Wednesday, February 15, 2017

more on Asbestos Underpants LLC

I am following up on a letter from last month. I was published by the same “imploding” press referred to in that letter and wonder exactly how terrible it would be to query the novel formerly published by Asbestos Underpants, LLC (a name many of us quite enjoy, by the way). It was submitted and accepted by the pub as a novel but was chopped into four e-novellas, each made available months, and sometimes years, apart. Reviewers' only complaints were that they wanted to read the whole thing, and I’ve always wondered how the book would have fared as a complete novel. Is querying this possible, now that I have all rights to it back, or do I need to venture into the world of self-publishing, which, frankly, scares me? 

There's a third option. Query agents for a new novel then, when you're actually talking to one of my lucky colleagues about representation, mention this little orphan as part of your literary inventory.

When I begin negotiations with a writer (are you prepared to drink a lot of bourbon? Do you know all the words to The Music Man? Does the phrase "safety deposit box" give you the hives?) one of the other questions I ask is "what else ya got in your quiver there, Archer?"

When I sign authors it is generally for the novel  they queried. However, I know that my evil plans for world domination (crime publishing division) are sometimes thwarted by editors taking leave of their senses and not buying my stuff.  When that happens, it's Plan B to the rescue and Plan B is what we discussed when we talked about what else you had.

A quick rundown of my current client list shows five current clients who queried for Book A, and their first published book was or will be Book Not A.

Another option is to use a pitch session at a writing conference to talk about this project with agents. It will be very useful if we can engage in conversation about this book rather than you just querying it and me seeing "previously published" and hitting the "nope" key.

One thing about publishing: it's fluid. One bout of bad luck here will not end your career. What this will give you instead is the first of many great publishing stories, which you tell in the bar at a conference years later and we all groan and moan and swill bourbon.


Theresa said...

Wise words here, OP, especially in the last paragraph. The main message: know how to appreciate and hold your bourbon.

And I'm somehow very comforted by the thought of an agent--and not just any agent--achieving world domination.

Colin Smith said...

One thing about publishing: it's fluid

Namely, Bourbon? ;)

Seriously, though, we know the rules aren't rules, they are guidelines. And if you haven't read Janet's "Rules for Writers" (see sidebar, next to the Martini), you ought to. See rules about being bold, being tenacious, being imperfect... they're all about doing things that might be against the "accepted norm" and doing them without being an a-hat.

Opie: Janet's third option is a good option. I know you'd hate to set this novel aside, especially since someone thought it good enough to publish, and you poured a lot of love into it. But with something new, not only do you avoid having to explain the history of your work to every agent who shows an interest (and, of course, there will be many), but it also keeps your creativity sharp, challenging yourself with new ideas. As Janet said, temporarily shelving the novel is not trashing it. This novel will have its day--but perhaps not yet. That said, there's nothing wrong with trying the other options, as long as you are up-front and professional about your publishing career so far.

All the best to you! :)

Donnaeve said...

It's always encouraging to know the work put into a book that's had a peek at the daylight of publishing isn't always relegated to the dark dungeons one's desk drawer forever. There's a lot of hope in that, IMO.

But this by OP caught my eye too, "It was submitted and accepted by the pub as a novel but was chopped into four e-novellas, each made available months, and sometimes years, apart."

During this time you wrote other stuff, right? And you can now take QOTKU's advice and query your brand new book, or you have one that you're polishing, or finishing up?

I said this a while back...hope is resurrected whenever you begin new work. At least it worked like that for me.

Good luck as you move forward, and get to querying (if you have something ready) as if you were wearing asbestos underpants!

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Swirl that bourbon. That's the ticket.

Kitty said...

QUESTION: Did OP agree to the novel being chopped up like that? Or didn't s/he have any control over it once the publisher had it?

Unknown said...

What is it about writing and drinking? (Or writers and drinking? ;) I love the image of arrows in the literary quiver. Mixing that with bourbon raises all kinds of colorful ideas!

Have a great day everyone. I've slated writing more of a training course, progressing on a book proposal, and a adding a few pages to my fiction WIP. If I added bourbon, I'd also have to schedule a nap...

Unknown said...

Thanks, this is very encouraging! I always like the idea that nothing is wasted, and it's nice to hear this is sometimes in the form of shelved projects later seeing the light of day.

Unknown said...

O! M! G!
I know all the words to Music Man. Is There hope for me? In fact, I can sing them too, and pretty well, (I was Oliver once, the baritone in the quartet). I’ve never queried the Shark out of fear (and because she doesn’t represent my genre), but still, she’s always saying query anyway. And should I mention this otherwise seemingly unimportant skill in my very short bio?? And I have an amazing Whisky inventory, (why limit yourself to just Bourbon?).
As to the OP. Oh man. I’m so sorry. What a terrible boat to be in. I agree with the previous comments. I hope you’ve been writing, writing, writing as Asbestos Underpants, LLC implodes. Totally need to go with option 3, unless sales on your e-novels have been fantastic, in which case why would Asbestos Underpants, LLC have gone belly up?
The OP’s post, however, brings up another interesting question I hope that Janet at some point addresses. Is it ever a good idea to go with e-publishing for a debut novel? It seems like that really diminishes the initial splash that the term “debut author” seems to carry in terms of generating publisher (and reader) excitement.

Unknown said...

Robert, I'll sing first or second tenor. Anyone else care to join? How can there be any sin in sincere?

Kregger said...

I've got the swilling bourbon down pat.

It's the BIC-HOK that's the hard part.

I saw a bottle of Blanton's on the first John Wick movie the other night. Now, that's good bourbon. I hate to say it, but all other whiskey pales in comparison to corn liquor well aged.

Janet Reid said...


Unknown said...

OP, I'm sorry about your situation. How frustrating and disappointing!

If you don't mind answering a few questions, I'd like to learn from your experience. Did you have an agent, or did you work directly with the press? Was your work e-published? I know an agent would not have saved the press, but I'm still trying to figure out all of the permutations and relationships of publishing: agents, editors, presses, publishers (self and otherwise), publishing (e-, on-demand, traditional)... And now you've introduced a twist I hadn't really considered: the work itself can get splintered in the already splintered process of publishing. Yikes, it's a lot to follow and understand!

Thanks for any insights.

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

Interesting discussion. I'm not sure I understand the publisher's reasoning for that lengthy time frame between releases. And like Kitty, I'm wondering if you agreed to this, OP, or was it out of your hands?

But I guess that's not really what this is about... this is about continuing to move forward even when things go belly up. Keep learning. Keep growing. Keep writing.

This is also about alcohol. And I have a question: Would it ever be okay to exchange the bourbon for a lovely dark beer?

A stormy day here at the sanctuary. So, in between the "must do" chores, I'm stuck inside. Which means I'm writing. YAY! Speaking of stuck. I got myself into a doozie of a mess the other evening. Buried our ATV in mud, right up to the axles. I had to construct a makeshift road of dead logs to get myself out. Took nearly an hour. In the pitch black of night. Alone. In the middle of several hundred acres of dense woods. So not fun, and a little scary. Okay, a lot scary. But once I'd gotten unstuck and had the Kubbie back on solid ground, I must confess to a "Rocky at the top of the steps" moment.

I'm off to my WIP... Have a great day, everyone!

Colin Smith said...

Did someone say, "The Music Man"? Hmmm...

Join in, everyone!

Seventy-six "completes" in the novel file
With a hundred and ten ideas close at hand,
They were followed by rows and rows of the finest tall mimo-
Sas, the fuel behind my writing hand!

Seventy-six “completes” found the hard drive fault
With a hundred and ten ideas right behind
There were more than a thousand dreams
Burning up like reams
Of paper in the fireplace of my mind.

There were calls to ev’ry genius in M.I.T.
Thundering, thundering, “Can you save my work?”
“We can move the universe, just pay our fee!
“In future, back-up! You stupid berk!”

There were fifty savvy agents on my query list
Begging me send them a full of every book
Publishers of ev’ry size
And editors with beady eyes
Catching every typo and mistook!


Megan V said...

There were bells on a hill, but I never heard them ringing.

Situations like Asbestos Underpants LLC should come with alarm bells. Trouble is, it can be so hard to hear the alarm bells when the wedding bells are chiming over them.

OP, Janets advice, as always, is on point! Option 3 is loverly!

Unknown said...

I'll burn up my third comment just to say I'm laughing out loud in appreciation. Wow, Colin, just wow! And Janet, I don't know what your actual voice sounds like, but now I can substitute in the "Balzac!" voice in a pinch.

Also, on a non-Music Man note, I am very impressed by your ATV triumph, Melanie Sue.

Sharyn Ekbergh said...

To Melanie,
We have three feet of snow and another foot coming. A construction crew is here shoveling the roofs. I do the walkways and decks for our two buildings. The firewood is buried and I don't know if I can get to it.

In the Nothing is Ever Wasted category..
I have two hand written and illustrated letters from a very, very successful children's book illustrator praising my early work to the skies and comparing me to Anne Morrow Lindbergh. One letter says to show it to any editor and says he is eager to illustrate my work.

I was young and didn't see the opportunity right on my doorstep and I don't have the pieces anywhere. I think I felt the one he loved best was too personal to let loose into the cruel world. This was back when I was the "last of the lyric poets" as my mom said.

Now, after writing and producing a number of (lyrical) children's plays, songs, stories, and not so lyrical TV spots, documentaries and fund raising videos for non profits, I wish I had those pieces to look at again.
And the illustrator is so successful and backed up with work I imagine he's out of reach forever.

I think my mom set my path in life by taking me to the Falmouth Playhouse and then the Newport Folk Festival and Club 47.
I can sing lines from the Mikado, South Pacific, Oklahoma and probably all of Cats. Not to mention folk songs starting with Trini Lopez, Belafonte, Phil Ochs, Tom Paxton, The Kingston Trio, and every song the Beatles ever recorded. Saw Joni Mitchell as a thin young woman with a pure high voice singing Song to a Seagull in a dark crowded basement, sipping an expensive hot chocolate with a mound of whipped cream and a cinnamon stick.

Not much for bourbon but I once drank eight pints (pints! not glasses) of Guinness and bicycled home in the dark and rain from Dublin to Dalkey. Singing all the way.

BJ Muntain said...

"Are you prepared to drink a lot of bourbon?"

I'm afraid I'm not much of a drinker. However, I am prepared to buy a lot of bourbon.

"Do you know all the words to The Music Man?"

I used to. I can re-learn them. I once thrilled my then-10-year-old nephew by singing The Monster Mash over and over again (3 of 4 verses, anyway) while eating supper at Red Lobster. I'm not afraid of singing in public.

"Does the phrase "safety deposit box" give you hives?"

Sulfa drugs give me hives. The phrase "could of" gives me a headache from gritting my teeth too hard. And I want to slap people who think that Elements of Style is a Bible. (It's more like a Children's Bible, where all the fun and boring stuff is edited out and everything else is oversimplified.) I read style guides for fun.

For poor OP: I like Janet's suggestion to actually talk to agents. Pitch sessions are good for that. Some conferences will have get-to-know time with agents, maybe at lunch or other events. Or, if you're at a writer's conference, the bar is a good place to go. Buy a few drinks, commiserate over imploding publishers, and tell some agents what AU LLC did to your poor book, but that people liked it, anyway.

Melanie Sue: I am absolutely impressed. I've been stuck in snow that deep more than once, and I'll tell you, it took a lot more than an hour to get out. In fact, it often took neighbours pushing or digging, and sometimes tow trucks. Of course, I don't drive an ATV. I drive a little Mazda. Sometimes I wish that, instead of winter tires, I could afford a winter vehicle...

BJ Muntain said...

Sharyn: I want to meet you. I love the old folk music (the newer stuff I've heard tends to be more rock-y and less meaningful.) The Kingston Trio were a constant favourite of mine beginning in my teen years. I'm afraid I may be a bit younger than you, but I was born late. Oh, and Joni Mitchell comes from Saskatoon, which is a three-hour drive north of my city, here in Saskatchewan.

Sharyn Ekbergh said...

Here's another one in the Missed Opportunity Numbnut Category.
(smacks head with hand)
I went to a writing workshop where I had a critique from an up and coming children's book editor at a company any writer would cry wth joy to get an offer from. She had the first ten pages of a middle grade book I was working on and told me I could send it to her when done.
One of the other writers there told me "she never says that."
I didn't get it done in time and she left the company.
Yeah, I know, I should have finished it and sent it with a note saying so and so told me she wanted to see this.
At least I still have that one, almost done.

Julie Weathers said...

I'm going to pass on the flash flash fiction and work on the WIP, but good post today and a reminder to have that backup ready.

I may try to squeeze in listening to some legal arguments this morning and Justice Willet's address this afternoon. Yes, I'm a Willett groupie. Dena Pawling and I may be the only ones interested in this, but I thought I'd post it in case someone is working on a legal thriller or something. It's a legal event in Texas.

Sharyn Ekbergh said...

Hi BJ,
Next time I'm near Saskatoon we'll look you up.
I spent four years in Quebec and Nova Scotia. Very fond of Lenny Gallant (we'll get up at the break of day and hitch the Morgan to the sleigh).
How about...
Oh he'll never return no he'll never return
and his fate is still unlearned (what a pity)

RosannaM said...

I had to stop reading comments and get ready, but I needed to give a huge round of applause to Colin. A man of many talents. Now I will have that music in my head all day, but I'm afraid I would need a little time to memorize the new lyrics.

And Melanie? An experience like that can scare the daylights out of you, make you stronger and find its way into your writing!

BJ Muntain said...

Sharyn: I'll never trust the MTA. Money-grabbing opportunists, imprisoning a man because he didn't have a nickel on him! And what's with Charlie's wife? She couldn't have thrown a nickel in with his lunch? Or is this simply a way to 'prove' she cares while she's secretly banging the MTA's head manager?

I'm actually in Regina. If you come near Regina, I'll buy you supper. I know several good places in town.

Joseph S. said...

I feel so dense (but I’ll chalk it up to still being half asleep). I didn’t see a yes or no answer to the OP’s question: Is it possible (or I’ll add this - a good idea) for OP to query the published and unpublished novellas as one novel?

I don’t see why not. “The Martian” for example was published after it was released on the web one chapter at a time. The key is to disclose the situation and to document sales information on the novellas if you have it.

Am I missing something?

Beth Carpenter said...

Colin, you are a man of many talents. However, the awesome Melanie Sue is who I'd want with me on a deserted island. No offence, Colin. Entertainment is important, but inovation is vital.

Count me as one of those Janet mentioned, whose first sale through an agent was not Book A. Not Book B, either, but the agent stuck with me, and books C and D come out later this year.

Joseph S. said...

Julie W.

The Texas Supreme Court session may not be as enlightening as you think.
The Alabama Supreme Court and Alabama Court of Civil Appeals every other year or so holds a session at my university.

The problem is these are not trials but appeals. Unless you already know the facts of the cases and the arguments you expect to hear they are hard to follow. As a busman’s holiday (as a law professor AND as advisor the Moot Court teams) I’d listen to guess the issues and figure out what the critical sub-issue is. But for a casual listener, they are hard to follow. (And, sadly, usually the lawyers are not as well prepared as students are in team competitions).

Colin Smith said...

Beth: None taken, and I would agree! :)

Thank you for indulging me my little musical levity these past couple of days. (Did y'all catch my "Hamilton" take yesterday? I was quite pleased with that.) I find it fun, and a good creative workout.

So, what's on tap for tomorrow, Janet? "Phantom of the Opera"? ;)

Joseph S. said...

Excellent tune today Colin (and it reminded me to backup my WIP!!!!!!!!.

RachelErin said...

Colin: Rent.

I had no idea my past obsession with musical theater could help me get an agent.

Only thing to do is jump over the moon.

John Davis Frain said...

"A quick rundown of my current client list shows five current clients who queried for Book A, and their first published book was or will be Book Not A."

You know what would be interesting (at least, to me) is how many of these five clients ultimately sold Book A. Inquiring minds and all.

BJ Muntain said...

Joseph: As I understand it, the problem with the situation is that they would be querying a pre-published work. Not many agents take on pre-published works for people who aren't already their client. So the advice is to get an agent's interest with another work, then tell them about this work. Or not to query, but to speak directly to the agents in a pitch session or some such, where you have their attention despite pitching a pre-published work.

And while the Martian may have been published on a website before selling, OP's has already been professionally published and available for sale. It's not a good prospect for querying, unfortunately.

Anonymous said...

Can I trade tequila for bourbon?

I know the all the words to Music Man, Oklahoma, Guys & Dolls, Grease (stage version, please) having been a high school theatre teacher.

I hate safety deposit boxes. The friggin' bank is never open when I need that thing I stuffed in the box.

You make me wish I wrote crime novels.

Janice Grinyer said...

Swill tequila. I will be swilling tequila...

Colin Smith said...

BJ/Joseph: Actually, as I read it, the publisher planned to split the novel into multiple novellas, but maybe only published the first installment (note, Opie said reviewers were clamoring for more). In which case, the complete novel is as yet unpublished. In any case, this may be a bit too much explaining for a debut. :)

Julie Weathers said...


I was more interested in listening to Justice Willett, but I can't find the live stream, so I missed out on that. I am sad.

He's about the only thing of real interest in twitter these days.

Joseph S. said...


I see what you're saying. That all parts have been released. For some reason i read it as some were released and some were left in limbo.

BJ Muntain said...

"It was submitted and accepted by the pub as a novel but was chopped into four e-novellas, each made available months, and sometimes years, apart."

This is why I understand it to say that the entire series of novellas was published. Not *to be made available*, but *made available*. And how would the author know if it were 'sometimes years apart', if they weren't published years apart?

It sounds all past tense to me.

Craig F said...

OP: At least it sounds like you have enough of a bitch that your feelings won't devolve into a guilt trip.

The creeks we all have to cross may seem simple enough. There are a few gator holes in them. Don't get it into your head that it is your fault.

On this one it sounds like the company was over managed and was not in touch with those who would have paid their bills if they had adjusted it properly.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Just jumped on after an exhausting day.
No time to read all the comments BUT
Hellooo, out there, my quiver is full, I mean really, really full, and my novel is a week from being ready for the world of query.

Exciting and scary all at the same time.

Elissa M said...

I don't know all the words to "The Music Man" but I know the notes. I play clarinet in a pit orchestra (currently working on a production of Mary Poppins). Community Theater may be a long way off Broadway, but it's a load of fun--not to mention the proverbial blood, sweat and tears.

It's very heartening to read, "One thing about publishing: it's fluid. One bout of bad luck here will not end your career. What this will give you instead is the first of many great publishing stories, which you tell in the bar at a conference years later and we all groan and moan and swill bourbon."

Kate Higgins said...

Colin: Impressive!
'Clink' to all

Gypmar said...


MA Hudson said...

Beth - congratulations on your almost-published books! That's awesome news. Good luck and let us know when they launch.

2NN's - I'm still a long way behind you but have started working on my query letter before doing a final polish on my WIP. So I can kinda imagine how exciting it must be to be in your position. Sounds like you're just about to lead your horse to the starting gates! Nail-biting times ahead. Best of luck.

Beth Carpenter said...

Thanks, MA. 2NNs, that's exciting. Best of luck.

Megan V said...

Congratulations Beth :)

Lennon Faris said...

Ah this conversation just makes me happy. Goood luck OP. I would join in the musical jest but after a very long day alas my brain is past the point of no return. *hums Phantom* *forehead hits keyboard*

Lennon Faris said...

*lifts head*
and, congrats, Beth! Keep us updated.

waterfox said...

I'll try to answer these questions in order and thanks, everyone, for the good wishes. I've been writing all the while and have a WIP nearly ready and others in various stages of completion.

Okay - no agent. AU only offered electronic publishing, which was a disappointment but I thought I'd at least have something out there while I kept writing. I also agreed to chopping it into pieces, reluctantly, but I was told (and contracted to) have it all come out over the course of a year. That did not happen due to editors leaving, signing on 100 other writers despite other promises. I wouldn't worry about this happening to you, though, especially in YA. I don't think,anyone else would see this as a good idea right now. :)

waterfox said...

Good luck with your WIP! And I have to ask if I can stick to clear alcohols, or tequila.

waterfox said...

And you, too! This confirms my (not so) diabolical plan.

waterfox said...

I answered this a few questions down because I missed your question. I agreed to it, reluctantly, but not on that schedule!