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Results 1 - 25 of 15,160
1. 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.

0 Comments on Query Question: I can't use social media, am I doomed? as of 4/18/2015 9:05:00 AM
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2. 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


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3. 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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4. 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.


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5. 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.

  • 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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6. 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.


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7. 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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8. 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?

Midwest Writers Conference in Muncie Indiana
Writers Digest Pitch Slam

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9. 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.


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10. 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.”
“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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11. 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:

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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12. Lorrie Thomson's Cozy Reading Corner (or her husband's)

During the summer, my husband, Bill, loves to read while floating in our pool, but I’ve always been too worried. What if a precious page gets wet? Worse, what if the entire book slips from my hands? I think I’ve found a solution!

Nearing the end of What’s Left Behind, Abby Stone journeys through swamplands and darkness to Seawall Beach, a pristine stretch of Maine coast with glowing white sands and raging surf, and a virtual hill she’s yet to summit. There, she dares to finally let loose and face her greatest fear.

Nothing’s cozier than reading that scene while relaxing on Maine’s Seawall Beach in July. (Pictured: author’s husband, Bill.)

--Lorrie Thomson
Learn more about Lorrie on her Website. Connect with Lorrie on Facebook and Twitter.

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13. Writing contest! The Long Ride Home!

To celebrate the publication of Kari Lynn Dell's debut novel THE LONG RIDE HOME we are holding a writing contest!

I love this book with all my heart. And I've loved Kari's writing since I met her, way back in 2002 I think. Or maybe 2003. Anyway, forever ago in agent years!

Lucky winner (or winners!) will receive a copy of THE LONG RIDE HOME as a prize. I read this book in draft form some time back, and then the finished version just this week. I had to prop my eyes open with toothpicks the next morning because I could NOT put the book down and go to snoozerville at a proper hour.

The usual rules apply:

1. Write a story using 100 words or fewer.

2. Use these words in the story:


3. You must use the whole word, but that whole word can be part of a larger word.
Long/longer is ok. Long/lounge is not.

4. Post the entry in the comment column of THIS blog post.

5. One entry per person. If you need a mulligan (a do-over) erase your entry and post again. It helps to work out your entry first and then post.

5. International entries are allowed, but prizes may vary for international addresses.

6. Titles count as part of the word count (you don't need a title)

7. Under no circumstances should you tweet anything about your particular entry to me. Example: "Hope you like my entry about Felix Buttonweezer!" This is grounds for disqualification.

Contest opens: Saturday 4/11/15 at 10am

Contest closes: Sunday 4/12/15 at 10am

Questions? Tweet to me @Janet_Reid

Ready? SET?

NOT YET! Comments will open when contest opens.

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14. Reading Edits without Making it Personal

Looking back on my younger self I would say one of my most cringe-worthy character flaws was my struggle inability to admit I was wrong. I'd like to think this isn't uncommon in the young, that part of growing up is learning that its okay to be wrong, but I also suspect I had a pretty bad case of "the rights."

I find sometimes that the biggest struggle authors (some not all) have with revisions isn't that they necessarily disagree with the editor, but that revisions somehow make them feel like they were wrong or somehow failed.

There's never an easy answer to how to handle feelings or insecurities. Let's face it, when you're feeling anxious someone telling you to not worry makes you want to beat her, it doesn't make you calmer.

My best advice in a situation like this is always to try to step back and evaluate what you're feeling and why you're resistant to something. It's also to remember what I'm telling you. Revisions are never, ever, ever about you. No editor, or agent, reads revisions and thinks of the author. What they think about is the book, the characters and the market.

When editing I'm usually so wrapped up in the book and what can be done to take it from shiny to glowing that I rarely think of the author's feelings (still a character flaw of mine). I just want to make this the absolute best book I've ever read and it is my job to help you make that happen. Key word, "help."


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15. Conference etiquette: asking for help rather than pitching

I'll be at the Writers Digest in New York at the end of July and I'm going to the pitch slam. Can I just bring a query for you to look at, even though it's YA and not what you represent? I'd like to say hi and get something out of it. And I have to pretend I'm doing something bc I'm helping a friend of mine. (She told me bc I paid for it I'm participating.) I just want to be there for moral support.

If you can find me at the Pitch Slam you'll have traveled back in time about five years.  I'm doing a presentation at the Writers Digest conference here on 7/31/15, but I'm not taking pitches.  Remember, I'm not a fan of pitches at all.

However, to the larger question of asking an agent for help at a pitch session, go right ahead. You do want to be careful though about what you take to heart.  Advice from an agent who's not in the YA trenches on a daily basis can be questionable.

I'll never forget listening to a panel of YA tourists talk about the category in ways that were just plain wrong....and while they were authors, the lesson applies to agents as well.

I critique a lot of pitches for things I don't represent on QueryShark, but it's mostly about form and clarity, rather than "can I include dinosaurs in YA?"

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16. Your Dream Agent

In almost every interview I do I'm asked what my dream client is like. I'm sure I've answered this different throughout the years, but ultimately I think my dream client is someone who knows that writing can be a hobby, but publishing is a business and is willing to take on the challenge of being a business partner with me.

Oh, and there are a lot of other things to:

1. A good communicator, someone who is willing to tell me about her concerns before they become major problems.

2. Someone who is open to revisions, edits and guidance, but not necessarily willing to just do something because someone suggests it.

And while I think it's interesting to read about an agent's dream client, I think what's far more important is what is your dream agent? Before heading out to search for agents and meet with agents I think authors need to have their own list.

Do you want someone who is good at hand holding in those times when you might need your hand held?

Do you need someone who is willing to work with you and do edits?

Are you looking for someone who might also be a friend?

Do you see your agent as a business partner or a worker?

There are a ton of agents out there and there is definitely someone for you, but I think knowing what you're looking for in an agent is helpful when the time comes and you actually have a choice.

So I'm curious. What are you looking for?


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17. Conference question: taking a one-sheet to pitch sessions

I've signed up for my first ThrillerFest and Thursday, July 9, 2015, is Pitchfest. I thought I'd get an early start on hyperventilating.

Mr.Shane Gericke, in his very helpful FAQ about Pitchfest, answers the following question;

Q. Last year, some authors brought one-page summaries of their books, which they could hand to the agents. Do you still recommend doing that?

A. It’s a good idea. My suggested template is at the bottom of this FAQ. It’s essentially a one-page form that lists your name, contact information, story synopsis, and author bio. Some agents want them, some don’t. I recommend you print up a dozen and bring them along, in case any of your agents want one.

So, to get this absolutely straight, I should include a short story synopsis. Not a query, which is what I expect an agent would want, but a synopsis, which means I should include how my novel ends? (1) And what is a "full pitch package" when it's out, anyway?(2) I couldn't find this term anywhere in your archives.

The one page form Mr. Gericke shows as an example is very helpful, but the actual synopsis part is kind of vague. I've attached the example below, in case any of your subjects will also be attending Pitchfest. In fact, if anyone else is going I'd love to know.(3) I'm probably going on my own (what the hell would my husband do while I'm CraftFesting? He's up for it; he's a musician so he figures there must be some bars near the hotel with live music but then I'd worry about him getting blathered before the cocktail party even started), so I'm a tad concerned about, well, New York. Though I do hear the natives tolerate Canadians rather well.(4)

Anyway, right off topic, sorry, but I am going to ThrillerFest come hell or high water so any other tips besides Mr. Gericke's about what to include in this one-page summary would be most appreciated,

This is my suggested template for the story summary you can hand the agents. Keep it to one page, maximum—this isn’t your full pitch package, it’s simply a reminder of who you are when they get back to the office. I used my own information to give you an idea of the length and tone for which you should strive, but feel free to write it any way you wish. If you include a photo of yourself—and you should, because it’s another way to tweak the agent’s memory —make sure it’s high-res, clear and crisp. A muddy, unfocused photo reflects badly on you.(5)

Author: Shane Gericke
Book: Torn Apart

Synopsis: Tragedy strikes Emily Thompson, Martin Benedetti, Hercules Branch, Annie Bates and Ken Cross, the five Naperville, Illinois, police officers who’ve worked together since the beginning of Emily’s career . . . and one will die. A serial killer nicknamed “Hacksaw” sends Emily gift packages of human body parts while a dragnet tightens around drug traffickers, child kidnappers and spree killers in Illinois and Wisconsin. And whatever else you need to fill out your short, concise summary, which should only go a paragraph or two at the most, because, again, you’re writing this is a reminder-tweak to the agent, not as a full-blown pitch package. (6)

Bio: Shane Gericke has been held at knifepoint, hit by lightning, and shaken the cold sweaty hand of Liberace. He was born to write thriller novels! His latest is Torn Apart, a finalist for the Thriller Award for Best Novel, and a bestseller in print and Kindle. Before turning to fiction, he spent 25 years as a newspaper editor and reporter, most prominently at the Chicago Sun-Times. An original member of International Thriller Writers, he was chairman of the ThrillerFest literary festival in New York and founding director of its agent-author matching program, PitchFest.

Check him out at http://www.shanegericke.com, and on Facebook and Twitter.
Contact information:
Mailing address:
Home phone:

This is what happens when people with good intentions but NO experience (I know Shane and like him; he's a terrific guy and his books scare the crepe outta me) tell you what agents want.

Let's look at the six biggest questions here:

(1)  So, to get this absolutely straight, I should include a short story synopsis. Not a query, which is what I expect an agent would want, but a synopsis, which means I should include how my novel ends?

No you should not. For starters, a synopsis of any utility is more than 250 words.  You're going to have space for far fewer words than that on a one-sheet.

If anything you'd include only the gist of your query: Character A faces a choice of Z or Q. If s/he chooses Z, this terrible thing will happen, but if s/he chooses Q, something else will happen that he doesn't much like either.  And just to keep it interesting, include what's at stake if s/he doesn't choose either Z or Q.

That's what I want to know if the VERY BRIEF TIME you have with an agent at a pitch session.  I think it's terrific if you have it written down. Saves you trying to memorize it.

(2) And what is a "full pitch package" when it's out, anyway?
I have NO idea. It sounds terrifying. EVERY SINGLE agent I know wants a query letter. And some pages. And maybe a synopsis. That's it.  I've never heard this called a "full pitch package" but maybe I'm just new here.

(3) in case any of your subjects will also be attending Pitchfest. In fact, if anyone else is going I'd love to know.
Well, I'm going to be there. Not taking pitches of course since I don't do that any more, but reading queries and offering advice on revising queries to make them more effective.  Details to come, but I'm really pleased that ThrillerFest and CraftFest are offering this to attendees this year.  I hope it will be a raging success.

(4) He figures there must be some bars near the hotel with live music but then I'd worry about him getting blathered before the cocktail party even started), so I'm a tad concerned about, well, New York. Though I do hear the natives tolerate Canadians rather well.
Bring him along. He can hang with us in the bar. We like Canadians a lot. They're not really foreigners more like bemused observers of American crazy. 

(5) If you include a photo of yourself—and you should, because it’s another way to tweak the agent’s memory make sure it’s high-res, clear and crisp. A muddy, unfocused photo reflects badly on you. 

DO NOT DO THIS. I don't even have photos of my clients in my office files let alone queriers (author photos are ALL electronic now). If you give me one of these, I will discard it.  Do not waste money doing this.  No one cares what you look like; I only care about what you write.  I will remember your plot and writing just fine.  PLEASE DO NOT DO THIS.   

(6) Synopsis: Tragedy strikes Emily Thompson, Martin Benedetti, Hercules Branch, Annie Bates and Ken Cross, the five Naperville, Illinois, police officers who’ve worked together since the beginning of Emily’s career . . . and one will die. A serial killer nicknamed “Hacksaw” sends Emily gift packages of human body parts while a dragnet tightens around drug traffickers, child kidnappers and spree killers in Illinois and Wisconsin. 

And whatever else you need to fill out your short, concise summary, which should only go a paragraph or two at the most, because, again, you’re writing this is a reminder-tweak to the agent, not as a full-blown pitch package. 

This isn't a synopsis. This isn't even a pitch. It might be flap copy, but it's not an effective query.  

To sum up: 

CraftFest schedules writers in five minute blocks of time.  There are a couple things I'd want to know if I were taking pitches:

1. A quick summary of how the story gets started: who is the main character, what choices does s/he face and what's at stake.  100 words.

2.  Whether the novel is finished.  I have zero interest in unfinished novels.  I've had writers ask me to just listen to a concept but that's almost entirely useless. Concepts don't make good books. Good stories make good books. In other words: THE WRITING.

3. The word count of the finished novel.

If you have those three things written on a piece of paper, along with your contact info, and a short bio, you're good.

Do NOT over think this.
Do NOT try to be clever.

Do NOT try to stand out from the crowd by doing something no one else is doing. All those people you see with cute and clever and innovative one sheets? NOT what I'm looking for. I'm looking for people who have figured out that simple is better than fancy; the information I ask for is not just mindless ramblings; and, the writing is what matters.

Generally I'm going to discard anything you give me. I don't keep paper files on prospective clients. EVERYTHING is electronic.  

You'll be just fine if you send me a query after T/fest that says "we met during CraftFest and you asked me to send a query."  I don't need to remember you specifically. I just need to see what you've written.  There's time enough to get to know each other in the bar, OR when we decide to talk about whether I'm the right agent for you.

Any questions?


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18. The Rise and Fall of a Partnership

In my post about Co-Authoring Agreements I had briefly mentioned that when starting BookEnds, Jacky Sach and I had a business plan and a Partnership Agreement. One reader asked the following question:

If it's not too personal/painful I think it would be fascinating to read a blogpost about how Bookends was founded and eventually your original partnership dissolved. I think that's a behind-the-scenes story I've never heard an agent tell before. 

It's not too personal or painful at all and I have written about it in various stages before. In fact, I thought I did an entire blog post when Jacky left, but upon searching maybe I didn't.

Jacky and I met and became friends while working at Berkley Publishing and stayed friends after I left Berkley to pursue a new opportunity at Macmillan, working on The Complete Idiot's Guide series.

At first I loved the freedom I had at Macmillan to come up with new book ideas, search out the perfect authors and execute the project. After awhile however, the job started to feel repetitious and there were a lot of changes happening at Macmillan (sales to other companies, etc) that made me think I wanted something different. For whatever reason, on a subway ride back home, I came up with the idea that I wanted to start my own business, that I could do exactly what I was doing for Macmillan, but on my own. I asked Jacky to join me and she was intrigued. So the two of us jumped in, probably rather impulsively.

BookEnds was officially formed in 1999 (just a few months after that subway ride). We sought business advice from other agents and from various free business advice groups. Originally we started as packagers. Our idea was to create the projects in house and find authors to write the books. We enjoyed what we were doing, but struggled to really find our place or establish our vision. Ultimately, I think that while we knew what we wanted to do, we chose a path we weren't entirely comfortable with. So after a couple of years, and lots of soul-searching, we switched our business model from packaging to a literary agency. And for 10 years we did some truly amazing things together.

Jacky and I worked extremely well together. We were the perfect yin and yang. I'm not saying we never disagreed, because we definitely disagreed and we got mad at each other and we, sort of, argued, but at the base of everything we had built we were friends and it was really important for us to maintain that friendship.

In 2009 Jacky started to pursue some other interests. She went back to school and made the decision that it was time for her to leave BookEnds and do something different. It was sad, but I knew it was the right thing for her and, in some ways, the right thing for me. I had some ideas about growing BookEnds that didn't necessarily align with her vision so it was time for me to stand alone, or with a different team.

After agreeing to and signing all the final paperwork that goes with buying out a business partner, Jacky and I went our separate ways, in business, but not in life. We still remain very good friends, talk regularly, meet for lunch and keep each other updated on our lives.

I couldn't have started BookEnds without Jacky and I wouldn't have wanted to. I think we taught each other a lot about taking risks, slowing down, thinking things through, facing our fears and following our dreams.


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19. What?

While I am off praying for world peace, and awaiting the Resurrection, I hope all my very treasured blog readers will use these few days to post a link to their blog or website so you can all get to know each other.

The links are in the comments section of Thursday's blog post here.

Have a very happy start to April, and the new spring season!

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20. A Mid-Afternoon Boost

Do you get that afternoon slump? Around 3:00 my energy just wanes. Sometimes I'm hungry, sometimes I'm thirsty, but mostly I'm just tired.

I'm always looking for ways to get out of that slump and recently I've come across Bulletproof Coffee. Have you tried this? I haven't yet, but you can be sure I'm going to.

Bulletproof Coffee (courtesy of the Pioneer Woman)

  • 12 ounces, hot, strong coffee (I make mine in the aeropress)
  • 1 Tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 Tablespoon cold, unsalted butter 

Now here's the part that makes it extra delicious and something I've never heard before. Add all the ingredients to a blender and mix it up until it's rich and creamy.

What do you do for your slump (if you get one)? 


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21. When?

While I am off praying for world peace, and awaiting the Resurrection, I hope all my very treasured blog readers will use these few days to post a link to their blog or website so you can all get to know each other.

The links are in the comments section of Thursday's blog post here.

Have a very happy start to April, and the new spring season!

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22. Where?

While I am off praying for world peace, and awaiting the Resurrection, I hope all my very treasured blog readers will use these few days to post a link to their blog or website so you can all get to know each other.

The links are in the comments section of Thursday's blog post here.

Have a very happy start to April, and the new spring season!

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23. Non-romance tangled sheets

What is your take on including sex scenes in non-Romance genres for adult category?

Most suggest: if it moves the story along and is inherent to the plot, include it.  Some say 50 Shades has opened the door to graphic sex in all genres. The genre I’m striving for is Suspense, not erotic Suspense.

In my current WIP, it is important that the two main characters are sexually involved but not being a Romance I’m not sure how to do this. Implied?  On the page? Half and half?

Writing sex scenes doesn’t bother me but reading them usually does, especially when graphic, I skip over. I find graphic sex boring. This woodland creature also fears a listing in the Bad Sex Scenes archives. Mine may be awful.  And I want to sell my m/s to the widest audience possible.

I’ve noticed agents are looking for steamy pages. What about in the Suspense genre? I’ve thought of writing two versions and querying different agents.

Is there a trend in the industry concerning sex on the page outside the Romance genre?

I'm with you. I skip over the graphic sex parts of novels. I'm not really interested in the five thousand ways one can describe Tab A into Slot B, repeat as needed.

And rather than worry about what agents think, this is the time when you MUST write to please yourself (harumph, get your mind out of the sheets there!)

If you don't want to read it, don't write it.

I'm absolutely not aware of the general taste in the reading public shifting to more steamy. Yes, 50 Shades of Grey did very well, but it doesn't mean there's going to be an outcry for  Jack Reacher going graphic when he next arrives in Portland to have lunch with Samantha Kincaid.

And more generally, don't pay any attention to "what's hot" (so to speak.)  Write the novel you want to write. If everyone is telling you dinosaur porn  is the next big thing, don't just leap to make all your werewolves over into dinosaurs.

Write YOUR novel.  That's hard enough without trying to factor in what someone else is sure is the Next Big Thing. 

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24. Query Critiques by the Query Queen

I debated doing this. It's a lot of work and I wasn't sure I really wanted to jump into the critique pool. But I'm running out of things to talk about and I have received requests.

So here goes. I'm offering to critique query letters. I will do so on this blog so if you're submitting be prepared for some brutal critique. I will be honest and I will be brutally honest and I can not promise how other readers will respond (although usually they are kind).

Here are the guidelines:

1. Address query to the Query Queen (not to be confused with the Shark)

2. Send only those queries you would send to agents when actually querying editors. 
No rough drafts allowed. 

3. Review the query guidelines on our website so you know exactly what your query should contain. 

4. The email subject should say, "Query Critique"

5. Include this phrase at the top of your letter, "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."

6. Submitting your query is no guarantee it will be used and I will not notify you if I do decide to use it. I would suggest you subscribe to the blog if you want to ensure you don't miss your critique.

7. Subscribe to the blog anyway. A critique on your query will be beneficial, but we learn more from reading what is said about other queries, and critiquing them ourselves, then we ever will from our own.

8. Query critiques can be sent to blog@bookends-inc.com

Good luck!


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25. Agent protocol question: missed deadlines

Recently, I've noticed quite a few writers talking about the long wait times they encounter with agents they've signed with. I am including myself in this bunch as I am with my second agent (the first one left the industry and we parted on very amicable terms). I like my current agent, but just like the first, she'd say something like, "I'll have notes on your latest MS by the end of the week!" and then a few more weeks will pass by before I actually see the notes. I see a lot of this being reported on AW and on other writing sites.

I get that agents are busy as hell. I myself have a really hectic job, but when we promise our clients a project by "the end of the week", we damn well better have it in the client's inbox by the end of the week, not the end of three weeks. And if we encounter an unforeseen delay, we send the client an e-mail with apologies and a heads-up to let them know we need a new deadline.

Is it ever acceptable to talk to your agent about it and be honest about how you feel with regards to their timing? Is there an okay way of saying, "You don't have to promise to get it to me within the week. You can take all the time you need, but please have it ready when you say it will be ready"? Or should I and my fellow writers just gnaw on our fingers in silence, wondering if this would actually be the week that we get our notes?

Yes, it's entirely acceptable to be straightforward with your agent about what working style suits you. You say it just like you said it to me: "It will help me tremendously if you only tell me something is coming when you know it is. I appreciate that priorities can shift in a day and a week, particularly with things that are important not urgent, but expecting something on Friday then not getting it, or an email saying it's delayed, is very difficult."

You and your agent are on the same team. One of the best ways to have effective communication is to tell the other person what works best for you.

I have had to learn this several times.  It's particularly useful for my minions to know how to act when I am in a towering rage.  Telling them what to do saves a LOT of misunderstanding.  Telling your agent what works for you will do that too.

I think one of the reasons that agents often say nothing rather than check in with "yea, I'm not getting this done" is first they feel guilty for NOT getting it done or they don't like to explain (baldly) that something was more important than your project (my skin crawls just writing that.)

One way you can help build trust is by never saying "well when WILL you get this done; I feel neglected." That can shut down communication really quickly.  I know it shouldn't but lets all realize how things actually work, not how you want them to work.

I know a lot about this problem because it afflicts me even as I write this.  I wish I had a better solution, but I don't...yet.

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