Saturday, April 20, 2019

my pub credits are two academic books

Dearest Query Shark,
When I write my query letter for my Young Adult novel, should I mention the fact that I have published two academic history books with university presses? Or will such information just seem obnoxiously irrelevant, given that the novel is not historical fiction?

There are two questions here.
1. If I mention this will I look obnoxious?

2. Will it help me to mention it?

The answer to both is no.
But the real answer is it won't hurt you, either.

But the best answer is: don't take up scarce real estate in a query (remember you've only got 250 words!) with something that isn't a plus.

While two academic history books are indeed a publishing credit, they are not the kind of writing you're doing now; they're sold to entirely different markets, and in entirely different ways.

The publishing credit that does help you are books or stories that were acquired for a trade audience. Not necessarily YA but trade in general.

Bottom line: I never passed on any project that interested me cause the author didn't have any pub credits, or had pubbed Studies in Shark Bites: An Analysis of Query Letters Received by Barbara Poelle.


Friday, April 19, 2019

When to hit the rooftops with Huzzah!


About a year ago, you graciously answered my question about publishing an excerpt from my WIP in a lit journal (essentially: go for it). Took some time, but I finally mustered the nerve to submit a chapter to Very Impressive Journal and one other well-established, though slightly less impressive journal. Well, Very Impressive Journal responded first--with a yes! Couldn't believe it. First try! Wow. I know the odds. I know my luck. I signed the publishing contract this week (and immediately withdrew my piece from consideration by the other journal).


Question: When is it appropriate to announce the forthcoming publication? I haven't been assigned to an issue yet but am told my essay will appear within the year. It's my first publication ever. With Very Important Journal. I'm excited. I want to brag. How and when may I do so? Do I have to wait for the issue to be released, or can I share the news now? Yes, this a great "problem" to have.


This is a terrific problem to have! Huzzah!

The question you want to ask yourself: what do I want to accomplish with this announcement?

If it's just "share my excitement" shout now.

BUT if it's "buy this journal to see my work" you MUST wait until someone reading the news can click to buy. Pre-order, or order, either is fine.

People WILL NOT remember to look for your book or your story in three days, let alone three months.

And, not to throw any cold water on hot news, until it's published, it's not published. I recently had a client who was told a story had been accepted for an anthology. Only to have the publisher kibosh the story. If we'd hollered huzzah too soon it would have been mortifying rather than just annoying.

If we'd had a signed contract, they still could have pulled it and let us keep the money.
Generally, it's a done deal if you've seen the page proofs.

So, two thing to consider when faced with "when to huzzah?"

1 What's the goal here?
2 Is there any chance it won't actually come to pass?

Thursday, April 18, 2019

What to license when you sell a short story

On Monday, Emma posted a comment about a rights grab from a journal that wanted to publish her work.
I feel like there needs to be a separate blog on short story contract language. For example, thanks to bits and bobs from this blog, when I received a six page contract for a 5K story that stated that they wanted all rights, US and International FOR THE LIFE OF THE COPYRIGHT, PLUS ALL EXTENSIONS THEREOF, and not only that, rights to all derivative work from that story, I knew this was scary ass nonsense.

I replied with an updated contract, the editor nixed me from the journal, and I immediately sent the contract to Writer's Beware.

But what's even scarier, was that when I told my writing group about this, most of them shrugged and said, "yeah, a lot of publications want that." And my head exploded.

Even if a publication asks for something that insane, nobody in their right mind should ever sign it, no matter how hungry for pub credits they are.

If anybody wants to know the name of this journal, let me know, and I'll be more than happy to say.

And on that note, IS there a list of acceptable rights to sign away for a short story? Somewhere?

The "life of the copyright" etc. language is not the problem.
It's whether the rights grant is EXCLUSIVE.

Life of the copyright is too long in general for anything, but it's standard language for a publishing contract for a full length BOOK.

Plus, there's also a clause that outlines how the rights can/will revert to the writer: out of print is one way;  there are a couple others.

But, for a story, to give anyone exclusive rights for the life of the contract means they have to pay you for the value of that license. Often that's not the figure they're quoting.

Thus: exclusive for a specified period of time, such as a year.
Then: non-exclusive ever after.

No grant of translation at all.
No grant of movie, film, tv, merchandising.

Audio is a case by case. There's a lot bigger market for audio rights for short stories now and sometimes the publication will have an offer to license those.

In that case, the contributors (ie the writers of the story) should share in the money from audio, and that should be written into the contract.

Often that sharing is divided among all the contributors, so there's language about how that will happen.


In the course of reviewing contracts for my clients who write short stories, I've seen some real doozies so I now expect it.


There's a lot of info about contract do's and don'ts out there. Be very careful about who you listen to. And remember contracts are a negotiation. Sometimes you get what you want. Sometimes you don't. What you need to start with is a list of bottom line things that are deal breakers:

1. Transferring copyright. The key word to look for is the publisher is licensing the right to publish.

2. Payment. If the publisher fails to pay, the rights must revert to the Author upon notice.

3. Duration. Must be specified.

4. Exclusivity: must be specified.

5. What the contract covers ie title of the short story. NOTHING ELSE (no derivative works for example)

6. Editing: they can't edit your work OTHER than for grammar or spelling without your consent. 


Any questions?

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

more on mailing lists, and lack of news


I've puzzled this one and read and re-read but I must be missing something. In your post "Yes, you need a mailing list, even if you're not pubbed" you start by saying: I can hear you screaming (politely of course, woodland creature that you are) "I don't have anything to talk about in a newsletter!"

I'm very politely screaming because I still have no idea what to say in a newsletter. The example you give is "sign up to hear about my next published story" or "when you have news like a short story being pubbed in a small magazine". I'm not pubbed in any way, shape or form (yet!). I looked to the comments for an answer, but Reef readers only mention short stories and publications as well (the Reef is full of very talented writers).

So if I am not published and have no short stories, what would I put into a newsletter?


This is such a good question because it showed me I wasn't really clear.
(That's my fault by the way.
It's incumbent about the speaker/writer to be clear, not the listener/reader to suss out what's being conveyed.)

So, let me take another whack at this.

You can have a mailing list without having a newsletter.

You can have people sign up for news (that you will have in the future!) even if you don't have news now.

And if you feel like this isn't the right time to embark on setting up a mailing list, RESPECT YOUR HESITATION!! I'm writing for a general audience here, not you specifically.

Understand the difference between "I don't wanna" and "I don't know how" and "I don't think this is right for me YET."

The third reason is the ONLY reason I will not bop you over the head for failure to heed my incredibly wise, astute, amazing, productive and generally all-around perfect advice (my Thesaurus was feeling neglected after I bought a new dictionary so I had to give her a little work out this morning.)


Spiffy new dictionary

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

The Lennon Faris Benchmark!

Lennon Faris made a comment on Sunday's blog post that made me laugh, and then made me think:
The first several times I came across this blog, it happened to be one of the Sunday conglomerations you used to do.

I didn't pick up on the fact that it was a once-a-week thing, or that I was there on Sunday again, or that all the people quoted were blog readers' quotes from that week (I will never be a detective). I thought, this is the most random blog I've ever stumbled across.

Here's an example of the blog post Lennon is referencing.
I miss doing the Week in Review, but the amount of time it took became prohibitive.


But Lennon's comment also made me realize that without context those blog posts are insane.
I'm just glad she kept coming back long enough to suss out what the hell it all meant.

Which brings me to the thinking portion of today's post.

I recently received a 379 word email from a writer.
I know she was a writer cause she said so.
After that, things are a bit murky.

Was it a query?
I don't know. It did not have the word query in it.

Was it a question for the blog?
I don't know. It seemed to have a lot of personal info for a general blog question.

Was it a request for advice?
I don't  know.

The one thing I do know is that it didn't have a question in the entire email.
I read it twice to make sure, and then, just cause I wanted to be extra-sure, I ran a search.
No ?marks.

And I am reminded of the many times someone has said "well, I emailed so and so, but didn't get a reply."

Now when I hear that, the first thing I'm going to ask is "did you say what you wanted?"

If you're writing to me with a question (and I like hearing from blog readers!) , make sure you're clear about what the question is.  If you're sending a query, make sure to include query (in the subject line.)

I'm going to call this the new  Lennon Faris Benchmark.

Monday, April 15, 2019

First chapter as a short story

Is it a mistake to sell a chapter of your finished book as a short story to a fiction magazine? The magazine claims they "buy first North American and foreign serial rights and an option on anthology rights. All other rights are retained by the author."
Does this mean we could lose access to that chapter if the book is published?
The word you're looking for in the short story contract is "non-exclusive".
If it's not there, make sure they have exclusive rights for a specified time period, and not longer than year.
This is actually a very good thing. It counts as a pub credit, and you'll mention it in your query.
Questions?

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Rex Parker, Duchess and puzzles

Duchess!


This is Duchess, sadly now off on her next adventure with the Celestial Pack.

Isn't this a great photo of her?

I didn't know her, and I don't know her family, but her dad keeps a blog I visit every day.
Rex Parker NYT Xword

For NYT crossword fans, it's delicious to get the results when you're done, rather than having to wait till the next day.

And for me, it's always interesting and humbling (oh so humbling!) to see how casually he mentions the time it took him to finish.

And he posts every day, or has someone fill in.
I really respect that dedication!

When I first found his blog, I had no idea what "themers" were, or that a puzzle had north east corners.

Slowly I learned the vernacular, and what made a "good" puzzle (to me, they all seemed good, other than the ones that required crazy things, like a whole word in one square.)

How I feel reading Rex Parker's blog is, I'm sure,  how some new writers feel reading this blog for the first time.

Do you remember the first bits of vernacular, or "inside info" you picked up here?

And, are you a puzzler too?

Saturday, April 13, 2019

I need a title for a seminar!

Jeff Somers and I will be "in conversation" at Writers Digest Conferene this coming August here in NYC.

Of course you want to be there!

Here's the (working) description of our gig:


Author Jeff Somers discusses the role of agents in an author’s life: offering sage career advice, buying him drinks, telling him how smart he is, bailing him out of jail, telling him his writing is brilliant, helping him choose projects, mailing him checks, all while tormenting him on a near-daily basis. He’ll answer questions like ‛How terrifying is it when your agent invites you for cocktails out of the blue, for no reason?’ and ‛Do you ever do the math on just how little money your agent earns from your work?’ and ‛Are you trying to blink a plea for assistance using Morse Code right now but you never actually learned Morse Code so you have no idea what you’re saying?’

Meanwhile, Jeff’s agent, Janet Reid will laugh merrily as he blinks out those pleas for help. She will reveal for the first time ever what feats of strength and magic rituals Jeff had to perform to secure representation. What she does when Jeff digs in his heels about plot twists, contract language, or wearing pants to this writing conference. You'll get insight into her perverse pleasure in tormenting Jeff about publicity, promotion, and living in New Jersey. And why the highest form of praise is being a character who gets killed not once but twice.



but, we need a title!

Here are some choices:

(1) What Could Possibly Go Wrong:  Behind the Scenes of the Agent/Author Relationship

(2) Behind the Scenes of the Author/Agent Relationship: Jeff Somers Tells All, Janet Reid Corrects Him

(3) Luck and Liquor: Behind the Scenes of the Agent/Author Relationship

(4)Ways to Torment your Agent/Author by Writer/Agent; Jeff Somers and Janet Reid in conversation


if you have some suggestions for other options, PLEASE suggest them in the comments column.

If you have an opinion on which of the four is best, let me know.

The  only proviso is that the title can not contain any mention of cocktails or booze. (I know, #3 mentions liquor.)

Friday, April 12, 2019

Querying multiple mss

Dear She Who Devised the Sharknado,

I’m currently querying one manuscript and revising a second one, which should be finished in a couple months (Ha! Watch that be a total lie). If all goes to plan, I imagine I won’t have an agent by the time the second manuscript is ready to query. I’m only two or three months into the querying process (just a handful of rejections and one partial request so far). Is it acceptable/wise (or shark-bait stupid) to query agents who rejected the first manuscript with the second manuscript while the first manuscript is still awaiting responses from other agents? If so, how should I handle notifying agents if I receive an offer of representation for a different manuscript?


You can certainly query the agents who passed on Ms#1.
And just query as you would any other agent. I always hate to see "you rejected me on that, but here's this" cause I think it's not a strong, effective pitch.


If you get an offer on EITHER, you notify everyone who has a query less than 30 days old, or has requested a full or a partial. You tell the agent you have an offer on TITLE.

Even if you get an offer on #2, you MUST notify agents who have ms #1. Once you sign with an agent, you don't keep querying the other ms.

Any questions?

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Help me figure this out

Last night on Twitter I came across a tweet from a writer




My first panicked response was to check my email to see if the agent she was talking about was me.

I've posted here and on Twitter about formatting; about bone-headed mistakes; about things writers can do to shoot themselves in the foot. Heck there's a whole category on this blog for posts about what can "ANNOY ME"

So I wasn't off base for wondering.
But fortunately I wasn't (later confirmed by the writer) the culprit THIS TIME.

So, where's the line between talking about real-time mistakes in an effort to educate writers about effective strategy, and public shaming?

I don't think this is something I get to decide on my own.
I think this requires a lot of opinions.

How about we start with yours.
Weigh in via  the comment column.

Remember you are free to call me on stuff you don't like as long as you do it without invective, comments about character or lack thereof, or talk about my mum's penchant for military footwear.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

The Clutch Your Pearls flash fiction contest FINAL results!

This was fun!
A lot of you used the exact phrase, and quite a few of you used it as a jumping off place.
There was no right or wrong way on this one.



Holy Mother of Lady Godiva, can I not escape this man!?
Steve Forti does HIS OWN FORTISSIMO!!!

I figured a few drinks would do the trick.”
Shedding her blouse, she crooned, “Must’ve been your charm.”
Ha. Does it every time.”
Pearls before swine…”
She’d muttered something, but he wasn’t listening.
Would you like me to continue?” She purred.
Have mercy…”
Been a naughty boy, you have. No mercy.” She dangled the handcuffs and pointed.
Clutching the bedframe, he obeyed, heart racing. The cuffs clicked tight, and she tested their hold… then walked over to his discarded pants and pilfered his wallet. As she redressed and exited, he begged and struggled in futility.
The motherfucking key, at least?”



Love the pearl/purl pairing of Jennifer Mugrage

C.Dan Castro made me laugh out loud but my client Richard Gilbert, from beyond the grave, is not amused.



Sheri M, I like how you think!

Steph Ellis, your work should come with a warning label it's so intensely creepy!

Hey Gregory Shipman, welcome back! Long time, no comment!
And this line is wonderful: we’re thieves not beauty consultants

Melanie Sue Bowles cracked me up:
Well, perfect except the groom, bless his heart, but you need one to have a wedding


Karen McCoy (love the talking vole!)
Beatrice inspected her credenza and removed some china eggs, chipped tea cups, and a pink tutu.

What, your credenza doesnt have a pink tutu?


It says absolutely nothing good about me that I laughed out loud with this from Michael Seese
Poor Henry. Never knew what hit him.
I do.
Ball-peen hammer.

Here are the entries that stood out to me

french sojourn
“What a mess…Smitty, call a meat wagon. The coachman’s dead, impaled by a mile marker. One horse flipped over into the ravine, and the other…well, he won’t be runnin in no derby anytime soon. Now, had she been wearin’ Piloti driving shoes, Jack Purcells, Christ, even Pearls woulda been better.”

“Pearls?”

“White rubber croc’s adorned with plastic pearls, my daughters got a pair, silly lookin’ things. Problem is, this ladies’ foot slipped off the pedal.”

“If only she’d downshifted.”

“If she’d had Pearls, she would have been clutching,” the man said looking down at the blood-stained glass slipper.

Barbara Lund
If she’d had pearls, she’d have pawned them. Rent was due again.

Three months ago, she signed the waivers and participated in the study and made enough to last till New Years.

Two months ago, her family looked side-eyed and pinched mouthed when she came to Thanksgiving dinner.

Last month, no invite for Christmas.

And now she was standing over a perfect stranger—who knew where he’d been?—with his cash in her pocket, brains on her lips and under her nails, and red-and-blues flashing closer and closer.

Rent was due. What was a zombie to do?

Kay Madurn
It was the final dive for her entire maternal line, as no one took her place. Once, an important part of a pearl’s cycle, but currents change. This ama knew she and the others were no longer needed in the eyes of the people on the surface. I no naka no kawazu taikai wo shirazu. The oysters still needed her, even if for the last time. Though today was a day of replanting, she wished she could bring some of the ocean back with her. If she only had pearls, she would be clutching them all the way home.


Marie McKay
If she had been an over-priveleged Victorian lady, she might have required her smelling salts.
If she had been a delicate Romantic spinster, she might have set down her intricate but,nevertheless, pointless needlework.
If she had been a stern Georgian mother, she might have clutched at her pearls.
If she had been a frumpy fifties housewife, she might have wrung her dishpan hands.
But thankfully, she was writing her own story and was none, and had been none of those things; so what she had to say was this:
'Damn right. I hear you!'


Timothy Lowe
If
Marlena thought to wear a life jacket
She’d
Be having a better time of it. Instead, all my wife
Had
Around her neck was my string of diamonds, thrown like
Pearls
Before swine into the abyss of infidelity. As
She
Tumbled head-over-heels toward the churning wake, I knew I
Would
Have no problem explaining her absence. Cruise officials
Have
No real legal recourse, especially when the captain has
Been
Recently entangled with a certain passenger in several sweaty,
Clutching
Versions of down dog, as her vengeful selfies will surely attest to
Them.


NLiu
Instead of pearls, she clutched straws. They wouldn't turn to gold. She wept; the little man cackled, demanding her son.

But she got clever, uncovered his name. He vanished… right?

Not quite.

They'd been a team. Pearls from a dragon, boots from a cat. The king's gold about to roll out of his palace in balls of yarn.

Then she betrayed him. Better a royal than a rogue.

Rumpelstiltskin vanished - into a cell.

But the miller's daughter played the king false too. That son he fought for? Not his.

Enthroned now, the boy burns spindles; gold flames in the dark.

AJ Blythe
The girls flocked around, all a flutter, jealous because Drake had chosen her. Trouble was, she hadn’t wanted to be chosen.

Pecking order, he’d said.

Totally stuffed, she’d thought. The only option was flight.

It caused a splash when Drake stopped her. The rest called her a quack and hissed their displeasure.

Many would be jealous of her views to the lake. Her down-filled bed. Wouldn’t care they were caged in. No freedom. She wouldn’t brood about it; she was a Pekin, of the American Pekins. She refused to sit any longer. If they’d been pearls she’d have clutched them.


I like to let the final list sit for a while and look it over with fresh eyes.
Let me know what you think, and if you'd have added any to this list!

UPDATE
Well, I let this sit a good long while didn't I?
Today turned into a hugely busy day and I was forced, forced! I tell ya to dive into a couple new books that arrived in the mail today. (More on those at a later date.)



This week' winner is Timothy Lowe. I loved the story, but what made it extra special was the cadence and the form. It's a gorgeous entry to read.

Tim, confirm your mailing address for me and I'll get a prize in the mail to you!

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

I'm being inveigled into reading a book before I should!

Contest results on Wed 4/10.
Yes, I'm slacking off, eating bonbons and watching
telenovellas.



I pre-ordered a book that isn’t being released until the 23rd. Today, two weeks before the release date, my local, somewhat hapless indie bookstore called me to say it was there and I could pick it up. This is not the first time they have done this, though it is the first time when I have pointed out their mistake (“Oh, I think you’re not supposed to sell me this until (date)”) that they’ve told me I’m wrong and the book is okay for me to pick up. Normally, they thank me profusely and say they’ll see me in a couple weeks. I double-checked the pub date and yep, it’s the 23rd. 

What say you? Am I in the clear? Do I hurt anybody if I go get the book early? I’m getting pretty tired of tracking release dates for the bookstore. Still, they’re the only non-used / secular bookstore in town and I’d hate it if they went away. The book isn’t exactly Harry Potter so I can’t imagine the consequences of selling it to me early are all that severe . . .
You are not in breach of your duties as a good citizen of the book community.
The ONLY time there is a problem -- and it's NOT your problem, it's that of the bookstore -- is if there is an embargo, or a one-day laydown for the book.

One day laydown is what you saw with Harry Potter. The books were on sale the same day in all stores.

Sometimes it's all stores around the world. Trust me, that's a job and a half.
Embargoes are what you saw for things like Hilary Clinton's memoir; no publicity until a certain date, no review copies sent etc.

None of these are your responsibility to enforce or observe, even in the "character is what you do when no one is looking" kind of way.

If the bookstore calls you to tell you a book is ready, go get it and read it with a clear conscience.
Publication date is when all stores should have received their copies of the book.
It's not a marker of when it can go on sale, but rather a marker of when it should be on sale.


Monday, April 08, 2019

The D word

I've had two recent queries that were well-written and compelling.
They were also so close in concept to a tv show or a movie that my first thought was derivative.

Derivative is a word that should send shivers down your spine cause you do not ever want to hear it applied to your work.

Derivative is NOT plagiarism. Plagiarism is stealing the exact work of another.

Derivative is more subtle. It's using a concept, but NOT giving it a new twist.

There are only seven* basic plots in the world so every book is going to have something in common with 1/7 of the novels being published. That's NOT derivative.

Derivative is that elements of the plot: characters, what unfolds, the twists, the ending are similar (not exact.)

If you read something derivative, you're not ever surprised, even at a plot twist because you've read or seen something similar before.

Here's the really scary part of derivative: almost every writer starts out doing derivative work. It's akin to student painters studiously copying masterworks at the Met.

It's a part of the learning process.

The problem comes when you don't recognize this novel that you've poured months if not years of hard work into hasn't moved beyond what's already been done. I know this and believe me when I tell you that telling someone their work isn't fresh and new is not something I ever want to do again. Ever.

So, how do you avoid derivative?
KNOW YOUR CANON.

Ask your beta readers.

And think honestly about your work. Are you building on the work of others or just repeating it?


Here's the best example I can know of an artist creating something fresh and new from earlier work.



The instantly recognizable opening riff of Layla.






And the acoustic version.

Same musician both times.
But, adding to the body of work, a twist, a surprise a fresh look at a much loved classic.




Contest results tomorrow (Tuesday 4/9)




*this number is the subject of a lot of debate.
I use seven cause that's what I think it is.

Sunday, April 07, 2019

Friday, April 05, 2019

The Clutch Your Pearls Flash Fiction Contest

Yesterday's comment column provided us all with a Julie Weathers story that really made me laugh. One phrase in particular leaped out at me and I thought "Hey, that's a writing contest prompt!"


The usual rules apply:

1. Write a story using 100 words or fewer.

2. Make use of this prompt:
If she'd had pearls, she would have been clutching them.
The use is up to you.

Clarification: The exact words, in order, is not a requirement in this contest. This is a suggestion for theme.

(There is no Steve Forti is My Nemesis component this week. I'm still licking my wounds from my last defeat)

3. You must use the whole word, but that whole word can be part of a larger word. The letters for the prompt must appear in consecutive order. They cannot be backwards.

4. Post the entry in the comment column of THIS blog post.

5. One entry per person. If you need a mulligan (a do-over) erase your entry and post again. It helps to work out your entry first, then post.


6. International entries are allowed, but prizes may vary for international addresses.

7. Titles count as part of the word count (you don't need a title)

8. Under no circumstances should you tweet anything about your particular entry to me. Example: "Hope you like my entry about Felix Buttonweezer!" This is grounds for disqualification.

8a. There are no circumstances in which it is ok to ask for feedback from ME on your contest entry. NONE. (You can however discuss your entry with the commenters in the comment trail...just leave me out of it.)

9. It's ok to tweet about the contest generally.

Example: "I just entered the flash fiction contest on Janet's blog and I didn't even get a lousy t-shirt"

10. Please do not post anything but contest entries. (Not for example "I love Felix Buttonweezer's entry!")

11. You agree that your contest entry can remain posted on the blog for the life of the blog. In other words, you can't later ask me to delete the entry and any comments about the entry at a later date.

12. The stories must be self-contained. That is: do not include links or footnotes to explain any part of the story. Those extras will not be considered part of the story.



Contest opens: Saturday April 6, 7:10am

Contest closes: Sunday April 7, 9am



If you're wondering how what time it is in NYC right now, here's the clock


If you'd like to see the entries that have won previous contests, there's an .xls spread sheet here http://www.colindsmith.com/TreasureChest/
(Thanks to Colin Smith for organizing and maintaining this!)



Questions? Tweet to me @Janet_Reid

Ready? SET?

Not yet! 
Ease up on the clutch, and proceed! (GO!) 

Sorry, contest has closed.


Thursday, April 04, 2019

Meet the newest woodland creature and his rodent wheel -wheeeeeeee!

I recently attended the KALE writer's conference where I participated in a pitching event. There I pitched my manuscript to Agent X who seemed highly interested, which made sense because it seemed to be something similar to other works she'd sold. She gave me her card and asked for pages.

This is where I made my first mistake; I didn't ask if she replied to all, or how long I could expect it to take. On the other hand it was a pitch event so... argh.

I got home, read the directions on her card carefully, and sent what was requested. However, one line did give me pause, 'put conference name in subject line.' I put "Kill All Lettuce Here Conference" spelled out exactly as written there. She only takes queries from conferences so I figured that made sense.

But now I'm well past her normal response window, according to query tracker, and I haven't heard anything. She's already announced signing clients from the event, and I think she's requested fulls from others who were there. So I did a bit of research. That confirmed I got the email address correct and that I did comply with submission guidelines, sending no more or less than requested. 

Then, after a bit more digging, I found this on her MSWL page, "If she asks for your submission at an event... Put the name of the event in the email’s subject line or it will be auto-rejected."

Cue oh crud moment. The writer's conference is usually abbreviated to KALE and I wrote it out all funny-like. (1) If a computer is doing the filtering and I didn't put in an approved name for the conference my email probably got routed to spam without a human ever setting eyes on it. Which brings me to my problem; how the heck do I go about nudging? For contacts the agent in question has the email address that may have already eaten my query and a twitter handle.

(2) - Would it be polite to ask anything at all via twitter? That way I could be sure of her seeing it... along with about 15,000 other people.
(3) - Plan B would be to slap KALE on the subject line of a nudge email and ask if they got the first one. However, if the 'tag' for that conference has been de-activated in the weeks since I would be poking an electronic email deletion-drone...
(4) - Plan C would be to do plan B but re-send the whole query. Would that be better?

This is driving me up the wall.She seemed excited by my description of the book and apparently loved every additional detail I offered. Her last remark before I got up was that there was a big market for stuff like what I'd described. She may just be very nice and a great actor, but if not I'd hate to miss even getting my work in front of her because of IT issues. (5) However, I'd also hate to commit some nudge faux-pas and get turned down because I'm a jerk, can't follow directions, etc.

You have made the classic mistake of assuming that agents have 36-hour days and respond to all inquiries in a timely fashion. Cue merry laughter here.

My guess is she's working her way through more than a few requests from that conference. Along with everything else she needs to do in a day and week.
As for your specific questions:
(1) The computer isn't sorting. When someone (including me) says it gets rejected instantly what it means is my eyeballs land on it; I see it's (any of my auto pass criteria); and, I put it in the trash bin.

There are certainly some things that I block at the source (ie it bypasses my inbox and goes straight to trash) but those are NEVER conference related because the chances of the sorting system screwing up are 100%.

What I block are email addresses or key words in a query that someone has sent me more times than I want to think about.

(2) Do this and die. I will personally come to your house and steal your dog, and bop you on the head with a bag of kale.

Never EVER use Twitter for follow up, questions on queries that an agent has or updates of any kind. Never.

(3) Query Agent X again, using KALE in the subject line and use her regular query address. But ONLY after another couple weeks. Give her a chance here.

(4) see above.

(5) no one is going to think that. You're not even in the ball park for asshattery.


You're just diving in to the query trenches is my guess. You don't have a lot of perspective or experience yet.

You sent one query to an agent.
She, on the other hand, got 62 queries and however many requested fulls. It's going to take some time.
Learn to pace yourself of you're going to expire of heart failure and that would be a Very Bad Thing.

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Ghosting is not stealing...unless it is.

I don't know if you've been following the #cutpastecris mess. Apparently someone plagiarized several popular romance writers and sent the pieces to ghost writers to turn into stories she could self-publish on Amazon. This has brought up discussions about the ethics of ghostwriting.

I knew people used ghostwriters for autobiographies and certain series like Nancy Drew, but I'm hearing that some people are using ghostwriters to generate frequent new releases under one author name. Is this considered ethical? 

I can't figure out why it would be more profitable for an unknown to pay a ghostwriter and publish than for the ghostwriter to publish his or her own books, but they say it's happening. Supposedly frequent new releases increase visibility on Amazon, so maybe that's why? 

I have no plans to either take up ghostwriting or hire one, but I'm curious to hear what you have to say on this subject.

Well, let's start with the fact, ironclad, that the renowned James Patterson does not write the novels that are published under his name.

Several other well known crime writers do the same.

It's totally ethical to do this.

Anyone (and I don't mean you) who throws wild accusations around about ghostwriting being unethical is simply not living in the real world. Is Coco Chanel is still stitching every dress that bears her name? Does Michael Kors personally hammer the logo on that handbag?  Do Ben and Jerry stand over an ice cream maker?

Please.

Many MANY "brand names" started out as real people. That doesn't mean they're still in the trenches.

What they DO NOT DO is steal someone else's work.Ghostwriting isn't unethical. STEALING is.


There are several morally bankrupt ways to make money.
Stealing is one of them.

The reason the criminal justice system exists is because "it's wrong" isn't dissuasion enough for some folks.

And  then there are people who have no problem buying things that are stolen. Every "free" download of a book from an obscure website is proof of that.

Unfortunately, policing the brigands is now part of every writer's job.

As to why a writer would participate in this loathsome behaviour, I can't begin to guess. It's not like it's bank robbery that actually pays promptly and in cash.

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Q: Why would an agent submit a book to independent presses?


Why would an agent submit a book to independent presses? Especially those that will take unagented submissions, like Harlequin, Tule, Kensington... I can hit "send" myself. I'm baffled.
You're grouping one major publisher Harlequin (which is part of Harper), Kensington (a smaller but well-established house) and Tule (a relatively new start up, and primarily digital.)

That you think all three are the same is an indication you don't know what you need to know.

As for why I send submissions to Harlequin or Kensington, the answer is easy. They publish good books, and can get them into bookstores. They both have sales and marketing teams who work on an author's behalf. I know the editors there.

And frankly, they pay on time.

Now, the real question you're asking is why do you need an agent if you can just hit "send" yourself.

I don't answer that question anymore.
I don't try to persuade writers of the value of having an agent.

If you have done your homework, and concluded you don't want or need an agent, that's totally fine with me. I'm not going to track you down and yell at you.

If you've figured out you don't know what you need to know, and want some expertise on your side, well query away.

What you can't do (at least as far as I conduct business) is submit to publishers that do take unagented queries, and then query me. When you winnow down the pool of publishers by submitting on your own, you make my job harder. That's not a plus for me.

Any questions?




Monday, April 01, 2019

Some housekeeping

My submission guidelines are not as clear as they could be.
Several recent queriers have had questions that reveal some flaws in the directions on how to submit queries. That's on me, so I've rewritten the guidelines and will be posting on the website soonishly.

New guidelines:
1. I prefer email queries. Include the first five pages in the body of the email. Don't fret about format OTHER than white space.

2. If you want to query on paper, that's ok with me. You don't need to send it expedited, or any other fancy schmancy delivery service.

If you do send it Fed Ex, you should know that messenger center here charges me $5 per signature, and I'll bill you for that. (or just include a five dollar bill with the query)


3. When you query, make sure you tell me what the book is about. If you start with "This story is about" you're on the right track.

4. Right now I'm really only looking for projects that fill a gap in the market, so anything that's on the NYT Bestseller list isn't a good option for me. Gaps right now include vintage westerns (bring on the saloon girls with hearts of gold!); tough guy private eyes who hire dames to answer their phones (if you love Mickey Spillane, you'll love me); poetry, particularly abstract and experimental (academic is the new black!).


5. I'm always looking for memoir of course, so if you've survived an illness, recovered from addiction, or travelled the world in pursuit of spiritual insight, and the book is all about your inner journey and how you have a new understanding of life, query onward. It will be of particular interest if your healing was assisted by a guru of some sort, practicing an ancient wisdom, who chose you from among many to receive her insights.


6. There really aren't enough books about why Jesus is the only path to redemption, so if you have that, please do query.

7. Of course, I always want books that explain how the economy works that other people, particularly economists, don't understand.


8. Given the state of the world, revelations of causal conspiracies, and your solution, always welcome. Charts and graphs a plus.

9. Your particular insights, informed by your experiences, on events both current and historical are welcome.

10. All queries must be accompanied by a photo of a dog or cat. If you do not have your own, rent one.

11. You should also include a paragraph about why I am the only agent you are querying for your book and a brief paragraph why you liked the five most recent books I've sold. Sold, not published.

12. I require exclusive submissions for 120 days.The clock starts when I receive the query, not when you send it.  If you query anyone else in that time period, I will set your query on fire and blacklist you on the Agent's Super Secret Double Delta House Black List of Queriers.

13. Happy April Fools' Day.


#10 should not be a joke.






Sunday, March 31, 2019

Three Books I Keep In Stock

I like to keep several copies of these two books in my office:

Dancers Among Us by Jordan Matter






Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed




One or the other is perfect for almost every person who visits me.

But now I have another.
And you should have it too:


Dreyer's English by Benjamin Dreyer



If you sling words for fun or profit, you need this book.

Sample: Only godless savages eschew the series comma.


Do you have "in-stock" books you keep to give to people? A go-to gift book?

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Ink Stained Wench Flash semi-fiction contest results!

We had a LOT of entries for this flash semi-fiction contest!
Thank all deities I had the foresight to limit the word count or I'd still be reading.

What works and what doesn't is largely subjective but there are a few entries here that do have useful, objective, tips!

Thanks to all of you who took the time to write and enter.
Here are the ones that stood out for me.


AJ Blythe said...
I’m an Aussie environmental scientist who has experience caring for native wildlife (the furry kind, not just my kids). Having previously owned a pooch with criminal tendencies, I am now shadowed by a schnoodle with separation anxiety.
That last clause is great!

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...
I'm a writer, a reader, a beach-comber and a tortoise-owner. Many of my creepy little tales are out prowling in print and lurking online. My flash fiction collection, Garden of Lost Souls, will give you a taste of my work. Just be careful something doesn't taste you back.
That last line really nails it.


Jenn Griffin said...
Jenn Griffin is an author and accountant who finds balance in life through conservative yoga, incautious reading and unprejudiced sarcasm.
Utterly appealing.

Megan V said...
Megan V is an ace attorney with a dastardly plan to escape the Arizona heat. All she needs is a good book, a comfy chair, and a dog. The first two have been acquired. The third...well...the neighbor cat has the final say on that and Megan is still waiting on her paw of approval.

Her Grace, the Duchess of Yowl thinks you are making a poor life choice.
And will be glad to enlighten you. At length.


Steve Forti said...
(there's gotta be a better blurb I can use)

I am a writer and IT project manager whose mind bounces between novels and flash fiction. I live in Massachusetts with my wife and two kids (though she’ll insist she lives with three kids). My work can also be seen in (list).
you left out nemesis.

Jessa said...
Jessa Kent is a bi-polar witch living in Virginia with the requisite cat. She lives in a house with one roommate (not the cat), and has a dark past including ren faires, horseback riding, studying acting in NYC, and a lamentably brief stint as a griffon trainer.
You had me at griffon trainer.

french sojourn said...
Hank Petterson writes Science Fiction and Police Procedural in Southwest France. He lives with his long-suffering wife, who he met while working as a stuntman in the adult film industry, and his daughter, five cats, and two dogs.
His pre-ordered gravestone (a gift) says simply….
“What are you lookin’ at?”



KariV said...
I grew up in the remote jungles of Papua New Guinea alongside a tribe of cannibals. To my knowledge, I’ve never eaten a human being. I have, however, been a ghost writer for bloodthirsty personal injury attorneys up and down the East Coast before switching to writing fiction.
 It's really hard to beat that first sentence.
And yet, that third sentence is utterly deft.

Katelyn Yaeger said...
An introvert with a knack for lurking in plain sight, Katelyn Yaeger prefers using her powers of perception for storytelling rather than espionage. Not before her second cup of coffee though and only after she’s stopped one of her seven siblings from starting World War III.

you had me at lurking in plain sight.

NLiu said...
NLiu was cursed with adventure-lust by her tome-reading father. Said curse drove her around the world, where she inconveniently fell in love. She now sports two mini readers and an eccentric vocabulary. She professes undying gratitude to anyone who writes a story still funny on the thousandth retelling.
This is endearing and hilarious.

Dee Garretson said...
After a research job toiling in the crumbling stacks of death certificate records, Dee Garretson now knows countless unique ways to kill people, so instead of setting up a boutique business to provide tips to assassins, she puts that knowledge to use writing mysteries.
Perfect

Bruce Harrison said...
My speculative fiction story was scheduled for publication when the magazine folded due to the health of the owner. I was so crushed that I stopped writing for fifteen years, only, after starting again, to have QueryShark publicly humiliate me for my query that, in her words (paraphrased), broke new ground in mistakes made.

You'd think that would discourage me, correct? Nay! I just completed my second novel, and am now looking for any agent not named Janet to take me on. I'd ask you to wish me luck, but we all know that, as the sage says, "it's not who you know, but . . ."
oh now wait a darn minute here!

Let's recall the EXACT words
It wasn't poor, it had interesting mistakes that no one had made before.
It was never bad, it just wasn't as effective as you need it to be.

The query doesn't suck exactly. It just doesn't work

Kathryn said...
Kathryn is a writer-illustrator who was raised in a science laboratory. Not as a science experiment, mind you, but rather as the daughter of an overzealous chemist who always took his daughter to work. Instead of cracking chemical equations, she prefers painting pictures of chemists and writing their stories.
This is funny but informative. Spot on.

shanepatrickwrites said...
Shane Patrick left a Wisconsin farm for the wilds of Alaska years ago. He’s been paid to climb mountains, float rivers, blow things up and fly helicopters. Shane chugs coffee and bangs on the keyboard every morning, excited to learn how the story ends.
Things about the writing process aren't effective in a bio (cause they're common to most writers who query) Your bio should be what makes you distinctive. I know that's hard but you did it well here in the first two sentences.

Kristin Owens said...
After 20+ years in higher education, the only thing my PhD has in common with writing is my dissertation topic: persistence. I write magazine articles on topics from apples to zippers. I travel the world searching for a good $10 bottle of wine. I speak fluent German and crappy French.
This does what a bio should: make you sound fun!

Karl Henwood said...
I’m a former cop and soldier, now living in Boise Idaho with my wife and son. Iraq got me shot at the way mail is addressed to ‘occupant’ and revealed a peacefully Zen place beyond burnout. Now I’m working to monetize all the real weirdness I’ve lived through fiction.
You forgot the best part:

Karl's dog

Kelly said...
As a person with narcolepsy, picture books are my favorite genre because I can read a whole one without falling … zzzzzz…. Oh, sorry. I dozed off there. Neurological disease aside, I’m currently a member of SCBWI, 12 x 12, and the NC Writers’ Network.

I love picture books too but not cause I have narcolepsy.
It's always fun to find you have something in common with a writer, but that's not anything the writer can control. 


PAH said...
PAH travels chrono-synclastic infundibula in search of the perfect waffle and the Universe's best opening sentence. His resume looks like he was throwing darts at a job fair: door-to-door salesman, substitute teacher, sportswriter, video-game-tester, almost-reality-TV-star, and ad copywriter. He is the world’s leading expert on Boy Meets World trivia. Probably.

This is perfect. I had to look up chrono-synclastic infundibula but I like looking things up.


Andrew Arno said...
When not writing Andrew Arno spends most of his time trying to keep various helicopters from getting blown up and enacting dark rituals designed to ensure that the Buffalo Bills win the Super Bowl. So far, success in the former has counterbalanced abject failure in the latter.

This is perfect.


Jacqueline H. said...
All the things your mother told you would never happen have already happened to Jacqueline, who sits in her loft, surrounded by cats, and writes about them.
Prince Charming showed up on a white horse to take you away?!
I KNEW it!

Theresa said...
Theresa is a desk chair time traveler always on the lookout for the scrappiest women in American history.
You had me at scrappiest.


The Noise In Space said...
Noise is a time traveller who absolutely, positively was not present at the the theft of the Hope Diamond, and no one can prove otherwise. She paints in the bathtub, gives culinary history lectures about the origin of cookies, and very much enjoys meeting other people's imaginary friends.
That first line is a keeper

TS Rosenberg said...
Tracey S. Rosenberg is an avid traveler who’s visited Easter Island and North Korea (not on the same trip). Her muse is a Jane Austen bobble-head. She lives in Scotland with a long-haired man and a short-tempered cat.
That last line is particularly splendid.



Pericula Ludus said...
Pericula Ludus researches disaster responses for a living. She is particularly interested in how people act in extremely stressful situations, but tries to hide such experiments from her students. Any similarities between distressed fictional characters and students on deadline day are purely accidental.
 Utterly compelling and fascinating.


Timothy Lowe said...
A high school English teacher and father or two, Timothy Lowe writes crime fiction. He swears he's not as homicidal as his characters, although thanks to his daughter's Netflix account, he does harbor a deep and disturbing desire to murder the "Fuller House" laugh track.
Not so disturbing really.

Diana said...
Diana is a silicon valley software engineer, an insect lab survivor, and a huge bird nerd. She's raised mealworms (for science), mice (for science), and endangered crane chicks (not for science). Fortunately for her, writing provides a respite from the bugs in labs, crane chick snacks, and code alike.
 you had me at insect lab and bird nerd.
This is hilarious and great writing.

KDJames said...
KDJames is a nocturnal introvert and professional liar. She has raised two children, several pets, and a wild rumpus. A long-time RWA member, she'd cheerfully become a Crazy Cat Lady if not for the attendant litter boxes. Her favourite meme T-shirt reads: "Sorry I'm late, I didn't want to come."
 You had me at wild rumpus!

Gabby said...
Gabby has been awful at office work, done pretty well in prop-making and now juggles writing and illustration with raising children and pot-plants. The children seem to be doing OK, the pot-plants… well, some haven’t died.
You're growing cannabis and kids.
Why didn't I think of that?

Melanie Sue Bowles said...
MelanieSueBowles is the traditionally published author of three nonfiction books about horses taken in at her sanctuary, Proud Spirit. She is currently shopping a middle grade about a downtrodden donkey. Ironically, MelanieSue just took in a donkey who was dumped on a rural road and tragically hit by a car.

When querying agents you don't need to say traditionally published cause that's our default assumption. 

Also, I hope the donkey is on the mend!


LynnRodz said...
Throughout Lynn's adventures living in 8 countries and traveling to more than 60, the worst happened when the boat she was on capsized in the Atlantic and she was caught underneath. A close second happened while busking throughout Europe she was told she'd be paid to stop singing. She stopped and was promptly paid. Now all her boating and singing happens in her bathroom.
This is terrifying and funny--that's a great combo.

T.C. Galvin said...
T.C. Galvin is an Australian writer/economist-in-training who is working on replacing sleep with coffee. She has a concern of heights, so naturally has taken up aerial acrobatics as a hobby. Her free time involves collecting books and raising plastic pot plants.
plastic pot plants has to be something that doesn't survive translation to US-speak.
Which is a good reminder that if you're an Aussie etc (ie not in the US) you might want a beta US-native speaker to vet your stuff. While we mostly get it you don't want confusion about whether you're growing cannabis to distract me from your query.

John Davis Frain said...
I’ve published six short stories (Flash Bang Mysteries, Detective Mystery Stories & others). I’m a member of Sisters in Crime and [City Redacted] Writer’s Guild. You can judge my unique style—suffice to say, I’m seven degrees separated from Kevin Bacon. When I’m not writing, I mostly wish I was writing. Balance Schmalance.
I didn't get the Kevin Bacon reference.

Android Astronomer said...
Physicist-barista Brian Wells discusses quantum mechanics with customers when not making words and lattes. He's managed to give fictional characters the wherewithal to save the world, save the solar system, and even save the universe from malevolent and incompetent forces. (Salvation of the universe is still pending completion of WIP.)
You had me at Physicist-barista.


Just Jan said...
A healer of creatures great and small, I spend my free time baking babkas for my mother-in-law and desperately planning my next vacation.
This is gorgeously funny.


MaggieJ said...
When MaggieJ was eight, Toronto swallowed her village without even belching. Years later, she escaped to Eastern Ontario where her ancestors had put down roots long ago. She can often be found sojourning in the fictional nineteenth-century town of Houghton where she meddles shamelessly in the lives of its townsfolk.
That first line is perfect.


julie.weathers said..
I was a Speedhorse Racing Report lead writer doing race and human-interest stories for twenty-five years. In another life, I had a prison ministry and wrote inspirational stories and personal letters to our 2,000 students. This has nothing do with writing, but I'm also a former lady bronc rider.
You had me at lady bronc rider.
Oh wait, that's not so.
You had me at Julie Weathers.

Branden Sampson said...
Big strong construction worker by day, geeky fanboy by night.When I first read Harry Potter my world shifted. Inspiring me to put pen to paper, writing quickly became a pass-time and flourished into a passion. Mixing the grim world we live in with fantasies that are somehow even darker.
Generally bios that include how much you love to write aren't as effective. That first line is great. And honestly, it's really all you need.


Sherin Nicole said...
The CIA offered Sherin Nicole a scholarship to college but she’s too secretive for espionage, instead she writes paranormal comics, movies, and TV shows that no one suspects are true.
I love the twist in that last part of the sentence. That's an ideal element in a bio.

Kat Waclawik said...
I'm a vet (both kinds) and a mom, which means I can expertly wrangle whiners of any rank, age, or species. (My secret weapon? Snacks!)
There is a vibrancy here that says "Kat will be a hoot to work with" which is EXACTLY what you want!

Gypmar said...
Gypsy Martin was born to hippie parents who did not foresee her name becoming politically incorrect over the course of her lifetime. She has worked as a receptionist at a siren factory and as a school lunch lady, and has raised two sons to their teenage years. She still retains her hearing, if not her sanity.
You had me at siren factory.

CED said...
CED writes about the magical and the horrific hidden just under the mundane. In his spare time, he wrangles bytes and warps young minds (not necessarily in that order) as a manager at an internet company. He once was a mathematician, so he’s got words and numbers both covered.
That last line is perfect.

C. Dan Castro said...
When Dan isn’t reading about foreign cultures, studying languages, or traveling strange lands, he invents:

1. New cultures

2. Inhuman languages

3. Exotic worlds

Dan knows he’ll continue distinguishing reality from fantasy as long as he doesn’t start writing about himself in the third person.
You gotta love a guy who writes in third.
But can you love a shark who writes in second?


Panda in Chief said...
Anne Belov writes and draws panda satire. She believes in the healing power of pandas, panda videos, and cake. Living in the Pacific Northwest, she hopes one day to find pandas hiding in the woods behind her house. You can find her on Twitter @PandaChronicle and http://yourbrainonpandas.com

You'd put your twitter handle and website BELOW your signature in a query, rather than in your bio.
Example:

Thank you for your time and consideration,
Anne Belov 
@PandaChronicle
http://yourbrainonpandas.com

janet haigh said...
J. A. Haigh was raised in the wilds of Tasmania and her writing is full of magic and myth. Her work has been published in such places as ASIM, Gaia: Shadow and Breath, Syntax & Salt and Aurealis. She lives in Newcastle, with her two delightful rug-rats and their witty father.
I'd look up Tasmania on the map if I saw this in a query. I've heard of it, I have an idea where it is, but when someone mentions it this way, I dig into the maps. ALWAYS looking for a reason to get to the maps!

Claire Bobrow said...
Claire is a driver on the road of life, elbow out the window, one hand on the wheel, stopping at roadside attractions, and still searching for a token to The Phantom Tollbooth.
I love this cause it's whimsical but compelling.


Kitty said...
Kitty Myers is the most un-interesting person in the world who mines other people's lives for her stories. She does not drink Dos Equis, and she wears a t-shirt that warns people: CAREFUL, OR YOU'LL END UP IN MY NOVEL.

Some of you really do need help saying good things about yourself. Yea Kitty, I mean you! You're one of the kindest, most gracious and thoughtful people I "know" here. Maybe your bio should just be my email address so I can tell people that.



Five that stand out particularly, and have earned prizes are:

Andrew Arno
Pericula Ludus
Android Astronomer  
Dee Garretson  
PAH 

If you'll drop me a line at jetreidliterary (gmail) and let me know your mailing address and what you like to read, we'll get you your prize!