Friday, February 09, 2018

My misspent youth includes some self-publishing

You write a lot about how much to disclose about prior self-published novels when querying. My take has been that it's not really a positive if your Amazon royalties were $50 last year, as they were in my case.

But you also mention fairly often, "your web site" and things an author might disclose there. I have a nice web site, but because it shamelessly promotes my self-published novels, and I am actively querying for my latest (best!) work, I decided to unpublish that web site and hide my author page on Facebook.

In my query I simply say that AWESOME NEW MANUSCRIPT is my third completed novel. My rationale was that I don't want Amazing Agent to be distracted or unduly influenced by my prior works, when I really believe this new one is my best yet. Plus, the new one is more 'up-market/literary' and the first two were more genre novels. I also took the two novels off of Amazon for now. My ratings are pretty good--almost all 5 stars--but there are only 9 and 12 of them respectively.

Should I be hiding my past works like this? Or am I over-thinking it?

Honestly, when did writers become so invested in transparency?

Transparancy is great for government officials, but holy moly, not here.

As long as this finessing of information isn't going to jam us up down the road, feel free to be judicious in what you tell me. I think taking down the self-pubbed work and unpubbing your Facebook page is a good idea. Honestly, it's what I would have done, were I in your swim fins.

If you've self-pubbed a previous book, you don't need to mention it. As long as you don't tell me this queried book is your debut novel, we're good.

Things you absolutely have to tell me include:
1. If you've had a previous agent
2. If this project you're querying has already been on submission
3. If the book you're querying has been previously published (that includes self-pubbed)
4. If you've pitched this to an editor at a conference or sent it to any editor anywhere

Things you do NOT have to tell me:
5. Any details of your misspent publishing youth that are not covered in 1-4 above)
6. Your health (physical or mental) status
7. Anything about your family (unless you're in my family, of course.)
8. Where you live (as long as you provide me with a way to get you your money that doesn't involve cash in a safe deposit box somewhere in the Bronx)
9. How much research you did for the novel
10. Why you want me to be your agent (cause who wouldn't, right?)


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Things you do NOT have to tell me:
5. Any details of your misspent graffiti-publishing youth which cover bridge abutments and alley walls.
6. Your health (physical or mental) status including what you used to weigh and how you lost it.
7. Anything about your family and where they are incarcerated.
8. Where you are incarcerated.
9. How much research you did for the novel as a snitch.
10. Why you want me to be your agent? Don't bother.
11. Frankly it’s a pass. You scare the sh** out of me.

Timothy Lowe said...

Can't get much clearer than this - another list for the treasure chest.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

2Ns: speaking of incarceration! I just read The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary (which a Reider had recommended). Wow.

Back on topic:
It's good to know boundaries are allowed. Judicious. I like that word.

Claire Bobrow said...

Ditto Timothy. I'm in the thick of querying and this is really helpful. However, in my (not very vast) experience, most agents do seem to want #10 on Janet's list.

Kregger said...

To continue 2NN's list:
12. The names of assorted pets, i.e. Fluffy the goldfish.
13. The genetic breakdown from to justify writing non-fic du jour or relationship to (said/Reid) agent of choice.
13a. Follow up phone call to request genetic profile (unanswered).
13b. Follow up email (unanswered).
13c. Email requesting a cease and desist of Swatting pranks. (Hallowed laughter from NYC)
14. ?

Don't Tase me, sister.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I scare the crap out of most people. I figure my best shot at an agent will have to come in the form of something more frightening than myself.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

"Admit nothing, explain nothing, and apologize for nothing"

(we've been watching Endeavor on Amazon prime, a BBC show I'm given to understand, the young adventures of Inspector Morse [I read one of the books and failed to become enchanted, unfortunately])

Bethany Elizabeth said...

Claire--I may be off here, but I figure most agents would rather hear why you think you two would work well together (you represent authors in my genre who I admire, you said you were looking for bizarrely specific plot ABC which happens to be what I've written, etc.) rather than why you admire them as an agent. "I want you to help me" isn't anywhere near as convincing as "I think my work matches what you've said you're looking for."

Although I will say that OPs post reminded me that there are some books on amazon that I want to leave a good review on. :) I really should spend some time on Goodreads, but honestly it just overwhelms me.

Craig F said...

Once again. The object of a query is to cause a querygasim. At this point it might still only lead to a one night stand. You really don't want an agent to know where those crumbs in the bed came from, do you?

Sam Mills said...

My first six books are safely in a trunk. Took me till #7 to muster the courage to let other eyeballs in. I'm kind of glad self-pub wasn't an easy option when I was younger, because Teenage Sam was not ready for any of this (despite what she may have thought).

Julie Weathers said...

Thankfully, I haven't been lured to the dark side of publishing yet, though I've been tempted. No offense to those who self-publish, it's just not for me because I'm too lazy to do the work it would take to successfully self-publish.

I know we've licked this calf before, but I still wonder about it.

"How much research you did for the novel."

When I sent what I thought was the opening chapter of Rain Crow off to Free Lance Editor Edna (FLEE), I got dinged on a lot of things that were inaccurate. A woman in the 1860's wouldn't do this and wouldn't do that. You wouldn't be able to smell flowers in a cabin because the outhouse would stink so much. (The outhouse isn't in the in house.) You can't use the word hysterical to refer to an excited woman, at that time it referred to things of the womb and orgasms.

A man would never say "damn" in front of a lady, if she did he would leave his presence immediately. This said even though there's a storm of biblical proportions going on, but don't let common sense get in the way when some etiquette manual somewhere says this.

The editor as said before advised me to stop being lazy and do some research or write about something else.

At Surrey at a master class, "A young woman in 1861 wouldn't know what a barrage sounds like." Privately, comments were much harsher about me doing some research.

Yes, she would. Beauregard's artillery and Anderson's artillery had been firing on each other for weeks, sighting guns and training green gun crews. The aim was to just barely miss the other target, but occasionally they would hit a building and send out profuse apologies.

After two hits about research, I almost feel like I need to put in a line about this has been carefully researched and sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

Sort of like the woman in Missouri who heard a sound and went outside to check it out. I guess she's never watched a horror movie in her life. She had her phone with her in case, thank heavens. The neighbor's Corgi was on her Shetland pony, just sitting there. The pony took off running as much as a fat pony can run and the Corgi stayed along for the ride. Apparently, he sneaks over every night for pony rides. Mystery solved.

Cecilia Ortiz Luna said...

Craig F

Querygasm...oh my god lol

Anonymous said...

I love the truth-is-stranger-than-fiction reality, and hate when it limits writers, @Julie Weathers

Would that we all had misspent youths of novels and sales...

Claire Bobrow said...

Bethany Elizabeth: I agree. I'm enjoying the research, trying to figure out who might be a good match for me and my work, and vice versa. I'd like to be a strong partner and make an agent's heart go Zing!

Speaking of Zing! - Julie Weathers, I think you may have a story in the making with the fat pony and the corgi :-)

Unknown said...

Julie, I wrote a training course for physicians once. Spent time in an ER and shadowing a pediatrician to get real-life examples. I used them. The design committee told me to take them out. "That would NEVER happen."

I agree that agents assume you've researched your work, and you don't need to mention it in a query. The stuff editors told you? Just to be spiteful, I'd refute it all, in writing, with documentation where available. I hate when people assume others are stupid. We all know different things. None of us are stupid. (Except maybe the person who said you can't smell flowers because of the outhouse. Sheesh!)

Colin Smith said...

I assume we're talking primarily at the query stage here. No, an agent doesn't need to know this stuff. Even with #10, if your query's compelling, how many agents who said "I want to know why you chose me" will care? They're going to be more concerned about requesting pages and being the first one to offer rep! I think that kind of request is there in case the agent is in any way on the fence about requesting. The kind of query that gets five offers of representation within a week of sending doesn't need to worry about #10. At least as I understand it. I could be wrong, as always...

At the "Call" stage, however, I would think the agent will want to know if, say, you have a terminal illness and have only six months to live. They may well try to hurry the process along, prioritize your submissions, etc. Another thing you don't need to tell an agent at the query stage, but should probably divulge at the "Call" stage is your age if you're under 18. That's important for signing contracts.

Julie: Shame you don't have a time travelling character who drops into your story and tries to tell your characters what they shouldn't be doing. :) Seriously, though, I think an "Author's Note" at the end should suffice to demonstrate the depth of your research. I point to Gary Corby as a glowing example of this. And many other writerly things too, in fact. :)

Julie Weathers said...


The problem is, if an agent reads the first fifty pages, there are going to be things that go against what everyone "knows" is true about the Civil War and Victorian times. I'm really sorry Hollywood didn't get it right. That isn't my problem.


She took a video of the Corgi on the pony and the pony dashing away. The Corgi looks back at the owner, completely unperturbed and sits there like it's glued on that fat pony.

I'm sure it's making the rounds.

Julie Weathers said...

Cricket the One-Eyed Wonder Pony and Friend.

Timothy Lowe said...


I agree. The way I saw it, mock-personalization ("I'm querying you because you represent science fiction, and my book has science fiction elements") was pretty meaningless. If you've got some meaningful way to personalize ("I've found your blog very helpful" or "I enjoyed your book Writing the Breakout Novel") then it is better. But at the end of the day, if the agent is salivating, they're going to bite. If after reading your MS, they're still salivating, well, you've got your agent.

If they're not at any point salivating, you don't want them - which is convenient, since it means they won't offer.

One Of Us Has To Go said...

I do understand why Claire says that #10 seems important:

A literary agent (who must be at least known by Janet via Twitter cause I have seen her commenting on her tweets ;) ) on Twitter said, on December 8 2017: "I'm not going to lie. When reading queries I'm completely won over by compliments." This tweet got 4 responses, one retweet and 43 likes.

When I saw it, I rolled my eyes several times.

1) It makes me almost believe that this agent isn't doing a good job (Hang on? You represent me for my compliments, not my work??? The word "completely" in her tweet really irritated me.)

2) It's just a 'trick'. If I were a literary agent, I'd know as much about this 'sweet-talk' as I know (in these days ;) ) why boys made me compliments at a bar...

AJ Blythe said...

Julie, yes, the corgi on the pony is doing the rounds - it made the news here in Oz.