Last week's review was late due to my painting adventures. For those of you following my version of Game of Tones, you'll be glad to hear that, like GRRM, I'm almost done. Just a little touch up on the window casements, the door jambs, and then the doors. Of course, those last few tasks do seem to take the longest.
Megan V commented on the color:
That's an interesting pink-ish color—I can see what you mean by the faint blood tone—and I imagine it was picked to cover the faded, spattered blood of chum.
Now I want to test Razzle Dazzle on one of my own walls. Something tells me Blaine will likely want me to only paint the inside of a closet this color...since it doesn't quite go with the earth tones used in the rest of the house.
You can paint a bookcase this color, or a nightstand, or a chair even! A pop of RazzleDazzle is always in order!
BJ Muntain disavows knowledge of color (or in her case colour):
And I never quite understood that purple-and-bluegreen combination that everyone was painting their houses a few years ago.
Oh man, me EITHER!
Christine Seine said:
And I loved that you planned it so that the fine citizens of NYC who happen to bump into you on the subway will see the faint drops of "blood" on your hands and your reputation of unequaled badassery will be even further cemented. THAT is forward thinking.
As if anyone dared bump into me on the subway
and dear (departed) Lynn Rodz said:
Janet, since you enjoy painting so much, why not come over and paint my walls? (Airfare not included, but room and board is.) I was just looking at my white walls yesterday and thinking they needed a new coat of white paint.
not knowing of course that as of this weekend, she's been exiled from exile. I fear she may have ended up in a paint store someplace surrounded by endless color!
I don't know if y'all have met reader Mark Ellis before:
OK, with this paint swatch Ms. Reid has opened the door for me to shamelessly self-promote Ladder Memory, Stories from the Painting Trade, a self-published memoir about my career as a painting contractor.
I've got a copy of Ladder Memory (thanks Mark!) and am looking forward to reading it. (I'm reading
requested fulls like a Good Agent before diving in to the stuff for fun right now)
requested fulls like a Good Agent before diving in to the stuff for fun right now)
The actual week in review got posted in the late afternoon.
AJ Blythe noticed I'd commented on the lack of questions in the preceding WIR. Not to let that happen again, a question was provided:
Blog Header:How many agents can you have?My Q's:What if you are in a different country? So (hypothetically *wink*) if I had a book that was specifically aimed at the Aussie market, but then had another book aimed at the US market (in a genre not really found in Australia) would I need an Aussie agent for the first book and a US agent for the second? Or would a US agent be able to sell the first book in Australia and therefore handle both?
You generally have one agent at a time unless your books are in very separate categories. For example, Sean Ferrell is my client, but his picture book sales are handled by Brooks Sherman. Brooks and I keep each other in the loop on all Sean's work, so it helps if you have two agents who know each other, and can work together.
If you have two novels, one intended for the Aussie market, you can certainly work with an Aussie agent. You'll want to find out if that agent can help you in the US market as well.
You're probably better off with a US agent to start with simply because almost any book deal is going to require licensing World English rights, and last I looked, that included Australia.
I have a client who lives in Australia but his books have world wide appeal, not just domestic, so he didn't really face the question of choosing. His was more a question of being found.
Most US agents here have clients who live in other countries.
Christina Seine has the subheader this week. She also had one of the most hilarious comments:
I was *almost* too tired to read the WIR when I got home from the craft show this evening. For those who've never done a craft show, just imagine juggling elephants while grinning while random people insult you.
I intuited that some of you were a bit miffed that posts with "no e" in the words other than prompts didn't get as much notice as you felt they deserved.
Remember I'm looking for STORY first, not literary prestidigitation. If I read the story and it works, it gets noticed. If the story doesn't work, I don't re-read to see if there's something else going on. This is what makes me relentlessly commercial in my taste, not literary. I don't notice the magic till after I notice the story.
What's up with rule #9?
Who wants anything they've written removed from this blog?
A writer did ask for their entry to be removed. I considered it, but in looking at the comment stream, removing the entry would bowdlerize the comments. This blog often gets linked to on Twitter or other places months and YEARS after the original post, so I'm invested in maintaining coherent posts and comment trails. I was unwilling to edit the post/comments to allow for the removal (mostly due to time required.)
Thus Rule #9.
I should add that the writer who did ask was perfectly gracious when I replied that I wasn't able to fulfill her request.
Our contest winner Susan has a very keen eye for the population of Commentville:
I feel like sometimes I read the comments here, and I don't know what's happening--like when you're at a party and one guy's doing the conga by himself while another is stroking the bronze statue of the St. Bernard and a third is by the refreshments, still trying to blow out the trick candles on the cake. All you can do is get swept up in it all and laugh and think "yep, I know these people."
And of course much of the commentary involved Colin's exile from Carkoon, along with his companion in crime LynnRodz. And something about a blender. One of my great hopes is that a hundred years from now some grad student writes a thesis on literary agent blogs of the 21st century and has to analyze THIS one!
Tuesday's topic was querying for a second book in a series
If your focus is only on book 2 aren't the sales figures regarding book 1 of relevance?
Very much so. It's very possibly something I'd check even before I read the pages.
Tony Clavelli had a very good suggestion:
I wonder if you could do a little bit of extra work to make book two stand on its own. Completely. If crossing over is nearly impossible, and you don't want to use this publisher for the second one, then how about make the first one not required reading. I've never written a series, so that could be the worst, most obvious advice ever. But also, shouldn't a sequel stand on its own anyway?
Just curious, but if this were possible, could the query just skip the mention of the previous book (assuming the previous contract doesn't have the "option book" going through them)?
You'd want to mention the first book as a writing credit, and we'd still look at sales figures, but yes, it does solve the problem of moving a series.
And yes, a sequel should have its own narrative arc that begins and ends with that particular book. It may be part of a series that ALSO has a narrative arc, but a reader should be able to start with the second book and not be lost.
This is a tricky situation. We dealt with this in Patrick Lee's brilliant (if I do say so myself) BREACH series.
At Bouchercon this year, Patrick said, very offhandedly "backstory should arrive as bad news for the main character" and as usual, I think that's exactly right.
If you want to see how he handled the question of backstory, take a look at his books The Breach, then Ghost Country, then Deep Sky.
EM Goldsmith offered some other titles in a series that illustrate my point:
If it is rather like David Eddings, The Belgariad or Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time, that is an entirely different matter. Those series involve one long story told in installments which are each their own tales but dependent on each previous book.
Kind of like we have a narrative arc here for today's blog topic, but the series arc is where the hell Colin and Lynn are headed now that they are exiled.
Megan V asked a question that I really want you guyz to pay attention to:
Did OP retain the rights to his/her characters and settings? If I'm not mistaken, that's something that an agent would typically negotiate before their client signed the dotted line. OP did not have an agent to help them navigate those waters, so it's possible OP signed their characters over to the publisher. If OP did not retain the rights to his/her characters and settings, then OP faces a serious problem when it comes to books 2 and 3, whether or not OP writes books 2&3 in the way that Tony suggested (even if the publisher does not have an option contract).
Book contracts do NOT include surrendering rights to characters or settings UNLESS the book is done as a Work For Hire.
Most of you are NOT writing works for hire. Most of you are writing your own novels. Thus if you elect to publish without an agent, you will NOT sign a contract that does anything BUT license the rights to publish your book. If the contract says something else, come ask me about it.
I can help you get in touch with a contract review specialist if you need one; publishing attorneys are also a good resource.
The ONLY time characters or setting is in play is when you option the book for film. You will NOT do this without professional help, or you'll deserve what you get (screwed.)
Definitely take a good look at your contract. If you can afford it have an attorney look at it. If you are still friendly with the publisher have their lawyer explain it. (italics mine) Many small publishers like to tack on options about the characters and the second book. You might be stuck.
Never under any circumstances EVER have the opposing side's counsel explain a contract to you. You are not their client. You are not paying their fees. They have no obligation to explain options or strategy to you, let alone what kind of fast one they're trying to pull on you (ie character grabs.) This doesn't apply only to publishing. It applies to EVERY situation involving lawyers.
BJ Muntain asked:
I'm curious. What if the book is an option, and the author does want to stay with the same
author...(you mean publisher here) but wants an agent to help with the legalities and future career decisions?
Will that make it easier or harder to attract an agent? I'm sure the size of the publisher might make a difference in this situation - if a happily large publisher that pays fair-sized advances, it would probably be easier than with a small publisher that might pay only royalties.
Depends on the book. If I'd found any of my guyz after Book 1 at a small press, I'd have taken them on in a heartbeat because I think they're enormously talented and destined for nice juicy careers.
I do consider how much work I'm going to put in before money starts flowing in my direction. I've signed clients who have had agents before me, and in several cases worked on more than one book before I could sell a new project that would be "mine." That's just the price of finding talent later rather than sooner. There's no blanket rule here. Each agent and each writer is different.
I do think it's a lot harder to find an agent if you've already been published unless you've got a decent sales record, and a new book that's going to knock everyone's sox off.
Karen McCoy asked:
I'm curious about publishers who contract one book only--wouldn't a series create incentive to sell more books? Or are the books expensive enough to produce that publishers want to see if they do well before committing to more?
Several publishers I work with do one book at a time. It's just company policy. I see the publisher's point. If a book doesn't do well, and another book is contracted, that's a tough decision to make. If the publisher needs to cancel for any reason other than editorial (this is written into my contracts with publishers) the author keeps any upfront money. So lack of sales means the publisher has to cancel for a non-editorial reason and they're going to write off the money they gave the author for the on-signing advance. From the perspective of a small business owner, the fewer of these you have to suck up, the better.
Colin asked a good question:
The more this gets discussed, the more it seems to me that the whole question of getting an agent is not a "book" question, but a "career" question. In other words, you shouldn't ask "Do I want an agent for this book?" but, "Is an agent right for my career?" The reason I say this is because if your going to (essentially) represent yourself, you really need to know what you're doing. You need to be able to understand and negotiate a contract, deal with the business side of your writing, AND still write books. That takes a lot of work and study. Some people can do this, no problem. But it seems too many get into the agentless waters and, sooner or later, find themselves in a lot deeper than they expected.
As a yet-unagented woodland creature, that's what I'm hearing. Am I way off?
No. You're spot on.
And with that the comment trail just went off on a tangent.
[Exactly the way I like it.]
On Wednesday, the question was lack of response from agents the writer had a connection with
I said personal connections are not all they're cracked up to be (which may have broken a few hearts here, but we're the exception to all rules, so don't worry)
I like what LynnRodz said:
OP: You yourself said your MS was still raw. Agents and sharks might like their meat rare or medium rare, but they definitely want an MS well done! Don't query until it's well done!
2. If two agents, who you yourself think are not a good fit, have disappeared and you're asking if you should quit, then this writing business is not for you. Think about quitting after querying numerous well done manuscripts and you're still in the dark because the 500th agent has not answered you.
The difference between published and unpublished writers is, the published ones didn't quit until they found an agent. The unpublished ones gave up. Don't give up!
Susan Bonifant's experience is interesting:
Back when I was a wee writer, an investment guy we knew mentioned that he handled an agent who represented exactly what I wrote and would I be interested in having him send my manuscript? Well, yes, I would said I.
In the time it would take me to read a long short story my friend's agent responded to say that he'd now had a chance to read the manuscript, and sadly, would have to pass.
As heartbroken as I was (I had picked out music for the movie) I am grateful to have learned and share with you OP, that while referrals are thrilling, it gets back to the same drum that has been thumped for a long time: the writing, the story, has to mean more to the agent than the referring party.
Actually, I'm not sure the agent read the manuscript. I never read anything that's sent by someone other than the author. It's actually #4 in Query Letter Diagnostics.
This agent may have simply sent a rejection rather than risk an ongoing discussion with someone he didn't know. And frankly, I'd have fired my investment guy for doing this. Agents don't lack for potential clients; I don't need people handing out my biz card or touting for business. The mere thought of it makes my fin twitch.
And Wendy Quails pointed out:
You should never *get* to that exchange with Agent SlackerPants, though, because the day you get the offer from Agent NimbleToes you should have emailed Agent SlackerPants (and anyone else who currently had pages) saying "Hey, I've got this offer, I said I'd get back to her in a week, so hurry up already!" I mean, yes, it's annoying that Agent SlackerPants took so long, but it's rude for you to make her go through the work of (eventually) reading a partial/full if you've already signed.
Let me just offer up the lame excuse that it serves the story better to tell it my way, but yes, Wendy is exactly right.
John Frain commented on Julie M. Weathers comment:
"When she [Agent Laurie McLean] takes pitches and invites people to submit, 85% of them won't."
That's me being speechless. This statistic is true? Or reasonably close? Just, wow.
Yup, I vote for true.
I kept a list of everyone I asked to send manuscripts (before I stopped doing pitches) and I'd hear from fewer than 50%.
I didn't follow up with them. I figured they had reasons to not send work, but it sure felt like a total waste of time to me.
That's NOT the reason I stopped taking pitches though. That's explained here.
On Thursday the question was posed by a writer who got a rejection letter that misspelled her name and turned her into a man. She wanted to know if it was ok to write back to the agent and mention these things were rude.
My answer was pretty short: No.
Prof Jmarie (Janet Rundquist) had some good perspective on this:
To me this question sounds like you've reached a point in your querying journey where too many rejections have gotten you down. I can see why you might be irritated with the misspelling, but in the grand scheme of things,, this is pretty little.
When the little things are pushing me to make them into bigger things, I realize it's time to step back. Take a break. Take some deep breaths. Regain perspective.
And Susan Bonifant too:
A perfectly addressed rejection would still sting. And, an incorrectly addressed email asking for fifty pages probably wouldn't have stung as much.
and of course John Frain cracked me up completely with this:
Call it a quirk, but my name is spelled John, yet it's pronounced Lee. Blame the parents, I didn't get a vote.
When someone mispronounces it, my general response has always been to slap them, unless they have a cold. I guess what you're saying here is maybe I should rethink that.
I can change.
and I loved this from nightmusic:
At the risk of putting myself out there (stalker ex and even after 30 years!) my first name is Theo. That's it. Just Theo. I get however, Theodore, Theodoe, Ted, Ed, Eddie, Thed, Thad, Edward, Dear Mr *insert name of choice here* but never, ever Ms or Miss or anything that indicates that I am female. Which I am. Even the government couldn't get it right and sent me a draft notice which is a whole 'nother story in itself (the government doesn't like to admit mistakes...) And my married last name is Romanian and no one can ever pronounce it correctly.
All that is meant to tell you, get over it. Pick your battles, ones you're pretty sure you can win or make a difference with. This isn't one of them.
And I'm glad to see my dartboard idea got some traction; this from Patti Phillips:
Using a dartboard as an outlet for frustration? Cool. I've got the perfect spot in my office to hang one. I'll take aim at the cover letter sent to an agent along with the requested material after a scheduled pitch session. She never responded, even after polite emails. I would consider a misspelled, gender mix-up, form rejection a step up.
And by Friday we were all ready for the flash fiction contest that I hope will give us an idea of where Colin and LynnRodz ended up. Losing these two would really be a shame!
Ms. Janet, I wondered when you'd lay out a reminder re: the "housekeeping" post you did a few weeks ago. 100 words as a guideline ought to be easy, a la Flash Fiction rules. And a baseball rule to boot. Three times and you're OUT! :)
It seemed like a good time for a reminder. I can tell when things are getting … overgrown, if you will, when the comments start saying things like "lots of comments" or "too many to read" or I start skimming when I do the WIR.
I really value the comments here, and appreciate all of you who work with brevity and focus.
**do we have the time line and credits in place now? this is starting to look...Italian:
**do we have the time line and credits in place now? this is starting to look...Italian:
Off Topic: There seems to be a couple of writers here participating in NaNoWriMo this year, so I've created a support group on FB for anyone who's interested in holding each other accountable. I hope it's OK if I post the link. I also hope Janet will forgive me for use of her likeness ;)
As long as everyone remembers that this is not associated with me, or run by me, or read by me, we're good. You're on your own for this one. Try not to overdose on kale.
Completely off topic, and wonderful wonderful wonderful
EM Goldsmith said
My best memories of raising my daughter involved an ice storm that knocked out power for days, a fire blazing on the hearth, scent of 10 or so candles burning, two of my daughters' friends stranded at my house, and the four of us taking turns reading Order of the Phoenix out loud. No one wanted to sleep or complained about the sparse meals of griddle cakes and carrots. And once the storm passed, no one wanted to leave until the story was done. They were disappointed when on 3rd day, power was restored. The girls were all 10-11 years old at the time. It was magical.
Blog subheader options:
(1) Time spent thinking is just as important as time spent writing.--John Frain
(2) I've queried my two books to so many agents I'm signing up for the writer's protection program--CarolynnWith2Ns
(2) Pick your battles, ones you're pretty sure you can win or make a difference with.--nightmusic