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where book news, agentish advice, party planning, cute animal pictures and general shenanigans collide.
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I got a comment on the blog that was important enough that I wanted to make a post about it. Identifying info has been scrubbed for anonymity.
I got an agent several years ago at what is considered a really great NYC agency, but I'm not happy. My agent frankly scares me and is often not nice, and they want me to take my books in a direction I'm not comfortable with at all. . . So we're at a stand still.
I feel like a girl in bad relationship - afraid to break up in case no one else wants me, (everyone is always all, "Wow, you're with Fancy Pants agency?!") but I'm not really getting anything out of this relationship. I always envisioned an agent helping me build my career and that so isn't the case. They make me cry, and we're definitely not partners in this.
Signed, Should I Go Solo Again?
There are all kinds of things an agent might do for you. But here's what I think an agent MUST do: Be ethical, communicative, savvy about publishing, and work with you to help you achieve your career goals. That means giving advice - but also following your directions. After all, they are supposed to be acting on your behalf. That means, basically, as far as the publishing world, they are an extension of you. You don't have to LOVE your agent -- but I think you do have to respect them and trust that they have your back.
"Nice" is a personality attribute -- it actually isn't a basic requirement for an agent. It may be a requirement for YOU to work with a "nice" agent -- and that's fine! Now you'll know that for when you go agent-hunting again. Some people rub along best with those who are more like motherly nurturers, or excitable cheerleaders, or thoughtful therapists, or detail-oriented accountants. Some people really do want agents who are total unmitigated bastards . . . but even those total bastards still have to follow the base standard above with regard to their own clients.
[As an aside: I don't consider myself particularly "nice," in fact. I think I'm GENERALLY GOOD and KIND-HEARTED and COMMUNICATIVE and FUNNY (and also HUMBLE obviously haha just kidding not that) -- but "nice" is not a word I'd use to describe myself, and that's OK.]
Just like any long-term relationship of any kind, you aren't always going to love everything your agent tells you (and assuredly, vice-versa!) - and given enough time there WILL be weird communication breakdowns or confusions - but usually any issues like this can be worked out with a clarifying email or frank conversation.
If you simply can't have a frank conversation, though, that's a huge problem. If they're doing things you don't want them to do, and not doing things you do want them to do, and not telling you things you need to be told, and making you cry and feel worthless, and you are actively afraid of them??? That's . . . not good, to say the least.
It sounds like you are in an extremely dysfunctional relationship with your agent. If I was in your shoes, I'd ask myself:
* Am I getting what I need from this relationship? * (Make sure what you need is within their power to give, too, obviously. "Timely communication" IS within their power. "Boatloads of cash" isn't - hopefully it will come as a result of both your work, but it is never guaranteed, of course!)
* If I'm not getting what I need, have I clearly articulated to this person what my needs are, that they are currently not being met, and what I need in order to continue the relationship? * (If so, has the problem not resolved or gotten worse?)
* Would I be better off WITHOUT this person than with them? * (Hint - if you always get off the phone with them feeling like shit, or if you dread seeing their name in your inbox, the answer to this is probably yes.)
It sounds like the answers to these questions are No, No because I'm too afraid of her, and YES.
Even if this agent is REALLY SUCCESSFUL and GREAT for her other clients, it seems clear she is not a good agent-fit for you. So, yep . . . time to move on, no matter how scary it is. Trapping yourself in a bad relationship is not going to help you move forward. Better to be flying solo and free than shackled to something that is holding you back. But you already knew that, probably.
Be brave! And good luck.
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The DARK METROPOLIS is a city that brings to mind the devil-may-care excesses and menace of Berlin between the wars. Here, corruption and vice are rampant, disappearances warrant only a shrug from the authorities.... and people who die don't always stay dead.
Sixteen-year-old Thea Holder is struggling to stay afloat. By day she nurses her ill mother, by night she works at the decadent Telephone Club. Unlike most other girls at the club, Thea refuses to go out with men and accept favors to supplement her wages, so she is barely able to make ends meet. When her best friend at work, Nan, stops showing up, Thea is the only one who is alarmed and tries to find her.
Thea's search for her friend leads her to a strangely attractive silver-haired boy whose touch is a gift, and a curse. Together, the two will uncover nightmarish secrets about how the city is really run. Secrets that some rich and influential people will do anything to keep hidden.
Drawing on influences as diverse as Fritz Lang's Metropolis, Cabaret and Sabriel, this is a dark 1920's fairy tale; haunting, romantic and suspenseful.
Jackie Dolamore is the author of the awesome fantasies MAGIC UNDER GLASS, BETWEEN THE SEA AND SKY, and MAGIC UNDER STONE -- but I personally think that THE DARK METROPOLIS is her most daring and sophisticated book yet.
PW: Dolamore brings the elements of her complex storyline together with flair, and an extended climax provides closure and reveals new sides to the characters. Heroes, villains, and those somewhere in between all have strong motives.
Booklist: Dolamore builds an intriguing fantasy world, vaguely reminiscent of a war-ravaged twentieth-century Europe with the glitz of the Gilded Age, old-country magic, and an underground dystopian flair.
You can buy the book at Oblong, through IndieBound, from Powells, Barnes and Noble, Amazon, or anywhere fine books are sold.
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You're querying, and you get an offer. NOW WHAT?
GOOD IDEA: If you get an offer of representation, and it's an agent you would not be sad to work with*, you should absolutely let the other agents who have the full or partial** know, to see if they want to read quickly and maybe hop on board the Offer Train. You might phrase it something like: "Thanks so much for your interest in AWESOME MANUSCRIPT! I've had an offer of representation, and I've told the offering agent*** that I need a week**** to get my ducks in a row. So if you are also interested, could you please let me know by [a specific date a week or so from now]?"
PROBABLE RESULT: This will always get me to take a look at the ms if I haven't already, or to read faster if I'm already reading. However, it will also have me reading toward NO. In other words, unless I absolutely flippin LOVE this book, I will pass rather than get into a beauty contest over it. I can't make somebody Revise and Resubmit if they already have offers, after all! The good news is, you can safely assume that anyone who DOES end up entering the fray at this point really is keenly interested in the book.
* BUT WHAT IF I DON'T WANT THE FIRST AGENT? IF on the off-chance you query somebody, they offer, and then when you speak to them you realize that you don't share a vision for the book at all and you really would be sad to work with them -- I STRONGLY SUGGEST you simply and graciously decline their offer but DO NOT let the other agents know and make them rush. You are more likely to get a thorough read and a fair shot if the agents aren't being rushed.
** BUT WHAT ABOUT THE PEOPLE WHO ONLY HAVE QUERIES? Say it's the same situation as above, but you also have a bunch of just-queries out there who haven't had time to even possibly request a full -- by all means, feel free to reach out to them as well and see if they'd like to see more. Something like: "I know you might not have even seen this query yet, but I wanted to reach out to you because I've had an offer of representation. If this query seems like something you'd be interested in, I can give you a week with the full. Otherwise, no worries, I understand you might not want to rush!
Again, I will probably glance at the query and decide in a split second if it seems worth my time to pursue. Usually I will step aside, but sometimes, rarely, I'll decide to get the full and then it is the same deal as above. Happy to read, reading fast, but reading toward No.
*** BUT WHAT IF THEY ASK WHO THE FIRST AGENT IS? Well then, you tell them, if you want to. It's not a trick question. I've said it before and I'll say it again -- I ask for three reasons: 1) I'm curious/nosy. 2) I'm interested in who my competition is -- I'm friends with a lot of agents, and if you've also queried a colleague and I honestly think they'll be better for you, I'd probably stand aside (or else offer myself but say something kind like "you really can't make a bad choice here" while inwardly seething at my frenemy. JUST KIDDING. Or am I?) and 3) I want to make sure it's not a schmagent or scamster. I like writers and I don't like people who dupe them!
**** BUT IS A WEEK ENOUGH TIME?? You can keep the first agent on the string for a week, even week and a half, no problem, totally normal. Two weeks, OK, if there's a major holiday or BEA or something involved, but they'll start to get a little antsy. Anything longer than that -- or if you have a "firm deadline" then extend it -- and they'll very likely feel like you are just out there using them as bait to fish for "better" offers. That's an ugly feeling. After all, they did everything right - they read quickly and had an offer for you with no fuss or muss -- why are they getting treated like a chump?
I've gotten an "I have another offer of rep, please read quickly" email at all kinds of inconvenient times: While on Hawaiian vacation. At an SCBWI conference. At the Bologna Book Fair. During Christmas break. Guess what? In all those cases, I was able to read and come to a decision within the given time. It's not rocket surgery. Believe me -- if these other agents really want to work with you and your book, they can figure it out in under two weeks.
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When Olwen Nia Evans learns that her family is moving from San Francisco to Wales to fulfill her great-grandmother's dying wish, she starts having strange and vivid dreams about her family's past. But nothing she sees in her dreams of the old country--the people, the places--makes any sense. Could it all be the result of an overactive imagination . . . or could everything she's been told about her ancestors be a lie?Sarah Jamila Stevenson's third book is an extremely evocative and enchanting ghost story set in Wales. It is not the kind of supershiny blockbuster where some overly-beautiful teen has to wear black leather and save the world or overthrow the government . . . it is a smaller story. The type of story that will be more likely to whisper into your brain and get under your skin, with characters you'll think about long after you've closed the book.
Once in Wales, she meets Gareth Lewis, a boy plagued by dreams of his own--visions he can't shake after meeting a ghost among the misty cairns along the Welsh seaside. . . A ghost named Olwen Nia Evans.
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I get a lot of #AskAgent questions about the ol' "Revise and Resubmit" -- so I figure I'll tackle them all here, and if you have more you can put them in the comments.
Q: "I've heard "R+R" or "Revise and Resubmit" - but what does it mean?"
A: It means that an agent has read the author's full manuscript, and while they are not ready to commit to offering representation, they see potential in the author or the story and they are willing to provide notes and an opportunity to, well . . . Revise and Resubmit. ;-)
Q: "How can I tell if the agent is just giving general feedback as they might with any nice personalized rejection, or if they really want to see the book again?"
A: Every agent works differently, but to my mind there are three types of rejections:
*Impersonal - A form letter - might be long or short, but ultimately, there's no feedback, nothing personalized to you specifically, just a kind "not for me, thanks."
*Personalized - Notes you/the book by name - says a nice thing (or a few) about the manuscript, maybe notes a problem (or a few), but is a no all the same.
*R+R - clearly took some time to write, gives extensive notes on the strengths and problems with the manuscript, perhaps there is even a phone call to discuss, and there is an invitation to resubmit explicitly stated.
Q: "But what if I don't agree with their notes, or don't want to revise?!"
Then you say something nice like "thanks for taking the time to write this!"And then don't fret about it. That's fine. Nobody is forcing you to take the advice or to resubmit! (Though you might find that the advice gets better the more you let it settle in your brain... so don't burn the email or anything.)
Q: "How often do you give a "Revise and Resubmit"?
A: They are pretty rare. Of the hundreds of queries I get, I reckon I request about 5% fulls. Then about 5% of the fulls I read will result in an R+R. Some of those people will choose to revise, some won't. Of the ones that do revise, I still might ultimately turn down for any number of reasons . . . but if they've taken the notes on board and done a great job, I'd say they are likely much closer to getting representation if not from me, then from somebody else.
Q: "I've heard writers call R+R's "The Slow No" -- they say this is just a nice way to reject somebody, and there is little chance the agent will change their mind once you revise."
A: This is quite wrong. I do not give extensive feedback unless I really do see great potential in the book, and I do NOT say that I want to read it again if I don't really want to read it again. I mean - no. Never. I just can't spend extra time thinking about or looking at things I don't like, and I wouldn't string anyone along in this way "to be nice" because I don't think it IS nice to string people along!
Q: "But come on, get real, have you ever actually SIGNED somebody after an R+R?"
A: I have signed several authors after an R+R, in fact. These are authors who took the feedback I gave and really ran with it -- not just giving a micro tweak here and there to their manuscripts, but really doing awesome full-on revisions that took their books from "promising" to "OMGAMAZING." I had no idea if these folks could really revise, or would want to revise -- but I am so glad they did, and so proud of them and their books!
Q: "OK but what if we decide to write a totally different book instead. Should we query you again, or avoid since we never did that R+R before?"
A: In my opinion, if I've ever had a full of yours in the past and given any personalized feedback (not just an R+R), and that feedback resonated with you, you should definitely try me again on your next book. I have offered authors rep on the second or even third book they've queried. Sometimes an author's earlier work was good but just not quite there -- but they get better and better, and I am always pleased to see these names again the next time! (That said, if you thought my advice was lousy or something on the first book - you might try another agent at my agency for the next one.)
Q: "You responded to my full two years ago and I still haven't finished the revision. Is there a time limit? How long should this take?"
A: There's no time limit. It takes as long as it takes, and I'd rather you take it slow and do a smashing job than rush and half-ass it. . . don't worry about me, I've got plenty to read. Of course I may check in from time to time to see how it's going -- no pressure, just sometimes it's hard for me to forget about a character! :-) If you think it would help to give yourself a fake deadline, try 4 months. But don't break your neck over it.
Anything I forgot to ask myself on your behalf? Ask away!
Hey there! This blog was nominated for a YA Highway Web Award for agent blog. Which is pretty cool considering how infrequently I update (whoops, probably shouldn't have said that!)
ANYway, if you'd like to vote for me, or anyone else, head on over to YA Highway.
There are several ways and places that a book deal might be announced, from a blog announcement, to a newspaper or magazine piece, to an online listing. Probably the most ubiquitous of the online listing services is the Publishers Marketplace announcement. I get questions from people who are confused about this service all the time, so I'm going to tell you all about it, and maybe bust some myths, too.
Publishers Marketplace is a subscription-only publishing news website that also has a listing of new deals updated daily. It's a quick way to tell who has sold what and to which publishers, and who might rep the kinds of books you write. There's also a much-more-basic free daily roundup, "publishers lunch" available by email -- but to get into the full site and really dig around, you'll have to subscribe. It costs $25 a month, and a month's worth of subscription is a tool that might help your agent search a lot. I personally use PM to look up book world news, editors interests and see who-reps-who nearly every day!
However - there are caveats:
* PM is a very good resource - but it isn't the only resource. Remember this is a self-reporting service, and not all agents report all sales. In fact, I'd go further and say that MOST agents don't report all sales, and some agents don't report any sales at all. A sparse or nonexistent record on PM is NOT an indication that a given agent is "bad" or a schmagent. . . plenty of EXCELLENT agents and agencies opt-out entirely.
* Use your good judgement and follow up questionable claims with more research. There is nobody policing these announcements. If Josie Q. Schmagent "sells" a book for $1. to Joker's Wild Press in Someguysbasement, NV and wants to report it, she can. A record on PM does NOT mean that an agent or publishing company is automatically good, or even legitimate. If something sounds dubious, dig deeper.
So why DO agents report sales?
* It can sometimes be a way to drum up some early foreign or other subrights interest. Sometimes.
* They are agents who are still establishing themselves and want to show that they have a number of sales to big-5 publishers.
* Or they are agents/at an agency with a specialty or who otherwise want to be sure that potential queriers can easily discern the types of books they rep.
* Or they simply have a competitive streak and enjoy seeing a good number next to their name - (Guilty!)
* They have clients who have a big social media presence and they want to have something "official" to brag about.
Why might agents NOT report sales?
* The publisher has asked them to hold off for some reason (for example: they want to do a big publicity push closer to the date of release, it's a new imprint that hasn't been announced, etc).
* The author has other stuff going on that might be considered competitive or deadlines for other books coming up or some other conflict that the agent would rather not get into a scheduling tango over.
* It's a topic/theme that is SO timely and important that they want to be sure nobody knows about it in advance.
* The agency or the author are old-school and prefer not to air their beezwax in public, or they or their author are superstitious and prefer to wait on bragging until the book is closer to being available.
* They don't need or want new clients, and don't care what the interwebs say or don't say about them.
* They are busy and forget.
What else should I know about PM?
* PM has it's own "house style", to wit, all deal reports have to be in one long sentence without superflous editorializing; Agent-submitted reports are edited by the PM-sters, and the agents can't get in and re-edit the listings themselves -- so, if you notice sometimes the listings sound peculiar, it's not that the agents are just dum-dums who don't know how to sentence. (See what I did there? It's hard to put a lot of info in one sentence, y'all!)<!------><!------>
* The infamous money ranking system is not used by everyone. What do I mean? There's a place within the deal where PM encourages the deal reporter to use their lingo to rank the size of deals.
|$1 - $49,000||$251,000 - $499,000|
|$50,000 - $99,000||$500,000 and up|
|$100,000 - $250,000|
The thing is -- there is a HUGE FLIPPIN DIFFERENCE between ONE DOLLAR and 49 THOUSAND DOLLARS. How are those two the same category? That's ludicrous to me, and kinda tacky. Me, I prefer this oldie-but-goodie from Scalzi: Real World Book Deal Descriptions.
* PM is not aimed toward writers. If I had to hazard a guess, I'd say the majority of people who read PM are agents, subrights agents, scouts and editors. Then writers. In other words - while this might be a tool that proves useful to you, is not necessarily FOR you, and it might not always be interesting to you. If you want writer-oriented info, there are other places to obtain it.
* PM is not PW -- easily confused, I know! PW = Publishers Weekly. This is a print and digital trade magazine that also collects and reports on book world news but is read by lots of booksellers and librarians as well as editors and agents (and writers). Subscriptions to the proper magazine are quite expensive but you can get newsletters like the "Children's Bookshelf" twice weekly for free, and some big deals are announced there as well. This is more like a press release for the general reading public -- listings in PW tend to be more detailed and have author photos and such, but of course, as it is a publication, they pick-and-choose what shows up rather than taking all comers as PM does. So, PW is more fun to read - though less useful as a down-and-dirty research tool.
Hope that helps! If you have other questions, put them in comments. xo Add a Comment
* People who are down with strong female FRIENDSHIPS *
* YOU! *
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ONE DAY, in my early 20's, I was visiting a friend who worked in a pub. It was mid-day - there were a few customers eating sandwiches and having beers, but no other employees. Suddenly, her phone rang. It was a family emergency - she had to leave! She looked around - realized there was nobody to cover her. She tossed me the keys - showed me how to ring the register - and left me to cover the rest of her shift. Well.
This was a beautiful day in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Bars there don't just stand empty - soon enough some tourists came in, and some regulars - a couple of people I kinda knew, but mostly strangers. I'd never worked in a bar or a restaurant, but there I was, suddenly in charge - so what could I do? I had been to theatre school. . . so I acted like a bartender. I chatted. I poured beer. I mixed drinks. The thing is - mostly people ask for either beer, or for things with two ingredients - Jack and Coke. Gin and Tonic. Easy peasy! If something came up I didn't know, I'd turn my back for a minute and cheat with the Mr Boston's book.
When a tap ran out, I called that one "out of order." When the ice ran low, I filled a bucket. When the lemons ran low, I chopped up some more. When somebody asked about food, I scurried back to the kitchen to tell the (surprised, but not easily ruffled) cook.
You've heard the phrase "fake it til you make it" -- well, that applies here. Nobody KNEW I had no clue what I was doing. So I pretended I DID know what I was doing. Not only did I pretend I knew what I was doing - I pretended I was GOOD at what I was doing. And guess what? NOBODY FIGURED IT OUT.
They gave me a job. Somewhere along the way, I actually did learn not only what I was doing, but also, how to be pretty good at it. Soon enough, I was training new bartenders. And I taught them my trick: POUR WITH CONFIDENCE.
The biggest mistake that most brand-new, totally un-trained bartenders make is . . . they are hesitant. They touch the bottles like they are about to break, and pour like they are pouring into a dainty dolly cup at a children's tea party. When they do that, customers totally pick up on it, even if it is subconsciously. When customers feel like they aren't in good hands, they get skittish. A hesitant or weak bartender will get fewer or lower tips, and they'll certainly have less fun on the job.
So even if you ARE new, pretend like you know what you're doing. Stand up straight. Look customers in the eye and smile. Actively listen to what they are asking for. Grasp the bottle firmly, and pour like you mean it. Give them what they want with a minimum of fluster and a bit of flourish.
I hear what you're asking. "OK well, thanks for the trip down memory lane, weirdo, but what does this have to do with ME?" Well, my little chickadees, the same principle applies to approaching agents.
If you were a bartender, you probably wouldn't introduce yourself to a new patron by crumpling up an old dishrag and throwing it at them, or by creeping up to them and bursting into tears. Those would be BAD INTRODUCTIONS. So. Begin as you mean to go on. When you are approaching an agent - DON'T say "I don't really know how to write a query" or "I don't know how to be a writer" or "I'm not really a writer" or anything of the kind. I get this all the time. Daily. But I mean - hello, this query letter is all I know about you.
If you treat the query letter like a professional introduction that it is, I'll accept it. If you tell me you're a writer, I'll believe you. If you tell me you're "bad at queries" or "not really a writer" or "a clueless newb". . . well, I'll believe that. Is that really what you want me to believe?
Obviously there is such a thing as going overboard. If you say "this book will make your dreams come true!" or "I'm the second coming and a rock star rolled into one!" or "you'll be making a huge mistake if you pass THIS up" or similar . . . well that's just being a big-headed jerk-slash-crazyperson.
Don't be over the top -- but DO be confident and professional, even if you don't exactly FEEL those things. If you can do the wordy equivalent of standing up straight, looking the agent directly in the eyes, smiling, and giving them what they're asking for with a minimum of fluster and a bit of flourish. . . well, you may or may not get an agent this time, but you will both project and get respect.
Pour with confidence and get those tips, babies!
One winter Sunday a couple of years back, I got a query from an author named James Klise. Even though this author did NOT follow the query instructions (naughty boy) -- I happened to catch it in spam and opened it immediately because I was already familiar with his work (he won a Stonewall honor for his first book, Love Drugged) . . . and because I was sitting at my computer and kinda bored. (Hey, honesty!) The query I read kinda knocked my socks off:
A fire destroys...I generally hate questions in queries -- but even WITH them, I was most intrigued. So I requested the material immediately. Jim sent me the manuscript immediately. I read it immediately. And I called and offered representation immediately. (This is . . . abnormal, to say the least!) -- and within 24 hours, I had myself a new client. And soon enough we had an amazing publisher, Algonquin Young Readers, who helped make a good book GREAT, gave us a super-cool title and cover, and who have been angels from heaven to work with.
A community unites...
A miracle appears...
A crime unfolds.
When the Chicago apartment of 15-year old Saba Khan is destroyed by fire, her school community comes together to help. Students organize a massive auction, where one of the donated items is revealed to be the work of a local "outsider artist" named Henry Darger (1892-1973). The art is worth a fortune. Who keeps the money? Saba's classmates, who found the art? Saba's school, which is hosting the auction? Or Saba's family, which desperately needed help in the first place? Most important, how long will it take for this community to realize that they are ALL victims now - not of a fire, but of a brilliant, carefully plotted scam? Told in short chapters, multiple voices (adults and teens), and full of surprises, [THE ART OF SECRETS] is a fast-moving and provocative tale of greed, schemes, and the American Dream.
So, what made me fall so hard for this book in the first place? As I explained to Jim, it was like NOTHING I'd read before. It was the book equivalent of throwing open the windows on that first beautiful spring day and letting in that gorgeous-smelling crisp breeze -- it felt like a deep breath of fresh air.
THE ART OF SECRETS breaks alleged YA "rules" -- and not only does it break the rules, it breaks them knowingly, with a sledgehammer, while wearing only a cheeky grin. It has ten points of view! Half of them are grown-ass adults! NONE of them are reliable! There's not a romance at center, forget about a love triangle! It asks questions about class and race, greed and generosity, that do not allow for easy answers! Instead of being told in a straightforward narrative, it's a mystery told by way of a series of interviews, emails, journal entries, texts and clippings! I could go on, but you get the idea. It's risky and provocative and refreshing and basically awesome.
But don't take my word for it -- here's an excerpt from the *STARRED* Booklist review: "This art mystery is that rare book that will be passed around by teens as well as teachers in the faculty lounge, discussed and dissected and immediately reread to scour for hidden clues and motivations. The incidents at Highsmith School will stay on readers' minds long after the last page." TRUTH!
I'm delighted to announce that a whole bunch of Daniel Pinkwater books that have never before been digitized are now available in DRM-free electron versions for reading on your magical device. No more will you be forced to suffer the indignity of touching paper to get your Pinkwater fix!
In alphabetical order -- choose your favorites (or heck, buy them all for the low-low price of $2.99 each, I mean really, what a bargain):
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Ahoy! I've been a bit off the grid for a couple of weeks because I was traveling for the Bologna Book Fair and a mini-Vacay (followed immediately by being ridiculously ill - Boo!) -- but I'm pretty much back at my desk, at least MOST of my brain present now. And so I can bring you the latest from the New Release files:
THE GRUDGE KEEPER by Mara Rockliff, illustrations by Eliza Wheeler, new from Peachtree!
I call the GRUDGE KEEPER "The Little Picture Book that Could." It had a long, long path to publication. How long? Let's put it this way, it was originally submitted to publishers before I was even an agent. It sold in Summer of 2010, which I remember distinctly because I negotiated the contract in the passenger seat of my car, driving through Nebraska on a road-trip move from SF to NY. We finally got lucky enough to get the PERFECT illustrator in another ABLA client, Eliza Wheeler, in 2012 (which was JUST before her picture book MISS MAPLE'S SEEDS debut'ed on the NYT bestseller list and she rocketed to fame with the illustrations to Holly Black's Newbery Honor book DOLL BONES -- so great timing, Peachtree!) -- and now, here we are, at long last, I can brag about it to the world!
You can get your own copy at your local independent bookstore, at MY local independent bookstore, at Barnes and Noble, Book Depository, Amazon, or wherever fine picture books are sold. :-) Add a Comment
So apparently I am a dum-dum who didn't realize that yesterday was not only a Tuesday, but THE Tuesday -- the day my author Whitney Miller's debut novel THE VIOLET HOUR officially hit shelves!
Harlow is excited that her father is letting her come along with the other children of the ministry elite on a PR junket to Asia; even more so since her best friend and the boy she has crushed on forever will be with her.
As the "first daughter" of VisionCrest, all eyes are on her, and she is expected to be perfect... but Harlow has a secret. She hears a voice in her head. A voice that tells her awful things, and shows her visions of a dizzying, blood-soaked alternate reality. From the moment they land in Tokyo, the voice seems to get louder and more insistent. The meds the doctors gave her don't seem to do any good, and the more desperately Harlow struggles to keep her mind and behavior under control, the more completely she is overwhelmed by the terrifying voice. It whispers to her. Shows her the deadly possibilities. Almost as if it has a will of its own.
Harlow is increasingly afraid of what the voice is showing her -- and more than that, what it might might make her do. When the fantasies bleed into reality and people begin to turn up dead, Harlow must expose her secret to the boy she loves and face the monster within, or else be consumed by it. But will it be too late?
Clickity for a fun interview with Miss Whitney (plus a giveaway). Or go peek at Whitney's rad website.
Or just buy the book by tree or e: Indiebound, B+N, Book Depository, Kobo, or Amazon.
And, if you're near SF, you should totally attend Whitney's launch party at Books Inc Opera Plaza on 3/14. I'm told it is going to be spectacular. Wish I could be there, if you go, you'll have to give her creepy hugs from me! Xo!
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Reminder that tomorrow, Thursday, Feb 20, 1pm E, I'll be revisiting my Writers Digest class Writing and Selling Middle Grade Fiction. This webinar was very popular last year, but I know a lot of people who wanted to attend didn't know about it in time -- so I'm delighted to have the opportunity to teach this again.
Important to note:
---- > If you are signed up, you do NOT need to attend live -- you'll have access to the course materials for a year.
---- > Every participant will get their choice of either a critique of 500 words of their MG novel (complete or work-in-progress) OR a query critique.
---- > ALL questions asked during the webinar will be answered! (If you can't make it during the event, you can email the questions you have to the moderator and we'll get them answered for you)
Let me know in the comments if you have any questions about the webinar - and I hope to see you there!
Every year I send a bookish Valentine created by one of my phenomenal artists. (The tradition started because, frankly, I could never get it together to send Christmas cards on time - but hey, I love pink and red and LOVE, so, it stuck.) The 2014 card is by the amazing Cynthia von Buhler.
To my friends and colleagues, on the internet and off -- and to the lovely readers of this blog -- You're awesome. Have a wonderful rest-of-your-winter, and may spring arrive soon!
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Three new YA client releases today! WOW WOW WOW! I'm not going to get into a whole long ramble about them because, frankly, I think these hot covers and titles do more to speak for the books than I ever could. Click the jackets for more info or to buy.
WHITE SPACE by Ilsa J Bick is mind-bending creeptastic horror in the vein of Inception. Click for more...
THE GLASS CASKET by McCormick Templeman is a dark and chilling fairy tale-esque story in which something wicked stalks a forest village. Click for more...
THE TINKER KING by Tiffany Trent is the awesome followup to THE UNNATURALISTS - full of magical steampunky goodness. Yum yum! Click for more...
Enjoy these reads, and stay tuned, this is just the beginning of 2014's bounty! ;-) Add a Comment
As of November 20, 2012 (that is, Midnight Eastern Time tonight) I am closed to queries. I will reopen to queries January 7, 2013.
If I already have your work, you should hear from me by January 7. (That's the point of taking the break, I have to catch up!)
I'm sorry to say that I cannot respond to new queries sent during this time.
The exceptions will be: work that I've requested -- conference material -- client or editor referrals -- and people I actually know in real life. If this is you, please be sure you've said so, along with the word Query, IN THE SUBJECT LINE of your email. Otherwise, your query will be deleted.
For all other regular queries, please feel free to try any of my colleagues at Andrea Brown Lit, or else try me again in January.
Thanks again for thinking of me in regard to your work.
Wishing you all the best, and Happy Holidays,
Andrea Brown Literary Agency
So this past weekend I spent at the ALA Midwinter Conference in Philadelphia which, despite freezing slushy weather, was absolutely splendid (of course! BECAUSE LIBRARIANS ARE THE BEST!) -- and which culminated, Monday morning, in the ALA Youth Media Award announcement. The ALAYMA are better known as the Newbery, Caldecott, Printz and other shiny medals given to excellent children's books every year. Ever since I was a kid I've been OBSESSED with these awards -- ever since there has been internet capability, I've watched the live stream of the announcement -- and finally, for the first time, I got to actually BE IN THE ROOM!??!
Not gonna lie, I freaked out a bit. Really. I mean, I pretty much started crying the first time one of my friend's books got an award (which was the first award given!) and didn't stop til the end. Happy tears obviously! Just, you know. A lot of emotions floating around the room, that's all. FEELINGS! CATHARSIS! CAPS AND EXCLAMATION POINTS!
Now I'm home again and settling back into the routine. And I realized, even though it feels like a Monday, that in fact today is TUESDAY. Which means it is NEW BOOK RELEASE DAY. Which means it is time to present to you a brand-new book from Kate Messner. Welcome to the third installment of the Marty McGuire series, MARTY McGUIRE HAS TOO MANY PETS!
The astonishingly talented illustrator of the Marty series, Brian Floca, wrote about Marty here. . . and Brian also just happened to win the Caldecott Medal yesterday for his newest solo picture book (which means, yes, he was one of the folks I was screaming/crying about.) NICE! Here's Kate's blog post on the topic.
You can buy the book from Oblong, Barnes and Noble, or wherever fine books are sold!
Whenever I read a ridiculous op-ed about the state of YA literature or some such, where the author has clearly read five YA books total, I want to sit them down, give them a stern talking-to and a book list. Whenever I meet a person who "really wants to write for kids because it is so easy," I want to box their ears and force them to read a mighty stack of picture books.
Here's what I think: If you want to consider yourself an authority on any category or genre of book, you have to read at least 100 books in it.
If you want your knowledge to be about the CURRENT state of the genre, then a handful of "classics" are fine, but the majority should be published in the last 5 or so years. Seriously. Spend a year reading your face off in any one category or genre, and I assure you, you'll end up with favorite authors, pet peeves, a working understanding of tropes, a strong grasp on what is actually being published, and most of all, opinions that are based on something besides conjecture. You'll be, if not a real expert, at least an avid amateur who speaks the language.
So, okay, about Romances. When I was twelve or so, my good friend Pamela and I would raid her mom's romance book library. Pam's mom read a TON of mass market paperback romances (mostly featuring Broad-Shouldered and Smouldering Highlanders), and she made frequent trips to the local paperback exchange to refresh her collection, so we always had something new to read. Then Pam and her folks moved out of state, and I went away to high school, then college -- and while I always read a lot, Romance Novels were utterly forgotten.
Until late 2012, when I bought a romance e-book on somebody's recommendation. I don't know what the title was -- just that it was a good choice because it was nothing related to work, just pure pleasure reading, and relaxing fun during a stressful time of year. And as soon as I finished, I bought another. And another. And my whole Christmas break I devoured them. And somehow, January happened, and I was still reading.
ANYway, I decided to start keeping track of what I read starting Jan 1, 2013. I read about 150 romance novels in 2013. (Of course I also read kids and YA books, and some regular fiction and nonfiction, and books and manuscripts for work -- I'm not counting those.) The vast majority of those (130 or so) were Historical Romances, and probably 100 of those were published in the last five years. So yeah. I'm caught up. I may not be an expert, but I really do know this genre quite well. And while my obsession may have run its course, I'd still be open to repping something of this nature if I found one I loved.
In the meantime, I'll be a fan from the sidelines. Here's what I tend to like: a bit of adventure, a ton of witty banter, preferably a cool brainy heroine who does something besides simper, and if there is cross-dressing or an unusual setting, all the better! In no particular order, these were some of the books that stuck with me during the Great Romance Read of 2013 -- Maybe you'll read some of these and love them too?
Courtney Milan - HEIRESS EFFECT: All of Milan's books are terrific, but I really love this Brothers Sinister series. In this one, an extremely rich girl who is not marriage-minded does everything possible (short of contracting a contagious disease) to get potential suitors to stay the hell away from her. Witty and fun and oh also I totally ugly-cried at a certain point.
Elizabeth Essex - ALMOST A SCANDAL: Ugh I love this book. A girl dresses as her brother and takes over for him in the Navy. She acquits herself well and nobody figures out her ruse. . . well, nobody except the Captain, that is. Too bad they are off at sea and he can't expose her for a fraud OR deposit her back in London . . . she'll just have to keep dressing as a boy and, well . . . *rowr*
Tessa Dare - ANY DUCHESS WILL DO: All of Dare's books are delightful - most set in the little village of "Spindle Cove" (aka Spinster Cove), a beach community full of ladies who are pretty much off the marriage mart for one reason or another. In this one, a Duke is charged by his mother to get married. She declares she can make any lady into an appropriate Duchess, so he just needs to choose. NOW. So he picks the most inappropriate wench he can find, determined to foil his mother's plan. (Bonus: has a bookselling subplot!)
Meredith Duran - A LADY'S LESSON IN SCANDAL: A girl from the slums breaks into the home of a nobleman and holds him up at gunpoint, determined to right a wrong done to her mother years before. But she finds the little old man she expects is in fact long gone - and her captive is young, hotblooded, naked as a jaybird, and convinced that she is a secret heiress.
Cecilia Grant - A LADY AWAKENED: A widow's estate is about to go to a real jerk. Sooo she conceives of a cunning plan... if she can prove she's with child, she'll get to keep the estate and the people who depend on her will not be harmed. But she only has 30 days... *cue sexytimes*
Sherry Thomas - NOT QUITE A HUSBAND: Actually I've liked all Sherry Thomas's books, but I chose this one because it is set largely in India and Pakistan, and features a tough woman doctor. It wasn't my favorite while I was reading it, but I've thought a lot about it in retrospect. Pretty much I just think Thomas is a swell writer, who tends to deal in outrageous plots (Another one, BEGUILING THE BEAUTY, is about a transatlantic ocean voyage, a widow disguised as a Baroness, and revenge!)
What have been some of YOUR favorites?
From my pocket: *ring ring*
Me: Hi, this is Jennifer.
Some Stranger: Can I speak to Jennifer Lag-lahr-gg-squ-san?
This is Jennifer Laughran.
OH Hi this is [mumble mumble] from [fake sounding company] in Hollywood and I want to talk to you about a hot new property RANDOM TITLE.
I'm so sorry . . . I don't know that title. I'm afraid that's not one of mine.
No, no, it's not one of yours . . . this is a SUBMISSION to you.
Um. . . what?
Yes, my client [mumble mumble] wrote this book and you hadn't responded to my letter about it so I thought I'd follow up. You got the letter a week ago?
I have no idea what you are talking about. Sorry, I get a lot of email. Who are you again?
It wasn't email. It was a paper submission.
[while talking, googles name of company, name of person, comes up empty] I'm sorry, I'm just really confused, this was a query??
[interrupting] Nope, not a query, it's a referral, anyway, this is a medical thriller, you'll be kicking yourself if you don't represent this. So what do you say to a sure-fire moneymaker --
[interrupting] -- but I never got a letter, I haven't accepted snail mail queries since 2007, and I only represent children's books. So . . . Who are you?? Are you the author?
[patiently, as if to a child] I'm not the author, I'm working for my client to send out their work . . .
. . . So you're an . . . agent?
No no, [long-suffering sigh] I'm sending out their work so they can get a literary agent.
So you're an agent-getting agent? An agent-agent? That doesn't seem like a thing.
Look WE DO THIS ALL THE TIME IN HOLLYWOOD. I assure you, sweetheart, this is a thing.
Welp, first of all, that isn't true --- plus, my agency is open to submissions, any author can just query -- tell him to just query. And listen, this is my cell, how did you even get this number?
No YOU listen: It's really unprofessional that you are acting like this about a REFERRAL. I mean this is ridiculous, I'll report this to your boss!
Huh. Well, a "referral" from a stranger is not really a referral at all. I don't represent people who can't follow simple directions or conduct their own correspondence. I don't represent medical thrillers. And my boss doesn't like bullies any more than I do. Don't call me again.
*fin*The preceding was essentially a transcript of an extremely annoying conversation that I have a couple times a year. Oh, the details have been erased and the exact back-and-forth approximated. Much more often -- every couple of weeks at least -- I get the same basic thing but in email form:
Subject Line: AUTHOR REFERRAL!So how did these authors get screwed? Let us count the ways:
Hi Agent, I'm Random McNoname, and I'm writing to reffer [sic] my client Author Sapsucker to you. Sapsucker has a pHd in Neurocathology [sic] and 78 followers on twitter so he's the real deal. The manuscript is attached, I look forward to hearing from you by next week.
Note the misspellings, the "attached manuscript", the fact that they don't say what the book is, that they aren't targeting me specifically or if they are, they are submitting something I don't rep, that they are demanding a response by a certain time, that they haven't followed guidelines in the least. That's leaving aside the fact that they aren't even the author -- so who ARE they?
These are what I call "agent-agents" or third-party queriers. They convince authors that their "services" are necessary to query (aka spam) literary agents*. Authors who are totally new and/or desperate will take the bait and pay, in the hopes that it will give them a leg up on the competition. Probably, because this world is full of unscrupulous a-holes who like to take advantage of authors, they'll pay rather a lot.
Instead of getting a fast-pass to easy street, however, these authors paid good money to assure that their work won't be taken seriously. No legit agent I've ever met responds to strong-arm tactics or so-called "referrals" from strangers. Strangers who clearly don't even know anything about the specific book or author they are allegedly working for, let alone about the book industry in a larger sense.
As for the matter of this being a "referral" -- I call shenanigans. A referral means that somebody I know and trust (like one of my clients, an agent colleague, or an editor I've worked with) is vouching for you. A referral from a stranger is pointless. What do I care if some schmuck I've never heard of thinks you're terrific?
In any case, you generally don't need a referral to submit to most agents. (Some yes, but those agents are probably accepting few if any new clients anyway). You don't need a special key or a magic word to get read by an agent -- you just need to follow directions and have a great-sounding book.
I'm personally closed to queries until January, but every other month of the year, my submission guidelines are quite simple: The subject line needs to have the word "query" in it. The email itself should have a full query letter and ten pages pasted in. I don't accept snail mail submissions, nor do I open attachments. That's it. Now this might differ a bit from other agency guidelines - - but they are all pretty much alike in that they are simple enough for a literate child to follow.
We WANT to read your work. We WANT to find new talent. Believe it or not, the submission guidelines are not set up to see how cleverly authors can avoid them. The guidelines are just there to make things simpler and easier for everyone, including authors.
You think querying is hard? You wrote an entire book. THAT'S hard work. If you can do that, I promise, you can write a couple of interesting paragraphs about yourself and your book, and do a bit of internet research. Querying is the EASY part.
Sorry if I sound a bit fired up about this, but it just makes me insanely angry how many authors I see getting parted from their money by companies like this. PLEASE, don't be a Sapsucker.
* ETA: It probably goes without saying that, while I get these every few weeks -- there are no doubt MANY scamster companies that don't even bother sending any material out at all. I mean, how would the author know? So these are just the VISIBLE scamsters...
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The good news is, I have signed several new clients in the past few months and am busier than ever. Yay! I love working hard and selling plenty of books!
The bad news is, November and December are already quite busy for most people, and I am no exception. I have simply got to spend some time playing catch-up and clearning my desk for 2014. . . and yes, I plan to carve out a bit of time for family fun and pie-eating, too! ;-) So:
As of Wednesday, November 20, I will be closed to unsolicited queries until Monday, January 13, 2014. This is not affecting any other agent at ABLA -- this is my own personal query hiatus.
That being said, there are exceptions: If you've been referred by an editor or client friend, or I met you at a recent conference (simply put the name of the conference, along with the word "query", in your query subject line) -- or if you've participated in one of my Writers Digest Webinars, including the next one on 11/21 -- I'll still consider your submission. (And of course, anyone who is already in the inbox, or sends before I've closed, will still be considered). Other than that, you'll have to wait. Sorry. Eat some pie, January will come in no time!
THE GREAT NEWS:
Last winter I did a Writer's Digest Webinar called "BEYOND THE QUERY." Lots of people who wanted to didn't get the chance to attend. Great news: Due to demand, I am reprising this webinar on November 21 at 1pm EST - that's THIS THURSDAY, people! So if you missed it the first time, here's your chance to get in on it, get a query critique, AND have an "open ticket" to query during the hiatus.
Lots of advice exists online about how to research agents and write a query letter -- with BEYOND THE QUERY, I hope to go a step further. I am to teach you not just how to stand out in the crowd and get noticed in a good way, but also what happens next.
We'll dissect the publication process and uncover some mysteries in the process. We'll talk about how to spot and avoid scamster agents and bad-news publishers. We'll examine how you can tell an agent relationship might not be working for you, and what to do about it. And how to develop long-term strategies to work with your agent and achieve career success.
This webinar should be useful writers of any genre -- for brand-newbies, writers who are just starting the querying process OR are deep in the query trenches, and even authors who have an agent but are maybe a bit shy about how that relationship is "supposed" to work. This should be a candid and informative good time.
You DO NOT have to attend the webinar in person if you are busy during that timeslot -- materials will be available for a year after the webinar for all participants.
Most importantly, every participant who signs up in advance will get a free query critique from me. And I will answer all questions submitted by attendees.
To be perfectly clear: The query critique included in the webinar DOES NOT count as an official query to me. It is just freebie advice to hopefully strengthen your query.
BUT, everyone who writes the genres I represent will have an "open ticket" to query me at any time, including during my query hiatus.
You can sign up for the webinar by following this link.
Questions? Feel free to ask them in the comments!
HANUKKAH BEAR is the tale of Bubba Branya, a little old lady who can barely see but makes the very best latkes in town. Her rabbi comes to visit, and he brings his gigantic appetite. . . and mumbly voice. . . and growly tummy . . . and furry face. . . uh-oh! Comedy ensues as the dynamic duo of granny and the bear play dreidel, light the menorah, and of course, enjoy plenty of yummy latkes.
Kimmel's classic story* is the perfect match for Mike Wohnoutka's warmly glowing new illustrations; this one is sure to delight not only little ones, but the whole family.
â˜… "Successful on every level, this holiday favorite is sure to be popular with anyone who appreciates a little humor with their holidays."”School Library Journal Starred Review
Buy the book from your local independent bookstore, from MY local independent bookstore, Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Powells, or Book Depository.
* This is a refreshed new edition of a book that came out a couple of decades ago, with somewhat longer text and much different illustrations, under the title Chanukah Guest Add a Comment
Doing a ton of critiques for Writers Digest has been exhausting but fun, too. I'm in the home stretch -- 180 down, 20 to go -- and should finish in the next couple of days. I'll tell you this: 200 critiques in a row means common opening problems become crystal clear. I'm going to talk about a couple of pervasive ones today.
Please know, I AM NOT PICKING ON ANYONE. Everyone who sent in work to be critiqued is BRAVE and AMAZING, and this is NOT a negative reflection of any one person's work at all.
Out of 200 critiques, I'd say easily 85% of them had at least one, if not both, of these problems. Which means, obviously, they are common and easily fixable issues. . . and if this high a percentage of the WD crits had them, chances are, lots of people who did NOT get a crit may be helped by this info, too.
PROBLEM ONE: SPOILER ALERT aka "TELL, THEN SHOW"
This is a very common problem in first drafts. It's where the author starts with a paragraph that tells the reader in a nutshell what is about to happen, and/or the lesson that the main character will learn by the end of the scene, chapter or even the end of the book. . . and then the actual scene starts. It's almost like the "thesis statement" we used to have to write in school essays. Like so:
It was a day like any other. Little did Moxie the Dog know, but her world was about to get rocked. Not only would a new person soon be moving in to the house . . . but that person was bringing a CAT. Moxie had never met a cat, and probably would like to eat cat. There was bound to be trouble. But the two will have to learn to get along and even be friends if they are going to get through the next six months.Not only is this clunky example torn from the headlines (my sister and her cat are coming to stay at my house soon!), but it illustrates the problem: it tells the reader what is about to happen before it happens, or gives away the end before the story even starts. It's not foreshadowing, it's a tension-killer. Since the author has gone to the trouble of chewing and digesting the information for me, I don't have to read on.
The doorbell rang again. Moxie was barking ferociously and leaping at the door. "BE NICE, it's just my new roommate!" Jennifer the Human yelled. "You'd better get used to it, Moxie, because she is going to live here now."
The good news is, it's extremely easy to fix this. Just get out the ol' red pen and start with the actual beginning of the scene.
PROBLEM TWO: RHETORICAL WHAT?
Often in drafts, the author peppers the main character's thoughts with rhetorical questions.
Here are some NON-rhetorical questions: When your character asks questions inside their own brain, who, exactly, is your character asking? Themselves? The reader? Are they breaking the fourth wall? If it is a thing where you have a very voicey narrator that is addressing the audience throughout the whole book, the occasional question is probably OK. Otherwise, can it.
Rhetorical questions make your character sound wishy-washy and confused. It reads like shorthand or filler; like you've left a note for yourself: "develop this later!" They're ALMOST ALWAYS better expressed as declarative statements. And recasting them as statements often gives you a chance to give us a taste of character or a sense of the stakes in an unobtrusive way.
ORIGINAL: "Can I even get this done in time? What if I blame it on Aliens?"Like the Thesis Statement Spoilers above, rhetorical questions are another real tension-killer. There's a recent post on Mary Kole's blog that addresses problems with this tactic in much greater detail, but suffice to say: it's another way authors pre-chew the information for readers. It's almost like you are pointing the reader to what you want them to think or the conclusion you want them to draw, without allowing them the opportunity to piece the clues together themselves.
RECAST: "There is no way I can get this done before school, and using the old 'Abducted by Aliens' routine isn't gonna fly this time around."
ORIGINAL: "I'd tried everything. Is it even possible to get rid of freckles? Is there such a thing as an anti-freckle potion?"
RECAST: "I'd scrubbed, rubbed, and even tried whipping up Freckle Juice like in that Judy Blume book we read in second grade. These blotches weren't going anywhere."
Trust your reader. We WANT to go on a journey with you and your characters! :-) Add a Comment
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