Thursday, July 23, 2015

Reality checks

Item 1:

Dear Janet:
I’ve accepted a publishing agreement for (title) th a small independent publisher.
Thank you for considering my manuscript, and I look forward to querying you for other titles.

This arrived in my email on July 22.
The query for the novel arrived on July 14.
8 days.
When the author withdrew the manuscript, I hadn't even read the query.

My guess is the author was querying publishers and agents at the same time.
I understand the temptation to do this.

Here's why it's a bad idea:
1. If your book is good enough for a quick acceptance by a small publisher, it's probably good enough for consideration at a publisher that pays advances, has a sales force, has a library sales team, and an actual art department.

Why jump for publication so quickly? Why not get a sense of what your options are first?

2. "I look forward to querying you for other titles" might be true for the writer, but it's not for me. Once you're published, with a sales track record, it's harder to sell your work for lots of money. That's a just a plain cold hard fact. And since I make my living selling books, I tend to pick the ones that I think I can get some money for. LOTS of money in fact.

I don't say any of this to you when you write to withdraw your query. I simply say "congratulations and I look forward to seeing your book in the store."

Item 2:
A few days ago, I got word that Publishing Company Z is accepting direct submissions in four genres, including mystery/suspense. Their site indicates they do not charge authors for reading, nor do they charge accepted authors for light editing, cover creation or marketing. They do ask that their authors do as much marketing on their own as they can, in addition to the publisher's efforts. Not unlike a small press, I hear. In short, they seemed legit.

I sent in my much-improved query (thank you for that!) along with a longer synopsis. That night I got a request for the first two chapters. That was last night. Today I was told they want to publish my novel and attached a contract. (They haven't read the whole thing yet, you'll note.)

It's not so much that they haven't read the novel before offering a publication contract (which is a pretty big red flag in and of itself, but given I've sold novels on partials, not a total deal breaker) it's that they're carefully telling you they don't charge to read or edit, or create covers or do marketing.

Since a publisher shouldn't do those things anyway, why do they feel the need to tell you they don't? Like the person who assures you he'll never do something that you never considered he might.

Clicking on Publisher X's  webstite was a very illuminating experience:

"All work must be original and free of copyright" 

That phrase demonstrates very clearly that the pubisher doesn't understand the concept of copyright at all. That's a very fundamental thing in book publishing.

 With Publisher X you are joining a network of authors. Their contacts will be visiting the bookstore with your book(s) in it, and your contacts will do the same. This process creates more exposure to all of our books and gives authors a better chance of selling than going it alone.

This is delusional. It's also illogical. Do you really think your "contacts" are going to visit stores to promote an author they don't know? Hell no. I'm a radid drooling DEVOTED fan of several authors I do not represent and if they asked me to visit stores to promote someone else at their publisher I wouldn't do it. I advocate for writers I love. That's the nature of being a fan and a "contact."

This publisher not only doesn't understand publishing, they don't seem to understand people.  I can think of a lot of problems I'm willing to have with publishers; these two aren't on that list.


Tamlyn said...

uh... where are all the commenters? did a shark eat them? am I in an alternate reality?

E.Maree said...

Tamlyn, thank you for commenting! I've been sitting here for five minutes refreshing. 'No... no something must be wrong. Where are all the woodland creatures? I can't be first! I'm not ready to be first. I can't think of anything clever to say!'

So, thank you for shouldering this burden. Let's go investigate the mystery of the disappearing critters.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Hi guys, calm down. I' m here, been here. Had to get coffee first.

E.Maree said...

Oh thank goodness! All is right with the world. Welcome back, Carolynnwith2Ns :D

Really loved today's QOTKU blog. Bad publishers are terrifying, don't get me wrong, but there's something deeply reassuring about: "1. If your book is good enough for a quick acceptance by a small publisher, it's probably good enough for consideration at a publisher that pays advances, has a sales force, has a library sales team, and an actual art department."

Encouraging words there for the small pub authors. You *are* good enough! Keep on dreaming bigger and bigger!

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Again Mighty Shark comes to the rescue.

Publishing is like a bottle of 1%. It may look fresh but until you take the cap off, and your olfactories put you on alert, it's not until you sip that you know the milk is sour.
Sip first, don't gulp.

Ellipsis Flood said...

I'd run for the hills if I read phrases like "free of copyright." At the first glance, it sounds like they didn't want you to have any rights to your work. Just hand it over and leave, but make sure you didn't copy it from someone or else we're in trouble.

In general, this sounds like some sort of... publishing club? Like you join, and they will pelt unsuspecting store owners with your book. In return, you will pelt your people with the others' books.

The more it sounds like a pyramid scheme.

Oh, and Google, I doubt torturing heat-plagued blog readers with images of ice cream is a good method of checking their humanity.

CynthiaMc said...

Good advice. As a decent person who comes from a small town where people still don't lock their doors, I'm amazed at the ways people try to bamboozle people.

Here's why I need an agent: I love to write. I hate to haggle (unless it's in Korea over shoes - I got pretty good at that). I know I will need someone in my corner that will say "Not a bad offer, but I can get you more and here's why."

The Mockingbird Next Door is my commute book this week and I am jealous. I want to be Harper Lee (then not now).

Tamlyn said...

Oh, good. I think I broke my shoulders commenting first. I'm going to hide back in the woodwork now the cavalry has arrived.

Anonymous said...

I always have a bit of a giggle when I come across a 'publisher's' website that very carefully tells people it 'doesn't charge' for this and 'doesn't charge' for that...

Reeeeeeed Flaaaaag!

A bit like the funny money someone tried to pass me the other day at my day job. So very obviously something wrong...

Anonymous said...

Donna Rubino commented yesterday on a tweet in some kind of promotion where authors were supposed to tweet something to entice people to check out their books. The line from the book made no sense. I know the author thought it was dramatic and enticing, but it wasn't. It just made you scratch your head trying to intuit what they were saying.

Out of curiosity, I checked out the book and the publisher because Donna said the publisher also reps Leo Tolstoy. What?!

Sure enough, they list Leo Tolstoy and Jane Austen as their authors, among others. The Jane Austen book is a book of pictures of cats with Can I Haz Cheezburger type captions from Pride and Prejudice. I wasn't aware Jane was still writing. God bless her.

On further reading, I note this publisher sold out to a small publisher who has contacted me several times via twitter pitch contests and requested FAR RIDER. The first publisher has since decided to go back into business and proudly touts their 300 authors. I have to wonder how much of this is zombie fiction with long dead authors penning new work for them.

I mentioned this late yesterday, for those who missed it.

I can't tell you how many people have advised me to find a small publisher or self publish FAR RIDER if I don't find an agent and get an agent for the next book. I'm glad QOTKU addressed this so I finally had something to say besides, "I don't want to," like a spoiled toddler.

Susan Bonifant said...

Re Item 1. This one seems iffy to me. I get that 8 days between your query and the author's decision to go with the small publisher is not long, but for how long might this project have been sitting in someone else's inbox, and over how long a period of querying?

Your point does seem valid that if a small publisher jumped, so might have another with better resources to launch this book and author. But considering how difficult it is to even get a response from many agents, it can be very, very difficult to tell a bird in the hand from the ones in the bushes.

Should the author have waited another week? Or contacted a preferred agent with proper connections to traditional publishing for a yes/no status on the query? (I like that one)

Assuming the process of querying for this author has been like it is for many - long, sometimes discouraging, sometimes exhilarating, but full of unknowns, how to know what's jumping too quickly?

AJ Blythe said...

Like JRs blog, Victoria Strauss' blog (Writer Beware) is essential reading for any writer. Thanks to her I've learnt heaps about spotting Red Flags!

Another good site to check before signing is Predators and Editors.

But the best way to avoid all of that is to have an Awesome Agent. Which is why that's going to be my first (even if very long) step when my baby (read ms) is ready to send out.

Donnaeve said...

Sometimes the very idea of publication is SO intoxicating, like being drunk, you do stuff you shouldn't.

Anonymous said...

Exactly, Donnaeve!

So hard to watch out for dangersigns when you want something so much. To my mind, that's what makes predators of this kind so scummy. They trade on that dream and make money from it- mostly from you.

Unknown said...

1. If your book is good enough for a quick acceptance by a small publisher, it's probably good enough for consideration at a publisher that pays advances, has a sales force, has a library sales team, and an actual art department.

Rats. I wish I had read this advice a year ago. The one and only publisher I queried called a month after I sent my full to tell me he loved it. When, as a quivering possum, you hear those's like losing your virginity. You simply break open your rib cage, rip out your heart, sign it and hand it over.

I was lucky. My small press was a good fit. But now I've made it twice as hard to entice an agent. Rats.

Tony Clavelli said...

Right, DonnaE!--sometimes I think "Just sell it to whoever wants it! Anyone!" and then I read this. In an exhausted daze, I sent my novel to a small press because I loved one of their books, but after reading this, I think that was a mistake. I'll add it to my list of many. It's (again) clear I've been putting my resources in the right place with querying.

It's scary how hard it is to get started in this business, and how much momentum (or lack thereof) that beginning carries. I feel like I'm pulling back a Wile E. Coyote-style giant slingshot, and then hoping to catch a speeding bird, but I'm equally likely to fly over a canyon's edge.

I mean, get published. The speeding bird is getting published. That was a terrible analogy that I'm going to send along anyway.

Colin Smith said...

Tamlyn: Hello! You know, most of us in the US aren't up before 5am Eastern Time, and many of us aren't awake enough to string sentences together until after 8am. 2Ns is the anomaly here, of course (she is an anomaly in many ways). :D

It's great to be passionate about your work, and have a deep, strong desire to be published. But no-one should be so desperate as to jump into bed with the first publisher who says you're pretty. :)

C. L. McCollum said...

Finally coming out of my lurking status to comment because this post cut terribly close to home.

I wasn't this particular woodland creature who emailed Janet, but I managed to do a similar thing early on in querying. Jumped the gun and was thrilled by an offer from a small press and didn't give the two agents who had partials time to read *headdesk* And just my luck the contract with the small press fell through after all, leaving me at square one. Definitely my biggest regret so far in the querying/publishing process.

At least I learned from it, right? I'm querying ONLY agents for now and just politely thanking any press editors for their interest if they star on a twitter pitch event.

Eventually I'll make up the time I lost due to my idiocy, but it's still frustrating to realize I shot myself in the foot. :/

Dena Pawling said...

For item #1, what if the email had instead read – “I've received an offer from small publisher X.” Then it gave you 1-2 weeks to consider whether you'd like to rep it. Does the fact that the writer was querying both agents and publishers mean an auto-pass for you?

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Maybe someone already said this regarding scenario 1 but, if we receive an offer from a small press--because for whatever unbeknown reason we were querying both agents and small presses--can we not treat this the same way as when we have several fulls out (harking back to Donna et al's song theme yesterday about dreams and themes and circus clouds which I only knew through Glen Campbell) with various agents and one particular agent expresses a desire to represent us? When an offer of representation/publication is received, create a deadline for when you will respond with a yea or nay, let everyone with fulls know an offer has been received.

Or is that comparing grapes and watermelons?

(hm, I'm hungry. Off to search the kitchen for breakfast.)

Anonymous said...


Congratulations and welcome to the shiver. E. Marlee welcome also, though you may have popped up before, the name looks familiar. My mind often goes on vacation and forgets to invite me.

C.L., it's always more fun to wade in. Welcome.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Where was I at 5 AM? Curled up my Doberman snug in our beds.

Where was I starting 8:30-ish until now (well, and for the rest of the workday?) at the library, pulling holds to send out on Inter Library Loan, helping patrons, etc.

But now I'm here, and was meditating upon a thing (which relates, sorta, since "library sales" have been mentioned): at my library, we have quite the large print collection, and quite the population which reads large print books, which frequently have a very different cover from their initial release (which is what made me think of it; Lee Child's PERSUADER in Large Print has a non glossy black and white cover, and I had to look twice to find it since I had the orange and silver cover in my brain). Are Large Print rights negotiated separately, with separate royalties?

My thoughts on "fast acceptance" from a small press, and its comment on the quality of one's work: I got a fast acceptance from a small press, which then went on hiatus, and then went under (I think?), and is now...kind of doing stuff again? But there were enough red flags before that point I parted ways amicably (I think?). So fast acceptance from a small press certainly carries different weight from fast acceptance from a LEGIT small press. I hadn't been reading Ms. Reid's blogs in those days, you see.

But, why would I accept fast acceptance directly from a publisher? Well, if it included an advance, I can think of a big reason in my life: MORTGAGE ;)

Unknown said...

C.L. It could have been worse! At least it didn't get published! :) the unknown is a powerful bargaining chip! Especially in writing. Not so much in music. I was an unknown musician making tunes in my basement for years, and would you believe none of the record labels I pitched were impressed by that? ;) true story.

As for Janet's rant... I'm perplexed at how someone could see this as a benefit. Someone once offered me the opportunity to pay them $150 dollars a month for their "team" to send out promotional materials to all manner of places. Rolling stone, ap magazine, the list went on. turns out he wasn't doing it anyways. Just pitching bands and running away with money. He gave them status updates, telling them who might be interested and stringing them out on hope.

Hope is a powerful motivator too. The trick is ubderstanding when someone is using it against you. :)

Anonymous said...

When I was younger, we raised a lot of chickens. Mom ordered 500 peepers every spring to allow for stupid chicken deaths, coyotes, weasels, sickness, and drunk chickens getting run over. Come fall, we'd commence to butchering. My job was to chase down the dead chickens and haul them to the house in the Irishman's buggy (wheelbarrow).

I'd chase down chickens who didn't know they were dead, haul them, pluck them, or skin them, but I wasn't gutting them. My mother showed me several times and I declined. I couldn't tolerate the smell.

"Julia, you'll never get a decent husband if you don't learn how to gut a chicken!"

Well, who the heck knew that was so important to decent men?

Sometimes a person just has to decide how badly they want something. I apparently decided I didn't want a decent husband because I never learned how to gut a chicken properly. Yes, there is a certain finesse to it.

Nor do I want to be published badly enough to jump into bed with anyone who flashes a contract.

Donnaeve said...

I have a chicken story. Well, it's not mine. It's mom's. When she and dad were first married, he brought home a "dressed" chicken. It had no head. It had no feathers. But the rest of it was there, i.e. it still had feet/neck.

He tossed it in the sink and said, "I'm going to take a shower."

Mom said she picked it up to wash and remove the feet and the rest of the neck when the darn thing squawked. She screamed, threw it on the floor and was about to plant her foot on it when dad, who heard her scream, came running into the kitchen.

"What is it? What's wrong?"
"The damn thing can still squawk!"
"No, it can't."
"Oh yes it can, you pick it up and see."
He picked it up. "arrrrrr." Silence.

Of course they told that story over and over, how Mom thought the thing was still alive. Air was left in the neck I guess. I don't know. Maybe Julie does. The idea they can still run around the yard after their heads have been lopped off is amazing. Sort of like that headless fish video I saw on Facebook the other day. Everytime this lady tried to scale it, it twisted and turned like it was still alive. It was funny - but creepy.

Now, that I've effectively gone off topic...

The way I make decisions most of the time is to try and not have a knee jerk reaction. I let the decision I need to make "sit" for a day or two. If I still feel the same way after I've let some time go by - i.e. sobered up from my drunken euphoria - then I know. This was hard for me to learn to do. I'm rather impulsive.

Oh, and hi C.L., Tamlyn, and E. Maree. *waves*

E.Maree said...

Hi Donnaeve. *waves* That's a chicken story straight out of a horror movie!

I don't have the guts (hah) for chicken-butchery. Wish I did, though. I mean, when the eventual YA dystopian future descends, how am I going to survive without knowing how to hunt and prep my food? I can't even forage. I'm never going to be cut out for protaganism at this rate.

Colin Smith said...

Since we're off topic, I actually got picked for a jury yesterday, so I got to hear a case! Fascinating experience. We had a good time of deliberation, too. Different points of view. We did eventually come to a unanimous decision. It certainly gave me new respect for lawyers. Those guys have to gather all this evidence from all different quarters, and package it in a way that is comprehensible to 12 people with different levels of experience and education. Our jury consisted of a history professor and a retail clerk, and a spectrum in between. Everyone had a healthy dose of common sense, though, and that helped a great deal with coming to a unanimous verdict.

Kudos to you, TLC, Dena, and others! :)

C. L. McCollum said...

Thanks for the welcome everyone! I'm definitely glad the MS didn't end up published with that press, but whole situation does still sting a little. Oh well - live and learn!

Julie, we had chickens when I was little and still living on our family's ranch, and I am definitely not a fan. I've got a few too many scars on my ankles from hens (yes hens! - our roosters were actually almost kind) to ever be on board with spending that much time around them. I have aunts and uncles who still raise them, so I get free eggs with none of the effort.

Never had to butcher or gut a chicken, thankfully, but I have field dressed and cleaned my own deer to take to the processor on several occasions. There's nothing better than venison from the ranch - much as I enjoy beef, deer meat tends to be so much tastier in my opinion!

Anonymous said...


Yes, they can still squawk because of air left in the body. Eyes in de-bodied heads can follow you for a while after they become unattached. A French physician told his friend to watch his face closely after he was beheaded in the revolution to see how many times he blinked. The physician's head blinked eleven times.

All research. I used a scene with something similar to this in FAR RIDER. And I wonder why no one wants my baby. sigh

A pirate captain and his crew were captured in the Caribbean. The captain made a deal for them to spare some of his men. They would behead the captain and however many men his headless body ran past in a gauntlet, that's how many men would be spared. The captain's body made a supreme effort and I think he got past ten men. The executioner complained to high heaven because he got paid by the head, so to speak. So, the magistrate went back on his word and killed all the crew.

The perks of including a pirate in your fantasy is pirate research and convincing yourself carving Jack Sparrow funkins is legitimate research.

Dena Pawling said...

Seriously Colin? One day from jury selection to verdict? My shortest jury trial was one day for pre-trial motions (which is before jury) followed by three days of selection, trial, deliberation, and verdict. NC obviously doesn't work like CA.

Donnaeve said...

Julie, now I'm totally creeped out by the eyeball thing. GOOD GAWD.

I killed a snake once. The body was detached from the head, and I swear, every time the body moved the snake's mouth opened. For hours. I know because I had it in the ole "Irishman's buggy." (kudos to Julie)

AND, every time I hovered over it, about to throw some root or weed in, the mouth opened and the body wiggled. GROSS.

Christina Seine said...

Wow, it's great to see so much fresh meat - um, ahem, I mean new faces!

Colin, how in the world did they find 12 people with common sense in this day and age. I am flabbergasted.

Always wanted to serve on a jury. They don't let reporters (or former reporters who still freelance for newspapers) serve on juries. Darn it.

I haven't butchered chickens, but I want to learn. Next year we're hoping to add meat birds to our little menagerie. Strike that to say that I *need* to learn (don't exactly *want* to). I guess I was still able to land a husband because my grandpa taught me how to gut a fish when I was five.

One of the first fancy meals I cooked for my husband was a live lobster. I'd never cooked a lobster before (I'd never even eaten one before). Went to the store, brought home a big red beauty wrapped in paper, set him in a sink full of ice water. Petted his back, made his claw wave hello. He was super lethargic, barely moved at all. He was even kind of cute, as lobsters go.

Then I put him in the pot of boiling water.

My husband found me on the floor, sobbing. Oh, the lobster was dead by then. Finally. He was still in the pot - minus the one claw he'd managed to cram under the lid in a mute plea for mercy. Lobsters can extend their claws quite far when their lives depend on it. And they're fast. My perfectly-sized pot was WAY too small, it turned out. Also, lobsters can scream.

Unless that was me.

Did I say I wanted to learn to butcher chickens? Never mind.

For some reason this post (ah-ha! actually on topic!) reminds me of what happened to some friends the other day. Those guys came around selling meat. I don't know if this happens in the Lower 48 too, but it's a common scam up here. My sweet, too-trusting friends were ripped off. Oh they got their meat, a fraction of what was promised, and their new "free" freezer actually has a Styrofoam lid. But the deal was just too easy, too good to be real. Live and learn.

Thank God we woodland creatures have The Shark looking out for us.

Theresa said...

The waiting is the hardest part.

Today's advice is a great reminder about professionalism, believing in the value of your work, and waiting to weigh your options.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Wait a minute, wait a minute. How the hell did you guys go from small press to headless animals, squawking, and running around, and their eyes following you, and pirates for Gawd's sake, doing an Irish Jig after their heads being lopped off?
I'm thinking someone is challenging Mr. King.

Anyway, I think if a small press offered me a headless chicken as an advance for my trunk novels, I'd probably cook it for them and send them home with leftovers. But, non-fiction, my essays, columns and other remunerations, no way. They can stuff their own chicken.
Funny how I put a higher price on the stuff "about me" rather than the other made-up stuff "written by me".

I had chicken soup for lunch. It just didn't taste as good as it usually does. I wonder why.

Anonymous said...


Years ago an old black man used to drive around and sell beef out of a freezer unit he had mounted on the back of his truck. He showed me some of the steaks and they looked good, but we were raising our own beef so I didn't need any. The neighbors had bought some from him and said it was very good beef and he invited people to come out to his place and look over the beef he was raising.

So, although I didn't need any meat, I didn't say never.

He stopped by one afternoon and I had Tina Girl and Ranger out. Both of them were red merle Aussies, the dogs, not the people. Tina had two China blue eyes, which are very light blue eyes. Ranger had one blue eye and one blue and brown eye.

One of the boys started crying, so I stepped back in to grab him and left Mr. Smith outside for a moment. I grab a screaming kid then I hear a screaming Mr. Smith. "Oh, God! Oh, God! Get that debil dog away from me. Oh, sweet Jesus. Somebody help me!"

"Mr. Smith. What on earth is wrong?"

He was curled up, almost fetal against the back of his truck, his arms wrapped around his head. I'd never seen a grown man cry like that. I don't think Tina had either. She sat there in front of him cocking her head from one side to the other looking at him and then looking at me, tongue lolled out. Tina, of course, thought anyone who drove up was there to see her and trotted over so Mr. Smith could pet her or she could figure out a way to get in his truck. She loved to ride and it didn't matter with whom.

"Get that dog with them ghost eyes away! Oh, Sweet mother of God, get that debil dog away!"

"Tina? Mr. Smith, she just has blue eyes. She's not going to hurt you."

Then here comes Ranger, he of the one blue eye. Dear father in heaven. I put the dogs up before the poor man had heart failure. Fortunately, we kept raising our own beef because Mr. Smith never graced our place again.

On the plus side, if he wasn't right with God before that day, I believe he was when he left. It may be the first time in history an Aussie was instrumental in a man being born again.

Anonymous said...


I love chickens. I like having the little peepers around in the spring. I can spend hours watching them, feeding them one potato peel at a time. On my grandparent's farm I used to pack hens around all the time. A doll in one arm, a hen in the other and off we would go to explore the day.

Mother had one rooster who was a cantankerous fool. He'd wait until you had your back turned then run up behind you and flog you. That year she raised Golden Giant Crosses. No idea what they were, but those chickens were huge and dressed out about the size of small turkeys. That sucker would hurt you when he flogged you.

I just finished gathering eggs and was starting back to the house when Goldie decided to attack. I heard him coming because he was so heavy. thump thump thump

I wheeled around just as he flew up to flog me and hit him in the head with the bucket of eggs. He dropped like a rock.

I set the bucket of eggs down for Mom. "Here's your eggs. Some are broke because I got tired of your flogging rooster and brained him with the bucket. He's dead out in the corral if you want him."

He wasn't dead, but he did avoid me after that.

I burned out on venison on the ranch. My stepdad didn't believe in feeding kids beef when you could feed them venison for free. Venison three times a day with a scattering of chicken tends to burn you out. Though I have to admit good venison sausage is hard to beat.

I do like elk, though. My dad hunted right up until he had his stroke. He was so proud that he got a cow permit because they are rare. I kept telling him after he had his stroke he had to get better so he could go hunting. He'd smile and squeeze my hand and drift off again.

Christina Seine said...

Julie, you're killing me! Nothing beats a good belly laugh before lunch!

I am going to have to pick your brain one of these days. I want to get a little Dexter cow if/when we ever move to our property in Washington. I want to raise the mama for milk (they are quite prolific milkers, I'm told) and use the male offspring for meat. (No, sure as cow patties I will not be the one doing that.)

Everyone I know does goats. Blech. As far as I'm concerned, goats are nasty. I want a cow. And Dexters are tiny. And their milk has more fat content so ... ice cream! Butter! Cheese! Yay!

Colin Smith said...

Dena: "NC obviously doesn't work like CA." I think that's a fair statement! :) After going through the jury selection process a few times, I can see how that could take a while.

For those that haven't experienced this, here's how it works in NC. The court clerk draws 12 names at random from the jury pool and those people sit in the jury box. The judge then asks each person their name, city of residence, marital status, number of children, where they and their spouse work--basic "who are you?" type questions. Then the prosecuting attorney asks questions of the 12 based on the nature of the case, and in light of answers given that might pertain to the case. If it's a personal injury dispute, s/he might ask if any jurors have experienced similar injuries under similar circumstances, or if they've been to court over such injuries. After their questions, they can then excuse jurors they think might have an unfavorable bias. The clerk then randomly selects replacements, and the judge and prosecutor ask their questions again of the new jurors. Once the prosecution is happy with the selection, the defense has a turn--same process: questions, excuse jurors they aren't comfortable with, re-question (both judge and defense), rinse and repeat until satisfied. Then the prosecution can question the new jurors and excuse any they aren't happy with. Rinse/repeat. This goes on until everyone is satisfied that the 12 in the box will give all the evidence a fair shake. As you might imagine, this can take an hour, a few hours, or even more than a day if they have lots of questions and are constantly switching out jurors.

In the case I sat, they only went back-and-forth on selection about three times, so we were ready to go after about an hour and a half. We then had an hours' worth of opening statements and prosecution witnesses. After lunch, the prosecution finished up their witness testimonies. The defense didn't offer any witnesses. I think the defense lawyer was counting on the facts that a) the defendant is guilty until proven innocent, so the burden of proof was on the prosecution, and b) we had to determine guilt beyond reasonable doubt, and be unanimous in our verdict, and since there were no eyewitnesses to the actual incident, it would be hard to prove.

That was, I think, the defense's error. We found the defendant guilty largely because the judge instructed us only to consider the physical evidence presented and the witness evidence given under oath. The defense lawyer presented the defendant's side, but nothing was given to us as evidence that would mitigate against the weight of the prosecution's portrayal of events, and the strong circumstantial evidence both before and after the incident. In other words, all the witness testimonies pointed one direction, and we had nothing from the defense to contradict.

Our deliberation was mostly over which of two possible guilty verdicts we were going to render. I think it took about an hour, maybe an hour and a half to decide.

A long answer, Dena, but that's why it didn't take long.

And this is why writers should pray to be called for jury duty. :)

Colin Smith said...

Christina: "Colin, how in the world did they find 12 people with common sense in this day and age. I am flabbergasted."

I represent that remark!

REJourneys said...

Julie, that would explain why I'm still single, I can't gut a single bird or fish. I did a cat dissection in high school though.

My family never raised animals, save for dogs and a rabbit, but my grandparents had a duck farm. They were very cute and left a lot of crap behind.

I wanted to do jury duty. I was summoned while in college, which was pretty funny since I was taking a Business Law class...

Juries and poultry make for interesting topic choices.

Christina Seine said...

Colin ... no, I meant the 11 other people! Certainly not you. Everybody who reads this blog has common sense, but then I've noticed that civilians aren't nearly so bright as we writers. And nobody who handles Carkoon PR as well as you could do it without a heap of that uncommon stuff. =)

Why do they call it *common* sense, anyway?

I don't know how the courts up here do it. I think we have more than our share of knuckle draggers. Then again, maybe it's just the pot and meth. It's really bad up here.

LynnRodz said...

8 days! Why are people in such a hurry to settle for a burger when they can have steak?

Once again, Julie brightens our day (or evening) with her wonderful stories. I have no animal tales to add. Lady bugs, butterflies, and humming birds are more my speed.

I read yesterdays comments today. Christina, I love, love, love smoked salmon! Tomorrow I'll go out and buy some. And lobster, well I love it as much as smoked salmon, but I wouldn't want to cook one. No way!

Good to see some newbies here, now I'm off to have dinner.

Colin Smith said...

Christina: I think "common" refers to a basic understanding of the way people and the world works that we all share by means of shared experience of life. It's not a specialized knowledge, or an understanding based on some unusual or "uncommon" experience. For example, there's a way of dealing with animals that should be "common sense" to all of us. We should know to feed them, and provide them protection from predators. That's common sense. But it's not common sense to know how to birth a calf, or treat an injury. That's specialized knowledge that is the domain of people with particular training or life experience (vets, farmers, Julie...) :)

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

As a Doberman owner, I've got quite a few stories regarding my dog scaring people simply by existing. Mothers with babies cross the street (Elka loves little guys, so she gets very intent when she notices them, and knows what baby carriages contain them), the FedEx guy for awhile would just kind of throw stuff onto our porch from afar (she'd licked him once as a puppy), the pizza guy once dropped the screen door on me (when I say "Elka, we ordered pizza!" she runs to the front door).

But one of my most memorable ones, though, was while we were in the park by the high school and approached some youths who were traveling past us. From afar, they hadn't paid much attention, but as they drew nearer, they suddenly realized what I had at the end of my leash. One of them blanched, froze in his tracks, and began to stutter "That's the devil's dog! The devil's dog!" I was kind of like "uh?" I mean, Dobermans were kind of the dog of the US Marines for awhile, and they're the Devil Dogs, are they not? But that's not what he meant. Evidently, he'd seen the remake of The Omen and there was a scene with Rottweilers? I haven't seen the movie. But he couldn't tell the difference between them and my Doberman. So I said "Well, they're the dogs in the Resident Evil movie, except those ones didn't have skin." which didn't really help him. Through this, though, Elka had just kind of stood there watching us (she'll look bakc and forth between people in conversation) and the friend hesitantly touched her back. She leaned into his leg for petting, and they both stroked her a little bit before continuing on, one less (and somewhat admiring now) "That's the devil's dog" coming back to us on the wind.

Panda in Chief said...

While I may never get to be the first commenter, I always have the possibility of being the last.
I would run for the hills if presented with the scenario of being expected to go to bookstores to promote mine or anyone else's books. We are shy woodland creatures for a reason. We were not the self confident president of our kindergarten classes. No! We were the shy, woodland flowers, sitting in the back row day dreaming about what if our teddy bear had magical powers, and the last kid picked for dodge ball. Well adjusted children have no time to sit alone in their rooms writing or drawing for hours at a time. Ability to spend time alone while weaving our visions and tales of other worlds becomes a stregnth, not a weakness (like in middle school)
While I have become rather outgoing on social media, that is a different kettle of fish than acting like a sales rep. I love to promote the work of other artists and writers in this way, but that is very differnet than what this publisher is asking for.
My new goal in life is to write a pithy one-liner that Janet will use as her tag line someday. A bear can dream.

Christina Seine said...

Now see, I always figured the devil as more of a cat person.

Panda in Chief said...

Christina Seine, if you are talking about "the OTHER Washington" (and by that I mean Washington State) i'd encourage you to
1) have a little herd of these butter fat oozing cows
2) make your farm on Whidbey Island
3) get in touch with the Chief MilkMaid at Little Brown Farm to sell your milk to, as she makes some of the best cheese I've ever eaten.

Not that I would personally benefit from this arrangement, just saying.

Can we stop talking about dead chickens now?

Colin Smith said...

Panda: Are we in danger of beating a dead horse with our dead chickens?

Who let Stephen King in here...?

Amy Schaefer said...

Okay, that's it. I got halfway through the comments, but when I hit the undead chicken and fish, that was it for me. Nope. I need a coffee first.

Anonymous said...

In other news, it's National Hot Dog Day so lots of places have specials on hot dogs today!

Colin Smith said...

Oh great. Now Julie throws dead dogs into the mix! ;)

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

The way today is going I thought the guy that delivered beef to Julie was gonna 'wrastle' him a dog or lasso a horse for future deliveries. Thank God it was only ghost dogs with blue eyes and a scardy cat.

Ah Colin, I'm not sure who let Mr. King in but he sure is here. Creepy stuff. Love it. Just goes to show that you learn something every day.

Donnaeve said...

Hot dog day! Yum.

Or not. Anyone seen how a hot dog is made?

It might beat the chicken/fish stories.

Anonymous said...


"Just goes to show that you learn something every day."

Yes, but is it something you wanted to learn? I'll put the dampers on next time.

RachelErin said...

The proper way to slaughter a lamb, according to head cook at a Lebanese monastery:

To properly kill a lamb, it must first be very calm. Animals that are relaxed and happy when they are killed taste better. Fear and tension release all kinds of hormones that taste yucky and make the meat tough.

You must sit with the lamb, pat the lamb, sing to the lamb, and share a shot of vodka with the lamb, ensuring total and complete relaxation.

Next, while still singing sweetly, move slowly behind the lamb, and shoot it in the back of the head.

Bleed, skin, gut, and hang.

Christina Seine said...

Apropos of nothing, I just learned that today is National Hotdog Day. I learned this when I came across a big tent set up in front of our phone company, wher they were giving away free reindeer hotdogs. Yes, I said reindeer. Yum, yum, yum.

And if Santa doesn't make it to your house this year, don't blame me. It's certainly that you were naughty this year.

Racherin, it is going to take me a week to get over that post.

Colin Smith said...

Seriously, who let Stephen King in?


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

The lamb's name was Baaaaahbrah and her dad's name was Baaaaaab and her little brother's name was Baaaaaahhby.

Ardenwolfe said...

Ah. The desperate need to feel fulfillment and success by seeing your work published quickly. It's tanked more than a few careers even more quickly.

Remember folks: Slow and steady still wins the race. If you want quick, work in fast foods. Publishing does not move at warp speed even if your novel is stellar.

Craig F said...

Interesting, we used to hang our chickens upside down on the clothesline and wring their necks. They bruise themselves up too much when they can't see where they are going.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

To correct my earlier statement on the Lee Child books, PERSONAL is the one with the orange and silver cover, not PERSUADER, so I was mistaken in my head. But Large Print edition book covers frequently differ from the regular print ones, I just no longer have as compelling an example.

DeadSpiderEye said...

You know what, killing chickens is one of my least favourite activates. Meanwhile back on publisher X's website, there was a moment there, I was tempted to reach for the worry beads, the name is balefully close to the old girlfriend's, those flashbacks of dodging crockery can be quite unsettling. Beside the personal associations, there are a few indications that would lead me to form a slightly prejudicial view of prospects there. It's reasonable to anticipate that clicking the authors link would take you to a list of such persons: er no. The thing is though, prejudicial views are: prejudicial and the world changes fast, those people you thought were grasping chancers yesterday have a habit of turning into feasible prospects tomorrow.

DLM said...

What a very eclectic conversation we're having today!

C. L., you have me wincing in sympathy. But glad to hear you are undefeated!

Theresa got Tom Petty running on a loop in my wee and paltry brain, and that's not a bad thing.

I may be a bit less grateful for Christina's lobster story - if only because it was that GOOD a story. Aieeeeeeeeee!

I'm pondering whether Mother Julie's premarital advice indicates the advisibility, for some of us, of preferring an indecent man ...

Panda in Chief - I love The Other Washington.

racherin ... what if the lamb is a nasty drunk though?

I could not begin to formulate any worthwhile comment on the actual content of the actual blog post at this point.

Unknown said...

But, but, but, and again, but...Janet, I know you have at least one author you took on after she was with another agent who presumably shopped her work, if not sold it. How does this mesh with your answer to item #1?

Is she, TS, just a wonderful exception to your rule about not being interested in someone who has already published a book?