Sunday, September 27, 2015

Week in Review

Welcome to the week that was.

During last week's review comment column Julie M. Weathers referred to losing her work in some sort of horrible computer meltdown. I weep bitter tears at the thought of some of those novels lost pretty much forever.

And let me say this about backup: it's really hard to beat an actual paper copy. I know they told us we would be in the electronic age and paper would be a relic of the past but I still like real copies of  things. Things like contracts. Addendums to contracts. Copies of checks. I have it all electronically too so I can send copies quick as a wink, but if the world falls apart, I've still got your novel. And your financial records.

Lance asked  about Miss TidyPaws the Blog tender who keeps her ice cream in alpha order:
Is the alphabetical order for ice cream necessary because the manufacturers misspell chocolate?

I may have had a run of bad spelling last week, but I think chocolate is spelled correctly on my ice cream

and Panda In Chief made me laugh out loud with this:
I am now picturing the Pope joining in with the Friday dance-a-thon, showing off his swing moves with Janet.
Wouldn't that have been GREAT??

I guess the next question would be: what CD would we choose for the Pope to dance to?

On Monday, we turned to the question of whether politically conservative authors have a harder time getting published.

DLM said exactly what I was thinking:
This is the only place on Teh Intarwebs I would dare to read the comments after a post like this. This community is exceptional.

Yes, you are. I often say it's the comments that make this blog what it is, and I mean it.

I love what Adele said:
I'm a little surprised at the number of posters who want their agent to share their values, worldviews or political affiliations. I'd want an honest agent who shares my devotion to furthering my career. Period.

Politics is a very sticky wicket and Julie M. Weathers pointed out one instance where an agent really shot herself in the hanging chad:


"But back to the question at hand: I'm sure there are some agents who might take politics into account when choosing a client."

Why, yes, there are.

An agent boldly demanded on twitter last year, "If you belong to this party, just stop following me right now!"

I didn't belong to the party. I don't belong to any party, but I stopped following her. It's none of her business what political party a prospective client belongs to. If she's that hardcore, I don't want to deal with her in any fashion.

Good to know this agent is an idiot now rather than find out later. Back in my early days I was hired to close up the office of a literary agent who died after fifty years in the business. Talk about eye opening!  One of the most interesting things to see though was that she repped books that had very Christian evangelical bent, and the lady herself was Jewish.  Her clients LOVED her (calling them to relay the news of her death was an emotional experience, let me tell you.)  I wondered at this odd pairing at the time, but soon realized the authors didn't want a minister. They wanted an agent.

On Tuesday we talked publishing terms again, this time wrestling with "what is previously published"

Dena Pawling asked
Janet, I'm curious why you [and/or other agents] won't look at previously published material. Is it because the editors/publishers you sell to, won't buy it?

It's easier to sell books that don't have a track record. Generally books that have already been published haven't sold more than a few hundred copies. Pitching that to an editor requires some fancy footwork on why this amazing novel and gung ho author with a crap sales record will be a good risk.

Craig said:
Decent Agents (not the money grubbers)

Wait! WAIT! I am nothing if not a mercantile capitalist shark. Money grubbing is NOT the insult you think it is!

Then Julie M. Weathers diverted me with a link to this book of maps

I ordered two copies of the book.
One is for me.
One I'm holding in reserve but I'd give it to His Holiness if he expressed interest.
But I'm also thinking of making it the prize in a writing contest. The winner might have to come wrest it from my clutches though.

On Wednesday the talk turned to evaluating agencies, rather than agents:

Her Grace, the Duchess of Kneale said:
I confess annoyance when I find a rather stark and uninformative agency Web site--and by that I mean little more than an agency name and contact address. At the very least I'd like an agent bio with some professionally useful info (ie "I have 20 years experience, rep romance, don't rep biographies.") and a client list of some sort.

Well, that sent me scrambling to check out my various bios hither and yon. And that's sort of the problem: there are about 20 of them at last count. Keeping them updated is one of those things that is never at the top of the priority list. That's why I try to keep mine very general. I don't want to have to change my bio if some of the specifics change every couple month.  Marginally uninformative is easier to maintain.

I understand and agree with your point and in a better world, I'd have the same bio listed in every single place, and a list of all the places it appears so I could update in the blink of an eye. It's not a better world.

Donnaeve was a bit off topic, but still, this was interesting:
Guess what happened to moi? I WROTE A SYNOPSIS and I liked it.

On Thursday we talked about how to evaluate a smallpublisher

Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli asked
Thank you for this and for those links. I've copied and saved the contract examples. I've never heard of 'control of characters.' Do you, kindest queen of Sharks, know of any authors who lost control over their characters.

The first and most obvious way to lose control of your characters is if the publishing contract transfers copyright from the author to the publisher. A book contract should never do that. The word LICENSE is imperative. A license to publish a book (ie permission to publish a book) should specify a period of time and the territory covered. Copyright transfer isn't permission to publish it's transferring ownership.

Second way is to have an unending contract. That means no reversion clause, no out of print clause, no termination clause. Without those specifications, a publisher can hold on to the rights to publish the book in perpetuity.  And if it's a really dreadful contract it might just not be the book, but the characters, setting, and time period. 

Many of you mentioned work for hire. Generally a work for hire does NOT involve an author selling their own novel; rather they are writing a novel within parameters of an existing series. Star Trek and Star Wars novels are classic examples of work for hire.  The authors who write those novels do not control the copyright for the books.

When Michael Connelly said he was "getting his rights back" I can assure you without even looking at his contract that he meant when the license expires, not that he'd actually transferred ownership of Bosch.

We talk about "getting rights back" a lot, but it refers to the period of time of the license running out.

As to the author who created an entire series, including characters, in a work for hire, I can't comment on that because I'm not familiar with it. My sense is that some terminology is being used in ways that are unclear....but again, I don't know.

DLM picked up on my point about book pricing and asked:
I find #5 especially arresting, in our list above, because it's hard not to wonder if some authors don't look at high prices and think "Yeah! I am worth $32.50!" before the dismay sets in ... Have you had to talk any authors down on expectations like that before?

Generally the only time I talk to my authors about book pricing, we're talking about ebooks. And that's a whole 'nother kettle of kvetch.

A publisher who lists novels at $32.50 is most likely a publisher I'm not working with. That kind of price makes the book less attractive to libraries, and all but the most fervent of retail buyers (mom, grandma, people trying to get into your pants.)   (Non-fiction book prices are different...and ask me how much I paid for the latest Bill Vollman novel)

High retail price is not a deal breaker but you really need to know where your market is when considering a publisher who does that. For authors who sell 80% of their books in ebook format or trade paper, a high hardcover price doesn't matter as much. If your first 500 buyers are libraries, it matters a lot.

This is info I give clients, but generally it's me telling, not us discussing.

On Friday, the Six of Crows writing contest was posted. Results for that will be up on Monday.

Just a bit more than a week to go until Bouchercon in Raleigh. I know Colin Smith is going (have given his photo to all security personnel along with kale detectives.)

Kale detective

 Are any other blog readers heading to Raleigh? Let me know!

Sadly, His Holiness did not stop by the office, but we were prepared if he did.

 Have a great week!


Marc P said...

He is the best Pope ever! I've met a Cardinal - the one for England when I got to wear the red tie. Well not long after.. he didn't actually come just for that!

Theresa said...

I thought for sure that display sign would read: Pope Fiction.

BJ Muntain said...

I've been spending some time watching TV in my dad's hospital room (he always has the TV on, and it's always either sports or news), and I've just loved seeing the His Holiness's face as he interacted with people, and especially with children. He just seems to happy, so loving, so genuine. And that's why so many people - even non-Christians - love him.

A great WiR, as usual, Janet - and yay, Donnaeve, for the subheader!

nightsmusic said...

You have OTTER! I love Otter. My girls are grown and have advised me they will never have kids, which is fine because it's their decision (though secretly, I'm sorry Satan's Spawn will not have one like she was...what payback that would be) so I read Otter for me :)

Wonderful week in review. I sometimes will miss something and the WIR will pull me back into that post to read and find new stuff. Always learning :)

Today, I got signs to prove I'm not a robot rather than cabbage. Yay no cabbage!

Cindy C said...

Another great WIR! I've always enjoyed these, but now that I'm back teaching full time I find them invaluable. Just don't have the time to keep up with the comments everyday.

Nightsmusic, I also just read Otter for myself! Loved how Otter found a way yo get a moon rock🌛

Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh! I love the chair reserved for His Holiness!

This was a great week in review, as always. I miss many of the comments because I toddle off and don't return to keep up.

Yep, back everything up in hard copy also. I'm learning. Gabaldon not only backs things up, puts on external equipment, off to the cloud, but she also keeps copies off site in case of a fire.

I email the day's work to myself as well as the other stuff.

"One of the most interesting things to see though was that she repped books that had very Christian evangelical bent, and the lady herself was Jewish."

I love this. I don't really care what an agent is. I don't care if they're green and scaly if they love my work enough to help me make it the best it can be and will fight for it. Come to think of it a dragon agent would be kind of awesome. I'll forego the dragon puns, but don't think for a moment they aren't chasing each other like a business of ferrets on speed.

Ah, Query Shark is back, Yay!

I'm redoing my query. I hates it. I do.

One of the crew posted this link.

Donna, another of the crew who was at Surrey with me, asked why I didn't use the query Janet liked. Well, it is good, but it makes the story sound like a murder mystery. There are murders, and they do try to solve them, and the killers are now trying to kill the main people, but that isn't really what the story is about.

So, I went to the page on how to write a query. I took the pitch a friend of mine gave Don Maass in a class, which prompted him to hand her his card and suggest no changes, and sat down to write.

I have something that is shorter and punchier than the one I'd been sending out. I was getting responses with it, but felt I could do better.

Largely thanks to QOTKU. I'm sure it can still use work, but it's better.

I will not be going to Raleigh, but I one of my writing crew lives there. I hope she can go. She has a cool murder mystery going. Boucheron may be the shot in the arm she needs.

I think Janet should wear this to it.

I ordered one for Surrey just in case I get to go.

Speaking of conferences, I think anyone who can go to one should. Surrey doesn't really have that much to offer regarding high fantasy agents, and that is one thing I look at. However, I come away with my batteries charged from these conferences. We need a renewing of the soul as writers because we put so much of it on the page.

This also charged my danged battery to the point of overload.

I'm so glad to see they are doing this series justice. Shannara is what made me want to write fantasy. Then I ran across a story about teen Jewish resistance fighters doing some serious damage to Nazis. I couldn't get them out of my head. I thought, what if you took one of these fighters and the premise and put it in a fantasy setting like Shannara?

I may have to get cable again just so I can watch it.

Colin Smith said...

Ah... That Was the Week That Was--before my time but ahead of its own. :)

Great WiR, Janet. Donna will be at Bouchercon too. And I'll be there if I ever get my release forms back from the Department of Alien Foreign Travel here on Carkoon. I guess it's easy to drag your heels when you have 12 legs...

Janice Grinyer said...

"people trying to get into your pants..."

I dont remember reading that in any "Dangers of Publishing" article... *scribbles note to self*

I am off to South Dakota to sign another year & half Timber Recon contract with the USFS tomorrow...and this is why once again I LOVE THIS BLOG. Because no matter who you are, or what stage you are at in your writing career, you will always find the perfect synopsis here to learn by. And also the commentators... the information shared hurts my cramped handwriting style for notes, but ah, so worth the pain no gain, right?

And "pope fiction" *chuckle*

Amy Schaefer said...

Colin, you can route through Paradise if Carkoon is giving you trouble with your exit visa. I can't go to the conference myself, but Paradise exists in part to make dreams come true. I'll even try not to sigh too much in jealousy as we stamp your passport.

The mention of computer meltdowns and losing work gave me the shivers. Years ago, I lost a part of my Master's thesis that way. Since that time, I am Ms Backup. Daily file versions. Copies on hard drive. Email to myself. Print a hard copy of the day's work. I don't have a printer in Paradise, so now I have to be extra vigilant about the other steps.

Important question: is it a beautiful fall where you are? It is my favourite time of year back home, and I miss it. Crunchy leaves, that dry, cool air, the landscape filled with yellows and reds and oranges. Aww, I made myself sad.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Great WiR. Yes, the Pope. I'm not Catholic. I do like him and the conversations he brings out.

Amy, it is beautiful in Minnesota right now. Colors just starting. Bright blue sky. Gusty breeze hopping in at times.

Not going to Bouchercon. Have fun Colin and Donnaeve. Watch out for that green critter.

And yay. I enjoy Queryshark. Not just for learning about queries but also to read the stories folks are pulling together. I wish I could think outside of my own box.

Congrats, Donnaeve, on subheader from the week.

nightsmusic said...

Amy, Michigan is just starting to turn as well. It's a beautiful day. The occasionally fluffy clouds, lots of bright sun and 76 degrees at 4pm. It was like that the past three days. Lovely. I'm sorry you miss it.

DLM said...

nightsmusic, you just nailed a major reason I never had kids: " I'm sorry Satan's Spawn will not have one like she was...what payback that would be." If you were like my mom was, and said this to Spawn when you were frustrated - you might have sealed the deal! ;)

Janet, thank you so much on the pricing question! I really was wondering. the

Amy, it's been a nice fall in the midatlantic, but we're not into cool and crunchy-leaves time yet. We've had some glorious September days; the sort that used to make my dad fill up his lungs and share a certain thanksgiving at the wonder and fun of creation. Autumn is wonderful; for me, it is the real turning point of the year, the time of renewal.

Must go read the new QS post! Yay!

nightsmusic said...

Oh, DLM...the stories I could tell you...'that boy' and the domestic violence arrest, not because she hit him, oh no. Not that straightforward. Because the cop kept telling her to shut up and she just couldn't seem to so it was "out in the car, now! I've had enough!" then 24 hours lock up just because...and that was an easy one. I was never going to have kids until a near death experience changed my outlook. That's why I said, my girls need to have kids because they want to. Not for anyone or anything else.

Yup, first daughter, God's gift. Second daughter, Satan's spawn. Thank God, I stopped at two.

Dena Pawling said...

Thanks for answering my question, and for clarifying Michael Connelly's statement regarding “finally getting his rights back to Bosch.” Your explanation makes more sense than it originally sounded, that he lost the rights rather than just the license.

It's 100 degrees at my house this weekend. Fall? What fall? Fall/winter is my favorite season, but it hasn't shown up yet. Plus, fire season in CA is in full swing, and October/November is traditionally the worst for SoCal.

>>calling them to relay the news of her death was an emotional experience, let me tell you.

Back in my early 20s, I had to relay news of a co-worker's death. Very emotional. One of the people I called, wrote a poem in her honor and mailed it to our office. I still remember the first two lines. It was lovely.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm not heading to Raleigh, because I live here. :) I had planned to attend B'con and was really looking forward to it, but I'm not going to be able to make it. This makes me very sad. There are so many people I wanted to see, old friends as well as new ones from over here. Ah, well. There will be other conferences.

Love the kale detective and the chair reserved for the Pope. "pope fiction" HA.

Craig F said...

I was considering saying some cussing words about blogger eating my first comment. Then my brain actually remembered that it was a big blogging weekend, what with the Pope in country and the NFL.

Thank you, my Queen, for the WIR but DAMMIT JANET you grabbed a quote out of context. You know I meant those one and done agents who think writers are like toilet paper.

In case I made a bad impression I am as mercenary of a money grubber as any shark could be. It took a while but the products I produce are now going to the highest bidder. I tried to favor friends and it didn't turn out well.

Donnaeve said...

Haven't read ALL comments yet, (busy day with family for football games and dinner!)but, I have to say, I think QOTKU is

1) An exceptionally fast reader
2) An exceptionally fast typer (is that a word - this comment box doesn't think so - oh well)
3) An exceptionally fast thinker

I glanced at the new post up at QS, and then I look at the WIR, and then I think about ALL the other stuff she does/mentions she does and I stand in awe at your time management.

And she has time to eat ice cream. Sheesh.


And yes, I will be flitting in and out at B'con. I have family stuff that weekend that has interrupted my free for all there, and I have NO idea which panels I'm attending except Colin and I have decided to go to B'con 101 "fer sher." The rest of it? I hope I can figure out...and squeeze in to a few, at least one the day of the 101 and a couple on Fri/Sat...but that's probably all I'll be able to do.

BJ Muntain said...

KD: Even if you can't go to the conference, is there a chance you might still get to meet some of our lovely members (and Ms Shark herself) for drinks or something one evening? A conference doesn't have to be completely closed off from the rest of the city.

I just think it would be sad to have those folks in your city, and not be able to at least say 'hiya'. But since there is absolutely no chance I'll be there, and Surrey is still on the weakening 'ihopeihopeihope' list, I can only live vicariously through you folks.

John Frain said...

I see Donna and raise her one exceptional.

4) The QOTKU is an exceptionally fast sleeper. She has somehow discovered a way to squeeze 8 hours of sleep into 1 hour. I've run the numbers and it requires 23 hours a day to keep up her schedule. It's statistics, so it has to be true.

BJ Muntain said...

Amy: Perfect fall weather in Saskatchewan so far. Temps were a little warmer than usual last week, but today was perfect weather. Yes on the crunchy leaves. Yes on the autumn colours. And the RoughRiders won today! Woo!

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Unknown said...

Crap, I missed the deadline. Here is my piece anyways. I hid a couple of the words :)

Ann stepped out of the cinema with Paul. The feature "Fast and Furious IX"'s title reflected in the puddles on the sidewalk. She strolled through the crowd, knowing only each his presence ambling through the humongous pylon of the church across the street. Once out of sight, they transformed into their secret, flying up to the rafters of the bell towers, hanging with the world upside down. Her love for him made her a more powerful weapon for the church. Her sermon to the vampires tomorrow would show the vampires that...but Lord how times changed. She drew closer to Paul.

LynnRodz said...

Thanks for the WIR, Janet. For those of us traveling, it's a way to stay connected.

I had both a Pope and the Dalai Lama "come visit me." I opened my window one morning and there was Pope John-Paul II sitting in an open limo. (The street was blocked off and he was waiting before the procession started. This was before the pope-mobile.) He looked up and smiled at me, I waved and he waved back.

A few years later, I was living in a different apartment in Paris, in a small passageway with no cars. I opened my window again and the Dalai-Lama looked up and smiled at me. He was just a few feet away. True story and not one many people can say.

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

Your Sharkness,

Fret not that you've got about twenty various bios out there. Chances are you can't do much about half of them, as they may have been copied'n'pasted from old info. Such is the way of the Internet.

What's important is that there is enough info out there, and the one place that should be considered authoritative (ie, FPLM's web site) has a rather beautiful bio chock full of useful info.

It's the agents that don't have any digital footprint that bemuse me. I understand a potential desire to hide from the Silicon World, but if one is harvesting clients from there, it helps to have some scented bait.

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nightsmusic said...

Spammer! /|\