Friday, January 17, 2020

A quiz!

Do you know what's wrong with these statements that I've found in queries?

1. My work is copy written.

2. My novel has been professionally edited and ready for publication.

3. This is a retelling of Beowulf/Iliad/A Night at the Opera.

Answers tomorrow from me.
Answers today from you in the comment column!


nightsmusic said...

1. Copyrighted and that means nothing except they spent unnecessary money.

2. If it's ready for publication, publish it yourself. No agent or agency/editor in their right mind would move forward with a book that hasn't been gone through by them. And there is always something that needs editing.

3. Hahahahahaha!!!

Mister Furkles said...

Well, my guess is that 'copy written' means somebody copied it by hand rather than using a typewriter or a photocopier. That may be good hand exercise but it's not efficient.

And 'professionally edited' means a professional editor worked it. That could be Evil Editor, or a friend who works as an editor of some publishing organization, or they paid for a editor. And anything can be 'ready for publication' if it meets iUniverse's submission standards.

I would love to read a story of Beowulf's involvement in the Trojan War and how afterward he played the drums for Queen. But if they mean it simply retells these two stories and reviews a movie, then well, that's all at the local library.

mhleader said...

What nightsmusic said.



E.M. Goldsmith said...

1. Did you write an advert for your book? I do not think that word means what you think it means.
2. Not until a publisher's editor says it is ready to be published, and you won't see one of those until your agent gets you a book deal. Sorry, but irrelevant at the query stage.
3. Ok? That's pretty funny. Good luck.

Colin Smith said...

1. Copy written? Do you mean it is under copyright, or you have paid a copywriter to look over the manuscript? If you mean "copyright," big whoop. You assume someone would want to steal your work! Having a copyright doesn't mean it's worth publishing. If you mean "reviewed by a copywriter," then all that means is it should be clean, i.e., no spelling, punctuation, grammatical errors. Doesn't mean it's any good. The very fact you would say this shows a naivety about publishing. You don't need either a copyright or a copywriter to get an agent.

2. "Ready for publication" is something the publisher will determine. That determination is not based solely on the number of typos or whether an independent editor you paid has turned your manuscript into a workable story. It depends upon whether the publisher likes it and is willing to invest in it. Agents who know publisher tastes can help determine whether your manuscript is ready to go on submission. Of course, if you think it's ready to go, then self-publish. Why are you sending the manuscript to an agent? I suspect this wording demonstrates, again, a lack of understanding of how publishing works.

3. A re-telling of all three? Or are these three different "re-telling" queries? If all three, I can't imagine how the author managed that. Very different stories. If these are three separate re-tellings, unless these are extremely popular, I'd be interested to see how you, Janet, or others find them problematic. Are they over-used? Re-tellings in themselves are, as I understand it, okay. In fact, many re-tellings are well done and quite successful. Of course, if this is all the author has said about the story, that's an issue. I would expect a blurb as well showing how this re-telling is different from all the others. I'm curious to see what everyone else thinks about this one.

Timothy Lowe said...

1. Amateur
2. Amateur
3. The Marx Brothers were never that funny to begin with

Unknown said...

What's wrong is they were all clearly lifted from my certified query letter, which I did not give permission to do.

Luralee said...

Groucho Marx as Odysseus! Or Beowulf! Or both together in the same movie. Wahaha! Sorry I’m a bit slapstick in the morning.
Honestly, I’m not THAT old. I just like old movies.

Jenn Griffin said...

#2) has been...ready for publication? I would hope it still ready for publication.
#3) there's an extra space between "a" and "retelling"

These are minor compared to the previous observations shared. I suspect an agent would notice.

Dena Pawling said...

1. If you meant copyrighted - yes it is, from the minute you wrote it. If you meant a copywriter - you need to hire a new one who can actually spell it correctly.

2. Professionally edited - not necessarily required, but not a bad business decision. Ready for publication - glad you think so, as there's nothing worse than submitting a manuscript that even the author knows isn't ready for publication.

3. Retellings are fine, but how is your story different from the original? Please do tell.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

A quiz?
Do you grade on a curve?
What do we win?
What if I copy off my neighbors paper?
Oh wait, there is no paper and I don't speak to my neighbor? He's a creep.
The dog ate my homework?
Do we get do-overs?
Do you have a date for the prom?
Save a seat for me in the cafeteria?
I hate riding the bus?
I get mom's mini-van when I get my license.
Road trip !!!

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

I'm just here to read the comments from everyone else. Y'all are hilarious. Anonymous - HA!

Megan V said...

1. What Dena said
2. What Dena said
3. What Dena said

Phew. Thank you Dena! You made this the easiest quiz ever!

RKeelan said...

1. My work is copy written.

Two things here. (1) it's copyright, not copywrite, and therefore it should have been rendered as copyrighted*. (2) The creator of a work always has copyright (unless they sell it). Pointing out that you posses copyright indicates that the querier doesn't understand this, and therefore hasn't done enough research to be querying.

*Or, as a bonus, perhaps the querier meant the work has already been copy-edited, in which case they've jumped the gun by a long mile. Copy editing is done near the end of the process, when all the big pieces of the narrative are securely in place. You wouldn't want to do it before you even have an agent, who may ask you to re-arrange the entire novel.

2. My novel has been professionally edited and ready for publication.

Having a novel edited by a professional doesn't make it ready for publication. A novel is ready for publication when there's a publisher willing to fork over money to have it published. Until then, you're just hoping. (Also, it should read "and is ready for publication.")

3. This is a retelling of Beowulf/Iliad/A Night at the Opera

If one novel is simultaneously a retelling of those three stories, then it sounds more like a mess than an enticing read. But more importantly, the querier has failed to say what distinguishes their new story from the classic they're retelling. The thing that's enticing about retelling a classic is the clever twist or perspective that the new work adds to it.

Katja said...

I volunteer and jump in the ice-cold waters of The Reef today to shield OP. At the risk of being unpopular.

*I* too have started out naively. With a lack of understanding of how publishing works. I was Amateur, Amateur, Amateur.

It is NORMAL. Or have we all been pointed to the RIGHT pages on the internet straight away when we started our research on how this business works?

I have made terrible mistakes in the beginning - so fine, I was an idiot then - spent money on a ridiculous coach, written my first queries and got my fastest rejection after 19 minutes (NINETEEN)! But guess what: it's part of the learning process. YES!

OP, I used to be exactly like you. I recognise you are trying your best, even if it is error-ridden. You just need to learn a bit more.

Come and swim with us here, if you feel like it. I promise I won't laugh at you!

Sherry Howard said...

I enjoyed reading quiz answers. What nightsmusic said! Is that cheating on a quiz for JR? Nah, she hates wasted words!

Hi, all! I’ve been lurky lately, but still a daily reider.

JulieWeathers said...

1. I assume they mean coyrighted, which is a waste of time anyway, but holy crow. Copywritten. However, it does put me in the mind of the interview with Shelby Foote where he talks about how he writes. By hand with a dip pen, very slowly and carefully.

Still not quite copywtitten, but written.

Then there is Jessica Brody's advice about revising.

I guess that might be copywritten. It's written and copied.

2. So you had your novel professionally edited and you're getting ready to self-publish. That's the only way you know it's ready to publish.

3. Rewritten anything. It works at times, but you better be a remarkable story teller. Why not just write a new story?

Now, about the quiz grading. We're all exciting to see how that's going to go.

french sojourn said...

"That's the most ridiculous thing I ever hoid!" Groucho.

Kathryn said...

Copy written means the MS has been formatted so that it’s ready for print publishing: size, font, style, book layout, etc... The querying stage is far too early to copy write/edit since it will still go through a tremendous amount of revising. No sense in structuring chapter styles or alignment when you might be omitting a chapter here and adding a chapter there. It is much easier to edit in Word than InDesign. Plus, the publishing house has someone who’s professionally capable of copy editing and will be more up to date on marketing trends.

Steve Forti said...

The problem is clearly that the author did not split "Beowulf", "Iliad", and "Opera" across multiple words to hide them as prompt words. Tsk tsk.

Emma said...

Not that I have any skin in the game, but I have seen multiple agents recently say that they would really like to see a modern retelling of a classic fairy tale (or am I hallucinating?) maybe with an ownvoices twist.

Additionally, quite a few novels that do exceptionally well are, at heart, retellings of myths, the Orpheus one being most popular from what I can tell.

So is the problem that the querier is retelling ALL of those in one novel, or attempting any retelling at all?

Craig F said...

They all make an agent sorry that snail mail has gone away. Paper queries burn better than electronic ones.

1) How did you get a modem to work in that cave? Screwing up on the word write only five words into a query doesn't say good things,

2) You presume to tell an agent yours doesn't stink.

3)I know that the internet can be slow in some places, but that is ridiculous. Even Pretty Woman is too old for a comp.

Colin Smith said...

Steve Forti: *high five*

Linda Shantz said...

1. My work is copy written.

"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
― William Goldman, The Princess Bride

2. My novel has been professionally edited and ready for publication.

Sounds like you're going to be self-publishing, then!

3. This is a retelling of Beowulf/Iliad/A Night at the Opera

Nowwwwww we're talking copyright. As in, infringement. Maybe? I'm taking the backslash to mean "or" rather than this being a mash-up I give up. Are there zombies involved?

Claire Bobrow said...

1. No idea what this even means.
2. Grammar mistakes after proclaiming a manuscript has been professionally edited spell T-R-O-U-B-L-E.
3. Not sure what's wrong with this one, which makes me nervous. Could a retelling of Night At The Opera be wrong? Should they have picked Duck Soup instead? Hail, hail Freedonia!

Beth Carpenter said...

My assumption is that these were picked out of various queries rather than all in one.

1. Presumably they mean copyrighted, and since that happens automatically when they wrote the words, there's no use wasting valuable query space on it. It also seems to be a subtle warning to the agent not to steal their amazing idea, which is insulting.
2. Ready for publication is a premature claim. There are many steps to go through first.
3. Assuming these are three different examples, I'd think the problem is that writer would want get the story on the page and let the agent recognize the classic theme. That is unless these were meant as comps, in which case they're a LITTLE out of date.

BJ Muntain said...

1. I believe that should be copyrighted. And why are they mentioning that in a query? Did they pay to copyright it? Why? Don't they know their work is copyrighted as soon as it's written? If they do, don't they think they agent knows that?

2. Getting a work professionally edited is a good thing, but that still doesn't mean it's ready for publication. The publisher may have something to say about changes. Will this person be willing to make those changes?

3. How is A Night at the Opera anything like those ancient epics? Beowulf is more like the Odyssey than the Iliad. These aren't exactly comps, being retellings, but how can you retell three different stories in a cohesive novel?

Fearless Reider said...

#1 is so multi-level wrong it makes me sad. It's the kind of over-correction people do when they're desperate to sound educated or professional and therefore legitimate, but instead marks them as outsiders. My dear sisters-in-law must have a had a teacher who tried to educate the farm girl out of them by teaching them that "well" is correct and "good" is not. The first time one of them announced she had made a new dish and it "didn't taste well" I wanted to weep for all the destruction that has been wrought over the ages by self-appointed grammar guardians, well-meaning (or should that be good-meaning?) and otherwise.

#2 Of course it's not for us writers to determine whether a MS is publication-ready (hint: it's not), and the last thing I would want to draw an agent's attention to is any need for outside help. I'd prefer she think I spun the magic all on my own until I make it obvious I didn't.

#3 One of my favorite YA novels of recent years is GRENDEL'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND WAR by Ariel (then A.E.) Kaplan, a brilliant spin on the Beowulf yarn. WIDE SARGASSO SEA by Jean Rhys forever changed the way I read JANE EYRE, which is still my favorite novel of all time. They aren't "retelllings" but imaginative responses to previous work, and are stories in their own right. If you can't figure out a more enticing way to communicate your inspiration in your query, it doesn't bode well for your MS.

Adele said...

I haven't read the previous comments, but here's my take:
#1: a few possibilities:
-they were referring to copyright and don't understand the terminology so can't form a proper past tense, or -they have had the manuscript copy edited and got confused about the terminology, or
-they don't understand that they have the copyright because they wrote it so it's not something they need to mention at this point
#2: "ready for publication" isn't for them to say and it's not for the editor they hired to say; it's for the editor who paid them money for the right to publish it to say
#3: OK, I've got to assume here that Janet means to say she has found each of these three examples in a different query, rather than all three in the same query. Because yikes. What's wrong with re-telling each one? I'm not too sure. I guess because all three of these stories are very old and you need to show how they would attract the modern reader. Also, the fact that it's a retelling of a famous old story doesn't affect whether the story will sell today, so why put that in the query?
Waiting to hear what Janet has to say tomorrow.

Karen McCoy said...

Hard to beat what has already been said, so I've gone a more snarky route:

1. What writing have you copied, exactly? That is actually a violation of copyright, yes? I would suggest a lawyer.

2. How do you know? Also, be sure to include all necessary verbs: "My novel has been professionally edited and is ready for publication."

3. Sounds like a problem of too many cooks in the kitchen (How many hard boiled eggs? Two? Three?). Did Groucho authorize this? Did Verdi?

Barbara Etlin said...

1. Well, I know the first one. As a former copywriter, saying that a work is "copywritten" means that it's been advertised. ;-) But the OP meant "copyrighted." A writer shouldn't and doesn't need to register a copyright. That's the eventual job of the publisher.

2. Same for the second item. Any editing that has already been done will be further edited once you get a publisher.

3. (I don't know what is wrong with saying that it is a retelling of something.)

Lisa Bodenheim said...

1. confusing
2. brash
3. An Old English poem, an ancient Greek epic, and a Marx Brothers/Queen Album walked into a bar...

Brenda said...

1. My work is copyrighted.
2. My novel has been professionally edited, but this query hasn’t.
3. Is it poetry?

Morgan Hazelwood said...

1. You don't need to copyright your work - that happens automatically. Also, it's copyright, not copy write.

2. You're just proving that you can't polish the manuscript yourself. You're SUPPOSED to submit work that is as polished as you can make it (with or without help), but your agent and hopefully any editor who decides to publish your work is who decides when it's ready. Unless you're self-pubbing.

3. You don't have a retelling of multiple books, and you've mixed too many super classics. You should have some recent comps, or describe it as a mashup. But at least mix in something modern so we know it might fit the current market.

Alyssa R said...

*1. My work is copy written.*
How interesting. How do you copy write? Is it writing a copy? Copying the writing? Do tell.
And if you meant 'copyrighted', wal duh. If you meant 'copy edited', ask them to give your query a once-over.

*2. My novel has been professionally edited and ready for publication.*
Let's see, take out the first part and it has been ready for publication. Say again? Better hire a different editor, bud. Ask them to look at your query, too.
Self publish much?

*3. This is a retelling of Beowulf/Iliad/A Night at the Opera*
Grendel and Polyphemus in the same story sounds....interesting. Do they fight each other? I don't know what "A Night at the Opera" is, but I'm imagining Erik strangling monsters.
Also, I'm pretty sure it's *the* Iliad. You're welcome.
I did think of the "too old for comps" but then realized it's a retelling of those, not being compared to those.

Gosh, I hope I never make these mistakes!

nightsmusic said...

On a side note! Alyssa R! Are you a fan of Phantom of the Opera? Night at the Opera doesn't have an Erik, but Phantom does. If you're a fan, me too!!

Rio said...

I hope any telling of Beowulf/Iliad/A Night at the Opera is centered around two legendary warriors in a contract dispute. You know, Beowulf claims there really is a Sanity Clause, Achilles insists there ain't no such thing, and an epic battle ensues. For added fun, maybe the story draws a parallel between three grown men popping out of a trunk and the whole Trojan Horse thing.

Oh wait, I think the Trojan Horse was in The Aeneid, not The Iliad. Still. You can't go wrong when you squeeze a bunch of men into a tiny space, then have them all spill out. That's storytelling gold right there.

KDJames said...

The snark is strong at the reef today. *snort* Forti wins, as always.

This post serves to remind me of how very much I've learned, which is a nice switch. So I'm with Katja on this and will take a somewhat kinder, gentler approach. (stop laughing, I can SO do this)

1. When I first joined RWA (16 years ago) and everything was done on real paper through the USPS, the advice on formatting query pages included a step where you put [Copyright: your name] in one of the upper corners of your ms pages. All the trad published authors agreed that was standard (yes, I now know why it's not needed, but didn't then). I have no idea what agents thought of this charming quirk, as none of them were on twitter telling us what to do.

2. Something no one has mentioned yet, but I think Janet has pointed this out once or twice, is that an agent would probably rather see the ms in the best state YOU can manage, without the help of an outside editor, so they know just how much work and hair-pulling-out and hard liquor consumption is going to be involved by taking you on as a client.

3. Most retellings I hear about are of fairy tales or other mythical tropes, not specific classic works. And I suspect that's the problem (even if you meant Phantom of and not Night at the): these are CLASSIC works. Also, OLD classic works (to be redundant). It's pretty darn presumptuous to say you've retold a classic and done it better, or even well enough to warrant publication. Maybe stick to generic myths/tropes that are commonly retold (with a twist!), without trying to out-do specific works/authors.

I do want to commend all these queriers who finished a story and got up the nerve to submit. Yeah, you made a lot of mistakes, but you're trying. And learning. Try to at least make *different* mistakes next time, will you? Oh, and ignore the snickers you're hearing. That's mostly relief that, while we've all been where you are, we've improved by learning our own hard lessons. Onward.

AJ Blythe said...

This has been such a fun read today =)

Love the snark and the sensible. Although I do think Steve Forti just nominated some prompt words for himself *grin*

Not much else to add and I really should be writing so...

Katja said...

KD James, after reading your comment, I'm happier. Now I should be able to sleep.
Cause, honestly, this could have been me. It isn't, but I could have made those mistakes a few short years ago.

Maybe the querier got the terms wrong, maybe they're not a native English-speaker, like me. Every time when I press 'publish' here, I'm nervous I'm going to embarrass myself.
I might not have written 'copy written', but some other incorrect stuff.
And because of the laughing, may I remind the Reef that there was someone here recently suggesting that the word 'Not' was past tense? Etc.
Nobody was laughing then, but they were laughing today. :(

I would have ZERO chance of finding comps for any of my writing. I would surely pick the wrong ones. I haven't read enough. I'm currently reading my tenth English novel. TENTH. I know no classic, no nothing.
I read extremely slowly and make lots of notes in most of the books.
So, yeah, I realise I must be in the wrong place here because we should know so much and have grown up with reading. I didn't.

I queried Janet. Twice. I'm 100% convinced I wrote a pretty bad query letter the first time. As well as the opening pages.
I didn't query with my final, very different, opening pages. Because I was already here and had learned we shouldn't query the same agent all over again and again.

We don't know the querier's circumstances - a fellow writer trying to navigate their way.
I need an editor, too. Because English is my second language. If not a professional one, at least my partner because I often can't decide which would be the right preposition to use.
Really seems I'm in the wrong place.

When the Reef laughs like today, I wonder if that's why there are so many lurkers who are too scared to dip their toes in...

I shall be lurking now too.

Lennon Faris said...

I have no idea the problem with #3 is, it sounds kinda cool. But I always learn something new here, so I'll be watching tomorrow.

Katja, you always say something unexpected and refreshingly blunt. Even before we were friends, your comments have always been one of my favorites. Don't become a lurker.

Laura Stegman said...

First off, I'm eager to read Janet's response to all this tomorrow. Second, I nominate Katja's first post (kindness is everything) and Steve Forti's (of course) as Best of the Day and Dena Pawling's as most succinctly on point.

Michael Seese said...

1. My work is copy written.
It's "copyrighted." And, who cares?

2. My novel has been professionally edited and ready for publication.
Sez you. To go further, you may have had an excellent editor. But your agent will still have comments.

3. This is a retelling of Beowulf/Iliad/A Night at the Opera
So it's about a monster's 10-year siege on a beer hall while listening to Queen. And, the last time I checked, none of those works is exactly lighting up the Amazon sales stats.