Friday, July 19, 2019

10 Truly Nutty Things You Can Believe (but please don't)

A recent email conversation with a writer led her to say "just tell me if I'm being too crazy here."
I had to disappoint her with the news that not only was she NOT crazy, she was going to have to try MUCH harder to get in to the Crazy Corral.

If you wanted to be fitted for Crazypants, here are the guidelines:

1. Believe that my lack of IMMEDIATE reply means your writing is so bad I'm just trying to craft the most delicate of let-downs.

Why you're nuts: I don't write delicate let-downs (ever) and I'm busy making other writers crazy. I haven't gotten to you yet. Chill.

2. Believe that if this query doesn't secure representation, your writing is clearly bilgewater of the most foul degree.

Why you're nuts: I turn down good and publishable writing every day for reasons that would not surprise you. So does every agent. Rejection doesn't mean anything, ANYTHING, other than not for me.

3. Believe that if you don't sell this book at auction, it's not going to get attention from anyone ever and you might as well throw in the towel.

Why you're nuts: You're woefully unaware that many books sold at auction NEVER EARN OUT, and lots of quiet little books earn for years. Sure we all like big splashy headlines. I like money even more.

4. Believe the guidelines are only for idiots who follow the rules.

Why you are nuts: I throw out most of the stuff that doesn't follow the guidelines. I ask for the things I need. If you don't send it, I can't read it. And I'm not going to engage with you by emailing and asking for it.

5. Believe agents have hidden agendas about submissions.

Why you are nuts: Agents are mercenary beasts with VERY SIMPLE AGENDAS: find work we can sell.  

6. Believe the only way to secure representation is a raft of connections in the publishing world.

Why you are nuts: 75% of my list came in COLD through the query inbox. Most authors arrived the same way for their debut books.  You're looking for a reason you got a pass. Quit it. Query harder.

7. Believe no one ever in the history of the world has had this idea before.

Why you are nuts: You haven't read enough. This is a statement of epic ignorance UNLESS you are  James Joyce. 

8. Believe agents will steal your great idea, give it to one of their existing clients and leave you out of the ensuing zillion dollar deal.

Why you are nuts: Even if I were a filthy scoundrel who would do such a thing my clients are not. Plus, most of them like writing their own stuff. If they like writing something they didn't dream up, I get them work-for-hire jobs.  Your work is raw and untested. Work for hire contracts can be for a NYT bestselling series. Figure out which is more attractive.

9. Believe it's easy.
Why you are nuts: It's not easy. The guys who make it look easy (Lee Child for starters) don't show you the workout room with stinky togs, liniment, and blood soaked towels.  A LOT of effort goes in to making it look easy.

Like Simone Biles.

10. Believe there is a secret to getting published but no one will tell you what it is.

Why you are nuts: There is no secret. There is hard work, luck, and staying sane. That's it.


Allison K Williams said...

On the up side, being ripped apart by the shark is way more helpful than a delicate let down. Just spend a few weeks sewing your flesh back together, and by then you'll have reconciled how to apply the piece of valuable feedback that has been stabbed into your heart.

Mister Furkles said...

#8 work-for-hire jobs. I wondered how writers hooked up with aging authors to extend a popular series. Some of them are as good as the original authors. Of course, others are not.

I made a list of Cussler's writers who are excellent and occasionally read their books. Same for other authors.

Kitty said...

9. Believe it's easy. "Easy reading is hard writing." ~~ Nathaniel Hawthorne

Colin Smith said...

On #9, just remember: if it was easy, everyone would do it.

And #5 is gold dust. This whole publishing business is really very simple. It's about making money. For you, the agent, and the publisher. It may seem "unartistic," but publishing houses exist to put food on the plates of everyone involved. The greater chance your book has of doing that, the greater the possibility you will get an agent and be published by one of the big publishing houses. It's that simple. And that hard. :)

E.M. Goldsmith said...

#9 so much. And #7 haunted me for years because I feared that not being able to think of a single original plot would doom me. Well, turns out it's not the story idea - they've all been done and done - it's the voice, the characters, the execution. The story idea is the easy bit. The rest is hard, hard, hard and so #9.

And how I wish I were not crazy. But sorry, your Majesty. Being a writer is the definition of insanity. What sane person would do something that is the equivalent of giving yourself really hard homework every day with little or no reward? And yet, we can't stop. We keep spending our limited time on this home rock of ours, fussing over a finite set of word drivel to cast our voices into the cosmos with rather huge odds stacked against us that anyone will ever love us for it. It's crazy town. And yet here we are.

S.P. Bowers said...

If staying sane is a necessity I'm in trouble.

Timothy Lowe said...

Kitty funny that Hawthorne should say that. His writing is more overwrought than the embroidery on Hester Prynne's scarlet letter.

Craig F said...

1) The only immediate reply is a form rejection. That is why you thank the agent for their time and consideration. A rejection six months down the line can make you feel good. Your query was considered.

2) Even worse is when your query works and the pages don't. The form rejection is the same.

3) Auctions are good for the ego, not the bottom line.

4) Rules are meant to be broken, in your writing, not when submitting.

5)Of course agents have an agenda. It is about collecting dollar signs, not changing the world

6) Write it better than anyone else.

7) Write it better than anyone else, at least skew the perception.

8) No one else can write the crap I write, it would make them even crazier.

9) It's as easy as closing your eyes and dream Jamaica is a big neon sign. It might be easy. The right agent, on the right day, but it still won't be quick. Maybe you did hit the agent lottery, but you still have to keep querying until they realize it.

10) There is a secret to publishing, write it better than anyone else. That's it, all there is to it.

LynnRodz said...

Thanks, Janet, I needed this and #7 just made me laugh.

John Davis Frain said...

That's it? This list is comprehensive? I can master these.

Hello, Sanity, here I come.

Laura Stegman said...

Thanks Janet and everybody on the Reef. #2 was especially useful.

Lennon Faris said...

#7 - in a spin-off from E.M.'s fear, I sometimes walk into a big bookstore, and (after the initial sheer joy), imagine that somewhere in there, a book has to have the same ideas and characters as mine. How in the world have humans come up with so many different things to say?

John, which way did you head?

Will MacPhail said...

This is a great post. Thanks Janet. I still believe the publishing industry had something to do with faking the moon landing though.

Fearless Reider said...

But my Crazypants are the only ones that aren’t too tight after all the cookies and bourbon. Time to hit the hamster wheel a little harder.

Kristin Owens said...

Can I get "QUERY HARDER" on a t-shirt? A coffee mug?

MA Hudson said...

I can work hard for years on end without reward and I can cross my fingers and trust that it will bring me luck, but that ongoing, combined effort is definitely diminishing my chances of staying sane!

AJ Blythe said...

All makes sense, until it's your query that's in question and then the rodent wheels start and you come up with another six things that Janet hasn't addressed here...

Gingermollymarilyn said...

Thank you. Love Simone Biles. Am I crazy if I think this is a sign?

Lilly Ann said...

I really like your writing style, great info, you putting so much effort into this blog. thanks for share. with us.

Lilly Ann said...

I really like your writing style, great info, you putting so much effort into this blog. thanks for share. with us.