Since this seems to be one of the few holidays not taken over by washing machine purveyors and greeting card merchants, I'm big on celebrating it. And since no one said exactly what KIND of flag needs to be flown today, here's my suggestion:
During last week's review Terri Lynn Coop picked up the thread about platform/eyeballs/comments and said
I'm seeing that popular blog posts are more likely to be discussed on FB than on the blog. With the need for sign-ins, captchas, etc. it is easier to hit the FB button, port it over and discuss it there.That's interesting because my experience is exactly the opposite. My Facebook pages get eyeballs most often when I post pictures of cats. My blog comments (thanks of course to y'all) are off the charts.
I recently wrote a post that, for me, took off. It was widely shared, discussed and laughed over, with shares and replies sometimes 2-3 deep. But, on the site, it shows 3 comments.
A lawyer friend who writes amusing political commentary is finding the same thing. No one comments on the blog itself, but the FB posting discussion may go on for days. I also often find the FB discussion more lively and interactive.
But, if you set up a FB page for your blog, it dies on the vine. The action is in the personal pages.
What does that mean for querying writers who need platform? LIST THE PLACE with the comments. If your FB page has comments that go on for days, that's what you list. If it's your blog, you list that.
Where ever your comments are, that's your place to demonstrate readership.
What moves this discussion off "just my opinion" and "whatever works" though is this from Terri Lynn Coop's aforementioned Facebook page (used with her permission):
Well well well . . . I seem to have attracted a FB predator. Probably in the political venue although I have been hanging out in some Sad Puppies and GamerGate style action.If you're dependent on Facebook for your platform be aware that Facebook controls your access to their service. Since you do not pay for it, you're in much weaker position if they decide to jerk your access than if you're a paying customer of a website that hosts your blog. (Since I use a free service via Google/blogger, I'm at their mercy for access as well.)
I was just bopping around some ACA and Kansas legislature mess when I was kicked off FB and had to go through some pretty decent hoops to prove my identity. They showed me pics from my friends and made me identify you by name. You are allowed two errors.
When I logged back in, I was told to "review the community standards for interacting on FB." So, someone apparently reported me as a fake or harassing account.
Second time something like this has happened since the Kansas political situation has heated up. First time involved my congresswoman.
Just wanted to let you know in case I disappear off-line.
As for the ongoing comments on the lunacy that is Captcha, I thought Terri Lynn Coop might have just made the definitive comment:
PS: Hey, "captcha" WHAT IF I AM A ROBOT? A SENTIENT ROBOT WITH FEELINGS THAT YOU HURT EACH AND EVERY TIME YOU FORCE ME TO DENY MY TRUE SELF JUST TO LEAVE A COMMENT.but then on Monday, this from kdjames.com is also perfect:
HA! Recaptcha just made me laugh. I'm not a robot, but I'm getting there. One body part at a time. :-)
I loved that last line in stacy's description of meeting Craig Johnson at Printers Row in Chicago:
OTOH, we still have the Printers Row Literary Festival, and this year was particularly fun. Got to (briefly) meet Craig Johnson, who held a great talk and and was very personable when he signed books. I apologized for the atrocious weather we had yesterday morning and he talked a little about the time he did a 52-city book tour in cities where none managed to have any baseball teams.
I didn't ask whether he liked the Cubs or the White Sox because, boy howdy, I didn't want to trigger a riot in the library, which I'm pretty certain is deemed neutral ground by the fans.
On Monday the contest results were delayed till noon cause I was felled by a terrible headache and you really REALLY don't want me looking at contest entries in that state.
The puppy pictures (and goat!) were perfect. I have to admit the one closest to what I actually looked/felt like was posted by QuirkyElf
And the contest results went up and our own Donnaeve was the winner.
John Frain said what many of you have thought at one time or another:
One final note. The subjectivity of this crazy business we're all volunteering to enter hits me. With all due respect to all pieces mentioned, my favorite entry (I'm looking at you S.D. King) was not even listed. One more reason to cast the query net wide.Every time I've had someone else also looking at the contest entries, we've almost always picked different winners, and a lot of time, different finalists. This is absolute proof that querying widely is the only way to go, even if you really like one particular agent. (I've posted about the dangers of Dream Agent Lists before.)
On Tuesday the topic turned to agents recommending freelance editors.
ProfeJMarie outlined the EXACT problem that our original poster would have called hinkie:
On the other hand, the hinky part to me is this kind of situation, too: I had a writer friend tell me that an agent she queried rejected her, but then offered her editorial services. My writer friend was under no illusions that getting her manuscript edited by this agent would suddenly change the agent's mind to represent her after she made changes/revisions, but the whole thing huele mala - smells bad - to me.
And your olfactory senses are not betraying you. This is EXACTLY the problem that was rampant years ago in agenting. Agents would get queries, only to turn around and market editorial services to the queriers. This is Wrong Wrong Wrong.
Amanda Capper had an interesting question:
If my publisher said, "This quarter you only sold 5 books on Amazon, two on B&N, and one hard copy through us", how would I know any different? Not that my publisher would, he's a really great guy. I think.
For starters, your contract requires royalty statements that show how many books were sold, shipped and returned in every royalty period. Every publisher provides these. A publisher who does NOT provide these is not a publisher you want to do business with.
And if you were savvy, you got an audit clause in the contract that says you get to look at the publisher's books once a year.
A publisher who won't let you audit the books is one I'd have SERIOUS questions about working with.
I spend a good deal of my day working with royalty statements and making sure they're correct (they're not always.) That's one of the (many) benefits of working with an agent.
On Wednesday the topic turned to using someone's life as a basis for your book.
I mentioned that the warranties and indemnities clause of a publishing contract would come in to play here and recommended (strongly) that our Questioner consult a publishing lawyer.
Lance asked: Is this similar to a model release form used by photographers?
But what if you choose a name for a very unlikeable character, and someone who really has that name claims defamation? Is the author safe as long as the character isn't a public figure? But what if I accidentally choose the name of a state congressman I've never heard of? What are the guidelines here?
Defamation requires intent (generally speaking.) Thus naming a character Janet Reid and making her a literary agent who ate writers for breakfast would require that you actually meant for readers to know (or intuit) that it was me. And it would have to be damaging as in "eating writers for breakfast" is something that would damage my reputation (versus enhance it, as we know it does)
The difference here is that the Questioner was using the story of someone's life, with her permission implied. My point is that implied is not enough. You need it in writing, and you need it written by someone who can help you navigate roadblocks ahead that most writers can't even imagine.
How does this apply when writing your memoir? Do you suppose Frank McCourt had to get permission from his brothers and parents to write about them? (I've read all three of his memoirs twice and love them.No he didn't. Frank McCourt was writing his own life, and his own memories. He had to warrant that this memoir was true to the best of his knowledge and wasn't libelous, but my guess is that the lawyers at his publisher read it over before it went to final copy edits.
NotAWarrior Princess asked: How on earth does this not wreak havoc on memoir?
Your memoir is YOUR story. Your truth. Not someone else's. Where this whole thing about "absolutely true" went off the rails was with A Million Little Pieces by James Frey that started out as a novel and then got published as a memoir.
Once people started questioning it, the publisher back pedaled. And Oprah required a stern couch finger wagging.
Everyone would have been a lot better off if they'd just said "look, this is how I remember it and if you don't, well, I was on drugs, what do you expect."
The cases of books like Angel at the Fence; Love and Consequences; Misha: A memoir of the Holocaust years; and Go Ask Alice are a different problem. These are just outright fabrications. The questions isn't about who remembered what here, it's that none of this stuff actually happened.
Your memories might not be what everyone remembers, but you will need to prove that you actually lived on Carkoon to write "Carkoon: A Memoir" these days.
Susan Bonifant asked:
Can an author ever release themselves from liability via the "any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead is purely coincidental" disclaimer?
It's not a universal protection at all. It's boilerplate in most works of fiction, but doesn't apply to our Questioner's case because of course, the book IS based on someone's life.
Dena Pawling gave us two hilarious link:
50 Shades of Grey lube lawsuit
and you'll notice this one isn't about the book, it's merchandise. So, when we all club together to market "Carkoon Recipes for Thin Thighs in Thirty Days" somebody better have thin thighs or we're gonna need to have Terri Lynn Coop dust off her law degree and get us all out of the hoosegow.
50 Shades of Grey Texas author
notice this one is about the lack of a signed contract among authors? yea, me too.
And in case you were wondering what "My E&O carrier" means: it's professional liability insurance for advice givers.
And JulieM.Weathers said:
Criminy, now I wonder, should I change the names of my horse trader Jetreid and my renowned madam Tawana F'Enske?absolutely NOT! (except you know Tawna has only two As in her name, right?)
Speaking of names, on Thursday we discussed how to query when the main character doesn't have a name. My advice was try different tactics and see which sounds best.
I liked Dena Pawling's list of questions to help get the right info into a query:
What helped me in writing my queries, is asking myself these questions:
1. What's unique about the MC?
2. What's the story goal? What does the MC want?
2. What's the conflict? Why can't MC have what he wants?
3. What's the crisis/black moment?
4. What choice must the MC make?
5. What's the twist?
DLM hit the nail on the head with this:
Leave agents *wanting* to know what the prize will beThe purpose of a query is to entice. Thus you don't strip down to the skin, you leave on the lace and the feathers and the leather and just give us hints of what's underneath.
It was our own Julie Weathers who once described a good query as akin to a good strip tease.
W.R.Gingell was curious about whether:
Now I'm curious to know if anyone has written a query on a cake. I've got a bad feeling that someone, somewhere, and for some reason, probably has.I'm sure someone has. They didn't send it to me though. I have gotten queries on twenty dollar bills (I stopped using that joke soon after!)
Jennifer R. Donohue asked:
Though I wonder...if Daphne DuMaurier had to query Rebecca in modern querying style, how would she have done it? (this is my best and most favorite "nameless main character/nameless narrator" example. I get that Opie's MC isn't nameless, but I feel it might not even be so tangential of me....)
I think she was described as Max DeWinter's new bride, what she was rather than who she was. Interestingly I read that entire book and loved it and only afterwards when my mum said "did you notice" did I realize that of course, the second Mrs. DeWinter did not have her own name.
And oh my god, so skillfully done that it didn't even dawn on me till I was clued in later. Talk about layers and layers of story telling.
What I wonder is when that happened in the writing process.
And I loved Julie..M.Weathers comment on character names:
There has to be a balance between Estunemeazz and Eklylazohra and "this is my brother Daryl and my other brother Daryl.DLM said:
Once again, I'm struck by my good fortune in being a historical fiction author. Not only have all my characters been dead 1500 years, some of them never lived at all, or may only have been legends told in ancient propaganda.Gary Corby had some of these problems when he started his Athenian series. Names had to seem accurate but also be accessible to modern readers.
Of course, it does rather leave me in Julie's world of Eklylazohras (Amalaswintha and Mataswintha are little less confusing for some readers), but I rest relatively assured nobody'll be suing.
One of the best names EVER will be in his 2016 book Singer From Memphis which he just turned in to his editor. (In other words, start reading the series now so you can read SINGER next year!)
And Julie.M.Weathers offered up this link to a story that made me laugh so hard I snorted Dr. Brown's Black Cherry cola right out my schnozz (ow.)
If you're not familiar with Dan Kennedy at Weiden and Kennedy, it's the super successful ad agency in Portland Oregon that did the Nike ads (maybe still does, I don't know) for years.
On Friday I related a story about an author who called his editor to complain his book wasn't in a particular store. I mentioned this was not an effective way to deal with that problem.
I think the person who contacted the author thought perhaps they were doing him/her a favor.Exactly so. Like the readers who write to the author's with helpful notes about mistakes in the printed book (as though perhaps the author had purposely included it.)
And SiSi brought back the terrors of drive-by signings from my publicity days:
One of the worst is for the author to show up, in person or via email, and demand that the store stock the book. This is especially ineffective if you insinuate the booksellers are stupid for not already having your book on the shelf.I always called ahead to make sure a store had books before going in to sign, but I heard stories about authors doing this from bookstore owners. It's one fast way to make sure a bookstore never stocks your books.
And I think Terri Lynn Coop is on to something here:
And no, I would never bitch to an author. I might bitch to a bookstore manager about their utter lack of taste in not having a section dedicated to "Books by Terri's Friends," with a subsection, "Books by Terri's Friends That are Represented by Janet Reid," but not the author. I tend to celebrate sightings in places from supermarkets to Walmart rather than bitch about where it's not.
This must pertain to writers who are popular enough that emails from readers aren't in and of themselves thrilling.
I'm with Lizzie-- if a reader contacted me to say they wanted to read my book but couldn't find it, I'd be so thrilled it'd never occur to me to complain about distribution. I'd be asking what format they wanted and finding a way to send it to them ASAP. For free.
I actually had this problem with one of my clients. People wrote to him about how much they loved his books and asked where to get signed editions. He'd reply by sending signed books for free. I hit the roof when I heard that and urged him to get a local bookstore to partner with for signed copies.
The bookstore is listed on his website as the place to get signed editions. The bookstore is happy (more revenue); the reader is happy (signed books); the agent is happy as is author. In other words Win/Win. And I stole this idea from some big name author (I forget who) that had exactly that set up on his website.
On Saturday we took up the topic of noms de plume
Kitty hit one of my dislikes too, with her comment:
One suggestion: Don't make your fiction a soap box for your nonfiction writing. It's one thing for the book characters to be political. As the reader, I don't care what the characters' beliefs are. But it's another thing to inject your personal beliefs into your fiction. There is a difference. I don't want to be preached to when I read a murder mystery.One of my favorite writers does this, and it's annoying as hell. I even agree with her politics too! I just turn pages till she's done with the commentary on why the world is going to hell but it still cuts in to how much I enjoy the rest of the book.
And MBOwen pointed out:
It's true. We are a very divisive culture when it comes to social and politic views. I've seen movies and/or books protested because of a writer's privately held (though publicaly known) views though the movies and said books were not political in nature.Orson Scott Card anyone?
Mister Furkles said:
I've quit reading novels by three previously favorite writers who wrote novels as 'morality plays'. It isn't that I disagree with their views—in one case I agreed with them—but it's waste of my time. Maybe it's just me, but I feel cheated when I pay money and time for entertainment and instead receive 'moral' instruction.
I like the description "morality plays" here. It seems exactly the right way to describe this.
Colin Smith said:
The ones I stop reading are the ones who preach throughout their novels, and caricature those who disagree with them unfairly. An atheist who writes novels promoting the infallibility of science and human wisdom, and presenting all "religious" people as stupid and backward will not get much interest from me. Sorry. :)I think the key part here is the "caricature those who disagree with them" phrase. And that's interesting because caricature is just bad writing. We could all probably live with someone taking a position through their novels if the writing was good. We'd call it seeing the other side of the coin. When you think about it, we've all felt empathy for the bad guy in a well written novel. Think of Key to Rebecca and Eye of the Needle.
I think bjmuntain got this exactly right:
I disagree that a novel influenced by a particular view is necessarily preachy or bad. All novels are influenced to some degree by an author's views, and not everyone will agree with them. But that doesn't make them bad, uninteresting novels.
I do agree that novels should never be preachy. Most people who read fiction want to be entertained, not preached to. The novels that have the most impact on society have views that are subtle and almost unnoticed by the readers, yet stick with the reader long after they've finished the novel.
And speaking of bad writing and Rush Limbaugh, here's what I think is the definitive article on Rush Limbaugh's books for kids.
Dena Pawling said:
Another of the members never got around to mentioning to her editor [she sells directly to a romance publisher, no agent] that she wanted to use a pseudonym, so she was surprised to find her book on the publisher's website and on the shelves with her real name, which is confusing to pronounce and impossible to spell. She thinks it puts her at a disadvantage because readers will have a hard time asking at a bookstore and/or typing it into a search function. So, if you choose not to disclose it up front, BE SURE to remember to do it EARLY in the process.Early in the process is at the contract stage. You want the nom de plume listed on the contract or those kinds of name mistakes are MUCH more likely.
MisterFurkles mentioned William F. Buckley:
The late William F. Buckley was founding editor of the conservative National Review and also wrote a series of cold war--Blackford Oakes--spy novels under his real name. Other than being anti-Soviet Union, the spy novels were apolitical. Did liberals who like CW spy novels but disagreed with his political views refuse to read his novels? I don't know.
I disagreed with a lot of what Buckley believed, but I did read SAVING THE QUEEN and did love it!
When I'm not reading your comments and tormenting my clients with synopsis demands, I'm working my way through City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg (pubbing in September) a 900+ page novel about New York in the Seventies. I'm about half way through and I love it so far. This is slated to get a big big push in the fall from the publisher so keep an eye peeled for it.
Have a great week, and see you back here on Monday for a fresh round of questions!
New blog subheader:
I've been thinking about this all day and trying to think of a delicate way to say this, but there just isn't. You'd have to pour ten gallons of stupid into a five gallon bucket to call an editor and rant like that.--Julie Weathers