IF CATFISH HAD NINE LIVES is most recent. BUSHEL FULL OF MURDER pubs in June.
So Kim tagged me in a post on Facebook. Apparently I'm supposed to share 7 things you don't know about me. Since I don't make it to Facebook as often as I would like I thought I'd share my things here, even though I find it hard to believe that there's anything left for longtime readers to learn.
Yesterday's post sparked a few new questions and you know how much I love it when blog post take on a life of its own.
I have a question. When you begin the editing process are your notes and revision-suggestions based on a first read?
I'm thinking that if you have not read the entire book at least once you may make note of, or question something, which happens later on.
Copy edits pretty much jump right off the page but the other stuff, like plot holes filled, questions answered, twists and surprises may be further down the line because that's what the writer is intends, even though as a reader you may feel a little lost as the story builds.
Great post. I love learning how you guys actually do your job.
Just as writers often discuss the process they have when writing, agents and editors often discuss the processes they have when editing. I think part of this discussion is the hope that we'll come up with an easier way, but in the end we're all using the process that works best for us.
1) I’d like to start attending more conferences again. I backed off on them quite a bit while my kids were young, but now I’m ready to dive back in. I’m specifically interested in attending conferences with romance, mystery and YA writers, and speaking at RWA chapter meetings. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are looking for faculty for an upcoming conference.
2) I’m hungry for some emotional women’s fiction with a strong romantic element. Something along the lines of JoJo Moyes. I love her books because they’re unputdownable, but also very affecting.
3) Similarly, I’d like to see more intense, emotional YA and NA. I’ve been seeing a lot of great NA lately with electric romantic chemistry (that doesn’t necessarily mean super explicit, but I’m okay with steamy). Chemistry isn’t always the easiest thing to convey on the page, so when it’s done right, I can’t stop reading! I especially like angsty characters.
4) Historical Romance. It breaks my heart that historicals are a tougher sell these days, but they’re still my first love. I’m not giving up on them. It’s the first thing I want to pick up when I’m reading for pleasure. When I have some screen time, I’m usually rewatching “Outlander”, “The Tudors”, or any one of the BBC Jane Austen productions. And I’ve watched every “Jane Eyre” production at least 3 times. I continue to look for strong new voices in historical romance. I’m particularly interested in Regencies, Victorians and Scottish. I just know that more readers will come back to them.
5) I’d like to grow my social media platform. I’ve been very inconsistent on Twitter and Facebook. My presence is sporadic. I’m really going to work on contributing more regularly. That said, I want my tweets/statuses to be meaningful and relevant. I’m too busy working with my clients to tweet my every move. What kind of agent tweets would you like to see more of?
I was emailing with a former intern recently and she was asking for some advice on finding a job in publishing. It's a conversation we have almost every year with our interns, at least with the ones who are smart and ambitious.
The one tip I gave her about the search for a publishing job is that the trick is knowing what genre the editor/agent specializes in. For example, if you're interviewing for a job with a romance editor that editor/agent is going to want an assistant who has a love for romance, or at least reads it. The applicant who says the last books she read were for school or only YA is probably not the right person for that job.
On my first job interview, 400 years ago, I was about 9 months out of college and had spent my summer reading everything I could buy off the drugstore rack. It was the summer of The Bridges of Madison County, John Grisham, and Michael Crichton and I was devouring them all. When I interviewed for my job, the editor seemed noticeably impressed when I told her what I had been reading (I was applying at Berkley after all) and we had a long discussion about Bridges of Madison County. I got the job.
So for anyone looking to find a job in publishing read what you read and apply for every job you can, but remember that when talking with the editor knowing your stuff as it relates to her stuff will take you far.
A Blurb might be painful and I think every author would prefer she could skip the blurb and just get the agent, editor and reader to read her writing. But that blurb is the only way you're going to get people to read your writing. It's not just agents who need the blurb. It's editors, and it's readers.
In a recent email a writer asked for advice on finding a publishing lawyer. She and a friend have been in the process of writing a project that's under contract with a small publisher. Her concern is that the project is, in her words, "far from a normal co-authorship" and they've never had a formal contract between them.
First let me clarify that there is no such thing as a normal co-authorship. In fact, I'm always willing to tell you that there are few things in publishing, or life for that matter, that are "normal". How an arrangement is made between co-authors is many and varied. I've seen all sorts of things, and I've seen no actual real arrangement. It's the latter that scares me.
If you ever make the decision to enter into a co-authorship with anyone (friend, critique partner, lover, spouse, child...) my first bit of advice, before anything else is written, is that you write up some sort of contract. If you have an agent it's something your agent can help you with. If you don't, feel free to get a lawyer, or write up something yourself, but something you can both agree to. The agreement should include, among other things, how to handle due dates, the split of ownership of the property as well as money, what happens if one person wants to quit writing and what happens if one of the partners dies.
Writing a book together is a business arrangement from the start. When Jacky Sach and I first made the decision to start BookEnds we immediately met with business advisors and other agents for their advice. And we made a business plan and a partnership agreement. We wanted to know, should anything horrible happen, that we could not only protect ourselves, but protect our friendship. I think it worked. Fifteen years later and a dissolved partnership and we're still friends. Having things in writing from the beginning made it easier to know how things would end, without hurt feelings.
The tricky piece of this writer's email is that they probably have some of these terms defined. If they have a contract with the publisher the contract is in either one name or in both which would mean either one author owns the material and the rights (as defined by that publishing contract) or everything is split 50/50.
I hope this duo is able to firm up an agreement quickly. I hope that anyone else starting such an arrangement does the same immediately.
Occasionally I'll reject a query with a little extra advice to the writer. Recently I was really vacillating
I wish my writing could speak for itself rather than trying to pitch it like a used car salesman, but I guess that's how it's done.
I was talking to an author recently who was complaining that she could never get anything done at home (in regards to her writing). She was telling me how if she goes to the library she can get a ton done in a very short time, but if she tries to write at home she's constantly pestered and bothered by someone needing something. Unfortunately, she can't necessarily commit to going to the library daily.
So being the kind and sympathetic person I am I told her that was her own fault.
Somewhere along the way she never set boundaries with those around her and with herself. She never made them see her writing as a job and a priority. In truth, she never treated it as a job and priority herself.
If you really want to get serious about your writing, to make it your job, then you need to treat every aspect of it that way. If you are lucky enough to find a place in your home that can serve as an office then make it that way. It means when you are in your office, the door is closed and you are at work. Unless there's blood and a 911 call involved no one can bother you. Not should bother you, they are not allowed to bother you.
When you first establish this rule it's going to be tough. It's likely your kids will bother you because they can't get the top off the milk or your husband will need help remembering his Facebook password or the dog will need to go out. Again. If you help them, they'll keep coming. If you adamantly state that you're working and they will have to wait until you're done they will eventually get the picture. Better yet, don't respond. You are in your office, you can't hear them. You've stated the guidelines so ignoring is probably the best response. It will take some adjusting for everyone, but once those boundaries are set you will be able to get writing done.
One of the things I also mentioned to this author is for this to really work she also needs to respect the boundaries of her family and others around her. In other words, if she has established "office hours" than she needs to respect the time that are "unoffice hours". In other words, that means if you're ignoring everyone while you're in the office, then you need to pay attention to them when you're not. It means you can't decide that today you're going to work at the dining room table, with everyone running around, and get annoyed when they are asking for a glass of water or the wireless login information. You need to need to take that time to be present. It will make it a heck of a lot easier when you ask them to leave you alone.
Recently the Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime asked me to participate in an interview for their newsletter. The question they asked me, and a few other agents was:
Is there, in your opinion and the publishing world in general, a substantive difference between cozy, traditional, and amateur sleuth mysteries? If so, what are the defining features of each of these categories?
Just as your readers have not found this to be an easy question to answer neither do I. One of the reasons, for me, is that I tend not to try to lump all cozies together in a neat little box. I do think there can easily be a simplicity and formula to a cozy, but I find that the most successful cozy authors, as with the most successful authors in any genre, tend to push those boundaries a little bit.
I think cozy mysteries can best be defined by the word used to describe them. They are cozy and everything that word conjures in your mind. Think of warm tea, comfy chairs, cuddly pets, a soft newly knitted blanket and warm, freshly baked pastries. That’s a cozy. When you read one you feel like you’re being embraced by a world you want to be in. You’ve found new friends and maybe a protagonist who inspires you or who could easily be your best friend. A cozy is almost always (there’s always an exception to any rule) an amateur sleuth, but an amateur sleuth isn’t always cozy.For example, Jane Steward, the protagonist in Ellery Adam’s Book Retreat Mystery Murder in the Mystery Suite is just one perfect example of a cozy sleuth. She’s the manager of a storybook resort where readers can spend days in the comfort of books (see how cozy this is). Jane is not typically the kind of person to get into trouble, but she does love a good mystery and when one shows up at her door she’s just nosy enough to need to investigate. The book itself doesn’t move too fast, there tends not to be a lot of blood, usually no more than one body, and no matter how much trouble the sleuth gets in to, the reader never has reason to really be afraid or even feel the need to sit on the edge of her seat.Julia Kalas, the unconventional heroine of Minerva Koenig’s NINE DAYS, is an amateur sleuth, but as she’s described by Booklist as a “five-foot Sherman tank of criminal intentions,” we can see she’s definitely not cozy. She’s a rough and tough construction worker/career criminal who is short, fat, pushing forty, and stoically dealing with being forced into the witness protection program after her husband’s murder by gang members. Her new life in a small Texas town bores her (while it would probably comfort a cozy sleuth) but when someone she’s come to care about is accused of a murder, Julia decides to find the real killer (the hallmark of any good amateur sleuth). Traditional mysteries probably have the broadest definition. They can be amateur sleuths or official investigators, they can be a little darker or light and funny. What they aren’t is suspense or cozy. They tend to fall somewhere in between. Typically an amateur sleuth who is not cozy will fall into the area of traditional mystery. Most publishers would just identify this type of book as just mystery. The Minerva Koenig example I gave would fall into that area. So would DE Johnson’s The Detroit Electric Scheme, a book (series really) that features an amateur sleuth, but has more action and twists and turns than your cozy and, of course, the subject matter itself is not at all cozy. In a traditional mystery you’ll also see a faster pace and maybe a little more blood and guts, but nothing that would compare to what a suspense might offer.
I had to wade through a lot of pictures and eliminate the ones of cats and food, but I found four from Italy where I would love to settle with a good book for, oh, a couple of years. (Actually my first choice was the Trinity College Library in Dublin, but I don't have any personal pictures of that.)
I do a lot of revisions with my authors. Not necessarily a lot with every author, but before sending out a proposal or submission of any kind I want to make sure it's the strongest it can be and that will often mean revisions.
This has been a question under endless debate for the last few years. There are many who stridently stand on one side or another and a few who balance that line. I tend to be among those who balance the line. I think choosing self-publishing versus choosing to work with a publisher is a very personal decision, sort of like choosing to run a restaurant owned by someone versus owning your own restaurant. There are pros and cons to both and the decision you make has to be one that's based on what you're looking for and what your strengths are.
Author Claire Cook wrote a very informative post for the Bookbub Blog. Now I think it's worth pointing out that since this post was for Bookbub it's not surprising that it leans toward pro self-publishing. That being said, what I liked about it is that it's an author who is effectively looking at both sides rather than touting how one is so much greater than the other.
The beauty of publishing in today's world is there are so many different options. No matter what you decide to choose you need to know that choosing what's best for you is the right decision, no matter what anyone else says. It's also important to know that if you choose one route now it doesn't mean that you can't change course. As evidenced by the history of BookEnds, I'm a big believer in exploration and a change of course. It's probably why my GPS broke. Way too much "recalculating".
I'm usually incredibly well organized, at least that's what I tell myself. But even the organized lose things now and then.
Well not long ago (okay it was probably last Fall or earlier) I read this mystery I really liked. I even called and talked with the author about it. At least I called in my head, maybe I only emailed. Anyway, I asked the author to keep me in mind for revisions or any other books. That damn book has been haunting me. I want to read it again. To reconsider. I want to see it again.
I can't find it. I've checked my "Authors to Track" file. I've checked my deleted files. I've searched and searched and I can't find it anywhere. I'm sad.
That's today's Rejector's Remorse.
I've said before that writing the query letter, or at least the blurb for the query, should be the first step you take when writing the book. The hardest part of writing the query is that sometimes you don't really have enough of a hook, or enough of a book, to write about. So if you start with your query, often you'll define your book before you start writing it (which will save you a TON of time).
I absolutely LOVED this article from The Guardian about how ebooks can tell us how much of the book readers are actually reading.
It's a fascinating look at how some of today's bestsellers are actually not being finished. Frankly, this information doesn't surprise me at all. I haven't read many of the books mentioned in the article, but I am notorious for putting a book down when I just don't love it any longer. Life is short and if I have time to curl up and read a book it better be a good book and not just any book. By the way, good book is entirely subjective.
As an agent I would love information on how books are being read and when they're being put down. It's great sales research. As an author advocate I'm not so sure it's great for an author's sales if this kind of information becomes widely known. After all, would you buy the next big bestseller that everyone is talking about if you found out that everyone only read the first 25%?
Either way, it's definitely cool information.
My favorite spot is the old recliner in my office where I write. Rufus beside me, a soft chair under my butt and books all around. It just doesn’t get any better.
--Kate DouglasDark Refuge—Book 4 Spirit Wild or coming in May, Hot Alphas anthology with TangledAdd a Comment
At the beginning of every year, and usually another time mid-year, I spend some time going through all of the things I pay for (cable, internet, lawn service, accountant, etc) to make sure that I'm really getting what I pay for. In some cases it's a matter of looking at what I have and changing to less expensive alternatives (dropping some of the cable channels I pay for, but have never heard of), in other cases it's a matter of looking at how I use the item and seeing if I should be doing more with it (asking the accountant to review my books bimonthly instead of quarterly).
The same should go for your relationship with your agent. Now, I'm definitely not advocating for dumping your agent (do you think I'm insane!), but I am suggesting that since you pay your agent you take a look at how much you're actually utilizing her.
I have some clients who are terrific at using me when they need me. We brainstorm ideas for new books, titles, editorial suggestions. We discuss and help resolve emotional breakdowns, deadlines and editorial conflicts. They keep me posted and updated on marketing and career plans in general so that I can help guide, direct, or even keep them in mind when something new pops up.
There are other clients however who seem very fearful of bothering me. Usually it's because things are going along smoothly, they have a great relationship with their editor and they are great at managing it all on their own. And that's great. Until it's not. The client who is used to doing it all herself will often also put out all fires herself but, let's face it, even the best firefighter can't do the job on her own.
An agent gets paid a 15% commission and that job should entail more than just selling the book and negotiating a contract. It should be about building a career and all that goes with it. If, for example, your cover stinks but no one bothers to show your agent until it's final she can't go to the publisher and insist on changes. If the cover stinks and the book doesn't sell. Well, it's hard to build a career if your books don't sell. That's just one example, but I think you can see where I'm going.
Your agent is your business partner and if you're running a business with a partner hopefully you aren't making all of the decisions on your own. Use your business partner as much as possible. They say two heads are better than one.
Once an author gets published there is so much she needs to learn and do. Besides trying to understand the publishing process and what can be expected from the publisher, she needs to suddenly become a publicist and marketer, in addition to being an author.
This is really more of a personal rant than a business post, but it's my blog so, hey, why not.
What happened to thank you notes? Is it just me or are they getting more and more rare, almost nonexistent?
I tend to really like the written or snail mailed thank you. Sometimes I take the effort to hand write a note, other times I use an app service like Postagram to mail a postcard thank you with a photo and personal message. It's rare that I'll write an email or social media thank you, but that does happen as well. Now I'm not saying I'm perfect. Sure there are times I've forgotten or neglected to send a thank you, but I think I get it done more often than not.
I don't expect anyone to be as nuts about thank you notes as me, but there are certain times I do, in no uncertain terms, expect a thank you. Recently I sent gifts for the following occasions and received no acknowledgment; a wedding, a baby shower, and birthday parties in which the gifts were shuttled to another room and opened after the guests left. In all of those cases I took the time and spent the money to choose a gift I thought the recipient would like. Don't I deserve a thank you?
Anyway, I think it's common courtesy to send a thank you of some sort, even if it's a message in my Facebook inbox, and I'm a little annoyed by those who don't make the effort, mostly in the case of the events I listed above. But maybe I'm just an old fuddy-duddy.
As you can see by the photo, I've got to find a new favorite reading place pretty quick. Another blizzard coming today so it's a great time to read. Maybe the cat's chair will do.