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A VERY NICE LITERARY AGENT INDULGES IN POLITE RANTS ABOUT QUERIES, WRITERS, AND THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY.
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26. 2012 San Diego Comic con

STATUS: Love reliable internet access! It's been a little spotty from the floor.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? VERTIGO by U2

Finally getting a chance to upload some pics!

Shot of show floor from above and the Walking Dead booth!



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27. Fridays With Agent Kristin: Episode 8 - Three Reasons Why Prologues Don't Work

STATUS: Agency is going to be closed Monday through Wednesday of next week for the 4th of July holiday. It's a summer mini-break!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? VIVA LAS VEGAS by Jimmy Buffett

When reading requested sample pages, every agent I knows skips a prologue when reading the sample. Today I discuss three reasons why that is so!

Enjoy and have a great holiday next week!


25 Comments on Fridays With Agent Kristin: Episode 8 - Three Reasons Why Prologues Don't Work, last added: 7/3/2012
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28. A Quick Look At Tag lines

STATUS: Come on rain! Don't just be cloudy and not give it up. Pour gosh darn it!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? PUMP IT UP by Elvis Costello

I'm getting ready for tonight's workshop so I'm reviewing all the tag lines submitted by the workshop attendees. I asked all participants to submit one sentence as a baseline. So we can do a before and after during the workshop--which is often fun to see.

In other words, I don't expect everyone to have nailed that tag line. It's often hard to nail your plot catalyst in one sentence--especially if you've never really done it before. Hence the workshop.

But in reading them in prep, I can give my blog readers a bit of insight into what I think these attendees are struggling with. In the workshop, I'm going to clearly explain how to nail a plot catalyst tag line and then how to build your query pitch around that--using three different approaches.

Problem 1: The writer is trying to summarize the novel in the tag line.

Wrong use for it. You just want to nail your plot catalyst. But great, we'll talk about it tonight.

Problem 2: The writer is relying on reader's previous knowledge of a story or fairytale.

Not a bad starting point but it's not going to be quite enough to carry the cornerstone of your pitch. Will work on that tonight.

Problem 3: The writer highlights two necessary elements of the story but alas, in the tag line, they don't have a relation or a cause and effect so mentioning both doesn't quite make sense.

In other words, one doesn't necessitate the other. I'll just need to point that out and I think this writer will get it.

And there's still time to sign up if you want to join us! Just click here. I'll be getting the tag lines soon for any day registers. However, we are going to close the class in an hour or two so if you want to join in, don't delay.

5 Comments on A Quick Look At Tag lines, last added: 6/30/2012
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29. Writing Craft: Mechanics Vs Spark

STATUS: Everything is literally on fire around the city of Denver. From Colorado Springs and Monument to Boulder to Fort Collins. I was so happy to see the rain this afternoon. Sadly it only lasted 20 minutes. We need more rain.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? WINDOWS ARE ROLLED DOWN by Amos Lee

When I'm doing the Agent Reads The Slush Pile workshop, the toughest moment is when the volunteer reads an entry that is completely sound. In the reading, there is no problem that I can point to and say, "here, this is the issue" or "this is not working." On a mechanical level, there is nothing wrong with the opening pages.

The form is acceptable, the grammar is fine, the writing is solid. I can even identify that the writer understands the tenets of craft. By all the "rules" of writing and publishing, I should be glowing about this entry.

But something is missing.

And I have no other word for the "what" that is missing except to say the work is lacking narrative "spark."

In other words, the writing is missing a distinctive voice.

And when that happens, what can you say during the workshop? That I don't love it? Well, that's not accurate either because when something is missing "spark" it's probably not just a Kristin subjective thing. Listeners sense it too. I can tell by watching the workshop audience. When something lacks spark, it loses people's attention. They start to shift in their seats or stretch or focus on something else.  It's not just me that notices the absence.

On the other hand, when a work has that elusive spark, I know it, because the workshop audience becomes completely still and enrapt in the reading. Their attention is glued to the reader so as not to miss the next sentence. It's a palpable change in the atmosphere of the room.

Sadly I can't give an example because none of my authors have this problem. I'd have to grab something from the slush pile and I certainly couldn't post it here without permission.

And speaking of getting read, it all begins with the perfect pitch paragraph in your query letter. Pub Rants University is hosting Goodbye Slush Pile: How To Write The Perfect Query Letter Pitch Paragraph for your Novel tomorrow night, Thursday, June 28 from 6 to 8 pm Mountain time. Given by yours truly.

I can't tell you the number of emails I've received over the years from participants who have attended, revamped their query pitches, and then landed an agent and went on to sell. Dozens and dozens. In fact, one person even came up to me during the Litfest closing party the week before last to thank me.

You won't want to miss it!

5 Comments on Writing Craft: Mechanics Vs Spark, last added: 6/29/2012
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30. Writing Craft: Action Vs Active Openings To Grab Attention

STATUS: 105 degrees today. WTF? It's like walking in an oven…

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? HOSPITALITY by Friends of Friends

Can I see a show of hands of how many of you have been told that you need "to grab an editor or agent's attention" right away at the beginning of your novel?

This is actually true. You do need to grab our attention immediately but when new writers hear this, they confuse an action scene with an active scene.

These two things are wholly separate.

If a beginning writer hears this mantra, they often interpret it to mean that they need to inject some kind of physical active scene to create tension at the beginning of the novel.

This translates into a whole host of odd openings with car chases, prologues, or dream sequences with "action" to start the story despite the fact that these are unnecessary to the story being told and don't feel organic to what will unfold.

Besides, how the heck are you going to include an action scene in a literary novel? That makes zero sense.

So I want to take a moment to explain the difference between an "action" scene versus an "active" scene--which can be equally compelling in terms of grabbing attention.

An action scene is just that--an opening that has a lot of physical action to open the story.

A great example is Janice Hardy's opening for her fantasy THE SHIFTER. But notice, in this opening, she creates tension but the pace is not necessarily fast and furious (a la a car chase solely there to grab attention) and it doesn't need to be. Yet the action is physical and it is creating forward momentum.

Stealing eggs is a lot harder than stealing the whole chicken. With chickens, you just grab a hen, stuff her in a sack and make your escape. But for eggs, you have to stick your hand under a sleeping chicken. Chickens don’t like this. They wake all spooked and start pecking holes in your arm, or your face, if it’s close. And they squawk something terrible.

The trick is to wake the chicken first, then go for the eggs. I’m embarrassed to say how long it took me to figure this out.

“Good morning little hen,” I sang softly. The chicken blinked awake and cocked her head at me. She didn’t get to squawking, just flapped her wings a bit as I lifted her off the nest, and she’d settle down once I tucked her under my arm. I’d overheard that trick from a couple of boys I’d unloaded fish with last week. 

A voice came from beside me. “Don’t move.”

Two words I didn’t want to hear with someone else’s chicken under my arm.

I froze. The chicken didn’t. Her scaly feet flailed toward the eggs that should have been my breakfast. I looked up at a cute night-guard not much older than me, perhaps nineteen. The night was more humid than normal, but a slight breeze blew his sand-pale hair. A soldier’s cut, but a month or two grown out.

Stay calm, stay alert. As Grannyma used to say, if you’re caught with the cake, you might as well offer them a piece. Not sure how that applied to chickens though.

“Join me for breakfast when your shift ends?” I asked. Sunrise was two hours away.

He smiled, but aimed his rapier at my chest anyway. Most times, I enjoyed handsome boys smiling at me in the moonlight, but his was a sad, sorry-only-doing-my-job smile. I’d learned to tell the

24 Comments on Writing Craft: Action Vs Active Openings To Grab Attention, last added: 6/27/2012
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31. Writing Craft: Breaking The Rule: Show Don't Tell

STATUS: What is up with over 100 degree days in Denver in June? We live here because summer tends to be awesome. We could be confused with Phoenix this week.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? NOVEMBER by Ben Williams

A week ago I attended Denver Lighthouse Writer's Litfest where I gave my Agent Reads The Slush Pile workshop to over 50 hearty souls--which convinces me yet again that writers are gluttons for punishment.

As I was giving the workshop, inspiration hit for a couple of blog posts I could do on writing craft that I think my blog readers would understand and find helpful.

So guess what I'm going to do this week if I can find 30 minutes of time to get one posted?

Writers are often given writing "rules" that woe be you if you break them. And for most cases, because beginning writers have not mastered craft yet, these rules hold true. But if a writer knows what he or she is doing, breaking the rule can often create something really unusual that will work and be amazing (but will have a lot of aspiring writers crying foul that so-and-so writer does it and gets away with it.)

For example, how often have you heard that as a writer, you should show and not tell? Too many times to count I imagine.

Do you want to know one NLA writer who breaks this rule all the time at the beginning of her novels? Sherry Thomas. Sherry has won the Rita Award twice in a row now (the romance genre's highest honor) and her debut novel PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS was named one of Publisher's Weekly best books of the year in 2008.

So obviously somebody agrees that she has mastered craft and Sherry always begins her novels with a lot of exposition--usually a big no-no. But for her voice, it just works. Just last month, Sherry released her latest historic romance entitled BEGUILING THE BEAUTY which John Charles said in the Booklist review: "Thomas distills superbly nuanced characters and flawlessly re-created settings worthy of a Merchant and Ivory into a gracefully witty and potently passionate love story that sets a new gold standard for historical romances."

And, if you check out the beginning of her novels, it's all exposition. BEGUILING begins with the following:

It happened one sunlit day in the summer of 1886.

Until then, Christian de Montfort, the young Duke of Lexington, had led a charmed life. 

His passion was the natural world.  As a child, he was never happier than when he could watch hatchling birds peck through their delicate eggshells, or spend hours observing the turtles and the water striders that populated the family trout stream.  He kept caterpillars in terrariums to discover the outcomes of their metamorphoses—brilliant butterflies or humble moths, both thrilling him equally.  Come summer, when he was taken to the seashore, he immersed himself in the tide pools, and understood instinctively that he was witnessing a fierce struggle for survival without losing his sense of wonder at the beauty and intricacy of life. 

After he learned to ride, he disappeared regularly into the countryside surrounding his imposing home.  Algernon House, the Lexington seat, occupied a corner of the Peak District.  Upon the faces of its chert and limestone escarpments, Christian, a groom in tow, hunted for fossils of gastropods and mollusks. 

He did run into opposition from time to time.  His father, for

23 Comments on Writing Craft: Breaking The Rule: Show Don't Tell, last added: 6/28/2012
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32. Got Epic Fantasy?

STATUS: I'm still buried under a ton of emails and whatnot as I try and catch up post BEA and New York. I have high hopes of resuming Fridays With Kristin next week!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? DRIVE ALL NIGHT by Need To Breathe

Because every SF&F editor I talked to said they were open to seeing it. Which made me extra sad when I saw the six-figure deal on Publishers Lunch for an epic fantasy by an author we offered rep to.

Sigh. But can't win them all.

Then on Monday I spotted the "major" deal for a YA fantasy I offered rep to as well. ARRRGGGHHHH!

Paper cut with lemon poured on it!

Hey, at least I know my gut instinct is still working.

But back to fantasy. If you are working on an urban fantasy, you might be out of luck. Every SF&F editor I chatted with while in New York was being inundated by urban fantasy submissions and with some rare exceptions, were not buying them.

In good news, SF&F editors were being leery about looking at science fiction stuff and now that is turning. They mentioned actively looking for it now and since I just put an SF on submission, I'm thrilled with the reception it's getting. 

37 Comments on Got Epic Fantasy?, last added: 6/19/2012
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33. What Editors Have Bought Recently - Women's Fic and Literary

STATUS: It's BEA time! Oh crazy schedule

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? Nothing at the moment.

Obviously I'm not just talking to children's editors while in New York. So here's a little snippet of what editors have been buying in the adult realm:

1) Literary novels with some sort of magical element (i.e The Night Circus)
2) Multi-cultural literary novels by non-American writers
3) Voice-driven literary novels that shed light on the contemporary modern landscape for protagonists in their 20s or 30s.


In women's fiction and romance
1) contemporary stories with small town settings
2) southern contemporary women's fix
3) looking or romantic comedies in romance (haven't heard that desire in a while!)

Off to the Javits Center!

22 Comments on What Editors Have Bought Recently - Women's Fic and Literary, last added: 6/9/2012
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34. What Editors Have Bought Recently - Young Adult and Middle Grade

STATUS: I have often said on this blog, Thank God It's Friday. Today, I really really mean it. What a crazy week. But all good stuff.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? IF YOU DON'T KNOW ME BY NOW by Simply Red

So editors have been seeing a lot of crap but they've also been buying stuff. So instead of answering the question: What is an editor looking for? I thought I'd delve into what they've bought recently.

Here you go!

1) A young adult thriller
2) Gothic retelling of a classic--in this case, The Island of Dr. Moreau
3 young adult straight fantasy (as opposed to a bent one! *grin* In other words, a traditional not contemporary fantasy)
4) a time travel young adult novel
5) realistic contemporary young adult
6) animal character middle grade fantasy

Editors have not seen a lot in middle grade (it's the hardest content to find) but what they have seen included science fiction for the younger reader and Aliens in space or similar that target boy readers.

I'm out. Literally. Like I'm now going to sleep….

21 Comments on What Editors Have Bought Recently - Young Adult and Middle Grade, last added: 6/5/2012
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35. Here's A Genre I Didn't Think Of!

STATUS: From the blog silence, you can imagine how hectic this trip as been. Meetings all day. Catching up on emails in the evening, and you have to fit a little bit of fun in there too!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? CALL ME MAYBE by Carly Rae Jepsen

I've been in New York for the past 3 weeks doing meetings with a lot of different editors at all the different houses. I started off with the editors who acquire young adult and middle grade.

Of course I ask, "What have you been seeing lately?"

Imagine my surprise when no less than three editors (all from different houses) responded with, "crap."

At first, I wasn't quite certain how to reply. That wasn't exactly the answer I was expecting! I opted for, "would you care to define 'crap.'

And they did. They mentioned recently that they've seen a whole slew of submissions that weren't really ready for an editor to see. By the way, these were submissions from agents.

I asked why they thought that was so. I got three main reasons:

1) They were seeing hot genre stuff, such as dystopian, that they felt like the agents were not vetting as thoroughly as they should.

In other words, in any hot genre, the market gets crowded yet those submitting hope that because the genre is hot, it will sell.

2) There were some agents submitting young adult projects that don't traditionally rep it and to be blunt, it's different than repping fiction in the adult realm.

3) A lot of submissions could have benefited from a solid edit and revision before submitting. In other words, they were not in strong shape even if the concept or idea was solid.

Some agents don't edit before submitting. Some do.

So interesting. I'm definitely looking to avoid submitting crap.

*grin*

I think I can do that!

30 Comments on Here's A Genre I Didn't Think Of!, last added: 6/1/2012
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36. Why 50 Shades of Grey Makes Agent Lives Harder

STATUS: The appointment schedule is firming up! Get ready for some posts on what editors will be looking for in 2012.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? THIS IS IT by Kenny Loggins

It's pretty simple. We agents go to conferences and really drive home the fact that writers need to master their craft. Wow us with masterfully written opening pages. Stop butchering the English language.

Then a work comes along and blows that advice out of the water.

Readers have called 50 Shades of Grey any number of things: campy, fun, spirited, hilarious, worth the money, a fast read.

But well written has not been one of them.

So what do we say when a novel inexplicably becomes wildly popular, sells like crazy, and part of the cultural lexicon?

You got me. Maybe I can say this is a one-in-a-million happenstance of all stars aligning.

But I can say it does make our jobs harder. There will be any number of writers who will be convinced they can do same. Gosh I hope my query inbox doesn't become inundated. No matter what 50 Shades is, I would not have been the agent to spot its "genius."

Plain and simple.

67 Comments on Why 50 Shades of Grey Makes Agent Lives Harder, last added: 5/14/2012
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37. Fridays With Agent Kristin: Episode 7 - What is A Plot Catalyst?

STATUS: TGIF! I actually had a great work week. Yes, I  need to read some stuff over the weekend but I'm feeling almost caught up. This means I'm forgetting something huge I'm sure.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? YELLOW by Coldplay

Okay, so I taped this segment a couple of weeks ago. I'm particularly fond of how I start with "good morning."

Oh well, the content is still good.

In honor of the first video webinar I did (which tackled how to craft the query letter pitch paragraph in your novel), I thought I'd give some tips for those who couldn't attend.

When I teach writers how to craft the perfect pitch paragraph for their query letters, it all starts with the plot catalyst.

So what exactly is it? I answer that question in today's vlog. Enjoy!

19 Comments on Fridays With Agent Kristin: Episode 7 - What is A Plot Catalyst?, last added: 5/7/2012
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38. A Sad But Celebratory Day!

STATUS: Mixed day! I feel like I'm still catching up on emails.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? REALIZE by Colbie Caillat

It had to happen eventually. Today Jamie Ford is not on the New York Times bestseller list--ending our phenomenal run of 130 consecutive weeks on the list. That is two and half years without dropping off.

Wow. Just wow.

Maybe I shouldn't be having a blog entry announcing this fact but you know what, Jamie? It's an incredible achievement no matter how I talk about it.

So I raise a glass of champagne to you and your wonderful debut novel: Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter & Sweet.

For us, there has been no bitter.

And I have a feeling that this week isn't the end and that we will be popping back on in the not-so-distant future.

Cheers!

19 Comments on A Sad But Celebratory Day!, last added: 5/6/2012
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39. The Concern Is Perhaps Premature

STATUS: All my Texas blog readers, Kristin Callihan's FIRELIGHT is going to be included in the romance round-up on Good Morning Texas tomorrow, Wed. May 2. Station WFAA-TV channel 8. It's the ABC affiliate in Dallas/Fort Worth. How cool is that. I wish I could tune in.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? DOMINO DANCING by Pet Shop Boys

When I was at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference last week, I had a writer rush up to me in a panic to ask a question. She was incredibly worried that she had not established her social media platform for her novel yet.

If her release date was in 4 weeks, then I would say she had cause to panic.

But given that she hadn't actually finished writing her work-in-progress (let alone begin querying for her agent search), I found her concern a little premature.

*grin*

I advised her that at this point in her professional career, she should focus on writing the best novel she possibly could. Plenty of time to get the social media cranking while it's on submission. I personally don't know any agent who would say no to an author for a project they love just because the publicity platform isn't there yet.

I can build that with an author. I imagine most agents feel the same.

12 Comments on The Concern Is Perhaps Premature, last added: 5/4/2012
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40. Why Don't We Take on Any Old Thing If We Think It Will Sell?

STATUS: Will I or will I not catch this cold? Verdict is still out although I stayed home the last two days hoping that would tilt it in favor of the "will not."

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? AIN'T NO SUNSHINE by Bill Withers

Selling a book is not the same as selling a widget--at least for me (although I do know any number of agents who treat it that way and take on a whole lot of projects, throw them out there on submission, and hope maybe 2 out of 5 will stick).

On Facebook, I mentioned that I had recently seen a sale for a project that I read all the way through but in the end didn't decide to take on and that I was thrilled for the author. One commenter just couldn't fathom why I had passed if I could see the sell potential in the project.

The simple answer? Time. I only have so much time to offer to a new client and I simply have to love love love it to make the time investment.

Often times I work with the author through one or two revisions before submitting to an editor. It's not like I offer rep one day and throw it out there the next. I want it to be the most amazing I can make it be. After all, it's been a tried and true way for me to get really amazing money for my authors.

And what if the project doesn't sell? Then chances are very good I'll be spending a lot of time helping them get the next project into shape. And if I only took on a project because of its sell factor, chances are good I may or may not like the writing of the new project. That feels a bit risky to me.

I like taking on the things I feel passionate about because of the very fact that books aren't widgets. Otherwise it's just about the money and though that is one way to agent, it's not right for me.

19 Comments on Why Don't We Take on Any Old Thing If We Think It Will Sell?, last added: 5/1/2012
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41. Because You've Asked For It….

STATUS: Another Gorgeous day! Repeat yesterday's status.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? LADY IN RED by Chris de Burgh

Or maybe you didn't but are a glutton for punishment anyway. I'm doing my very popular Agent Reads The Slush Pile as an online Webinar coming up on May 2, 2012 6-8 pm MST.

If you can't make it to Denver for the LitFest version of this webinar put on by Lighthouse Writers (where the price is not to be believed but the travel to get there might be rough!), here's your chance to finally experience it for yourself.

Have you ever wondered how an agent reads the fiction submission slush pile? What an agent is thinking during the first opening pages? What makes an agent stop and what makes an agent read on? 

If you have ever wished to be a fly on the wall during that process, this workshop is your chance to get the inside scoop without metamorphosing. 

Literary Agent Kristin Nelson will read the first 2 pages of any submission, the “slush pile”, and give honest feedback as to why she would or would not read on for the sample pages in front of her.

 A couple of things before you click on that button:

1) This webinar is not for the faint of heart. It's brutal. Now trust me, I will be as helpful and honest as possible. This is not to ridicule writers.  But don't kid yourself, it will be tough. If you are feeling fragile or that feedback might crush your writer dream, now is not the time for this workshop. If you are tough as nails, just about to submit, want an immediate honest response, then this might be worth doing.

2) It needs to be the actual, opening first 2 pages of your manuscript. If you have a prologue, skip it and grab page 1 and 2 from your chapter one.

3) We can't promise to read every single entry but we are definitely going to try. If I only have a few left over, I'll respond on the sample pages and we can send to those writers privately. Right now, I know we can get through them all.

4) You can "audit" the class. Sign up to be there and listen in but you don't send on the 2 pages. This is for those who are curious about it but not ready to have sample pages read.

If you've ever wondered how an agent could make a decision so fast on whether to read on or not or to ask for pages, this webinar will definitely answer that question!

23 Comments on Because You've Asked For It…., last added: 4/28/2012
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42. The Criterion For Evaluating An Agent

STATUS: Gorgeous day! Must. Leave. Early. Chutney seconds that.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? TAKE MY BREATHE AWAY by Berlin

This week, Blogger decided to completely reformat their dashboard. I honestly cannot find anything or tweak the colors. Took me five minutes to find my previous postings so I could do my after-posting editing for Friday's entry. LOL. I should never blog in a hurry but sometimes, I have to do it on the fly or it's just not going to happen.

I want to expand a little on Friday's post. I think the most important criterion to evaluate before querying an agent is that agent's record of sales. Agents should be agenting and therefore selling stuff on a fairly regular basis. And they should be selling stuff that is in the genre of the work you are pursuing representation for.

If an agent is fairly new but at an established house, they should still have a track record of sales since they are using the agency's reputation when approaching editors. Their stuff will get looked at and since they usually read in front of an established agent and have "training" so to speak; they have honed their eye and will know what will sell.

How can you find out what agents have sold and recent deals? Well, Publishers Marketplace is an excellent resource. Keep in mind, however, that not all agents list their sales there. So that's not the end all be all. I've actually not been announcing a lot of stuff lately for a variety of reasons.

Still, a lot of agents will have pages on Publishers Marketplace or dedicated websites which will show covers of recent releases etc.

If an agent has been "agenting" for awhile (such as 3 years or more) but doesn't have a lot of sales and to the major publishers, well, I'd take that as negative indicator of their agenting ability.

Also, just in general, agenting is a full-time job. I'd also be hesitant about agents who have been established for a long time but are doing a variety of other jobs on top of agenting.

8 Comments on The Criterion For Evaluating An Agent, last added: 4/26/2012
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43. How Do You Know If An Agent Is A Good Agent?

STATUS: Today I crushed many a sensitive soul during my crafting your query pitch workshop. Just kidding. They all said it was great and learned a lot. I'll take them at their word.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? LET'S GET IT ON by Marvin Gaye

This evening, a writer sat down next to me and asked if I new XYZ agent and what I thought of her. I actually didn't recognize the agent's name and so I couldn't help her by sharing an opinion. Certainly I know a lot of agents in the biz but it's simply not possible to know ALL the agents practicing out there--especially a lot of the newer agents who are just starting out.

She then wanted to know how she could tell whether an agent is a good agent.

This is definitely a question that has been tackled on Absolute Write and Backspace.org and any search could probably bring up hundreds of forum posts regarding it.

For me, it's simple. What is an agent's track record of sales? If solid, then it's probably just going to be a matter of whether you also connect with the agent as a person. By the way, whether an agent with a good track record is a good fit for you as an author is actually a whole different question than whether an agent is a good agent. One agent might be fantastic for one kind of client and disaster for another client who has different needs.

If the agent is new, how new? Are they with an established agency or agent with a good history of sales so the newbie has a mentor for questions? If an agency is brand new, did the agent work for an established firm before going out solo (so even though the sales record might be small at the moment, it's understood that the agent comes with a solid background in the field).

Trust your common sense and what your gut tells you. Make sure you're not wearing blinders when it comes to your publishing dream. The idea that any agent is better than no agent is most often not true. 

15 Comments on How Do You Know If An Agent Is A Good Agent?, last added: 4/23/2012
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44. I'd Say 100% Solid Grey For Me

STATUS: Just finished our first Pub Rants Video Webinar. I had a blast. We definitely need to tweak some things for next one though. If you were there, thank you for being our first guinea pigs!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? SHOW ME THE MEANING OF BEING LONELY by Backstreet Boys

While on the train to Venice (and boy do I like saying a statement like that--makes me sound so cosmopolitan) Simone Elkeles's friend Nanci had a copy of 50 Shades of Grey.

You'd have to be living under a rock not to have heard about this title. But just in case you have been, here is a link to get you up to speed. It's been in all the publishing news as of late. It's an erotica novel that started life as Twilight fan fiction and then went viral a couple of weeks ago. So there was a big publishing deal and then the movie rights sold just this week.

If something is getting that much attention, it's probably worth an hour of my time to give it a look so I asked Nanci if I could borrow her copy. I read several chapters and I have to admit, I'm not getting it. To be honest, if it had come in via our slush pile, I would have passed on it without requesting a full. I didn't connect with the characters or find myself enmeshed in the writing. Now granted, this genre is not my bailiwick so that's going to be a factor.

Still, it's obviously tapping into some cultural zeitgeist and on that point, I'm curious. It obviously works for a lot of other people so I'd like to know why.

So blog readers, if you read and liked it, share with me because I'm genuinely curious to know.

28 Comments on I'd Say 100% Solid Grey For Me, last added: 4/2/2012
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45. Slightly Less Opaque Grey For Me

STATUS: Popped in on a Saturday to finish up a few things. This afternoon Chutney and I are heading into the mountains for a nice long hike.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? THE MORE I SEE YOU by Michael Buble

Kudos to blog reader and commenter Elizabeth who manned up and explained the appeal of 50 Shades of Grey. Just in case you didn't catch her comment in that section, I'm including Elizabeth's post in its entirety.

I'll man up. I read the hell out of it. All three installments in two and a half days. 800,000 words. BOOM. Just like that. I think I gave it four stars on Goodreads or something.



And here's why: 

I couldn't put it down.



True, it's technically a mess. It's randomly punctuated. The dialogue is all over the place. The characters are bipolar. The sex is vanilla. Typos abound (at one point Christian stared at Ana like "a bacon in the night" which made a weird sort of sense, actually). Ana has this really weird habit of doing figure skating jumps off gymnastics apparatuses. And it started out as fanfic, which I get the impression I'm supposed to be all up in arms about. But holy cow. Do you know the last time I read that many words in such a short period of time? Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.



Here's what I think people don't understand: Good hardly ever factors into popular or entertaining. People aren't going to youtube, for example, to watch someone do something meaningful or profound. They're going to watch some guy stick a lit firecracker up his bum. I would rather see Sharktopus than The English Patient. That's just how I roll.



So there's something to be said for things that are a little bit campy. I'm a little bit campy. So are my friends. When I got to the point in the book where I realized it was going to be one THOSE stories (I didn't see a lot of Twilight in 50 Shades, but it totally read like "crack-fic" fan-fiction), the first thing I did was go on Facebook and tell two of my friends, "Hey, you have to read this." Because it was absolutely the kind of book they would love. And they did love it. 



Nine copies sold between the three of us. We all felt like we got our money's worth. Not because it was good, remember, but because it spoke that little spot in our hearts that loves those kinds of stories. The fact that it was kind of poorly written just made it that much better.



And I can't explain why that is. I don't know why this book, with its myriad of flaws, the least of which being its word count, held me captive in a way that other, arguably "better" books didn't.


I loved that she was willing to simply be honest and put her reaction to the book out there. For me, I'm thinking this book is kind of like trends that happen in other mediums. There's no easy or clear explanation. It just happens and something becomes wildly popular. For example, the phenom of Ugg Boots (which are not particularly attractive) or croc shoes for that matter. The youtube phenom for Randall's narration of National Geographic footage: The Crazy Nastyass Honey Badger.

There's a spark. It taps into some zeitgeist. There's no explaining it and quite frankly, I don't think we have to. It is what it is.

For me, I'm not sure I would recognize it under all the flaws. I couldn't get past the writing and a lot of groan worthy dialogue. But in the end, who cares what I think. The public has spoken and in the end, that's the opinion that matters.

20 Comments on Slightly Less Opaque Grey For Me, last added: 4/3/2012
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46. Can't Resist Facebook Any Longer

STATUS: I was wondering when the "too good to be true" weather would end and we'd get the smack down. It snowed today. Spring in Colorado.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? WISHING YOU WERE HERE by Chicago

Honestly, I'm just not clever enough for Facebook. Or that's how I feel most of the times. I've been on FB for several years just for family and friends. I like it well enough but post sporadically. However, I love reading everybody else's posts.

But lately, I've been having little tidbits of things that I would love to share but the blog doesn't feel like the right spot to do it. We've had an NLA page but I didn't really pop on it it often enough. I decided it has to be unique to me to give it care an attention. So here we go.

It's only been up a day or so and I already have 10 likes! I felt a little thrill. 10 likes!

See that's the power of Facebook. It makes you delighted over such a small thing….

I've posted some action pics during the webinar. Can you believe an attendee grabbed some screenshots and sent them to me? So fun. I loved that she did that.

12 Comments on Can't Resist Facebook Any Longer, last added: 4/5/2012
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47. Creating An Editorial Road Map

STATUS: I'll be out of the office all next week for the RT Convention in Chicago. Wait, wasn't I just out of town?

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? PYRO by Kings of Leon

More and more as of late, I find myself creating what I call an editorial road map for any novel.

Now, when I edit a client manuscript, I use track changes to make comments as I read along. That's pretty standard

But lately, after I finish the entire read, I then go back through the novel to construct the road map. In this process, I literally skim through the work, chapter by chapter, and I create an outline of all the major plot points by chapter for the novel.

I find that the process of formulating the outline allows me to create a framework for writing up my editorial letter.

Via the outline, I can clearly point out what works, what doesn't work, where it should build tension or escalate the stakes, what could be deleted to tightened or even if the story has gone off the rails completely.

It's definitely more work on my part but I think it a valuable exercise. In fact, my "road map" critiques are becoming a bit legendary with my clients. *grin* They love it (or maybe they are too afraid to say otherwise!)

And to be blunt, from a lot of the sample pages and full manuscripts I've read within the last 6 months, I think many writers could benefit from doing a critique road map of their own. It really does force you to ignore character, dialogue, description and boil the story down to its plot skeleton core.

A lot can be revealed about pacing and story arc.

Hum…. I'm sensing there may be a workshop idea here.

22 Comments on Creating An Editorial Road Map, last added: 4/9/2012
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48. Panster And The Editorial Road Map

STATUS: A lovely lovely spring day. I'll work for a bit and then simply enjoy the day.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? WHY by Annie Lennox

As a writer, are you a panster or an outliner?

I ask because your answer determines when you'd assemble the road map of your novel.

If you are a panster, don't attempt the road map until you have finished a full draft and at least one revision.

Why? Because if you do it too early, the process of outlining can suck the creative spark or essence of storytelling right out of your project.

I've seen it happen with several of my clients who are not intrinsic outliners. It is simply not how their creative process works and the process of doing so dampens the story voice.

But eventually, once the story is down on paper (or should I say computer screen) then I highly recommend the road map. It reveals, very clearly, the bones of the story.

More importantly, it also reveals what is structurally weak in the plot.

26 Comments on Panster And The Editorial Road Map, last added: 4/11/2012
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49. Why Asking ABout The Next Trend Is The Wrong Way To Go

STATUS: I feel like I'm being pulled in 10 different directions. I'm here at the RT Convention. On Tuesday, I offered rep to a potential new client. Wednesday I did an hour phone conference with a film producer for another client. Yesterday, I reviewed 5 different offers for a UK auction going down. Today let's talk about romance. It's almost time for Pitch-a-Palooza!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? IF IT'S LOVE by Train

But writers can't help themselves. They still ask this question anyway.

At best, this question is unhelpful. If you start writing for the "next hot trend" by the time you finish your project, that particularly trend is on the way out.

Not to mention, if you ask me the question, "What are you looking for?" I can ramble on about something I'd love to see (such as a completely charming, witty, and fun historical romance a la Julia Quinn) but what I offered rep for just this week would never have landed on my "This is what I'm looking for" list.

I'm constantly taken by surprise by what I fall in love with.

After being here at RT, certainly I can tell you that editors are weary of paranormal romance. That everyone is talking about erotica because of 50 Shades (by the way, I don't rep erotica so please don't query me for that.)

That "hook-y" women's fiction novels (i.e. hooks like a knitting club or cupcake club) are still on editors' wish lists (which by the way, are topics that don't ring my bell much).

I can tell you that a lot of the romance editors also rep YA and they might be moved to violence if just one more YA paranormal romance lands in their submission inbox.

I can tell you all these things and then I can also tell you that the minute the "right" project lands in that same inbox--even if it contains any of the above--but it blows them away, they'll offer for it.

So I can't tell you what I'm looking for as an agent. I can only say that I'm going to know it when I see it and this: I haven't taken on a romance author in over the year. I'm opening my universe up to that possibility as I'd love to read an awesome romance right now.

I've been in my "dark" phase for the last 7 months by taking on dark and gritty SF.

15 Comments on Why Asking ABout The Next Trend Is The Wrong Way To Go, last added: 4/16/2012
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50. What Kristin Requested From Pitch-A-Palooza

STATUS: Started out the week with 354 emails in the inbox after being out for RT. Only 203 to go. Progress!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? TUFF ENUF by Fabulous Thunderbirds

Does it say anything about trends? Probably not but just in case you are curious, here are the types of projects I requested.

2 paranormal adult romances
1 contemporary adult romance
3 women's fiction projects
1 SF romance (haven't seen one of these in a while--kind of excited!)
1 SF (but not a romance)
2 contemporary YA
2 paranormal romance YA (I have to be honest, this genre is getting to be a tough sell to editors who have seen nothing but this for the last two years.)

And my sincere apologies to anyone that I had to turned down during the Palooza. When it's a speed dating format like that, I do have to say no to projects that don't grab me immediately to reduce the amount of material we receive and have to review. We requested 12 projects but I had over 25 pitches that day. That's a lot in 90 minutes.

7 Comments on What Kristin Requested From Pitch-A-Palooza, last added: 4/20/2012
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