Last week's Week in Review was also the Sunday when Mother's Day sweeps the land.
I think Carolynnwith2Ns had the perfect summation:
You don’t have to give birth to be a mother, don’t have to adopt, don’t even have to be female. If you step outside of yourself and love, guide and believe in the self-worth of someone else, you are a mother. If your kids have four legs, fins or wings you are a mother. And if your children are gone, you are still a mom, always a mom, a special mom, the kind who wears longing and loss as a badge until the day you are reunited.
I loved the visual here from Jennifer R. Donohue:
I've now performed the magic trick where my 3 dimensional Doberman is currently a Flat Dog on the Couch.
Donnaeve offered the perfect motivational phrase. I intend to steal it:
Jed - get your pants off your head and and write the damn book. I'd read it.
It turns out we're running some sort of medical ward here with Mrs. Colin's sojourn in the horsepistol, and various bouts of flu being suffered by significant others. Time for everyone to Get Well! Summer is coming!
For those of you who aren't familiar with a lovely publishing tradition "Summer Fridays" begin the Friday after
Day. Memorial Day!! (oops, thanks for the correction in the comments column!)
This year that's Friday May 29th. Summer Friday means most places close at 12:30pm. Here at the Reef it's often honored in the breach than in the observance, but we do try.
This year that's Friday May 29th. Summer Friday means most places close at 12:30pm. Here at the Reef it's often honored in the breach than in the observance, but we do try.
It's a holdover from when New York was close to unbearable in the summer, and people fled for country homes, and beach house shares on the weekend.
And sometimes people used to just move to the country for the entire summer. I've got letters on stationery from old time publishing hands that listed their New York address on the left and their "summer address" in Maine on the right. Of course, it would be very easy to do that now, what with the electronic leashes we all have, but back then? It was like work just stopped for a while.
On Monday the talk turned to whether or when a writer should mention s/he doesn't want to work with one particular publisher.
Many of you, myself included, wondered what would prompt someone to blackball a publisher.
maybe this means the contract was dropped, not renewed, or something. But NOW I'm on my own hamster wheel trying to figure this out. HA!
If an author offered that as the reason for not doing business with a publisher, we'd have no one to submit work to. All those things happen with good and reputable publishers, all the time. This is a BUSINESS and if a line of books isn't performing, the contract doesn't get renewed. It's NOT personal. It's certainly not a reason to stop doing business with a publisher.
Amanda Capper wondered:
I suppose if I knew an author friend who was treated badly by a publisher, I might be leery of dealing with them
The problem here is that one person's experience with a "publisher" isn't going to be the same experience anyone else has. For starters, it's often the editor, publicist, marketing/sales people that one has experience with. And much of that experience is dependent on the book. I can tell you that some authors have great experiences at BigAssPublisher and other authors do not.
AJ Blythe made a good point here:
The problem I see is that someone made the decision that has caused the OP to feel how they do. And that someone is just as likely to suddenly appear at the desk of a different publisher. Would that mean another publisher to be struck off? And what if they're already contracted to that publisher?
I remember being asked to send pages to an editor at one of the Big 5. Went to do so, only to find they'd moved to a non-commissioning role at another industry organisation. Fast forward a couple of years and there she was taking pitches for another of the Big 5.
Pharosian mentioned something that does stick in my craw, the altogether reprehensible involvement of otherwise reputable publishers with the printing mill Author Solutions:
Funny that you mention Penguin, Colin, as I was wondering whether the OP's concerns of an ethical nature about a certain publisher might be related to the Author Solutions fiasco.
Penguin Random House is the corporate parent of Author Solutions, which purports to offer publishing services to authors. AS is now facing two class-action lawsuits, and is accused of failure to pay royalties, predatory sales calls, and breach of contract, among a laundry list of other charges.
David Gaughran has been following this situation and has an in-depth analysis on his blog.
AS has signed 180,000 authors as clients (per its own website), and yet, according to Gaughran, they have exactly ONE employee assigned to calculate royalties for all those authors! But they have 732 sales reps (most of whom are based in the Philippines).
One has to wonder why one of the Big 5 publishers would have a subsidiary devoted to selling self-publishing services. It probably has to do with the amount of money involved, as the average client spends about $5000.
Of course it's money. LOTS of money. That's the ONLY reason anyone would do this kind of thing.
I've said this before, I'll say it again now: this kind of business is a morally bankrupt way to earn money, and publishers should be ashamed of themselves for being involved with this kind of place.
Hmm. Ellora's Cave, maybe?
for those of you not familiar with this, Ellora's Cave is a publisher with financial woes. This isn't news since many small publishers have financial travails. The problem is how they handled them, and then, when a blogger reported about how they handled them, turned around and sued the blogger.
There's a much more cogent explanation here.
This is EXACTLY the kind of thing that would make me not want to do business with a publisher. It's not the money woes, it's the IDIOCY of suing someone for reporting on what's essentially public knowledge. That kind of idiocy is something to avoid when at all possible.
As it turns out, the person who posed the question wrote to me later to say:
"I was amused and slightly horrified by the speculation. My concern is indeed about a publisher owning a 'service provider' such as Author Solutions. Being vague was an attempt at discretion."
Clearly I need to get out more cause I missed seeing these, and honestly, I count this a very serious loss, brianrschwarz:
Except for that one publisher who posted all those billboards with me in my underwear and the sound bubble that said "Go to college. Don't be a Brian. Carkoon University is now accepting MFA applications."
You'll notice brian does not mention locating of said underwear, or whether socks are involved.
On Tuesday the talk turned to concerns about the business practices of the agency where an agent works.
Dena made a very good point:
Where are you obtaining this information? If it wasn't at a local chapter meeting, private email or text message, or on the telephone, I'd definitely consider the source. It's one thing to post on Query Tracker “this agent took 6 months to reject my query.” It's quite another, at least in my opinion, to talk about your former agent indiscriminately and/or in a public forum over the internet. It doesn't strike me as professional, and I'm sure agents talk amongst themselves, just like lawyers do. I would venture a guess that those writers would find it difficult to secure future representation. And I assume you don't want to be in those same shoes.
Dena is 100% correct that agents see or hear about these posts/discussions etc and talk about them. There is no such thing as a private discussion board.
There are some conversations I have with editors that are never reduced to email or paper. Some that I won't even have on the telephone. It's no so much that they are top-secret as I just don't want the information repeated.
And Dena's link was one of the most hilarious things I've ever seen.
Ardenwolfe also had a good point about sources of information:
This question reminded me of a certain lawyer/literary agent who got a lot of negative attention some time ago.
I'll be honest: I marked him as a 'do not query' . . . ever . . . after I read some of the comments and listings.
Honestly? It depends on your source. If it's random gossip? Take it for what it's worth.
But if you read it on sites like Writer Beware? Consider it more carefully.
Sour grapes are one thing. But you know what they say about smoke? Research, research, research your potential agent or publisher first. That way, you don't have to bring on an extinguisher later.
Before I sign with an agent I will ask her for references, which, I hope, she will be delighted to provide. When I call those references I hope they will tell me what a wonderful job she did for their book. And once I've signed a publishing contract, I hope I will tell her that she can use me as a reference, and I hope I am a good enough client that she doesWhen prospective clients talk to me, I do urge them to get in touch with clients, ANY of the clients, they get to choose. If one is unhappy with me that day/week, oops, my loss. I'm always leery of agents who say "ask these three" because I wonder what four, five and six would say.
And of course, you're not going to CALL, you're going to email. I'm sure you knew that, right?
Amanda Capper asked
How does one join the Imperial Stormtroopers Ladies Aid Society? Does one have to be invited, or is it open to the critters? Because, due to my mother's rigid how-to-behave-as-a-proper-young-lady upbringing (bless her heart), I should be a shoo in.
And Theresa said:
I, too, would like to sign up for the Imperial Storm Troopers Ladies Aid Society. I adore the alternate reality vibe from this blog.
It's membership by summons I think.
On Wednesday the question was what constitutes a "short synopsis" and the answer included some comments on the art of revising.
Susan Bonifant asked:
I feel slow saying this, but I am not getting how a 250 word "brief synopsis" is different from the query.
A query will have more style to it than a synopsis.
A synopsis will include the ending of the book.
The entire query is 250 words or so. That means about 200 to entice to reader to go on to the pages below.
The synopsis is NOT intended to be enticing. The purpose is to be expository: here's the plot skeleton of the book.
I'm stealing this from Colin Smith as my new description of synopsis (nee the spawn of Satan)
Although Jenz's link later on to Miss Congeniality has a LOT of potential as well.
Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli asked:
I have a question. I see that Harry Potter lives with his wretched cousins. Not lived.
Does the synopsis tense need to be parallel with the m/s tense?
Synopses (plural of The Dreaded Synopsis) can be whatever tense works best. Often it's the present tense.
paz y puente got the example sentence whittled down even further:
Thank you for the Harry Potter example. It was very helpful. Hm...looking at it again, I think this could have gone one step further. It seems it can be just 6 words! "Harry lives with his wretched cousins." After all, does his last name really matter? His first name conveys that he's a male and "boy," as you said, that he is not an adult! SIX words! ;)
and of course, most of the comments were hilariously off-topic, this time running with the underpants footnote at the bottom of the blog post.
I had to agree with what Christina Seine said:
What jolly comments today! All I have to say is that I hope Janet uses the word "underpants" in her next flash fiction contest. ;D
On Thursday the question was the advisability of putting a link to a published piece revealing the key moment in a book in the query.
Carolynnwith2Ns had a question:
Out of this question another looms in my mind. Is it ever wise to even mention you had your manuscript professionally edited. If it's a plus, doesn't that leave us woodland creatures with less nuts, at a distinct disadvantage?
Do not include whether the ms has been professionally edited. I don't care. I only care about results. I HOPE that if you did use an independent editor, you learned a lot, and will be able to employ that knowledge on the next book yourself.
That said, I do know a lot more authors are using independent editors even when they have editors and contracts at publishing houses (ie they are not self-pubbing)
Lisa Bodenheim asked:
My question is: If this writer has their crisis moment printed in a magazine, does that influence an agent's decision of whether or not to take on this manuscript? Won't the writer need to let the agent know about copyrights for that piece of the writing?
And Dena Pawling echoed:
But then I'd be concerned an agent wouldn't want to rep it because there might be some rights issues with a portion already having been published.
Having a piece from the book published first is a plus. You'd list it in the query as a publication credit like this.
A portion of this book has appeared in GotGrants Literary Review (April:2015)
Copyright is NOT an issue. The writer retains copyright for the piece excerpted in the magazine, and can license it to the publisher without worry. The warranties and indemnities clause of the book publication deal requires that the book not be previously published, but that means the entire book, not an excerpt.
Jennifer R. Donohue had this to say about my comment on a women's fiction writer getting "the go-ahead" from a writer for Rolling Stone:
But sometimes there's that dark night of the soul where rejections are everywhere and nothing is good enough where you normally look, and that bit of any source faint praise is a lifeline.
On Friday the question was whether an agent would be worried if s/he found out it took the querier 5+ years to write the novel being queried.
Beth wrote (and several more of you also agreed with her) that having a deadline helped get the work finished:
I personally find it easier to work for something when I have an actual deadline. Right now, I'm writing with the goal of eventually being published. I don't have a true deadline. Sure, I can make a self-imposed deadline, but since there are no real stakes, who cares?
I loved what Elissa M said:
One of the questions artists are asked all the time is, "How long did it take you to paint that?" The correct answer is, "All my life."
I liked the link that bjmuntain provided on close vs distant3rd POV:
I really loved this from Carolynnwith2NNs
Speaking of first novels, we were, weren't we, anyway...
I wrote my first exactly ten years ago. September actually. I know that because it was the most stressful period of my life, new job, kid off to college for the first time, father dying, mother desperate, blah, blah, blah. I had my MC, drop everything, jump in her car and head west. I won't go into all the gory details but it wasn't until I started a second novel, I realized the first book had been my savior. I wrote what I wanted to do...leave all the BS and heartbreak behind. The book will never be published but at that time, that book not only changed my life, it saved my life.
I will always consider it my greatest writing accomplishment.
Karen McCoy asked:
And Beth's comment brought me to a question about deadlines. Probably very cart before the horse, but I'm wondering about tight deadlines from editors.
I've heard a few stories of authors having anywhere from three days to two weeks to turn around an entire novel--authors that also have full-time day jobs. And I got a small taste of this when I wrote an article for School Library Journal, and the turnaround was so quick that I ended up pulling an all-nighter.
Like most woodland creatures, I'm not afraid of hard work...but I also want to ensure that I'm putting out my best work.
So is it typical for agents to stand behind authors when they ask for extensions? Or is this scenario not as sticky as I think it is?
I think what you're talking about here is turning around copy-edits. Under no circumstances can I image a publisher requiring an entire novel in three days or two weeks!
Copy edits ARE on a tight schedule because it's the production pipeline, not editorial schedule. As long as you're only on the editorial schedule, you've got some flexibility. I've had to move books from Spring to Summer; colleagues have had to move books from one year to the next. This happens with both fiction and non-fiction.
Once you're in the production pipeline though, it's assumed the book is ready to be published and there isn't a lot of room for flexibility absent the most dire of circumstances. There are a lot of reasons for this including getting time at the printer, the publication of the catalog, the production/distribution of the review copies etc.
Copy edits are part of production. The author gets the manuscript back from the copy editor and generally has ten days to two weeks to review the suggested changes. Stet or agree, that's about it. There's some room for minor changes if needed (like changing the word panties to underpants--something that the copy editor would not have suggested but the author feels conveys the right tone)
If you mean the publication schedule, that's covered in the contract BUT it's flexible for the most part. The key is a good relationship with the editor and LOTS of advance notice. It's a whole lot easier to negotiate an extension in January for a book due in July, than it is in June.
Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli gave voice one of the great writer angsts:
Often I consider how long it takes a writer to produce a polished manuscript. Then query, revise upon further request.
By the time the work is published, thanks to the team, years go by.
Then the book is read in a matter of hours, or days at best. It's crazy. Years of work for a few hours of entertainment.
Then books sit on a shelf, collect dust, are inherited and in some places banned and burned.
To fret or not to fret, this is the question.
bjmuntain's reply was lovely:
Ah, but Angie. That's just for one reader. Multiply that time by a thousand readers. Ten thousand. A hundred thousand... All those years of work go into entertaining people for years.
Not to mention, there's a very good chance that, while the book may sit on a shelf for years, it's also sitting in the reader's mind. There's that character that just won't go away. There's a couple lines that seem to fit daily occasions. And then, the book is re-read. The connections become clearer. The book becomes more entrenched in the reader's life.
A book is so much more than a few hours of entertainment.
And that exchange is just one of the many MANY reasons I think the comments section is the very best part of this blog.
On Saturday the question was from someone trying to help a writer who lives in Poland but writes in English, and who had decided to publish her book herself.
Several of you seemed to think I was disparaging self-publishing. In a way, I probably am, simply because I see a significant increase in queries these days that start out with "I self-published this and now I want a traditional publisher, cause I hate to market/publicize/etc."
The people I see who've self published are by and large very unhappy with their experience. I'm sure there are people who are happy self-pubbing (W.R. Gingell seems to be one of them who is) but my query queue is populated with people who aren't.
I think querying is the logical first step if you have a novel you want people to read. What happens AFTER you query is then up to you.
Colin Smith is angling for a furlough from Carkoon. He might just get it since he's a Gary Corby fan:
I, too, agree with Janet. Both because she's correct, and because summer's about to start here on Carkoon (yukk) and I'm hoping she'll give me leave to visit Amy in Paradise. :)
And on a completely different yet very important note, Gary Corby's latest Athenian Mystery, DEATH EX MACHINA, comes out on Tuesday. Of course, I have my copy on pre-order. :D
brianrschwarz has the new blog subtitle this week with:
Now I'm a writer. I create and destroy worlds.
Have a great week.