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Viewing Blog: Editorial Anonymous, Most Recent at Top
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Anonymous blog of a children's book editor. Editorial Anonymous' anecdotes are mostly true. Names of authors, illustrators, editors, agents, publishers, manuscripts, and a few random nouns have been changed to protect her ass.
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26. Is Your Work Worth Money?

I've been sent a proposition and have been pulling my hair out for a couple of days deciding what to do. A friend directed me to your website and I knew you'd be the right person to ask!

I am a professional illustrator, although currently unpublished. I've sent in portfolios to publishers and had reasonably positive feedback so far - many of my submissions have been kept on record for future use. However, I've recently been contacted directly by someone looking for an artist to illustrate their poetry (it's fun and quirky in style and I believe I could compliment it well with my art). I'm not quite sure whether they intend to self-publish or submit the "final work" to an actual publishing house...either way, though, I've read time and time again that author/illustrator duos will NOT be accepted by publishers, regardless. Is this always the case? Even if the art is of a very high quality? I'm feeling a little out of my depth as this situation is all new to me and I'm not aware of the standard expectations of the illustrator either through a publishing house or in a self-publishing situation. Any information you can enlighten me with would be very, very welcome!!

If it's going to be self-published, sure, go for it. Be sure you get paid in advance.

If it's for submission to a publisher, DON'T DO IT. Publishers want to choose the illustrator.

Yes, if the art is of very high quality, the publisher may accept something already illustrated.  THAT'S NOT YOU.  I'm talking about Jerry Pinkney or Kadir Nelson or Marla Frazee or somebody whose art is exemplary and in high demand.

I don't mean to be unkind.  The fact that your samples have been put on file means they are better than the average art submission, and you may have a wonderful career ahead of you.  It does not mean, however, that your art is of very high quality.  You are an unproven artist in a competitive field.  Do everything you can to project professionalism-- including not giving your art away.  And that's what you would be doing if someone convinced you to illustrate their manuscript on spec.  Chances are high that it would be wasted effort.

7 Comments on Is Your Work Worth Money?, last added: 2/3/2011
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27. The Minnetonka Salty Pickle Award Strikes Again

I know you've said it before: if it's self published, don't mention it. Self publishing is imaginary publishing. But what if that imaginary-published book won a not-imaginary award? Can you mention it then? If so, do you mention that it's self-published or do you just say something along the lines of "My book, TITLE, won the 2010 Real Award,"?
Yes, that would be fine. Congratulations! But before you skip off to put that in your query letter, are you sure the award isn't imaginary?

0 Comments on The Minnetonka Salty Pickle Award Strikes Again as of 1/1/1900
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28. Does the Gold Medalist in Swimming Need to Know Gymnastics?

Do you think editors and agents have different (lower) standards for writing that's submitted by an author-illustrator as opposed to someone who's "just" an author?
As you can imagine, I am a writer who can't draw a cube.
Some of the feedback I get from my agent has really challenged me to reach for something a lot higher with my writing. Then I see some books that are being published, and it's like they got some kind of pass. I feel like if I sent my agent a story like that, he'd send it right back to me and wouldn't even consider showing it to publishers.
Are the standards different for an author-illustrator if the art is good enough to sell an otherwise lackluster story?
If a submission wins me over partly with writing and partly with art, should I think less of it than the submission that won me over solely with writing? Both verbal storytelling and visual storytelling are talents, and both are strengths in a book.

So the answer to your question is yes, in some cases it's ok that the writing isn't as wonderful as in other manuscripts since there's such strength in the art.

It's not ok to feel these people got a pass-- they still had to submit something powerful. Just like you do. If you sent me a manuscript whose development of setting was non-existent but whose plot-development and characters were wonderful and made the manuscript worthwhile all by themselves, it would be ridiculous for me to reject it, right? Just because your strengths aren't what some other people's strengths are?

Don't think of yourself as being in the same race with author-artists-- think of yourself as being in the same Olympics. If you both end up on the winners' stand, it will be for different skills, but your accomplishments will both be worthy of the honor.

11 Comments on Does the Gold Medalist in Swimming Need to Know Gymnastics?, last added: 1/31/2011
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29. Query Clinic: The Amaranth Guardian

I started querying about a month ago and I've gotten seven rejections so far. I've only been querying agents who I thought suited the genre, but I feel discouraged now that only one agent was willing to request sample pages. Before I send out any more queries, I was hoping you could dissect my letter, publicly and harshly if you so wish. I wonder if agents are discouraged by my saying it's the first of a series....

Dear X,
Kai Kirin is just like any other student at the Academy, a school from a parallel universe that trains lost and abandoned children in the ancient art of cylo. Like the others, Kai has been sheltered from the tribal warfare that has devastated his world since the fall of the last Demon Empress, Ubella. But unlike the others, Kai has been sent on an unusual assignment that will bring him to our world to find Kanna Burke, a young girl who possesses the legendary power to undo all of Ubella's black magic. Kai must retrieve Kanna and her family, to protect them from those who would use Kanna as a weapon. However, Kai will soon find that Kanna Burke is very reluctant to come under his protection.
Ok. So this is what people are talking about when they use "fantasy" like it's a bad word. Some fantasies do the hard word of world-building in a way that invites the reader in and gives them action and character development to keep them interested while the many ways in which this world is different are revealed, gradually, at a pace that makes sense to the reader.

And other fantasies drop a half-ton of unfamiliar details on the reader like a piano onto a cartoon coyote. I have a suspicion this may be one of those fantasies.

Also, I would ask you to consider whether it's really, truly important that the main character come from another dimension. Because if she could just come from another area of that dimension, you wouldn't need the idea of parallel dimensions in a story that's already heavy on unfamiliar ideas.
For her own good, Kai forces the obstinate girl back across the portal into his world along with her father and stepbrother. But when the remote to bring him home snaps in half, he finds himself not at the Academy, but in a dangerous territory far to the south. The small group of unhappy travelers must make their way north through warring states and cursed territories, avoiding dangerous militias, assassins, and the dreaded creatures known as Changelings. The long journey back to the Academy will soon change everything he believes.
Amaranth Guardian is a character-driven fantasy adventure novel centered on a group of teenagers who must put aside their differences and collaborate in order to survive in a world of chaos. Each character is an unlikely hero, full of fear and cockiness but also full of power that they don't yet understand. Kai, in particular, lives with the knowledge that he himself may be part Demon.
a. "Fantasy adventure novel" is about two words too long.
b. You know there was a recent YA fantasy published called The Amaranth Enchantment, right?
c. Move or cut that last sentence.
The story does not talk down to teens, but rather reflects their unique experiences: the feeling of suspended identity, the fear of responsibility, and the exciting sense of discovery that are central to the transition to adulthood.
Amaranth Guardian is complete at 142,700 words and I am now seeking representation for it. It is the fi

16 Comments on Query Clinic: The Amaranth Guardian, last added: 1/29/2011
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30. The Heroism of Revision

I am an author with a wonderful agent but I have a question that would be better answered by an editor, and I'd like your input.

My debut novel has been on submission since the beginning of the year. In our first round of submissions the first 'no' came with a very thoughtful, detailed email from the editor that made a number of suggestions about revisions and a request to see the ms again if I made them. At the time, my agent and I felt that since there were other editors reading we should just put those thoughts aside. However, more rejections came in, including some that brought up some of the same issues that first editor had discussed. Two more of the editors who said no said also they would look at the book again, if revised.

So I did the revisions. Not every single thing, mind you, but the major ones. And after some back and forth about them with my agent, she came up with a new list of editors to submit too, including the three who had been willing to see the revised ms.

Here's my question: as an editor, how do you generally feel about an ms. that has been revised this way? Is it something you're more likely to like, now that some of the problems you had with it are fixed, or if you really didn't love it at first then you'll never really love it? The second one is my big fear -- that if these editors really loved the book, they would have bought it first, and then had me make changes. But I don't know if I'm just being negative.
You're just being negative. You know what editors love? Great manuscripts. You know what editors ADORE? Great revisers. Oh dear god, how I adore great revisers.

Also, I've gotten a surprising amount of flak (mainly from non-writer friends) about my willingness to do this kind of overhaul. As a journalist by trade, I'm used to rewriting things based on other people's input (and, honestly, sometimes having them change it to something unrecognizable without telling me, which thankfully doesn't seem to happen in the fiction world). I figured I don't have to make any changes I don't like, but they don't have to publish it, either. What's your response to people who think someone who revises for editors is somehow debasing their work? Because people really do seem to think that.
Morons everywhere think they have a right to an opinion. You tell them that if they think listening to the advice of professionals (advice that you, the author, agree with) is debasing your Art, then they must be under the impression that everyone who picks up a pencil is a Great Artist from that moment on. You know what? When you're Maurice Sendak or Pablo Picasso or are otherwise making a ton of money just to exhibit your work, not sell it, then you are a Great Artist. Until then, you have something to learn. And if you don't think so, then you are never, never going to get beyond being anything but a Great Pain in My Ass.

(Ok, sure, you can be a pain in the ass and crazy and impossible to work with and maybe still a great artist, like Van Gogh. But do you really want your Art to wait to be appreciated until after you're dead? No, I didn't think so. We learn to play nicely with others in kindergarten, and some of us remember that lesson.)

19 Comments on The Heroism of Revision, last added: 1/29/2011
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31. Quick Answers!

I have a fantastic story and concept for a series of childrens picture books. I have several books in rough draft and one completed. Do you recommend that I complete the other books and consider them all a single transcript or just submit the first picture book (20 page) with a reference to the series?
First book only. Please see the tag 'series and sequels' in my sidebar.

I was hoping you could answer my question as I've searched around and haven't been able to find an answer. I submitted my story to a few online critique groups in hopes of getting it polished up for submission. I've been a bit paranoid about submitting since I found
all these publishing and agent blogs online. But after getting my critiques back, no one could agree, on anything. And it was pretty split down the middle on who liked and didn't like it as a whole. I'm just curious, that if I'm getting such a wide range of comments, could it mean that this story is lost cause? Or do I need to seek out some other readers?
Well, here's the helpful thing about the people you meet in critique groups: They're showing you what they're writing. That means you can tell if some of them are really not such great writers, and so possibly not fantastic judges of writing, or if they have a lot of opinions about picture books but don't write / read picture books themselves. Maybe you should try some more crit partners before you decide one way or another.
I had part of a ms critiqued at a conference recently. The editor liked it and asked to see the full. Between the time I submitted this ms for critique and the actual meeting (about 4 months) I decided to revise the story. I explained that to the editor at the critique session and she said she was looking forward to seeing it when it was done. Within a month’s time of the critique meeting I submitted the revised ms to my agent for review. He made some good suggestions which I followed. I resubmitted a few weeks later and now agent has told me he doesn’t have time to reread it again for several months. What do you think of that, and should I be concerned that if I wait too long to get the ms back to interested editor that that interest will wane?
Several months? Um, yeah. Send that to the editor now.

9 Comments on Quick Answers!, last added: 1/25/2011
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32. What Is This Publishers Marketplace You Speak Of?

I am currently searching the 'net for agents in the children's books (picture book genre). A few terms I've noticed in particular begs to be further defined. When an agent specifies "Picture Books (by an author/illustrator)" or "picture books by author/artists" are they saying they want the author to also be the illustrator?
Yes. This is because there's very little money to be made, usually, for picture book authors. Agents get a small percentage of that little money, and many of them just feel it isn't enough.
Or would I be okay just sending in the query as the author minus the art skills?
Not to those agents. But there are others who rep picture book authors.
Also, when an agent (that accepts picture books) explains their submission requirements for a variety of genres (ie novelists send in first ten pages) but leaves out the details for picture books, what should one do? Send in the picture book manuscript?
One should look up that agent's sales in Publishers Marketplace and see whether they represent picture books at all.

7 Comments on What Is This Publishers Marketplace You Speak Of?, last added: 1/23/2011
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33. Out of Print, But Still Fighting

I had a picture book published in 2006 which is now out of print and the rights have been returned to me. Is it okay to submit this to other publishers, and if yes, then when is it okay to do this? And if I can submit this do I mention its previous publication? Thanks for your help.
Yes, you mention its previous publication. The editor will find out anyway when she does her acquisition research, and she will be pissed if you've failed to tell her this yourself.

Here's the thing about books that have gone out of print: most of them are out of print for a very, very good reason. It may be a painful reason, and it may be a reason that makes no sense to you, but it is still a GOOD reason: NOT ENOUGH PEOPLE WERE WILLING TO BUY IT.

If this is the reason that your book is out of print, then no publisher is going to bring it back into print within a couple of decades of its original publication. If this is not the reason your book is out of print, then be very clear in your submission to other publishers about what you think the real reason is. Be clear, and be convincing, because you're fighting a counter argument from the market, and publishers listen to the market.

10 Comments on Out of Print, But Still Fighting, last added: 1/21/2011
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34. Foreign Rights: Not for the Faint of Heart

In 2006 I had a mid-grade novel accepted for publication and the publisher and I agreed a sequel would be a good idea so I got onto writing that and submitted this at the beginning of 2008. The first book came out late 2008 and the sequel was scheduled for 2009. Then the recession hit and the publisher reduced their list and pulled the plug on the sequel. I get regular queries from readers about when the second book is coming. This year I discussed the possibility of getting both books published overseas and the publisher returned international rights to me while retaining local regional rights to the first book. Now I want to query both books to the US and UK but I’m not quite sure how to go about this. Do I send/query the first book in its final form or as a manuscript?
Depends on whether you think its published Australian form does the book proud in the US market. Some Aussie publications do, and some don't. Sometimes I see books published in foreign countries and the cover style is so far off from what would work for us here that it inspires a strongly negative reaction even though I know that this reaction is irrational and unfair to the book. If you don't think its published presentation is stunning, send it as a manuscript and include a page with its Aussie cover and publishing info. Be prepared to answer the question "Why didn't the Australian publisher submit this to us for foreign rights?" In fact, do you know that the Australian publisher didn't? Generally we don't like being sent the same thing we said 'no' to a year ago by someone else.
If they were interested would publishers keep it in its first published form?
Unlikely, but possible.
Am I doomed? Is there hope? I would greatly appreciate any advice you could give me on this non-run-of-the-mill problem.
With the economy in the state it is, there's a little more doom running around than there used to be, but no, you're not out of the race yet. Still, this is going to be tough going, so be sure you want to spend this effort on this book, rather than investing it in writing a new book.

4 Comments on Foreign Rights: Not for the Faint of Heart, last added: 1/20/2011
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35. The Unsolicited Recycling Bin

Are editors reading unsolicited picture books anymore? I used to get those rejected mss. back in my thoughtfully provided SASE. If I'd put a hair between pages 2 and 3, I at least knew (if the hair was missing) that someone had shuffled the paper. Now editors are responding "only if interested." My question is--are most editors simply unloading all these unsolicited mss. right into the circular file?
I realize you can only tell me for sure what's happening at your house. But you do communicate with other members of the editorial species. Have you heard anything? Say, for example, "Yahoo! I don't have to read manuscripts about Willimena the Wave anymore."
I'm a well-published pb author who doesn't want to give a piece of my paltry advance to an agent. But if my suspicion is true, I'm thinking I'm going to have to--just to get a pair of eyes to glance at the first paragraph or so of my mss.
Please tell me that this is just one of those paranoid thoughts that afflicts insomniac authors, and that someone (the janitor?) is reading those piles of unsolicted pbs.
The houses and editors who say they take unsolicited submissions are still reading them. There's really not a reason in the world for them to lie about that. There are fewer and fewer of them these days, so an agent really isn't a bad idea. But processing slush is a lot of work, and we aren't doing it just for the upper-body exercise.

13 Comments on The Unsolicited Recycling Bin, last added: 1/18/2011
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36. Skippyjon Jones and the Audience Participation

I'm delighted but baffled by the success of the Skippyjon Jones books. The rollicking plots and language seem to barely sit still on the pages. I speak both English and Spanish yet I still need to read the books several times to get a handle on reading them aloud to my kids. I could be wrong but I imagine that this is the case for most people the first time they read one of these stories. I searched your blog for your thoughts on it but I'm just not quite satisfied. Why do you think people are attracted to the writing in the Skippyjon Jones books? Thank you for taking the time to read this message.
THIS is a case for the COMMENTS! Readers, chip in.

26 Comments on Skippyjon Jones and the Audience Participation, last added: 1/16/2011
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37. The Past Is Not Dead. It's Not Even OMG, Justin Beiber!!!

I have a question about using famous names and brands in works of fiction.
If a character is a huge fan of, say, Rod Stewart, or the specific show The Twilight Zone or the Detroit Lions football team, is it legal to namecheck the real band/show/organization?

I wouldn't make Rod Stewart a character, but he would be the object of a character's fandom. (Maybe not the most marketable example, I just realized. Anyhow.). Could I quote his lyrics?
Bits of them.

Or quote from a real movie or tv show?
Short quotes.

It feels kind of cheesy to me when writers make up a fake famous person but now that the issue has come up in my own writing (which I hope to publish) I wonder if it's done for legal reasons.
Sometimes, but more likely (as in your Rod Stewart example) it's for the reason that you're writing for people to whom the 1990s are history. The past may not be dead, but the present has a really short attention span. Why date your book to its detriment?

Still, unless your plot hinges on the use of a particular artist / song / movie / tv show, this is not the sort of thing that will stop your manuscript being acquired. You may need to have a conversation with your editor (and maybe the publisher's legal department) about this, though.

12 Comments on The Past Is Not Dead. It's Not Even OMG, Justin Beiber!!!, last added: 1/14/2011
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38. Credit Management

I have two questions related to an article I read recently. The article, which can be found at www.write4kids.com/nonceleb.pdf, suggested that new children's book writers spend time getting published in "magazines, e-zines, websites, community parenting publications..." in order to build credits that will "speak to my professionalism". Let me illuminate my background a bit before detailing my questions.

My writing experience thus far comes from my profession as a full-time Youth Director. I have written an article for our church newsletter every month for the last four and a half years. I also write and deliver sermons four to five times a year. I have consistently received rave reviews over my writing, have often heard that people forward my articles/sermons on to others and have been told countless times that I am able to make complicated theological matters understandable (and enjoyable!) to the very young. I often write in allegories or use everyday objects or situations to explain difficult concepts. It is my community's passionate reaction to my writing style accompanied by my love of learning and children's literature which has prompted me to research the idea of writing books for children.

That background having been established, my two questions are as follows: One, would my writing experience thus far equate to the credit building that the article mentioned above recommends? And two, if it does not, how does one write children's stories for magazines, e-zines, newsletters etc. effectively without even an illustrator?
1. No. It's better than "my grandchildren love my stories," but not a lot better. A magazine editor has to find material that is not just better than the average free sermon-- she has to find material that people want to PAY for. That's what your credentials are supposed to bring across: a history of creating work that people will pay for, on the deadlines of the people who publish such work.

2. Well, how would you write a children's story for a book without an illustrator? If you do not know the answer to this question, I would strongly suggest that you do not know how to write a picture book yet. Please find your local SCBWI and take some classes.

7 Comments on Credit Management, last added: 1/10/2011
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39. Choose-Your-Own-Illustrator! or Don't. No, Really, Don't.

I'm wondering about the order of events editors go through when acquiring a picture book manuscript. Do they talk to illustrators before they acquire the text?
Very occasionally.
Is identifying possible illustrators part of the acquisitions package they present to the powers that be, or does all of that come after the manuscript is acquired?
What do editors think about as they try to make a good match between the text and pictures?
Audience, first. This might be a consideration along the lines of 'this manuscript is going to appeal to baby shower gift-givers, so the art had better be soft and sweet' or 'nobody knows who this author is, so let's get someone with a name to illustrate.'

Then you think about the stand-out qualities of the manuscript and try to find good visual translations for them. Some texts have a lot of leeway in the way they're interpreted by the artist--they could be a match for a number of different art styles. But a historical topic probably won't be a good match for a very modern artist. A book about watching the incremental changes in nature will support lovely but static art, whereas a book about dance asks for art that is dynamic and has a sense of drama. As many different kinds of manuscripts as there are, there are that many different ways for art to partner text.
Do they consult with the art director?
Depends on the editor and the house.
How do they approach illustrators? Do they show them the manuscript and ask for an few sketches before committing?
Mostly we just show them the manuscript. We can tell from the artist's online portfolio that they could do a fine job. If we happen not to be sure, we may ask artists for a sample piece, for a small fee.
It seems like an exciting, yet really difficult process to come up with the perfect combination. But maybe that is why you guys are the editors, and why the writer, in general, should just stay out of the way.
Without putting too fine a point on it, yeah. If you go to a publishing house that does its design work well, then you're going to people who have more experience than you do in determining what the strongest parts of your manuscript are, how to articulate those qualities, and how to find the artists who will make those qualities stronger still--who will make the book shine.

This is an understanding lacking in the many people who send us manuscripts illustrated by themselves or their close friends or neighbors. Some people in possession of an uncut diamond would take it to a jeweler, and some would take it to the first person they can think of who owns a hammer.

These are people who think that art is no more than the clothes a story wears, and since they happen to have the literary equivalent of a supermodel on their hands, this book will look good in anything, even if the illustration they can manage is the artistic equivalent of a shag carpet muumuu.

7 Comments on Choose-Your-Own-Illustrator! or Don't. No, Really, Don't., last added: 1/10/2011
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40. To Be Continued (We Hope)

I promise this is not a query. I need advice on how to split a long, continuous story up into more than one book!
I recently completed a middle grade novel that took on a life of its own and decided to segue directly into a second book. In the sequel, the kids in the fist book must travel to King Arthur’s England to find a spell book and stone to break a spell cast by Merlin’s son in the first book. At the end of the first book, the main characters have resolved some things and are safe, so it sort of ends that “chapter” of the story, but they are in hot pursuit of another character and don’t have time to stop and celebrate.
Is it OK to have the book end at the beginning of the next story (they all arrive safely and are sitting by the sea in England) or does there have to be some more concrete ending to the first book (they are all ready to travel on to the next adventure, but sit around smiling and patting each other on the back before they go?)
It is too long to be one book (41,500 words.)
Surely you have read some books / series that do this? More than a couple, one hopes?

I just want to pause and remind everyone that my advice all alone is not useful to you. If you haven't familiarized yourself enough with children's books and with the craft of writing to have some good sense of your own, no matter how good my advice is (and I do my best), you won't be able to avoid misapplying it.

Good, now that that's out of the way: before you go rushing off to work on book 2 or 3 or 17, put all your effort into making book 1 as awesome and polished and whole as you can do. How to do this varies per book, so you have to use your own good sense in making this story the best it can be before your characters set off into a sequel.

If you can't get an editor excited about book 1, the ending to your series is going to come even sooner than you thought.

14 Comments on To Be Continued (We Hope), last added: 1/7/2011
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41. Amazon Gives Bookscan to Authors

Well, that's interesting. But before you go thinking this will answer all your questions and make your life perfect, let's remember what we know about Bookscan, ok?

3 Comments on Amazon Gives Bookscan to Authors, last added: 1/5/2011
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42. 50 Ways Not To Leave Your Agent ... or, How To Have a Bad Breakup

Slip out the back, Jack
Under-communicate. Don't talk to her about any concerns you have; instead, the breakup should come as a total surprise to her. If you have luck on your side, you may let her know on the same day that she gets an offer for your manuscript from a publisher. For the coup de grace, hire another agent before you fire her.

Make a new plan, Stan
Over-communicate. Send the agent partial first drafts so that she can see your writing before it puts on its makeup in the morning.  Send threats, rants, and complaints directly to your publisher, without telling your agent first, so that you look like an unstable mess and she looks like she has no idea what her authors are up to.

You don't need to be coy, Roy
Have little concept of personal boundaries. Call her on her cell phone, crying, in the middle of the night. Talk to her about every problem you've ever had. Let her know how dysfunctional your family relationships are, and then tell her she's like a sister to you.

Hop on the bus, Gus
Once she's sold several books for you, fire her. After all, now you know the editors, so what do you need an agent for? Alternatively, while she's still your agent, go behind her back and sell books without her, and without ever talking to her about it. She's just a stepping stone, so step on her.

Just drop off the key, Lee
After she's fired, ask that her name be removed from your finalized contract so that she won't get her share of the royalties. (It won't work, but go ahead and try it. She won't be upset at all.) Then go on discussion boards and say nasty things about her. A classy agent can't and won't do this in return, so you're safe saying pretty much anything.

I know my readers are too smart and too kind to do any of these things. But it's still useful to know that they happen; that these are the treacherous seas that agents have to navigate. As true as it is that there are not-so-good agents who serve their clients poorly, there are plenty of wonderful agents who get bitten badly for their trouble.  I know the publishing industry can seem brutal, callous, and cruel. Just remember that you don't have to be.

8 Comments on 50 Ways Not To Leave Your Agent ... or, How To Have a Bad Breakup, last added: 1/6/2011
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43. How to Leave Your Agent

I have decided to move on to another agency. Long story short: I have lots of agents who were chomping at the bit to work with my book proposal. I went with one, it didn't work out, a year later I have decided to move on and go with another agent. One agent told me she would need a list of the submissions and responses. I'd like to have that list too, just for my own records.
My current agent told me she'd work on getting that list and it's been 2 months now and still no list. I am sending her one last email requesting it, but I don't know what else I can do! Is this normal? It doesn't seem very professional.

I hope that the first thing you did was to have a conversation with your agent about what is bothering you, to give her a chance to address the problem.

Assuming you did, and things have not gotten better, then it is time to politely tell her that you think there should be a parting of ways. Look at your agency agreement to see if this needs to be done in writing, and in what sort of time frame. Agency agreements can vary quite a bit, so be sure you're following the terms in yours.

Next, stop flirting with other agents until after your current agent knows she's history.  You may not be able to see it, but it's still very possible that she is working on your behalf even as you are making plans to break up with her.  That's not cool.  As soon as you were sure you wanted out, you should have informed your agent.

Regarding the submission info, perhaps there's been some miscommunication?  Ask again, insistently but nicely. If she steadfastly refuses to give you any information about submissions, then... I'm sorry. You can't make her give it to you.  Perhaps she never sent it out at all.  But perhaps if she understood that you want that info because you are leaving her, she would understand why you need it, now.

If not, that is a shame.  Sometimes as hard as you try to be friendly and professional and to act with grace and courtesy, others will not.  Your next agent will just have to be willing to pick up the pieces.

1 Comments on How to Leave Your Agent, last added: 1/5/2011
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44. I Loved Your Wedding Ceremony; the Decorations Were Gorgeous! Want to Read My Manuscript?

I have finished a novel and think it's ready to go out to some agents. My question may not pertain to a lot of your readers, but I value your opinion (and straight-shooting style). One of the agents I'd like to send it to is someone I used to be acquainted with in a past career (I worked with her husband, and was at their wedding), but I'm not certain she would remember me right off the bat. I haven't been in contact with her or her husband for several years. I don't want to come across like "Remember me? Wanna be my agent?" but I also think it would be silly/stupid not to remind her of my connection. After all, the novel deals with said past career, and the content is solidly within the lines of the things she represents (meaning I would submit to her regardless of a connection or not). She's a pretty big agent, and I want to remain professional. How would you recommend handling this?
It's tricky to remind someone that you know them without making it sound like you're asking her to treat you as a friend rather than as a hopeful client.

First, be sure that's not what you really want. If it is, go ahead and make that plain, so that the agent knows better than to sign you as a client. People who enter a relationship with the idea that they deserve special treatment because they're a friend end up expecting special treatment all the way through the relationship, and that's unreasonable and untenable for the agent-client relationship. An agent ought to be doing her best for all her clients, so being treated like any of the rest of them in every way shouldn't bother you.

If you don't mind her treating you in a solely professional manner, then make that clear in your letter to her by letting her know that while you remember her and her husband, you certainly don't expect her to remember you. Then go on to be very specific and convincing about why you're querying her with this manuscript-- reasons that have to do with the manuscript and with her taste and specialties as an agent, not with who either of you are as people.

Make your letter friendly, but very professional. That will tell her she would be working with a pro who won't expect more of her than what she can actually give.

Come to think of it, that's good advice for everyone.
Good luck!

0 Comments on I Loved Your Wedding Ceremony; the Decorations Were Gorgeous! Want to Read My Manuscript? as of 1/1/1900
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45. A Phoenix Will Rise from Its Own Ashes

Curiously, like racism! Except racism is more like the ugly, stupid, festering toad that you just can't squash no matter how many times you hit it with a shovel.

This charming book has a new cover! Look:And here's the sequel:
A further explanation here.

You might start thinking that publishers simply aren't listening to the strong reactions that recent instances of whitewashing have elicited from the community of readers / bloggers. You might even think that perhaps they're hoping that eventually we'll get tired of complaining about this, and they'll help us get tired by giving us some more instances.

But I don't think that's really what's going on. I think what publishers and chain bookstore buyers are really thinking to themselves is this:

"We're not racists; teenagers are racists."

Now, whether or not there are book-buying teens who are racist and will not buy this book because there is a Chinese girl on the cover, and whether or not there are enough of them to justify such a statement or make a meaningful difference to sales, letting someone else's perceived racism influence your behavior in the interest of making more money means:

You are racists. And you're whores.

Was that clear enough?

52 Comments on A Phoenix Will Rise from Its Own Ashes, last added: 7/10/2010
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46. Countdown: a Conversation with Deborah Wiles

Perhaps you know Deborah Wiles from her moving picture books Freedom Summer and One Wide Sky, or her utterly charming novels Love Ruby Lavender, Each Little Bird That Sings, and The Aurora County All-Stars. (Some of my personal favorites.) Or maybe you've just noticed all the shiny awards stickers obscuring the covers of her books. Each of her books is a wonderful example of voice, character, and human nature, so I'm just one of the many people who are thrilled to their toes that she has a new book out: Countdown.

Countdown is worth picking up just for the exemplary design of the book, from jacket to cover to endpapers to the way the many, many period images are treated. Even the details on the page edges! But most exciting of all is the way Deborah's historical fiction combines a fresh, involving story with images and quotes from the 60s that make a compelling experience for those who never experienced the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Deborah very kindly agreed to this interview.

EDITORIAL ANONYMOUS: It's exciting to see something so ambitious (and historical) in today's sometimes overwhelmingly conservative (and paranormal) market. You call this a documentary novel. Could you explain for my readers what that is, and what inspired you to write one?

DEBORAH WILES: Thank you! So glad you think it's ambitious and different -- so do I, and I have good partners to thank for helping me make that happen. Scholastic ran the bases with me, all the way, full out, and said, "let's do it," when I presented them with this idea.

As I wrote Franny's story, I collected all kinds of photographs, newspaper stories and clippings, songs, advertisements, cartoons, recipes, quotes, and more, from the late fifties and early sixties to help me tell the story. At first, they were just for me, to help me sink into that time frame and remember, but quickly it became apparent to me that they were an integral part of the storytelling.

So I created what I started calling scrapbooks. I wanted to explore how history is really biography (as Emerson said), it's more than just dates and names and events, and I wanted to explore how each decision we make has rippling waves that affect others.

For instance, Harry Truman's decision not to answer Ho Chi Minh's 1947 letters had far-reaching consequences that may have led to our involvement in Vietnam, so I write about that in Countdown, in the larger, historical context. JFK loving the musical Camelot led to his presidency being called Camelot, thanks to a well-placed quote from Jackie Kennedy. His decision to send more advisors into Vietnam left us with an escalating war during the Johnson administration -- something I'll get into in book two.

But just as there are huge, overarching historical events in our collective history, that history is lived out on the personal stage of each individual person. So, Uncle Otts in Countdown is a living legacy of the horrors of World War I (where he fought in the same battle that Harry Truman fought in, in the Argonne). Franny being afraid that those Russian missiles might be launched from Cuba and hit the United States is a real, personal response to the horr

9 Comments on Countdown: a Conversation with Deborah Wiles, last added: 7/15/2010
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47. New Books Above

Posts will resume January 1.
Thanks for all the concern and well-wishing.
Happy New Year!

28 Comments on New Books Above, last added: 1/2/2011
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48. How to Respond to Copyeditor's Marks

What prissy, manual-of-style-snorting psycho with an OED up her butt made all these marks on my manuscript? With the exception of a few typos, those quote-unquote errors are in fact my quote-unquote writing style, dammit. Has the copyeditor ever heard of colloquial speech? If not, I'd be happy to introduce her to some choice examples. Just give me her phone number.
Your author

This is a common and understandable reaction to copyediting. It is not the correct reaction. But perhaps your editor, overburdened as she is with titles and bureaucratic hoo-ha, has forgotten to let you know what your response to the copyediting process is supposed to be.

When the copyeditor marks everything that could conceivably be called an error and questions the niggliest little things, she is doing her job.

She does this so that author and editor can be sure that any non-standard choices that were made in the writing of the manuscript were made deliberately, for the right reasons. Your role is to stet every instance in which the copyeditor thought maybe this might have been a mistake... but in fact you know it wasn't. Of course your role is also to ask yourself if occasionally your non-standard choices are getting in the way of your writing's clarity, and to agree to the changes to the actual mistakes that are inevitably in your manuscript somewhere.

In this way, you and your editor can go forward with publication in the sure and certain knowledge that when readers gripe about your bad grammar on page 57, or the egregious typo on page 104 (as they will, regardless of the perfection of your manuscript, trust me), it will be the complaining reader who has screwed up, not you. Isn't that reassuring knowledge? And it's because the copyeditor is such an obsessive-compulsive pain in the ass.

So when you get a manuscript back full of little red or blue marks and comments that you find persnickety and annoying, remember the peace of mind the copyeditor is offering you. You don't have to agree with everything she marks (even she may not). You just have to take a little time and check.

23 Comments on How to Respond to Copyeditor's Marks, last added: 1/4/2011
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In other words, I'm still here.
But I don't have the plentiful half-seconds of free time I used to have. Once upon a time I did things other than work and thought of my publishing house as the place I visited, and my apartment as the place I lived. But that was back in Episode IV.

The rebellion, however, is not dead.

8 Comments on IT IS A DARK TIME FOR EDITORIAL., last added: 1/4/2011
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50. Trend Watch: Persephone Is the New Zombies/Vampires

Well, I certainly wouldn't have predicted this one. We're seeing a lot of YA Persephone retellings. Maybe this is in part due to the greek myth renaissance effected by Mr. Riordan? I don't know. Maybe it's the appeal of the underworld? I just hope it's not some nasty subconscious preference for kidnapping/rape stories. Whatever it is, between the undead, the walking dead, and the actually dead, there's a hell of a lot of dead going around. Makes me a little wistful for the wizards and pirates.

6 Comments on Trend Watch: Persephone Is the New Zombies/Vampires, last added: 1/6/2011
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