Yes, this is filled with whisky

Yes, this is filled with whisky

Monday, May 02, 2016

Previously published

*note, contest results will be posted tomorrow.

I would like to inquire what the conditions for a manuscript being 'previously published' are. Specifically, I wrote a short anecdote about a fictional character as an answer to a question on a popular website regarding her precocious intelligence and an event that occurred in her high school days. I am quite vague in it, not even writing the name of the character, but the event is a significant point in the character's backstory.

Does having written this in any way affect my chances of having the book published? It is extremely short compared to the length of the novel (a few paragraphs) and gives no indication of the rest of the plot, but is probably one of its trademark characteristics, and I am worried that either someone may steal the idea (although it is marked as not for reproduction) or that publishers may reject it as it has garnered a large amount of views (20000 at the time of writing). I have put a tremendous amount of effort into that novel, and my friends, family and people I personally know in the literary business have found it to be a well-written piece.

Don't worry.

Previously published specifically means the same work. In other words, a paragraph or two (or even ten) on a website is not a previously published novel.

If anything, the interest readers have shown in your work is a GOOD thing: that many page views would lead me to think your writing does not suck.

This applies to short stories, essays, blog posts and pretty much any other chunk you can dream up.

When I say I don't take on previously published work, or a publisher asks you to sign a publication contract warranting the work has not been previously published, it is understood to mean a book, with an ISBN, made available for sale.

So, if you print out the book (the ENTIRE book) on your trusty home printer, and give it to your beta readers: that is NOT previously published.

If you print up the entire book and give it to your mum for Mother's Day: NOT previously published.

Print it up on CreateSpae or any other self-publishing platform and have a few copies printed for your beta readers and your Mum for Mum's day: that is previously published. CreateSpace assigns an ISBN, and makes the work for sale on Amazon.

Print it up at a regular printer and send a few copies to your beta readers and your Mum: NOT previously published. The difference? No ISBN, no placement on Amazon.

With the explosion of places looking for writing, and the opportunities now available to writers to have their work seen, this kind of question crops up a lot.

What you want to watch for:
1. Does the work in question have an ISBN?
2. Is it registered at the US Copyright office as PUBLISHED?
3. Is it or was it available for sale?

You want all three answers to be NO.

And just one more word of warning: those copies you ran off your own printer, or bought from a webfeed press and gave to Mum and the beta readers: they can put those up for sale on Amazon, and really mess up what you think is NO to question 3. I've seen it happen. 

Sunday, May 01, 2016

WIR 5/1/16

Welcome to the week that was

Dena Pawling hearkened back to the post on payment, and the comments on 1099s and said:

>>And yes, some contracts do spell out IN DETAIL that you are not an employee, and on and on. I see it most particularly in contracts my authors sign when they are providing content to a website.

The definition of employee vs independent contractor is currently a VERY HOT ISSUE in employment law. The recent UBER case being one such very visible reminder.

Authors aren't employees OR independent contractors with the literary agency. The tax form we provide clearly specifies the money received is for royalties. Royalties are licensing fees for the books the author writes. That's not a wage, or money exchanged for labor.

Where authors see the independent contractor vs employee contract language is when they are doing work for hire. For example: providing content to a website. Generally they are paid for their work by word or project, and more important: they don't own the work, and get no royalties.

I think this is why it just galls me (beyond what it should) when I hear people talk about "hiring a literary agent." You actually can't hire me. You can agree to be a client, but you're not paying a salary, and if you were, I'd really like to discuss benefits too.

Joseph Snoe offered up the reason for his word choice in a comment (a word choice I struck out with probably more fervor than was deserved.)
I used Creator because I was on a committee developing an Intellectual Property policy for the school. We have writers, software and program developers, scientific researchers, artistic designers, photographers, artists, movie makers, etc. The word we used to cover them all was Creator. Even with books there may be wordsmiths and there may be illustrators. After working on the policy for over a year it seemed secondhand at this point to use Creator.
Which of course makes perfect sense in the context of trying to write a policy covering all sorts of work. You could use Artist right up until you have scientific researchers. I guess I'd have offered up Student or Teacher if the policy is for the school: The Student or Teacher owns the work s/he makes. From research to art to code.

Which just underscores that the very simplest things are hardest to write about clearly. Just try writing directions for tying your shoes.

Christina Seine (flying under the radar as Unknown here) picked up our conversation about bees, and their transport:

Ooh Janet, you're brave! I bet that was a helluva drive. 10,000 bees is not a lot to look at actually. Just two boxes each about the size of a toaster. They arrive at the distribution point all boarded together. A guy with a chainsaw cuts apart the individual nucs, or boxes. This makes the bees very excited (bees love chainsaws).
It's a hoot to watch the collective muscle-tightening of the group of waiting beekeepers with every cut.|
Once we get them into the hives and they're all settled into their wee happy housekeeping, they're calm as doves though. And they're super cute close up. The bees, not the keepers.

Now, if this scene were in a book I was editing, there would be a BIG purple slash between "with every cut." and "Once we get them into the hives" cause really, how the hell do you get them IN TO THE HIVES?? This is known in editing lingo as "getting it on the page."

This reminds me of a story my dear grandmama told me once: she and her bevy of sisters loved to go to the movies, the more unsuitable for youngsters the better. The Perils of Pauline, westerns! Great Grandmama would have been shocked to her marrow to learn her supposedly refined children were B-movie hooligans.

Anyway, one Saturday afternoon down at the Bijou,  Our Hero is captured by The Villain. He's tied up so tight he might as well be mummified in rope. He's then dropped into an deserted mine shaft. No light, no ladder, no hope of escape. And then the villain drops a burlap sack of annoyed rattle snakes into the mine shaft, aiming right for our Hero's ten gallon chapeau. Cackling with the Snidely Whiplashiest of Evil, the Villain adds insult to injury by capturing our Hero's trusty steed, and riding off into the sunset.

How will Our Hero escape?

Come again next week for the continuing saga!

My grandmama and her bevy of sisters discussed this dilemma  all week. They drew escape plans instead of doing their homework. They whispered ideas back and forth after they'd gone to bed. They mounted full scale models of prospective rescue plans using knives, forks and glassware as they washed the dishes after supper.

All the while, they are scrounging up the nickels required for admission to next week's thrilling episode. Some fast talking and sleight of hand may have been employed, but this was too important to leave one of the sisters behind due to lack of funds.

Saturday dawns. Chores are completed. The children are shooed off after lunch, told to make themselves scarce till suppertime. The sisters run to the Bijou, pay out their scraped together admission fees, huddle in their seats, and wait for the show to start.

Cue theme music.
Cue voice over
Cue scenes from last week's thrilling episode. Hero captured! Hero tied! Hero dropped! Snakes!
No one in the entire theatre drew a breath as they waited.

Voice over: "Once our hero had escaped the mine shaft he found.."


How did he get out??

Grandmama was six when she saw that movie. She told me the story when she was 106. She was STILL MAD!

So yea, get it on the page.

I really liked the idea in Lilac Shoshoni's comment
I asked a good friend of mine to read my MS aloud with me-- we took turns. We did the reading over Skype since he is an American who resides in Canada nowadays. It was a great way to detect typos and questionable grammar. But it was also an amazing experience to hear him laugh at the funny parts. (Sometimes he laughed at the serious parts as well, but that's beside the point;-).)

Getting a crit partner to read it out loud sounds like a terrific tool for finding typos (and other assorted problems)!

Lisa Bodenheim picked up on a comment I made:
The one point that the Shark made that clouted me over the head-- 'Keeping an author published: that's the hard part. It's one of those new challenges we're all having Lots of Fun with.' What are the "new challenges" in keeping an author published?

There's just more competition now. A writer has to increase sales, or at least be on an upward trajectory to stay published. Steady sales just don't cut it much, at least below the 100,000 copies benchmark.

I can remember saying "we should publish fewer books" 15 years ago. The idea was to focus book buyers on fewer titles. If you have 100 readers and 100 books, figure 80% of those books will find a reader. If you have 50 readers and 10,000 books, a lot more books will go unread/unbought.

On Monday we talked about what happens when you find yourself with multiple manuscripts requested independently within an agency (things that happen much more often now with #Twitter manuscript pitch fests)

Robert Ceres asked the question many of you were thinking:
Ack, how does the initial offer fall through? That has to be frustrating!
I've only been on the other side of that, but it's just awful. You read a manuscript, love it, then things go south in ways you didn't see coming. Author can't revise; author won't revise; author demonstrates herself to be an asshat. All those have happened and more.

It's not common, at least it isn't with me, but I see it happening in the YA world more and more.
I've seen authors get offers on manuscripts that aren't finished; and then, problems arise.

And if you think I haven't had a deal or two go pear shaped, well, I could tell you some stories. (For those, you'll have to ply me with liquor and take a vow of silence foreverafter.)

I liked Wanderlustywriter's comment
It always astounds me the number of times I see agents advising writers they need to be nice and polite! I can't imagine being any other way ever, but especially towards the people I need to help me with my career!

I think it's actually something AGENTS should remember! It gets very easy here in Agentville to think authors should just suck it up and make our lives easy. We need to remind ourselves pretty regularly that the ENTIREFUCKINGINDUSTRY including our income relies on the work of the writer. So maybe, we should be nice to them. I think some of my ilk forget that. There are a lot more good books out there than there are slots on all the agents lists, but still: you are my income source, I am not yours.

On Tuesday I jumped up and down screeching about the woeful error of having someone (particularly an idiot) pitch your manuscript to an agent. I doubled down on my rage if said pitcher was actually being paid for this disservice. The lollygagging rant from Bull Durham was a visual aid.

Intercostal Clavicle** (which has to be one of my favorite screen names EVER**) said:
Maybe I'm extra cynical, but my first thought was that this was actually the author speaking, but posing as a third party in order to show off an "unbiased" opinion on how superduper their manuscript was.

I edited out some of the more identifying description but the original was clearly the work of someone Not The Author. And yes, what you suggest has happened.

and so I googled Intercostal Clavicle

Sam Hawke said
I'm assuming that you changed the name in the email Janet (otherwise, I think this might be a spoof - Dewey Cheatham? From Dewey Cheatham and Howe, reputable law firm?). I never know whether to feel sorry for people who sign up to these things or not, since a bit of basic googling should tell them how to query, and this ain't it...

I did indeed change the name. And yes, I stole it from Click and Clack the CarTalk gods.

One of the most difficult things I'm still trying to come to terms with is how many people write seriously bad queries (or do the kind of querying by proxy that was the subject of the post) when so much information is out there on how to do it right.

Then I remember some (ok MANY) years ago, standing off set of a local live morning talk show. One of the evening news guys was going to be on the show that day, and he was standing next to me. In the way of all good reporters (and he was that) he was friendly and expressed interest in why I was there. I explained my job (book publicity, author on show) and he asked some questions to keep the conversation rolling.

Then a lovely young woman came through the swinging doors that led to the newsroom. She had something for the reporter (I don't remember what) and they had a brief conversation. When she left, task completed, he said to me, just very offhand "she's the only person I know who actually did the things I'd recommended about getting a job in local TV." As an on-air reporter, he's face familiar to about half the media market. Thus he gets approached to talk to students about "how to get a job in TV" a lot. He'd probably done a hundred or so. And ONE person actually followed through well enough to get a job.

I'm lucky I guess. Only half my queries are completely clueless.

Donnaeve said:
I'm back. Still stumped by the tactics here, and all I gotta say's my career. I want to manage it. I mean, honestly, you gotta wonder...would this person also let someone else go do their job interview?

I've heard of some young kids bringing their mom or dad to a job interview. I literally did not believe it when I heard it.

Diane said:
Long time lurker here, but had to pop in and comment, as I am still boggling over someone who thinks "you're part of a limited group of agents to whom I'm sending it" is a GOOD thing.

I still get queries offering exclusives on reading the manuscript, or WORSE, telling me I'm the only agent they are querying.

CED cracked me up with this:
I think we're all taking the wrong lesson from this post.

The right lesson: there's a thriving business for writing consultants out there!

Anybody want me to send out their query (for a small fee)? I know some people.

Jason Magnason said:
 This is what I want for my Birthday: a Reider's Reef Badge.
A lot of you chimed in on this, including some very generous offers to design them etc. I can't stop anyone from doing this but let me say this: let's think about this for a second.

Is this what you want to be investing your time in? Prioritizing things, balancing demands of work and home life plus trying to get in writing time, let alone reading and thinking time, all those are hard enough without getting distracted by something that sounds fun. And yes, it does, but ask yourself: does this get you closer to being pubished? Does this get you closer to where you want to be?

It's so easy to lose focus doing things that are fun, but not actually helpful to your career.

A former beau of mine came to my apartment one Friday afternoon and asked what I'd done that day. In fact, I'd organized my filing and was pretty proud of how nice it looked. He got a funny look on his face, and said "no, what did you do today that is going to earn you money."

Oh, right. That.
Will it get you closer to your goal?

On Wednesday we discussed the stock phrase in query letter form rejections "not right for my list"

I really liked Sam Hawke's insight here:
And though you might learn something about the agent's personality from their form, you won't learn anything about your own work.

JSF nailed it here:
One thing that keeps me going lately is a layman's understanding of relativity (I think.) I formulate it as there is no central authority controlling right or not-right, which is a borrowing from conversations I've had and books I've read. I sometimes browse the book store by strolling down an aisle and reading titles that catch my eye. No specific section. I think there are probably as many tastes as there are people, and those tastes change on a whim.  It seems to me there is a place for all books, it's just a matter of finding that place, and finding that place at the right time.

Robert Ceres said:
I also think agent workload for reading queries would go way down if all agents put a real one liner about why they are rejecting.

I found four typos in your query.
Your writing too choppy for my taste.
I couldn't get into your MC's head.
Too much backstory.
It seemed like your opening scene was too improbable...

All might send a writer back to the drawing board. Of course that's never going to happen. But for the agents who do provide this kind of pithy feedback, you've really earned my goodwill.

This actually elicited a reply in the comment section of the post, but let me elaborate.

The reason at least 80% of the queries are Not Right For Me isn't anything you list. It's bad writing. Just plain bad writing. Am I ever going to tell someone that? No. Why not? Because it's not really my job to crush hopes and dreams. It's not my job to be discouraging. And one thing I know with ironclad certainty: good writing is learned.

The second reason most queries are rejected is they are writing a book I don't want to read. And that's not something a writer has control over.

In other words: a personalized rejection isn't going to help them fix the problem. The only thing that fixes their problem in the first case is to keep trying. And the second: query widely.

And you know what? My form rejection says both those things.

Given my job is to find work, not help writers who have work I'm not interested in, I'm ok with responding as I do.

And if you think writing back to anyone takes LESS time than a form rejection, well, come work for me for a week. You'll see. I hope you like sushi!

I think the best thing I've ever read about rejection was a comment on this blog post by Terri Lynn Coop
A couple of years ago I subbed a story to a highly competitive anthology.

When they announced the list and 99.1% of us were not on the list, a flaming sour grapes war erupted on their message board.

The editors were cool enough to break down the stats and discuss the process a bit. It went something like this:

2200 subs for 20 slots.

10% totally ignored the sub guidelines.

30% were not of publishing quality, even with extensive editing.

That left 60% or 1320 for 20 slots.

They cut that number in half by eliminating stories by editing priority. The more editing it needed, the farther down the stack it went. Then they cut it at the halfway mark.

Down to 660 for 20 slots.

Next, they sorted by duplicate tropes. The anthology had a definite theme, so naturally many had similar storylines. They did a cage match between competing stories and kept the ones they liked best.

This brought it down to about 400 for 20 slots. The field has been reduced by about 80% and is still unmanageable.

Next up they did sort of a jury-selection thing. Each member of the editorial team got a certain number of vetoes. They could eliminate a story that just did not appeal to them, even if another editor loved it like fire. At this point it was, "This one has a cat named Fred, my ex had a cat named Fred, reject."

300 for 20 slots.

After all this, 90+ percent were still going to be rejected. 280 stories that had passed several rounds of selection. From these 300 they chose stories for length, variety, and gut-feel for adherence to their vision to the theme.

The same cry went up, "Where's my feedback? Why do you hate me?"

2200 is probably a typical month for most agencies. And they don't have 20 slots a month.

I have no clue where I ended up in this continuum. It doesn't matter. I revised the story away from the proprietary theme and it was short-listed for another anthology, so I would like to think I made it to the final rounds.

Some days it is quality. Some days it is theme. Some days it is a cat named Fred.

Adib Khorram provided an interesting benefit of form rejections:
So far in 2016, four of the agents I follow on Twitter have done "query feedback" windows, wherein queries sent within a certain timeframe would get a brief personalized response.

I got four different responses. What one agent loved, another didn't respond to.

I think, if EVERY agent did that ALL the time, it would drive writers even crazier than we already are.

I actually like form responses. That way I'm no longer in limbo, but I don't have to take any more out of it than "not for me."

John "ol chumbucket' Baur said
I heard "not right for our list" a lot when my agent was shopping a book I co-wrote. One editor said it was "laugh-out-loud funny, but it's not right for our list." I eventually figured out that when a publisher says it, it means, "It's not like what we're already selling, and we don't know how to sell things we don't already sell." Sound cynical? Yeah, I thought so. But that doesn't mean it's not true.

Judy Moore asked:
My questions can you BUILD a platform? And, Twitter followers, the people who like their stories delivered in 140 words or less? Do they even buy books?

I still have pages out with one agent and am hopeful. But I'm not ruling out the possibility of changing my last name to Kardashian.

Two good resources are Christina Katz book on platform, and Susan Rabiner's book on editing. You should have both in your personal writing reference library

Sherry Howard said:
Chum Bucket? Did I hear Chum Bucket? I look at Gossamer every day hoping for a sign of life. It seems like it's been a long, long time.

Oh how I miss the Chum Bucket! But I had more than 30!!! unread requested fulls when I put Chum Bucket on hiatus in 2014. I had to make headway there, and the first step seemed to be NOT requesting more. Chum Bucket tends to produce requests at a MUCH higher rate than the general incoming query pool (I don't know why) plus of course I started doing these Week in Review posts and I work on those on Friday night when I was doing Chum Bucket.

In terms of prioritizing what I do for non-clients, the best use of my time is this blog: it's got the broadest array of subject matter of use to the most eyeballs. Second is QueryShark: specific topic, of use to querying writers. Third is ChumBucket: specific advice, useful only to the one writer.

I love ChumBucket, I do, but I have to prioritize.

On Thursday we discussed the perils of having a duplicate name

Lucie Witt makes a good point here:
This is also why it's handy to keep a uniform avi photo on different platforms. Makes it easy to know you've got the right Janet Reid when it's a picture of a shark in the profile/about section.

Be my chum!

Dena Pawling said
I have the opposite problem. If you google my legal name [not this one], you will find LOTS of sites where people complain about me. And yes, my legal name is sufficiently unusual that it really is me they are complaining about. This is because I am an attorney who evicts people for a living, and well, some people don't like that. Apparently, if you take some of these sites and complaints at face value, it was MY fault they stopped paying their rent or mortgage. I'm hoping an agent won't use that against me, but it is definitely a subject I'll have to discuss with any agent brave enough to offer to represent me.

I'm trying to think of a job or profession that would make me think twice about taking a writer on as a client. Flim flam man? Drug dealer? Mime? Not enticing, but not a deal breaker. I think the only job that would be an auto-reject is 2016 Republican candidate for president.

While eviction is certainly an unpleasant topic, remember, I'm a Republican by choice, and I actually have some sympathy for small business owners.

DeadSpiderEye said cracked me up completely with this:
This is fun, the first notable Google returns for my name, is a suspected drug dealer who's on the run. After that I'm a priest, an attorney, a judge, a grocery store employee in Virginia who's won the lottery, east Lancashire's most wanted man, on the run in South Africa (I suspect the drug dealer again), a chronic stammer sufferer (actually, I did have a terrible stammer as a kid), an artist and a head coach. Meanwhile, the incredibly talented individual, envied by his peers and adored by women, seems to be missing from the list.

Who knew that SpiderEye was such a common surname!

And this from BJ Muntain and Cheryl just made my day:
>we're from Bukovina, which straddles Ukraine and Romania

Holy crap, BJ, that's where my grandfather's from. I'm not sure I've ever encountered anyone else with history there.
And of course, I always like to look up places on the map, so here's a map of showing location of Bukovina

And I think the last word on this topic has to be this from roadkills-r-us
I wouldn't want an agent who couldn't tell the Balinese stripper with a wooden nose and bionic butt cheeks doing poetry slams calling dragons "Satan's fluffy minions" wasn't me.
 "Satan's fluffy minions"

And while it's true this wasn't exactly on topic it was still great to know, from kdjames
This is completely off topic, but I'm too groggy and exhausted to care.

I DID IT. I just posted the last entry and finished the stupid A to Z thing with all 26 (stops to count letters), yes, 26 posts and a grand total of 40,196 words of story. Where else could I share that and have people understand?

What an epic feat of sheer something-or-other this has been. It's like the writerly version of a bunch of guys sitting around drinking too much beer and suddenly one of them gets up, staggering, and says, "Hey, y'all, watch this!" And ends up in the ER. Only I can't even blame alcohol, I was completely sober when I decided this was a good idea.

I expect one of you all to stop me next time. If there is a next time. Which there won't be. *falls over dead*

I've been on a reading tear this week:
The Defense by Steve Cavangh.

One of the great lines in the book: "It was like a slow motion riot, but with catering" describing a scene in a diner.

Dark Money by Jane Mayer
The most cogent explanation I've seen so far of what the hell happened to the Republican party in the last 20 years. I think it should be required reading for anyone voting this year.

The Invitation Only Zone by Robert S. Boynton
Fascinating topic, but the book suffers from the fact that the author spoke neither Korean nor Japanese, and most of the people involved in these events were unwilling to speak candidly. Still, it was worth the read.

and of course, the Duchess of Yowl is making a state visit and it's been interesting. Very Interesting.

The Duchess of Yowl reaches new heights

The Duchess of Yowl slays her foes

The Duchess of Yowl discovers Macmillan Library Cats

The Duchess of Yowl discovers books

The Duchess of Yowl discover iTunes

The Duchess of Yowl lodges a complaint

The Duchess of Yowl on the evening's entertainment

Which brings us to the end of the week, and the writing contest.
Results on Monday (I hope!)
Tuesday. I'm pretty sure.

And how the hell did it get to be May already??

The brand new newsletter went out to the mailing list just this morning. If you signed up, but didn't get it, check your spam folder first of course, then let me know.

Not on the mailing list? Sign up here

Subheader noms this week:

With this site we have the opportunity not only to learn from our mistakes, but from the mistakes of others. --Celia Reaves

Aren't we an amazing bunch of word-whores.--CarolynnWith2Ns

Some Lents are just there to give us striking things to write about.--Brigid

"Your job is to write well, and not be an asshat." (nominated by Celia Reaves, written by The Shark)

Some days it is quality. Some days it is theme. Some days it is a cat named Fred. --Terri Lynn Coop

Friday, April 29, 2016

Upping the Ante writing contest!

You guyz have gotten entirely too good at these writing contests. Time to move up a division. (Sorry Carolynn, not doing essays!)

Read the rules carefully this time: there are changes!

1. Write a story using 100 words or fewer.

2. Start with this phrase:  "And then she saw"

3. End with the phrase: "stunned her."

4. Use these three prompt words: cat   hat   splat

5. You must use the whole word, but that whole word can be part of a larger word. The letters for the
prompt must appear in consecutive order. They cannot be backwards.
Thus: cat/catering is fine but hat/heat is not.

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

7. 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, then post.

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

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

10. 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.

10a. There are no circumstances in which it is ok to ask for feedback from ME on a your contest entry. NONE. (You can however discuss your entry with the commenters in the comment trail on the post with results ...just leave me out of it.)

11. It's ok to tweet about the contest generally.
Example: "I just entered the flash fiction contest on Janet's blog and I didn't even get a lousy t-shirt"

12. Please do not post anything but contest entries. (Not for example "I love Felix Buttonweezer's entry!")

 13. You agree that your contest entry can remain posted on the blog for the life of the blog. In other words, you can't later ask me to delete the entry and any comments about the entry at a later date.

14. The stories must be self-contained. That is: do not include links or footnotes to explain any part of the story. Those extras will not be considered part of the story.

Contest opens: 8:47 am Saturday 4/30/16

Contest closes: 9am Sunday 5/1/16

If you're wondering how much time you have before the contest closes

If you'd like to see the entries that have won previous contests, there's
an .xls spread sheet here

(Thanks to Colin Smith for organizing and maintaining this!)

Questions? Tweet to me @Janet_Reid
Ready? SET?

Not yet!
Sorry, contest is now closed.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Yours truly, Bonnie (no, not THAT Bonnie!)

As I understand it, an agent interested in my query might very well check out my web presence before deciding whether to request a full or otherwise encourage a working relationship. Unfortunately, there is another writer with my same name in my same state who is all over the web with both lousy poetry and in-your-face political views that are (to say the least) not mine. I'd love for the agents I'm querying to know this person is not me, but including a line in my query distancing myself from her seems incredibly tacky. How much of a problem is this, really, and what can I do about it?

When I google a writer, I use the link you provide.

For you that would be:

Thank you for your time and consideration,

Bonnie Bestseller

I do not type your name into The Google to see what comes up.

I'm not interested in finding out how many Bonnies there are;  I'm interested in you.

The fewer Bonnies I have to sort through to find you, my Bonnie, the better.

Given that your surname is an exact match to this other, lesser Bonnie, you can also include something underneath your website:
Thank you for your time and consideration,
Bonnie Bestseller
(There are two BonnieBestsellers in Freedonia. I'm the .net. She's the .nuts)
Now, there are other ways around this and the easiest one is to simply add a name to your author name.

BonnieNYTBestseller for example.

The reason my beloved client Stephanie Evans is Stephanie Jaye Evans?

The "other" Stephanie Evans was a stripper who'd appeared on Howard Stern doing things that I think may have actually required CGI special effects.

But even if I should stumble on the Other Lesser Bonnie instead of you The Right Bonnie, most likely I'd recognize that you are two separate people.  Your query will be well written and enticing. Her website will not.

I've been at this long enough (as we all have) to understand that there are multiple people with the same name.

In fact, just recently I was preparing a list of comp titles for an author and came across a book by James Baldwin. The bio on Amazon linked this book to the James Baldwin who wrote Fire On the Mountain, but that seemed very odd to me, given the subject of the book being proposed as a comp. Sure enough, different authors. A little bit of research was all it took, but you'll notice: I knew to look.

One of my authors actually had a page on his website for the "other" guys with his name. It was pretty interesting. You might not want to do that if Other Bonnie is also a writer, and not a very good one, of course.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

What does 'not right for my list' mean anyway?

Okay, so I received this response from an agent, which came in less than 24 hours of having sent a query and 5 pages of my memoir to her.

"Many thanks for querying me. This certainly sounds like an interesting premise for a book, but I'm sorry to say it's not quite right for my list at this time. I appreciate your trying me though and hope you find the right home for your work very soon. Please feel free to try one of my colleagues with your project."

Thrilling-until I read it was "not right for her list at this time". I've heard this a few times. Would you please explain what that means? How does a book not fit a list? Does she mean maybe later she would be interested?

Also, she suggests I try one of her colleagues. Upon checking the company website, I see no one else lists memoirs as a genre they represent. Why would she say this? Or...maybe this is a canned response?

First, don't read anything more into the speed of the reply than you just queried when she was working through her inbox.. I've replied to people within MINUTES and it was for both positive and negative outcomes.

And yes, this is a form rejection.

But as to your question, what does "not right for her list at this time" mean: you have a list too. It's all the books you own. My guess is you probably own quite a few. But you don't own every book you've ever looked at or heard about. You probably don't even own every book you've thought "hmmm...sounds good" when you read about it or saw it.

Same with my list which in this case is novels I've asked to represent. Some novels appeal to me. Some don't. That really doesn't have a strong correlation with "good" or "publishable." I have some VERY good novels on my list that haven't found a home. I've seen some novels published (not mine of course) that I thought were dreck. And I haven't taken on every novel that sounded good in my incoming queries either.

What you don't know from this response is whether the book isn't appealing to her, or you've got a query that doesn't do its job. Make sure your query has enough of the plot (YES you need a plot in a memoir!) to be enticing, and you haven't described your female characters as blond bombshells, or feisty (or other gender specific words that annoy the snot out of us right now). A quick trip through QueryShark might help if you haven't been there before.

And I will say this: memoir is very tricky. It's a crowded category and the competition isn't diminishing. The biggest problems I see with memoir queries is what they don't have: significance for the reader. An interesting life doesn't always make an interesting story. You need a third act, and you particularly need it if you're not famous.

We've talked about memoir here a couple of times.

A general post on querying memoir

A post on what to leave out of a memoir

A longish post on significance and platform (yes, platform helps in a memoir)

This might be a good time to invest in a writing conference as well. A chance to actually talk to an agent may help you identify some problems you don't see, or get insight into what's not working in your query or project. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Please tell me you didn't pay money for this service

 Hi Janet, Dewey Cheatham here.  I don't think we've "met" so I should say at once that I'm getting in touch here with my consultant's hat on because I hope you'll take a look at something I think is really terrific and in your wheel house.  AUTHOR's TITLE, (description) knocked me out when I saw a first draft a while back, and it has gotten better and better ever since.

 I'm attaching a short synopsis that will tell you more, along with the ms itself to save us all time, and the author bio so you can see his impressive bona fides.  I've also been trying to come up with a comparable [sic] or two that will  convey the very special pleasure this story offers (comp explanation)

 The final point to be made is that TITLE  has never been submitted to any editor/publisher and you're part of a limited group of agents to whom I'm sending it.  I feel so strongly about the excellence of this work that I'm not putting any fancy time limits or constrictions on the submission.  Take a look, please, and tell me what you think.  

First thought: who the hell are you and why are you sending me someone else's work?

Second thought:  you're wasting my time. You've clearly ignored my submission guidelines about  attachments (I don't open them) and no submissions from third parties. Those guidelines aren't for "other people". They're for everyone. Particularly people I've never heard of.

Third thought: geeze louise, I hope  the author didn't pay you any money for this "service". That vast silence you hear is no one paying attention to you. Positioning yourself as a "consultant" doesn't move you to the head of the line. It moves you to the auto-rejection bin.

In other words 0-3.
That's an out, retire the team, everyone goes home, see ya later.

If you are a writer and someone offers to "help you" pitch your novel by sending queries for you SAY NO.  No matter how enticing they make it sound. No matter how "connected" they claim to be. Anyone who claims this is effective is WRONG.

I don't think this "consultant" is actively trying to line his own pockets at the expense of authors. I think he's simply clueless. It's not a scam, it's just useless. Unfortunately the only person who loses out here is the writer who thinks his book isn't getting any love when that's not the case at all.

And for the contrarians among you (and yes I know there are many) who say "well, jeeze SharkForBrains, just read the damn thing already" let's all remember this:

1. I have no idea if the author has agreed to let Dewey Cheatham pitch his ms.
2. This "query" wasn't written by the author and doesn't actually tell me anything about the book.
3. Someone who is so uninformed as to allow this is a writer who will require a LOT of extra work. Guess how much I want to sign up for that?
4. I don't even want to hazard a guess at what kind of fee structure a consultant like this sets up. A bonus if the agent replies? A percentage of the deal if the agent sells the book? This kind of thing bothers me a lot, and frankly I don't want to be part of it.

Just about the only time I'd actually take one more step and read some of this is if it was a non-fiction book on a topic I was perishing to work on.  Off the top of my head I can't think of a topic like that but I'm sure there must be one.  For a novel? No way.

Querying EVERY AGENT IN THE WORLD is easy: send a query. Wait for a reply. You don't need anyone to grease the skids, perform an introduction, move you to the head of the line, wrap you in some kind of embrace of familiarity.

I read queries from total strangers every day. I sign authors because I love their books not because some consultant read it first and vetted it for me.

This is a very simple game. Throw the ball, hit the ball, catch the ball.

Monday, April 25, 2016

What to do when there are two

About a month ago, I got an offer of rep. I alerted every agent who had my query/partial/full. Then my initial offer fell through.

During that turbulent week, Agent 1 from Fabulous Agency requested my full, rejected it with some very, very kind words. When they heard about my offer of rep mishap, they even offered to show my MS to some of her fellow agents at said Fabulous agency (which, honestly, I had no idea was even an option). Did I mention they were really, really nice?

Agent X (different agency) offered a very kind R&R. I asked Agent 1 if they'd be interested in the revised version of the MS and they said yes. On cloud nine right now.

Fast-forward to this week, and I'm still waiting on the okay on my new outline I sent to Agent X so that I can really get into the major changes in my revision. Meanwhile, I have this shiny new MS I'm itching to query. So I entered a Twitter pitching contest and Agent 2 (!!!) from Fabulous Agency requested a partial from this other MS.

Now, I have no idea what to do. Agent 1 was so kind and generous, and though they're not reading anything of mine right now and the R&R didn't come from them, they did agree to read the revised version of my initial MS. But at the same time, I don't want to miss this chance with Agent 2.

Since they're both from the same agency, I have no idea how to proceed. Do I e-mail Agent 2, explain the situation, and ask them if it's okay if I send them the new MS partial? Do I just do nothing and hope Agent X will okay my revision outline and then send the revised version of my first MS to Agent 1?

Like I said, Agent 1 was really, REALLY nice, and I don't want to make a huge faux-pas. But I also don't want to miss out on an opportunity with Agent 2.

It's completely understandable that you're confused about what to do. Interactions with agents have become so fraught with hysterical warnings -- "do this" "never do that" and "oh my god, you did WHAT?? You'll be on the blacklist forever!"-- that it's a wonder authors heads aren't spinning and there's an uptick in calls for exorcists.

So first things first: you can not screw up if you're polite and straightforward.

[If an agent is dismissive of you for being polite and straightforward, that agent needs to loosen her girdle and get a fucking drink. You may quote me on that as needed.]

You say to the agent who requested your work in the Twitter contest that you have an R&R in the pipeline for Agent 1.

It's up to the agents to sort stuff out on their end. Your job is to write well, and not be an asshat.

So far you seem to be 2 for 2 on this.

This is actually the overarching guideline for all these kinds of weird situations that pop up in the query process: be polite, be straightforward.  Resist the temptation to game the system or strategize.  REALLY resist the voices who tell you that's the only way to handle this. I can assure you that is terrible advice, and worse, it will bite you in the asterisk later.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Week in Review 4/24/16

Welcome to the week that was (and what a week it was!)

In last week's review RachelErin said
Maybe I do need to give The Wire a try. I've heard so many times how amazing it is, but I have trouble with violence in TV and movies. Gives me nightmares if it's too intense. I hate missing out on great writing, though!
I don't think of The Wire as particularly violent. Yes there are some scenes with gunfire, and one particularly gruesome scene in Season One with  Brandon "laid out here for all the little yo's to see" brutalized unforgivably (for failing to give up Omar's location.)
It's entirely possible to fast forward through them and still get the gist of the show. 

Scott G just cracked me up with this:

"I think once or twice in 10+ years of equeries, I've rejected something I intended to ask for pages on."
No problem. I'll have those pages to you first thing in the morning.

 The blog post on Monday about author agency agreements
came from a WIR question from BJ Muntain
I found the information about agent/client contracts interesting. You know, there is a lot out there about publishing contracts, but I don't think I've seen all that much about agent contracts. It would be interesting to hear what is covered in these contracts, and what should be negotiated.

Lucie Witt said:
This all seems pretty straightforward, with the exception of the switching agents and unexploited rights part. I imagine that language could be tricky to understand/catch

You just want to be careful that any agency agreement says the agent doesn't get commission on things she didn't sell or offer for sale. And that her interest in the book is not life of copyright.  

Craig asked:
Is there some ultimate voice on who gets the money from Italy or do you have to fight it out in court? (1)

Over the past few weeks you gave several examples of agents behaving badly. Mostly by a refusal to communicate. It makes you want to turn your pretty head and walk away. But you can't.

Do you have to hire an attorney and send a registered return response letter? How do you make sure you get Italy and not your ex? (2)

It would be nice if you could settle it like grownups but an agent who refuses you calls and does not call back can not be expected to act like a grownup when it comes to money.

Who is the final arbiter? (3)
(1) and (2) If you license your rights to an Italian publisher, the publisher is going to pay the agent who did the deal. That's generally going to be your NEW agent's co-agent. Italian co-agent sends New Agent the money. New Agent sends a check to you.

It gets sticky if OLD agent sees the deal and says "hey Snooks, not so fast,  I have rights to that commission too. See, here's the author/agency agreement you signed that says so."

You're then left with the choice of saying "Sayonara sharkbreath" or paying up.

When I've run in to this problem (with a client who had a former agent with a draconian author/agency agreement) we actively considered the risk of selling stuff and just not saying anything to the former agent.  In the end we decided it wasn't worth the risk, or potential payout if she caught wind of it. It didn't matter cause we have enough other stuff that I have all the rights on, but this gets really sticky if you have a big best-selling book.

(3) If it gets ugly, the final arbiter is the judge in a civil case about a contract dispute. A lot of author agency agreements mandate arbitration for any disputes, and if you can get that taken out, you'll be doing yourself a favor.

Again, the key here is a very clear author/agency agreement about how long, and for what the agent is entitled to commission.

SiSi asked
Wow, thank you for this--you make it sound so simple and straightforward. I have a question similar to Jason's. An agent will examine publishing contracts, so it seems to make sense to have someone look at an agent contract before we sign anything. Who is the best person for that--any lawyer? A contract specialist? A publishing specialist? My neighbor who watches a lot of Judge Judy?

A lawyer or a contract review specialist can help. Probably not a Judge Judy fan, since those are generally resolving disputes; you want to prevent them!
If anyone needs help finding someone to look at a contract, let me know. I keep a list of names.

E.M. Goldsmith asked
I did have a question about works represented. A writer signs with agent based on full length novel. The same writer has a lot of short stories published all over the place and even more on his or her blog. After signing with agency, the author is approached for rights to turn one of these short stories into a movie. Would the agent be able to step in here and negotiate on the author's behalf even though the story was published prior to agent/author relationship? (1) What if the writer is approached prior to signing with agent? Would this be something to tell agent in query? (2) Phone call? (3)
1. Yes
2. Won't hurt.
 oh I'm sorry, was I shrieking? Unless you're a client, the rule is do not call the agency. Not for nuttin'.

The works covered by an author/agency agreement can be amended at any time. If I sign you for Sgt. Kale Takes on The Evil Lettuce Man (a picture book of course) and I can't sell it, I can take it off the list of works represented and let you self-pub it, no problemo. 
If someone asks for a novel based on a short story, we can add that.
As long as the list is current, and we both have the SAME list, it's all good.

Janice L. Grinyer asked:
"We set a limit on how much we can incur on your behalf ($250) and over what period (a year) before we need to have further authorization."

Is this limit a mutual decision between Author and Agent, or is this number based on the Agent's experience of what overhead costs might occur during the period?(1)

What number would cause an author to raise an eyebrow? (2)

(1) It's a number we've had in our contracts for 20 years! I don't think we've revisited it since it was inserted. In reality, we hardly bill clients for anything now cause almost everything is electronic.  If we need to ship books to you, or prepay an expense for you, then we bill you (or rather deduct it from your next check)

I've paid for things like websites, registering copyright, the tax forms required for overseas payments, and author photos. In each case I think the author knew the cost ahead of time and had ok'd the expense.

(2) if a number ISN'T listed you want to make sure one is. An agent shouldn't be allowed to incur unlimited costs on your behalf. That's just asking for problems. And I'm sure the number is one of the things that could be negotiated. If a client wanted to increase it, there'd be no problem. If they wanted to drop it to zero…that's kind of a hassle .

Michael Seese asked
I'd often wondered about the payment arrangement. In the days when check was king, I totally get sending the money to the agency. But now that we have EFT, I would have thought all parties would be better served if the publisher sent the agency their contracted amount and the balance to the author.

Taken to an extreme, if I'm getting a $1M advance (why dream small??) does the agency really want to mail me a check for $850,000?

I understand that there are the aforementioned occasional fees. But I put my career in your hands, so even the cheapest guy in the world (meaning, me) would not say, "You want me to send a check $50 for postage? That's outrageous!"

Actually Michael, I would LOVE to send you a check for $850,000. I think the only person who'd love it more than me would be you. 

And of course if your contract is for $1M advance, you're going to see four payments, not one:

1. On signing (25%)
2. On D&A (25%)
3. On initial publication (25%)
4. On ppbk pub -or 12 months post initial pub- (25%)

For amounts that size, we'll send it to you however you want: check, ACH, wire transfer.
From the publisher however, we still like checks. I really REALLY like knowing we got the money and when it went in the bank.

We do wire transfers for funds from overseas, and it's not as efficient as you think. We look at the bank records online and all we see is the wire transfer amount, and maybe the issuing bank. Well The First National Bank of Bimini may have accounts from all 12 publishers in Bimini, all of whom we have deals with. Which one is this for.

We have to wait for the paperwork to catch up with then bank. Which makes me slightly nuts since once YOUR money is in MY account, I want to be writing you a check and getting you paid.

So, when possible we ask for checks. But you can have it in bitcoins if you want, but I'm charging you a handling fee if it's pennies and I have to count them!

And you don't' send us a check for $50 for postage. We deduct it from your remittance:

$850,000/4= $212,500

On signing payment: $212,500 less $50 postage, and $1000 handling fee for payment in pennies, your net is: $211,450.

For those of you who like just the math:

Gross amount due: $212,500.00
Less: postage        ($50.00)
Less: handling fee ($1000.00)
Net to you:             $211,450.00

Claire said:
Michael, I'm guessing the publishers would feel it's really not their job to be divvying up the royalties between the author and agent, according to a contract to which they are not a party. They pay the author according to his/her instructions, which in most cases would be "Send the cheque to my agent". Then agent and author can duke it out.
The publishing contract between the publisher and the author actually has a clause that specifies the agent receives the dough. It's called the agency clause and every agent has their own version.

The publisher also includes language that says the money they pay the agent is payment for the author so if the agent is laggardly, the author has to deal with the agent not the publisher. The publisher will divide the payments but they're not about to get into collecting your money for you from the agent!

Sara asked:
    One question, not about the content of the agreement itself but the information the client provides to enter into the agreement. The standard agent-author contract used by my (former) agent's agency required the author's name and signature, plus the author's SSN, ostensibly so it could be readily entered on contracts when needed. Is this something that's typically requested up front? It makes sense, but knowing the author's SSN is also unnecessary at that point.... I wasn't sure what to think at the time (I ultimately provided it). I'm curious if this is standard practice.

I think it is standard practice. We request a W9 from all our clients when they sign on with FPLM. We are careful about keeping the information secure of course. If clients have security concerns, we work with them. Some clients have given me their tax ID numbers verbally. Some in three different emails and in reverse order, and some ask that it not be stored electronically.

I do whatever the client wants on this.

Joseph Snoe asked:
Does the contract bind the Agent or agency to do anything (e.g., Agent agrees to submit manuscript to at least twenty of the top thirty publishers?) or is the Creator writer at the mercy of the Agent’s goodwill? (1)

Does the Agent or agency in the contract warrant it will abide by all AAR Canon of Ethics? (2)

Will any agent or agency warrant it will represent the Creator writer ’s next two or three books even if the first one or two does not sell well? (3)

Does the agent contract give theCreator writer  or his representative the right to inspect the agency records related to his books? (4)

Does the contract assure the Creator writer the specific agent will in fact be the submission agent or editor or negotiator (as opposed to an assistant)? (5)

(1) - (5) No.

I think if a potential client asked me for these kinds of warranties, I'd step back from representation. At some point in this process the client has to believe what I'm saying. I'm signing a project I think I can sell. Therefore I will try to sell it (1).

I am a member of AAR and I value that membership, therefore I do my best to adhere to the Canon of Ethics. (2)

If this book doesn't sell, I'm not going to promise I'll work on the next three books. I intend to work with you, but I'm not going to promise something I don't know I can deliver. I want you to trust me; I'm not going to lie to you even if you want me to.(3)

We give you a complete breakdown of the payments on every check you receive. I will literally have NO information in my office that you will not also have. And since you are not a CPA, you're not bound by a Canon of Ethics and there's no way on Gods green earth I'm giving you access to our bookkeeping which would allow you to see other clients' income.

If a potential client insisted on this, I'd rescind the offer of representation. That said, if you think that's a problem, ask to have the payments divided at the publisher from the get-go. (4)

and (5) you don't get to tell me how to do my job. That's just gonna be the way it is.

Someone who needs to micro-manage at this level would not be a good match for me. We generally find this out the hard way. I had a potential client ask for 27 changes to the author agency agreement, including that it not be in letter form. And that our client account be a trust account, not just a separate bank account. I loved his book, but knew this would be a relationship that would not survive even one small stumble. Fortunately he realized it too, and said "no thanks."

There's a big difference between being prepared and knowledgeable, and suspecting your agent will pull a fast one unless the contract says she can't.

This was actually a plot point in a Dick Francis novel. The stud fee contract listed every possible thing that could go wrong from aardvark attacks to zebra mauling. Of course what DID go wrong was something not listed, but the insurance company had to pay because the cause wasn't one of the many many listed ones.

In the case of author agency agreements, I like to think my clients and I know what the basic agreement is: don't fuck up in any meaningful way. I'm sure it gives lawyers the hives, but there it is.

While Donnaeve labeled this as off-topic, she was too modest:
OFF TOPIC - I wanted to share something that happened yesterday. The CEO of Kensington posted an ARC of DIXIE DUPREE on his FB Page. Apparently he's going to read it. As part of that post, he also said it was "getting wonderful reviews and a great buzz." (Yay!) A few mins later he tagged me in a comment, and mentioned a particular individual who'd just left a comment on the post. He said "XXXX is a huge fan." I didn't know who the person was, so I Googled him. He's an exec at Random House Penguin (Kensington's Distributor).

It's entirely on topic (if you meant the scope of the blog, not just one particular post)

The reason this is cool for Donna is not just that people are reading and loving her book. That is terrific indeed. The reason it's more than terrific is she's getting what's called "in house buzz" and it's a HUGE help for a debut novel.

When not just the acquiring editor but the marketing and publicity folks and the other execs love the book it helps build the book's profile in-house. Donna is one of 30-50 books being published that season, and one of HUNDREDS that Random House will distribute. Everything that gets her attention is a Very Big Deal.

So HUZZAH!!!!!!!!

John Frain noticed some terminology:
But still! Theme parks and merchandising! I think my protagonist is gonna start carrying around a good luck charm in the form of a Disney character.

Don't laugh! Merchandising is a HUGE cash cow for a very few products and retaining those rights are essential to making film deals. I think Allie Brosh could have raked in a tidy sum if she'd licensed the Alot to someone:

And speaking of novels we all love alot a lot, John Frain's novel has taken a turn for the worse:
But I'm only guessing. I haven't even figured out how to revive my protagonist when I accidentally allowed the bad guy to kill her in chapter 16. Damn.

And it turns out that "doing the waiting for Frain dance" has a video.

Lucie Witt said
I get why OP might ask a question like this. We're in a post 50 Shades of Grey world - books with horrible grammar/writing can be bestsellers.
I've never understood why the grammar at least doesn't get fixed in some of these books. Maybe it's a tight production deadline that doesn't allow for copyediting (if a publisher copyedits a book the author needs to review the edits. It adds weeks if not months to the process.)

And I love love love this from luciakaku
Prescriptivism makes me twitch now. I occasionally jump into grammar debates on FB with, "Actually, that's prescriptive grammar. English doesn't give a rat's twat whether you split infinitives. Which is why Star Trek boldly goes wherever it wants, and no one gets confused, just uppity."

During the WIR Stacie asked the question that led to Wednesday's blog post:
    If you're a first-time author, how would you know whether your agent is dispersing funds to you promptly? Does the publisher alert you when the check goes out?
I gave a rundown on how the money goes out to you and when.

CarolynnWith2Ns asked:
Okay, so I'm going to sound really, really stupid but are authors handled as independent contractors, in other words do they receive a 1099.
May you request taxes withheld or does your accounting firm, Dewey, Cheathem and Howe, do that for you?
This is not a stupid question. If you want to try for stupid you'll have to take another shot. Something along the lines of "where do you keep your ice" would be a good start.

Yes, you the author get a 1099 from us the agent. It reflects the GROSS amount you earned, that is the amount BEFORE commission and expenses. You keep track of money that was deducted from your check, then claim it as an expense. If you have an accountant or tax preparer they will help you do this correctly.

We can't withhold taxes for you. The only taxes we can withhold are employment taxes, and you are not an employee.

Most agents probably can't do your taxes for you but I've been known to walk clients through a Schedule C once or ten times.

This isn't complicated, it's a matter of keeping good records.

SiSi asked:
Since taxes are still on my mind, how are taxes handled through the payments? Is anything withheld or is it up to the writer to keep track of all payments? Or is that something the agent also helps with? 

We do NOT withhold any kind of tax from your payments. When I send a client a largish check I remind them to take 25-30% of it and salt it away cause Uncle Sam will want it, most likely sooner rather than later.

If it's a smallish check (like under $1000) I'm not so concerned, but coming up with $35K when you need to is often a little bit harder, than $250.

Colin Smith asked:
So far, I've not made a single penny from my writing, so I've not really felt justified in trying to claim anything tax-wise for it. Not even for pens and paper. Am I missing out? Or is it really not worth the trouble until I sell a story, or start paying for an agent's bar tab? 

For that, I'd have to send you to your accountant. Every business I've owned has had income of some sort from pretty early on. It may not have exceeded expenses for awhile, but there was always something to put in the income line.

If there's literally NO income at all, I'm just not confident to answer.

And the sooner you start picking up my bar tab the happier my bartender will be.

Colin Smith said:
One rather important take-away from this: DON'T QUIT YOUR DAY JOB. Even if you get a big-dollar advance. You won't see all the money at once, and taxes may not be taken from it. Knowing how much my family lives by our family budget, I don't think we'll be ready to live off of advances and book royalties for a while. If ever! :) 

This is superlative advice. And let's all remember the very dark truth that most books don't earn out. That $200K advance may be the ONLY money you see from your book (or any book.)

Once that money is gone, it's spent. You want to make sure you're not scrambling for income at the same time I'm scrambling to find you a new publishing deal.

One of the things I have to beat into the heads of my young colleagues is anyone can sell a book. I've seen incredibly incompetent agents sell books. Keeping an author published: that's the hard part. It's one of those new challenges we're all having Lots of Fun with.

Jenz said:
I can't speak to what book publishers do, but I just made a short story sale to a market (my first pro-level sale) who specifies in their contract that they do not withhold any taxes, you're responsible for figuring that out on your own. I expected that, but it's interesting that they make a point of including it in the contract. 

Congrats on the sale! And yes, some contracts do spell out IN DETAIL that you are not an employee, and on and on. I see it most particularly in contracts my authors sign when they are providing content to a website.

I did have the interesting experience of speaking to an unemployment officer once when one of our authors was laid off from his day job and filed for unemployment benefits. He had to list the income he received from his book deal on one of his reports, and the Dept of Labor was very quick to tell us we were going to be charged for this.

Of course, I filed an appeal, and then we had a hearing! It was all done by phone (thank goodness, since the author didn't live anywhere near NYC!) and lasted about an hour. I had to answer questions about what an agency does, how the money is disbursed and whether the author could be considered an employee or independent contractor. An author is neither of those by the way. The 1099-M form you get from us specifies the money is royalties, not wages, salaries or payment for work.

In hindsight it was an interesting experience. At the time it was nerve-wracking as hell.

an off topic but important point from Joseph Snoe
I receive royalty checks in April and October with support saying what the publisher says is my book’s sales experience. (I always wonder about them since my publisher says we had modest sales while consistently ranks the book in the top 10,000 (it’s ranked number 6608 this very moment).
Amazon rankings aren't about numbers, they're about placement. If you sell 10 books, you could still be #1 on Amazon if every other title in your category sold nine or fewer.

Alternatively, you can sell a million books and be #20, if you're competing with James Patterson and Lee Child.

You can have a relatively good Amazon number (and 6608 is good) and still not being seeing wheelbarrows of cash on your royalty statement.

I used The Wire to explain my point but I think SiSi's comment really nailed what I was trying to say:
In general, I try to distinguish between "bad grammar" and "grammatical mistakes." Bad grammar is perfectly fine if it fits the character, drives the story, or even just makes a point. For the most part this doesn't bother me at all. (Sometimes this stylistic choice can be overdone, but that's a bigger writing mistake, not a grammatical error.)
Grammatical mistakes that pop up in otherwise standard grammar and word usage, that are clearly not intended by the writer, drive me crazy. I don't correct them in printed material, but I certainly notice them. When I used to work at a bookstore and got uncorrected proofs, I always had to take a deep calming breath before sitting down to read them!

Lennon Faris said:
My all time favorite line from any of the flash fiction here was "YOUR NOT SAM". A 'typo' that shows the situation - that character wasn't editing bc he saw something (we don't know what) that scared the sh** out of him. I still think about that line and it creeps me out. I truly wish I could remember who and when wrote that, so if anyone does...
And yes, it was creepy as hell wasn't it.

And I was glad to see this from Lucie Witt:
Janet and many of the Reiders have long advocated for reading your work out loud to catch mistakes. My desk drawer books have either been shelved before I'm at that point or I just didn't think reading it out loud was necessary.

I'm now a convert.

I'm reading my R&R out loud before resubmitting it and I cannot believe how many typos I'm catching. I'm also finding the grammar mistakes I frequently make (comma splices, I hate you) jump out when I'm reading out loud.

Best of all is how it makes you hear your characters' voices. I'm fixing sentences that were fine as they were but sing with a small tweak. Sometimes that means purposefully disregarding the rules of grammar, like the Stringer Bell quotes here.

Anyways, if grammar and voice worry you, read your WIP out loud. I'm mad I waited so long to take that advice.

And this from Cheryl, is sadly not the first time I've heard of this kind of thing:
I once had a beta reader suck all the life out of my first person story by "correcting" everything (straight out of Strunk and White, no less). She turned my modern comic noir fantasy into a bad pastiche of a Victorian parlour novel.

She also felt the need to change the narrator's dialect (which is my own dialect) to hers.

Thank god for the "reject all changes" button.
I know of an author who had a copy editor who clearly did not get the style and tone of the book being edited. He thought it was some sort of academic treatise.  I'm not sure the author ever recovered completely.  The copy editor was replaced, the book survived, but oh man, Not Fun.

On Friday I talked about my love for the Best Of series published by HMH.

CarolynnWith2Ns is just determined to go back to Carkoon!
Because I am already, one of Carkoon's exile's in residence, let me suggest that today's post screams for a Flash Essay Contest. With prompts, or a subject, or whatever, it might be a blast.

And in what has to be the best example of the reason to get everything right is so your reader has confidence you intended "the wrong", BJ Muntain said:
Jason: I know we're not supposed to comment on typos, but I'm going to assume that it's intentional, because 'word-smiting' is the best description of writing and editing as I've ever heard.

And Lucie Witt told us this lovely Prince story:
Small side story about dearly departed Prince. One of our most underfunded libraries shared last night back in 2001 they were going to close. Prince gave them the money to stay open under the condition they didn't say where it came from while he was alive. Such an amazing artist and person.

And then the sentence that just stopped me cold in the comments, as I'm sure it did the rest of you, from Jason Magnason.
My father committed suicide when I was eleven, on the last day of school; it was field day.
It's not just the fact of the sentence, which is  indeed chilling. The beauty of this sentence is that it is is very lean, very elegant. It doesn't do anything other than make you feel something very intensely. It's not over-written.

So often writers add adjectives thinking they're making things sound better, more descriptive, but forgetting that adjectives are like salt. A few good grains make the pasta perfect. Too much and you're tossing the noodles and starting over.

Jennifer R. Donohue brought us some good news:
You've all read Query Shark, right? The archives, everything? Me too. So, today I was doing some book ordering, from the Forecast catalog Baker & Taylor puts out, and in the SciFi section I glossed over a book's description and then went back to it, thinking "wow, that sounds really, really familiar. I wonder why? Where did I see it?" I couldn't think of it (my brain lately...) so I went to the trusty Google, and there we have it, Query Shark 2013, WaypointKangaroo, a query which got it right in the first go 'round with Madame Sharque. It's coming out in June!

E.M. asked:
But back on topic, how exactly does Lee Child make his way through the Bouchercon book room?

Any way he wants to.

But Colin Smith has it right here:
 EM: I recall Janet talking about walking through the Bouchercon book room with Lee Child. I believe what impressed her was the fact that not only was he familiar with a large number of the titles on sale, but he could make recommendations. In other words, Mr. Child is very well read in his genre.

On Saturday we talked about how long you have for a requested R&R

Craig asked:
Does being the proud owner of a manuscript in need of remodeling and repainting offer any opportunity for give and take with the agent?

If you are working your way through it and see something that would make it better (beyond the notes you are working with) and change it even more radically, can you ask the agent for an opinion? Or do have to just push forward and cross your fingers and toes?
Not really.
I'm going to read your manuscript, not help you develop it. 
And the reason for that is time. Development takes an ENORMOUS amount of time, and I just don't  have that kind of time for a project at this stage.  

I'm willing to be helpful but not for as much time as you want (and need.) That's what independent editors are for; crit partners; beta readers; etc. I am reading your ms with ONE goal: is this something I can take on and sell? I am not reading to critique or edit it. I'm reading as a READER: do I like this.

Robert Ceres said:
Why I would ever be in a hurry to get in a revise and resubmit? After all, the agent probably won’t get to it for months. Why would I ever have wanted to do that?
Those mss do sit here for months, and that's why I'm always glad to take a revised ms if the author gets in touch to say "hey, while you've been dawdling, I've been working."

And this from Celia Reeves was really interesting:
 I could explain all about why it's so hard to find mistakes like typos and misspellings, because I'm a cognitive scientist and study that stuff. The bottom line, though, is that our brains are amazing at getting past the surface details to the meaning below, and therefore very bad at focusing on those surface details. The best way to catch mistakes is to use ALL the ways:
    --Read it aloud, slowly
    --Have an AI read it
    --Read it in a different format (screen, paper) than usual
    --Have someone else read it
    --Put it away for a while and read it again later
    --Reformat so every sentence is on a separate line and read the sentences in reverse order (last one first)

    Your brain will hate you for this, because it is uninterested in the details you are forcing it to pay attention to. Be stern. If you are tough and disciplined you will have a shot at eliminating most (never all) of the mistakes. When you're a NYTBSA, get your brain a glass of good wine to say thank you.

I like Jenz' comment here:
On reading aloud: if you have someone to read to, that really helps. My husband is my captive audience--he won't read my work on his own, but he'll tolerate me reading to him. Turns out he's a good gauge. If he stops me to ask a question, details are not clear enough. If he falls asleep, there's not enough tension. And if he actually turns away from his Clash of Clans game to listen, I know I've got it right.

Warning: Spousal readings may lead to arguments, hurt feelings, and manuscript clubbings. Proceed with caution.

kdjames said
There are three (or four or seven, depending who you ask) main cognitive learning styles: visual, auditory, kinesthetic [sight, sound, touch]. We all use some parts of each, but it's worth figuring out which is predominant for you. I am a highly visual learner. So much so that if you *tell* me something, I might not remember it. But if I see it written down? I remember.

yup, me too.  The only way I remember things I hear is if I can take notes.

And honest to godiva would someone please pitch me a book composed entirely of Julie M. Weathers' witticisms. We won't need to tell her or anything.
This one can lead the pack:
All right. I swan, my hair is trying to attack me today. I took out the shears and it fled in sheer terror back into submission.

and with this one:
I swan, John. Why on earth would you think I would poison anyone's dinner? Good grief. Well, I guess there was that one time I had proper Miss Janet talk about poisoning her Pinkerton agent nephew's dinner, but that was justifiable. He's just so rude.

[Let's all just remember that this Miss Janet is in Julie's NOVEL. I love my nephews and wouldn't poison them. In fact my nephews are pretty much perfect. You're welcome to disagree but you might not want to eat dinner with me if you do.]

And Her Grace the Duchess of Kneale has provided me with a very useful sentence here:
Several years ago when I started subbing to agents, I got a lot of form rejections. Then one agent, known for her high propensity for personalised rejections, told me how good my story was, but it needed editorial work on the sentence level. Yep, as E.M. put it, I was grammar-blind. I didn't realise I was making mistakes.

I've had yet to figure out how to say "this isn't publishable" to a writer, but "it needs editorial work on the sentence level" goes a long way towards it!

Have a terrific week! Although maybe not quite the week that Christina Seine is looking at:
Finally starting to get over this stupid flu. However, we are now heading into Orthodox Christian Holy Week, which is sort of like boot camp, only with candles. *waves at Brigid* It all culminates on May 1st, which is Pascha, our Easter. This coincides (for me) with homeschool grades and work samples being due, a graduating senior, prom (tonight), a homeschool curriculum fair, Mothers Day coming up, 10,000 bees freshly installed in our hives, a garden to till, a full greenhouse of wee plants to transplant, a wholesale account asking for a bunch more soapy products and wee baby chicks arriving any day now. And all I want to do is sit and work on my R&R. And a GIANT BOX of BOOKS sits by my bed from the local library's used book sale, beckoning wickedly. I need a clone army this week.

It's the 10,000 bees that give me pause.
Once upon a time, long ago, I worked for a trucking company (it's a good story, ask me at the bar.) One lovely morning, an account called with a dispatch order. Cargo: bees. "Bees?" I asked, sure I had heard him wrong. Yup. Bees. Transported by truck. This is where you REALLY hope there are no accidents along the route. And yes, you charge by volume  on that shipment, not weight.

Here are the subheader noms for the week. A very nice selection!

[This blog] a marvelous water hole for writers. Of course, lions and leopards hang out at water holes also. We'll just toss Colin their way.--Julie M. Weathers

Your agent partner doesn't need to be perfect. You don't need to hear choirs of angels every time they enter the room, though I might think twice if you hear choirs of demons. They just need to be perfect for you.--Julie M. Weathers

If I learned from half my mistakes, I'd be a genius by now. --John Frain

As Jennifer Donohue and Panda-in-Chief suggested, I would recommend tossing a ferret into the bathtub with anyone who is in any way slow to remit your money--Stephen Kozeniewski

My mind freezes up between bear and beer because I have, in fact, been attacked by a giant beer. However, that was not the story I was trying to tell. --E. M. Goldsmith

Learn the rules so you can break them properly. --Craig

Can I just say, "Eats, Shoots, and Leaves"?
Pandas and punctuation.
They matter. --Panda In Chief

The publishing process has been uninterested in my personal timeline. --Mark Thurber

Sometimes I think this blog should be titled every stupid mistake I have ever made and why I shouldn’t have done it.--Robert Ceres