Monday, December 21, 2015

"Yea, so we're done now that I haven't sold your book"

 Although I’ve got one novel (with Publisher Good) and two non-fiction books (with Publisher More Good) to my credit, I lost my previous agent when she went into another line of work. So last January I jumped into the pool of unsoliciteds and started querying agents for my new novel.

When I query agents, I like to start at the top and work my way down. So imagine my delight when my very first letter hit home with one of New York’s most famous Superagents at one of the biggest agencies in the business. Woo-hoo! Time to start casting the movie and shopping for yachts.

Not so fast, Richard. Superagent warned me that he could only think of nine editors who would be interested in my somewhat offbeat manuscript. He also told me that he would be “co-agenting” it with his assistant, whom I shall call Assistant-to-Superagent. Given those two caveats, he gave me the opportunity to decline his offer. But I was so thrilled at the time I pooh-poohed his warnings and signed up.

Nine submissions and nine rejections later, my yacht is up the creek without a paddle. Assistant-to-Superagent has informed me that there will be no more submissions and we are officially kaputski. Goodbye and good luck.

Don’t get me wrong, I bear them no ill will. They warned me fair and square. Their only mistake, in my view, was sending it to the wrong nine editors. (By the way, the editors didn’t offer much advice—just the usual “we liked it but not quite right for us” rejection notes.)

My question for you, Ms. Reid, is what do you think I should do next? I know that finding another agent after the first one has shopped it around town is rather like trying to sell a used mattress with suspicious stains on it at a flea market.

Should I try anyway? (1)  Should I chalk it up to experience and write a better novel next time? (2) Should I drop down in class a bit and send it to one of these new indie publishers who accept un-agented manuscripts but seem to do a decent job of producing and distributing them? (3) Any other advice?(4)  Like where to unload a lightly-used yacht, for example? (5)

(1) No
(2) Sort of
(3) maybe
(4) lots
(5) I heard this guy is in the market:

But enough jocularity, back to your questions.

The first thing is next time you venture in to the shark pool you should remember to ask the question you didn't ask this time: what happens if you (the agent) can't sell the book?

I've seen very talented writers get hung out to dry, just like you did, by agents who practice the WhamBamThankYouPlan of submissions: send to a select few editors. If one of them coughs up big cash, yay. If not, kick the writer to the curb.

I understand this from a business perspective. I abhor it as a business practice. I can name probably ten writers on my list who are NOW PUBLISHED who did not get an offer on the book I signed them for.

That kind of hindsight doesn't do you much good though now.

Now you've got a lightly shopped novel and not much else. Sadly, you're probably done as far as agents are concerned for this particular novel. No matter how much I liked you or your writing, I would not sign you for a book that's already made the rounds.

And by the way: you don't know if this agent sent to the "wrong editors." You know s/he sent it to the editors s/he thought would buy it. That they did not does NOT mean they were wrong. Let go of that kind of thinking or you're going to be second guessing everything and you'll go nuts.

When you say try an indie publisher, I'm not sure what you mean. The term "indie" is used so fast and loose these days I think it's lost any kind of specific meaning. If by indie you mean small publishers that accept submissions from authors without agents, sure, go ahead. If you mean digital only, sure, why not.

However, if you sell this book to a small publisher, or a digital only publisher, you're going to end up with sales figures that are going to be VERY hard to overcome if you want to try for another agent on the next book.

An author with four books, the last of which sold only 3000 copies (because that's all the publisher would print) isn't as appetizing to sharks as writers without that disadvantage.

I can't tell you what to do here. I can only tell you there are risks and rewards for every choice. You have to decide what's most important: being published any way you can, or writing another book, applying what you learned here, and trying again.

Clearly you've got writing chops: you're published well with earlier books, and two agents liked your work.

Take some time and really think about what you want, cause you've got one more time at bat most likely.


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Back when Jesus was a boy, I interviewed for my dream job.
Didn’t get it. I cried, moved on and accepted another less dreamy position elsewhere. On the first day I knew I had entered hell. Two weeks later, I walked out. With eyes swollen from bawling, because I had blown a decent job, I walked back into the arms of the interviewer of the first (dream) job. And I mean literally into her arms. She held me as I cried.
I got hired.
I didn’t get my dream job, but I got a perfect position, in a dream company.

In life, and especially with writing, when the crap gets knee deep, when all is lost, when you walk out or get kicked out, there are other arms to welcome and hold you.

Good luck OP. You may get exactly what you want, just in a different way.

Colin Smith said...

No-one wants to hear "chalk it up to experience and move on to the next novel" after you've spent months, maybe years, crafting that baby. *I* don't want to hear "chalk it up to experience and move on. What else have you got?" Those are tough words when you've invested in the novel. I guess this is when you have to decide how much you're really invested in that novel--how much you really want to see it in print and in people's hands.

I frowned a little, Opie, when you referred to going to "indie" publishers as "dropping down in class a bit." Indie publishing is a perfectly legit way to get your novel out, especially if it may not have a big audience (which, presumably, is one reason why a big publisher won't take it). I wouldn't say you're slumming it to go indie, and to suggest that is a slap in the face to the really good, hard-working indie publishers out there, as well as the talented authors who write for them. Like self-publishing, it's another path. Not a bad path, just different, and maybe not yours.

I hope you find the right home for your work, Opie! :)

DLM said...

This is not only the problem with having a dream agent, but also the problem with looking at other agents as "lesser." The RIGHT agent - now, that's what you want.

The right agent, for *me*, will be passionate about my book, and will have a real relationship with it, and with me. They'll talk about not only the novel up for submission, but the next one and the next one.

And they'll probably like my pets and make fun of me for watching Venderpump Rules.

CynthiaMc said...

While I'm waiting for hubby to get out of surgery (so far so good) I am taking a master class with Stephen King (On Writing). Turns out my preferred way of writing is also his (who knew?). I realized that the very moment I stopped writing was when it stopped being fun and started being all about "do this, don't do that, this is marketable, that isn't." That may work for some people. Not for me. I was afraid I was done as a writer. It was as though Stephen King was sitting across from me saying "We're not like them. We do what works for us."

Somewhere along the line I stopped doing what worked for me and started worrying about what other people said I should be doing.

Today I go back to the old way. Today writing is fun again.

Thanks, Stephen. I needed that.

Good kuck, OP! I'm rooting for you.

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

It's hard to let go of a dream, especially when you lived the thrill and knew you would obtain it. Even if that moment lasted less time than you imagined.

It seems like you, OP, knew your manuscript was not what they were looking for.

A friend of mine studied for a year to enter the top school for art restoration in Florence. She's German and would spend hours perfecting a two inch pencil line. When she took the exam she was cast off with a half point less than the minimum. It was a grueling experience where other students spat at one another and cursed the other's drawings. The professors told her, "Try again next year." She did and was accepted. Now she's living her dream and is well respected, works with the ministry in Cologne restoring frescos.

I'd put it aside and write another story or write some short stories. Contact those agents again with a new work. They believed in you enough to submit your story to editors, they'll surely remember your writing. You are going to write more than one book, right?

As QOTKU said, you have the chops.

Colin Smith said...

Diane: So you're saying the reason Janet exiles me to Carkoon and beyond is because she wants to be my agent? Eeek! I can't imagine where I'd end up as one of the Fabulosity... does she have her own special Carkoon for them?? *gulp*

Donnaeve said...

Already great advice has been given in the post and in the comments thus far.

One thing that is interesting to me, and maybe this will apply to your situation with your "offbeat" book in the future. When you acquire a new agent for the new book you're going to write, it's possible the offbeat book might sell at some point on down the road. I'm not sure how offbeat it is, but there could be an editor somewhere that will like it.

I picture a scenario like this; new agent sells new book. New agent eventually gets around to asking about backlist stuff. I'm assuming offbeat book is considered backlist. Something similar happened to the hard crime novel I wrote. Went out to about nine editors - all rejected it, but my agent said, "we'll back-burner it for now since your other book sold. That's the genre you write in now, but we might be able to do something with it later on."

I've said this before and I think this is a good reason to say it again. Writing a new story will give you new hope. Like when you go through a break up with someone, you get over it quicker with a new relationship. Call it your rebound book.

DLM said...

Cynthia, here's hoping so far so good transitions into a good, and brief, recovery. You seem to have chosen a good distraction and lesson all in one.

I'm struck by the way this OP's situation began: had an agent, agent left, "Now what?"

In several of the more executive jobs I've had (since 2001), disaster recovery and succession planning have been prioritized. I recall the positively Byzantine process tool we had at one employer, accounting for every role and every piece of equipment down to each workstation and mouse, and positing the flow of responsibility in the case of disaster (including people's death and/or incapacitation). It was grueling to get into such detail, and could at times even be gruesome. It was NECESSARY to think about who could replace whom, who could take on what work, and what work could be foregone.

An author has the luxury not to do this. Heck, any individual has the luxury not to write a will, give two weeks' notice, or contemplate tomorrow in any practical way.

But this is one of those things that does happen, and - if it matters to us - we have to contemplate. Is there any possibility this agent will want to, or feel forced to leave the profession? If so: what then.

"If so: what then" is perhaps the least romantic question to ask during the honeymoon period, signing with an agent. But it's like marrying someone who does not want children, when you dearly ache to be a parent. Best asked before rather than after.

Colin is right that it is hard to lay aside work on which you have spent your life and your time. But how much harder would it be to lay it aside, having agreed to a snowball's chance because I was caught up in the prestige of the guy holding the snowball - and then it melted anyway?

But, Colin - I think I need a good deal more caffeine (and my spectacles, which dammit I left at home today!) to commit to any answer as to Janet's intentions ...

Donna - right now, the phrase New Hope is giving me Star Wars vibrations. As possibly the sole human being in the US with no plans to see the new one, we see the power of marketing at work.

Dena Pawling said...

This line is scary -

>>Take some time and really think about what you want, cause you've got one more time at bat most likely.

Having two previous agents means you only have one more chance at an agent? Having one previous ms unsold means you have only one more chance at submitting to larger publishers? Having one previous ms unsold means you only have one more chance to sell another ms to ANY publisher?

This would definitely seem to discourage a writer from writing an off-beat ms.

I'm not sure exactly what it means, but it makes indie and/or self-publishing look like a much friendlier option.

Colin Smith said...

Diane: Oh my! I had the same thought when Donna said "New Hope"!! None of our family will be seeing the new Star Wars movie until after New Year, unless by some miracle we've underspent on our gift budget. I'm a bit ambivalent about it. It's probably a good movie... but I'm not sure if my apathy is due to skeptisicm over the direction of the whole Star Wars francise, or just my general blah attitude toward movies in general at the moment. These days I get more excited about new books coming out.

Speaking of which... do we have a release date for THE SINGER FROM MEMPHIS yet, O Mighty QOTKU? :)

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Oh, ouch. How frustrating that must feel!

Well. I know OP need a list of those 9 editors, anyway. For when his/her new agent asks who's seen that novel.

Which brings me to a different, though related (I think) question. Because obviously, we writers don't want to abandon novels, especially not novels we wrote to the queried-agents-and-signed-one-on-its-basis step. So say OP writes another novel, shops new agents, some of whom rejected him/her for Offbeat Novel. Say one signs New Novel. They still probably won't want Offbeat Novel, correct? Or is that one of those "now that we're in contract together, we can devote the time to making Offbeat Novel something more salable" sort of things?

Colin Smith said...

That should have been "skepticism" of course... :)

Dena: I took it as one more time at bat with this novel. But I could be wrong.

Colin Smith said...

Jennifer: If you don't mind, I'm going to have a stab at this because it'll be fun to see if I'm right. Kinda like a "how much have you learned about publishing this year?" test. :) Bear in mind, I'm not an agent. I just play one in the comments. :D

So, you've written Novel A, and it has been rejected by every agent under the sun, including Agent Q. You write Novel B, and this stirs more interest. You get offers of rep, even from Agent Q. You love the way Agent Q signs her name, so you go with her. Agent Q says to you, "What else have you got?" at which you remind her about Novel A. Is Agent Q willing to invest the time to make it saleable? I think Agent Q will say either:

1) No--I turned it down because I don't think I can sell it. And that hasn't changed. Maybe in a few years there might be a place for something like this. But right now, keep writing new stuff.

2) Perhaps, but let's see how we do with Novel B first. If it makes you a hot commodity, then we can take another look at Novel A.

Chances are 1 is most likely.

That's my answer. How'd I do, All-Wise Sharksomeness? :)

Anonymous said...

"Take some time and really think about what you want, cause you've got one more time at bat most likely. "

Dena, I freaked out at that sentence too. I read it as having only one more shot at an agent, especially in view of this:

"An author with four books, the last of which sold only 3000 copies (because that's all the publisher would print) isn't as appetizing to sharks as writers without that disadvantage."

It makes me want to stuff all my work in a drawer and curl in a fetal position.

LynnRodz said...

OP, as a great writer once said, To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven... I wouldn't give up on your dream of seeing this novel come to light. Now may not be the time, but I'm sure you've got a WIP while you've been waiting. Get that finished, find a real superagent; one that wants you for the long haul and not someone who wants a fast buck from you.

You've been published before and I'm sure you will be again with something new. When the time's right. Take that novel out and I'm sure it'll find its way into the right person's hands. Good luck!

Karen McCoy said...

As much as we all want to crawl into fetal positions, I appreciate this realistic lens into the publishing world. And there's always what Lynn said. And what Colin said. And so many others. Especially 2Ns.

I've experienced some shakiness in my new job, and without going too into detail, it's helped me realize that sometimes doors aren't doors. Sometimes they're windows. And sometimes, they're paths into fun house mazes.

I got the last analogy from this talk from Elizabeth Gilbert

Lengthy, but definitely worth a gander. It's infinitely helped me through my current transition.

Sending hugs, Opie!

LynnRodz said...

Now how did that period get in there instead of a comma? I wish I could blame it on my phone or auto-correct, but I can't.

Unknown said...

Normally I would make a joke and avoid any of the more emotional conversations, but I am going to take a bit different approach to this post.

I believe, with all of my heart, God has a plan. Sorry if the G-word offends you, but it is my belief.

For the last six years my life has been a roller coaster. I took a job away from my hometown in return for a promotion and a large raise. Less then two years later, I found myself nearly out of work. Working for government contracts is risky business.

I took a position even further away from home, in a city I knew I wouldn't like, to keep food on my table. Two years later, that job was at risk and I took a job with a different company in a small town. This is when the real nightmare started. Five months after moving my family, I was fired because my manager decided to fire me and not based on my performance.

Here is where the plan part comes in. Since we were closer to home, we moved ourselves back. The lease on the house we had been renting was up and we moved right back in to our old home. My wife was able to get her old job back and I have had time to work on projects while I searched for work.

What I have learned: Life doesn't always work out the way we plan, but it does seem to work out as long as you keep pushing forward. We just may need to take a few detours from time to time.

BJ Muntain said...

Dear OP: I agree with Janet and the others. Put a new novel on your 'active' list, and put this one on your 'inactive' list. You're obviously publishable, so finding a new agent with a less odd manuscript shouldn't be as difficult as starting from scratch (says the person who is still scratching.)

"Backlist" is the term for books that have been published but are now out-of-print (or as out-of-print as they get these days). Back on September 16, Janet talked about "inventory" novels - those unpublished novels that aren't the current novel.

I was searching the blog - I'm sure Janet's addressed an agent quitting in the last year, but I could only find her 2012 post, titled "What to do when your agent quits"

Colin: Regarding the OP's "down in class a bit" - I don't think OP means it as a social class. If you classify publishers by size (as the publishing industry does), then you've got Major publishers, Large publishers, Medium-sized publishers, Small publishers, etc. Going "down in class a bit" would be going from a larger publisher to a smaller publisher.

And, as Janet said, that's got its own dangers. Publishing with a smaller publisher (which is what I think OP meant, since OP said "an indie publisher") or even self-publishing, is a risk. Chances are good you're not going to sell as many books as if you were published by a medium-to-large publisher.

Sorry this is so long. I've just been reading down the comments and blathering on while I drink my first coffee. But I think I've made some fairly clear points...

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Dave Rudden, yes, yes, yes.

That is EXACTLY what life is about.
Go ahead use the G-word if you want. There's a plan. I am sure about it because the path my life has taken is a convoluted-direct route to what's best for me.
It helps if you've lived a few years. That's when you get to notice the amazing results of bumpy roads being the best route.

Colin Smith said...

BJ: OK--you're probably correct that Opie intended "class" in that sense. It just seems a strange way to say "go with a smaller publisher" without someone misconstruing what's meant.

Craig F said...

I'm sorry but I kept getting knocked off course by the word offbeat. I don't know where I would be today without offbeat stories. I would almost be willing to bet that all books are offbeat. There are all skewed by the perception of the writer.

I have long known that I look at the world differently than others. Since I have become a writer that that difference has become acute. I see a mall and wonder about ways for a kidnapper to escape it. I see murders at picnics and it goes on and on.

I think the OP needs to begin with the self described offbeat and look at their view of the writing business. Compare it to titles like LOLITA, PORTNOY'S COMPLAINT or CATCHER IN THE RYE

Can you as a writer compare to Pratchett, Zelazney or even Tim Dorsey?

Offbeat is the whole business. It does not make you different than the rest of us.]

Sorry if it sounds like a rant but making a few thousand cookies has pissed off the drain of my kitchen sink. I have a bad attitude today.

Tony Clavelli said...

I wish a set of tags existed that agents could give themselves, sneak them in like post-nominal letters. This way you'd see it right there on the bio: Superagent, PNoD (for "publishes now or drops you") or Janet Reid, RFT (represents with ferocity and tenacity).

On the chance I find an agent for nextbook, I'd like one of the agent-for-life who would want my next book because they believe in the writing and the writer, rather than a quick try and then I'm gone if we don't get rich right away. I guess I'd find that out upon the offer, but I'm always a fan of extreme directness. OP's PNoD agent wasn't misleading, but it'd still be nice to know before that whiff of possibility came along and he took the gamble.

Colin Smith said...

Tony: IMHO (remember, I'm not an agent, I just hijack their comments and break all their rules), the thing to look for is an agent who is interested in your CAREER, not just your novel. Clearly, every agent will want you for your first novel. That's what establishes the relationship, and lays the foundation for the future. However, if your initial client-agent discussions don't include your current WiP, what you've got on the back-burner, and her ideas, hopes, and dreams for your future, then you might want to reconsider. Most of the agents I've researched tend to be career-oriented, which I think is a good thing.

BJ Muntain said...

Colin: I know what you mean. But I'm sure it also feels like a 'step backward' when you've already been published by a larger publisher. You're looking at a smaller advance (if you even get one) and a shorter reach.

Craig: You're right. Writers aren't normal. But in this case, though, it seems like 'offbeat' means 'not easy to sell.' Often, such novels won't be picked up by mainstream publishing, so will be published by small publishers. For instance, even Terry Pratchett started with a small publisher, until he was later picked up by Gollancz - after he'd already become successful.

And the problem with comparisons from the 60s and 70s is that publishing is ever-changing, and is much different now. It's much harder to get something too different published. Is that right? Is that good for publishing? Possibly not. But that's the reality for 2015. So a manuscript that's difficult to sell may not be the best one to use to regain one's toe-hold on the publishing industry. Or it may be, but it would require a lot of work and luck and risk on the part of the author.

Anonymous said...

Diane-- (including people's death and/or incapacitation)

I read that as decapitation and wondered what kind of company you worked for. It's obviously time for coffee.

Dream jobs, like dream agents, are such nebulous things.

One guy In Iraq used to complain to high heaven every time they sent him out on a convoy.

"This isn't my job! I'm a legal aid."

"You've been promoted. You're a gunner now. Get your @ss in that outfit."

The military now trains everyone for combat, even cooks. The theory being the enemy doesn't care what your job is and you need to be able to fight.

Will's MOS (military occupational specialty) was Bradley electronics mechanic. He wound up being an armorer, supply sgt. without the rank, and designated driver for the CO when he went on convoys. He thought Bradley mechanic would give him a good leg up to some other jobs in civilian life. He did gets lots of offers when he got out due to being an armorer, but it was from private security firms. Who knew chasing pirates was so lucrative these days?

I went from owning a real estate company with eighteen agents to being a babysitter at one of the country's largest racing Quarter Horse stud farms within a very short period of time. Babysitter was their name for the person who checked on mares about to foal and got acquainted with them, taking care of all the new babies, handling them, halter breaking etc. This started the day after they were born, on up to yearlings until they went into race training. It didn't pay much, but aside from some of the people, it was the best job I ever had.

One of my babies got sick a couple of times, so the stable hands would go in the stall and pen her up against a wall so the vet could do vile things to her. I'd have to start all over establishing trust again. I'd wait until she was lying down sunning herself and then lie down next to her and reach over and scratch her lightly. She jumped and ran the first few times, but eventually settled down again. At the end, I'd walk into the stall or run and she wouldn't even bother to get up. She'd just raise her head so I could put her halter on and scratch her a little.

The original petitioner has had vile things done to him and it may take a while to establish that perfect, trusting relationship again, but eventually, he needs to. People in the publishing industry are part of his life. As my son says, "Trust, but verify." Be knowledgeable going forward. Make a decision and don't regret it.

Regardless of what the author decides to do, better days are ahead.

Even so....

You have always written before, you will write again.--Hemingway

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I apologize for the rambling, long-winded response again.

I'm going to stop commenting. ugh

Janet Reid said...

Julie M. Weathers,
No, you are NOT going to stop commenting.

Well, the only reason you may take a (brief) hiatus
from commenting is because you are working on


That is all.

Richard said...

Hi, I’m the Original Poster, or “Opie” as I’m known around these parts. First, I’d like to thank everyone, including Janet, for your thoughtful replies. Let me clarify a few points and respond to a few things.

When I say “offbeat,” I really mean that it crosses genres, which is not a good thing. It’s part comedy, part crime thriller, part mystery. I’m well aware that some of the most famous novels in history cross genres. But they tend to be written by geniuses, and I’m not a genius. If I could give only one piece of advice to budding fiction writers, it would be: DO NOT CROSS GENRES! (But darn it, I keep doing it anyway.)

When I say “drop down in class,” that’s a horseracing term that means put your horse in a race against weaker competition. When you go from, let’s say, Alfred A. Knopf to an independent regional publisher located in Gary, Indiana that accepts un-agented and unsolicited manuscripts, you have taken a major drop in class. I’m sorry if that offends anyone, but it’s the simple truth. (In fact, you’ll notice that Janet said it might be a bad career move even if the book does get published.) Not that I’m all that worried about my so-called “career.” I have a nice day job.

I know for a fact that it’s possible to get a book published even if it has been represented by more than one agent, because I’ve done it twice before. In fact, for a guy who’s only published three books in his lifetime, I’ve had scads of literary agents--including some of the most famous, some of the best (not necessarily the same thing), and some of the worst. I realize that the best agent of all is the kind who nurtures your career through thick and thin over the course of many years. But I haven’t met one of those yet! They’re the great white whale. I know they exist, but good luck trying to find one.

In my experience, the whole agent/writer relationship is a lot less cozy and affectionate than it is sometimes portrayed in writers’ groups like this. It’s a business relationship like you’d have with your lawyer or accountant. If anything, it’s a little LESS loyal than that. If you don’t make money for them, they’ll drop you in a heartbeat. And it cuts both ways. If the writer has a lot of success out of the gate, he’ll often trade in his old agent for a new one with more juice. I think James Patterson has gone through a dozen of them by now. In fact, Patterson and I had the same agent once. The agent eventually dumped me, and Patterson eventually dumped the agent! That’s a more realistic look at how it works.

What’s different about my current situation is that I’ve never had an agent give my manuscript nine high-level submissions and then quit. This puts me squarely between a rock and the proverbial hard place. Nine submissions turned out to be too few to get a bite, but probably too many to get another agent interested. Oh, well, I’ll figure it out. I suspect the answer is just to put it aside and write a better one next time. Thanks for all your input and sympathy, though!

John Frain said...


Thanks for coming out and telling your story. As is often the case (maybe always?), I can see both sides of the story. Different people go through different experiences and base decisions regarding their future on their past.

I liked Donna's reference to your rebound book. Nice.

I was you, I'd wait a couple days and re-read Janet's advice and think though where you want to go. You clearly have the chops, and it sounds like you've got the right temperament and intelligence, so you'll figure it all out.

Whatever you decide, good luck to you. And, if you're willing, why not post back here after a little while what you decide. I bet a lot of folks will be curious.

Eve Messenger said...

DJM: “The right agent, for *me*, will be passionate about my book…” I could not agree more.

Donnaeve: What a great suggestion to go ahead and write the next book, and how it might even open a path later on for the “offbeat” novel to find the light of day. "Writing a new story will give you new hope. . . Call it your rebound book." I love this is advice!

John Frain said...


At the risk of piling on -- Julie, you're not allowed to stop commenting. I'm struck by how well you bring a parallel event to light when explaining your thoughts to others. For that matter, I'm just as struck by how you've lived through so many events that parallel other people's lives.

But my point is simple. If I was a betting man (okay, I am, and I'll ALWAYS rush to the window if there's a horse dropping down in class), I'd guess that you have never had anyone mark "SDT" on your manuscript, saying "Show, Don't Tell." I say this with complete confidence because even in your short missives -- you'd call them long, but I'm always ready to read more -- even in these short pieces, you manage to illustrate your point so beautifully that I feel like I'm standing next to you with my boot perched up on a wooden fence. And I don't even wear boots!

You're hard to follow on the comment board, but it helps me forget the meaning of the word fear, so thanks twice.

CynthiaMc said...

Sitting here in hubby's hospital room. Surgery went well but he's still in a lot of pain and will be for a while.

Sure wish I had Julie's Lady Bronc Rider book to read.

On the bright side, it was a great writing day. I have enough material and characters for a whole series. And a stuffed dog from the pet therapy people, God bless them.

I'm pretty sure Regan from The Exorcist is in the next room.

Unknown said...

When I was in school (doesn't matter which grade), I was the last picked for any athletic team. Not that I wanted to be athletic. I was asthmatic which made athleticism a challenge too great (so I reasoned). I also wanted to be liked, though, not so much as to be considered popular, that would have been a stretch, but at least liked. Being the last picked, though, carried with it the connotation I was also not liked.

With Sally Fields, wouldn't we all like to say, "They like me. They really really like me." Yet, I'm reminded again by the Great Shark, how hard this business is. Finding the agent who cares about you and your career (or even cares enough about you for this one submission), and the super publisher with a three book deal (even a one book deal) is like winning the lottery. All I have to do to win the lottery, though, is buy a ticket and hope. To win the publishing lottery, however, I have to commit my soul to a story and spend months or years "showing" it. Then, no matter how well it's written, it may never see the light of day for any number of valid (some of which I have control over) and "subjective" reasons.

Richard I know this didn't help you, sorry.

Also sorry for the rant. Got some disappointing news today. Haven't lost hope yet, so, for now I'll just keep perfecting my WIP.

Unknown said...

Sorry, that was way more the 100 words. I'll work on brevity in the future.

Colin Smith said...

Jearl: Yes, I'm practicing being pithy. In fact, I want to get good at pithy. Make an art form of it, even. A veritable pith artist.


BJ Muntain said...

Richard, here's a thought, and I believe Janet has mentioned something along these lines in the past:

Why not use a different name when publishing your offbeat novel with a small publisher?

That way, if this novel doesn't turn out to be a blockbuster, it won't be as easy to find if an agent or publisher is looking. As I understand it, the problem with a poor-selling novel is that it makes you (or your 'brand', generally your name) less valuable. If no one puts this novel together with you, then it won't be weighing down, devaluing your real name. But if it does REALLY well, you could let it slip that this author is actually you.

Now, if I've understood Janet wrong, and this isn't the case, I'm sure she'll say something. But there's nothing wrong with setting it aside for now, either, and working on a more sellable piece.

There are always so many decisions.

(And Julie? I love that image you linked to. That is SO. TRUE.)

Megan V said...

I apologize in advance for a single comment that is going to take up the space of three, but I wanted to share some 'advice from mom.'

When I was growing up my mother's consistent catch-all phrase was "Your struggles define your achievements."

She said this when my older brother worried about what his friends would think when they found out he had to go to an after-school center because he had trouble reading.

She said this when I finally—FINALLY—nailed a time-step for tap class but asked to quit dance the next day because it turned out I wasn't as coordinated as my classmates.

She said this to herself when she went back to school because she was also working the farm, a paying job, and raising four kids.

If you have the courage to face your struggles, then you've got a chance to succeed—whether it's writing another book, dealing with the loss of an agent, or just making your way through life. It's up to you to decide if you'll face them and how. It's okay if you can't read the pitcher very well, even if all you've got is one more chance at bat, so long as you're willing to sweat and swing when the time is right.

And now for some lovely words that aren't me being a windbag.

The Courage That My Mother Had - Poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay

The courage that my mother had
Went with her, and is with her still:
Rock from New England quarried;
Now granite in a granite hill.

The golden brooch my mother wore
She left behind for me to wear;
I have no thing I treasure more:
Yet, it is something I could spare.

Oh, if instead she'd left to me

The thing she took into the grave!—
That courage like a rock, which she
Has no more need of, and I have.

Anonymous said...

Megan, thank you. I have no idea whether your words, and your mom's wisdom, resonated with Richard but they sure did with me. I sometimes neglect to remember that I come from a long line of incredibly strong women, women who rarely got to choose which struggles they faced. Struggles whose outcome were one hell of a lot more significant than anything I face as a writer. This writing struggle does define me, but no one is forcing me along this path. No one would attempt to make me continue, or likely notice, if I stopped. It's my choice, whether that be easy or difficult, and I sometimes forget what a rare beautiful thing it is to have that opportunity. To choose my struggles. Thank you for the perspective. And for that poem.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Megan, wonderful words to wake up to. Bring it on life, I'm ready.

Anonymous said...


That was gorgeous. Thank you so much for sharing that.


BJ Muntain said...

Thank you, Megan.

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

Was going to offer a handful of advice (including 'never be afraid to cross genres', because my most successful sales were crossed genre), but all I'm going to put out is:

What do you want the most and how bad do you want it?

Followed by:

Do you have a business plan?