Wednesday, December 01, 2021

December 1


This framed poster sits on my desk where I can see it every day.

It's an ad for the New School. 

You might wonder why I framed an ad for the New School, let alone position it so I can see it every day.

I first saw it on the subway the first year I lived in New York.

(Today is the 20th anniversary of the day I got here, 81 days after 9/11, full of excitement and determination.)

The ad said exactly what I felt.

I called the New School and asked if I could buy a copy (this was long before cell phone cameras.)

They very kindly sent me what now sits on my desk, reminding me of how much I love this city, and how glad I am to be here.

You are here. Here, where Andy had his fifteen.

Where Nikita slammed his shoe. Where Ruth built his house.

Rand her Fountainhead. Here, where Lenny

made laughter dangerous and Lou made walking wild.

Where 'Trane unleashed his Tenor. Pollock his paint.


You are here. Where John imagined.


Here in New York City. The very wellspring of creative and

intellectual discovery. Ready to exorcise the ordinary.

To Cuisinart conformity. To claim your seat at the table

of giants and be greeted by a collective "Boo-Ya!" 

It's why you are here. It's why we are here, too.


--The New School


What sits on your desk to remind you of "why you are here."



Thursday, November 11, 2021

Veteran's Day


Thanks to all the men and women who've served our country.

And thanks to all the families who also served.

Monday, November 01, 2021

The sounds of silence

These are the reasons your queries from August-October got a deafening round of silence rather than a reply

1. Attachments (15)
I don't open or read attachments.  I can't reply that it's right (or not right) for me if I HAVE NOT READ IT.

2. Not finished (5)
I don't request anything that isn't finished. For fiction that means the novel. For non-fiction that means the proposal. Included here are the emails that asked if I'd like to read a query in a certain category. (just query)

3. Querying for multiple books (3)

I only consider one book at a time.

4. No story (3)
If your query is about how famous you are or what your writing journey was or about the situation you want to fix, I don't care.  Right now I only care about the story you want to tell. I can't tell you if I want (or don't want) to read it I you don't tell me what it is.

5. Not the author (1)
I don't respond to queries sent by people who aren't the author. If you're too important or busy to ask me to read your query, I'm too unimportant to be your agent.

6. Jpgs of queries (1)
This might be my favorite example of a subtle indicator of someone I do NOT want to work with. They sent a query letter, but as a jpg. And a blurry one at that. If I can't read it, I can't respond.

7. Huh? (2)
So convoluted I couldn't figure out what the topic was, let alone the story. Included in this are the queries that send links rather than use words.

8. "I can't be bothered" (2)
People who send emails that say "just read this and let me know if you want more."

There's a reason I ask that you include a query letter. If you don't want to do it, ok. I don't want to respond.

Everyone reading this blog is probably savvy enough to avoid these mistakes.

Even a modicum of research will keep you on the right path. If you're worried about making these kinds of mistakes, you won't. 

Any questions?

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Saturday, October 30, 2021

New and Improved!


I'm re-releasing my first book with a new cover, some minor edits, and bonus content but I'm getting tripped up with whether I need to call this a second edition or a revised edition. Is there a difference? What do second editions usually entail and are they usually seen in the fiction world?
I've only run into second editions in non-fiction, where information in the first edition needs to be changed. When the USSR collapsed, all geography books needed new editions!
But the collapse of the USSR doesn't really impact a novel that's already published.
I'd call this a revised edition rather than a second edition. The basic book is the same.
And of course, there's the question of whether you need a new copyright registration:
Here's what the US Copyright office says:
How much do I have to change in my own work to make a new claim of copyright?

You may make a new claim in your work if the changes are substantial and creative, something more than just editorial changes or minor changes. This would qualify as a new derivative work. For instance, simply making spelling corrections throughout a work does not warrant a new registration, but adding an additional chapter would. See Circular 14, Copyright Registration in Derivative Works and Compilations, for further information.


I've seen notices on the copyright page that say something like "an earlier version of this book was published in X." 


Luralee asked:
I think I’m a little confused about what first edition means. If a book says it’s a first edition doesn’t that mean it’s the first printing?

Editions are revisions to the whole book

Here's a photo of the cover of my trusty Merriam Webster.

Notice it's the 11th edition. 
11th edition

That means that this dictionary has been revised and updated 11 times.

You want the eleventh, not the seventh, edition so you'll know what hashtag now means!

And here's a picture from the copyright page.

Notice it's the 22nd printing. 

22nd printing

That means this edition (#11) has been run through the printing presses 22 times.
Each print run is a printing.

Printings and the size of the print run do not bear any relation to the content of the book.
It's a function of demand for the book.

If no one buys the 22nd printing (saturated market) there won't be a 23rd printing.

If aliens arrive and lots of new words enter our vocabulary, there will be a 12th edition.

Any questions?

Friday, October 29, 2021

More on pub credits

Color me surprised when I received notification yesterday that my short story will be published in an online literary magazine. My new question is: I've been querying a new novel (novel one was a bust) and have a few queries out. Is this new little "credit" something that warrants an "addendum" to the query already sent? (Is there even any graceful way to do that?) Or is the publication simply something to include on all future queries?

(Original question)
Do agents care about short story publications? I've settled on the notion it makes no difference whatsoever if there's a blurb in the end (i.e.,"I have a short story published in Buttonweezer Literary Mag" or "I won the $12 Carkoon literary contest in 1989"), as it only matters whether or not what is being submitted at that moment in time is up to snuff and saleable, and the rest is, by and large, unnecessary. 

However, credentials and whatnot are asked for. Is a short-story publishing credit considered a worthy item of note? Or best left in the drawer in which it currently resides, cozy and unread?

Publication credits are GREAT and you should include them in your query. (don't email this good news to agents who already have your query.)

It affirms that your work is publishable.

(I see more than a few queries where this is not the case.)

And of course, it also means that the Buttonweezer Literary Mag's readers might remember your awesomeness and be more likely to buy your book.

There's no downside on including lit mag pub credits.

You can shoot yourself in the foot by listing things that really are NOTpub credits: Carkoon Literary Contests lead the list!

But also: writing conference contests; honorable mention in almost any kind of contest; faux contests that are run by people who make their money from entry fees and every book ends up a winner of some kind.

If I haven't heard of a contest, I google it.

If you're trying to pad your pub credits, don't.

They're nice to have but not essential.

What's essential: tell me about a story I want to read.

Any questions?

Monday, October 25, 2021

You're funny. Right?

I have written a book that is intended to make readers laugh occasionally. That is a deadening description, I know, but one can hardly call one’s own book “witty,” and “humorous” sounds like it belongs in the Humor section of the bookstore, which my novel does not. (It’s Upmarket fiction.)
The best I can come up with for a query is “light-hearted,” but I would love to have your perspective on this, as I think that humor can be a big selling point. Or do I simply let the pages speak for themselves?

You're right to avoid calling your book witty or humorous.

That's like Felix Buttonweezer calling himself handsome and erudite on (Betty finally had enough of Felix rewashing the dishes after her, and has run off with a chainsaw sculptor) when his photo is right there, and he lists his favorite book as "Cents and Sensibility by Jane Austin".

Humor IS a big selling point for me.

I think if you look at almost every novel I've sold there's a strong element of humor or wit.

Even in old sobersides Jeff Somers.

So, how do you show rather than tell?


The answer is right here.

Monday, October 18, 2021

The agent I want is closed to queries.

I am finally ready to query, only to discover that three of the agents I consider the best matches are closed to queries. If I receive requests for the full manuscript or offers from other agents can I contact these three with that news, or does closed mean closed?

Closed means closed...


UNLESS you've met these agents at a conference or heard them on a panel, and they've specifically said they are open to queries from people in the audience.


SCBWI does this a lot, but there's almost always a time constraint attached. You can query them for the next 30 days, for example.


Agents close to queries for a variety of reasons, mostly cause they're inundated and trying to tame their inbox. That means it doesn't do any good to query them when they are not looking.


HOWEVER what you think of as your best match may not be so. Query, and query widely. Young hot hungry agents may not be on your radar yet, and they're eager to build their list.

The door may be closed at 1 Buttonweezer Place, but there are a lot of other doors on the street.

Yes, there is a Buttonweezer Street in NYC. It's not on the map, sorry.

Tuesday, October 05, 2021

Devil, meet the deep blue sea!

 Is this a good idea?

Should I write a proposal for it?

Devil, meet the deep blue sea!

If I say yes, this sounds great, write a proposal and then pass on the proposal, I would feel like I've led you on. My guess is you would too, and start shopping for flaming bags of dog poop.

If I say no, this sounds like shite (flaming), you go away feeling like crap and maybe I missed something good. Or worse, you don't write the proposal that another agent would have jumped on it with all four feet.

That's why you have to write the proposal before you ask me (or any agent) to offer any kind of assessment.

Plus, ideas are a dime a dozen.

Even good ones.

It's the execution that matters.

Any questions?

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Buttonweezer rides again

Hello Chums!

What's the name of your main male character? 

Felix Buttonweezer? 

Of course it is.

What's the name of your main female character? 

Betty Buttonweezer? 


Now, look at your query.
Do you call him Buttonweezer and her Betty?

Calling a man by his surname, and a woman by her given name might indicate unconscious sexism in your writing. Watch out for it.

Specific need trumps general guideline in these cases of course.
Just make sure you've decided there is a reason if you do this.

Any questions?

Saturday, September 18, 2021

World Building


I was digging around in my files for some notes I KNEW I had on world building and came across this reading list and questions that I copied from (I think!) Alexander Chee when he taught a class on the topic.

A Princess of Mars (ER Burroughs)
Dracula (Bram Stoker)

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (Frank Miller)
Sunshine (Robin McKinley)

V for Vendetta (Alan Moore)
The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins)

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (NK Jemison)
Lilith's Brood (Octavia Butler)

Perdido Street Station (China Mieville)
Snow Crash (Neal Stephenson)

Questions for consideration on the syllabus:

Some things to consider always when taking on a new world:
what are its primary features - spatial, cultural, biological, fantastic, cosmological.

What is the world's ethos (the guiding beliefs or ideals that character the world?)

What are the precise strategies that are used by its creator to convey the world to us and us to the world? How are characters connected to the world? And how are we the viewer or reader connected to the world?



Thursday, September 16, 2021

Jeff Somers doesn't like musicals...until he does

It’s easy to make the mistake of thinking that genre is a fixed concept—that thrillers always look and feel like thrillers, or romances always look and feel like romances. Most people are comfortable with the idea of mixing genres to a certain extent—the romantic subplot, the murder mystery with a deep bench of comedy—but we generally expect certain genres to adhere to certain tone frequencies and pacing requirements. 

 But genres can masquerade as each other, and Singin’ in the Rain is a prime example. Sure, it’s a musical, and a romantic comedy on top of that. It hits all those beats, but it’s all a smokescreen for the real structure of the story, which is 100 percent heist. Or, since technically nothing is stolen (aside from my blackened, underdeveloped heart⁶) maybe the word caper is a better fit. Either way, it adheres to the basic stages of a heist/caper story:


1. The identification of an impossible task

2. The assembly of a team

3. The development of a complex scheme using the individual talents of that team

4. Sudden twist adding complexity

5. Apparent failure

6. Apparent failure revealed as actual triumph


If you're not subscribed to Jeff Somers Writing Without Rules Deep Dive, you're missing out. 

Click this to link


Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Bookscan thinks I'm dead

I write under a pen name for the fiction imprint of an educational publishing company.  I write high interest, low reading level books for teenagers.  My first novel got a starred review from Kirkus, and is available to bookstores and Amazon.  My imprint, although they publish solely fiction, has the business model of their parent publisher.  What this means for sales, is that it's difficult to get into bookstores because it's got a net discount and is not returnable, much like most educational materials.  I understand that my book has sold well to schools and libraries, but unfortunately my Bookscan numbers are unimpressive.  On top of that, my local bookstore that sells my book does not report to Bookscan.

I'm now working on another project that is not hi-lo YA, and I'm starting to think about the query.  Should I mention that I've published this Kirkus starred book under a pen name, or should I leave it off?

It's a nice publishing credit, and the audience for your query understands about Bookscan not being accurate for educational books in particular, and books sold outside the regular sales points in general.

In the publishing credits paragraph of your query you can something like:

I have written novels under a pen name for (name the publisher). Kirkus gave one of them a starred review, but Bookscan of course doesn't even know I'm alive.

Any questions?


Tuesday, September 14, 2021

How many is too many?

My wife and I have been discussing if there can be too many POVs (technically PsOV but let's all relax about that) in a novel.  I've read a lot of opinions on the subject online, but I haven't seen any steadfast rules, which makes me happy. 

I myself tend to write in a larger number of POVs than what makes some people comfortable.  The novel I'm currently working on has ten, but I haven't received any negative feedback from my beta readers.  

To be clear, when I say ten POVs, that doesn't mean each of the ten get their own chapters.  I will just show different POVs within section breaks.

 Is there a consensus on how many POVs are too many from agents and editors?


 Well, there isn't a consensus on the number of points of view you can have.

There is a consensus that all the characters need to be distinct, and the reader has to be able to follow the narrative.

 Ten points of view would give me great pause.

 Multiple points of view in a chapter would give me agita.


Now, let's make sure you understand what you're saying here.

Points of view, as I understand you are using it here, means ten different first person-points of view. 

I am Spartacus kinds of thing.


An example of that is Chum by Jeff Somers All the chapters are in first person I.  The reason I love this book, and signed Jeff on the basis of this book, is that the reader is never confused about who is speaking.  Jeff is a truly brilliant writer and Chum is a masterful book.

If you are using third person (he/she/they) that's third person omniscient.

An example of this would be Crashers by Dana Haynes which follows multiple characters, but always in third person.


It's a whole lot easier to do write third person omniscient with multiple characters, than multiple points of view.

Don't bite off more than you can chew with your mouth closed lest that apple pie fall on your crisp white shirt and your dinner companion think you a slob.

Monday, September 13, 2021

The agent told me something different than what's on her website! Help!

What do you mean follow the directions? Which ones?

(1) What if an agent asks for a partial and is then closed to queries when the manuscript is ready?
(2) Or what if the instructions to submit a referral go against the agency submission instructions?
(3) In a word, what happens when you get varied instructions for the same task, and aren't sure which path to follow?


(1) Send the partial. You're not cold querying when you're responding to a request for more material. 

(2) Do what the agent told you. The published guidelines on the website are more general than the specific instructions an agent gives you directly. 

(3) Always do what the agent tells you. In the absence of specific, individual (or in-person like a class) instructions, follow what the website says. 



Any questions?

Thursday, September 09, 2021

I've been wayl-aid!


Excuse me, but I think you forgot something.

I've been caught up watching movies for film pitches on a couple clients.

I have a very tough job, don't I?

Waylon thinks that's no excuse for not posting today.

Wednesday, September 08, 2021

Selling rights to a previously published translated book


Have you ever received a query from Mongolia by someone who originally wrote their book in Mongolian, self-published that book in Mongolia but has now finished translating their book from Mongolian to English and would like to find an agent for their book in the English speaking market where it has not yet been published in any form?

OK, I don't speak Mongolian but I know you wanted blog posts that include Mongolia (now I've mentioned it enough, I think 😂).

Here's the reality and maybe it's a stupid thought/idea but sometimes I get stupid ideas: I wrote my first book in English and self-published it to KDP-Amazon UK and it is available in English, worldwide, and has been bought in at least eight different countries that I'm aware of. The ISBNs for all editions of this book (e-book, paperback, hardback) are mine - not Amazon's.

I am nearing the end of translating this book from English to German, and I am moving from the UK to Switzerland (German speaking part -> German speaking book market) next year. I had planned on just sticking the German edition onto Amazon as a self-published book as well, but then I had this thought: Would it be query-able for a German speaking agent? Like, what would YOU do if I queried you with an English edition of a book that was originally written in Mongolian and self-published in Mongolia?

The critical piece of info here is that you self-published it.
That means you didn't license the rights to publisher, you only offered the book for sale yourself.

If you had licensed the book to a publisher, an agent would need to see that contract to make sure you only licensed English language rights, not world rights.

If you license world rights, there's no deal to be made with you.
The deal would be with the publisher who now controls those rights.

So, you're free to query German language agents.
I have no idea how the domestic market works in Germany and Switzerland.
All that is handled by our co-agents who shop books there.

The ISBNs don't matter at all.
And most agents will want to take a look at the contract you signed with Amazon, just to make sure everything is hunky-dory.

Any questions?

Tuesday, September 07, 2021

oh good, more advice on how to pitch agents from people who aren't actually agents

I recently visited a good friend who is a multi-published best-selling author. She very generously worked with me on my verbal pitch if meeting (or Zooming) an agent or editor (or anyone else, really) who says, “tell me about your book."

She told me that there were three key elements to a good pitch, other than being able to say it smoothly and naturally (practice!) and to complete it in about 30 seconds or so:

Basic logline: check. I knew that.

Simple comps: check. I knew that. But she suggested a “story” comp (a similar important story element to the comp book) and a “writing” comp (similar writing style or storytelling style to the comp book). As in “those who enjoy X book or the writing of Y author would enjoy my book.”

“Hollywood” comps: Uh…what???

She said that these days your pitch should also include a couple of TV series or movies (successful, well known, maybe not required to be as current as publishing comps) to grab attention even if you’re pitching a novel.

(1) Is this really true? If so, should that be included as part of the query letter too as part of the hook to grab attention and interest?

(2) The way this ended up was a verbal pitch (not a query!) something like this:

TYGER’S CLAW is MEDIUM meets BLACK WIDOW in an urban fantasy setting.
In an authoritarian future dystopia, a young mortician who moonlights as an assassin uses her unique ability to speak to the dead to protect her frail twin brother. In the process, she challenges the social order and reinvents the world she lives in.

Those readers who enjoy Jennifer Estep’s Spider series or the writing of Patricia Briggs would enjoy TYGER’S CLAW.  
Would this be a good format for a verbal pitch? Would it translate (with a little more detail about the story, plus appropriate length and other details) into a good query letter? Or should the Hollywood comp be left on the cutting room floor (as it were)?

Thank you so much for addressing this question. I thought I had a handle on how to pitch a book but my friend’s revelation was new to me…if you think it works.


There are three things you need to include in a verbal pitch.

She's got one of them.

But before wallowing in my great advice, remember all advice, no matter how well meaning, should be taken with a grain if not a shaker of salt. It's been years since I took verbal pitches at a conference. I find them loathsome, and writers fear them so much it's almost torture to ask them to do it.

But I am not the Queen of the Known Universe (yet) so pitching continues.

Here's what you need to remember about pitching: it should be a conversation not a presentation.

That means you give the agent a couple of sentences about the overall plot of the novel.

You've got that.

In an authoritarian future dystopia, a young mortician who moonlights as an assassin uses her unique ability to speak to the dead to protect her frail twin brother. In the process, she challenges the social order and reinvents the world she lives in.

What's the next thing an agent needs to know?

If you've got a young mortician, she needs to know if this is YA or adult.

If your pitch doesn't lead an agent to wonder about YA or Adult (i.e. the first word used to describe your character is not young), it's ok to not mention it.

What's the next thing an agent needs to know?

Word count (not comps).

No spiffy movie comps or terrific log line is going to save a 200K word novel. Or a 50K word novel.

So you'll need your word count right up front.

And third, you need to tell the agent the novel is finished (not what kinds of movies it's like).

I got pitched on several novels that weren't even close to being done. The conference guidelines didn't require a writer to have a finished novel, and I think the writers just wanted to see if I though their idea was interesting (an interesting idea is no guarantee of an interesting book, sadly,\.)

That was ok with me, but it meant I wasn't requesting their full until it was. I keep track of what I ask for and follow up if I don't hear from an author. If your novel isn't done, you're not ready for that level of nagging.

So, yes you need a log line
And you need the word count
and you need the completion status.

Those are the three things every agent needs/wants to know first.

Do you need comps of any kind?


So be prepared with books, movies, whatever.

BUT don't blurt all that out. Wait to be asked or until the conversation veers in that direction.

Some agents will ask.

Some don't give a rat's asterisk about comps (me, for example.)

The key to effective pitching is be prepared for all sorts of questions, but WAIT to be asked.

Start with your log line, word count and completion.

Speak slowly enough to be understood.

Then ask "what more can I tell you about my delicious page turning wonderful novel?"

The biggest problem I saw when writers were pitching is they absolutely could not shut the fuchsia up.

Pitch sessions are often very short. Some were barely three minutes.

More than one writer talked for the ENTIRE three minutes, telling me nothing of what I needed to know.

The bell rang, I said "thank you" and the writer had to leave.

I started telling writers to stop (which takes practice let me tell you!) so I could ask some questions. I was rude to them yes (I didn't actually say "shut up" but I did say "please stop talking") but it was for a good cause.

I'm not sure some of them ever truly understood that.

And one last note: the world is full of people telling you what to do. (I’m one of them of course). When people give you advice, do some digging. When was the last time your friend pitched anything? And to whom? Pitching a film agent is VERY different than pitching a book agent. Or pitching your long time editor.

A lot of authors want to help the new authors coming up the pike.
That's laudable.

But often they only have their own experience to draw from.
That can be useful.
Can be. 

Friday, September 03, 2021

Thursday, September 02, 2021

Now or not now?



Is now a good time to query agents in NYC?


First day of public school is September 13. I would imagine agents, editors and publishers with school age children are focused on opening school day and quite stressed over COVID.


So I thought to hold querying until September 20th, when hopefully all the uncertainty would have passed and things proved to be okay.


Should we consider these types of externals when we query?





For starters, not a lot of agents read their queries every day. They almost certainly never read a query the day it's sent.


Some are more "caught up" than others, but while I've responded to most queries sent to me through August, I have five or six I've set aside for a more personal reply, or to request the full.

 If you query me today, you might hear back in a day, but it might also be four weeks.

And you don't know who has kids, or even if NYC agents are IN NYC right now.


The best time to query is when your project is ready.


Trying to game out the best time to query will just postpone you pushing the send button.


 I've opined on this before


Wednesday, September 01, 2021

Resource for writers

No matter where you are in the publication process, knowing about publicity and marketing is a requirement.

One of the best ways to get started on that is to subcribe to Dana Kaye's newsletter.

Her last one had this succinct helpful breakdown:

Publicity is earned media coverage. It is a media outlet like a magazine or website covering you and your business. You can’t control the message or when the piece runs. It’s not pay-to-play.

Marketing on the other hand is placed media. It's YOUR social media content, YOUR newsletters, and YOUR website. It’s a Facebook ad, a billboard, or a sponsored Instagram post. You can control the message and when it runs, but because it's coming from you, it doesn't hold the same amount of clout, and in the case of advertising, it costs money.

I subscribe to her newsletter and I have found value in all of them.

I've been in publishing for more than 30 years now, 10 of those in pubicity.

I still learn from her, and I'm glad of it. 

Publicity and marketing are very fluid areas of expertise.

Some of the things I relied on 20+ years ago aren't even relevent now.

And there are a lot of new things I'm learning, just like everyone who's starting out.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Trigger warnings in queries

I read your blog post "Content Warning in a Query Letter." My manuscript explicitly discusses child abuse as a subplot, which doesn't appear in the query. I understand that it's best not to add a content warning, so I wouldn't hurt my chances of getting published, but I still believe it's common courtesy to warn the agents of any possible triggers.

In this case, what do you advise me to do?

Thank you so much.

Why do you think it's common courtesy to warn an agent about a subplot?

Your job as a writer Is NOT to guard my mental health.
It's to tell me a great story.
It's to illuminate a truth.

It's to expand the world I know and understand.

You're not writing to children.
Your concern is well-intended, I know.

But context is everything.

If an agent auto-passes on killing animals, they miss OLD YELLER.

If an agent auto-passes on rape, they miss Laurie Halse Anderson's SPEAK.

If an agent auto-passes on child abuse they miss Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Dorothy Allison, and a lot of other books that illuminate the world.

That said, if an agent really doesn't want to read anything about child abuse, it's up to them to let you know that. You can then deselect them for querying.

The only thing I need a trigger warning on is bad writing, and sadly, that's never ever going to happen.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Do I need a good score to get your attention?

This is probably a ridiculous question, but here goes. Does the "score" or "grade" from an online editing program such as AutoCrit make a difference with an agent?
In March I attended a writer's conference via Zoom. One of the speakers, a NY Times bestselling author, recommended the program and stated that after requesting a full manuscript some agents are plugging the manuscript into the program to find out the score. 
The theory being that writers tend to polish our first pages, but the rest of the work might not be quite as shiny, and this saves the agent time. 
Now, I realize that the primary goal was likely to sell the online editing tool (not cheap) and that these tools don't take a lot of things into consideration such as dialogue and does NOT take the place of a human editor. The program is useful because it points out things to reexamine. But...if a writer has no publishing credits would a high score be worth including in the query letter? This cook has no recipes, lol.


I don't think this is a ridiculous question.

Where do you keep your ice? is a ridiculous question (in a shoebox in the closet of course, where do you keep yours?)

I had not heard of AutoCrit until you brought it to my attention.

I'd certainly never used it.


So, I figured I'd check it out:

Here's the text I uploaded to assess utility:

The Duchess of Yowl

The free option will give you a list of things that need revising:


The only way to get add'l info is to upgrade.

$30 a month/$297 annually

So, I took advantage of the intro price ($1!) and upgraded.


The program gives you a LOT of information.

But of course, it doesn't tell you what the info means, or how to use it to revise.


Will this be of value to writers?

Sure, some, I guess.


Some being the folks who need remedial work on things like grammar and syntax. There are a lot of writers out there who don't know what they don't know. Software like this could be quite useful to them (if they actually pay attention.)


But those aren't the writers that make it past the first cull in the incoming queries. Writing with those kinds of problems gets a pass no matter how interesting the concept. I'm not an editor. I'm not going to edit your book.


What this algorithm can not tell you is if something is interesting.


It can't measure tension. It sure as hell can't measure style.


As to your initial observation:

Telling a writer that an agent will dig in to the granular level of a manuscript to find out "what's wrong" demonstrates this author does NOT know what an agent does.


An agent is NOT interested in editing your manuscript.

An agent is NOT interested in finding out what's wrong so she can tell you what to fix. (or, heaven forfend offer to help you fix it!)


I'm interested in reading your manuscript to find out if it's something I love and want to champion.


You don't assess art using an algorithm.


And further, as a person in sales, I am totally turned off when I see anyone sell a service using scare tactics like this.  If you can't sell a service on its merits, you need to rethink your strategy.


Much more effective: agents don't want to edit your ms. They don't want to find errors. Here's a way to spot those before you send your ms out. 



Last week I posted a comment about "the gasp factor" in The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen.


Increasingly, I look for the gasp factor in manuscripts I'm requesting. 

No algorithm can assess that.


This service offers remedial level writing help.

Whether it's useful to you is something you'd have to assess yourself.


It's not useful to me as an agent assessing manuscripts.

So to answer your question Will it help me if I don't have any pub credits?



(and you don't need pub credits to catch an agent's interest. I've signed and sold at least a dozen writers that had no previous publishing experience.)


Friday, August 27, 2021



It's pretty quiet here in the city in August.

Although we do get some interesting visitors from out of town.

I'm on the couch reading, and it's been great to catch up on things.

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen is open right now.

The gasp aloud page was 161.

Are you reading anything that has a gasp aloud page?

Thursday, August 26, 2021

italics Alex?

I'm curious what the "rules" are for italicizing foreign words, from an agent/editor perspective. According to my research, the Chicago Manual of Style says you only have to italicize the first occurrence, but I've seen it done differently in a book (Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield): every occurrence is italicized. 

What has been your experience? 

Every publishing house has its own style guide.

You'll see it when you turn in your final edited ms, or when you get copy edits to review.

Thus a book published by Snooty Tooty and Cootie may have one way of italicizing foreign words like knickers and catsup, whereas a book published by Hoi Polloi and Cousin Roy may have another.

When you're querying it doesn't matter.

My preference is you not italicize foreign words as long as I can figure out what the word means from context or a quick trip to the google machine.

And who's to say what's foreign?

Hijab may be a new word for some, but it's an item in daily use for someone else.

Same with mami, which I've seen publishers turn into mommy (with great hilarity from me, but NOT from the author).

Some of us think oven is a strange and exotic word, but I am reliably informed that most people not only know it but use one. Who knew?



Wednesday, August 25, 2021

I live to the left of Mongolia*, should I be looking for an American agent?



I’ve just started to look for agents for my novel. Based in Austria (and I have to emphasize that this is not the country you’re likely to meet kangaroos) with ties to the US, I have researched agents in the US as well as the UK. Their requirements differ significantly! This is the picture I have after researching about 20-30 agencies and agents in each country:


US agents want query letters and, maybe, a few pages at first.


UK agents want cover letters (a totally different beast), a synopsis, and frequently also the first 20 or so pages.


Can you shed some light on why the requirements are so different? Does the publishing industry work differently in the two countries?



Not even a glimmer.

Query requirements aren't because the publishing industry is different.

It's a matter of taste and custom.


But I don't know enough about UK publishing to offer any opinion you should listen to.


My second question is: how much importance does geographic proximity still play these days? In other words, I am crazy to consider an agent based some 6000 miles from where I am?


I have clients who do live in the country where you're likely to meet kangaroos, and one where you're like to meet oil sheiks and veiled ladies.


And more than a few who live in their own world, somewhere off to the left of Pluto.



All of which means that as long as you can get money without me having to deliver it in dollar bills via jet pack, you're good.


Where you're going to run into glitches is promotion. Zoom presentations to book clubs at 7pm EDT may mean you need to look bright eyed and bushy tailed at 7am your time.



*I just like to include Mongolia in blog posts for fun.

I really do know where Austria is