So, if you will join me, at the moment you read this, in remembering those lost lives. Renew your vow to live fully, to cherish every single day you've been given, knowing that the families of the fallen would give everything they had for just one more day with their lost.
And this was the week that was.
Monday's topic was the flash fiction contest, and wasn't it fun to get back to those! I know I certainly missed reading contest entries during the hiatus.
On Tuesday we discussed the fact that a writer needs a website before querying but does NOT need the website to function as "platform". You do NOT need platform to query a novel.
I'm curious what one looks for on a writer's website before they're published. If there's not an updated blog, what would you want to see? Or is the fact that one exists proof that the writer is on his/her way toward building that platform?If I look at a writer's website at the query stage it's usually to verify info in the query. Writers who say "this is my fifth published book" lead me to ask "who published the other four?" If a writer says "my first novel was published by BigAssPublisher" I look for who sold it because generally you need an agent for that kind of deal.
I don't have a check list of things I look for, but I do look for info that isn't in the query.
And clever beasts that you are, I can hear you thinking "well, I just won't post that info on my website" but that will NOT divert me. I'll look for the info on Amazon if I don't find it on your site.
On Wednesday, the post was on how to jump into the comment column.
Ovidia Yu said
Thank you for this post! I've been chicken-lurking for some time but have learned so much! What I like more than any of your literary business tips is your honesty and attitude--shark scary yes! But the glimpses you offer show up my even more ridiculous fears for the nonsense they are. (eg if I write a bad query letter to an agent and get turned down because I used the wrong colour paper, every other agent present and future will Know and all future queries will be laughed at...) I meant to leave a 'thank you' comment when I got an agent and a book deal (!!!) but wanted to wait till I set up my website. Which I'm still stuck at. But I'm working on it!
I love the phrase chicken lurking! And I think these are the exact fears everyone starts with. I'm glad to hear they were assuaged, and even more that you got a book deal!! Huzzah!
Colin Smith brought up a good point about how to talk about upcoming books/book deals.
What do you consider the difference between posting a link to a promo site for your book, and posting a link to Donna's Upcoming Novel Available to Pre-Order HERE?
I've been very impressed by the restraint shown by commenters NOT just posting links to upcoming books. I think we've all seen first hand that it's much more effective if someone else is doing the cheerleading for your book. BUT we all want to know book news from our friends here, so linking to a website with info about a book deal is fine.
I of course reserve the right to delete any comments that have links going to places I'm not comfortable sending my readers. A link on this blog can be seen as tacit approval by me, and I'm pretty careful about that. Reader trust is a very precious thing and I'm not going to fuck around with it.
If you're concerned about whether something should be posted in the comment column, it's always ok to drop me an email and ask.
MA Hudson said
I started commenting relatively recently and I've gotta say, I usually feel like I'm talking gobbledegook into a loud hailer. And then there's the overwhelming fear of making a spelling mistake or grammatical error that results in Janet striking my name from a secret (literary) agents' list of potentially publishable people.
Still, I'm persevering in the hope that practice makes acceptable, and because I'm hugely grateful for all the knowledge I've gleaned from Janet's blogs and from other commenters.
I'm actually laughing out loud at the idea that I have a secret list of people who make spelling mistakes in the comment column! Have you seen the typos people have to catch for me?? Some days it's more than five!
Pot calling the kettle black, yes that's exactly what it would be!
But, there's also a rule here that is pretty much followed faithfully and that is, no one is allowed to comment on another commenter's spelling or grammar. I've seen those kinds of comments on other sites, and they are almost always used to shame someone rather than continue a discussion or make a valid point. I prefer that not happen here. So far, I've not seen any, and I'm quite glad of it.
Adele's comment here made my hair stand on end!
Just in case a lurker has the same problem I did:
For a long time I would post a comment, the little comment note would say something like "your comment has been saved and will be published after moderator approval" and guess what - the comment didn't ever show up. So I knew Janet had me in her sights. Janet didn't like me. Sniff. Janet was making sure even the mildest comment was thrown straight into the ethereal garbage can. Janet was really spending a lot of energy on muzzling me. I had no idea what I had done.
I thought that maybe there might have possibly been times when I had expressed an opinion that might not have been totally acceptable by every member of the community - gosh, that's a lot of hedging - but every day I read lots of other people saying things straight out, and they got their posts up.
I wondered what their secret was. Was the blog restricted to Janet's personal friends? Perhaps restricted to her clients? Why didn't she just say so? I wanted to ask but how could I since none of my comments got onto the blog. Sigh.
Then I got a Google ID and all of a sudden my problems went away. Turns out it wasn't Janet at all. I just wasn't acceptable in the mists of cyberspace, and cyberspace, as usual, wasn't letting me know.
I've added a note on the comment posting pop up that will help new readers, I hope! I'm horrified to hear anyone thought they were being deleted for no reason! ACK!!!!
On Thursday we talked about including "helpful" links to explain things in your query letter. (Do Not Do This!)
Are links the new glitter?
YES! That's exactly right!
abnormalalien (Jamie A. Elias) said:
Now, if I'm reading something online and I see pop-ups, autoplay videos, or excessive links, I run off to find a site with more manners.
I love that phrase "a site with more manners." It captures my feelings perfectly.
Have you ever seen a great query that uses footnotes to explain things? It seems to me that a good query will be self-contained--kind of like our 100 word stories should be in the contests. If the Agent is intrigued enough, s/he will look up the references s/he doesn't get (or doesn't think s/he gets, and then discovers s/he does get them, and is pleasantly surprised--so much so s/he requests a full... or something like that). If the Agent isn't wowed by the query, I imagine s/he won't care about what s/he doesn't get, and won't waste precious query-reading time Googling things for a query s/he's going to form reject anyway.
Actually I have but it's for non-fiction, and it's generally when the author needs to let me know when "truth is stranger than fiction." It's easy to assume that the writer is making a mistake if they tell you something that goes contrary to popular truth. When they're not, a footnote (or endnote) is useful.
For example, a book I just sold has a statistic about the number of children who have mental health issues. It's a pretty daunting number, so the source for that info was footnoted.
And when I tell you that suicide is the third leading cause of death among children 12 and younger. (YOUNGER, not older!) I hope you'd want a source for that cause I still can't believe it and it's true.
MA Hudson said
I hope there was no music on all those popping up web pages - that would really add insult to the incensed.oh dear god, what a thought! Generally no, the websites were more often things like Wikipedia pages, but in case anyone wonders why I'm having a conniption at the idea of music on a website, just know this: DO NOT DO THAT. I don't care if you are Mozart risen from the dead. Auto-audio on website is a tool of the devil.
On Friday, we discussed the one thing all successful writers have in common: persistence.
I really like what Brigid said here:
It is genuinely difficult to be attentive and receptive to feedback while also having the patience to wait for the pattern to unfold. That is, to be responsive AND persistent AND neutral, in a way, until you have enough information to say "ah yes, the problem is the query" or "oh, I've been querying MG agents when the book needs to be YA" or "whoops, I started the book too soon!"
It's a lot like job-hunting, or online dating. You're really laying your heart out there, presenting the best of yourself and just hoping.
And this is the truest thing of the week, courtesy of DLM:
The deep secret we all keep:
We hear about how it'll be necessary to query many tens of agents, if not a hundred or two, before the magic happens. We hear about the long road. We hear about how, even if we DO get an agent, we'll have to REVISE! And then lose our beloved titles, and possibly even endure rejection and working with our agents - or our self-publishing business plans - and coming up with a new work to try again.
... and everyone thinks, but will not say out loud: "except for me."
Colin Smith misses Carkoon:
Posts like this make me want to set up a Query Board that people can post queries to and receive critiques from the Reiders here. There are, no doubt, a gazillion-and-one such things, but this one would be supported by this community. And maybe QOTKU herself could be persuaded to drop in from time to time, offer critiques, and maybe even find a future client.There are places to do that on the web. I certainly think they have some merit but in the end, the people reading those queries are, generally speaking, Not Agents.
Probably a crazy idea, Carkoon-exile worthy, no doubt... but I just thought I'd throw it out there. :)
It's hard for places like those to recognize the outliers. The queries that break all the rules, but still would get requests. Query crit places are good for getting plot on the page and cutting out "I've loved to write since I was five" but they're not so good for style. And style and verve and a certain je ne sais quoi is what I'm looking for.
Thus, I'm going to discourage any kind of organized formal query crit starting up here. Helping each other out individually was and is a good thing: have at it. But nothing more.
On a side note: The only time I didn't take my own bike, I rode on the back of a friend's to Florida from Michigan. It was an exceptionally long ride and could have been really boring except that I read Carrie by Stephen King on the way down there. Scared the crap out of me and he's been an auto buy ever since. I'm so glad someone took a chance on him! ;)
I'm sure I'm not the only one who did a double-take at the idea of reading on the back of a motorcycle. I'm truly sorry there are no pictures of that.
On Saturday we talked about referencing a real life event in the query for a novel:
Celia Reeves cracked me up with this:
Wait, wait, a lightbulb just went off for me. If I base my book partly on true events and partly on stuff I make up, it's a novel. If I make it all up, then it's a fiction novel! Right? It all makes sense now!
/self-administers dope slap/
/slinks back into woodland shadows/
So I guess that's my question: is it different if the story is fictionalized based on the author's experiences? If it's based on a true story outside of the author's own experience, can that then become something for the marketing of the book, once it reaches that stage? "Devil in the White City" seems to be a prime example of the latter. Knowing it was based on a true story added an extra chill to the reading.
You're right to recognize that marketing is a different kettle o'fishies than a query. In a query I care about your story and the writing first and foremost. I care not a whit if it's based on true events simply cause most novels have to start someplace and a lot of them start with something that happened.
Marketing however, that's the place where we're trying to make friends with readers and it may very well be a good marketing tool to say "this is a version of what happened to me, and if it's happening to you, this book will resonate with you."
Of course a book has to appeal to readers who have NO commonality with the writer (other than perhaps the ability to read!) but that's not today's topic!
Oh geeze. I have a novel that I have started to query. It's historical. About a doctor who is afraid he may have killed his wife. In 1881. The doctor was a real person and I've done extensive research about his case. Don't I want to mention that somewhere in the query?
No. Use the research to bolster the story, not as citations in your query. The premise is interesting enough on its own. Now tell me a story that has me reaching for pages to find out what happens next.
the more I popped in here, the more I couldn't stay away. --Melanie Sue Bowles
Fiction is the purest art. Commercial fiction is the butter, the darkest chocolate, and the finest malt. That's why we are so addicted to it.--Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli