Sunday, April 26, 2015

Week in review April 26, 2015

Last week in the WIR, Jennifer R. Donohue said 
"But really, I want to hear more about the Buttonweezers, et al." 
which reminded me to tell you all about a fabulous moment of query serendipity! I got a query from a writer named Buttonweezer! Spelled differently of course, but still. I fell upon her query with glee and told her of the Buttonweezer clan that lives here on the blog.  Even more interesting: her first name was Janet! This falls under the truth is stranger than fiction category heading!

Dena Pawling added some interesting info to her bio with us:
Besides that description of how my husband asked me out on our first date, one of my earliest memories is of his car-at-the-time, a Triumph Spitfire. All you car types are groaning now. I don't remember where we went on this date, but while he drove me home in the rain, the generator caught fire. So, wearing a dress, I helped him push the car (in the rain) into a gas station. He says he was surprised I still agreed to go out with him. I always thought our dates were like an adventure.

One of these days I'll tell you about how my car caught on fire when I had Sue Grafton with me. Her next book is the X in the series. I'm lucky it's not X for eXtinguish.

bjmuntain offered up two links on publishing rights. I'm not going to reprint them here because the first one was full of errors. (Her later comment fixes the link to the second one)  When you're researching stuff about publishing PLEASE consider the source.  The first link was written by a writer trying to be helpful. I'm all for helpful writers but it's clear to me this one didn't know much about contracts.  
The SECOND link (  looks like correct information.

Then bj further asked:
I spent a lot of time last night checking out submissions guidelines, payment and rights bought for several magazines. Many of them say they buy First North American Serial Rights, or First World Rights, or First Electronic Rights. Or even a combination of those. A couple bought First Australian Serial Rights. One or two bought first English language serial rights.

So maybe I'm dense, and if I am, I'd love to have it explained to me.

You're not dense. You're reading what the site says they buy.

Here's the horrible truth: they don't know what they're doing!  Contracts from magazines and smaller publishers are NOTORIOUS quagmires. I could show you some that make sharks weep. I see a LOT of these since one rule here at the Reef is that no client signs a publishing contract of ANY KIND without me looking at it.  Even if I didn't sell it; ESPECIALLY if I didn't sell it in fact.

Some contracts are just blatant rights grabs (university presses wanting copyright for published thesis) and some are a mishmash of terms that fail to cover things like the duration of exclusivity.

If you REALLY want to know about contracts join the National Writers Union or the Author's Guild and get their information on contracts.

And I'm really sad that the only thing *I* get on Capcha is "I am not a robot." I am not so very many things, I wonder how they came to decide this one the one thing I shouldn't be in order to comment.

On Monday I answered a letter from a writer that left me horrified. His agent pretty much revealed his own idiocy by submitting to editors with the assumption they'd pass it along if they weren't the right choice; used a mis-leading pitch; and gotten the category wrong.

It's the trifecta that demonstrates idiocy; we've all done one or more of the above, but I hope to garamond, never on purpose!

Lisa Bodenheim asked the question I should have answered:
Wow. So what's an author to do? Surely the author is in a contract with that agent. If the author does not appreciate what is happening, they can have a direct conversation with their agent. But if the agent doesn't get it or if the author remains unsatisfied with their agent, then what?

You fire the agent. 

MB Owen asked:
Can an agent "un-deliberately" mislead? It sounded intentional, trying to make the pitch fit with an editor's tastes while knowing his client's book was something else.

This is an interesting question, and one I actually know something about right now. I did not "deliberately mislead" an editor about a book he bought on proposal but it was clear that what I had loved about the story, and talked about in my pitch, had NOT made it in to the first draft of the book. 

The author and I realized this together, and actually decided she'd rewrite to incorporate more of what I'd seen in the story. That's why it's the trifecta of errors that is cause for alarm. I not only didn't get the category and editor wrong; I sold the book.

Christina Seine brought up another good point:
This makes me wonder if that rep has a bad rep among editors. Because it sounded like he really pooched it, to more than one editor. I bet that's not a first. So what I imagine then are editors receiving pitches from Agent Stu Pidd and going, "Not this guy again! Hey guys, did I tell you about the time he pitched a contemporary YA as historical romance? I don't think he ever even read the book!"

Under those circumstances, you're lucky if anyone reads the guy's correspondence at all. Yikes.

You're right: they DON'T read the submissions from agents they think are idiots.  I've heard from MANY editors about "schmagents" who are permanently barred from serious consideration.  It's one thing to send something an editor doesn't like, or doesn't think can sell. It's another thing entirely to get EVERYTHING (the trifecta again) wrong.

But mostly schmagents are the ones who don't have a clue how publishing really works. The good news? If your agent is one of them, your book is probably still submittable in that the editors on the submission list never saw it.

REJourneys asked:
Though, is it possible for editors to turn down books because they don't like the agent? I assume that is another business relationship that needs to be at least workable. Knowing that certain agents (well, agent) are misleading you the first time would make me question if I ever want to read something they have again.

Yes it's not just possible, I know it happens. It's not for misleading pitches or getting categories wrong though. It's cause the agents are impossible to work with. Things like insulting the editor during negotiations, or using foul language in email (even I, known dropper of the F-bomb do NOT do this!) or being intractable about things that can't be changed (or dim witted about how to ask for changes.)

The problem here is, as a writer, you'll never get this information. I can't tell you who are on those lists; I don't know more than a few names, all of which were revealed to me in total and complete confidence, usually in person, far from any publishing ears.  In other words, never even written down.  

Dena Pawling made me laugh out loud with this one:
And excuse my woodland creature brain, but thanks for clarifying this line - “I spend time talking to them on the phone, over lunch, on Twitter, and in other odd places (like conferences)....” After last week's discussion, when I read “in other odd places” I pictured you sliding your pitch under the restroom stall door.

I very rarely slide mss under bathroom stall doors when I'm meeting editors. Under their martini glass, you betcha!

On Tuesday we talked about withdrawing a novel on submission if you think another one is a better fit.

Pharosian asked this:
Wow. That's one situation I never even thought about. So if I sign with Fabulous Agent and she sells my cozy mystery (or mysteries), and then sometime down the road I write a slasher (or some other project FA finds distasteful), is FA obligated to try to sell it? And if FA doesn't want to, what's her recourse? Fire me as a client?

No, I'm not obligated to work on anything but that's not really the right question to ask.  When I talk to a potential client I ask about the kinds of books the writer wants to work on in the future. If the answer is "well, this cozy series is great but my true love is writing romance" I am NOT going to sign the client no matter how much I love the mystery series, because the author needs an agent who can do both kinds of books effectively. I'm probably not that agent. The slithery force of nature that is Barbara Poelle probably is.

Of course, if a client develops a sudden interest in a category I don't do well, it's too late not to sign them. In those cases I call in favors from friends (Brooks Sherman for example sold Sean Ferrell's picture book on my behalf) or learn the category (I have a middle grade novel on submission now.)

And it's entirely possible that if a client's work shifts to a new category, she gets traded to the other team for a draft round choice to be named later.

Sadly brianrschwarz earns a lifelong residence on Carkoon with this one:
I hate to say it QOTKU, but you might be right.

Then tried to cancel his ticket with this:
After flipping back and forth, I eventually decided to take QOTKU up on her advice and sent my email an hour ago. After all, if it failed miserably, I'd just blame my writing career on Janet. ;)

But to my surprise, it turns out sharks are sharks for a reason. TFFA responded within the last hour and recommended I leave the bloody book in question on the table, but reply with my query and full for my YA novel. I suppose then if she hates the query for YA book, she can still read bloody mess with renewed fortitude and a more accurate expectation.

So basically, I owe Janet a drink. Let me know when you're in the Midwest.

Midwest? Is that near midtown? Cause if you can't get there on the subway…

Turns out Christina Seine will be joining brianrschwarz on the trip to Carkoon.
 Also, apropos of nothing but Twitter, I was not surprised to learn that Janet is a pimp. I kind of always pictured her as one, in a John Travolta suit, leopard skin coat, flat-brimmed hat, heaps of gold jewelry, base thumping in the background, and of course the razor-sharp teeth. SO badass.

bjmuntain had an interesting question about withdrawn mss
A question just occurred to me, while reading through comments again. If an author withdraws a submitted manuscript for X reason, would it be possible - or even ethical - for the agent to decide that X isn't going to bother her and read the manuscript anyway?

I'm not saying 'ethical' as in morally right. I mean professionally ethical. Is it something that is seen as wrong in the publishing industry? Or is it really just a morally indifferent choice? I can see it going either way.

I think if an author asks you not to read a manuscript, you don't read it. From a purely pragmatic time management point of view, it makes no sense to read something if it's not on submission. I think from a business practices standpoint you really do want to convey to an author that if they ask you to do something, you honor their wishes.  I've had clients ask me to do stuff I thought was the wrong choice for their career, but it's THEIR career. I offered my opinion, the client elected to do something else.
I don't think it's morally wrong to read a withdrawn ms, but I don't think it's something I'd do.

 Susan Bonifant summed it up nicely:
My only experience with a hired editor was as a new writer when I would have taken advice from the neighborhood grocer.

It was awful. She was borderline abusive when I disagreed, found ways to charge more than she should have and made me feel like I was lucky to be wasting her time.

I think she may have even suggested a prologue. No, that's not true.

My (embittered) take, now that I would never consider it again, is this:

One, don't do this if you are not feeling strong about yourself as a writer yet. And two, consider whose advice would be more valuable - someone who is paid to find problems, or a beta reader who is going to tell you why they put the book down to get a drink and didn't come back.

And let me add that anyone you work with on your creative projects who makes you feel "lucky to be wasting her time" is not someone you want to work with. The reason for that isn't cause they hurt your feelings, it's cause they don't know what their job is.  Their job is to help you. That's the reason you're paying them. It's entirely possible to be direct, no-nonsense, AND helpful. I have the replies to rejection letters to prove it.

Amy Schaefer asked a good question about what happens NEXT:
Here is my concern. Let's say I hire Editor Redpen to fix my manuscript. She does an excellent job, and as a result of her advice, I sign with Agent Superpants. She sells the MS. Fast forward a year or two, and I'm ready to show Agent Superpants my new manuscript.

The phone rings.
"Hi, Amy, it's Agent Superpants. I've read the new manuscript you sent me."
"Great! How did you like it."
Long pause. "It's... rough."
"Unpolished. Flabby. Your pacing dies completely in chapter four, and doesn't come back until chapter 17. All of your male characters are generic, and your protagonist is unfocused. What happened?"

The writers I work with who hired an editor to help them  both said that it made them better writers. Not just improved the manuscript, but the process itself helped them see what a novel needed. That's really the goal of spending that money: to learn how to do it yourself next time.

BUT, that is also the reason I think hiring an editor to write your query is not a good idea. Writers need to learn  how to draft a solid query, and the only way to do it, is to do it. Sure you can get help on spotting flaws but you yourself should write your query.

Susan Bonifant brought up Grub Street:
I'm not opposed to the idea of paying for a second read. But how and why is it necessary to consider all that is available for 4K, rather than what is essential for far less? Grub Street in Boston for example charges way, WAY less to pair a writer with a completely objective, multi-traditionally published author, often an instructor, in the genre you select, who will tell you exactly where the suckage is from a reader's standpoint.

By sheer happenstance I'm writing the Week In Review here at the Delaware shore and on the next couch over is an agent who will be at Grub Street next week, and what is she doing? Reading manuscript pages from the people she has pitch sessions with. If you're looking for a place to discover the Suck, Grub Street (and other good writing conferences) can be it.

InkStainedWench had an interesting question:
Now I'm curious. Do editors reject a book with a simple "Dear agent, no thanks, have a nice day."

Generally no. They usually give me some feedback which they know I will share with the author.  If things really go wrong, I'll get a phone call and nothing is put in writing. How to share that information is then up to me.
Some editors do have form rejection letters. I have no problem with those, but if I get more than three, I know I'm missing the mark pretty completely with what that editor is looking for, and it's time for some digging and reading.

And Donnaeve asked:
 Janet, don't you find it strange not one acquiring editor gave the OP and their agent any feedback?

Yup. I'm hesitant to guess as to the reason however since I don't know the book, or the editor submission list.

But as it turns out there WAS some feedback: Matt Adams said
Hi guys -- OP here.

To answer some questions ...

We got some feedback and got passed around the office by three editors, but that was as far as we got. Two seemed close, but in the end decided not to offer. The feedback was diverse -- there was no universal complaint.

My agent has always thought it should be a big book and has told me she'll push it as far as it can be pushed. She's told me she feels confident she could find SOME publisher for it now, but thinks it deserves better -- I think she's more baffled by the lack of success than I am. And while I understand the concept of trunking it, that's hard to do when she's still willing to find it a home. She's not demanding the edit, but she thinks it would be helpful in helping the book become what she thinks it should be. I'm not saying that I'm sure the book is big or even publishable, but I think I owe it to myself (and her) to give it every opportunity I can to succeed. And before I give the wrong impression, my agent is awesome -- she got everyone to read, which was her job as far as I'm concerned. It was my part of the equation that was lacking.

But I think Janet's right in that saying a second read instead of the full edit is the way to go. Or second read then a full edit.

Thanks for the input everyone. I appreciate it.

I think Matt's agent is smart. If the novel isn't working, it's time for a second set of eyes. That's a demonstrable lack of ego, and business savvy there.

Amy Schaefer asked a good question:
Hmm. With 28 rejections but no consensus on what is wrong (or holding you back, or making editors say no), I sincerely wonder what insight any new editor, paid or otherwise, can give you. 28 is a decent sample size; if there were a major fault in your work, I would have expected that feedback to bubble to the surface from multiple sources by now.

Which leaves the paid editor's professional opinion about what is going wrong here. It doesn't sound like you have much to lose in buying a second read, but if there is no particular thing wrong with your book, I wonder how much she can really help you. Maybe your book is just quirky and different and hasn't found the right home yet. Best of luck!

 That's entirely possible, but remember an editor at a publishing house isn't required to tell you what doesn't work in a novel, only if s/he intends to acquire it.  Much like agents in the query queue, "not right for me" is the only required answer.
Editors often times will not say negative things in a "not for me" letter to an agent because CLEARLY the agent feels the book has merit.  "This book has no plot" is not something I'd expect an editor to say to an agent, and yes, I've sent out books where the plot could be found only with a magnifying glass…

brianrschawrz demonstrates he wants to live on Carkoon forever:
You may not always be right,

RobCeres asked a question that I think a lot of writers would ask here:
Oh to have this conundrum! Assuming the publisher is reputable, what is the downside of going both routes? If the publisher wants the book isn't that tremendous ammunition for a query letter? I mean if I was an agent I would love the first line "I am querying you because (whatever the reason is), and INHO (I'm Not a Hobby Outlet) is offering a publishing contract.

And you'll be surprised to learn that having an offer in hand doesn't make you more attractive to an agent. In fact, it can be a problem.
If you turn up with a contract in hand, you'll be thinking your novel is publishable as it stands. And it is: at THIS publisher.
I can't think of a single book I've sold that I didn't have at least one round of edits on before I sent it on submission. Most are three rounds, a couple right now are on Round Ten and Eleven.
Telling an author with a publication offer in hand that their novel isn't ready isn't fun. In fact, it often leads to hard feelings that end in fuck you and flouncing off.
If your novel is terrific, I probably want to take it out for a spin at the larger publishers.  It's hardly ever possible to say to a small publisher "Hey, can you wait on this offer for two months while we see if we can get something better?"  and even harder to say to editors "hey, can you read this really soon cause I have an offer pending from the Carkoon Illuminated Manuscript Society."
This is why agents BEG you to query them first, and publishers second.

JEN Garrett had an interesting piece of advice:
Here's one way to implement Janet's awesome advice about doing your research.
If you want to know whether a publisher sells to libraries, find a title that the publisher has published (there should be a list on their website). Then call your local librarian and ask if they CAN order the book. Make it clear you are not asking them to order it; you just want to know if the publisher is legit.

The reason you want to do this, is because library books are sold through different distributors than a bookstore. But really, you can use this simple test anywhere you want to see your book in print.

And then you guyz just went completely nuts with list of seasons you all enjoy. In other words, the kinds of comments that really make me laugh.

Colin Smith had an interesting turn of phrase here:
1) If your first book is published, as far as an agent is concerned, there's nothing more to be done with it. There's no point trying to get an agent for it, and why would you? It's published already!

I'm going to quibble here: There's a LOT more to be done with a book even after it's published. The problem is there's NO MONEY. My policy is that if I don't sell something I don't take commission. (co-agenting things are the exception). 

If an author comes to me with a book that's under contract, I don't get a commission but I DO end up doing a lot of work on the book because my job is advocating for my author NOT making money. I need to make money so I try to avoid situations where doing my job means I won't make money. 

This situation happens more than you think when you sign a client who has been repped and sold by another agent for previous books; or who has a backlist and no agent.

The conversation then turned to acronyms, and you guyz had some hilarious versions thereof.
That said, the fewer use of acronyms here on the blog the better. Acronyms create a sub-strata of readers, those "in the know" and thus a group of readers who are NOT.

I'd like to keep all of us in one group as much as possible. If you don't get the Carkoon or Buttonweezer references, you can still get value from the blog. If we start abbreviating the important stuff like Original Poster it's harder for new readers to feel welcome.

Speaking of welcome, I'm writing this from the Delaware shore where I've retreated to read requested full manuscripts.  It's been a VERY productive four days let me tell you.

On Thursday, I strolled around the little town and found a terrific bookstore.  One the shelf as I walked in, this greeted me:

On Friday, my companion in world domination and I took a short break and drove to Assateague Island to see the wild ponies.  I grew up loving the Misty of Chincoteague books. Marguerite Henry was the first author I ever met. Her kindness and graciousness to an awestruck, tongue-tied eight year old girl with a red leather autograph book warms me to this day.

Next week is the Edgars so I'll be hanging out with a lot of out of town friends coming in for the festivities.  Not much work gets done  but a good time is had by all.


Unknown said...

Love them ponies. I still have my Misty books. Thanks for the pictures...I'll get there some day.

I just received my royalty statement for Dec., Jan., and Feb. I'm depressed. Self-pubbing is starting to look REAL good.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Another great WiR. Thank you, but... tongue tied girl? I guess that gives me hope though I'm a really slooww learner.

Glad you had a productive and re-energized week. I was going to say vacation but if you were reading manuscripts, that's not vacation.

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Wonderful week in review.

Thank you Janet for your generous advice on editors. Finding a really good agent and doing one's research to find the right one is IMO more evident than ever.

Carkoon is getting crowded.

When I was a little girl in love with horses we camped on Asateague Island. I'll never forget the pine cone under the tent that poked my back all night and the wild horses' pungent smell.

Enjoy the sea air.

Susan Bonifant said...

To my fellow residents here in Ms. Reid's neighborhood: It's you I like. It's you yourself. It's you.

And to Janet: Thank you for this informative, illuminating and super classy, welcoming site, F-bombs and all.

Anonymous said...

It should come as no surprise I devoured the Misty books. Jo Bourne and I were discussing them at a writer's retreat and turns out most of them are actually descendants of horses the locals used to drive to the islands at census time so they didn't have to pay taxes on them. As happens with horses, some decided they didn't want to be caught and remained on the islands.

Such is the case with many of the "wild" horses in Teddy Roosevelt National Park. Horses get through rancher's fences, but the ranchers can only attempt to retrieve them once a year. There's a reason some of them are so pretty. They're very well bred Quarter Horses.

Your horsie factoid for the day, I suppose.

I'm thrilled you had a good getaway, though I hesitate to call reading manuscripts a vacation.


Jennifer R. Donohue said...

I think X is going to be X-ray? Xsanguinate? I don't rightly know. There's a placeholder record for it in my library system, so people can make their reserves in anticipation of its release. Sue Grafton is very popular amongst my reading folks. We'll typically order 2 or 3 copies for my specific library, and with 42 libraries in the system, many of them doing it.....well, who says libraries don't help book sales?

I've never been to Assateague, but I also loved the Marguerite Henry books (and the Walter Farley books....actually, I met Walter Farley's brother once when I was 10, at a thing for kid writers at Brookdale College in New Jersey, and earned a copy of The Black Stallion's Filly after writing a short environmental piece from the perspective of...a whale? a clam?), but we do always wave at the Chincoteague and Assateague signs on the way to Cape Hatteras when we go there on vacation. There's "wild" horses on Ocracoke island, typically kind of standing in a paddock beside the road which leads from the ferry to the town.

God I miss the beach. The raging waters of the creek at the park I'm taking Doberface to in a little while will have to suffice.

(Does anybody else's dog like Spam? Elka went high obedience ballistic for it last night when it was cooking. Like "I am sitting. I would like that meat in my mouth. Oh, come on. I'll testify as hard as I can. spamspamspam")

LynnRodz said...

Another great WIR!

It's getting pretty crowded here in Carkoon, no wonder the people I sublet my cave to while I was away didn't want to give me back my keys. By the looks of it, an old age home will eventually have to be built for the lifetimers like brianrschawrz.

I love the photos of the ponies. It's a lot nicer to share a beach with those beauties than with a bunch of cattle like I did in China. (No offense to any cow lovers.) At least they kept their distance and weren't too rowdy.

I can see wanting help with a query, I've spent a year and a half trying to write mine and I'm still not satisfied. Who would have thought that one or two paragraphs on what your novel is about would be so damn hard.

It's always good to get out of the city and it sounds like you were able to recharge your battery in Delaware. Now you're ready to do some serious partying this week. And because I'm wondering so much, I wonder if Barbara Poelle ever pops by here and sees all the praise you bestows upon her?

Donnaeve said...

Ah, the wild ponies. I mentioned we have them here too, on the Outer Banks of NC, mustangs from explorers and shipwrecks hundreds of years ago. They are protected. Some of my favorite stories growing up were MY FRIEND FLICKA, THE BLACK STALLION, and NATIONAL VELVET.

Great WIR - I can't believe how much I learn by the way you capture all that input, then highlight the main points. This shows your editing skills, in my opinion.

YES to less acronyms! I totally get this. When I worked at Nortel, my husband used to overhear conference calls and he said it sounded like another language. It does make the blog seem exclusionary to a degree, and that's not what we want!

Although..., I do think QOTKU should receive a pass, and be allowed. Much like Carkoon and Buttonweezers, it should be grandfathered in.

Susan B - ditto what you said.

Unknown said...

Dear Brian: cake is forthcoming. File deftly hidden inside.

Of course now I want to know all about schmagents. I get the privacy clause. But still.

Over + over, I'm reminded how much I learn by watching + listening to a truly, great agent.

To Ponies + First Dates. In my case, Horses + First Dates. My (future) husband and I went for a long horse ride in Alaska. His was spirited; mine, "reliable." So spirited in fact that it got spooked when his hat flew off and went charging towards me. Looking yonder (millions of acres) and I being pragmatic, I parked my horse in front of that charging horse (clamped my eyes shut) and waited for it to either 1) Stop like a good horse; 2) Charge into me + Old Reliable.

It stopped 2 inches from impact. I opened one eye, then the next. He was impressed. I smiled. Been married for a while now.

Dena Pawling said...

To continue the previous reference, it's a beautiful day in my neighborhood today. It rained yesterday, enough to water my brown lawn, and again I'm mentioned TWICE in the WiR!!

It don't get much better than this.

Altho, at great personal risk of being banished to Carkoon, I will disagree [maybe the word deviate will cause fewer teeth marks] with the Shark on the use of acronyms, as follows:

“That said, the fewer use of acronyms here on the blog the better. Acronyms create a sub-strata of readers, those "in the know" and thus a group of readers who are NOT.”

I agree with this. Fortunately [or unfortunately, depending on your personal persuasion], I am NOT shy in asking stupid questions. So for example, when I couldn't figure out why people here were calling the person who submitted the question the “opposing party” [OP], I asked. And Colin, WITHOUT calling me out for being an idiot, bless his kind heart, provided an answer. But I know from past personal experience on other forums that there will be some blog readers who will continue to feel like an outsider and won't ask the question.

“I'd like to keep all of us in one group as much as possible. If you don't get the Carkoon or Buttonweezer references, you can still get value from the blog. If we start abbreviating the important stuff like Original Poster it's harder for new readers to feel welcome.”

This is where I deviate. I figured out that OP meant the person who had submitted the question, without really knowing what the acronym actually meant. It would take quite a bit more mental energy plus the search feature, to figure out the possible meanings of Carkoon and Buttonweezer. Therefore, not knowing what those two meant would possibly make more timid folks (1) feel like an outsider, (2) be embarrassed to ask, and (3) not feel comfortable posting their own comments. Therefore, because I've been on the excluded side of blogs and groups many times in the past [I vacillate between not wanting to join a group that would actually want me as a member, and not wanting to participate in a group that doesn't want me], and the knowledge that Ms. Reid loves her blog community and wants it all-inclusive even for the likes of me, I'll offer up my definitions. Maybe Colin, the compiler of the acronyms [Compiler Of Links creating Inclusion for Newbies], can provide that aforementioned list, complete with links if they can be found. Hopefully, having such a list would make new folks feel welcome [because they are], rather than even MORE hesitant to post a comment.

I have to put my list in another comment because I'm informed this comment is too long lol

Dena Pawling said...

QOTKU – Queen Of The Known Universe, AKA the Shark, AKA Janet Reid, the all-knowing [except to brianrschwarz] owner of this blog

OP – Original Poster [which to me still makes no sense, because the person didn't post, s/he merely asked, presumably by email]. I think I would have used OQ, original questioner, or OA, original asker, altho nobody asked me [which certainly doesn't mean I'm withholding my opinion lol]

Carkoon – desert planet where QOTKU banishes/exiles commenters [in good humor] who question or disagree with her advice or her sanity, or suggest she should do MORE than she already does for the benefit of writers

Felix Buttonweezer [with various spellings] – a fictitious writer/agent/reader/all-around fun person to make the butt of lame jokes or blame for everything that goes wrong

Woodland creatures – writers/authors who scurry around trying to make sense of things, AKA all of us

If I got any of these wrong, please feel free to correct me. Refraining from the use of the F-bomb in reference to my personal shortcomings, person who dressed me this morning, and/or my mother is appreciated - I get that enough in my day job.

Janet, glad you had a wonderful time of refreshment. Enjoy the Edgars, and I hope you don't get too much farther behind while enjoying your friends and the festivities. If your desk looks anything like mine, no one does your work while you're off doing other things.

S.D.King said...

"learn the category (I have a middle grade novel on submission now.)"

Janet, You thought you could slip that in there and I wouldn't notice?

Now I really need to send my query to the shark to prepare it to send to the shark!

Anonymous said...


"To Ponies + First Dates. In my case, Horses + First Dates. My (future) husband and I went for a long horse ride in Alaska. His was spirited; mine, "reliable." So spirited in fact that it got spooked when his hat flew off and went charging towards me."

In a former life I was a horse wrangler in Phoenix. Yeah, I know. What a surprise.We tried very hard to match people up with appropriate horses. The owner of the stables bought outlaws and spoiled horses for the wranglers to ride. Once we got them rehabbed, they either got resold or went in the herd.

I detested, absolutely detested, it when someone wanted to go on a romantic bareback ride in the desert. Invariably it meant sometimes later a riderless horse would come back and we'd have to go find upset rider.

That being said, oldest son of Mom and Bomb story fame, used to bring girls out to the place about sunset. He'd get Jack, our one-eye rope horse, and they'd go bareback riding double into the sunset.

I asked him one night why he didn't saddle up another horse for the girl.

"Really, Mom? Has it been that long since you dated?"

Lance said...

As a serial, part-time lurker, I thank Dena for the glossary. She also mentioned woodland creatures. I don't understand the relationship of woodland creatures to The Shark unless it is a metaphor for how we writers yet to be published (WYTBP) exist separate from the publishing world. That is to say, we have to form pyramids of 'possums and heave our queries over the seawall into the lagoon wherein lies The Reef. Once agented, a writer is magically transformed into a creature of the reef, interacting more directly with The Shark.

Elissa M said...

I am the daughter, niece, sibling, and wife of career service members. I think the military is fueled by acronyms. I've heard people speak entire sentences where nearly every word was an acronym. Acronyms don't ever make me feel like an outsider, but I do appreciate it when folks speak and write real words.

I truly appreciate this blog, both Janet's illuminating posts and readers' enlightening and/or lighthearted comments. It's always a high point in my day. Just wanted to let you all know, and say, "Thanks."

Unknown said...

Julie--I didn't mention this but my future husband was a decent rider. What happened was the wind blew the hat off his head, and when he dismounted + picked it up: the horse saw it as something hostile: NOSTRILS FLARED, EYES WHITE and off it ran.

Anonymous said...


The woodland creatures thing stems from things we, as writers, find to fret about like small woodland creatures, titmouses or titmice perhaps, and the like. Should I dash out and grab that grain? Is something lurking nearby?

For instance, as part of a writing course I'm taking, the instructor wanted us to list the "rules" for our genre. One of them being, of course, word counts.

I scoured the internet for "rules" regarding high fantasy and epic fantasy, leading to another debate on which my story is.

Then I come across several people who say how boring and stereotypical it is for the MC to be the farm boy (girl) who must have red hair...wait. My mc comes from a farm and has auburn hair! Should I go back and change all the hair descriptions? OMG she's on a farm! Word count! Yikes! Yes! I'm over 120,000 words, which goes into another protracted discussion in the class. Oh no, your MC is 16. You're actually writing YA. Can you cut the word count to 75,000?

Writers worry about EVERYTHING. We worry about whether to wear perfume at a conference. What about scented lotions? Is there a best day of the week to query?

Honestly, I think writers are more like fainting goats than woodland creatures at times.

John "Ol' Chumbucket" Baur said...

Re: Magazine rights. Some longtime friends started an online magazine and asked me to contribute. No one is getting paid, and the stuff I was sending him was very specific, not something that would have life outside the 'zine. So I paid no attention when his editor sent me the "standard contract" that said in essence they had all rights to the material forever. Oh, and I don't get paid. I'm writing for them for the cred, and because the guy who started it is a friend. So I just ignored it, didn't sign it (my agent would have killed me or, even worse, stopped repping me) didn't mention it and continued sending articles that they printed over the next couple of years.
But this year I decided to try something different. I'm writing a fiction story to be serialized over the next four issues and which I will then make available on my website. So I had to straighten it out.
I told the guy there was no way I'd sign this or accept those terms, that no publication I ever heard of used such onerous terms, especially since I was not being paid. He insisted that was standard language. I decided to ignore that and instead said, "Look, this is what I want to do and these are the terms I'm willing to do it. He said, oh, no problem. We just have the contract so we can keep track of who is contributing. If you don't want to sign it, that's fine.
In that case, I thought, why have the contract at all? I don't know who else might have signed it. But I've got the guy's letter saying that, so I'm doing the series, and learning a LOT by doing it. I'm having fun.
But I will never sign a contract without reading it or having my agent read it. Even with a friend.

Susan Bonifant said...

How did I miss that? How did I never EVER even CONSIDER that there is a best day of the week for querying?

Of course there is. There must be. There has to be. How could there not be? What is it? Does anyone know?

Anonymous said...


I, being a card-carrying woodland creature, often follow #askagent. It's kind of amusing at times. Honestly, after the 100,954th time of someone asking "What are you looking for now?" when it's on their site, I wouldn't have the heart to do these things. But, surprisingly, I see the, "Is there a best day of the week to query?" question pop up not infrequently. Who knew?

I've run the gamut from doing everything wrong, to trying very hard to research agents and follow directions, but I am not going to start fretting which day of the week and check the Farmer's Almanac. Well, I might check the Almanac, come to think of it. Mostly, I'm going to run spell check and get some fresh eyes before I start sending out again.


Unknown said...

Love the pony pictures! I must get to the islands someday.

Colin Smith said...

First up, I need to point out that Christina is already a fellow Carkoonite, so she speaks from exile. But I'm glad brian will be joining us. If I can just persuade the sabre-toothed grizzly monstrosity next door to move out, we'll have a lovely cave for you. Perhaps I can have Dena serve notice (is that the correct terminology?) on him/her/it (I've never dared to find out)?

Just remember, Carkoon isn't a vacation spot--it's an exile. A tough one too! You think you can get out of an exile to Carkoon with an "oh, I suppose you're right, Great and Magnificent QOTKU"? Think again. I had a poem featured on Jessica Faust's blog this week, and did that help my cause? In fact, QOTKU probably doubled my sentence for "moonlighting with the competition"... ;)

If anyone is qualified to provide definitions, Dena is. If you haven't been following her legal definitions this month, shame on you! Very informative, and fun too!

BTW, Dena, your office here ("Dena's Legal Services") has an adjoining living space. After disagreeing with QOTKU on the subject of acronyms, you might be needing it... :)

Thanks, Janet, for another great WiR--even with the quibble. I was thinking if an agent's work is (primarily, not totally) to get your book published, then once it's published, why would you want an agent for it? But I understand your point. Quibble noted. :)

And thanks for sending me more friends! :D

Pharosian said...

@Lance (and any other lurkers who don't get the "woodland creatures" reference):

Julie answered what the term has come to mean in the context of this blog, but I believe it was the January 14 post that started the ball rolling.

On several (okay, many) occasions, unpublished authors have posed questions to Janet that indicate a certain amount of over-thinking, anxiety, lack of self-confidence, timidity, uncertainty, and a general fear of Big Bad Agents. In her response to the questioner that day she said, "Writers are woodland creatures who worry about every single thing they can think of and when that isn't enough, they look for newly discovered things to worry about."

Julie suggested the titmouse as a typical example. I tend to think of wide-eyed, innocent Bambi types, or twitchy-nosed bunnies. Regardless, the term stuck. One thing this group has demonstrated an aptitude for par excellence is taking an idea and running with it!

Colin Smith said...

Pharosian: "One thing this group has demonstrated an aptitude for par excellence is taking an idea and running with it!"

I'm sure I haven't a clue what you mean. :)

Amy Schaefer said...

I certainly learned a lot this week, particularly about editors. I still don't feel so much extra change jingling in my pockets that I am going to run out and hire one, but, if the day comes when an agent lays her hand on my shoulder and says, "You need this," I'll try not to have a tantrum like a three-year-old, shouting, "I can do it myself!"

I am glad to have support in my anti-acronym battle (notice how I didn't shorten that), and I think Janet's point about including one and all in our commenting nonsense here is critical. I've avoided many an internet community (and even a few real life ones) because the members seemed too clannish, too caught up in their inside jokes and common history to allow a newbie in. I'd hate for that to happen here.

Lurkers, you're just like those of us who can't keep out hands off the keyboard. Don't let our nonsense hold you back if and when you have something to say. And, if it suits you, come be nonsensical with us!

Colin Smith said...

Lurkers: What Amy said. I hope those of us who vomment on this blog regularly have demonstrated that the only things you need to participate are a) an inquiring mind, and b) an imagination. And if you're a writer, you have both. So join the fun! And if we talk about stuff you don't understand, ask. Chances are we don't have a clue either! :D

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Should I wear unscented deodorant at a conference?
Colin's sentence on Carkoon is doubled because he rabble-roused on another blog.
I assumed "OP" stood for "original poster". Who knew so many commenters had first additions of original work, the likes of artist Peter Max.

Great learning week, great WIR.

Flowers McGrath said...

Great week in review! Thanks as always, Janet. Ponies are the perfect ending. 😃 my captchas have all been numbers, boring.
Uh until just now when I complained and got to select all the hamburgers. The Internet is listening. Spooky.

Anonymous said...

I suppose I should apologize if I don't respond to comments or seem dismissive. I am just up to my butt in snapping hogs, which is not as amusing as it might seem, and often miss things. Plus, I'm old.

So, I depend on the young whippersnappers around here to keep the ball rolling and people to realize I am just dottering along.

Colin Smith said...

2Ns: That reminds me... Julie said, "Writers worry about EVERYTHING. We worry about whether to wear perfume at a conference. What about scented lotions? Is there a best day of the week to query?"

I have to say, perfumes and scented lotions have not been a worry for me... until NOW! Should I???!!! sounds of woodland creatures scurrying and fretting

Dena Pawling said...

Yeah Colin, probably best to save me a space. But I don't think I'll be doing a rousing business if I'm the only attorney on Carkoon. Now if ANOTHER attorney is banished there, THAT would make for good business lol.

A small town that cannot support one lawyer can always support two.
If it wasn't for lawyers, we wouldn't need them.
Lawyer - A person whose profession consists of protecting his clients from other members of his profession.

“I am just up to my butt in snapping hogs....” That sounds like a good black moment, when all seems lost. Would also make a good scene in a movie, kinda like Indy with the pit of snakes.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Yeah Colin, Julie is where I got the idea. Since I wear deodorant, I'm thinking unscented is best. Wouldn't want my fragrance to compete with one of those schmagents.

John "Ol' Chumbucket" Baur said...

Re: Perfume, scented lotion etc. Weirdness alert!!!! I just heard on NPR of a study released this week that women who are depressed had their moods improved – I'm not making this up, if anyone made it up, it was NPR – by smelling the body odor of happy men. Seriously. I have to find the study, because the story didn't mention whether men would be cheered up by sniffing the underarms of happy women well Duh!), or if happy women would be depressed by smelling sad men – other than the fact that they'd be sniffing some man, presumably a stranger.
I know that's weird and a little disgusting, but I swear to gods I heard it on the radio today and it just seemed to fit with this discussion.
My rule is, if I can smell you across the table, you're wearing too much. If I can smell you before you come in the door you're wearing WAY too much and need to be tranqued with a dart gun.

Anonymous said...

Colin, 2NN's (reminds me of being back on the reservations with some of my old friends. Nathan Little Soldier, Anna Two Bears)

Re the scents, some agents and attendees are apparently sensitive to odors. Don't go smoke a cigarette right before a pitch session, don't wear strong perfumes or colognes, etc.

We had this discussion on B&W before some conferences and came to the conclusion it's best to stick to very light scents or scented lotions.

B&W (Compuserve Books and Writer's Lit Forum) is the ultimate woodland creature and fainting goat preserve. If it can be worried about, we do it there.

If I ever get a chance, I'm going to pitch Laura Zats, just because. She keeps a bottle of wine to relax woodland creatures pitching to her. I don't even like wine, but I love this idea.


"Re: Perfume, scented lotion etc. Weirdness alert!!!! I just heard on NPR of a study released this week that women who are depressed had their moods improved – I'm not making this up, if anyone made it up, it was NPR – by smelling the body odor of happy men."

Someday I will tell the story of the happy man who insisted on pulling sales duty with me in the new subdivisions and all about what kind of mood it put me in.

Amy Schaefer said...

Julie, we are all old. I had to teach a ten-year-old how to use a landline on Sunday. No word of a lie. She was utterly stymied.

Unknown said...

At risk of being sent to Carkoon (would probably stamp my feet and yell: "Well, I wanted to go there ANYWAY" in self defense) I have to say that I thought OP was pretty standard usage on the interwebs nowdays.

In other words- All The Kids Are Doing It Nowadays.

Now I feel old. Having said that, this is QOTKU's blog (hah! slipped another acronym in there! bet you didn't expect that!) so whatever she wants, goes. If a blogger prefers things a certain way on their own blog, well, why not? No skin off my nose.

Also, as an added extra, my mother quilts (among many other things too numerous to name). The reason I mention this is that one of the fabrics she recently purchase for said occupation is entitled "Woodland Creatures"

So now I know what you all look like.

P.S. I continue to be sad the reCAPTCHA does not ask me to pick out hamburgers or drinks. I feel that I must be a very boring person.

Colin Smith said...

OK, so if you're at Bouchercon in October, I'll be the guy with the beard who smells like vanilla... ;)

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Janet. I'll look at those organizations.

For acronyms, I generally follow the style guides, and will give the first instance in full with capital letters. So, I used the term 'Big Hollywood Producer', then BHP. However, obviously that doesn't always work. I'll try to keep it simpler.

I grew up with Marguerite Henry books. As, obviously, did many writers here. It was reading her books that I first realized that someone had to write the books that I wolfed down. And that was when I decided I wanted to be that person. I think I was 11 or 12 at the time.

Though to me, Chincoteaue and Assateague were as alien to me as Mars. In small towns on the Canadian prairies, especially in the '70s, everything was foreign and unreachable. That included places like New York City. I was almost 40 before I travelled there. I'd been to Disney World when I was 12, but Disney World wasn't as alien as NYC (or Los Angeles, or Las Vegas, or Chicago, or pretty much every city a television show was set in). Maybe someday I'll get to visit those islands, too.

Regarding scents: I'm allergic to perfumes. I once accidentally bought regular Dove soap instead of the unscented, and I could smell nothing else for days. So I doubt I'll turn an agent off with my scent. Unless I walk through a cloud of perfume left behind by someone else. Those clouds are noxious.

Sorry I'm on late today. Spent the afternoon at FanExpo - first time I ever went. All the booths with costumes, clothing, comics, art... so overwhelming (yes, I'm old, too.) I spent most of the afternoon at a booth with some published writers from my writing group. It was enjoyable, and not too noisy. It was quiet enough, that when cos-players wanted to take pictures, they came and stood in front of our table. Maybe next year, I'll be braver and will wander among all the commercialism. And no, I didn't see Jonathan Frakes or Shannen Doherty. But I got to spend time with some lovely local writers.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, I missed this - Janet, also thank you for answering my question about whether an agent would read something the author has withdrawn. That's good to know.

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

I love waking up and reading all the comments.

Julie, listing all the rules for one's genre. Ouch, I can list the word count, character age but the rest. I have to do some research.

John, that's hilarious smelling armpits guide to happiness. At least they don't mention what happy dogs do.

Was it mentioned that vomment means comment, it was a typo. Probably because on the keyboard the "c" is close to the "v".

Janet, please do tell us about riding with Sue Grafton and the car fire.

LynnRodz said...

Oh yeah, don't you just love serendipitous moments in life? I'm sure Ms. Buttonweezer fell off her chair to get such a personal reply to her query. And who knows, maybe we'll see the Buttonweezer name added to your client list. Then we'll have to be a little more discreet when we talk about Felix and Betty.

Tamlyn said...

I (nervously) admit I gave up reading comments for a while because they all just seemed to be a massive in-joke revolving around Carkoon and things.

I don't exactly comment much (or ever) though, so I figured I should remove myself rather than expect to 'get' the joke.

Unknown said...

I rode a Chincoteague pony growing up. Her show name was "Souvenir Penny" or just Penny for short. She was so feisty. Loved her! Thanks for that memory!

Karen McCoy said...

Great WiR. Would have been more verbal over the past week, but sinus surgery recovery prevented much overall face movement.

My uncle just published a beautiful nonfiction story about his experience with Chincoteague ponies. This is definitely now on my bucket list.

Gingermollymarilyn said...

Great recap of the week. The wild ponies - beautiful and astonishing!

JEN Garrett said...

I feel like I've won the lottery or something, being quoted in the Weekend in Review.

Thanks, by the way, for explaining OP. I was lost on that reference.

Thanks, also, to Dena for clearing up all the other jargon in this awesome community.

I feel like I can swim more freely now. (But not too freely, there is a shark in our midst.)

Anonymous said...

As someone who is a freelance editor, and knows other freelance editors, I have to speak out in our defense. Not all of us are out to rip writers off! Some of us (like myself) are in the business because we genuinely love it. When I take on a client--and I'm choosey about it--I want them to succeed as a writer and I give them my best work and advice to that end. I don't charge as much as I could because I love what I do and want to be affordable to authors with lesser-paying day jobs. I'm not here for the money: I'm here because I'm lucky enough to make a living doing what I love.