Tuesday, October 16, 2018


A friend of mine wants to connect me with a Motion Picture Lit Agent at one of the Big 5 Agencies here in LA. He specified that he's primarily an agent for screenwriting, but that he's looking to add more clients. I work in the entertainment industry, but I don't really deal with agents. Which leads me to wonder...

You've previously advised NOT to send anything to a movie studio, but is sending my novel to a Motion Picture Lit Agent in that same "don't do it!" category or is it acceptable since they're agents? Are Hollywood Agents as ruthless as I fear? Don't want to turn into shark bait here.




For starters, you don't have an agreement with any of them.
Sending it cold is useless.
Most likely they won't look at it since film guys don't look at material that arrives in the slush.

Worse, odds are they won't respond  and you'll be left with having to explain you sent it but heard nothing to your AGENT.

Who is going to silently screem when you tell her about this.

When film agents want books, they generally leave out this qualifier: published books that have done well. But that is indeed what they are looking for.

Here's the list of things you do NOT want to do before querying an agent:

1. Register copyright
2. Solicit blurbs
3. Send to a movie/film agent
4. Send to an editor at a publishing company
5. Self publish

Any questions?


Monday, October 15, 2018

oh, you gotta love those data bases!--UPDATED

Recently, I mismarked a rejection from Agent A as being from Agent B in my spreadsheet. As a result, I sent a query to Agent C, who is from the same agency as Agent B. According to their website, this is a big no-no.

When I realized the mistake I made, I sent a follow-up to Agent C to apologize, explain what happened, and withdraw my query.

My first question is: was that the proper protocol? Is there a better way to handle this (obviously, not making the mistake in the first place is ideal, and I have reworked my spreadsheet to try to keep this from happening again)?

My second question is: if I receive a rejection from Agent B (Gosh, I hope I don't receive a rejection from Agent B), could I query Agent C again, or only in the event that I am querying a different project?

Thank you very much for all your resources, I stalk them regularly.

I feel your pain on this.
When my software needed upgrading last week, I was petrified I'd lose bits of data in the transfer/s. I was lucky; I didn't.  But honestly, I live in fear of this.

And all of us on this side of the query desi are aware of how easy it is to make this kind of mistake.

You handled it correctly; you let Agent C know what happened, you apologized.

If B says no, I'd wait a while befory querying C.  Let enough time pass that your email address isn't associated with "oops!" in her mind.

Mistakes happen. Even to the most careful of queriers. It's not a deal breaker until you do it more than once.

UPDATE: So, can I blame this blog post for my recent snafu?  I'd like to blame anyone but myself of course.

I'm doing follow ups this morning, and I managed to send not one but TWO "hey! what's going on with this!" to an editor.

I'm hoping, like you are, that she realizes I'm just askew this morning.

(I'm going to blame it on learning how this new mail management program works!)

Sunday, October 14, 2018

6.2 on the Richter scale

Scene: Penthouse apartment on the Upper West Side. Dawn. The only sound is the occasional rumble of an early morning bus on Central Park West.

Suddenly, a screech of epic proportion rips through the apartment, then into the hall,. It echoes down the elevator shaft, through the lobby then across the street into the park.  Several cracks appear in the foundation of a nearby gatehouse. Joggers and bicyclists stumble in their tracks

Inside the apartment:

Duchess of Yowl: I'VE BEEN MAIMED!

Me: (clinging to the chandelier in terror) Egad and little fishes!!  What the HELL is wrong??


Me: (slowly lowering self back to hammock, dusting off shark pjs) Come here, let me look at you.

DoY: (from not just under the chair but under the carpet beneath the chair) NO! I'm maimed! I can't be seen. I must retire from public life.

Me: Come over here, let me see what you're going on about!

DoY: No.

Me: You'll starve if you don't come out.

DoY: Good. My life as a celebrity is over. I have sung my last aria, danced my last electric boogaloo.

Me: You have not nuzzled your last tuna, and you know it. Now come out!

DoY: Make sure that filthy paparazzi camera you call a phone is NOT in your hand!

Me: The phone is charging in the kitchen. We are in the bedroom. Some us would like to stay here for a while longer. Quit kvetching. Let me see what's wrong.

DoY: (crawling out from under rug, under chair) Someone has stolen three of my royal whiskers!

Me: (looking closely) wait, I'll need my magnifying glass. It's here somewhere.

DoY: You can't see this horrendous loss of whiskertude??

Me: (peering) no, not really. How many did you say are missing?


Me: You count your whiskers?

DoY: You count your gray hairs.

Me: I didn't think you saw that.

DoY: I see everything.

Me: Except your three whiskers which appear to be on your silk covered heating pad on your royal chair.

DoY: (squinting) oh.

Me: Whiskers fall out. It's normal. Others will grow back in. More even. Your celebrity days are not over.

DoY: Well, then! Time for breakfast. And, I'll need new headshots.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

The second time might be a charm, but be careful

When an agency posts on their website that a NO from the agent is a NO from the agency, are they referring to a query or a full? An agency that shall remain nameless posted this:

A no from one agent usually means a no from the agency. Our agents work closely and will pass along a manuscript they feel is better suited for another agent.

However, if you query one and receive a query rejection, you may choose to query another agent at the query level only.

This agency is clear about their policy, but others don’t make that clarification.

Could you possibly clear this up or add something to the conversation?

Unless an agency specifically says one and done at the query stage, I'd always err on the side of querying a second agent.


One way you can really mess up is by querying that second agent too soon. Give Agent First at least 60 days, if not longer, before querying Agent Second.

One fast way to instant rejection from me is to see the exact same query sent to two or more agents here. And yes, we DO see them. And yes we do forward queries to other agents sometimes.

Bottom line:  be judicious about querying an agency for a second time, but don't assume you can't.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Someone might want me, what do I do now?

I have some strong interest from a publisher on a novel from that I previously queried you about. If an offer comes through and I need help negotiating it, could I approach you with it? This is also a general question that might work for the blog too, if you can approach an agent who turned down your query if you get an outside offer, or what to do if you get an offer but don't have an agent. I know you can negotiate with the publisher (if they accept unsolicited submissions) directly, but what if they ask you to get an agent?

I'm always glad to hear from an unrepped writer who needs some guidance on an offer. I generally don't take those projects on (particularly if I've already passed) but I can direct you to some people who can help you negotiate the contract.

Publishing contracts are minefields; never step into one without a sniffer dog like me at your side.

[Audio insert: gasp of horror from Her Grace, the Duchess of Yowl at the mere mention of a dog.]

If you've got interest from a publisher, the first thing to remember is don't say yes to anything. The more you say yes to, the less negotiating room you have.

If you get the offer, you can say "I'm delighted! I need to send this to my sniffer dog." Publishers who resist that kind of information--they don't like agents, they won't negotiate--tend to be that way for a reason, and I'll let you intuit what it is.

How you query this: put OFFER IN HAND in the subject line. Lead with the name of the publisher in the email, and most important, what the time line is. Most publishers don't want to hang about for weeks waiting on you to Leash Up. When you tell them you're delighted, ask what their time line is for a response.

And huzzah for interest!

Thursday, October 11, 2018


HAVE I MADE A TERRIBLE MISTAKE? I self-published an early draft of the manuscript I'm querying now (about 4 years ago), but I felt that since I changed the setting, plot, voice, and characters significantly it would count as a different book (thus, not self-published). What do I do???

Also should mention that I was a lousy marketer and eventually pulled it from the market (I feel that self-publishing was kind of a mistake, but, y'know, it was encouraging for a kid to see her work WITH AN ACTUAL COVER). If I had done some more marketing work maybe it would have gone better, but I'm pretty glad I didn't! But still. Do I have to do something?

By "do something" do you mean tell potential agents? Yes.
The real question is when.

I'd save it for the conversation you have when the offer is about to be made.

This isn't really a deal breaker, given the amount of time that's passed and that you didn't sell enough to get much traction.

You should also think about a title change; that's the thing that's most easily searchable on a book.

The reason you MUST tell the agent is contained in the warranties clause of the publishing contract she will hopefully obtain for you. That clause says, among other things, "the book has not been previously published."

Now, that is entirely negotiable but like most items in the contract you don't want to be doing it at the last minute.  In fact your agent is going to be rightfully annoyed if you make her look like Bumblestiltskin and she has to go back to the editor and say "oh by the way."

I know how to finess things with a great deal of elan when given enough time to plot and connive. 

This is not a terrible mistake.
It's a common mistake.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

The DoY wasn't the only one yowling this week

One of the many pleasures of working from home (even when it's organizing the disarray created by a spontaneously combusting computer and outdated software) is that I can make a tuna sandwich for lunch.

I don't take tuna sans to the office cause tuna is...well...bold.

Thus, today I had my tuna on a bun in one hand, my mouse in the other, and I may have been swilling Gatorade from a beverage bonnet.

Enter Her Grace, the Duchess of Yowl

DoY: Yummy tummy Tuna!

Me: (feverishly sorting 27,000 emails) Mine!

DoY: (royal sneer) Don't be obtuse. Everything is mine.

Me: If this computer is yours, how come you aren't helping me test the new software?

DoY: As far as I'm concerned software is the royal blankie on the royal couch. And don't change the subject. Where's my royal tuna?

Me: Well, the truth is I ran out of tuna and bread so I put this last couple spoonfuls in a hot dog bun.

DoY: (gasping) Hot WHAT?

Me: It's really delicious, like a lobster roll but with tuna!

DoY: LOBSTER?? Things are looking up.

Me: No lobster. Tuna. Except I just ate the last of it.

DoY: My real mom lets me order sushi.

Me: I know for an ironclad fact she does not. She changed her login and password after you tried Seamless.

DoY: Well, it's lunch time, and you're slacking off here. Snap to it!

Me: I have some left over crow I had to eat for not updating my software ten years ago after everyone told me Word 2004 was outmoded and I dawdled along paying no mind.

DoY:  Bird! Yum!

Me: I saved you the best part. It's seasoned with my shredded ego.

DoY: Quit talking, start serving.

Me: Hang on for just a minute, there are only 25,000 emails left to sort.

The great email disorganization is finished, but if you're waiting on a reply to something you sent a while back, please feel free to resend. 

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

So, I went for F and got R

I'm an American living in London. After months of reworking my query, I've finally gotten it to a place I'm happy with. In order to get some feedback before actually querying my novel, I shared my query on the forum of a UK literary magazine during an "Agent Extravaganza." I was not expecting to get a partial manuscript request, which is what happened. (!) I'm not sure what to do now. The request is from a UK agent, but I'm hoping for a US agent.

1) Do I still send along the partial manuscript? I don't want to waste the agent's time, but I also don't want to look like a doofus. 2) Should I be giving UK agents equal weight to their US counterparts? I assumed since I write in American English, my stories are set in the US, and the US is a bigger market, I should look for US agents. Is there anything I'm not considering?

So, you posted something during an Agent Extravaganza expecting feedback?

Was that the purpose of the event?
My guess is that it wasn't since offering feedback isn't what we do. Requesting stuff is what we do!

And now you've got a request. The irony!
(at least you know you've got something interesting!)

I know several American-based writers, who write American settings, who are repped by UK agents.

It's no surprise to you that I think a US-based agent is a better bet. I'm not objective about that.

As to what to do, you have two choices:

1. Write to the agent who requested the partial and say you are seeking a US based agent because the books are US based.

2. Send the partial

What you didn't mention is if you've done any research at all on the requesting agent. I've heard tales of less than stellar agents using these kind of events to hunt for writers. Never send any work to an agent or agency if you can tell  upfront that you wouldn't sign with them. (Sometimes you discover that later, of course.)

You'd be wise to talk to authors who have UK based agents and publish in the American market if you can. They'll have a better take on this than I will.

Monday, October 08, 2018

So, let's celebrate the real achievements today

Columbus Day celebrates a guy who sailed over here a couple four times, but then beat feet back home once he'd made life miserable for everyone he met here.

Instead of celebrating that, I think we should celebrate the people who came and stayed.  You've heard of the Pilgrims of course, who came for religious freedom.

But have you heard about the Rhinelanders who came in the mid 18th century? They came in search of a better life. They paid a tax to leave their homes in present day Germany. They knew they'd probably never see their parents or family staying behind again.

They took barges up the Rhine River to Rotterdam, then piled everything they owned, including their kids on a wooden ship and set sail across the Atlantic to a place they'd never seen. Every scrap of food and drip of water had to be packed on the ship. They cooked that food over an open flame on a wooden boat.

But they came. By the hundreds, then thousands.

A hundred years later, other people set off in search of a better life, not by sail, but by covered wagon drawn most often by oxen.

Most of them walked. Walked from Missouri to Oregon. When they got to the Cascade Mountains and the Columbia River, they winched the wagons down the steep slopes, using ropes around trees as braces.

A hundred years later you can still see the marks.

Their names are layered into our street names, our county names, our town names.  Their immense courage and determination to build a new life is what we now call American can-do spirit.

And this doesn't begin to count the folks who didn't arrive here voluntarily. Who came in chains, but survived. Who endured hardship we can't begin to understand, but survived. 

These are the people I hope we remember to honor today.  They weren't here first, but when they came, they stayed. And built.

Sunday, October 07, 2018

After a long illness, valiantly battled

Of course this day was going to come.
I never thought about it, so when it did come, it seemed to be out of the blue.
It wasn't.

You can't work on a book about parenting kids with mental health challenges and NOT expect to deal with the death of a kid. Well, I didn't. And now we are.

While I did not know her, I knew of her.
But she was someone's child, someone else's friend, someone else's treasure.
And her life is over after a long illness, valiantly battled. I don't use the word suicide on purpose. She was in the throes of an illness that is often hard to see, always hard to understand, and can be fatal.

The photo of her at the prom, a recent one, shows a young lady seemingly on the cusp of adulthood, happy and healthy. As it turned out, none of that was true.

I can't look at that photo without weeping for the loss, the incredible pain her loved ones feel.

I wish there was something we could do.
I wish this will never happen again.

Mental illness is sneaky. It's invisible, often.
It's never a choice.

Just a reminder, for those of you who have children who might be off-kilter, who exhibit symptoms you don't understand, Deb Vlock's book about Parenting Kids With Mental Health Challenges will be pubbed in November.

The only comfort I can find as we mourn this lovely young woman's death, is that we are lighting a candle even if we are also cursing the darkness.

Saturday, October 06, 2018

Just digging out

Between the computer crash and a book on editorial deadline, I was buried this week, and just now digging out.

What have you been up to this week?

Friday, October 05, 2018

Can I dawdle on sending my ms for a #DivPit

I've just sent my novel off to my second round of beta and sensitivity readers after revising and adding about 10,000 words (I'm an underwriter, so my first round of betas always ask for more).

My goal was to get feedback from my second round before the Twitter pitch contest DVPit in mid-October. But after sending off the manuscript this weekend, about 75% of my betas wrote back to say sorry, bad timing, they're swamped with work/school/life/health issues. All the reasons are perfectly legitimate, but leave me with a decision to make:

Do I let the contest pass or do I pitch anyway?

Or, worded another way: is it better to pitch a hair too early or potentially miss out on an opportunity?

As I understand it, there are agents who participate in the contest who are not open to general queries, so referrals (which I don't have) or contests are the only way to reach them. I also like the idea of querying someone already knowing my concept intrigues them. And I *think* it's okay to send a few weeks after a contest request, so I'd still have time to get feedback and make edits or even grind to a halt if there's a big issue I've overlooked.

But I also don't want to shoot myself in the foot by being over-eager. I also worry about an agent getting excited about my pitch and then being irritated when the query doesn't arrive right away.

I'm sure I'm overthinking this, but would love any insights you might want to share.

I'm new to the Twitter pitching scene. I'm participating for the first time on 10/25/18 for #PitDark.

My understanding is that agents are expecting manuscripts to be ready, ready, ready.
I certainly am.

The beauty of this new querying avenue is that it's quick. You tweet, I fave, you send, I read.
My expectation is these ms are NOT going in to the general pile to be read when I get to it.  (When I get to it is disgustingly late right now. I'm well and truly mortified.)

I've also set aside time to read stuff on that day (10/25) and I'm NOT going to read anything instantly if it comes in later. Which is not to say I won't read it, and certainly does not mean I'm going to discard it. I'm always looking for good stuff.

Which is exactly the problem: is your material ready to pitch NOW? It sounds like you're still polishing. If (heaven forfend) your betas come back with "hey, this whole scene needs to go" you're not "almost ready." You're not ready at all.

The good news? This isn't your only chance. These #ptichthings come around twice a year I think, maybe more often.

You get one chance to show me how terrific you are. Don't let impatience make you jump the gun.

Thursday, October 04, 2018


Duchess of Yowl (stationed at the door because dinner is late): WHAT is that STENCH?

Me: (startled, fumbling packages, dropping reticule, spectacles, book bag and feather duster) What? What? I smell?

DoY: You are foul. What have you been doing?

Me: Umm...working?

DoY: In a kennel?

Me: ohhh. There was a dog in the elevator. He was very nice. I petted him.

DoY: You are fired.

Me: Are you hungry? I have tuna!

DoY: You're fired after dinner has been served.

Sorry about the lack of blog post yesterday.
My computer had an attack of the vapors.

If you've emailed me recently (or actually, within the last couple months) and have not heard back, please email again.  I lost some email in this crash, and I really can't bear to download 100K emails to find the ones that were pending. 

This will teach me to fall behind on stuff, that's for sure.

The good news is I didn't lose any requested fulls, or the data base of requested fulls, or the submissions data base.

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

So, about your browsing history!

This weekend I was diving into a wonderful new manuscript. Part of my job as the second set of eyes is to ask questions. Since I work in history and biography, a lot of my questions are about when something was invented, or when it came into common use.

Example: dynamite. In conjunction with a book about building the transcontinental railroad, I was interested in how construction crews dealt with things that were "in the way." Turns out they blew holes (called tunnels!) in the mountains. But, in 1860, there was no dynamite. (That comes into use a few years later). The crews used black powder, which is like gun powder. I had a good laugh at the idea of a bunch of guys standing around shooting at a mountain to build a tunnel. (They didn't of course, but what an image!)

Other research topics: where and when were first sidewalks of New York?; where did ships land in New York?; who was the Queen of Belgium in 1924 (and was she a Queen, or a Princess)?; when was the partition of Palestine?; and, when did Standard Oil become Exxon?

I'm probably safe from a visit from the browser police for now, but there have been some days anyone taking a gander would wonder what the hell I was up to.

So, what's the weirdest thing you've researched recently (or ever!) and what were you researching it for? Tell us in the comments column!

Monday, October 01, 2018

Preliminary contest results-FINAL

Contest results are a tad sparse today, sorry about that.
I've been petting the Duchess of Yowl, and reading the new Bob Woodward book. Both are compelling, but each in their own way.

Herewith the results:
Special recognition for two lines that have real zing:
Falling out of love was predictable. It always started with a list: duct tape, gloves, rags, hydrogen peroxide…

Here are the entries that resonated with me:
Timothy Lowe
“Plum me.”

Tabitha reached into the icebox and hurled a piece of fruit in William’s direction. It slapped his open palm.

“Good toss.”

“Fuck off. You need to tell her. Tonight.”

“No way.” He gathered his pants from around his ankles. “Mrs. Williams would be crushed.”

“Then when?”

“After I apologize.” He scrawled a few words, fingertips sticky with black juice.

“Of all the - ” she fumed, reading his slanted script. “You’re apologizing . . . for eating the plum?”

He shrugged. “It was the last one.”

“Some fucking poet.”
“Hey, at least it’s got stanzas. Last time I published my grocery list.”

This entry requires the reader know the poetry canon, specifically William Carlos Williams' work. I had to dig around to find "two pendants for ears" the poem with the grocery list, but I'm always up for poetry research.

'He's had a fall.’
She focussed on the tips of the nurse’s spring yellow nails. 'Ernie’ll... be okay, right?’
Ernie called her spring chicken. She let him. Naturally. Unless his daughter was there - too tactless.
‘I'm afraid he’s broken his hip.’
She pictured that miniature plummet,knew exactly where. The listing paving stone, where she'd stamped her Jimmy Choos when the concrete was wet. That slant, sly as his eyes when they’d first met.
Geriatrics don't survive broken hips, she told herself in the Jag, later.
Sobbing for that nurse had been draining.
It was hard being a gold-digger sometimes.

 That nice little twist in those last two lines really got me.
Then, when I went back to re-read, I noticed the line about stamping the listing paving stone, and I wondered if she'd stamped it so it listed MORE, thus causing the fall.  Little ambiguities like that, that make your reader wonder, those are just lovely.

Steve Forti
Me: I give up. You’d thing I was trying to feed him offal.
L: I st
ruggled with him all day. It’s your turn to figure it out.
Me: Come on buddy, you need these prunes. Much as I appreciate the clean diapers, you gotta poop, pal! Open up, please?
L: You think I didn’t already try begging? Amateur. Just face it – my mom was right. The little guy’s got a condition.
Me: Which i
L: Anti-plum.
Me: T
hat’s not a real thing!
L (with a shrug): It is to him. You ain’t gonna win an argument with a baby. 

Well, of course, Steve Forti is always an interesting read, first for what he does with prompt words. This entry was no exception. But Mr. Forti must meet a higher standard than most of the other writers here; a handicap like that given to standard bred trotters to even the odds.

In this entry it's that last line. It's funny and clever up to that point, then wham: wisdom.

Mallory Love
“Listen,” she started her slurred confession. She always swayed as if she were tipsy when the morphine hit her bloodstream. “I stole it. All of it. My windfall wasn’t because of some loaded dead relative. I have to make it right.” She sucked in a breath. “I need to return it, before I…before the end.”

I nodded empathetically. She needed to rest. I shushed her while making the injection. Her heart rate plummeted. It wouldn’t be long now. I scribbled her slanted signature on the DNR. Her secret was safe with me. So was the money.

This whole story appeals to my evil nature.

Brigid is giving Mr. Forti a run for the Steve Forti deft use of prompt words award this time!
Elle barely listened. “I’m sorry, Lannie, I’m going out.”

By the looks of it, she was going far. That dress.
Her chignon hid her neon tips entirely, and she was dabbing crème céleste over her telecom scar.

“Solferino's not your usual shade. And is that a

a guy.”


“He's marvelou
s, Lan, too marvelous for words. To keep him, I'll have to be showstopping.”

“Where are you going?”

She pinned her last curl and stepped into the whirring NEXUS. “I
f all goes well, not The Ford’s Theatre.”

Lannie shouted, but the curtain fell.

Lovely use of prompt words here.
And I love the use of NEXUS as the time travel machine.

Tara Tyler
Sweet Plum met her fate and was missed
In a fall from a cart which did list
It slanted and tipped
The farmer, he tripped
Now he’s a purple-tailed agriculturalist!
I'm a sucker for a clever poem of course, and "purple-tailed agriculturalist" is my new favorite phrase.

Catherine Graham
He scrabbled through the tall grass under the slanting trees, feeling for the round firm falls, bruised from their plummet to earth, but could find nothing.

He found them on the way home. His brother held one out to his sheep—by the knuckles, to avoid bitten fingertips.

“Seriously? Again? I told you.”

His brother frowned. “They were getting mushy. You couldn’t possibly use them.”

“We stew them, feed them to Enoch.”

“You feed apples to your baby? Seriously? After what happened to Mom and Dad?”

He huffed. “Listen. Keep your mitts off my apples, Abel. Or else.”
 This depends on the reader know who Enoch is. And Abel. It's subtle and clever.

John Davis (manuscript) Frain
Soon as I saw the contest posting, I sent him tickets. Weekend getaway. No wifi. No phones. Commune with nature.

Finally, an opening. I labored over my wordplay. Edited. Polished. Proofed. Ready to submit.

Then I saw it. My heart plummeted on cue. He’d already entered. Hope had fallen to zero.

I gathered my writing team in the lower forty.

“Check the blacklist,” I said to my assistant. “Which direction does he live?”

“He’s north by northwest from where you’re standing, sir.”

I turned fifteen degrees. Tipped my cap. Slanted my head. We all solemnly bowed in Forti’s general direction.

This just cracked me up completely.

Richelle Elberg
Fall brought the miserable diagnosis.

She started a bucket list. As few as four—as many as ten!—months. How was a dying woman to plan? Infuriating.

In the end, just one idea made her tingle, right to the tips of her toes.

Day 30 AC (after cancer, as few as three—as many as nine!—months left).

She climbed the sharp slant of the arch. At the apex, she smiled. The Bloukrans River sparkled 700 feet below.

Geared up, she plummeted. Five long— Exhilarating! Life-altering! —seconds.


Bungee severed.

As few as 1—as many as 2!—seconds.
 I love the twist here (so to speak!), the surprise.

Michael Seese
The World War I flying ace cradled the controls, fighting to maintain the dance. His trusty Sopwith Camel spat black blood as she slanted earthward. Pulling hard, he regained altitude. But hope exploded with the engine, and the Camel plummeted, her graceless fall ending in a ball of flame.

Outside the fourth wall, the bespectacled man chewed his pencil, its once-sharp tip a nub, then breathed a sigh of mixed relief.

That’s how we end it.”

God had seen enough.

“Listen, Chuck, I totally get the ‘My creation’ thing. But I’m exercising My right to veto. You
can’t kill Snoopy.”

 Any story with Snoopy, God AND the Sopwith Camel is just plain terrific!

They called me “Slant” every stinking day. Jerks! So what if my left three legs are a micrometer shorter than my right three?

I’d been expelled from the colony after dismal performance reviews. The harder and faster I worked, the more I spun in circles. So, I became a rogue among rogues.

The fall rains came earlier than expected. Everyone scurried for higher ground. I concentrated on going straight. But growing listless, I unintentionally veered left. Just in time. The others didn’t realize they’d reached the tip of the hill. Full speed ahead, they plummeted.

Nobody’s calling me “Slant” now.
This is even funnier when you realize that it's first person ant. I had to look up how many legs an ant has to be sure.

Found out tonight my baby’s one of the fallen ones. Though tbh I don’t know exactly what she did, she won’t tell me.

I ask her, What’d you do?

(Not so much fallen as plummeted.)

Sometimes her skirt’s too short, maybe that’s it.

Or too much smiling. Smile all the time, people get ideas, that’s how it works.

I ask her, Were you tipsy?

Her long-lashed eyes slant over at me, daring me to ask twice.

(Too much mascara?)

The tech pulls a checklist out of the rape kit and gets to work.

Guess I’ll never know what she did.
The unusual point of view here, that's the compelling thing.
The character you loathe, but somehow still have sympathy for.
This is masterful, subtle writing. (no surprise, given the author)

Daniel Steffee
My insides plummet.

We're at Dina’s Diner, number one on Seattle Times’ list of best brunch spots and where I've just seen a ghost.

Sort of.

“It's the waitress,” I tell Robert, “We dated.”


“When we were kids. I don't think she recognizes me. Do I say something? God, what do I tip? How much to make up for-”

“Shush,” Robert says, adjusting my slanted glasses. “It wasn't your fault.”


“Whatever it was. I know you better than you think.”

I smile back at my ghostbuster, the only man--only person--I’ve ever fallen for.
 Lovely twist on the word ghostbuster.
Those kinds of twists always delight me.

Kate Outhwaite
Notes to self:

1. If Client’s list of stipulations exceeds one side of paper (double-spaced), reject and refer - preferably to someone you don’t like. (I’m thinking Julie, the treacherous hag.)

2. If any stipulations mention
fallen angels, dogs of war, horsemen, apocalypses etc., then Client’s worldview may be slanted away from full respect for your dignity at work/personal wellbeing/life. Reject and refer. (Julie again, hah!).

3. If, in course of delivering assignment to Client, you have to choose between
plummeting to fiery death in pit below and grabbing rope ladder dangled by Julie, don’t automatically dismiss the pit.

This just cracked me up completely. Gorgeous deft writing (again, no surprise given the writer) 

Final results at 5pm (she said bravely, knowing she's missed a deadline or two already today)
later this evening! (yea, I knew I shouldn't have said 5pm when I was making phone calls!)

 Either I can't tell time, or I'm in a very weird time zone, cause my clock says close to 2am, not 5pm.
And Tuesday.

I really admire all these entries. But somehow it was Richelle Elberg who really hit me this week. The "ya never know" element of that story really resonated.

Richelle, get in touch and I'll send you a prize!

Thanks to everyone who took the time to write and enter this week. I had a lot of fun reading your work.

The Duchess of Yowl however, she's still Not Amused. (Tuna will alleviate her suffering!)

Contest results delayed

Duchess of Yowl: What are you doing? Pet me!

Me: I'm reading the entries from this weekend's writing contest.

DoY: Do any of them mention me?

Me: Not so far.

DoY: Unacceptable. Everyone is disqualified. Now pet me.

(time passes)

DoY: You STOPPED petting me!

Me: Your grace, you were snoring so hard there were inquiries from the Earthquake Early Warning System monitors.

DoY: That is absolutely false. I do not snore! I purr like a puma.

Me: Ok Puma puss, you purr with...ahem...fervor. But I need to get back to the contest entries!

DoY: None of them mention me, therefore there are no winners.

Me: The writers might think these contests have gone to the dogs if something like that happens.

(shocked silence)

DoY: Since none of the prompt words evoke me,  I will overlook this shocking breach of protocol just this once.

Me: You are a paragon of virtue.

DoY: You're going to be para-gone if you don't start petting me again!

Petting resumes.
Contest results to come.
Duchess of Yowl snores  purrs on

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Hello Sunday, how's it going?

I meant to post a picture of the books available as contest prizes, but missed doing so while the contest was open.

Here t'is!

In the department of "I don't even know where to start" here's the email of the week:
My name is (redacted) and I am the author of (a number of ) published books so far and is currently in the process of writing others. I have self published all my books and love the control that I have over my work. I have gotten great reviews so far on Amazon and from people who have purchased my books. I am at the place in my writing journey where I need assistance along the way. I am determined to be a bestselling author. I am looking for an agent. I have been thinking about it for quite some time. Please let me know if that's a services that you provide. All my books are available at Amazon.com and all other online distributors. Thank you. 

Friday, September 28, 2018

Summer's over, time for a writing contest!

I've got some terrific books to choose from for the contest prize!

The usual rules apply:

1. Write a story using 100 words or fewer.

2. Use these words in the story:

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.
Thus: fall/fallacious is ok but fall/faille is not

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: 9:07am, Saturday, 9/29/18

Contest closes: 9am, Sunday, 9/30/18

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!

oops, too late, contest closed!

Thursday, September 27, 2018

More on what to do/not to do when encountering agentfolk in the wild

In the comments section of yesterday's blog post Karen McCoy asked some good questions:

Case 1: Strike up a conversation with author at a conference, and agent happens to be standing nearby. Recognize name tag as an agent who rejected.

Do you a) casually mention the rejection if it comes up in conversation, with a quick (and honest) no hard feelings, this is a business, and then continue to other topics? Or is it wiser not to bring up the rejection at all?

Unless you are wearing your email address as a nametag, I probably won't remember you queried me. I certainly won't remember passing. That's why I always laugh to myself when someone reminds me they have already been rejected. They've shut the door on any interest in their work, should we get on to that topic later, and they've mortified me. I don't like rejecting work. I don't like making authors feel bad. I HATE to be reminded of it in a social situation. Hate to the point that, for a while, I made my minions wear my name tag.

Here's the standard: never mention rejection in a social conversation with an agent. Not now. Not ever. Never. 

Should the topic arise when it's a business situation, that's different. What's a business situation? We're at a writing conference talking about your work. We're on the phone discussing representation.
We're in the visiting room at Rikers discussing bail.

Think of it this way: when you tell me I passed on your query, what are you hoping I'll say?

Golly, I'm an idiot, please resend (I don't remember you or your query.)
I know, the writing was just awful, are you still stumbling along? (we are not characters in The Nanny Diaries)

Or are you just hoping to embarrass me, cause if you are, check the box. I'm totally mortified. GREAT way to start off a social conversation! 

Case 2: At an author event, author encourages you to approach agent and strike up conversation, and even ask if you can query. Agent says yes, please query, and tells you to make sure you mention said event. You agree--only to get home and realize you did query this agent, and you forgot they rejected.

Do you a) query anyway, mentioning the event, but not the previous query, especially since the novel has changed significantly since the original query? or b) just move on, and don't query at all? 

The author erred in encouraging you to ask to query.
You erred in not realizing the author was wrong.

In any social situation (and an author event is a social situation) asking if you can query is a misstep. If the agent has some particular interest she'll let you know.

Bottom line: You don't need permission to query. You do not have to ask if you can query.

Even though you've already queried and the agent said no, you've now got this polite "sure, send." It won't kill anyone (except Miss Manners) if you follow through with a query. As the agent instructed , make SURE you say at the top of the query "as per our conversation at the Kale Club Bar & Boozefest with Felix Buttonweezer" here's my query.

Do not expect different results from the first query. 

None of this stuff is anywhere near asshattery.
It's the warp and weft of pitching, selling and navigating  the unknown shoals of publishing deportment.  You'll never go wrong, truly wrong, if you're paying attention. (Reading this blog means you're paying attention)

Writing contest this weekend!

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

6 Reasons I think "whew, bullet dodged!"

A query tells me about your book, and about you. Sometimes after I pass on the query, I discover something that makes me think "whew, bullet D O D G E D, thank you publishing deities, both foreign and domestic."

Here are six of them:

1. You reply to my auto-respond vacation notice with a screed about lazy-ass agents.

2. You self publish the novel and are later found to have sock-puppeted most of the five star reviews.

3. You answer a form reply to your query with an assessment of my taste and character that leads me to wonder why you queried such a cretin in the first place.

4. You approach me at a social function, poke me in the name tag, and hiss "you rejected me!"

5. I slink around your website and Twitter feed and notice you post who you've queried and what their responses are.

6. You added me to your mailing list without asking. Special bonus points for sending a newsletter with no "unsubscribe" button.

All of these make me glad I said no.

Notice that none of them are failure to follow the directions, spell my name right,  tell me about your novel in the query, or other mistakes/oversights that are NOT the sign of an asshat writer.

Bottom line: if you're worried about being an asshat, you most likely are not.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

24 really good ideas from Matthew Federman

This Twitter thread from TV writer @MatthewFederman has a lot of very helpful things to remember
(his reference to "room" is the writers room, where the writers of a TV show work)

I think #23 is crucial to remember for the pages you include in a query.

1) Work big to small storywise: You're building a house. Don't start working on the fixtures until you're sure that's where the bathroom goes.

2) You'll know ideas work because they inherently spin out smaller, interesting character moments.

3) Good story creates more story. When you're going in the right direction track starts to lay out in front of you.

4) When you're going in the wrong direction it feels like a slog. If you spend a suitable amount of time grinding gears, reassess.

5) Problems for the character are good, problems in the story are bad. Don't confuse them.

6) If you find yourself bending over backwards to steady a weak piece of story, replace it.

7) Logic problems are often opportunities to examine character motivations, or lack thereof.

8) When you are holding on to something that you need to pretzel the story around to make work, let it go. This might not be the right episode for that idea.

9) When stuck, ask what the character would do next based on what they know and what we know about them.

10) Have fun! (I'm kidding...slightly...but use passion and enjoyment as indicators of whether or not the story is working. If you're bored, the audience likely will be as well).

11) Action scenes are not distinct from "character scenes" but a chance to test your characters' mettle, chart their growth or challenge their moral compass. Whether they succeed or fail we'll learn more about them.

12) Use every part of the buffalo when developing set pieces. Rather than just a chase or generic gun fight, pick specific concepts and locations with action and character choices that could only be made there.

13) Understand the expectations of your audience based on the genre you're working in. Surprises, twists, etc. work best when the audience *thinks* they understand the story.

14) Once the patterns of the show become evident, subtle permutations keep it fresh. Switching up normal character pairings can reveal interesting new dynamics. Larger form-breaking episodes often announce important shifts in story.

15) It is great to have a show bible as a road map but don't let it keep you from finding more interesting destinations along the way.

16) If character backstories aren't giving you story going forward they aren't engineered correctly.

17) Character conflict is strongest when it comes from differing points of view than when one character is obviously right.

18) When characters are complex plots can be simple.

19) Assuming organizations/groups think monolithically takes away options for plot and conflict.

20) Encourage the writers to NOT come in when under the weather. One bug can take down the whole staff. Don't be a hero.

21) Every room has a version of the phrase “a hat on a hat” or “bananas on bananas.” It’s a comedy phrase but applies to drama as well. Beware of diluting what already works by adding more to it.

22) While it is great and necessary to have flawed characters in drama, not all flaws are created equally. A Hero can be unfaithful, they can be wrathful, they can be stubborn. One thing they can rarely be: incompetent in their chosen field.

23) As with a first impression in life, character introductions have outsized importance. Often when an arc doesn't work it's because the character isn't introduced properly. The best introductions are a microcosm of everything you need to know about the character.

24) Think about character "chemistry" not just as sexual but as how any two characters, like chemicals, change or affect each other when in contact. Combine characters in scenes whose personalities create the most organic and explosive interactions.

Monday, September 24, 2018

I know it's English, I recognize the words, but what the hell does it mean?

Is there such a thing as an editor you can hire to help you with a revise or resubmit or help you interpret comments from agents and editors? I've received two revise and resubmits from agents so far (and one editor was also generous enough to give me a lot of comments) on my manuscript. They're helpful comments, insightful, and I can sort of see a pattern emerging BUT it doesn't really help me the revision itself because my main problem is I can't seem to figure out exactly what to do or where to start revising. Does that make sense? I feel like I'm simultaneously overthinking this AND underthinking it. Like, it's super helpful to have feedback that says, eg, "you characters don't know what they want" or "it would be great to see this character and that character be more opposed to each other", but it doesn't really help me figure out how to do this. Also, this is a book that's already been rewritten and edited quite extensively over a few years, and yet it keeps yielding comments like "we're interested BUT we'd like to see x, y, and z". I feel like I need someone to help me craft a revision plan around these comments, one that I can follow. Does such a thing exist?

Your first question about hiring someone to interpret comments is easy: don't do it. It's like hiring someone to figure out why your boyfriend left you. The only thing that matters here is the agent/editor is saying no. Revise and resubmit is not yes.

What you're asking for (it doesn't really help me figure out how to do this) is a checklist or directions on how to fix your ms. There isn't one. Learning how to write a good compelling novel is something you learn by doing. It's the ONLY way you learn. Sure you can pick up some tricks along the way from craft books, and watching the masters at work in their books, but that's the most help you're going to get.

Consider the two examples you've used: "your characters don't know what they want" or "it would be great to see this character and that character be more opposed to each other"

Go back to books you've read and loved. Do you know what the character wants? HOW did you learn it?  How did the author show it? Study books that work to see how yours doesn't.

Study how the writers of your favorite book show conflict. Are there some books where the conflict seems tepid? What is missing from that book?

Often bad, or unsuccessful books are just as illuminating as the good ones. Great authors make it look easy. The big splats show you that it really really isn't.

I can tell you what's wrong in any given book: lack of world building, slow pacing, too much set up, no plot, but the writer is the one who has to build the world, pick up the pace, start the story in the right place, and figure out what's at stake. 

I sense your frustration here. It feels like Yes is so close but just out of reach.

And I'm really sorry to say this again, but there are no short cuts here. You simply have to write your way to a publishable book.

It's clear you've got some serious skills already if you're getting requests.
You're playing JV basketball.
You have to figure out what you need to get to the varsity league.

Start with a reading binge, and your writer's notebook close at hand.
Treat yourself to a new notebook and a new pen if that will give you a sense of starting out fresh. Take cookie breaks.
Take walks.

Feed the kids if they insist, but honestly, letting them figure out how to work the barbeque is a good idea, don't you think?

Sunday, September 23, 2018

So, how's your Sunday going?

Me, I'm lying in a dark room with a cold cloth, clutching a bottle of Dr. Nostrum's SureFire, Garundamnteed Extra Potent CureAll For That What Pains You Elixir for this head ache.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

So, now that I'm published, what blogs should I read?

I've been a long time follower of both of your blogs, and I've even emailed you in the past thanking you for the help since it was instrumental in my publishing success. So, here is my question.

I've continued reading both of your blogs, but do you have any suggestions for blogs to follow once you've managed to get your book published? I love your blogs because in a lot of ways they taught me how NOT to make a fool of myself while pursuing publishing. Now I need to know how NOT to make a fool of myself once I actually have a few books on the shelves.

(As a long time blog reader, I've obviously read Dana Kayes book because if you give advice I know enough to follow it, but I'm wondering if there is a blog equivalent?) 

I'm not a reliable source here cause I don't read much other than client blogs, and Instagram cat pictures.

But my guess is that readers of this blog might have some good ideas!

Readers, help a writer out, will ya?

Friday, September 21, 2018

I cut 70K, can I requery

Is it okay to query the same agents who rejected you if you make significant changes to the novel (though the title is the same)? If so, should I mention that I've queried them before but that now the novel has been restructured?

In more detail, I queried with a science fiction novel that was 195,000 words and got form rejections. I've since edited it and restructured it to 125,000 and am unsure how to go about sending queries to the same agents with the assumption that the word count was what led to the rejections.

You should start with the agents you haven't queried before.

While I think you're right to guess that word count was an instant pass, you don't know for sure.

If you do requery, mention this is a slimmed down version of an earlier query. You don't need to use "that you passed on" in this query, cause if you're querying now I can figure that out.

What you haven't realized yet though is if the ONLY problem was word count, a savvy agent would likely have said that. "This is a terrific concept, and good if wordy first pages but you need to chop 50K" kind of thing. Of course, some less-savvy agents (ahem) might reject without actually looking at the writing or thinking about the plot.  I've requested and READ novels of 150K in the past. But I've also sent a lot of writers packing when they told me the word count was 200K+.

Most recently I ran into a nice fellow at #WDC18 who had north of 200K, and would not be persuaded it was too much, because "an editor" told him the novel was great.  I did ask if the editor accompanied that assessment with an offer of publication (no, she did not) but I don't think he got that message.

Back to you though: Before you query, make sure your query is polished up. The QueryShark archives will help you avoid some very common stumbling blocks.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

I really want your novel to be fabulous

We spend a lot of time here talking about things that don't work, and ways writers shoot themselves in the foot, and all the (many MANY) ways things can go sideways in querying and publishing.

I think it's time for a reminder that I really hope your novel is fabulous.
I'm cheering for you; rooting for you; hoping hoping hoping.

When I request a full, I'm excited to read it.
When I start in, my one hope is this book will be so amazing I'll want to sign it immediately.

A lot of times that doesn't happen.
But I ALWAYS start out with that high hope.

Sometimes I get the feeling that writers think I sit down at my desk, scowling, squinty-eyed, just looking for ways to say No NO NO! A misplaced comma, a homonym. One mistake and that's all she wrote.

That is 100% NOT true.

I sit down at my desk. I open your manuscript. I adjust the screen to 125% or 150%. I get out a pen and notepaper.

I start reading. And hoping.

When it doesn't work, as it often doesn't, I'm really disappointed.

I've had to pass on a couple of things recently that I really really had high hopes for. I know it's crushing news for you, but please don't ever think it was anything but distressing for me either.

And yes, it's worse for you cause I just move on to the next whereas you are left wondering what the hell went wrong, but let's all realized passes aren't fun for either of us.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

How long do they have their claws in me?

I parted ways with my agent a couple of years ago. I later found out some of the places they had claimed they had submitted the manuscript to never received it and a few editors asked me to resubmit the MS. One of the publishers is now quite excited by it. If an offer comes through, and the publisher wants me to work with an agent, then I will probably approach new agents to see if they are interested. But what happens with my previous agent? The agreement I signed says I will have to contact them to negotiate a commission to any publisher they submitted the work to, and they told me as much themselves. However, there's a few points...
1. The publisher who is now interested has a new editorial director, to whom I submitted the manuscript exclusively, the previous editor having left the company. I have no idea if my former agent sent the manuscript to that previous editor, though others in the same submission claimed they never received it. So technically my former agent may not have submitted to this company, though I won't be able to prove that.

2. I think there's usually a cap of 6 months to 12 months on this commissions maximum. My agreement indicates no such cap and seems to imply it's indefinite. It's been over 12 months.

3. The manuscript has been heavily rewritten and retitled since being submitted.

4. I am based in the UK, my former agent is in NYC, so not sure how that would work legally. I think the agreement is under NY law, whatever that means.

So, based on all of this, my question is, will I have to pay my former agent a commission or not? And if so, how big a percentage? Someone suggested I contact the agent and see if they will waive the commission, but I don't see them doing that. Someone else said to take the offer, say nothing, and wait to see what happens, but I'm not sure what I would do if this agent came looking for a commission. Any advice here would be appreciated. It's not that I'd be against paying a commission of some sorts but given a lot of the shoddy work and ethics this agent engaged in, I don't think they're entitled to one. But I'm not sure where I stand on that and have been weary to open any contact with the agent, as I feel intimidated.

Contract law varies by state, so absent language in your author agency agreement that says how long they have their claws into you, state law will govern.

Whether the editorial director changed, or the manuscript changed is not material here. The former agent submitted the work to the publishing company.

However, the agent will have to offer proof of that so you should hang on to the emails that said the publisher didn't receive it.

You would do well to buy an hour of time from a publishing attorney to ask for New York law on how long your former agent can claim commission on something.

What you need to remember is it will have to be MORE profitable for the agency to take you to court than not. If this book goes in a big sale, you're much more likely to hear from ExAgent than if it goes in a small sale. And it if does well, or godhelpus, gets made into a movie, well, stock up on carrion, cause the vultures will soon be upon you.

Ignoring this is not the best choice. Getting this sorted out before there's money involved is ideal.

Getting some advice and clarification from someone who has read your agency agreement and is familiar with New York state contract law is a better choice.

Takeaway for other writers:
make sure your author agency agrement specifies how long the agency can claim commission if you part ways and the book gets sold by someone else.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

2 R&Rs but no offer

I've been closet writing for a few years and finally felt ready to query. I received an R&R and after months of revisions sent it back. The agent was happy with the changes, but requested a second R&R with new notes and several back and forth discussions about them. The agent rejected my second round of revisions, stating we didn't "share the same vision" (What does that really mean? Is that a polite way to say "your revisions sucked?").

I know this road is full of rejection and there will be plenty more to come, but the blow seems a lot harder to take after 2x R&Rs. I've got some fulls out with other agents and each rejection seems to confirm that I've tripped on my hamster wheel and am doomed to keep tumbling until the wheel stops or I'm thrown off.

Did I screw up? Since I can't afford a blood thirsty outside editor and have exhausted my betas (old and new), do I let this one go and query something else? What if the problems I can't see in this manuscript just carry over to anything new (or is this TYFATKYFW and I should just shut up and learn to drink bourbon write?)

Any advice appreciated.

On the Hamster Wheel of Death. 

What does share the same vision mean? It means different things to different agents. When I've used it it generally means that Ive tried to stuff a novelist into a category I want and things haven't gone well.

With non-fiction it can mean that the author and I disagree about what the story is.

In other words, it's a bullet dodged, because the last thing you want is an agent thinking your book is X when you think it's Y.

Now, it can also be softspeak for you didn't nail the revisions.  Some of the ways that can happen is when I say "you need to fix X and apply it to other places in the ms" and the author fixes X and nothing else.

Things like "pick up the pacing" doesn't mean speed up the action at the end; it can also mean get to the point more briskly.  Fix one, but not the other and after two revisions, the agent now understands you can't integrate instructions, and says "done."

Revising is an art form just like writing. It's harder cause it's thinking about the entire manuscript, and thinking about every word and every piece of punctuation all at the same time.  It's keeping pace and rhythm in mind, all while you're trying to twist the plot. It's knowing you have to lay in clues in chapter three that bloom into plot points in chapter twenty seven.

Writing is chess.
Revising is three dimensional chess.

I'm going to take a wild guess here and say you need to keep writing, but move on to a new project for the time being. Often you need to write your way to a publishable novel, and it takes a couple finished novels to get there. Almost every client I have will tell me about the novels safely tucked under the bed, never to see the light of day. Or, when you pour enough liquor into them, the novels that DID see the light of day in an agent's inbox, and were (rightfully) quickly shown the door.

I think you'd also benefit from a regular critique group rather than just beta readers.  You can find those both online and in person. Reading someone else's work (like reading published novels) is one very good way to learn what doesn't (or does!) work. And  having to talk about it in a cogent, helpful way is going to be very useful to you as well as the other writer. 

Monday, September 17, 2018

Building a co-career

So, I've written a manuscript. Actually, we've written a manuscript, and now my co-author and I are looking to start establishing a website and social media presence like good little not-yet-published authors, during our break before we roll up our sleeves and eviscerate our drafts.
We've been writing together for a long time, really enjoy working together, and have plans for plenty more collaboration in future. We've talked about it and neither of us is interested in working alone. It seems to us to be a bit redundant to try to each set up our own website.

Would it be very strange to set up a shared website? If we do, is it a better move to brand ourselves as AandB or to pick a singular pen-name to represent our duo act?

We've seen your post about having a collaboration agreement and of course any shared identity would have to fall under such an agreement - is there anything else you'd find reassuring to see covered when presented with our Tandem Hamster Wheels in a professional context?

The question you need to answer is how you want to present your author self: as one or two people. Neither is the better choice from my perspective, but I'm not the one to ask. Ask the people who do this. (The best source of information on a topic is someone actually doing the thing you're wondering about!)

To that end: find some writers working as a team and see what they say. Most likely it's a question they get asked in interviews all the time.

Here are some names to start you off:
Charles Todd
Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
Sparkle Abbey

Perri O'Shaughnessy
Philip Lawson
PJ Parrish

PJ Tracy
Renee Patrick

Once you decide if you're one or two people in the eyes of the world, you'll know if you need one or more websites etc. You'll know if you want one name or two.

None of this will make a difference to me when I read your query. The only thing I will insist on is knowing what you want me to call each of you, and that you both are on all the email/phone conversations about the business end of things.

You may want to set up a business name to handle the oodles of incoming cash that's sure to arrive, and pay the business expenses associated with this venture. Transparent bookkeeping is essential.

And just think, you'll always have someone to eat breakfast with at conferences and conventions!

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Am I one and done?

Have I already used up my only shot?

A year ago I published my first novel with a small press. I am 60 and didn’t start writing seriously until ten years ago. I queried two previous novels and got a few requests, but nothing stuck. Through a series of contacts and coincidences starting with an online course I took, I got the opportunity to publish this one. Since I’m not getting any younger, I took it. I thought it would be (and was) a great compromise between endless agent querying and self-publishing, and I spent a small inheritance on a publicist and promotion. Despite some high-profile mentions in summer reading recommendations and reviews to die for (just not many of them), it hasn’t sold well.

I have another novel completed, edited, and ready to query. But am I wasting my time? Is this published book the end? If I query and don’t mention it, any agent worth the title will find it anyway. And obviously it is my main writing credit. I am an academic editor by profession.

I’m preparing psychologically for this shot to be my last one if necessary, but since I have another completed novel, one partly written, and outlines for two others I’d like to keep going. But I would feel bad taking the time away from other things if it’s going nowhere.

I love the blog although I just lurk. I learn so much. I don’t write in the genres you represent, so I have never queried you but find your take on the business to be smart and sensible. So much advice in this business is contradictory.

This isn't going to be advice about business but about life: Do what you love.

If you love to write novels, do it.

But if you feel like writing without being published would "take time away from other things" that you'd find more spiritually satisfying, then maybe it's time to have a real heart to heart with yourself about what you want your life to be about.

None of us are getting any younger (although some people it seems do not actually grow up).

I know that I feel out of sorts and cranky if I haven't tackled a blog post or a queryshark entry in any given day. I feel very fortunate to have a community of readers here that both torment me and contribute in valuable ways. Without them (and you, without the readership you desire) I'm not sure
how satisfying it would be to write this.  Thus, figure out what brings you the most joy.

And on the business side of things, mention your earlier book. It got good reviews. We all understand that some books do not get the readership they deserve.  We've all relaunched writing careers for one client or another.

I believe in trying rather than not, but I also believe there is no failure in electing to do something else.

Let your joy show you the right path.