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Viewing: Blog Posts from the Agent category, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 15,174
1. Query question: I have a contract but want an agent for film/translation

 I have recently secured a book contract without an agent for my YA novel with a small press. I retain  the film and foreign rights, which I believe should be left up to an agent. Will having a book contract provide me with more cachet to getting representation, or will my queries still be relegated to the "thanks but no thanks" pile?

First, you were smart to retain the rights your publisher is most likely not able to fully exploit.  

Second, if you're querying for a novel that's already got a contract, your situation is a bit different than most.  You'll want to query for your SECOND book, and mention that you retain the translation and film rights to the first book as well.

Most agents will not take on one book just for translation and film rights.  There simply isn't enough money in it to justify the amount of work.

But, if you secure an agent for the second book, having your sub rights for the first book will be a bonus particularly for film.

 

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2. Why You Should Resist Giving Agents Exclusives


I can't even begin to think about the number of times I've written on this subject. One search of exclusives on the blog will probably bring up a ton of posts. And yet, I still get emails like this:


I'm sorry for bothering you, but I wanted to check in with you on the status of my romance novel, SECOND CHANCES. I first submitted the book eight weeks ago and I'd like to know if I should continue to wait or start querying other agents. Thanks again for this opportunity. 

Aaaaaaaaaaaah!

Why, oh why are you waiting for me to respond before querying? I never, ever, ever asked for an exclusive and I don't think I've ever asked for an exclusive. There are very few agents who will ask for an exclusive these days and if they do, ignore it and send your queries out anyway.

Your search for an agent is about finding the best partner for your career. Waiting months for a response from one person at a time is never going to help you kick that career off the ground. So query and submit widely, talk to as many agents as possible and choose the one who is the absolute best fit for your work.

--jhf

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3. Query question: so I queried publishers and agents and now I'm in a pickle

I queried a bazillion agents and wasn't patient enough to give them what seemed like 17 years to reply (it had only been a month.) In a snit, I sent a query to a publishing house that takes direct submissions.

Then, in the excitement of having agents (not you, alas) request full mss, I forgot about the publisher.
Recently, the publisher has requested a detailed synopsis and a full manuscript.

On the one hand, several agent requests and one publisher request mean I'm deeper into the forest primeval than I was with my first book. Which makes anything that happens at this point good news. I'm also close to finishing my third book -- and querying that.

But...do I risk offending the agents or the publisher if I fill my dream agent (not you, alas) in on what's going on with the publisher and hope she responds saying "Let me take it from here...I was just seconds away from offering you representation because yours is the best book I've seen in a decade?"

Or do I send the mss package to the publisher and hope for cosmic coincidence  -- that they'll offer me representation the day before dream agent does?

Being a wee woodland creature, I'm tempted to hide under my rock, berating myself for snorting in the face of the guideline "Be Patient" and the one that says "Query agents first, publishers second."

Can you help clear out my muddle puddle? 









First, you're going to go back and do some in-depth research on the publisher to make sure they're serious about publishing print books.  You're going to look for things on their website that indicate they sell to wholesale accounts like bookstores, or to libraries.  You're going to make sure they actually sell books to somoene other than the author and the author's one hundred closest friends.


The reason you're going to do this is because if the publsher is NOT a serious publisher, no agent is going to want to deal with that contract, and knowing you have interest from them won't make any difference.


But, if the publisher is a professional place (rather than a hobby outlet--a phrase I'm going to catch hell for I bet) then you let the agents know. It may not make a difference, but you'll want to let them know in case it does.





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4. BACKLASH by Sarah Darer Littman

BACKLASH is not "officially" out until next week, but I've started seeing it in stores already sooo... I don't mind bragging about it! 
 
This is a contemporary YA about cyber-bullying from multiple points of view - it's timely and so important.

BACKLASH by Sarah Darer Littman
Scholastic Press


He says: You’re an awful person.

He says: What makes you think I’d ever ask you out?

He says: The world would be a better place without you in it.

Lara just got told off on Facebook.

She thought that Christian liked her, that he was finally going to ask her to his school’s homecoming dance. They’ve been talking online for weeks, so what’s with the sudden change? And where does he get off saying horrible things on her wall? Even worse — are they true?

It’s been a long time since Lara’s felt this bad, this depressed, this ugly. She’s worked really hard to become pretty and happy — and make new friends after what happened in middle school.

Bree used to be best friends with overweight, depressed Lara, but constantly listening to Lara’s issues got to be too much. Secretly, Bree’s glad that Christian called Lara out. Lara’s not nearly as amazing as people think.

But no one realized just how far Christian’s harsh comments would push Lara. Not even Bree.

As online life collides with real life, things spiral out of control, and not just for Lara. Because when the truth starts to come together, the backlash is even more devastating than anyone could have ever imagined.

What happens online doesn't always stay online .
. .

Buy BACKLASH from Your Local Independent Bookstore, Oblong, Book Depository, Barnes and Noble or Amazon, or wherever fine books are sold. (Or, request it from your library!)

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5. Query Critique: Fade to the Edge

I agree that the material in this email can be posted and critiqued on the BookEnds Literary Agency blog. I give permission for it to be archived for the life of the blog. 


Dear Query Queen:
           
Tracy Allen wakes to find DJ, her seven-year-old son, missing. With a custody hearing just days away, this could be her soon-to-be ex’s way of show how unfit a mother she really is.**this sentence feels awkward to me. Would it be cleaner to say her soon-be-be ex's way of showing that she is an unfit mother? An awkward sentence like this can completely ruin it for the reader. My thought is that if the first sentence is this awkward, what does the manuscript look like? Another concern: if the ex took the kid wouldn't he be the one who would look bad? I'm unclear about how this works which is a red flag for the plotting. But when the police locate DJ’s suitcase and the clothing inside covered with blood**this also feels awkward. I get what you're trying to say, but it doesn't read clearly, she knows this is more than a mere “get even” scheme. And once Tracy realizes she’s the mains**yet another typo suspect, she is determined to locate DJ, whatever it takes. But how can you save the one person who relies on you most when those closest to you are the ones you should trust the least?**I think this is generally a good hook overall, although nothing special, but I guess I haven't seen in the previous paragraphs who is closest to her that she trusts the least. If you're going to make a statement like this at any time you need to make sure you show it before making the statement.

I am writing in the hope you will be interested in reading my completed suspense book, Fade to the Edge. It is approximately 73,000 words in length.  

My current releases are as follows: 
  1. My award winning inspirational romantic suspense, Breathless (first place Royal Palm Literary Award), and it sequels, Catch Your Breath (Third Place in the Heart of Excellence Contest), both published with Pelican Book Group in 2012; Also the third in the series One Last Breath, self-published December 2014;
  2. Suspense short The Visitor, self-published September 2014;
  3. Game of Hearts, a humorous novella published with Astraea Press, released in March 2012;
  4. A humorous mystery, Knight & Day published by Write Words, Inc. in 2013; and
  5. Beautiful Imperfection, inspirational romantic suspense, was published through Pelican Book Group on September 29, 2013. It was also the winner of Best Inspirational Cover for 2013 in the “Show Me Your Covers Contest.”  
I was the President of Florida Sisters in Crime from January 2010 – December 2011, and am currently the Public Relations Director for Ancient City Romance Authors. I am co-chairing the September 2015 Ancient City Romance Conference. I have spoken at several writers’ events including the 2014 Florida Writers Association Conference.

I am also a Florida Certified Paralegal and work for an estate planning attorney in Jacksonville, Florida.  

Thank you for your attention. I look forward to hearing from you.  

Sincerely yours,
  

[redacted]
www.[redacted].com
Writing Clean Fiction with an Edge!

I'm always intrigued by missing child suspense novels. I'm afraid though that I probably would not request this. Setting aside the problem with the awkward sentences and errors, this just didn't feel special to me. A boy is missing and his bloody suitcase is found. That doesn't make the book stand out for me. What makes this book special? What makes it different from any other book about a mom trying to find her child?

Does the case link to an old case from her childhood? Is there a clue left behind that links to a past she's been running from? Is her ex a big muckity-muck in town and not really the boy's father? In other words...what's your hook?

The biggest mistake this makes is that it's bland. It's a common mistake, but one that equals rejection.

As for other parts of the query. I'm fine with your list of current releases, but I do feel like they are lacking information. I'm not sure they need to be a bulleted list as much as a paragraph with the publisher's name in parenthesis after.

your final paragraph about yourself is fine. You can probably skip the sentence about being a paralegal. It just isn't necessary.

I hope this helps. By focusing more on your hook I thin you'd have a strong query. If you have focused on your hook you might want to go back and rework the book itself to make it bigger.

--jhf

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6. Query Question: value of second read

 I’ve been on submission for about a year. We’ve been passed on about 28 times. Not the end of the publishing world, but I feel like we’re getting closer. Recently my agent suggested that I hire a professional editor to give the book a read, because the rest of the world doesn’t love the book as much as she and I do. She re-itterated that she loves the book and her representation of it doesn’t hinge on my agreeing to do this, but in her opinion, we’re missing something and after a year, maybe we ought to let someone with experienced eyes take a look because she wants it to have the very best shot it can have. And to be fair, I’ve edited this book so many times that I can’t tell the difference between “better” and “different” anymore and she’s probably in the same boat.

She referred me to someone who’s worked for a couple of the big five houses. I checked her books and she’s thanked in a couple of the acknowledgements, so I think she’s legitimate. It’s expensive — 4 grand —and it’s still spec. I can afford it — means a little less fun this summer, but not like missing a house payment or anything. But I’m mostly thinking of the mantra that money should flow to the author, and that amount of money would be hard to recoup. And while I’m sure she’ll make it better, there’s no guarantee she’ll make it more sale-able.  At the same time, I’d hate to pass on it, exhaust the rest of the publishing pool and always wonder whether I should have had her take a look at it.

Do you ever make that kind of suggestion to your clients? I figure the worst that can happen is I do it, everyone passes and I’ve got a really well-edited book to put up on Amazon. But four grand is still four grand. If it matters, I’ve talked to her — she’s read the first few chapters — and she thinks there’s something there (but that’s also something someone would say to a prospective client) Her fee is for a detailed editorial letter and a comprehensive line edit.


Yes, I do this. I think your agent is smart to suggest it, and it's something you should seriously consider.  A second set of (fresher) eyeballs on this can help.

That said, you don't need a $4K edit. You need what's called a "second read."  That is, you need someone to read it and say "I think this sux here, here, and here. Also there."  You're NOT paying for compliments. You want the Suck. You EMBRACE the Suck.


Write to this editor and tell you need a second read, essentially a reply letter if she was considering the book for publication.

Make SURE you LIKE the books that this editor has worked on, and think they're well-written. Not every opinion is equal. 


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7. A Shout-Out to Beth Campbell

It's administrative assistant week and I want to take a moment to send a shout-out to Beth Campbell. Not only is Beth the assistant for the entire BookEnds team, but she is also actively building her own list and has had some wonderful successes. In fact, just this month we celebrated three sales for Beth.

I'm not going overboard on Administrative Assistant Day for Beth. She can blame my old boss for this. I was "raised" in publishing to believe that I wasn't an assistant to be honored on this day. I was a fledgling editor who was learning my trade and growing in my profession. Instead of handing over flowers on Administrative Assistant Day, my boss celebrated my successes as an editor any time I had them.

So while I want Beth to know how much I appreciate all the work she does as an assistant, I want to use this day/week to let all of you know what a great new agent Beth is becoming. She's actively building a list in urban fantasy, science fiction, YA, suspense, romantic suspense and mystery and if you're writing in her areas of expertise I think you'd be a smart writer and query her. And fast, before she's too busy to add anyone else.

--jhf


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8. Query Question: paid editors

 This Question comes on the heel of wasted money and confusion.  I am committed to writing the best books I can + to getting published.  I love words.  I love the world of words.  I read authors whose works inspire + teach me.  I have solid critique + beta partners.  On occasion, I'll take a class online or otherwise.  On those occasions, I'll look into the background of the instructors + editors to ensure there aren't any crackpots.  Here's the question + the rub.  Twice I have worked with paid editors and twice I have gotten either bum advice such as: you don't need to tell the ending in synopsis; or a critique that would have changed the body of my work so dramatically as to be a Dementor's Kiss.  Thinking an editor should be seeing the landscape, I worked with (some) of their recommendations only to find that, yes, the soul truly had been sucked out of the story on their (paid) advice.

Does this happen to author's with whom you've worked?  Does this happen frequently or is it only "paid" editors?  (Is there a difference) because I'm getting jaundiced on them as a whole.  (PS. I've since written the soul back into my work.) 


It doesn't happen with editors at publishing houses because if they want to suck the soul out of a manuscript, we have a conversation that involves changing editors or moving the book to a new publisher.  My job is to find an editor who actually likes the book, not one who wants to change it completely.

Outside/paid/independent editors are a whole different kettle of fishies.  I've had terrible luck with most, and great success with a very few.


How to find the latter and avoid the former? READ the books they've edited. 

Also, have a clear idea of what you want the editor to do. Do you need the plot strengthened, the dialogue improved? The pacing quickened? 


Often an editor can make suggestions about how to do those kinds of things without going through the entire manuscript page by page.


If you're looking for someone to read for plot holes or narrative arc, then you do need someone who will read the entire manuscript.


Good editors are not thick on the ground. Finding a good one is not easy. The REALLY good ones are booked up so far in advance, even their pals can't get a project on their desk (I'm looking at you Kristen Weber!)




I wish I had more to offer on this topic but it's an ongoing problem here too.

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9. I Might Be Getting Soft in My Old Age

I've been thinking about writing this post for a few weeks and was finally pushed into it when this comment was left on a six-year-old blog post:


Gourgandise said...
I understand that agents are swamped by queries but really, if I knew that my future agent was getting annoyed by tiny little things like an e-mail attachment or the "it's not addressed to me personally", sorry but red flag, this agent 1)has an ego that I won't be able to deal with 2) sounds rather lazy and opted for comfort a long time ago. So I'll be glad to be sent to the recycling bin actually, nobody will have wasted the time of the other. If I have to go on a business adventure with somebody I might as well pick a lovely person. I'm sorry, you might be lovely in real life, but you sure don't sound like it in this post. (Before somebody says anything, English is not my first language and I don't write in English. I was just passing by, checking what happens on the other side of the fence.)


The power of the blog. Where a post never goes away and you'll be skewered for something you wrote when you were, frankly, a different person.

This particular comment was left on the post I Stop Reading When.

As I'm reading queries these days I'm sort of amazed at how much I'll forgive. Am I getting soft? Am I getting old? or do I just care less about the minute details of life? I'm not sure there's a precise answer, but I am sure that I've become far more forgiving when it comes to queries.

These days I reply to almost everything. I reply to queries that you send to the wrong address, I reply to queries that are addressed to me, Kim, Jessica, Beth and every other agent and even their mothers. I reply when there are clear typos and I even reply when it's not really a query at all, but something that simply says, "read my book." I've established a system that makes it a lot easier for me to reply to all of these things and sometimes it's just as easy to hit delete.

Of course, just because I'm getting soft doesn't mean everyone else (or anyone else) is. I'm pretty sure The Shark will never soften on us and that's ok, a good thing even. We all need to be held to higher standards and pushed to be the best we can be. Query and submission guidelines should be part of that push.

You should also know that while I'm getting soft and answering all of you rule breakers, it doesn't mean you're getting the answer you want. Most of them are rejections.

--jhf


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10. Query Question: On Second Thought


I have a full request out with one of my top-five favorite agents.  After my heart soared from the full request, I read everything left on the internet that I hadn't read prior about TFFA, over analyzing the garbage out of whether or not TFFA would like my manuscript, but I was disappointed to find (buried in a very recent interview on a little-read blog) my book contains something that I am almost certain she will reject. And it's not subjective. It's a bloody book, and she seems pretty clear on her inability to handle gore. TFFA even gave comp titles on level of acceptable and unacceptable gore.

To complicate matters, my current WIP (which is drafted, through edit 7, critiqued, and on its way to a final draft in the next 2-5 months) is literally RIGHT up her alley. It's in a different age range and genre that she represents FAR more often (still scratching my head as to why she requested my bloody full) and despite there being no guarantees, it just seems like a far better fit.

Now, I know the  answer to this question (or at least I think I do) but I'd rather look stupid asking a question than look stupid doing something silly.

1) Based on what I know, should it be on my radar at all to retract my full for fear of TFFA getting the wrong first impression and not wanting to touch my second (very non-violent) book with a 10 foot pole?

2) Or should I just wait it out and let her reject or (by some miracle of gastric fortitude) accept my blood soaked pages?

3) Has a first impression in terms of genre/style/common trope/pet peeve in writing ever set you off badly enough that you had a lurking impression on future submissions?

4) (and you can feel free to answer this one quietly) Am I... perhaps... just a tiny neurotic bit... over thinking this?

Let's take the questions in reverse order.


(4) No you are not over-thinking this.  This is a serious question of strategy.

(3) Sure, but that's not what this is. First impressions when someone says "please get back to me soon" are the ones you want to avoid.

(2) NO

(1) YES



Here's what you do. VERY SUCCINCTLY (and I think we can agree that this question to me was NOT THAT) you say "I believe, upon further research, that this novel will be too violent for your stated taste. Rather than have you invest time in reading this, I have another novel that I believe is more suited to both what you sell, and your preference on levels of gore. Thus, I'd like to withdraw this novel, and query you for TITLE."


Here's WHY you're going to do this: I'd rather read the novel that most suits my taste FIRST.  There's time enough later on to get the novel I don't like as much but since you're already a client, will have to just suck it up and sell.


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11. The Perfect Agent by Colin Smith

I asked permission to repost this from the comments on my Your Dream Agent post. I thought it was so much fun that everyone should have a chance to read it.

Thank you for sharing!

The Perfect Agent

Wanted an agent for one adorable writer! :)

If you want this choice position
Have a cheery disposition
Fair critiques, no snark!
Play nice, don't bark.

You must be kind, and it helps to be witty
Tell me I'm great when I'm feeling s**ty
Read my novel, say it rocks
Say it's rad and it knocks off socks

Never be quiet too long
Never say I'm right when I am wrong
Love my writing more than I do
And never lie so I won't fire you

If you are diligent with submissions
I will never fail to send revisions
I can send you chocolates to make you smile
You can send me checks every once in a while

Hurry agent!
I say with
Sincerity,

Writer, Colin Smith. :)

For those who don't get the reference.:


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12. Is my agent an idiot? Yes, yes he is.

 I've read your blog with interest, and have a question that I don't think is addressed. It's regarding expectations writers can have of their agents. Is it reasonable to assume that an agent will write a pitch that reflects the tone of the book, correctly identify the genre, and pitch to editors who are a good fit for the book?

I ask because while my agent acknowledges that the pitch he sent was misleading and the genre was not correctly identified, he says that had the editors truly liked the book they would have referred him to another editor in the house. I've always assumed that busy editors like busy agents simply do not have time to do this. And a blurb that doesn't match the book and mis-identified genre are the first reasons to reject a book. Am I wrong?


What?
WHAT?
WHAT???


Ok, I've applied a cool cloth to my fevered brow, taken a quick  sip of a (medicinal purposes only) libation, and am now ready to respond.

WHAT THE EVER LIVING FUCK IS THIS??



Your agent just told you in no uncertain terms that he is an idiot.


NO, you do not ever assume that an editor will pass things on to another editor. An agent's job is to get the right editor the first time. I've spent untold hours now working on my info sheets for editors. I spend time talking to them on the phone, over lunch, on Twitter, and in other odd places (like conferences) to find out what they like to read, what books they wish they'd edited, and generally what gets them enthused.  I read the books they acquire. We talk about the books they DON'T acquire (very illuminating info!) Sure, I miss the mark sometimes in that this is a very subjective industry, but at least I try to get it right.

As for wrong genre, I can understand that a bit more easily. One of my favorite JOKES is that I've sold urban fantasy "by mistake" because I thought it was something else. In fact I did think it was something else, and the urban fantasy category was decided AFTER the editor bought it and was planning the marketing for the book (and let's all notice, the book SOLD, even with the 'wrong category' which I assume from your question, is not the case with yours.)

If you get the category wrong, you're almost certain to get the wrong editor.

And a misleading pitch is deeply perplexing. It's like creating a dating profile with an old picture. Unless you're planning that the editor never read the book (or your prospective date never actually meet you) it's entirely counterproductive to get the pitch wrong. Which is not to say I haven't revised pitches if I'm not getting the enthusiasm the book deserves.  (But again, you didn't say there were revisions being made.)

What the hell was your agent thinking? The only thing I can come up with after thinking about this for several days, was that your agent was trying to assess what went wrong.  "I sent it to the wrong editors" as an assessment is really different than "I just sent it to editors without much thought."  I've sent things to editors who didn't buy the project. That doesn't mean they were the wrong editors other than in the most black and white sense of things.

It's because all three things went wrong: pitch, category, editors, that I think something is  very wrong here. You can miss two of the three (not intentionally of course) but all three is a trifecta of sloppiness. 




 

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13. What the heck!

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14. Week in Review April 19, 2015

And what a week it was!

Some of you had some very odd ideas about my favorite movie, although Kregger's comment
I think your favorite movie is "Message in a Bottle." Not because of heart-string tugging syrupy tripe, but because everyone should know how Kevin Costner got it in the end. That's right...shark attack!

cracked me up completely.

and AJ Blythe did too:
Surely Janet's fave movie would have to be "Fifty Shades of Grey" - it's about paint, right?
Dena Pawling mentioned Hopscotch which I loved when I saw it the first time, so I promptly rented it on Sunday and watched it again.  It held up beautifully! (Some of my long time favorites have not!)  Did you notice the character names? Shout outs to Ludlum, Follet and Westlake, all great crime writers.  The book Hopscotch won the Edgar for Best Novel in 1976!

As for my favorite movie: none of you came close. It's Casablanca.


Apparently LynnRodz is circumnavigating the globe. Maybe she's looking for Platform 9.75, the train to Carkoon?
Don't get me started on the weather! When I left Paris it was 11°C, I landed in Dubai at midnight and it was already 26°C. When I got to Bangkok I came out of the airport to 38°C in the shade! Let me put it this way, when you're baking cookies and you open the oven door to see if they're done and that blast of hot air hits you...well I'm the cookie baking in Bangkok and Carkoon is looking like paradise!
I'm heading to Hong Kong next and hopefully the weather will be a lot cooler.


And just in case I was getting too big for my britches, John "Ol' Chumbucket" Baur put me solidly in my place on the food chain:

I missed the "plumber/agent" discussion, but as someone who has had two agents and who last fall had the mother of all sewer problems, let me just say, if I had to pick one or the other, I'd take a good plumber every time. My agents have had some success with me, but my plumber made it possible for life to continue.

W.R.Gingell had an important question about the Summer Synopsis Camp slated for Carkoon:
And lol at Colin's Carkoonian Synopsis Summer Camp. Should we bring our own stakes, or will there be a Impaler Specialist? ( I hear Vlad is once more available: he might like the change).

Maybe Gary Corby can be drafted for Impaler specialist. He's sure gotten some mileage out of that one scene in The Ionia Sanction.

 



On Monday the results of the writing contest were posted. Huzzah to Calorie Bombshell for an outstanding effort, and huzzahs also to the finalists! It was a touch choice (but then, it almost always is!)



On Tuesday we talked about meeting agents at conferences in unscheduled times.

I think we're going to need a collection of Julie Weathers' comments at some point because as usual, this one cracked me up:

I keep saying agents are humans pieces of meat and I still see people giving out advice for authors to act like blind dogs after meat wagon.

I liked what Susan Bonifant had to say so much that I made it this week's blog subtitle
"Best advice I ever got when I was raising children: Never miss an opportunity to shut up."

And Abib Khorram mentioned the Midwest Writers Conference:

I am very much looking forward to Midwest Writers, though now I'm going to be very suspicious of anyone wearing a "Janet Reid" name tag.

Speaking of which, is anyone else going to Midwest Writers? I think we should try to organize a Felix J. Buttonweezer Memorial Costume Contest and Kale Cookoff.

"Janet Reid" can be the judge.

Since my former minion Brooks Sherman will also be at MWW, I might deputize him to be me.  I'll be the one with the name badge that says "I AM OTTER"





And I really liked what KD James.com said about attending conferences

I think it's worth it, if you're unpublished or perhaps haven't attended a conference, to think about what you DO want to accomplish. As fun as they can be, cons are also expensive and time consuming. It's not necessary to set conference goals, but it's a good idea. This is not MY advice--- I've heard it from dozens of experienced writers.

A goal is something you can control and achieve: to attend classes or workshops to learn about craft or publishing; to meet up with writer friends you've talked to online; to experience what it feels like to be in a huge crowd of writers who "get" you (it's awesome); to meet new people.

My goal at my first con was simply to survive the overload. Which I did. Barely. I also attended a ton of workshops. SO WORTH IT.

It's also nice to have a goal so when you look back on whether the con was a good investment of time and money, you'll have something to gauge rather than just whether it was "fun."

It is NOT a goal to say you're attending a con because you hope to get published, or want to have an agent request your ms, or even simply to meet an agent/editor/famous author. You don't control those things. And they might not even be all that valuable.


And I liked what Leone said too
My point is, we're all part of the writing community and we give to it in our own ways. So my suggestion for folks nervous about attending a conference is to worry less about how others see you and more about how you can help. For example, I offer to moderate a panel. If you prefer, you could offer to staff the registration table or some other less public activity. Whatever you do, you're giving to the community, which not only helps you get to know people without worrying about pitching, but also gets your focus off your own nervousness.




And Colin demonstrates why he has been exiled to Carkoon, by trying to find a way that the point of the blog post might not apply.

So, do you suppose it might be different for a young agent, perhaps still fairly new and building a list? Might that agent be more likely to want writers to talk about their work? In other words, might Janet and Barbara's hatred of the "elevator pitch" come from their years of experience, and the fact they are well-established?

No.
I've hated people pushing their pitches on me from Day One. There is simply NO WAY to properly evaluate or offer help to a writer without seeing pages.  Pitching is not social conversation. If we're in a social setting, DO NOT PITCH. There are NO exceptions to this.

*climbs down off soapbox*
*signs exile extension*




And I REALLY liked this from BJ Muntain

Because there's nothing about being a stay-at-home mom that deserves to be ignored. It just needs better press.



On Wednesday, a gentleman wondered about self-publishing to make money.

CarolynWith2Ns asked
Might the questioner try Kindle Scout as a no cost path to e-publishing ? And Janet, I'd love to know your opinion about Scout. Is it as good a deal as Amazon says?


I'm not a resource on Kindle Scout or really any of the self-publishing platforms because I don't work with them at all, and have no experience.  What I see are people querying me with books they've already published, or sending me finished copies of books they've essentially printed rather than published. Often times those books are just sad little messes of bad production and worse cover art.

BJ Muntain said
Yes, even if it's only printed out in a chapbook format and handed out to a few friends, it's still technically published. Will it affect future sales? As Janet said, that's very unlikely. My thought: If these have already been published, then you no longer have first rights to sell for them anyway. Reprinting them won't make a difference

There is no such thing as "first rights" although I do see that phrase used a lot on writer boards.  There IS such a thing as "first serial rights" but that means publishing an excerpt of a book before publication day.

A book, and stories, can be published more than once. If you've had stories accepted for publication in a lit mag (as the questioner had) you can publish them AGAIN once the period of exclusivity with the magazine has ended.

The rights you license to a lit mag are 1. territory 2. language 3. duration  4.exclusivity 5.format

For example: you license the short story "Felix Buttonweezer Fends off Kale on Carkoon" to the Carkoon Lit mag for publication in (1) Carkoon (2) Carkoonian, English and Klingon; (3) for the period of one Carkoonian year; (4) exclusively; (5) for the print edition and the Carkoon Lit mag website.  All rights not specifically granted to the lit mag are retained by the author.


On Thursday the discussion turned to the endlessly entertaining topic of submission guidelines.

Colin posted a question from exile:
My question(s) to agents: When was the last time you requested because the querier spelled your name correctly, gave good comp titles, had an MFA, or correctly identified their novel as YA Urban Fiction? And how many queries have you requested from because they sold you on #2 above [2) A paragraph or two selling the novel to the agent, incorporating the 4 Cs (see Craig's comment).]

Answer:
0%
100%


Lizzie said
aside from people not paying attention, one of the problems could be agents not updating their Querytracker profile.

I can't remember the last time I updated my QueryTracker profile. Probably the last time I closed for queries a few summers ago, but honestly I haven't a clue.

The reason for that that? There's no trigger to update it. No one from QueryTracker emails me an easily accessible link and says "here, update yer info, SharkForBrains"  If they did, I would.

As it is, I don't even THINK about QueryTracker.  The places I DO update when I remember, which isn't often: 1. my website 2. my Pub Mkt page and 3. this blog's incoming query status. 



And then things pretty much fell completely off topic with a discussion of the Buttonweezer clan name, origin and location. Which made for a VERY entertaining comments trail.



On Friday the topic was whether a query should mention fulls requested by other agents.

I loved this from Dena Pawling:
Carolynn, I met my husband at a friend's wedding, the summer after I graduated from high school. I was a bridesmaid and he was an usher. About a week after the wedding, he called me.

Him: “Hi... um... would you like to go to church with me? I've asked everyone else I know and no one else can come.”

Yes, that's how he asked me out on our first date. I've teased him endlessly about it, too. We've been married now for more than half my life.

Karen McCoy asked:
Say Agent B doesn't ask if anyone else is reading, and Agent A requests representation while Agent B still has the full. How does the author bring this up without burning possible bridges?

This happens ALL the time. I've been on both sides of the situation.  In fact, I have a prospective client notifying other agents even as we speak.

Here's what you do:
1. Email all the agents who have the full and say you've received an offer (or you've gotten serious interest) in the manuscript. Ask if they can let you know their decision within a specified amount of time (a week is normal but I've said two weeks on occ. if there's a holiday or vacations pending)

2. On the expiration day, advise everyone of decisions.  "Thanks for reading my full. I've chosen an agent to represent the book" kind of thing.



And maybe y'all think someone else reads the comments but it's me and I SAW THAT STUFF ABOUT PAGES!
Julie Weathers, I'm looking at you, gnomie! 

If an agent asks for 50 pages, and 50 pages ends at the wrong place to present your work well, send 48. Or 55.

The idea of asking for 50 pages is "please don't send 300" and "please don't send 5"

It is NOT: please adjust your margins, and your font to make sure that what should be 48 is really 50 pages. 

 

Never break a sentence when you send pages, NEVER. Never break a paragraph if you can possibly help it.

And it's really ok to end where the chapter ends, be that page 45 or 55; in fact it's better.

And do NOT get creative with your margins. I work on 1" margins all around, and if you send something in ANYTHING else, I adjust it because of the size of my screen and what my eye is used to seeing.

YES I NOTICE 1.25 margins!


Sheesh you guys!



On Saturday the topic turned to the newest way to torment writers: social media


I liked what Amy Schaefer suggested:
Instead of focusing on what you aren't willing to do (Twitter, FB, the internet in general), turn it around and think about what you are willing to do. Get that clear in your mind. Signings? Visiting bookstores? The aforementioned newsletters and so on? Think hard about what sort of interaction you feel capable of with strangers/potential fans. Then, when the problem arises with an agent, you'll be ready with your own solution to your so-called social media issue. Get out in front of it, is my advice.


And I read PhoenixWaller's comment about promotion with great interest particularly the closing line:
The moral of that story is that mass advertisements are iffy at best, but word of mouth is still an invaluable tool for selling books, even free ones online. ;)

The more things change, the more they are the same. Word of mouth. The best way to sell books since there were books.


Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli asked

the question that Janet could answer is if you did write under a pseudo would your agent need to know your real name and at what stage would you have to tell them.

If you had a pseudo with incorporated status, you could have a social media presence for your 'business'.

As an agent I need to know two things: what you want me to call you, and the name you want to use when I pay you. 

The PUBLISHER however has a stake in this because the contract you sign for your book has a clause called Warranties and Indemnities and that's the one where you warrant the work is yours, you didn't copy it, and no one else has a claim to it.  Publishers really want to make sure that "the author" signs that contract.  That's where you'll need more specific advice than what I'm able to give you on the blog.

If a potential client had the kinds of security concerns that the questioner had, I'd probably let the editor know about it, and we'd figure something out.

I've certainly worked with authors who've used pen names before, and it's pretty funny, we forget the pen name isn't the author's "real" name.



Spring is finally here in NYC and it's fabulous. We have a giant courtyard space next to our office building and it has a huge TV screen on the side of our building. The TV broadcasts soccer games and I can always tell when they do cause the fans gather in the courtyard and cheer. It makes World Cup a lot of fun here even if I don't have  clue who's playing.

I'm tackling my requested full pile with renewed vigor. Some very patient authors have been waiting for more months than I care to reveal in public for a reply from me. Every time I pass on a manuscript I feel bad. I really hate doing so, particularly now that I'm passing on things that are good and publishable (but just not the right books for my particular list or interest.)

This coming week I'm taking a reading break and heading to the Delaware shore with a friend. We're going to sit on the porch, read manuscripts and plot World Domination. 

I'm hoping the Wifi will be adequate. If not, well, you'll know cause I'll be tardy posting the week in review!

Have a great week!





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15. Query Question: I can't use social media, am I doomed?

Last summer, you covered a question about whether or not someone should bother writing when they have terrible social anxiety. When you closed out your answer, you added, "And if her writing requires her to have a public presence, well, we'll solve that problem when we get there." That's where my question comes in.

What suggestions would you have for someone who does not want (feel free to add capitals and emphatic full stops between words there) to use Twitter and Facebook and those kinds of tools? My reasons are personal -- a sociopath who worked a long, twelve year con on me and my family, something along the lines of a Janna St James situation -- and have soured me on dealing with the internet, even if it means having to work harder other ways. I was a private person before, but now, it's taking a big leap just to ask this question. Thanks to words like "friending", people tend to see even people they've never met on the other end of Facebook and Twitter discussions as friends. Details shared even in comments here make people feel like they're friends. It's oddly public and intimate at the same time and something, after what I went through, I can't open myself up to again.

How would you help someone work around an internet presence to still be a worthwhile business relationship for you?



Your question comes at an interesting time. I'm having ongoing discussions with my publicist and with my clients about the utility of social media.

More and more I'm thinking that the old-fashioned tools, the ones we thought we wouldn't use again, are more effective.

And by old-fashioned tools I mean shoe leather.  Visiting bookstores in person, writing a newsletter for fans, going to bookstore events to support other writers.

I think many of us were willing to discard those tools because then (as now) we weren't ever sure how effective they were.  In fact, there's almost no reliable method to predict the effectiveness of publicity efforts (one of the things that drove me out of the field.)

Being unwilling or unable to do social media isn't a deal breaker, but you're going to have to be willing to do SOMETHING. If I love your book, I'll be willing to help you figure out what that something is.

Thus, the first step here is to write a really great book. I have to love it with the passion of a thousand suns cause there's going to be some heavy lifting here.

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16. Celebrating Jenn McKinlay & Sofie Kelly

It's Friday and we're ending the week by celebrating two hardworking and well-deserving authors.

Congratulations Jenn McKinlay and Sofie Kelly for their appearance on this week's New York Times  bestseller list!



Sk Öl

--jhf

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17. Query Question: I'm popular, can I tell you?

If other agencies requested and/or are reading your manuscript, should you say or add this in your query letter to other agents? Does this make them pay more attention since there's interest? Or is the opposite true?


You mention it only if the agent requests the full, AND asks if anyone else is reading.
You do not mention it at the query stage.


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18. Reading for Pleasure


I hate that term. It implies that the reading I do for work, reading my client's work, is not pleasurable, which is not the case. If reading my client's work wasn't pleasurable they never would have become my clients in the first place. That being said, Reading for Pleasure, is what I do when I don't have to think about the book at all. I'm never going to have to edit it, think about what an editor might say, or worry about reviewers. I can just mindlessly read.


Having just returned from Spring Break, I was thrilled at how much Pleasure Reading I got in. I mean thrilled. I'm constantly asked if I still enjoy reading for pleasure and the answer is always a resounding yes. It's so rare I have the time to just sit and read that I appreciate every moment I get when I get it.

During this trip I read 4.5 books (my iPad died during the 5th so I'm working to get that one finished too). 

Here's a taste of my Spring Break, in the order it all happened.


This book isn't yet published and was passed on by a colleague. I was surprised and thrilled that she thought of me and couldn't wait to get to it. It's always fun when someone just sends you something because they think you'll enjoy it. I think fans of Gone Girl will really like this psychological suspense.

This is a book I picked up at BEA last year. Yes, I'm very slow to get to my books. This is a suspense set in Ireland with all the elements I love in a good mystery/suspense, a dark and damaged hero/cop protagonist, a grizzly murder and strong female characters. I've never read Stuart Neville before, but I would again.

Another book I first discovered at BEA, but since I didn't get the galley for it I bought it for my Nook. This one is YA, but a mystery/suspense YA. It had a great plot: Girl lost in the wilderness with murderer/kidnapper. Who wouldn't love that kind of story?

The Fifth Wave was a huge hit in our office. I think we all read it in a day and couldn't wait for #2. As far as I was concerned Rick Yancey delivered again. My only suggestion is that if you haven't yet started this series wait until they are all out. I found this book difficult to follow since I waited a year between books.

A great recommendation from Shelley Coriell. I'm not sure if this is officially categorized as YA or adult, but I think it could go either way. This is the book I haven't yet finished, but am planning to do so asap. I'm really enjoying it. It's the kind of book that keeps you on the edge of the seat.

It's rare that I'm ever going to be able to share a list this big again, but I will try to keep you updated on my reading more frequently.

--jhf



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19. Week in Review April 12, 2015

It was lovely to come back on Monday and get back to work. Our topic was sex scenes in non-romance novels.

I am resisting giving any of you further encouragement on some of those double entendres. (But oh man, was I laughing)
I really liked what Craig said 
"There is nothing wrong with sex but I'd rather have it then read about it. The best sex in a book happens between chapters. The lead up to it and the after is more important than the actual act."

And didn't you all want to know the rest of the story after Mia Siegert's comment:
When working on my MFA thesis, one of my advisors famously gave me the following advice: "Needs more gay sex.

MB Owen brings up an interesting problem with the new info glut via Twitter:
 While I think writing what you want is the absolute truth...it's hard not to consider what Agents want because they are so dogmatic about it--or what they DON'T. One visit to #MSWL will do it.
In the old days when you were thumbing through the various indexes of agent listing, it was all very general. SF: yes or no. Romance: yes or no.
Now it's the Baskin Robbins menu and writers are left wondering if Cherry Delight has enough vanilla to be romance, or if all that delight makes it erotica.  And then agents kick them for not knowing, by posting those snide little tweets that assume what they want is so damn clear.  
 
 Speaking of desserts, did you see the cake AJ Blythe whipped up to celebrate the Writer's Digest news?
a woodland creatures cake! CHOMP! You taste so good!


And speaking of that award, let me just say that we ALL share this one. This blog would be nothing without you readers, question contributors, and commenters.  Huzzah for us ALL.

On Tuesday, the topic turned to deadlines and agent's missing them.

The first comment was from brianrschwarz and it's clear this man needs an ocular adjustment to remove those rose colored spectacles:
 Janet? In a towering rage? I don't believe it. Couldn't happen. She's like a teddy bear! 
You really DO NOT want to know what rage looks like here. The few who have survived it are generally unable to offer survival tips.

S.D.King bravely offered up this excellent point:
Writers treat agents like a cross between the stern headmaster and George Clooney. (Can I speak up? Will I get yelled at? Will he/she think I am stupid and cut off all communication?)

The author HIRES the agent in theory, but really the agent picks the author.

The agent is paid by the author and like all businesses, should seek to please the customer (I wonder if agents sit around thinking that a misplaced email will cause all communication to be shut off.)

When asked about my progress in finding representation, I tell people I am in the process of hiring an agent. NOT that I am wringing my hands, waiting to be picked last for dodge ball, wondering if I will ever find an agent so good they have the right to ignore me.

Janet, hope this doesn't sound like a slap to agents, since authors enable this as much as some agents allow it. I hope to someday hire an agent with whom I can have at least as respectful a relationship as I have with my plumber (a great guy whom I also hire to do work for me).

Other than the word "hire" I agree with this. Writers do not hire agents; agents are not employees.  Writers are not customers. This is not a retail, open to the public, business.  I don't spend any time at all thinking "how can I make a writer's experience here better?" Zero. I spend a LOT of time thinking "how can I do my job better."  
The difference is that we are risk takers together. Your risk is that I can sell your book; my risk is that your book is able to be sold. There's probably a more elegant way to describe this. (One weakness of the Week in Review is there is not a lot of time for revision.) 

I should have just kept reading the comment column instead of replying because brianrschwarz said it perfectly here:
S.D.King-

I see what you're saying and I think there's some valid points in there... but I do think a differentiation needs to be made between the local plumber and the agent.

Although most of my knowledge of plumbing stems from Super Mario Brothers, I do know when I call my plumber, I have a list of 500 possible plumbers who would all be happy to take me on as a client as long as I pay them money. This is not the same for an agent. To ignore this fact is to not really take in the whole picture.

Yes, basic economics would deem that the agent is paid for the service they provide, but this is not a service that is open to the public (and for that matter, what an agent actually 'provides' is not an equal service among all agents. Some are better than others.). This is a service revolving around a partnership between two parties, a partnership predicated on a mutual interest where you are the product (and you're not the only product out there).

It's similar to a producer in a record studio. Sure, I'm the artist. I pay the producer and he adds his artistic touch to make my CD better... but if I fight him on every change, I'm going to end up with a garbage CD (assuming the producer is good) and I just paid a lot of money for a guy to hit the red record button.

It's an important distinction and it changes the relationship a lot. If my plumber only offered to service my toilet after I signed an agreement to only use him for his services, and via this contract I could also earn money for referring my wonderful plumber to other people, I'd certainly not view that relationship as simply as 'money in, money out'... especially if my referrals (books) were earning me a fair amount of cash.

Partnerships are not necessary for successful businesses, but they are also not viewed as customer and company.


Susan Bonifant has a good question:

Honestly, not only would it be humane to dash off a quick "I'm sorry (excuse here)" email, I can't think of a more understanding recipient than a writer who has been trying to deal with no response at all.
The problem is that once I send an email like that, the recipient replies, and will say something like "ok, when WILL it be done" and the answer is "hell if I know right now" and that's not really something you can say.  And the other horrible possibility is someone asks "well what the hell ARE you doing if you're not getting this done" and you can't say "well, you weren't important enough to be in the top three To Do things this week" even if it's true, especially if it's true. Yes, clients know they are not the one and only, but an agent does well to remember that no one likes to feel like they are the least important person on the roster. Ever.


Dena Pawling had a good question too:
I think one thing that's not mentioned by this questioner, is whether or not there's a HARD deadline somewhere in the future. For example, if the publisher wants the completed manuscript by June 1, and the agent is then late on getting her notes to the author, does that reduce the author's time to complete the revisions before the publisher's deadline? Or is there no looming deadline? The answer to that question I think is relevant.

Generally if an author is turning in a manuscript on an editorial deadline, it's at the top of the priority list. I turn those manuscripts around overnight as often as I can. I NEVER keep them longer than a day or two unless there's some horrible problem. I can't even think of a horrible problem that would mean keeping a manuscript more than a day  right now.

The missed deadlines I've got are on projects in the developmental stage, or on getting things out on submission. Once publication is in the picture, those deadlines are a lot firmer.  Now, EDITORS missing deadlines, or getting notes back to authors late, that's something I know a lot about too. This is why you have an agent who knows when books have to be in production, and when covers have to be shown at sales meetings, and nudges the editor if the client hasn't gotten what s/he needs to make those things happen. Scratch any agent, you'll get a deadline story about editors.

And apparently there will be a Synopsis Summer Camp on Carkoon. I can't wait to see who the faculty will be.

And then, the entire conversation just went straight for the cookie and tea aisle of the market and never quite found it's way back to the topic.  And don't think I didn't notice your vegemite there AJ Blythe! We know all about vegemite here.


On Wednesday we talked about the utility of one sheets at conferences. I might have gotten a little hot under the collar because of the bad information that gets handed around to writers.

Mostly the discussion was about nerves.

Then Leone gave us this lovely story:
I've been to PitchFest (and CraftFest) twice. I agree with bjmuntain that the experience is valuable in sharpening skills and I did get requests from agents - though I realized later that I needed to work on the manuscript more. So it could be helpful for.

But the most amazing thing I saw there was author Jon Land, who spent THREE HOURS of his time meeting with a long, long line of authors who wanted advice on how to pitch. He made the offer during CraftFest and promised to stay until everyone interested had a chance to run their pitch by him. And everyone did.

Not only is Jon a successful author with plenty of other things to do, but he was in the middle of negotiating a publishing contract and several times had to interrupt the session to take a call. Yet he still stayed until everyone had pitched.

Why do I share this? Because writers are a community and the most valuable reason to go to a conference is to be part of that community. The rest is nice, but that is pure gold.

That is also why I love this blog, because it's such a vibrant part of that community. Amanda, as you can see from these posts, everyone here is pulling for you and/or praying for you and that is what it's all about.

On Thursday we talked about using pitch sessions at conference to get help, rather than to actually pitch.  There were a lot of good comments (especially CarolynnWith2Ns who really is good when she gets her rant on.)
Julie Weathers comment made me twitch:
At Surrey, Diana (Gabaldon) saw me in the vendor's hall. I was talking to a mutual friend who had a table. She waved at me and came over to visit. We'd only been talking a few minutes, she was mostly asking about my youngest son Will who was in Iraq at the time.

I wasn't going to bother Diana, because I was sure she got hounded to death, but was happy she came over to visit. Then lo and behold someone came over and did his best, nonchalant pose author. "So tell me, Diana, what do you think of the current state of publishing?"

Julie got up and left. I'd rather she sicced Mrs Chicken on him. That kind of intrusion with a faux question, which only shows what a social nincompoop the questioner is, makes me nutso.  It brings out my VERY worst instincts and had it been me, I would have likely replied "The state of publishing? Is that near North Dakota?"
Interrupting an existing conversation is a huge no no. Not just in publishing, but anytime. Unless your hair is on fire and one of the conversationalist has the only fire extinguisher in the room tucked in her purse.  The fact that Diana and Julie were pleasant about it kinda makes me nuts too. In being pleasant and non-confrontational, all we do is encourage that kind of disrespectful disruptive behavior.  If I were a better person I might say "I'll be glad to discuss the state of publishing with you after I've finished talking to my friend Julie here." And never finish talking to Julie.

I know there's no one reading this blog who would do something like that, but you're going to see it happen at conferences, mark my words.

And it turns out that Christina Seine keeps "an stash of emergency chocolate" which I think we all need to keep in mind when we meet her in person.

And just to keep you all on your toes, CarolynnWith2Ns commented:
needed a break from editing so I'm watching Janet's favorite movie.
"You're gonna' need a bigger boat."
Love it.


But my favorite movie is NOT Jaws. I do love it of course, and the theme music precedes me into any room, much like Ruffles and Flourishes is played for Mr. President, but my favorite movie is something else. Any guesses?

And Christine Seine said
Hey, I was thinking ... all of us furry woodland minions who are going the NYC conference should get together and hang out and share scary JR stories at the bar.
which NYC conference are you all going to? Cause I'm thinking we should have a party.



And Friday and Saturday was the contest, and I was a little surprised how much I missed the comments those two days!  It was…lonely!

On Saturday night I finished Catriona McPherson's new book THE CHILD GARDEN. It pubs in September. Buy it. It knocked my shark sox rightoff.


It's FINALLY getting warmer here in NYC. Some rain, but honestly if I can walk home without freezing to death, I'll take it. Although after a winter of hiding inside, walking all the way home appears to be something I'm going to have to work back into. Oof!

See you next week!





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20. Writing contest results, The Long Ride Home

To celebrate the publication of THE LONG RIDE HOME by Kari Dell, we had a writing contest. Herewith the results:


Special recognition for lovely lovely images

S.D.King 10:16am


A phrase I am determined to find many future uses for
“Go ride the baloney pony!” 
Kregger 10:17am

Special recogniton for excellent use of prompt words

dell/bordello Kitty 10:23am

ride/iridescent brianrschwarz 12:02pm

dell/yodelling Amy Schaefer 4:48pm

home/psychometry Steve Forti 5:42pm

long/Longfellow's Phyllis E 5:13pm



Grease is the word!

Colin Smith 10:36am



Not quite a story, but holy moly

CarolynWith2Ns 11:17am
Christine Seine 11:55am



It's says NOTHING good about me that I laughed like crazy reading this one 

Amanda Capper 11:17am
Lance 11:23am



And of course, Carkoon now appears in these stories!

Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli 1:14pm



Special recognition for a story that would have been perfect if the last line got chopped.

Donnaeve 1:27pm

Dellwood Acres top child psychiatrist, Dr. Grate, glared at the young boy, “You ride him, you don’t converse with him. Keep that up and it’ll be a long time before you go home.”

The horse in the stall tossed its head.

Dr. Grate persisted, “Say it. Horses don’t talk.”

The boy, as usual, refused to speak directly to the doctor.

A voice came from the stall, “Of course, of course!”

Dr. Grate spun around, “Who said that?”

The boy, his face brightening, whispered, “See?”

Outside the barn, Doctor Grate’s assistant high-fived himself. His secret Mr. Ed routine worked every time.

And here are the nine finalists:


(1) Julie Weathers 11:34am

"I'll bring him home, little mama," I said. Then Dell and I rode off to war. She lost the baby while we were dealing death at Chicamauga. He was determined to go home to her, but I convinced him to stay. He'd be alive today if I'd let him. When he fell, she wrote and made me promise to bring him home. Like a fool, I did. Now I'm making that long ride home with his horse trailing behind that lead coffin. She'll have a husband to mourn, but be damned if I know whose he is.







(2) Geoff LaPard 4:40pm


Cruz stood back. The remodelling had worked perfectly. It had taken a long time, each brick, each joist requiring care. He allowed himself a small glow of pride.

He spent a few hours installing the furniture - the table his mother left him when she left; the horsehair sofa from his grandmother when his father disappeared; the bed in which his beloved Natalie had died.

He waited for Maisie to appear, as usual skipping - their secret, her daily cookie.

When he bolted the steel doors, designed to muffle her scream he whispered to the cold metal. ‘Quiet. You’re home now.’



(3) Amy Schaefer 4:48pm

Darla jolted awake like she had been unhorsed. She shuffled to the window and scowled. Damn neighbors and their strident yodelling. Waking an old woman in the dead of night.

Those hooligans needed a good scare, and no mistake. She fumbled her box of shotgun shells; they scattered with a sound like hail.

The door flew open. “Mama,” said Cliff. “I know the singalongs get rowdy, but this is summer camp. You can’t shoot buckshot at homesick nine-year-olds.”

She played contrite as he tucked the covers around her chin.

Then, alone in the dark, Darla grabbed the shell he’d missed.





(4) Lisa Bodenheim 6:42pm

The car tires hummed a strident refrain, ‘She’s seeing someone else, she’s seeing someone else.’ How ironic, now that gay marriage was legal. It felt like a knife to the heart.



In the backseat, the kids were zonked out after a frenetic day at the Wisconsin Dells Kalahari Waterpark. I focused on the freeway, steeling my nerves as I drove home.



That night, alone with her in the kitchen, my heart pattered like a mad hatter. “Sheila, let’s quit this horse—”



She knelt on her knees, tears of longing in her eyes, and a small box on her palm.





(5) Timothy Lowe 7:43pm

The bride threw up in her hands.

"It was a horse pill," the bride's mother whispered to an aunt.

"I can marry whomever I choose," she spat, wiping puke from her lips.

Not true. They'd found her yodelling in an alley the night before, drunk as a skunk. The pill had sobered her but made her sick.

"You belong with me," the groom said. He was a ratty little man in a monkey suit. He was also the only one who knew her sister's whereabouts.

"Shall we begin?" said the priest.

The bride swallowed her bile. She took his hand.



(6) Calorie Bombshell 8:26pm


Bride-to-be Ursula Langston Cordially Requests Your Presence.

Hand-delivered on linen paper. Name rings a bell but I can’t place her. Former co-worker? Googled address. Beverly Hills. “No gifts, please.” Classy.

I’m here. Gorgeous home. Which one’s Ursula? Face is familiar. Mannequin smile. But from where?
Headlong dash to buffet table. Mortadella and provolone pinwheels. Mouth stings of horseradish. Deathly allergic. Spit it out. Throat swelling. Mouths move as I stumble.

Remember now? Tenth grade. Ursula’s sister, Becca. Suicide. You tormented her. All of us.

I’ll tell them sorry. Beg their forgiveness. If I can just make it. to. the. door.



(7) Nadine 11:59pm


“He’s been gone a long time.” She held her handkerchief. “I think he’s met someone else. I heard he was seen in the woods with a girl.”
“Don’t think about that. You’re better off without him.”
She stood up. “Maybe he needs a ride back. I should go get him.”
“I wouldn’t bother if I were you.”
“Why?”
“He’s not coming home. He doesn’t love you.”
She glared at me. “Screw you and the horse you rode in on.”
“That’s just the thing,” I said. “He did. I was the girl in the dell.”



(8) A Velez 6:44am

She scrambles into the mill loft. The horse should be clear by now, she thinks. The children safe.

The loft is crammed with grain. No weapon. No escape. She shoves the barrels and they fall longwise like dominoes – flour explodes into air, denser than fog.

“It’s simple Della,” he emerges in the iridescence. “Sign over the homestead, you live.”

“No. I won’t.” And neither will you.

He raises the gun. A white apparition with a red, lying mouth.

He is already a ghost.

Flint to frizzen. A single spark. The glutted air ignites.

The explosion rages across the prairie.



(9) Pharosian 9:58am


"Howdy, ma'am," he said in perfect hayseed. He had that whole farmer-in-the-dell look going on, what with the overalls and straw hat.

"Let me show you where to bring the dining suite," I said, ushering him into my home.

He glanced around, presumably gauging dimensions. "Huh," he said, wiping his horsey face with a bandanna. "Never seen a chaise longue in a dining room before." He pronounced it "shayze lounge."

"It's 'shez long,' I said. I take pride in educating others.

"Smart lady." He nodded toward the wall. "So you know that Ver Meer is a fake?"

I stared.





I had to read all of these several times to make a final choice. I really loved what you all did with these prompt words.

The winner this week is Congratulations Calorie Bombshell.  A funny, yet twisted story with enough ambiguity at the end to really grab us!

Calorie Bombshell you'll email your mailing address to me, I'll send you a copy of The Long Ride Home by Kari Dell. If by some chance you have it already, let me know and we'll figure out something else.

Thanks to all of you who entered. As usual, I loved reading your work. Some of you are very very scary! (Just the way I like it!)




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21. Errors are What Create Perfection

None of us is perfect. We hear this all the time and of course it's true. I make mistakes on a regular basis. Some of them are small, like adding orange juice instead of milk to my coffee. Some of them very public, like writing a blog post that was rightly misinterpreted. Some of them are simple to fix like turning my shirt right side out, some of them not so simple like applying the wrong paint to my walls.

In the end though, imperfections are what make the world perfect. If we were all perfect life would be boring and we would be boring and, frankly, I don't think anyone expects us to be perfect, anyone but us of course.

The same goes for your book and your submission. Every submission I've ever read and every book I've ever read has errors. There are typos, printers errors, grammar mistakes or even the occasional page that was put in upside down. It happens. Shit happens. Let it go.

When you're submitting your work, or once your work has gone through all the various editing rounds at a publisher, it's time to let it go. You've gone through it with a fine-tooth comb. Your beta readers, critique group, editors and agents have all gone through it. And you know what? There are still going to be mistakes. It's only the rare reader who will call those mistakes out. You know, the one who thinks she's perfect. Don't worry about her.

Embrace your faults and move on to write a better book. Because, shit happens.

--jhf


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22. Conference etiquette: Agents in the wild

When you meet an unagented writer socially (i.e., not because they've scheduled time with you at a conference), do you expect them to talk about their novel? (1) Are you waiting for them to initiate that conversation? (2)  If they keep the conversation casual, are they missing an opportunity to talk about their work to you? (3) In other words, how do YOU like writers to approach you? (4)  Not that you're a benchmark for all agents, but you're the only agent in the room talking at the moment. 


(1) NO.
(2) NO
(3) NO
(4) With whisky and chocolate. Preferably with glasses, and napkins, and enough for the both of us.


I will be at several upcoming conferences*** in the next few months so this is a very timely question.

I fully understand that many people are absolutely tongue tied when meeting an agent in an unexpected spot. If we're alone in the elevator and I'm not just knackered to the point of incoherence, I generally will try to ask a general question like "are you having a good conference?" or "I see you're from Carkoon. Has anyone seen Colin there lately?"

Notice neither of those are about your book. And generally they're things you can answer pretty easily.

If you get off the elevator and kick yourself for "missing your chance" stop kicking. There's no way you can pitch your book in that moment and have me ever want to read it, or want to interact with you further, cause pitching in that moment means you're tone deaf. And by tone deaf, I mean oblivious to the situation you're in and just hell bent on getting what YOU want.  That's NOT a quality I look for in a client. Tenacity and focus are important; knowing how to be around people is equally important.

If you meet an agent in the elevator, you can use those exact same questions to initiate conversation: "Are you having a good conference?"  "I see you're from New York; has the weather warmed up yet?"

General small talk conversational gambits.

THEN, if you want to use that moment to your advantage, you WRITE me a query that says "I met you briefly in the elevator at the Summer Synopsis Camp on Carkoon and we talked about the weather in NYC."

That helps me remember you and reminds me that you are clued in about how to talk to people, and when NOT to push your book.

If someone comes up to me in a social situation and says "Can I pitch you my book" I've always wanted to say "Sure go ahead" and let them ramble on. When they finally stop, I want to say "no, that doesn't seem very well written" so they will huff and puff and say "but you haven't even read it!" to which I can reply "exactly. I need to see the writing. Send me a damn written query."

I've never been able to bring myself to do that in all these years, but man oh man I want to.

What I generally say is "I'd prefer you didn't, but please feel free to send a written query." At least half the time, people start pitching anyway.

I've made other people wear my name tag at parties to avoid this kind of thing. I've hidden behind friends to avoid this kind of thing.

I hate this kind of thing.

I mean seriously hate hate hate it.  The reason is I KNOW I am curt and dismissive and brutal in real life. (Please don't everyone pile on here to deny it; trust me, I'm self-aware)  I simply can NOT reply in the kindlier way I can on paper.  I try very hard to avoid being put in these situations, but when it's unavoidable the only person who hates this more than you is ME.

My slithery colleague Barbara Poelle is masterful at in person pitching moments like this. She's forthright without being brutal, and often very helpful. It's the only reason I stand next to her at parties (well, that and she knows the shortest route to the bar.) But even Barbara HATES this kind of in person pitching. (You'd never know it to talk to her, but she does.)
 

On the other hand, if at some point during a conference I do ask about your novel, you know to Be Ready, right?




***
ThrillerFest/CraftFest
Midwest Writers Conference in Muncie Indiana
Writers Digest Pitch Slam
Bouchercon
CrimeBake


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23. Query Question: what constitutes self-publishing?

 At this point in my life, I have no job and little income, and am falling behind on utility bills and mortgage. In order to keep my house and electricity, I'm thinking of using MS Word to print out a booklet of my lit-mag-published short stories and selling that to shore up my finances for a few months until I turn 62, and can start drawing Social Security. I don't intend to do a national marketing campaign or anything -- just offer the booklet to several friends and family members for a modest fee. Will the Business consider that self-published? Will it come back to bite me when I show my novel to an agent?


Yes, that's self-published. Anything you print up and offer to sell on the open market is considered published. Generally to sell on Amazon, you'll need an ISBN and having an ISBN means the book is published.

It probably won't hurt you, given that it's a collection of short stories, not a novel.

The real problem here is that you're undertaking something that requires real investment to do well, and it sounds like you're not planning on investing at all. 

A quick MS Word document will look brutally ugly unless you really know what you're doing in terms of book production. Making a book look professional, or even attractive generally requires knowledge of book design, or hiring a book designer.

And I'm absolutely certain you've not run the numbers here if you think you're going to "shore up your finances" by selling books, any books.

If you list your book at $7.99, you retain about 70% of the proceeds or $5.59 for an electronic copy. For print books it's far less.  You'll need to sell at least 100 ebooks to make a little more than $500. You'll need to sell 100 print books at somewhere north of $10 to earn $500.

I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings but most self-published books sell far fewer than 100 copies. The average number of copies for ALL self-pubbed books  appears to be somewhere around 250, although I'm not sure that's still accurate. That means at least half of those published books sell fewer copies.

I say this not to discourage you, but if your house is at stake, you might want to spend your time doing something that has a more reasonable chance of earning income than self-publishing. 

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24. Tax Day

Is there such a thing as Happy Tax Day?

My taxes are done and I'm happy about that. I'm never happy about taxes, but I'm always happy they're done. I know however that a lot of you are scrambling today to finish up those taxes. How do I know? Because I can guarantee we're going to receive a number of panicked and angry phone calls from people who didn't receive a 1099. You know, the tax paperwork we sent out mid-January.

Today is a good day to remind all authors to update your agent with any name change, change of address or other change you might have made with the IRS well before April 15. Even if you haven't heard from your agent in years, if you still have a book that's actively selling, you need to keep her updated with your address. You never know when a royalty check might one in or a contract amendment might show up.

I hope your tax day is fruitful or, at the very least, not painful.

--jhf




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25. Follow up on a blog post about query guidelines entice or reveal

I sent the question about some agents wanting a two paragragh "intriguing" query and some wanting a full on synopsis, and what to do when you don't knwo what they want.  I've encountered many submission guidelines like Wendy Sherman's unfortunately, I didn't write them down and can't remember who the heck they were. 

Here are the guidelines from Wendy Sherman Associates.



DO:
  • Write a gripping query letter
  • Tell us why your project would be a good fit for our agency
  • Tell us why this book has an audience, and why you’re the one to write it (particularly for non-fiction)
  • Include information about your credentials to write this book, publications and prizes, awards, and conferences
  • Compare your book to other titles that are similar
  • Tell us which well-known writer’s work yours resembles
  • Limit your query to one page
  • Include a double-spaced table of contents and overview (non-fiction)
  • Include a double spaced 1st chapter (fiction)
  • Provide us with your email, phone number, and address
  • Tell us what happens in your book. It’s not a book jacket or a movie trailer–don’t tease us, we need to know!
  • Read the books on how to find an agent – there are several. There is much valuable information that will help you throughout this process


Only when I actually read these guidelines did I understand how query guidelines can be disconcerting for the sophisticated querier.

The sophisticated querier is someone who has spent a lot of time and care researching guidelines, publishing terms, looking for what an agent wants.

The vast amounts of information now available to queriers means that more of you are sophisticated, and savvy about the process than ever before.

Look at that list again. There are 12 bullet points.  Tally up how many of them you already knew. My guess is between 10 and 12, right?

Here's where the trouble starts. "Tell us what happens in your book" means something different to you than it does to the casual querier.  I have only to look at my incoming queries to understand that "tell me what your book is about" is NOT a given.

However, if you've spent any time at all in the query trenches, you KNOW to write two enticing paragraphs. When someone says "it's not a book jacket or a movie trailer" you think...oh! I should be writing something that isn't the standard two paragraph enticement.

In fact, this bullet point is asking for EXACTLY what I've been hammering you on over at Query Shark. It's asking for the main character, the choices s/he faces and what's at stake.

If you're reading various agency guidelines, and all the bullet points seem pretty obvious to you, don't over think the one that isn't.  It's probably exactly what you thought it was the first time you saw it. Don't over think. Don't over analyze.


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