Monday, March 09, 2015

Rant: So, what exactly do you do, really?

Agent Lovely wants a marketing proposal and I'm confused.
I wrote the book--memoir--already, and that's what Agent Lovely is representing. She's asked me to create basically an entire book proposal minus the chapter summaries and sample chapters. (Thankya Jesus I've spent the last few years building "platform").

But it feels weird. Isn't any of this Agent Lovely's job, or her intern's job? (1)  I'm currently in a residency with Famous Best-Selling Memoirist, and when I asked her(2), FBSM said that sounded weird, that marketing proposals are for when you haven't written the book yet and want to sell based on a sample and platform. FBSM's position is that agents make phone calls and pitch the book based on the writing. (3)

I made the proposal, subtitling it "Let's Market, Bitches," which may be slightly passive-aggressive on my part but also reflects the voice of the manuscript. While making it, I realized it's probably better I did, because I have enough experience writing PR to do a very good job.
Now I'm wondering: I have radio appearances and social media and TV appearances and I write a mean press release, and I'm compiling all of this myself…so am I paying 15% so that someone with connections will make phone calls? (4)

How much of my own work should I be doing here? I was already planning to market as much as I can after (hopefully) selling, do I have to do a big chunk of the selling part, too? Am I just being ungrateful here? Is this all part of the strange new world of No-One-Actually-Knows-What-Sells-Books-Anymore? (5)

Let's start at the beginning.

(1) Is writing a marketing statement your agent's (or sweet mother of god, what the hell are you thinking?) her intern's job?  No, it isn't. It's your job.  You spent a year building platform (good!) and you know which people know about you and how to reach them.. You as much as said so in the next sentence.

Your publisher will know how to reach general book buyers, but if you've got niche interest readers for your book, you'll be the one to know about this.

Your agent's job is to sell the book. Your job is to write it.  Marketing plans are an essential part of the non-fiction pitch even though memoir is sold like a novel (ie finished when pitched)

(2) There are few things that drive me crazier than people asking for advice from folks who are not suited to offer it by virtue of their experience being limited or out of date. Famous Best Selling Memoirist doesn't need a marketing plan  because she is 1. Famous 2. Bestselling. And if her first book was sold more than five years ago, her experience doesn't apply to you.

Nothing has changed more in the last ten years than how books are sold to the general public. Thank you Amazon, thank you meta data, thank you social media.  FINDING your reader is an enormous challenge. Famous Best Selling has already found her readers.

And the fact that she didn't tell you to talk to your agent chaps my fin. But then we all love to be asked for advice it's true.

(3) Famous is an idiot if she thinks that's what agents do. Maybe that's what her agent does. If that's true, she has a bad agent.   A competent agent is going to do a lot more than make phone calls to sell your work. And that's just the start of things.  Negotiate the contract, make sure the editor gets an editorial letter to you on time, monitor the production schedule so you're not looking at the cover six days AFTER it went to the printer. Audit the royalty statements. Explain the royalty statements to you. And that's just the stuff I did Friday.

The fact that often times we DO write the proposal, or pieces of it, does not mean it's our job. It means we're willing to help you do yours. 

(4) You're not paying anything yet. Let's all remember that your agent doesn't see a dime until you do. If you honestly feel like your agent isn't going to be worth the money, do yourself a favor and split now. There is nothing worse than a client who does not value the service provided.  It's like dating someone who thinks going out with you is marginally better than staying home alone and watching Friends on NetFlix.

(5) Yes you are. And you should knock it off. 

Let's review:

1. Your agent will be working with you for your entire career, or the very least the sale and publication of your book. Generally you are NOT going to pay her for the value of her time. You're going to get a bargain by giving her a percentage of what you earn, and only AFTER you see money too.

2. Don't ask for advice or take advice from people who have outdated experience, or a wildly different experience on how things "should be going."

3. Talk to your agent.  If you seriously think she should be writing your book proposal tell her so. If you think you can save money by pitching directly, go right ahead.

If one of my clients had written this question, I'd fire them on the spot. I can't stand working with people who don't value the service I provide, and life is too short to do that any longer than it takes to write a termination letter. There are a LOT of people out there with terrific projects.  If you don't think I'm worth it, they sure as hell do.


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

There’s a term my brother used to use when he was in the Air Force, “barracks lawyer”. Guys would be getting Dear John letters from wives seeking divorces and there was no end to the advice being given by guys who had gone through the same thing. Obviously the advice was based on experience not relevant to the current situation.

Because I am published on a regular basic, (column with a deadline), writers ask my advice all the time. I steer clear of that slippery slope. What is pertinent to me is not necessarily right for them.

I do always offer two pieces of important advice though.
1.Double space, Times New Roman.
2.Don’t take advice from anyone. Stay informed (read this blog) and seek your own way.

ProfeJMarie (Janet Rundquist) said...

It's like this author hasn't done ANY internet research about publishing (although s/he has figured out how to get an agent, so that's something).

S/he certainly hasn't been reading your blog, that's for sure.

Susan Bonifant said...

Well, SOMEONE has certainly forgotten his/her woodland creature days.

No, seriously, it reminds me that reasonable people can be bothered by wrong-headed questions if the influence of wrong-headed peers is strong enough.

But Jesum Crowe as we say around here, asked and answered! I know that "fire them on the spot" response would have had me quaking in my slippers.

Colin Smith said...

I will give our memoirist credit for asking QOTKU before doing anything s/he will live to regret. That shows there's at least some kind of publishing intuition that says "maybe you ought to check that thought before you go further." All the best to you!

It's been a busy morning here at Carkoon setting up the branch office. My typewriter arrived, and Christine is just setting up the fax machine (though I think she's having trouble finding the phone line. I'll have Kitty put a call in to AT&T... assuming we have cell phone service).

I just wanted to take this opportunity to let you know that we here at FPLM-Carkoon (that's Fine Print Literary Management-Carkoon Division--though the way my typewriter's behaving at the moment, Fuzzy Print would be more appropriate) are embracing the philosophy of our mentor and founder, and accepting any and all queries, proposals, spirits, and former US Army Military Police Corps Majors. So please send your queries this way. I'm particularly interested in historical suspense thrillers, lima bean mysteries, and kale memoirs, and LynnRodz is reading Dino Porn (but we'll find something useful for her to do).

Address your queries along with a suitable denomination of the currency of your choice to:

Third Cave Past the Waterhole

And remember: don't mess with the Minion. I haven't fed him his Meow Mix this morning. :)

Dena Pawling said...

Altho not exactly the same because my firm doesn't work on commission/contingency, I've had similar conversations with clients.

Client: Why should I pay you $300 to negotiate and draft a settlement agreement? Isn't that part of your job?

Lawyer: Because I'm saving you a $15,000 jury trial [minimum] and yes, it IS my job to look out for your best interest.

"While making it, I realized it's probably better I did, because I have enough experience writing PR to do a very good job. Now I'm wondering: I have radio appearances and social media and TV appearances and I write a mean press release, and I'm compiling all of this myself…so am I paying 15% so that someone with connections will make phone calls?"

This is like the best of both worlds--I'm so jealous! The writer is tackling that aspect [and apparently doing a bang-up job], and the agent will not only ALSO tackle that aspect, he/she will be doing other things like Janet mentioned. And, based on the experience writing PR, obtaining TV appearances, etc, this writer has connections/industry knowledge. It may not be in the publishing industry, but perhaps the writer just needs reminding that his/her experience and connections are worth something, and so are the agent's. Don't underestimate the value of that.

Homeowner: Why am I paying you $300 to hit a pipe with a hammer?
Plumber: You're paying me $50 for one hour of my time, including travel, and $250 to know where to hit.

Sounds like this memoir will do well. Good luck!

And now, to experience one of the many things I dislike about Daylight Savings Time. I'm back to leaving for work in the dark :(

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Ha! Thank you, Colin! Love the stories that are told here.

Yup, a bit quaky in my shoes after reading QOTKU "fire them on the spot." I'll be sure to have my crit pardners sniff out any arrogance that might've snuck by before sending out any of my queries or questions. Though I can't imagine that happening. Too much woodland creature in me yet. Guess that's a good thing.

Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Carkoon wife: "The blood's boiling."
Carkoon husband: "Throw in the kale, be back in 10."
Carkoon wife: "Are the sharks biting?"
Carkoon husband: "Taking the bitches to market..."

And here's a link to Notes From the Slushpile on how to be human and not a brand.

Why Most Authors don't need a Facebook page

Julie Weathers said...

I try to remain civil here, and Miss Janet can delete this if she wants, but there are few things that irritate me more than someone saying, "What's up, bitch?"

I am not your bitch and I will tell you so. If you call me that again, I will knock you down or at least make a solid attempt. I know it's cool, but I hate that crap.

Years ago, I stopped to fill up the pickup. All the lanes were being used except the far outside lane. However, the inside pumps were empty. Hallelujah! Except a little wanna be gang banger had parked his low rider angled in front of the door, blocking the fire lane and gas pumps.

As if that wasn't bad enough hes got his rap music going, "Gonna kill tha m effing pig, gonna kill that cop, blood gonna run, pigs gonna run, eff yeah, pigs gonna run."

And I've got my little boy with me having to listen to that trash because he's got it cranked up as high as it will go and his windows down so he can listen to his music while he's in the store.

I park at the far pump and hobble in because I'm on a sprained ankle and GB is sprawled across the counter, flirting with the clerk.

I say, "Do you really think anyone else wants to listen to that trash?"

He straightens up and bows his chest at me. "You betta shut your mouth, stupid white c***. Effing b****, you know who I am?"

That's when I doubled up my fist, hit him and knocked him through the candy display. He was the candy man, apparently. He landed on his butt and candy went flying everywhere.

Instantly remorseful, I held out my hand, walked up to him and started praying for him. "The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face shine upon you...."

His eyes went big. He scrambled, and crawled, crab-like as fast as he could out the door, looking over his shoulder, probably afraid I was going to throw holy water on him next. He's was making some threats about his gang was going to get me as he retreated.

I bought my gas and a gallon of milk, apologized to the clerk who was standing slack jawed and left.

I called a policeman friend of mine and asked him how worried I should be about the threat.

Ashley, when he stopped laughing, said, "Oh, trust me. That is one story that will never be told. He's not going to tell anyone a little, old white lady knocked him on his arse through the candy aisle at 7-11."

Anyway, I hate to be called a bitch, I hate being called the c word worse.

Back to the OP.

When I had my grand meeting with the Tor editor, the one who asked me to submit and I never did, (I know, bad woodland creature) we discussed marketing and that was five years ago I believe. It was the Surrey conference where I ditched Janet's master query class because she wouldn't notice me missing. Oops.

TE told me he wanted the book pretty quickly, so we spent the rest of the pitch session discussing word count and marketing. What I could do to improve my appeal to readers. I said I was pretty well-known due to the readership at Speedhorse.

Well, yes, but how many race horse people are going to read fantasy? It doesn't cross over well. Now if you wrote for a gaming magazine or company, that would translate to an audience.

I now write for an indie fantasy gaming studio.

One agency, can't remember who they are and wouldn't name them if I could, has in the submission guidelines if they request, be prepared to also send a marketing proposal. This is for ALL manuscripts.

Remember the scene in Master and Commander when Aubrey looks at the ship model and says, "What a fascinating modern age we live in."?

Some of those tiny woodland creatures out there were around when the dinosaurs roamed the earth. They just learned to adapt to changing times. So must we.

Colin Smith said...

Julie: He may not be sharing that with his GB friends, but we're glad you shared that here. :) If Janet sends to you Carkoon, we have an opening in the PR department... :D

Julie Weathers said...


Yes, I'm very good with people. *rolls eyes*


Colin Smith said...

Julie: Well, we're looking at hiring in the South Pacific. I hear you're particularly good with Aussies...? :)

karenskorner (Karen Nunes) said...

Thank you, Julie. My first laugh of the day!

Anonymous said...

OP here - Hey, I think I come off as a little more ungrateful than I intended here :)

I've read all of Janet's blog. From day one. Along with six other agent blogs, for the past four years. I'm still reading most of them. I've been to major writing conferences. I've read all of Query Shark. I've done the Chumbucket. I've been slowly publishing in literary magazines, a blog, a literary magazine's blog, social media, and as much as I can, giving away all the information that I have to other writers when I meet them in workshops, so that we'll all be better at this.

I'm not operating from total ignorance here. I was blindsided by all the advice about write the memoir, memoir sells like a novel, write the whole book, and then hearing no, you're not done, you still have to make another big proposal. After already sending all of the information in list form in response to a questionnaire from my agent. And after feeling weird, I asked a respected author about it.

Now Famous' agency is a huge multi-media behemoth, so maybe they do things differently there. But it really caught me in the middle to have misgivings, have those misgivings confirmed by a major, respected voice in the field who is *currently my teacher*, and then get ripped apart here for double-checking the information when I didn't know what to do.

I did talk to my agent. And sorry I left this out, but the famous author also told me to ask my agent. I'm asking Janet, too, because her advice has always been spot on for me, and she's always been incredibly generous with it. And I also left out that yes, I know the agent's job is to shepherd me through my writing career and deal with mountains of paperwork forever.

So, mea culpa, consider me spanked. It just sucks to think, oh good, I sent off revisions and they've been accepted and now I can breathe and maintain 'platform' and try to get more small publications while the agent sells the manuscript, and then discover nope, I will never, ever be done. I will never, ever get to breathe or rest. There is no amount of achievement at which you get to even pause.

And I should know this, because my previous career was entertainment.

Thanks :)

PS - Julie, I appreciate your perspective and your very vivid story! Anyone who is really put-off by "bitch" is not going to be the right person to sell my sex-work/depression/bdsm manuscript, so I think it will be a useful screening mechanism, and I apologize for offending you.

Susan Bonifant said...

Someone said:

"House done, life over."

I don't think there's a "done" to this, I'm not sure there should be.

I get it, I get it. But when I think back on times when I had to go back at something, I don't remember the frustration, I remember how something improved that needed to.

Colin Smith said...

whipchick: This is why on the few occasions the question of the day has been one of mine, I've been quick to comment and own the question. Our comments can be a lot harsher when we don't know the person to whom they are directed. And, as I said in my initial comment, kudos to you for asking. We should always assume the person asking has at least sense enough to ask an expert when in doubt. :)

Julie Weathers said...


You didn't offend me because you didn't call me a bitch. I realize it's cool. Everyone's hopped on the eff bomb train like white on rice, also.

I just don't like it. I'm an old fogey. I like manners, and men who understand you don't curse in front of ladies, and hold doors open for them, and all that old fashioned stuff. 'Twere it up to me, I'd have a painted lady with a past house and sit in my wicker rocker on the porch drinking sweet tea while I ponder some fantasy plot or another, then I'd retire to my fainting couch to write.

No, your bdsm would not appeal to me, but obviously there's a huge market for it.

I have torture in my book. It's not fun. It isn't meant to be. Those are hard times. So, it's not that I'm so fragile I can't stand to think about it. It's just not my thing.

I wish you well with your book. That's a huge accomplishment in itself. You've got an agent, another huge step. I do think you should listen to advice from your agent who is supposed to be your business partner. No one here is your partner.

Julie Weathers said...

Well, and an addendum on that. Of course, the whole purpose of this blog is advice from Janet. I was referring to comments from the shiver, me particularly.

What the fire do I know?

Colin Smith said...

Julie: From your stories and comments, I'll tell you what the Friday you know: a lot worth knowing. :)

Karen McCoy said...

This is an example of a writer not doing their homework or due diligence (or following amazing blogs like this one).

And while most of us won't know everything going in, it's at least diplomatic to ask, rather than demand, when there's a point that needs clarifying.

That aside, I see this all the time in my job--people assume librarianship is easy because they don't see the nitty gritty of what actually goes on.

Like I wish I could really read at my job. When I worked in a public library, I tried reading some of the new acquisitions on the cart, and got reprimanded by a colleague:

"Are you reading!?"

*Sheepishly puts very compelling book back on cart.* ""

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Julie, you are my kind of broad. Hope you don't mind use of the word broad.
I wear it as badge.

Christina Seine said...

Whipchick, I'm going to go out on a limb and say something, and then I am going to retreat to the relative safety of a local bear cave.

As to being ungrateful ... should you be grateful? To your Creator or Higher Power for giving you the talent and perseverance to finish a book, and the good fortune to secure an agent - sure. To your agent? I don't think so.

You and your agent have a *business agreement*. If your intuition is telling you something might be a little off, you have the right to listen to it. As Janet has repeatedly said, we are not beggars. Your agent is not doing you a favor. You have a right to know what your agent is doing as his/her part of the agreement (although I’d certainly advocate knowing the specifics beforehand). I’ve heard a lot of references (among agenty people I respect) to “schmagents” and sub-par agents and it can difficult for anyone who isn’t actually an agent (or a Very Lucky Writer with a Fin-Backed Agent) to know what’s right. Janet points out that “marketing plans are an essential part of the NON-fiction pitch,” but this is a memoir, which is sold like a novel, so I can see room for confusion. It sounds like this might be something your agent has thrown at you after the fact, too (I’m guessing). Anyway, you should be allowed to ask questions and seek reassurance among your peers. And if you haven’t done an extensive amount of research in the past, as some have suggested, at least you’re doing it now, and from an excellent source.

Anyway, good luck to you!

Kelsey Hutton said...

I'll be honest, I didn't realize it was the author's job to create the marketing plan for fiction & memoirs. I mean, I knew that Times Were A-Changin' and authors needed to do more than just type the next bestseller at home (for example, being responsible for their own social media, blogging, reaching out to readers etc), but I guess I didn't realize to what extent.

So fiction authors are responsible for setting up TV/radio interviews, organizing book launches and book tours, sending out ARCs etc? Is it the same for non-American writers (say, from a mid-sized Canadian city in the prairies...ahem) looking to sell in the American market? I imagine it would be even more difficult for the Aussies in our group.

Thanks, as always, for the advice. Best to be prepared!

LynnRodz said...

Whipchick, we learn new things here everyday (Memo to self: never say bitch around Julie.) and Janet thought your question was worth putting on her blog. Besides, it's given us another opportunity to see again what an agent does for us and what we're meant to do for ourselves.

Just this past week I learned that there's such a thing as separate accounting and joint accounting. Kristin Nelson said, if your contract allows joint accounting then "...none of the books earns out until all of the books earn out." If your contract allows separate accounting then "...each book’s earnings apply only to that book’s advance; in other words, if book one earns out, the author begins to earn royalties, even if the subsequent books on that contract have yet to earn out." Who knew? I didn't. Now I would definitely want separate accounting in my contract if/when I got to that stage.

Attention: Writers thinking of querying FPLM-CD, no more Dino Porn queries! It's an automatic rejection unless donuts and/or cookies are sent as well and none of this prepackaged or boxed crap either. A little imagination will go a long way so chocolate chip, peanut butter, and Oreo cookies will be thrown back into the slush pile.

Our head honcho here in Carkoon is a vegetarian health nut, so only fresh ingredients are allowed.

Automatic partials will be requested when accompanied with: Mexican Wedding Cookies, aka Russian Tea Cakes, macarons, and tassies.

Fulls will be requested with: Spitzbuben, Kalacky and Rugelach.

Don't worry about me Colin, I'll be the taste tester and I'll even make the tea. (Yep, I've got the sweetest job in Carkoon!)

Colin Smith said...

As you all know, I'm not an agent, nor am I the son of an agent. Heck, we can't even find the coffee machine here at the Carkoon office. However, from what I've read and observed, here's how things look these days:

1) The agent/publisher has a sphere of influence.
2) The author has a sphere of influence.
3) The agent/publisher sphere of influence is within the industry, and to other parts of the entertainment world.
4) The author's sphere of influence is his/her social media circle as well as IRL friends, family, neighborhood, local bookstores, etc.
5) The agent/publisher will take care of promotion within their sphere of influence (PW announcements, press releases, setting up media interviews, etc.).
6) The author will take care of promotion within his/her sphere of influence (asking the local B&N if they want to do a signing, talking to friends and family about the book, perhaps even arranging local radio spots, setting up cover reveals and online launch events, blog posts, Facebook posts, etc.).

In short, there are places your agent and publisher can reach that you can't, and they take care of those. But likewise, there are places you can reach that are beyond your agent/publisher, so you take care of that.

Is the author left completely out on his/her own with their promotion events? I don't think so. From what I've seen, good agents will turn up to local signing events (especially for debut novelists), and will help the author with their social media promotion. But the author has to do the work, because these platforms are the author's "home turf."

Wiser heads (especially those with sharp teeth and gills) please correct me if I'm wrong.

REJourneys said...

Thank goodness it's a marketing proposal. When I hear marketing plan, I think 50+ page document detailing how the company is going to proceed in the coming year. I've written one before, and reviewed another, and I was starting to wonder if I needed to get to work on the background research of the market.

When I think about getting an agent, I definitely want someone who is ready to climb the Mountain of Publishing with me. We help pull each other up to make it to the top.

I love how creepily timed these posts are because I was thinking about writing a marketing proposal this morning. It's like you can read my mind.

Sorry, nothing of great note here. Not like the new branch office in Carkoon or Julie's story (I have to say it was a good read. It's not acceptable that he said those things to you). Maybe I should apply for a job in Carkoon. I've got entrepreneurship experience.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Well boys and girls I've been writing for well over thirty years. I've got a regular writing gig, written two novels, a memoir and even was paid an advance regarding something for which I put forth no effort, and you know what, I realize I know nothing, absolutely nothing.
After reading the question, the answers and all the posts I have come to the conclusion that the only thing I am qualified to do in Carkoon, is sweep the floors and clean the bathrooms.
But, I will write about my experiences amidst the dust, dirt and self-flushers. It is without a doubt that I can honestly say I will have my audience sitting on the edge of their seats.

Colin Smith said...

2Ns: Apply today. You sound like the kind of Senior Agent we need around here. :D

Colin Smith said...

LynnRodz: Way to go, you found the kettle! We can do without the coffee machine if you can make a decent cuppa. :D

ProfeJMarie (Janet Rundquist) said...

@whipchick: I'm so glad you commented. Also, I apologize for my crabby comment early on. It definitely drifted from how I normally try to behave. I'd delete my comment, but honestly, I'm all for transparency, so it stays and let it be a reminder to me.

Anyway, from what I hear, I might be headed to Carkoon one of these days anyway, and Colin is a good sort who will keep me on a kinder path - only, I hope he will take my recommendation and not use AT&T for our telecommunications provider?

Julie Weathers said...


"so am I paying 15% so that someone with connections will make phone calls?"

I think right there is where the whole thing went off the rails.

"Saying an agent only finds a publisher and negotiates a contract is kind of like saying a spouse just buys you a ring and then hangs out with you until you're dead." ---Barbara Poelle, [amazing] Literary Agent

Karen McCoy said...

Woops, that will teach me to read the comments section more carefully next time. Looks like whipchick is already a loyal reader of the blog *twacks own head*

And the breaths will come, whipchick. If you can find at least 20 minutes a day to allow yourself some brain space, even better. :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks, gang - really appreciate the range of insights! Yeah, I think the issues are

- that it was unexpected
- it was weird to provide all the marketing information some time ago by answering an agency questionnaire (felt like they were going to handle it from there) and then later be asked to format and prepare the information as a document when I didn't know that was coming
- I love and respect my agent, I love and respect the Shark, and I love and respect the author, and at least two of them are telling me conflicting information.

Just trying to build on the research I've done and do all this right. For the record, I did indicate in my original emailed Q that I'm a regular blog reader, a Query Shark reader, and that Janet had given me great Chumbucket advice, and I think that may have been trimmed out for space. So I'm not entirely a clueless idiot expecting the world to do my work :)

Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

I'm with ProfeJMarie,

@Whipchick: I thought about removing my comment, that may have come off as nasty. It was meant as tongue in cheek.

Kudos to you for your confidence. Your memoir sounds like you'll whip up lots of controversy. It's already done that here.

As far as hanging out with VIPs and thinking they know the absolute I agree with Janet. Their experience is not mine. Just because I hang out with painter Farah Atassi doesn't mean I have a painting in the Pompidou's permanent collection. And if my husband hangs with nobel prize winners doesn't mean he can hang an attitude. That's where my reaction came to your saavy question.

@Colin if you need some cartoons 'à la New Yorker' for Carkoon Lit I'll submit.

LynnRodz said...

No worries, Colin, I shared a flat with two guys from Yorkshire. I didn't learn a word of Dutch that year in Amsterdam, but I did learn how to make a good cuppa. I can even make a great pot of tea. (You Brits should call it a potta.)

Angie, please do, and maybe you can lend us a painting or two? I love your work and we desperately need some sprucing up here in the decor department.

Jed Cullan said...

When in doubt, ask. And there's no better place to ask for advice on publishing than Janet's blog. Can't remember who said this: There are naïve questions, tedious questions, ill-phrased questions, questions put after inadequate self-criticism. But every question is a cry to understand the world. There is such thing as a dumb question.

Basically, there is no such thing as a stupid question, just stupid people who won't ask a question that they need answering because they think it might be seen as a stupid question.

Jed Cullan said...

That should have read 'There is no such thing as a dumb question.'


Julie Weathers said...


I deleted my earlier comment because you probably know all this, but it did occur to me you have a pretty unique opportunity.

You've got three pools of experience to draw from. As an experienced sex worker, you could provide some valuable advice to a LOT of romance writers. I don't know if you have a blog or not. If you don't, you might think about writing posts about how to write scene that include ABC or whatever.

Just be sure and label your blog adult so Grandma doesn't go looking for new baseballs for Billy and find something else.

Ellora's Cave has a romance conference with some explicit classes, booths etc to teach romance writers what does and doesn't work. Apparently Tina Engler, founder of Ellora's Cave, spends a lot of time explaining to authors you can't have your heroine in this position regarding a horse unless your hero is very tall. So she sets up sex workshops at her Romanticons.

Now, granted EC and Amazon are tusseling, but EC will most likely survive. There's a huge demand for what she provides.

You could be a hot commodity and your book would most likely fly off the tables.

If I wrote a book about a famous race horse, I'd be combing every contact I had in the racing industry to let them know about it. I'd write magazine articles with little anecdotes that might not have made it into the book. I'd have the book in every race track tack shop and every western store I could get it in.

You already mentioned you're very good at pr, so make it work for you. Use your angles. There has to be some kind of amusing story that might make it into a romance magazine without naming names and getting in trouble.

You dealt with depression. You're dealing with the shivers. How did you do that? Write an article about dealing with depression.

You're in a remarkable position to promote yourself and your book. Who knows? Maybe someday we'll see a line of Whipchick Lipstick.

Ok, now, back to my geriatric spy. Write what you know.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Julie! Totally adding those to the list! It's tough balance to stay literary but also connect to the incredibly valuable communities I'd like to reach. Blogging away :)

Christina Seine said...

Clearly I've been going to all the wrong writers' conferences.

Julie, you are my hero(ine).

lunorama said...

I am intensely uncomfortable with this post and the following comments for so many reasons. I am going to just post a smaller version of my original comment because I normally just lurk here and don't want to invite the wrath of the regulars or anything...

Mainly, I am uncomfortable with this post because it makes me worried for if I ever gain an agent and need to ask a question about my or their role. Will I be chewed out or "fired on the spot" for being such a total clueless noob? It is not anyone's job to hold my hand, but I also second the person who said I do not feel like I should be "grateful" to someone with whom I have a *business arrangement.* Agents are not doing authors a free favor. The caveat that the agent only gets paid if the book sells and that it is a "bargain" for the author struck me as weird -- agents are paid for their work and they do have other clients. It's a business, not a charity, not a "bargain." That method exists for ethical reasons, and I am glad it does. It also keeps authors and agents invested in working together until it sells. I resent the implication that I should...I don't know...feel bad for agents? They do a LOT of work, but they do not take on projects they don't think they can sell (I assume not, anyway) and they are working under the expectation of a payoff, just like the author, so...I don't understand the claim that because they have to wait for the payoff, agents are not paid for their time. It's a quibble over semantics.

If I feel afraid to keep an open line of communication with an agent, that is not a relationship I would want to maintain. I would expect to be able to have an honest conversation about my doubts or questions about the process without being fired on the spot. And I would expect to be able to check outside sources to make sure I was making a good business decision, without being vilified for doing so. Or having a mentor who I asked for advice be called an idiot for not knowing what agents know just because SHE IS NOT AN AGENT. Sorry, that REALLY made me mad. This blog is snarky but that was not snark; that was inappropriate. I see so much casual nastiness directed towards safely anonymous strangers online and I am sick of it. OP was ridiculed for seeking advice from a non-professional -- but when she DID seek advice from a professional, she was told she'd be fired if she asked an agent the same questions. Where the crap ARE we supposed to find these answers, then??? Especially if we're getting a lot of contradictory advice? I know writers must ask a lot of questions that make an agent's eyes practically roll out of their head. But the lose-lose situation here bothers me to no end.

-calms down-

Janet, you are doing us all a favor by answering these questions in your free time and allowing us to respond. (Even when we disagree.) Thank you OP for asking some tough questions, and best of luck to your memoir (it sounds good). Thank you Janet for taking some of your valuable time to answer those questions and run this blog.

Bill Negotiator said...

Lunorama: The OP asked something along the lines of why give 15% to someone to make phone calls. That sounds a smidge insulting. I know the OP said she follows the blog, and maybe it was said in jest, but just about every post showcases the zillion and one fires that Janet puts out. I think you get more handholding with the doltish questions (I've asked my own) if you show respect from the get go and not later on in the comments.

As much as I love this blog (and I do!), if it was the only place where I was getting information about publishing I'd really be a nutter. My in person writer friends keep me sane and understand the context where I'm coming from when I'm indulgent or unrealistic, which is probably often.

It also kind of felt like the OP was complaining about writing the marketing plan. No sweat, I love complaining too. That's why I'm writing a comment. It's just that the OP might be airing those my-agent-gave-me-homework grievances in the wrong forum, a blog operated by agents with, I'm guessing, mostly readers who would chop off a little toe or maybe even an unimportant limb for some excellent representation. But in the forums of Query Tracker or Absolutewrite I could see this getting more love and understanding.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Can't wait to read about this post in the WIR. Have nice day boys and girls. nice.

ProfeJMarie (Janet Rundquist) said...

@lunarama: I appreciate your comment so much. It can be very intimidating to join in on a blog with well-established community who know each other well and have followed both posts and comments for so long - and that is only one reason why I appreciate you stepping into the foray. (BTW, has anyone ever tried to ask a question in tech forums? I challenge us all to do it, and then I think we would then change our tune in how we respond to the questions and comments here.)

Secondly, I admit that seeing Janet say she would "fire" someone on the spot raises my heckles, as I consider the agent-author relationship a partnership... *however*, I know that Janet feels the same way and that she, on other occasions, has probably used the same wording for authors. ie: authors can "fire" their agents. Maybe we can solve semantic problem by saying, "terminate the agreement/contract".

There's a lot to take in with this post, though... if we look at what the OP was whittled down to and what our OP author, whipchick has added, there's a whole lot there that can help everyone calm down.

Colin Smith said...

Lunarama: There is a trust relationship between author and client, and Janet has said time and again how transparent agents should be with their clients. If you want to know what your agent is doing, then you should be able to ask, and your agent should be willing to share. Of course, asking is based on trust. "Where have you submitted my novel this week?" could come off as accusatory or inquisitive depending on tone, phrasing, and the underlying relationship. If you fear your agent will fire you for asking how submissions are going, or how edits are going, then I would suggest there's an underlying problem that needs to be addressed, either with you, your agent, or maybe both.

One thing for certain, if you think your question could be misunderstood, call, don't email. :)