Monday, March 30, 2015

Query Question: I reached a small part of the audience, now I want more



My memoir was published in 2012, both as an ebook and in print (POD), by a small independent publisher. It's done quite well on Amazon, and also through my independent sales (via book signings, speaking appearances, etc.) I have many reviews on Amazon, most at 4-5 stars, in addition to very favorable editorial reviews.

Most of my readers have come from a niche market, which I have worked hard to cultivate and have a sizable following, but I believe that there are more readers in the general public who would appreciate and learn from my memoir. I've been unable to break into major bookstores because the book is POD.

My publisher is leaving the business and I retain all rights. Do you think it would make sense to pitch it to agents or larger publishers? As a second edition, for foreign, audio book or even movie rights? And how should I present it?




I think it makes a lot of sense to pitch it to agents or a larger press.


What they'll  want to know is who you have NOT been able to reach. The first thing you can mention is the library market. You've also missed most bookstores that won't order books on a one at a time basis from small presses.  

Bookstores like to order their inventory from reliable suppliers and a small press they've never heard of us doesn't really qualify as that.  I don't know what sales terms your old publisher offered but just the fact bookstores could only order that one book from them made it a less desirable item to stock.



When you query, you need to give your sales stats, and talk about the target audience you haven't reached. (I did a previous blog post on that topic)  Your Amazon reviews aren't going to be as helpful here as you think. Sales numbers are what will get you in the door. (That's the subject of a previous blog post)


It's also not going to be helpful to say "my book was POD" because print on demand is a technology not a method of sale.  The information that the editor/agent will need is whether the publisher sold on a returns allowed basis; what the discount was; what the catalog or retail price was; whether there was distribution of any kind. You may not know this information. If you can, find out. The bookstores where you sold books will know if you can't get the information from your publisher.

Lots of large publishers use print on demand technology to fulfill small orders so they don't have to carry inventory.  You'd never know it from just buying the book.

Don't mention foreign rights, audio or film rights in the query. You need a book deal before you get subsidiary rights (and for all you clever exceptionistas out there, yes there are exceptions to this, but you don't plan to be the exception in your query letter, now do you?)



Sunday, March 29, 2015

Week in Review 3/29/15

 
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Last week's week in review had Jennifer F. Donohue asking about one of my favorite topics: paint!
Did you repaint the office? Did I miss what colors you'd selected? We've got paint chips up in the circulation room of the library, but no consensus yet. One of the orange-y colors was called "Pompeii Clay", which I thought perhaps not in good taste, but I found a nice gray to pair with it (they did not call it "Vesuvius Ashfall"). My coworkers do not agree

we DID repaint the office and the color was my new fave: Montgomery White.
I haven't taken pictures yet cause it's still not completely pulled together. Soon though, soon!

Christina Seine's new notebook has a quote I like very much:
The very first thing I wrote in it was a line I heard today while watching the "Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" - (to paraphrase): "Everything is going to work out alright in the end. If it is not alright, then it is not the end yet."

And it turns out that Amy Schaefer, while not liking acronyms much, has a some pretty good ones;
"...but of course, the EFI report was bogged down with the AWT--"
"What does EFI mean?" I asked. I already knew the answer to this question.
"Extremely Frigging Important. Then Charlie--"
"And AWT?"
"Awesome Wonder Team."
"Right. Carry on."

Kate Larkindale makes a good point that applies to people just starting a "new career" as writers:
I've just started a new job, and after 23 years at the finished end of the film production chain, going back to the beginning of it has been like learning a new language.
Publishing vernacular can be rare and strange indeed. Even for people who have been "in books" or a career that was a different kind of writing can be bewildered by all sorts of terms.
I'm reminded of this every time a query writer writes that s/he wants me to "review" a book.

On Monday the discussion turned to the value of a blurb offer in a query letter.

Colin asked:
My question for QOTKU, therefore, is: How does blurbing work? How do publishers know they're going to get good reviews from the people they ask to blurb? Do they ever get blurbers write back saying "Sorry, I hated this book. I can't give you a positive blurb." I would like to think so."

No one knows what kinds of blurbs they're going to get. Generally the unspoken protocol is that if you don't like the book, you say you don't have time now to read for a blurb.  You do NOT trash it.  Well, you can, but it would be very very rude.  And unless it's hilariously funny, a bad blurb would never be used on a book.

That said, I've used some VERY bad reviews in subsequent press releases (earlier in my career) because it was very clear that the reviewer had missed the point of the book completely. 

and bass points out one of the biggest problems with blurbs:
I do recall, however, middle-school-me almost refusing to read The Hunger Games when I borrowed it because Stephenie Meyer had blurbed it and I was in a huge anti-Twilight phase.

Colin asked:
Is it the job of the publisher or the author to ask for blurbs? Are authors required to pursue them, or are they only asked to do this if they happen to have contact with HPNYTBSAs?
The editor and agent and author cooperate jointly on blurbs usually.

Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli asked:
My question is do publishers pay for blurbs? Especially HPNYTBSA?
No. No one pays for blurbs. If you see anyone offering to sell you blurbs, it's a flim flam artist not a real service.

And then Chirstina Seine just blew us all out of the water with the Pinterest board for Carkoon.


And until I was doing this week in review I had managed to forget that last Monday was pretty awful here:


1. There is no heat in my office
2. My computer broke
3. I left my cell phone at home

Julie asked how all that happened: the boiler in the building went on the fritz and my computer just died. It was very old so not a complete shocker, but annoying all the same.  This was the desktop in the office that has all the company info, not my laptop that has my day to day stuff on it.

I seriously thought of exiling myself to Carkoon, if only to get warm.
But then I had a better idea: a writing contest. The entries in contest are always great, and make me laugh, and THAT will warm us all up.

So, Tuesday was the Surprise Writing Contest in honor of Colin's birthday.
The prompt words were chosen for their relevance to Colin:
smith: obviously, since this is his name
exile: since his exile to Carkoon, this is where he lives
link: he's become the blog's resident link master, helping everyone do clickable links
seven: well, I thought there were seven kids, but now I hear there are only six?
music: Colin blogs about music (among other topics)

And there were some fabulous entries, We saw the finalist on Thursday, including Colin's own:
(2) Colin Smith 12:20pm

"What ya doing, Dr. Smith?"

I gritted my teeth and turned to see the Robinson boy.

"Fixing the communication
link in my ship so I can call for help."

"Where's the Robot?"

I moved to hide the disembodied pincer that sat beside my leg. After
seven years' exile with these fools, I was desperate enough to cannibalize that machine to try to fix my ship.

"I'm channeling his
music circuits to… uh… enhance the frequency."

"I hope it works. The rescue ship's here and there's only room for the family."

The brat even smiled and waved as he ran off.

Which I loved because it was an homage to Lost In Space from 60's TV, but even if you didn't know that the story worked perfectly. I love that in stories, the multiple layers. Incredibly hard to do in 100 words!

And the winning entry was
4) Lobo 10:50pm

Indus’rial sabotage. Murder. Same ta me (truth b’told). ’Specially after that tex’ile mill job. But we’d already hit two competitors and my sevens game was callin’.

Creep kept squintin' at the building through oily Detroit smog. “He sleeps here with all them T-cars.”

“Model Teas, ya word
smith.” I said. “An’ people say yer the smarty.”

Creep linked up the dynamite plunger, grinning so wide I thought his cheeks would bury his eyeballs. “Whatsa fella’s company again?”

I shrugged. “Stars with an F.”

“Should I start the
music?”

“Nah. Leave ’im. Man sleepin’ with cars pro’ly don’t have much a future.”


I loved this because of the creative use of the prompt words (always something I look for) and that if you knew your history, this is really funny. If you don't know your history it's just a good story. Again, layers. And that's not even mentioning voice, which is hard to nail in a novel, let alone 100 words.

All the entries had a lot going for them, it was a tough choice.
I like what donnaeverhart pointed out in the comments on the contest:

I've been thinking about something for a while. Many times we woodland creatures worry about nitpicky things like someone stealing our stupendous writing idea if we shared too much of it.

This contest actually proves what we've been told many times in the writing community; "Only you can write your story."

Think about it. We're given five words, and not one of us ever comes close to having a similar story. We might re-use a word or two in the same way (wordsmith, for example) but beyond that, our stories are as diverse as our fingerprints and voices.

And donnaeverhart also wondered:
.." I've often wondered,(one or two of mine have landed here I think)what it is that makes them not a story for you? I've come to the conclusion it's because in some way, the writer hasn't resolved the MC's situation. I.e. it's left hanging in some way. Am I close?
Mostly it's that "not a story" is more like a scene, not a story with a start, middle, and end. It's hard to describe, but there's almost always what you'd call a punch line, or a twist of some sort that gives it that extra boost to story.

On Wednesday we talked about querying magazines versus querying books,

Janet Rundquist asked:
"There are a lot of places now to publish articles that don't require querying first at all. The danger there is if your writing isn't up to par, you can damage your career pretty easily."

I'm not quite sure what this means. ie: the publication will remember your first sub-par submission and it will prejudice them for future attempts? Or that they might actually publish it and others will see this sub-par quality and make judgments from there? Or...?

If you have a lot of bad writing up on the web, and you query me, I'm going to see it. This is particularly true of non-fiction. A non-fiction query has a concept and a plan. There are a lot of good concepts and plans out there, so the trick is figuring out if this querier can actually write. First stop: the google.  Locate all the pub credits. Read.
The google is merciless though: it coughs up the bad writing as well as the good.

Colin asked:
How is it different with a short story submission to a mag?
Very different. Those rejected stories don't get published, and if you get rejected, it's not likely editors remember your name. It's also expected that writers get better over time, so some very bad work is simply ascribed to "new writer" and that's that.
 It's the rush to publish that will kill you. There are a lot of places to put work out there that have NO editorial oversight. Editorial oversight is your friend when you are a writer. Especially when you think it isn't.

Bjmuntain had some good points on writing non-fiction article as well:
One thing to take away from querying non-fiction magazines: Don't wait until you've finished writing the article to query, unless you want to prove to yourself you can write that article. Non-fiction magazines buy ideas - very unlike fiction magazines - and they'll reject the idea, too. They don't want to see a full article until they commission it, based on your idea. Since you wouldn't sell the same article to two magazines (even similar magazines have different focuses and styles), you'll just be rewriting the article again.

Basically, the difference between fiction and non-fiction magazines is: Fiction magazines buy writing. Non-fiction magazines buy ideas, and they assume you can write the idea. This latter is why it's good to have 'clippings' - articles or other writing you can point to, to tell the magazine 'See? I can write goooood.' Of course, that's where the catch 22 comes in: magazines want you to have previous published pieces, but you can't get those unless a magazine will publish them.

If you feel your non-fiction writing on your chosen topic is professional enough, you could start a blog about it, to get pub credit and followers. I believe it's not difficult to get a blog on io9, and it may attract more readers. Or, if you're able to market your blog, you can do that, too.

And I'm really sure Barbara Poelle hasn't seen her new bio courtesy of brianrschawarz, but I plan to have it engraved on something silver for her:

a woman who was clearly the sole influence in Eve's decision to eat the apple in the garden of Eden in the first place...

And then the comments just fell off into the hilarity I love, which is a good thing because this was the day that I got my new computer and discovered I couldn't get my back ups reinstalled.

Fortunately on Thursday, I was able to get tech support on the phone and several hours later, voila!, success.  Not much work got done, but all in all, we're counting that as a good day.

On Friday, we turned to the topic of very small print runs of a book.

Carolynwith2Ns had a lovely analogy for this kind of thing, and then everyone else just fell off the topic and right into hilarity, starting with Amy Schaefer wishing us happy returns from the future and Colin talking to himself about the reality of Carkoon.

LynnRodz did ask a good question though:
Am I wrong to think "this is the day and age of forever" only applies to free blogs?

Yes. The New York Times is pretty much forever online too, which is ok if you're just publishing blather cause the NYT isn't going to print that, but there are sites without those standards that last a long time.
bjmuntain has an excellent point here:
Once you put something out on the internet - no matter where - you no longer have control over it. Despite security precautions and content protection, it's out of your hands. (You still have copyright, but you don't have control. Neither does the website it was posted on.)

On Saturday, a reader asked if I had ever missed a "big book."

Melissa had an interesting story along those lines:
I heard a Pulitzer-prize winning author speak at a class and tell the story of some good advice she once gave. An editor friend asked her thoughts about a horse book that was going up for auction. This author had a love of horses and dabbled with a few books in the genre.

"Do you think I should bid on it?" the editor asked.

"No, horse books never sell," the author advised.

With this great tip, the editor passed on the chance to bid for Seabiscuit. Amazingly, they're still friends.

This actually underscores my point: that editor was not the right editor for that book. How do I know? She asked for opinions on whether she should buy it. The right editor generally LUSTS for the manuscript, wants to buy it, and the only thing she wants to know is how much she can offer.

Dena Pawling asked
How much extra work are books/authors like that? Previously you mentioned/joked that Little, Brown had an entire branch office dedicated to James Patterson. I'm sure an agent can max out on the number of clients she represents. So if, for example, you represented five Lee Child's, or apparently just one James Patterson, would that be all you could handle? Their royalty statements are probably longer, and I imagine you have to field more calls regarding sales of rights [a nice bit of extra work, I'm sure]. But is a mega-selling book/author 10% more work than your “normal” clients, or 25%, or 100%? Inquiring minds [okay, maybe just mine] want to know.

If you have a mega-best selling author, yup, you staff up for it. Much depends on the kind of work being generated. Film deals, translation deals, permissions, rights. Some of that requires planning and executing. Some of it just requires detailed record keeping and follow up.  The king of kind of (yikes!!) work being added determines what kind of staffing up you do.

Craig has taken my answer to the question as a personal challenge: 
Nothing you have turned down has gone on to big things. I guess that I'm going to have to prove you wrong. I'm sorry, I still love you and have all of the respect in the world for you but that is just how it has to be.

Craig, the trick here is that you're going to have to query me for the book that DOES become a big success. It doesn't count if you queried me for an earlier novel and I passed then.

Mister Furkles asked: 
With over 100 queries every week, do you even remember the ones you turn down. I imagine you might remember manuscripts, especially if you read to the end. But do you remember rejected queries?
I don't remember the queries I turn down. BUT, I read pages from most of the novels that I think might be a good fit here, so I read a lot of stuff I don't take on.

And just in case you need something to scare you more than querying, DLM gave us this:
Last night, I must've had you on my mind too, because - after running across something about "body horror" when researching agents, I ended up having a dream about having scary cysts removed from my body that turned out to be lima beans.

I honestly didn't realize just how much a part of my mental landscape this community is ...


A few housekeeping notes for y'all.

Next week is Holy Week, and I will NOT be posting original content to the blog Thursday-Sunday. I will be in church, praying for all the people of the world. Yup, we do that and it's actually very interesting to see the order folks get mentioned.  We pray for everyone including atheists this week!
Thursday is The Easter Triduum and the mass of the Lords' Supper.
Friday is the Liturgy of the Lord's Passion at 3pm, followed by Tenebrae at 6pm.
This is the only day of the year that I wish I lived in a less secular world.  When exiting the church after the light has gone out of the world, it's jarring to see people just conducing their daily business as normal, laughing, eating ice cream, reading novels!  Fortunately, we DO live in a country where I can go to the church of my choice on a Friday, even if it's not the faith of the majority.
On Saturday, the Great Vigil of Easter starts at 8pm, and of course Sunday is Easter.

No matter what your religious leaning, or non-leaning, we can all celebrate the arrival of spring, and rebirth. I hope it is a lovely time for you, and the start of a great new season.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Question: have you missed a big book?

 This question is a little different, but I'm curious. Have you ever rejected a query, proposal, or manuscript, but much later down the line saw the book on the shelves, selling like mad, and thought, "Damn."



Oddly, no.
I've certainly seen projects I've not taken on go on to be repped and sold, but I don't think I've passed on anything like 50 Shades of Gray, or Harry Potter, or even Lee Child.

On the other hand, I'm probably not the right person to answer this question because I don't really keep track of things I've passed on. It's entirely possible I have passed on things that went on to do well, and I'm just unaware of them.

I do know that editors are a bit more keenly aware of what they were offered [and not.] I've sold a couple books on very exclusive submission, only to have other editors call to ask if someone else at the publisher had seen the book and passed.

It's easy to have a million regrets in this business, but it's critical for morale to keep them at bay. My focus is on what's coming up that will knock your sox off, not what I missed two years ago. 

Friday, March 27, 2015

Query Question: so, I did this small, really TINY novel. Am I published?

 I'm getting ready to send out query letters and I want to be as transparent as possible with potential agents. When I was 17 I wrote a ridiculous teen fiction book, and e-published it on Amazon for my friends. Only 15 people in total bought it, and then I took it off of Amazon. My current manuscript is not related at all to my past manuscript, they're not even in the same genre, but I'm worried about being technically previously published.

Does my silly teenage fanfiction mean I'm previously published, and do I have to mention that in my query letters? I feel like this is probably a stupid question, but I want to make sure I'm not doing something inadvertently wrong. Thanks for your help!

Yes.
No.
It's not.
You're welcome.


Now, let's elaborate.

First, yes, you've been published. Putting something on Amazon, and letting friends buy it is indeed "published."  

However.

You really don't need to mention that youthful peccadillo at this stage.  When you are published, and your novel is being considered for awards however, you are going to have to come clean.  That's when you mention to your AGENT (and no one else) that you had this teen novel, and together you can decide what to do from there.

This is NOT a silly or stupid question. This is a question that gets asked a lot these days cause all those folks at Amazon want your money and don't think they need to advise you of any pitfalls.

And sadly, this is the day and age of forever.  Back in my youth (when The Divine Comedy was taught as Contemporary Literature) a wordslinger could move to the next city-state, change her nom de plume and have no one the wiser. Now, not so much.

This won't kill you. It probably won't hurt you.  Just don't do it again if you get frustrated with querying and figure "oh hell, I'll just self-publish and see what happens."

 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Writing Contest Results!

We celebrated Colin Smith's birthday on Tuesday with a writing contest.  Here are the results.




Beautiful but yikes, so mournful!

Jamie Kress 8:20am



A new rule in contests: no horse injuries! YIKES!

Mia Siegert 12:06pm





Hey, it's first kill all the lawyers, NOT the agents!

Roger Toll 3:23pm



A phrase for the ages:

"in-ex-whorably linked to the junk in my trunk."

kregger 9:25am



"seven starving-artist henchmen"

Kelly 10:31am



"he stands on the bow of Amy’s boat, in a Speedo"

Carolynnwith2Ns 4:46pm



"Great Hermit of Cartoon—”"

Amy Schaefer 9:28pm





A great sentence:

"He had borrowed Mr. Flintstones car, and the soles of his feet were killing him."

french sojourn 12:59pm



How we shall all be refering to Amy Schaefer now:

Atoll Amy

Christina Seine 1:20pm



terrific use of a prompt word

"graphosmithtically"

Jenny Shou 4:31pm



"sexile"

Rami McShane 3:01am





Not a story, but you can see why I've been a fan of this guy's writing for years

kregger 9:25am



Not quite a story, but don't you want to hear more? Me too.

Laura Scalzo 9:27am

Unknown 2:48pm

Jeffrey Schaefer 8:48pm







Not quite a story, but please restock the tequila

LynnRodz 2:13pm





Awwwwww!

MVB 10:15am



Always great to see an entry in the form of a poem!

Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli 10:47am



bjmuntain 1:46pm





And Philomena Buttonweezer makes a cameo appearance!

Katie Loves Coffee 7:31pm



And who knew Felix Buttonweezer could carry a tune?

Just Jan 10:07pm



And it turns out Dena has been to Carkoon as well!

Lilac Shoshani 8:07pm





And it turns out that none of it is real?

Eileen 6:20am





Here are the finalists:



(1) Matt 10:24am

Samantha awoke at seven. The man she had gone to bed with – “John Smith” – was gone. She normally wouldn’t bring strange men home, but his music had been so enchanting that when he asked to buy her a drink after the show she couldn’t resist.

Outside, people were bustling about. But Samantha felt exiled from the city below. The only link she felt now was to “John.”

She rolled over and found a note on the pillow:

“I’ll find you after dark. I’ll explain everything. - JS”

Then, in larger script at the bottom:

“Stay out of the sun.”



------------------------------------------------

(2) Colin Smith 12:20pm

"What ya doing, Dr. Smith?"

I gritted my teeth and turned to see the Robinson boy.

"Fixing the communication link in my ship so I can call for help."

"Where's the Robot?"

I moved to hide the disembodied pincer that sat beside my leg. After seven years' exile with these fools, I was desperate enough to cannibalize that machine to try to fix my ship.

"I'm channeling his music circuits to… uh… enhance the frequency."

"I hope it works. The rescue ship's here and there's only room for the family."

The brat even smiled and waved as he ran off.



 ------------------------------------------------

(3) ashland 12:49pm

“They say music's a window to the soul. Did ya know it can also show the past?”

I shrug. “Howso?”

He flashes his iPod. “Check it out.”

Sunday: Angel's Son, Sevendust.
Monday: Teenaged Wasteland, The Who.
Tuesday: Fell in Love with a Girl, The White Stripes.
Wednesday: Your Cheatin' Heart, Hank Williams Jr.
Thursday: Exiles on Main Street, Bruce Springsteen.
Friday: Everything's OK, Elliot Smith.

“Did you know it can also predict the future?”

He shrugs. “Howso, dear?”

I smile as I flash my knife.

Saturday: Bleed It Out, Linkin Park.

 ------------------------------------------------



(4) Lobo 10:50pm

Indus’rial sabotage. Murder. Same ta me (truth b’told). ’Specially after that tex’ile mill job. But we’d already hit two competitors and my sevens game was callin’.

Creep kept squintin' at the building through oily Detroit smog. “He sleeps here with all them T-cars.”

“Model Teas, ya wordsmith.” I said. “An’ people say yer the smarty.”

Creep linked up the dynamite plunger, grinning so wide I thought his cheeks would bury his eyeballs. “Whatsa fella’s company again?”

I shrugged. “Stars with an F.”

“Should I start the music?”

“Nah. Leave ’im. Man sleepin’ with cars pro’ly don’t have much a future.”



------------------------------------------------ 

(5) Julie Weathers 12:25am

Colin was an extraordinary wordsmith, bard among bards, and a renowned musician. He could have performed for kings, and had. Rumor was he'd been exiled because of a certain unflattering tune about a king's mistress named Esmiralia. The beautiful young golden-haired woman demanded him banned.

He was.

Forever linked to the song, she left in shame never to be heard of again. Well, almost never. Clever Colin now travels with a troupe, his seven children, and his adoring, golden-haired wife, Esmi, who sings with him about the bard who freed a damsel from an ogre and lived happily ever after.





 ------------------------------------------------



(6) flashfriday 3:41am

Her face was unmistakable - raven hair, vermillion lips, skin white as snow – but (curse my memory!) I just couldn’t place her.

“Smallville High?”

“No.”

“Metropolis Community College?”

“No.” Her voice was gloriously musical. Regal, almost.

“Gotham Fashion & Design?”

“Not a chance, Hunter.”

Her cheeks glowed like apples – enchanting creature! – and hope sprang to life. “Want a boyfriend?”

“Thanks; I’ve already got seven.”

From hope to exile. “WILL YOU AT LEAST TELL ME YOUR NAME?”

She blinked. Smith, she said, a forest-full of birds and bunnies joining her howls of laughter.

I fled, humiliated. Never did place her.

Women.




And the winner in a very competitive field is Lobo 10:50pm.



Lobo, if you'll drop me an email at jetreidliterary (gmail)  and tell me the kinds of books you like to read, we'll get you a Fabulous Prize!

Thanks to all of you who entered! It was a terrific series of entries, and it's very clear that is a load of talent in the comment column here!


And Happy Birthday, Colin!  





Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Query question: simultaneous querying in magazines

Dear Million-Toothed Goddess of the Sea,

I am currently reading "You Are A Writer (so start ACTING like one)" by Jeff Goins. and in Chapter 10 he said something that made me feel compelled to seek your advice. In this chapter, he focuses on building writing experience by submitting writing pieces for publication in magazines.

He said, "Try pitching to several publications or publishers at once, following the appropriate guidelines for each...Now, this doesn't mean to just blast the same idea to every publication. Most publications consider simultaneous submissions to be unethical. But you can create several different articles from a single idea."

That threw me for a loop. First he said submit to multiple publishers at once (following guidelines). Then he said to don't blast the same idea, but to create several different articles from a single idea or else it'll likely be unethical. Let it be known that I have zero experience with magazines. From the book industry, we submit to multiple agents at a time for the same piece.

Obviously, Jeff's experience is more broad, but he's said some more things about magazine publishing that just aren't done in the traditional book publishing process, which equates me to the usefulness of a potato. Can you clarify the basic magazine submission process? I really don't even see magazines calling for submissions anymore [those were the days, eh Stephen King?]. Thank you, because I hate being a potato. Unless there's bacon. Always say yes to bacon!



Querying for articles in a magazine is very different from querying for books. For starters, you're going to be querying NON-FICTION articles almost exclusively.  If you're submitting short stories, you follow the submission guidelines and often they DO take simultaneous subs.

For non-fiction articles the idea is to have some sort of topic that you know a lot about and come up with different stories for it.

For example, I know a lot about query letters. I might pitch The SharkBait Writer's Guide to commission an article on "Effective Queries for Fish." I'll use the same knowledge base to query the Carkoon Prison Times for an article on "How To Query From Prison." I can pitch those outlets at the same time.

Two separate story ideas, but essentially the same topic.

What I can NOT do is pitch "How To Query The Big Fish Agents" to two or more different magazines at the same time UNLESS their submission guidelines say it's ok.

See the difference?



There are a lot of places now to publish articles that don't require querying first at all. The danger there is if your writing isn't up to par, you can damage your career pretty easily.

 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Surprise Writing Contest!



It's blog reader Colin Smith's birthday today.

I thought about calling him up and warbling Happy Birthday, but he did mention he was sleeping in till 10am today.

Thus we have a great chance to surprise the stuffing out of him with this contest.

Contest opens NOW (3/24/15) and runs through tomorrow (3/25/15) at 7am.




The usual rules apply:

1. Write a story using 100 words or fewer.

2. Use these words in the story:

smith
exile
link
seven
music


3. You must use the whole word, but that whole word can be part of a larger word.
thus: music/musician is ok, but not exile/exfiltrate

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

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

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

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

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

Contest opens: NOW 3/24/15 7am

Contest closes: 3/25/15 7am

Questions? Tweet to me @Janet_Reid
Ready? SET?







Monday, March 23, 2015

Query Question: A bigshot will blurb me, can I include that?

A high profile NYT best selling author has offered a commitment to blurb the future galleys of the ms I'm currently shopping... (and there WILL be galleys, dammit!). Good or bad idea to include this info/author's name in the housekeeping section of a query?



It won't hurt you, so why not. If you were sending that information to me, I'd want to know why HPNYTBSA has read your manuscript. Thus you may want to include that information as well.

You would say "HPNYTBSA Felix Buttonweezer has offered to blurb my novel. He read it while incarcerated at Carkoon and it soon became his favorite escapist pleasure."

The reason I'm not jumping up and down and screaming YahooooKalamazoooo about this blurb offer is that sometimes the audience for one author does not translate to the audience of another.  My fins would falter if Lee Child offered to blurb a novel by Tawna Fenske for example.  Tawna Fenske is a terrific writer, and I love her books but they are quite unlike the Reacher novels. You haven't mentioned if you think your audience will be the same as HPNYTBSA's.

At this stage though, there's no harm in including the information.


Sunday, March 22, 2015

Week in review 3/22/15



We were all very glad to hear that Amy is ok, and the boat likely ok. Less happy are the tidings from Vanuatu, which took the full force of the storm, and hadn't started out with all that much anyway.
Here's a link to how we can all help this tiny country with some much needed aid.


Bessie Stewart summed up the day's comments, which were largely about the efforts of those scallywags at Carkoon to take over Paradise, "This is the silliest best natured comment bunch ever. "Wow" may be an understatement."  perfectly.  At some point we're going to need a story Bible link for anyone brave enough to try to decipher the comment trail now.

On Monday, the blog topic was pre-empts and auctions, which is one of my favorite topics.

Craig asked
"Is it something that writers should aspire to? Or is it something that should cause an emotional Lesley Gore moment? Do these kinds of things happen to normal people or is it reserved for things like the Patterson Franchise?"


Well, James Patterson hasn't been in an auction for donkey's years because he's safely established at Little,Brown in what Team Carkoon would recognize as a branch office with his own publicist and editor I'm told. And probably his own royalty department.

Auctions are result of a lot of hot interest. It's a good thing. It's not something you should even start thinking about. If it happens, terrific, but most books are not sold at auction, or on a pre-empt.

Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli asked "How many books a year go to auction?" There's no way to know and it's not even a stat I keep here for my own books. A lot of VERY good books don't go to auction at all.

Donnaeverheart asked "I think the only question I have is this; if a book has been on submission for a while, is there any likelihood of either of these happening?"

Yes. Whenever the first serious interest comes in, the next step is a round of phone calls to all the other editors who have the manuscript. It's basically a "get this to the top of your reading pile, it's got legs" call. 

Colin set up an auction scenario:
Editor Penguin requests ms. QOTKU submits.
Editor SohoCrime requests ms. QOTKU submits (and indicates another publisher is looking at it?).
Editor Minotaur requests ms. QOTKU submits (and indicates other publishers are looking at it?).
All want the ms., so QOTKU sets up an auction wherein each editor vies for ms. The one with the best deal (according to the Agent and Author) wins out.

What actually happens is I send the manuscript to my first tier of editors. ALL of them get it at approximately the same time.  They all know this is going to everyone (I don't have to tell them.)

The first one who coughs up interest or an offer gets us off to the races. That can be days, weeks, or even months after that first submission.

And "the best deal" doesn't always mean the most money. More and more, we're asking for marketing and publicity input at the auction stage because that's a key component of being published well.

Donnaeverheart asked:
To clarify, does an agent chat up an editor about a ms to assess their interest, or, do they just investigate editors for suitable interests (much like authors search for the correct agent to read their work) and then simply send the submission package to them?

I get on the phone and talk to editors about the manuscript usually. Sometimes if I know they're looking for something, it's just an email.  BUT I've spent hours at lunches, conferences, drinks dates etc, talking to them about what they're looking for so that these submissions are not just scattershot. I know what they're looking for, but more important, I know what they're NOT looking for too.



And honest to godiva Craig's place on Carkoon is sounding damn attractive.


On Tuesday a writer asked about a call from an agent that was essentially "toss this and start again." I was stunned an agent called to say such a thing. Calls are normally reserved for good news, not that.

Shaun Hutchinson had some good advice: 
"When I was querying The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley, one agent suggested I add some paranormal elements to the story. I didn't think that advice worked with what I was doing, so I ignored it. However, nearly every single agent in my first round of querying told me I'd botched the ending, so I listened to their advice and completely rewrote the ending."

Consistent advice is worth paying attention to. One agent saying a book needs paranormal elements (and having read the book in question, that advice is crazypants) not so much.

Joseph Snoe had an interesting insight
I’m a third party witness to something like this. Except it was a written message not a phone call. An editor included a long critique with her rejection. I read my friend’s manuscript making comments along the way. I read the editor’s critique again after I read the manuscript. The editor was right on target (for the most part). The interesting thing is I can see what the editor meant but my friend currently cannot. She’s moved on to a promising new story (from historical romance to technopunk). I’ll encourage her keep the editor’s critique and return to the historical romance novel when she’s ready.

Being ready to hear the comments is one of the advantages of letting a manuscript sit for a while. I can't tell you the number of emails I get from people that start out "I thought you were wrong, but now I see you were right" but it's in the dozens at this point.  Fresh advice can be painful. Advice that's had time to sit might be a little easier to take.

I thought Poor Dead Jed would win comment of the day with this one:
Does no one else go on dating sites to massage ugly people? Nope? Just me?

But Christine Seine gracefully one upped him so deftly she scooped up the trophy:
"RUBBING TINDER, an erotic thriller about a man who stalks online-dating service users, only to rub them the wrong way on purpose, in a totally tubular deal, for publication in 2016, by Janet Reid on behalf of Fuzzy Print Literary Services."

And I think everyone should pay close attention to what Kari Lynn Dell said
 "I've never rewritten a book I loved. If I couldn't see the flaws, there was no point trying to fix them."

On Wednesday I was annoyed beyond measure that someone calling him/herself an "agent" was using Twitter to pitch editors.  Just FYI, that's NOT how you do it.

Mark Songer asked
What is an example of a good query letter FROM an agent (or however you get books before publishers? Let's say you have opted to represent Felix Buttonweezer's breakout novel Deep Greens about a CIA operative posing as a world renowned kale chef and you think this baby needs to hit the presses NOW. How would you pitch it?

Often I use the query letter from the client for the description of the book. My clients are GREAT writers. Trying to out do them is insane. 

However, what I ADD to the query are things like this;

"When last we lunched, you mentioned you were looking for a great kale novel, and I think this is the one."
Or 
"I notice that in your repertoire of great chef novels, you don't have a kale chef novel, so I hope you'll be interested in filling that gap."

Or, 
"you called me last week to mention a hole in your Spring 2016 catalog. I think this kale chef novel will fit nicely next to The Carkoonian Book of Sulphur Kebobs, and Pasta From Paradise by Amy Schaefer."

Or, 
"you've been sniffing around Felix Buttonweezer for years now, and his last contract is fulfilled. Here's the new book. Wheelbarrows full of cash will be fine."

It's not so much what we say about the book it's how we know what the editor is looking for, and what s/he published before, and which author s/he wants to sink her fangs into.

Jennifer R. Donohue asked "Is this one reason people were talking about "Schmagents" on Twitter the other day?" 

Entirely possible, but "schmagents" are a hot topic with editors and agents most days. Editors send us the most egregious examples of stuff they get from these guys and we all have a laugh. Generally we stop laughing when we realize some of these people have actual clients.

Jenny Chou makes an excellent point about small presses
For 17 years I worked as a bookseller. I ordered backlist (i.e. reordered books that sold) for the store and handled special orders. In my opinion, the best way to see of a small/Indie press is legitimate is to check out their distribution to bookstores. If their website says something like "Distributed to the trade by Macmillan" then they are legit. "Books available from Ingram and other wholesalers" also means bookstores can easily get their books and you should be fine. Make sure one of your first questions to whatever Indie press contacts you is about distribution.

A publisher's website can be a very valuable source of information, often for what IS NOT there.  Is there a way for libraries to order? Is there a way for bookstores to order? Is there a wholesaler or a distributor?  Is it geared toward selling books from the website?  Are the print books significantly more expensive than you'd expect ($31 for a hardcover means the press is using POD technology and NOT printing for inventory)



At one point Colin Smith was actually talking to himself in the comments column which made me laugh out loud then and now.


On Thursday I reminded you to follow up on queries if the agent says she responds to all queries. It was prompted by a querier who pinged me for a query that DID get lost to my great chagrin.

LD Masterson asked if this applied to agents who have "no response means no?" 

It does not. It only applies to those of us who think that query writers deserver the respect of a reply even if it's a form letter.  I'll spare you a rant on this. Well, ok, no I won't.




Colin asked if we've settled in to the new office. We have, but it's not ready for photos yet. We've still got boxes on the floor and some organizing to do. It's amazing how easy it is to get all your stuff IN to a box, and how time consuming to get it out and on the right shelf.

And just when Felix Buttonweezer was thinking he had it bad, CarolynnWith2ns posted this:
Elissa and Amy, I went to school with a Honey Potts and a Sundae Monday. What's funny is that Honey complained because they always spelled Potts with one T and Sundae hated that people always spelled her name like the day...hello...what do you think your parents were thinking of.

Why do parents make up such funny names?

My brother-in-law the teacher, had a kid in his class, (the name was pronounced as Sha-theed), spelled Shithead

On Friday, the topic was your writer's notebook, which I hope you're keeping.
I was delighted to see Kitty is reading THE DEVIL IN HER WAY by Bill Loehfelm. I'm a devoted fan of his work, and just finished the latest one DOING THE DEVIL'S WORK which I bought at Left Coast Crime.

Madeline Mora-Summonte had a lovely quote from Jack Canfield "Everything you want is on the other side of fear" which I liked so much I made it the blog sub-header.

Colin asked if I had a preference between Alfred Hitchcock and Ellery Queen Mystery Magazines. I do. AHMM. I have better luck selling client work to them, and I find more unagented writers there. EQMM seems to have more established writers. Both are very affordable though and I have subscriptions to each.

CarolynWith2ns gave us this, reprinted as it was posted, no comment from me needed:

Karen Diamond, an amazing young woman and a beyond-talented writer, shared two quotes with her blog readers when she knew her battle to survive was near over. In my writer's notebook and on my desk, I have tattooed those quotes to my soul in the hope that I may assign their sentiments to my own life. I try, I really do, but sometimes I fail because wanting more, often stands taller than the mountain of what I already have.
The quotes, the first by Joseph Campbell and the second, an edited form, ascribed to Buddha.

“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned so as to live the life that is waiting for us.”
“In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.”

Karen, my son-in-law’s sister, was 27 and very wise to share with all of us these answers to human existence. I am privileged to have known her.

And at some point in every blogger's life, it's clear that your long time readers remember WAY TOO MUCH:

Bonnie Shaljean-
What that horse trader JetReid doesn't want you to know is, she once bought two sheep. Yes, she did. Hee hee hee

On Saturday we turned to how much to reveal in a query letter. Turns out that "include everything in the query" generally means include a synopsis with the query, rather than tell the entire plot in a query letter. I was very relieved to see this because I've tried to make QueryShark useful across all sorts of agency requirements rather than just what *I* want to see.

And yes, synopses are the spawn of Satan, but you'll do well to have one. We need them ALL the time for film deals, and translation deals.

Not much else happened here at The Reef this week. Recovering from a week plus out of the office at Left Coast Crime took every extra minute I had. And the last snowstorm of this miserable winter landed on Friday. I can't wait for spring to REALLY arrive.