenting writers isn't the job but it's such a great perk!
On Friday we had a writing contest for ThrillerFest and I'm really looking forward to seeing what y'all come up with.
Since I forgot to change the subheader last week, Julie Weathers' will appear this week.
Since I forgot to change the subheader last week, Julie Weathers' will appear this week.