Thursday, January 20, 2022

Recognizing when you ARE the exception

Dear Shark,
I am an author who has been querying my second novel for two years now. I have one published novel (originally self-published in 2014 but then miraculously republished by a press in Montreal) which has not sold much, alas, but has received great reviews and even an endorsement from Margaret Atwood.

My question is: Do I not even mention this in my query? Is this book, which I am proud of even if it didn`t sell much, hurting me? Some agents seem to indicate that past failures (in a sales sense if not an artistic sense) hurt you if you mention them, and you may be better off with a pseudonym or otherwise divorcing yourself from them.

Any advice you might have would be greatly appreciated.

Dear Chum,

What you don't realize is that a quote from Margaret Atwood trumps all.

And I don't think you realize that a publisher taking on a previously self-published book is quite rare. More rare than a Margaret Atwood blurb.

What you've got here is something a savvy agent is going to recognize as an opportunity.

Yes, you mention this. Almost exactly the way you did here:

I have one published novel (originally self-published in 2014 but then miraculously republished by a press in Montreal) which has not sold much, alas, but has received great reviews and even an endorsement from Margaret Atwood.

Any questions?

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

the why of it

Good Morning Ms. Reid—

I read in The New York Times this morning about Filippo Bernardini, an employee of Simon & Schuster UK who electronically “stole” hundreds of unpublished manuscripts over the last few years. This theft impacted famous authors such as Margaret Atwood as well as hundreds of unpublished writers. The article explains what he did, but not why he did it. I was hoping you might devote a blog post to explaining the why of these thefts.

Good morning Chum,

I can explain how a reserves for returns clause works.
I can explain why you need comps in a query.
I can even explain why I think personalization is a waste of everyone's time.

But this?
This is beyond me because I am NOT a novelist.

This is why we need novelists in fact: to explain things that seem unhinged.

I will tell you this: I've spent more than a few hours thinking about this problem because I worked at an agency where colleagues were affected by this more than once.

It created a very worrisome situation, particularly with books that were embargoed (I can explain embargos too, if you want!)

We couldn't figure out the why, even as we valiantly prevented the what.

So, novelists out there...


Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Digging in to the queries



2022 is off to a good start!

I requested my first full of the year (even though I still have three in the holding pen from last year.)


It crossed my mind that it might be useful to know how I work with incoming queries.


1. All incoming queries get filed in Incoming Queries when they arrive.

That means you can query me on Christmas Day, Sunday, 5am or midnight and it makes no difference. I won't see it till I open the file.



2. Several times a week I give the pending queries a quick skim.

I'm looking to cull the queries that are non-starters. Non-starters are things like outlier word counts, insane authors (no examples provided here to protect the guilty--if you read this blog, you're not one of them) and queries that don't tell me what the book is about.


3. The non-starters get a quick pass.


4. I flag those queries I want to read more closely.


5. I work through the flagged queries when I have odd bits of time where I can read and focus.


What I look for here is good writing and a story that engages my interest.


That means good writing gets a pass if it's not a story I'm interested in; a good story gets a pass if the writing isn't polished.


6. I pass on those queries that don't have both.


About 20% of the queries survive to this point.


7. I read the pages AND I start sniffing around your website and social media.

This is a new wrinkle.  I didn't bother doing this until the pandemic just thrashed my concentration levels. I have to cull out more now cause I can read less.


What this means for you: don't put off getting an author website, or having a presence on social media.

I'm much more likely to be interested in working with someone who has shown they're cognizant of the new promotion reality.  You must be present to win. Yes there are exceptions. Don't bank on being one of them.


I'm much less willing to take on someone who will need ground up coaching on how to get a website and what needs to be on it; how to sign up for Twitter (or whatever) and how to use it.


In other words, entry level is a whole lot higher than it was even two years ago.


8. I request fulls from writers who have shown me good writing, pages that compel me to read on, and a social media presence of some sort.


A word of warning: if your social media is full of political ranting (on either end of the political spectrum), you might consider revising it.  Even if you think I agree with everything you say (I probably don't.)


Once I request a ms it can take a while to read and assess.


While I'm reading I'm also doing a much deeper dive on your social media. I'm not looking for things to fault you on. I'm trying to get a sense of you as a person.  What that means for you: be yourself. Don't just re-tweet things you like, let me see what you're like. Tell me about things you love and things you care about.  Scary I know, but it's easier to start now.





Monday, January 10, 2022

"shown" but not "submitted"


I'm ready to start querying agents again after parting with my agent two years ago. I asked her for a list of submissions when we parted, but now I see it doesn't match with the records I kept. I think the difference is that my detailed list kept track of when she said she 'showed' something to an editor versus when she did a formal submission, but I'm not sure. If a new agent asks where the manuscript has already been submitted, should I use my previous agent's (very short) list or my own? Thanks for your help.

I assume you want to be as forthright as possible with your shiny new agent, so you want to use the longer list.

BUT you're correct to assume that "show" might not be the same as "submit."

Here's an example: I have a VERY short list of editors who get shown almost everything I take on, in that I talk to them about it first, and often give them an early exclusive.

The operating assumption is this: if they don't want it, I'm free to submit it to other editors at the same publisher. In other words, the editor doesn't log it in to the acquisitions data base as a submission.

So it's not really a submission, in that a pass from them is NOT a pass from the imprint/division/publisher.

BUT if a client  needs a list of where their manuscript has been I would include the shows and the subs.

So, here's how you handle it: break the list into categories.

List ALL the places your work has been shown AND submitted.

Categorize each as "shown" OR "submitted".

Here's what that would look like if I did it.
(This is NOT some sort of industry standard, it's just how I do this kind of thing. More on this below.)

Title: Felix Buttonweezer's Classic Crime Novel

Shown to:
Editor Awesome at Jawsome Publishing
Editor Almost Awesome at Imprint Important
Editor New at Hot New Imprint

Submitted to:
Huey McDuck at PageTurner Inc
Louis McDuck at Riveting Reads
Dewey McDuck at More Awards Than Money

As noted above, this is not something we all learned in Agent School.

Not all agents do this. Thus, you will want to explain that the agent described some things as "shown to" and some things as "submitted"  but did not tell you the difference between them.

When you list the places your work was submitted, it will be helpful to include any comments the editors made in response.

An experienced agent eye can often discern if it's a boilerplate rejection, or something that got a more thorough read. 

When I've been in the New Agent position, I've seen submission lists from Old Agent that set my hair on fire. It was clear to me (and to anyone with a lick of experience) that Oldie but Not Very Goodie had simply shotgunned the ms to everyone he could think of. It was also clear that the book was as good as "never submitted" because there were almost no rejection notes.

A lot of editors handle pitches from agents they don't know or don't like by simply ignoring them, passing without reading. If we were all on The West Wing this would be called a pocket veto. 

Any questions?

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

edogs AND little fishies


Some things I was surprised to read in the incoming queries this month

(1) I have enclosed Chapter 1 (40129 words)

The problem: if one chapter is 40K, how long is the book?



(2) After looking over your interests on the website, I believe this is a good fit ... a commercial YA

The problem: I don't take on YA, commercial or otherwise. I don't mind if you query for it, you can query me for anything, but if you think you saw I'm looking for it, it makes me wonder who you really meant to query.



(3) Before I paste my book’s information I want to tell you how much I enjoy Thomas Perry

The problem: I like Thomas Perry too, but he's not my client. A cursory google search of my name may turn up something with his name too. If you don't look any further, you won't see I was only talking about him. Make SURE you cross check this kind of thing.



(4) I'm looking for a rep for my manuscript, (Title). I think you'd be a good fit given your stated interest in original and distinctive literary YA horror.

The problem: I'm not looking for YA horror, and since you've linked to my PM page, I'm wondering why you think so.


(5) It is amazing to know that Jet Reid literary Agency remains an evolving voice in bringing new and established authors to the curious minds of their future readers.

The problem: JRLA is two years old. I've been an agent longer than that, but JRLA itself is a new kid on the block. Effusive praise is bad enough, but effusive praise that is an #epicfail is just painful


(6) Dear Sir

The problem: I'm not a Sir.


(7) I’ve taken note of your interest in narrative nonfiction, so I wanted to reach out with my novel. Complete at approximately 106,000 words, (title)  is a nonfiction thriller and a sequel to (other title) a memoir. 

The problem: a novel cannot be a non-fiction thriller. Not now, not ever.





Most of these mistakes are just carelessness.

We all make those kinds of mistakes.

I'm glad to have two blog readers who regularly help keep the blog typo free.


BUT if you're querying, that's not the time to be careless.


I want to work with writers who bleed over sentences and paragraphs.

I even like it when writers who sent me fulls I've requested email a couple weeks later with "Hey Shark, I've fixed some things, can I send you the revised, updated, improved version?"

Answer: heck yes.



Any questions?


Monday, December 20, 2021

Do I have to be a bestseller?


It's not a plus that we're published authors unless we're bestsellers? I was hoping that having books published would let an agent know that I'm not a beginner, but maybe the only thing that matters is whether you have a book they think they can sell?



Not so much bestseller as sold well.

And it's not me that cares about this.

It's the marketing department at your soon-to-be publisher.


Their job is slinking into bookstores with an armload of great books and persuading the bookstore buyers to load up.


It's a whole lot easier to do this if you don't have a track record (i.e. you're a debut.)


More than once I've had VERY unhappy conversations with editors about Books 2, and 3 in a series.



Here's how that goes:

Bookstore lays in 1000 copies based on the salesperson's rapturous medley about the book.

Book 1sells 900 copies.


Book 2 is published.

Bookstore looks at Book 1 and lays in 850 copies (knowing as they do that second books mostly do not outperform the first book.)

Book sells 750 copies (100 are returned.)



Book 3 is published.

Bookstore looks at Book 1, and Book 2 and orders 500 copies.

Book sells 400 copies (100 are returned.)


At this point, if you have a three book deal, no one is happy. Not you, not me, not the editor.


If you query with a backlist, I'm going to look at your sales numbers as will everyone else to see if we're already at the Book 3 point.


Reviving a flagging career is VERY VERY hard.


That's why agents like debut novels (and editors do to).

It's a clean slate.



Thursday, December 16, 2021

"I can’t always tell the difference between Middle Grade and YA"

I have recently come to an embarrassing realization: I can’t always tell the difference between Middle Grade and YA! I’ve read quite a bit about how to differentiate on the writing end; my problem is knowing how existing books are classified/marketed.


How definitive is character age? Most of the time when I’m on the fence, it’s because the character is in the YA range (15-16) but the plot and writing style feel much more MG.


I’ve looked up lots of recommendation lists, but several of the same books appear on lists in both categories. Neither my library’s catalog system nor Amazon seem to shed any light, and I’m currently homebound, so visiting bookstores and noting where things are shelved is out. I did see your tip a while ago about checking the back cover to find the genre, but my reading right now is 99% determined by what’s available as a library ebook, so it’s rare that I get a glimpse of a physical cover.


I realize there’s no Official List of MG Books, but do you have any general tips for figuring out how a particular book is usually marketed? My plan was to read as much as I can in both categories to make sure I understand where my idea fits, but it’s….off to a rocky start. Besides which, I now have (very premature) nightmares that I’ll query my MG novel with a comp that turns out to be YA.


I'm not sure why you think Amazon isn't much help.

Here are two examples, screen shots from the Amazon listings, that show age of the audience and grade level.

Unicorn In the Barn

Code Name Verity

I use Amazon all the time to see if comps are correctly "aged."


There are elements of YA novels that you don't find in middle grade: YA often has a thread about the main character learning how to be in the world. And YA needs a romance thread, often as not.  Romance threads aren't usually found in MG. 


You're doing exactly the right thing: reading widely.


When you've read a lot in both categories you'll be able to suss this out without looking at a list of guidelines.


I can spot a thriller (and NOT a thriller) at 20 paces these days. You'll be able to do that too.


If the blog readers have added tips, let's hear 'em.

Thursday, December 09, 2021


 My publisher said I may have my rights reverted if I request it. What are some fun things to do with the rights once I have them back? I wouldn't want to try to have this book re-published without significant re-writes.


This is outside the scope of my expertise.

The ONLY thing I've ever done with reverted rights is sell them again, as is.

However, the readership here has a much wider pool of knowledge so let's ask them.





Wednesday, December 08, 2021

I want to sign on the dotted line!

After recently attending a conference, I sent material to several interested agents and was quickly offered representation from one of them. This awesome agent works for Big Dream Agency so I have no concerns about her or the agency’s legitimacy. We met in person at the conference and later spoke on the phone—at which time she offered the representation (yay!!) and said take some days, alert other reading agents, etc. About ten days later I accepted her offer by email, and she responded back that she was equally thrilled to be working with me—again, YAY!

Here’s my question: It’s been a few weeks now, she’s given me notes for revision, more email communication, yet I still have not seen a formal contract. I asked her after our last email exchange if there was anything I needed to sign, and she responded nope, we’re good. At what point should I expect to see a contract? When we go out on submission, after, before? I’m excited and just want to make it official—is it? Thanks!!

It IS official.

When she said "nope, we’re good" she meant just that.

You have an oral agreement.
Not all agencies offer written agency agreements.
I can think of several VERY reputable agencies that do not.

On matters like this, my practice is to send an email confirming the understanding.

Any questions?

Wednesday, December 01, 2021

December 1


This framed poster sits on my desk where I can see it every day.

It's an ad for the New School. 

You might wonder why I framed an ad for the New School, let alone position it so I can see it every day.

I first saw it on the subway the first year I lived in New York.

(Today is the 20th anniversary of the day I got here, 81 days after 9/11, full of excitement and determination.)

The ad said exactly what I felt.

I called the New School and asked if I could buy a copy (this was long before cell phone cameras.)

They very kindly sent me what now sits on my desk, reminding me of how much I love this city, and how glad I am to be here.

You are here. Here, where Andy had his fifteen.

Where Nikita slammed his shoe. Where Ruth built his house.

Rand her Fountainhead. Here, where Lenny

made laughter dangerous and Lou made walking wild.

Where 'Trane unleashed his Tenor. Pollock his paint.


You are here. Where John imagined.


Here in New York City. The very wellspring of creative and

intellectual discovery. Ready to exorcise the ordinary.

To Cuisinart conformity. To claim your seat at the table

of giants and be greeted by a collective "Boo-Ya!" 

It's why you are here. It's why we are here, too.


--The New School


What sits on your desk to remind you of "why you are here."



Thursday, November 11, 2021

Veteran's Day


Thanks to all the men and women who've served our country.

And thanks to all the families who also served.

Monday, November 01, 2021

The sounds of silence

These are the reasons your queries from August-October got a deafening round of silence rather than a reply

1. Attachments (15)
I don't open or read attachments.  I can't reply that it's right (or not right) for me if I HAVE NOT READ IT.

2. Not finished (5)
I don't request anything that isn't finished. For fiction that means the novel. For non-fiction that means the proposal. Included here are the emails that asked if I'd like to read a query in a certain category. (just query)

3. Querying for multiple books (3)

I only consider one book at a time.

4. No story (3)
If your query is about how famous you are or what your writing journey was or about the situation you want to fix, I don't care.  Right now I only care about the story you want to tell. I can't tell you if I want (or don't want) to read it I you don't tell me what it is.

5. Not the author (1)
I don't respond to queries sent by people who aren't the author. If you're too important or busy to ask me to read your query, I'm too unimportant to be your agent.

6. Jpgs of queries (1)
This might be my favorite example of a subtle indicator of someone I do NOT want to work with. They sent a query letter, but as a jpg. And a blurry one at that. If I can't read it, I can't respond.

7. Huh? (2)
So convoluted I couldn't figure out what the topic was, let alone the story. Included in this are the queries that send links rather than use words.

8. "I can't be bothered" (2)
People who send emails that say "just read this and let me know if you want more."

There's a reason I ask that you include a query letter. If you don't want to do it, ok. I don't want to respond.

Everyone reading this blog is probably savvy enough to avoid these mistakes.

Even a modicum of research will keep you on the right path. If you're worried about making these kinds of mistakes, you won't. 

Any questions?

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Saturday, October 30, 2021

New and Improved!


I'm re-releasing my first book with a new cover, some minor edits, and bonus content but I'm getting tripped up with whether I need to call this a second edition or a revised edition. Is there a difference? What do second editions usually entail and are they usually seen in the fiction world?
I've only run into second editions in non-fiction, where information in the first edition needs to be changed. When the USSR collapsed, all geography books needed new editions!
But the collapse of the USSR doesn't really impact a novel that's already published.
I'd call this a revised edition rather than a second edition. The basic book is the same.
And of course, there's the question of whether you need a new copyright registration:
Here's what the US Copyright office says:
How much do I have to change in my own work to make a new claim of copyright?

You may make a new claim in your work if the changes are substantial and creative, something more than just editorial changes or minor changes. This would qualify as a new derivative work. For instance, simply making spelling corrections throughout a work does not warrant a new registration, but adding an additional chapter would. See Circular 14, Copyright Registration in Derivative Works and Compilations, for further information.


I've seen notices on the copyright page that say something like "an earlier version of this book was published in X." 


Luralee asked:
I think I’m a little confused about what first edition means. If a book says it’s a first edition doesn’t that mean it’s the first printing?

Editions are revisions to the whole book

Here's a photo of the cover of my trusty Merriam Webster.

Notice it's the 11th edition. 
11th edition

That means that this dictionary has been revised and updated 11 times.

You want the eleventh, not the seventh, edition so you'll know what hashtag now means!

And here's a picture from the copyright page.

Notice it's the 22nd printing. 

22nd printing

That means this edition (#11) has been run through the printing presses 22 times.
Each print run is a printing.

Printings and the size of the print run do not bear any relation to the content of the book.
It's a function of demand for the book.

If no one buys the 22nd printing (saturated market) there won't be a 23rd printing.

If aliens arrive and lots of new words enter our vocabulary, there will be a 12th edition.

Any questions?

Friday, October 29, 2021

More on pub credits

Color me surprised when I received notification yesterday that my short story will be published in an online literary magazine. My new question is: I've been querying a new novel (novel one was a bust) and have a few queries out. Is this new little "credit" something that warrants an "addendum" to the query already sent? (Is there even any graceful way to do that?) Or is the publication simply something to include on all future queries?

(Original question)
Do agents care about short story publications? I've settled on the notion it makes no difference whatsoever if there's a blurb in the end (i.e.,"I have a short story published in Buttonweezer Literary Mag" or "I won the $12 Carkoon literary contest in 1989"), as it only matters whether or not what is being submitted at that moment in time is up to snuff and saleable, and the rest is, by and large, unnecessary. 

However, credentials and whatnot are asked for. Is a short-story publishing credit considered a worthy item of note? Or best left in the drawer in which it currently resides, cozy and unread?

Publication credits are GREAT and you should include them in your query. (don't email this good news to agents who already have your query.)

It affirms that your work is publishable.

(I see more than a few queries where this is not the case.)

And of course, it also means that the Buttonweezer Literary Mag's readers might remember your awesomeness and be more likely to buy your book.

There's no downside on including lit mag pub credits.

You can shoot yourself in the foot by listing things that really are NOTpub credits: Carkoon Literary Contests lead the list!

But also: writing conference contests; honorable mention in almost any kind of contest; faux contests that are run by people who make their money from entry fees and every book ends up a winner of some kind.

If I haven't heard of a contest, I google it.

If you're trying to pad your pub credits, don't.

They're nice to have but not essential.

What's essential: tell me about a story I want to read.

Any questions?

Monday, October 25, 2021

You're funny. Right?

I have written a book that is intended to make readers laugh occasionally. That is a deadening description, I know, but one can hardly call one’s own book “witty,” and “humorous” sounds like it belongs in the Humor section of the bookstore, which my novel does not. (It’s Upmarket fiction.)
The best I can come up with for a query is “light-hearted,” but I would love to have your perspective on this, as I think that humor can be a big selling point. Or do I simply let the pages speak for themselves?

You're right to avoid calling your book witty or humorous.

That's like Felix Buttonweezer calling himself handsome and erudite on (Betty finally had enough of Felix rewashing the dishes after her, and has run off with a chainsaw sculptor) when his photo is right there, and he lists his favorite book as "Cents and Sensibility by Jane Austin".

Humor IS a big selling point for me.

I think if you look at almost every novel I've sold there's a strong element of humor or wit.

Even in old sobersides Jeff Somers.

So, how do you show rather than tell?


The answer is right here.

Monday, October 18, 2021

The agent I want is closed to queries.

I am finally ready to query, only to discover that three of the agents I consider the best matches are closed to queries. If I receive requests for the full manuscript or offers from other agents can I contact these three with that news, or does closed mean closed?

Closed means closed...


UNLESS you've met these agents at a conference or heard them on a panel, and they've specifically said they are open to queries from people in the audience.


SCBWI does this a lot, but there's almost always a time constraint attached. You can query them for the next 30 days, for example.


Agents close to queries for a variety of reasons, mostly cause they're inundated and trying to tame their inbox. That means it doesn't do any good to query them when they are not looking.


HOWEVER what you think of as your best match may not be so. Query, and query widely. Young hot hungry agents may not be on your radar yet, and they're eager to build their list.

The door may be closed at 1 Buttonweezer Place, but there are a lot of other doors on the street.

Yes, there is a Buttonweezer Street in NYC. It's not on the map, sorry.

Tuesday, October 05, 2021

Devil, meet the deep blue sea!

 Is this a good idea?

Should I write a proposal for it?

Devil, meet the deep blue sea!

If I say yes, this sounds great, write a proposal and then pass on the proposal, I would feel like I've led you on. My guess is you would too, and start shopping for flaming bags of dog poop.

If I say no, this sounds like shite (flaming), you go away feeling like crap and maybe I missed something good. Or worse, you don't write the proposal that another agent would have jumped on it with all four feet.

That's why you have to write the proposal before you ask me (or any agent) to offer any kind of assessment.

Plus, ideas are a dime a dozen.

Even good ones.

It's the execution that matters.

Any questions?

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Buttonweezer rides again

Hello Chums!

What's the name of your main male character? 

Felix Buttonweezer? 

Of course it is.

What's the name of your main female character? 

Betty Buttonweezer? 


Now, look at your query.
Do you call him Buttonweezer and her Betty?

Calling a man by his surname, and a woman by her given name might indicate unconscious sexism in your writing. Watch out for it.

Specific need trumps general guideline in these cases of course.
Just make sure you've decided there is a reason if you do this.

Any questions?

Saturday, September 18, 2021

World Building


I was digging around in my files for some notes I KNEW I had on world building and came across this reading list and questions that I copied from (I think!) Alexander Chee when he taught a class on the topic.

A Princess of Mars (ER Burroughs)
Dracula (Bram Stoker)

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (Frank Miller)
Sunshine (Robin McKinley)

V for Vendetta (Alan Moore)
The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins)

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (NK Jemison)
Lilith's Brood (Octavia Butler)

Perdido Street Station (China Mieville)
Snow Crash (Neal Stephenson)

Questions for consideration on the syllabus:

Some things to consider always when taking on a new world:
what are its primary features - spatial, cultural, biological, fantastic, cosmological.

What is the world's ethos (the guiding beliefs or ideals that character the world?)

What are the precise strategies that are used by its creator to convey the world to us and us to the world? How are characters connected to the world? And how are we the viewer or reader connected to the world?



Thursday, September 16, 2021

Jeff Somers doesn't like musicals...until he does

It’s easy to make the mistake of thinking that genre is a fixed concept—that thrillers always look and feel like thrillers, or romances always look and feel like romances. Most people are comfortable with the idea of mixing genres to a certain extent—the romantic subplot, the murder mystery with a deep bench of comedy—but we generally expect certain genres to adhere to certain tone frequencies and pacing requirements. 

 But genres can masquerade as each other, and Singin’ in the Rain is a prime example. Sure, it’s a musical, and a romantic comedy on top of that. It hits all those beats, but it’s all a smokescreen for the real structure of the story, which is 100 percent heist. Or, since technically nothing is stolen (aside from my blackened, underdeveloped heart⁶) maybe the word caper is a better fit. Either way, it adheres to the basic stages of a heist/caper story:


1. The identification of an impossible task

2. The assembly of a team

3. The development of a complex scheme using the individual talents of that team

4. Sudden twist adding complexity

5. Apparent failure

6. Apparent failure revealed as actual triumph


If you're not subscribed to Jeff Somers Writing Without Rules Deep Dive, you're missing out. 

Click this to link


Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Bookscan thinks I'm dead

I write under a pen name for the fiction imprint of an educational publishing company.  I write high interest, low reading level books for teenagers.  My first novel got a starred review from Kirkus, and is available to bookstores and Amazon.  My imprint, although they publish solely fiction, has the business model of their parent publisher.  What this means for sales, is that it's difficult to get into bookstores because it's got a net discount and is not returnable, much like most educational materials.  I understand that my book has sold well to schools and libraries, but unfortunately my Bookscan numbers are unimpressive.  On top of that, my local bookstore that sells my book does not report to Bookscan.

I'm now working on another project that is not hi-lo YA, and I'm starting to think about the query.  Should I mention that I've published this Kirkus starred book under a pen name, or should I leave it off?

It's a nice publishing credit, and the audience for your query understands about Bookscan not being accurate for educational books in particular, and books sold outside the regular sales points in general.

In the publishing credits paragraph of your query you can something like:

I have written novels under a pen name for (name the publisher). Kirkus gave one of them a starred review, but Bookscan of course doesn't even know I'm alive.

Any questions?


Tuesday, September 14, 2021

How many is too many?

My wife and I have been discussing if there can be too many POVs (technically PsOV but let's all relax about that) in a novel.  I've read a lot of opinions on the subject online, but I haven't seen any steadfast rules, which makes me happy. 

I myself tend to write in a larger number of POVs than what makes some people comfortable.  The novel I'm currently working on has ten, but I haven't received any negative feedback from my beta readers.  

To be clear, when I say ten POVs, that doesn't mean each of the ten get their own chapters.  I will just show different POVs within section breaks.

 Is there a consensus on how many POVs are too many from agents and editors?


 Well, there isn't a consensus on the number of points of view you can have.

There is a consensus that all the characters need to be distinct, and the reader has to be able to follow the narrative.

 Ten points of view would give me great pause.

 Multiple points of view in a chapter would give me agita.


Now, let's make sure you understand what you're saying here.

Points of view, as I understand you are using it here, means ten different first person-points of view. 

I am Spartacus kinds of thing.


An example of that is Chum by Jeff Somers All the chapters are in first person I.  The reason I love this book, and signed Jeff on the basis of this book, is that the reader is never confused about who is speaking.  Jeff is a truly brilliant writer and Chum is a masterful book.

If you are using third person (he/she/they) that's third person omniscient.

An example of this would be Crashers by Dana Haynes which follows multiple characters, but always in third person.


It's a whole lot easier to do write third person omniscient with multiple characters, than multiple points of view.

Don't bite off more than you can chew with your mouth closed lest that apple pie fall on your crisp white shirt and your dinner companion think you a slob.

Monday, September 13, 2021

The agent told me something different than what's on her website! Help!

What do you mean follow the directions? Which ones?

(1) What if an agent asks for a partial and is then closed to queries when the manuscript is ready?
(2) Or what if the instructions to submit a referral go against the agency submission instructions?
(3) In a word, what happens when you get varied instructions for the same task, and aren't sure which path to follow?


(1) Send the partial. You're not cold querying when you're responding to a request for more material. 

(2) Do what the agent told you. The published guidelines on the website are more general than the specific instructions an agent gives you directly. 

(3) Always do what the agent tells you. In the absence of specific, individual (or in-person like a class) instructions, follow what the website says. 



Any questions?

Thursday, September 09, 2021

I've been wayl-aid!


Excuse me, but I think you forgot something.

I've been caught up watching movies for film pitches on a couple clients.

I have a very tough job, don't I?

Waylon thinks that's no excuse for not posting today.

Wednesday, September 08, 2021

Selling rights to a previously published translated book


Have you ever received a query from Mongolia by someone who originally wrote their book in Mongolian, self-published that book in Mongolia but has now finished translating their book from Mongolian to English and would like to find an agent for their book in the English speaking market where it has not yet been published in any form?

OK, I don't speak Mongolian but I know you wanted blog posts that include Mongolia (now I've mentioned it enough, I think 😂).

Here's the reality and maybe it's a stupid thought/idea but sometimes I get stupid ideas: I wrote my first book in English and self-published it to KDP-Amazon UK and it is available in English, worldwide, and has been bought in at least eight different countries that I'm aware of. The ISBNs for all editions of this book (e-book, paperback, hardback) are mine - not Amazon's.

I am nearing the end of translating this book from English to German, and I am moving from the UK to Switzerland (German speaking part -> German speaking book market) next year. I had planned on just sticking the German edition onto Amazon as a self-published book as well, but then I had this thought: Would it be query-able for a German speaking agent? Like, what would YOU do if I queried you with an English edition of a book that was originally written in Mongolian and self-published in Mongolia?

The critical piece of info here is that you self-published it.
That means you didn't license the rights to publisher, you only offered the book for sale yourself.

If you had licensed the book to a publisher, an agent would need to see that contract to make sure you only licensed English language rights, not world rights.

If you license world rights, there's no deal to be made with you.
The deal would be with the publisher who now controls those rights.

So, you're free to query German language agents.
I have no idea how the domestic market works in Germany and Switzerland.
All that is handled by our co-agents who shop books there.

The ISBNs don't matter at all.
And most agents will want to take a look at the contract you signed with Amazon, just to make sure everything is hunky-dory.

Any questions?