Monday's blog post on whether reviewing books would hurt a writer's chance to connect with an agent brought up something I had not considered previously: MB Owen wrote
"Do you review as a Reader (taste) or a Writer? (technique)."
I think that's an interesting distinction. I like to think of myself as a reader first, everything else second, but when I don't like a book, it's often for some bad technique like plot holes or raging black stallions being suddenly rideable by naked titian-haired virgins (thank Julie Weathers for that hilarity.)
The books not to my taste are often the books I don't read at all (books on child abuse etc.) I'm trying to think of a book that I've read recently that just didn't appeal to me at all on a taste level and I'm drawing a blank.
A Valez asked a good question in the comments column: "Would any of this apply to simply rating a book (through the Goodreads star system)? I don't write reviews, but I almost always rate them. Would an agent really care if I had one-stared one of their client's books?"
Oh hell YES I'd care! And the problem is that simply rating with stars doesn't even explain the reason. I would just assume you are dunderhead with no taste of any kind. (Yes, I can be a little over the top on these matters.)
Ardenwolf made a good point: "Imagine being a literary agent. You look someone up, and you find tons and tons of nasty, scathing reviews that blast the author and the author's work." If I do see your Goodreads profile and there are a lot of nasty, scathing reviews even if not of my clients, I'm going to think twice about working with you. That kind of mind-set is not one I find attractive.
But let's all remember that I do not actively search out reviews on Goodreads or elsewhere if you're querying me. I do not set the Private Detective Shark on your trail to make sure you are properly respectful of all I hold dear. Mostly I just hope you write something so fabulous that I can't wait to start talking about it to other people.
And Terri Lynn Coop pretty much summed up how to write good book reviews: use an alias and talk about the book.
On Tuesday the topic turned to querying a previously published novel without full disclosure. I pretty much had a heart attack about that idea. Lots of Capital Letters Were Involved.
What was really interesting was that most of the ensuing comments were hilariously, joyously and COMPLETELY off topic. In other words, the best kind.
First, it seems as though there's a start time for comments since Colin was tapping his toe, waiting for Susan who apparently has been watching Downton Abbey until the wee hours.
DLM mentioned we need a new label for questions like this. I rather like her suggestion: Query Shenanigans. She also confessed she is an "unrepentant fan of a certain trash TV program even I can't name because it's that shameful. :)" Which of course makes me intensely insanely curious what it could be?
And of course, as Terri Lynn Coop pointed out Julie Weathers wins the internet for her summing up the blog topic:
It's kind of like saying you'll volunteer to be the virgin sacrifice to save the village even though you did it with Eddie Finklebottom once. It wasn't very good, so that really doesn't count, does it?
Which was followed by Donnaeverhart asking: "all I want to know at this point is, does Eddie Finklebottom know Felix Buttonweezer?" and that made me laugh so loud I think I scared the pigeons on the window sill.
DLM told us "I've been clicking the profiles of all the users I don't know as well, and saving those who have blogs" which reminded me to tell you that having contact info for your commenting name is really important. On occasion, I remove comments made by regular posters. I WILL email to let you know why if I have your email address. A lot of you are contest winners, so I have emails from you, but if I don't, I click on your profile. You should be reachable for lots of reasons, just add this one to your list.
Between the weather, the cats, and the nuts (both human and food) Tuesday's was a comment string for the ages.
On Wednesday I used an email to talk about speculative fiction and why I don't represent it. And that pretty much sent everyone into an apoplexy when I said "just ignore category, send everything." It was really rather fun to see you guys work yourselves up into a lather.
Colin's courtroom drama had a couple lines that I think I need to tattoo somewhere. This is one of them:
DENA: How do you explain, Ms. Shark-for-brains, the sudden spike the number of queries submitted to you over the last month?
QOTKU: I don't know. My charm? My people skills?
****is this akin to my dear grandpapa running down the entire roster of loinfruit names (including beloved hounddogs, now dead) before getting to the grandkids, and even then maybe mixing up which actual J I was? Ie: a goodly roster of lovely folks.
Jenz said "So all this time, as I've been hunting for books with sci-fi elements but set in the contemporary world, Janet has been handling them and hiding them under the thriller label." Yup, guilty. Start with Patrick Lee's The Breach series and then try Jeff Somers' Avery Cates series. Patrick's new series starts with RUNNER, and Jeff's new series is WE ARE NOT GOOD PEOPLE. That should keep you reading for a nice long time. And yes, I love those books with a passion that makes that untamed black stallion look like a pony ride in the park.
And Colin's punch line "Or just query Janet. She'll take anything. ;)" reminded me of this great ad.
RE Journey asked "I did query Janet during a Chum Bucket, with a lovely rejection saying "DO query onward." (Yes the "DO" was capitalized). I have fretted over this. Is it a typo or strong encouragement that my ramblings could be something..."
Which of course is highly insulting to think that I, ME, the Queen of the Known Universe would have a typo, GADZOOKS, a typo!!! in any of my emails to writers. Heaven forfend. *swims off in a huff*
In other words, don't assume it's a typo if it's encouraging or I will come to your house and beat you over the head with Amy's nuts(which now include melons, so this is a threat of epic proportion. Or epic fantasy, you choose.)
On Friday the topic was lack of communication from an agent to a prospective client. I suggested the writer keep querying but also not just write off the prospective agent. We're all behind, all the time, and some of us have learned (the hard way) to keep people posted on that kind of thing.
Dena mentioned "According to the CA state bar, the number one complaint the public has against lawyers is “my lawyer never communicates with me.”" Years ago I heard that the number one reason patients sued their doctors for malpractice was that the doctor didn't talk to them about problems they were having with treatment/procedures or wouldn't answer their questions.
Many of you took me to task for not recognizing that the agent missing phone calls was a bad sign this early in the relationship. As Julie Weathers pointed out "some time back [Janet} mentioned this is a wooing period. When the agent has decided they want the client and are putting their best foot forward. Am I dreaming this? Anyway, if this is their best foot, what happens later when they aren't wooing?"
Julie's not dreaming, I did say that. And it should be true, but I just hate to have a writer slam a door when she doesn't have to. More than once I've gotten an exasperated email from a non-client writer who wonders if her agent is dead/fled/taking vows at the local convent, only to have the situation resolve nicely with a phone call.
Jennifer R. Donahue gets a gold star for getting "murder of crows" into a blog comment.
On Friday the blog post was on whether to sell a second book to a small publisher or wait for "something better"
Colin Smith wrote the best description of agent versus non-agent and I'm going to steal it shamelessly and hope I remember to credit him for it when I use it from now on:
From my reading (not from experience) I would liken the difference between being agented and being unagented to traversing the jungle with or without a native guide. With a native guide you're not as likely to get lost, bitten, or attacked, and the guide will also be able to point out things along the way you may not have noticed on your own. On the other hand, without a guide, you're free to take your own path, you can detour and perhaps see things the guide might not have thought you would want to see (or maybe missed), and you get all the credit for making it through. Without a guide you have to be more savvy and you probably work and worry a bit more, but you control your journey. With a guide, you feel safer in the hands of someone who knows the terrain, but you lose some sense of control.
Pros and cons. It's really about career choices, not good vs. bad.
CarolynWith2Ns (and some odd items in her basement) revealed her strategy for connecting to an agent:
Anyway, I have held out for years for an agent and unless I kidnap and hide one in my basement I'm about ready to go small-press or on my own, double ugh. So the question is what do I feed the agent in my cellar, Doritos and whiskey or kale and Icelandic glacier water?
which is a very strange question because everyone knows lettuce is the food of the Devil, and that includes kale. Since we already have glacier water here, I'm going with whisky and Doritos.
Donnaeverhart demonstrated her desire to join Colin Smith in the The Great Pit of Carkoon by just mentioning Lima beans.
On Saturday the topic was what do you need for your second book if an editor buys the first book which quickly became a discussion of pantsers versus plotters. It looks like a bunch of you are pantsers. I heard Jeff Somers give a GREAT talk on using BOTH strategies to get over plotting bumps in the road. He did it for Writers Digest about a year ago. I have no idea if they recorded it and you can access it, but if you can, DO. Jeff may sound like a drunken bum at times but he's hiding a very keen mind and writing strategy behind that liquor cabinet.
And donnaeverhart wondered how agents "query" publishers or editors: Or maybe calls them and shrieks, "you gotta read this NOW!"
Generally I don't use the word query about what I do for sending client's work to editors I use the word pitch.
I write a bunch of pitch letters just like you write a bunch of queries. I revise it, say it out loud, recite it in to my phone so I can hear it read back to me on voice mail, and then I call editors and give them a quick phone pitch. Then I send the longer pitch by email.
So far, so good.
I have indeed called favorite editors and said "read this now or die" but I have a hard time not bursting into gales of laughter when I do.
And the cat and dog pictures were fabulous. Just the thing for a snowy afternoon.
Over on my Facebook page, I posted a link from the Bloomsbury Review with a list of words that have become obscure or outdated.
I'm pretty sure you'll see one or two of those in upcoming flash fiction contests! Slugabed seems to be the one most people know. I was in fact surprised to see it listed as outdated. It's a word that I use a LOT here, particularly on cold winter mornings.
A Facebook post that generated quite a big of discussion was the writer who "personalized" her queries but then just forwarded each one to the next person on her list. I'd never seen anything like it before. It was horribly hilariously wrong. I sure hope she figures it out soon.
This week I also read the new Lyndsay Faye novel The Fatal Flame. On-sale is May 2015. I'm a drooling devoted Lyndsay Faye fan as you should be too, and this one does not disappoint in any way.
I also finished Cop Town by Karin Slaughter, nominated for Best Novel at the Edgars. This is an absolutely stunning novel. All crime writers should read this. It evokes a specific place and time better than almost anything I can remember. The plot moves right along too. My hope is that Stuart Neville wins the Edgar cause I know him and adore him, but Cop Town is fierce competition.
I also read Uncle Janice by Matt Burgess and it too is a book every crime writer should read. It was pitched as a cross between Catch-22 and The Wire, which is a terrible set of comps until you realize it's exactly right. There's almost no plot to this book but I couldn't put it down.
And for those of you reading this who have manuscripts waiting for me to read, you might wonder why I'm reading these other books and not your manuscript. That's a fair question. I need to read published books, and particularly books that are really good so I can recalibrate my eye after reading a lot of manuscripts on submission or, worse, queries. If the only thing I read are submissions I lose perspective. It took me a LONG time to learn that let me tell you.
Same with writing this blog and posting on Facebook. Sometimes people say "how do you find the time" and/or "shouldn't you be working?" Writing this blog has taught me a lot about good writing, how to get better, how to be clear and how to revise (oh god, some of those older posts!) All of that is very useful for my "real" work with authors. Besides, the comments column is the best part of my day. As for Facebook, it's a whole lot easier to help writers build a fan base of readers on Facebook if you've actually tried to do that yourself. Knowing how hard it is to build platform is a pretty key part of my job.
And just cause it's so weird, here's my favorite news story this week.
Next week's forecast is for more cold and more snow. I'm seriously considering moving in with Amy Schaefer, coconuts or no.
|Why I am not there now, I do not know.|