Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Query question: there are two of us

Is it true that agents are less likely to say yes to queries for collaborated books? If so, why is that? 

Well, I don't think it is, but I will say that two authors means twice the hand holding, twice the email communication (mostly) and twice the work.

Each author is a client of the agency, thus each author has to be signed to a representations agreement, fill out their tax forms, get their 1099 at year end etc.

And books with two authors don't earn twice as much money.

That said, I've never turned something down because there were two authors.

On YOUR end however, you're going to want to make ironclad sure you've got a collaboration agreement in place before you do anything permanent like sign a contract.

Sorting out credit, payment, and promotion responsibility is something you want to discuss sooner rather than later.

I know that three-author anthologies are increasingly common in romance, but that's not collaboration. That's three separate authors writing three separate novellas. Three agents involved too.  The one time I've watched that kind of cirucus unfold was pretty entertaining but mostly ok, since all the agents were good at their jobs.

It can go south VERY quickly if one of the authors is repped by a goofball. I've heard tell of that too.

If you intend to query as a duo, you BOTH sign the query:

Felix Buttonweezer
1 Kale Row
Carkoon 1 

Colin Smith
2 Kale Row
Carkoon 1

Please direct email to: Colin Smith

And you query from the email address you want the agent to use for the reply.


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

So, how do you get paid for your time?

 How do you get paid for your time?  

I don't.
And you can't buy it either.

I get paid for results.
I sell your book, I get 15% of the proceeds.

All of the work you see here on the blog, or that you get at a conference is unpaid.
Why would anyone do that you ask?
Well, I ask myself that question sometimes too.

The real answer is: the value of something is not always measured by what you're paid for it.
I value the camaraderie here on the blog more than any amount I'd be able to charge you to read it.

I value the thanks I receive from writers who've been helped by QueryShark more than any amount of money.

I value how much I've learned about writing by having to write this blog.

I value how I've learned to explain things by answering questions.

I value the varying perspectives I've heard from the comments on the blog posts.

And you simply can not put a dollar amount on how wonderful it is to be one of the first readers of amazing new books. To have a hand in shaping them. To have a big hand in helping that book find more readers. To be a stalwart source of information and expertise for the writers of those books.

There's a lot that money can't buy. My time is just one of them.


Monday, July 27, 2015

Blog readers coming to NYC for this weekend's conference

I'm seeing a lot of chatter in the comments about youze guyz coming to NYC for the Writers' Digest conference this weekend.

Here are some tips:

1. Don't take a cab from JFK if you're watching your pennies. The AirTrain at the airport goes to the A-train (subway) for $8.00

However, don't worry about being gouged by a cab driver if you do get an airport cab. The fares IN to the city are flat fee, and regulated.

2. If you're worried about the cost of food at the hotel, remember you are steps away from other places to nosh.  Get on your walking shoes and head EAST from the hotel to Lexington or Third Ave.   There are small diners, and what look like small grocery stores to you. Every small grocery store (what we call a bodega) has a deli and a grill.  For breakfast, they'll make you a bacon egg and cheese on a roll (or bagel) for $5.00 Add a large coffee and it's $7.00 total.  For lunch, a turkey sandwich on a roll is about $5.50.

Many of the delis have buffets too. They charge you by the pound. The buffets close to our office are $9.00 per pound.

Now I  know that's more than what you pay out there in places like Muncie Indiana (where I nearly fainted at how little it cost for great Thai food on Friday night) but it's cheap for NYC.

3. One of the best things to do in NYC is ride the Staten Island Ferry. It's free. Take the 4/5 train downtown, or the 1 train downtown. Get off at Battery Park, and the ferry terminal is right there.  Doing this at night is a GREAT way to see the skyline.

It's totally safe, even at night.  Be city smart of course; don't flash large rolls of cash and don't carry your wallet in your back pocket.

4. Don't be afraid of the subway. It's clean (by our standards) safe (by your standards too) and it runs all the time. So do the buses. Public transportation is really good in this city and MUCH safer than driving if you're not used to our pedestrians.

If you need to figure out which subway will take you to your destination, use HopStop

If you want to find out if your subway or bus is having issues, consult the  MTA site

5. Prepare for hot humid weather. Wear cotton rather than polyester clothes. Bring good walking shoes. Leave your heels at home, you do NOT need them here and those subway grates in the sidewalk are a menace to the unwary.

6. New Yorkers are kind to visitors but impatient. If you're lost, you can ask for help. Do it succinctly:
"Where is the subway"
"Is this the place to get the bus"
"Which way to the ferry?"

Under NO circumstances do you stand on the sidewalk with a large unfolded map trying to figure out where you are.  If you need to pause and reconnoiter, stand to the SIDE of the traffic flow.

7. Do not ask a cab driver how to get to your destination. Simply give him the address. Many cab drivers now have GPS and don't need directions. Asking a driver is asking him to take the scenic route.

8. ALWAYS note the cab number of the cab you get in. If you lose something, that's the only way you can get it back.

9. If you're hailing a cab, you may be approached by town car drivers. Be aware these guyz are UN-metered cars and frequently upcharge from what you'd pay in a taxi. Negotiate before you get in the car.

10. NYC seems hot dirty and impatient to many visitors. It may be, but it's also the center of the world, and full of people doing amazing things. I love this town with a passion that borders on the irrational and I hope you'll see some of why I do while you're here.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Week in Review delayed; also Monday's post

Monday update:
I'm back in NYC but oh man, the traveling and conference have really caught up with me.
I've got a bunch of work I need to attend to before getting back to blog posts,
so I'll probably not have a new post ready till Tuesday.

I will say that the highlight of the conference for me was getting to meet several
of the blog readers in person.

Now, off to work, and see you back here with fresh rantings on the morrow.

Sunday post:
I've been traveling today.
The WIR is delayed.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Flash fiction contest!

I'm in Muncie Indiana for the Midwest Writers Conference this weekend so it's the perfect time to have a writing contest!

 The usual rules apply:

1. Write a story using 100 words or fewer.

2. Use these words in the story:


3. You must use the whole word, but that whole word can be part of a larger word. The letters for the
prompt must appear in consecutive order (they cannot be backwards either.)
Thus:  Book/bookish is ok, but Book/Brooks is not.
And: Indiana/Indians is ok but Indian/An aid ninja is not.

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

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

8. Please do not post anything but contest entries. (Not for example "I love Felix Buttonweezer's entry!") They will be deleted and you will be in Hot Water.

Contest opens: Saturday July 25 at 8am

Contest closes: Sunday July 26 at 6am (yes this is shorter than normal; I'm traveling that day)

Questions? Tweet to me @Janet_Reid
Ready? SET?

Not yet!

Too late!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Reality checks

Item 1:

Dear Janet:
I’ve accepted a publishing agreement for (title) th a small independent publisher.
Thank you for considering my manuscript, and I look forward to querying you for other titles.

This arrived in my email on July 22.
The query for the novel arrived on July 14.
8 days.
When the author withdrew the manuscript, I hadn't even read the query.

My guess is the author was querying publishers and agents at the same time.
I understand the temptation to do this.

Here's why it's a bad idea:
1. If your book is good enough for a quick acceptance by a small publisher, it's probably good enough for consideration at a publisher that pays advances, has a sales force, has a library sales team, and an actual art department.

Why jump for publication so quickly? Why not get a sense of what your options are first?

2. "I look forward to querying you for other titles" might be true for the writer, but it's not for me. Once you're published, with a sales track record, it's harder to sell your work for lots of money. That's a just a plain cold hard fact. And since I make my living selling books, I tend to pick the ones that I think I can get some money for. LOTS of money in fact.

I don't say any of this to you when you write to withdraw your query. I simply say "congratulations and I look forward to seeing your book in the store."

Item 2:
A few days ago, I got word that Publishing Company Z is accepting direct submissions in four genres, including mystery/suspense. Their site indicates they do not charge authors for reading, nor do they charge accepted authors for light editing, cover creation or marketing. They do ask that their authors do as much marketing on their own as they can, in addition to the publisher's efforts. Not unlike a small press, I hear. In short, they seemed legit.

I sent in my much-improved query (thank you for that!) along with a longer synopsis. That night I got a request for the first two chapters. That was last night. Today I was told they want to publish my novel and attached a contract. (They haven't read the whole thing yet, you'll note.)

It's not so much that they haven't read the novel before offering a publication contract (which is a pretty big red flag in and of itself, but given I've sold novels on partials, not a total deal breaker) it's that they're carefully telling you they don't charge to read or edit, or create covers or do marketing.

Since a publisher shouldn't do those things anyway, why do they feel the need to tell you they don't? Like the person who assures you he'll never do something that you never considered he might.

Clicking on Publisher X's  webstite was a very illuminating experience:

"All work must be original and free of copyright" 

That phrase demonstrates very clearly that the pubisher doesn't understand the concept of copyright at all. That's a very fundamental thing in book publishing.

 With Publisher Xyou are joining a network of authors. Their contacts will be visiting the bookstore with your book(s) in it, and your contacts will do the same. This process creates more exposure to all of our books and gives authors a better chance of selling than going it alone.

This is delusional. It's also illogical. Do you really think your "contacts" are going to visit stores to promote an author they don't know? Hell no. I'm a radid drooling DEVOTED fan of several authors I do not represent and if they asked me to visit stores to promote someone else at their publisher I wouldn't do it. I advocate for writers I love. That's the nature of being a fan and a "contact."

This publisher not only doesn't understand publishing, they don't seem to understand people.  I can think of a lot of problems I'm willing to have with publishers; these two aren't on that list.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

10 Tips for Encountering Agents in Social Situations

Gotta tell ya, I'm a tad nervous heading out for my first away game this year. (ThrillerFest, Bouchercon and LeftCoast Crime don't really count)

Why would I be nervous you ask?

Well, let's cue up the replay tape on yesterday's blog comment trail:

Ugh, I sometimes have nightmares about my first agent encounter at a conference. I ran into an agent whose blog I REALLY admire (not, thank all the gods, the illustrious QOTKU) at the cocktail party and managed to put my foot so far down my throat I was farting toes for days. (That's gross, isn't it? It is. And it doesn't even begin to cover my embarrassment.)

Said agent was chatting with some folks and when I introduced myself and expressed my admiration for the agent's blog and clients, it became mortifyingly clear that the agent was not super pleased with said client at that moment and DID NOT WANT TO TALK TO ME. AT. ALL.

So there I stood in awkward silence for a full minute before backing away and finding the bottom of a glass (or two) of wine with my writer buds.

I definitely could have handled that more smoothly. Next time! 

When I read that, my first reaction was Bad Bad Agent Girl! Several blog readers said pretty much the same thing.

But, do you know how easy it is to be that Bad Agent? VERY.

What could be fatigue comes off as not wanting to talk to the writer.
What could be preoccupation with something else comes off as not wanting to talk to the writer.
What could be mortification from an earlier conversation in which the agent put HER foot in her mouth (yadda yadda) comes off as not wanting to talk to the writer.

What could be a sudden urgent need to use the ladies loo comes off as not wanting to talk to the writer.

In other words, you shy woodland creatures assume that anything less than enthusiasm is somehow not wanting to talk to you.

That's a pretty stiff social burden to bear dear readers.

So, let's go over some ways you can interact with agents away from their Lair to keep your foot out of your fangs:

1. Do not initiate conversation about your book, your project, your query.

2. Do not mention you've queried the agent and been rejected, not even if you think you're being nice about it, or you learned from it.

3. Don't ask if they're having a good time. Generally speaking, conferences are work for us. Would you ask someone if they are having a good time when they're at work?

4. Don't ask if they're finding anything good. That can be a very loaded question. I've been to conferences where every single project I saw was unpublishable.

So, that's what NOT to do. Here's what you can do:

5. Mention the books by her client. The more specific you can be the better. Despite the example above, this is really the most direct avenue to an agent's heart.  Sure you can trip up here, in that the agent may no longer rep that client, but you have to take some risks. This is a reasonable risk to take.

6. Mention the agent's blog or twitter feed and that you've learned something from it. Again, be specific here if you can.

7. Ask what they're reading for fun. Most agents have a book in their bag. Hopefully they'll like it and you can talk books.

Once you've served up a conversational gambit, it's incumbent upon the agent to keep it going. It's rude for anyone in a conversation to simply say "yes" or "no" and leave you hanging like a flummoxed interviewer on Good Morning Carkoon. It's also rude to make you feel like you're a plate of chopped liver (as the agent in the example quoted did)

If you find yourself with an agent who is sending off the "I don't want to be here" vibe remember it's NOT YOU. How could it be? All you've done is be pleasant!

Here's what to do, rather than stand there and feel awful or that somehow this is your fault:

8. Say "it was lovely to meet you. Thank you for coming to the conference. Will you excuse me? I need to attend to my friend over there" and wave in the general direction behind the agent (contrary to popular opinion agents do not have eyes in the back of their head). Then you step away.

 9. If you're feeling particularly kind, ask "is there anything I can do for you right now that would help you out?" If the agent  needs to go to the loo, or can't figure out where she left her glasses, sometimes an offer of help is just the thing.  You're under NO obligation to offer help. You're not some sort of handmaiden in the Temple of Agents.

10. If you're feeling particularly evil, and at this point, who wouldn't, you can say "Janet Reid's July 22 blog post told me not to take hostile attitudes from agents personally and man am I glad I read that.  Have a great day!"

I can assure you that at least once in this coming weekend an author will come up to me in a social situation and do either 1 or 2 or BOTH.  Since I have yet to figure out a way to handle that gracefully, and I know that authors remember Every Single Thing an agent says to them, now you can see why I'm just a tad nervous about Writers in the Wild myself.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Conference question: what to ask agents at pitch sessions

I will be attending a pitch session at a writers conference in a few weeks (although I do know how you feel about them!). There will be time during each pitch for back and forth between the agents and attendees. I want to ask intelligent questions during this time, and while I do have a few prepared (which differ by agent, to some degree), I wonder if you have any advice on this. I know you've blogged on what to ask during "the call," but found nothing about what to ask at this stage. I would assume an agent would do most of the asking during a pitch, but don't want to be caught unprepared.

Don't expect an agent to do most of the talking! My preferred strategy for  meeting writers is real life is not say any more than I have to, if that.

So, you'll give your pitch which will be short, concise, brief and to the point.
You will then STOP talking to allow the agent to ask whether the novel is finished,  the word count, and where you see it on the shelf.

If you're really smart you will not include that info in your pitch, because that way the agent can ask, and get the convo started.

Put it in the pitch and the agent is left with nothing to ask other than "So, how bout them Yankees?"

If you feel the conversation start dragging, here are some things you can ask:

1. What advice does the agent give her new clients?

2. Does the agent have books she recommends to all writers? (I have several)

3. Read any good books lately?

If you've got time, ask if she'll take a look at your query and see if anything jumps out that might be a problem.

Most of us are pretty good at making conversation with shy woodland creatures since most of our clients started out that way.

Try to ask about her interests, or for her advice. Try not to argue with her even if you think she's dead wrong.

I had a writer tell me I just didn't understand her book during a session at a writers conference here in NYC some years back. My former minion Meredith was there with me. Upon hearing that (followed closely by Mer's audible gasp of shock), I just sat back and let the writer talk for the rest of the allotted time. When time was up I said thanks, and have a great day.

It was so odd...this woman had come hundreds of miles, spent oodles of dough, and then basically said she didn't have anything to learn from the very people who were there to help her. Mer and I were under the table we were laughing so hard...but it was really awful at the time.

Don't be that writer, ok?

Monday, July 20, 2015

Go Set A Watchman Writing Contest results

There was a slight delay in posting the results today because I was caught up doing queries for the MidWest Writers conference that starts this Thursday.

I dragged my sorry self in from lunch (90degrees in NYC today---yuckola!) and soon found a treasure trove of entries. You've outdone yourselves this time!

Herewith the results

Special recognition for meta entries:
french sojourn 6:46am

(channelling Miss Alice) 7:49am

Special recogniton for a lovely twist of an ending! I do love twists.
Lee Kelsall 7:32am

Special recognition for entries that weren't quite stories, but were delightful and layered nonetheless, and great fun to read:
Steve Forti 7:40am

S.D. King8:05aam (and a great twisty ending!)

Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli (with a new word for me too!!) 9:42am

Steph 10:14am (I love love love this)

Arya al'Thor 11:55am

Special recogniton for a sequel to a previous entry!
Curt David 8:01am

Here's who's who (I think)

1: watchword

2: totalisor

3: chiromancy

4: flamming

Special recogniton for a great turn of phrase:
“That girl’s skinny as paper,” Michael J. Craft 8:22am

Special recogntion for entries that weren't quite stories, but the last line just awed me.

Michael Seese 12:29pm

Kitty 12:48pm

Special recogniton for an entry that will make the start of a very interesting novel

AC 8:02pm

Special recogniton
Dena Pawling 6:35pm based on a true story


Here are the entries that caught my eye, and became semi-finalists:
Jennifer Delozier 8:52am

“Watch out for that one,” Vito said, pointing to the woman dancing in a flimsy, fringed bikini, a flamboyant cowboy hat perched on her bleached blonde head. He bounced in his seat like a hyperactive toddler. A neon sign flashed above the stage: “Club Lead.”
“Way ahead of ya.” Vito’s companion pulled up his shirt to reveal a total of three bullet holes scarring his midsection. He nodded to the dancer, who pulled the gun strapped to her shapely thigh and aimed it at Vito.
“Wait! What the…”
“What? You wanted to be part of the club, didn’t ya?”

Cynthia Mc 9:37am
"Hold my beer. Watch this."
Before I could say "Hell no" my flamboyant twin brother tossed me his Bud and climbed the flimsy rigging.
"You're a Supreme Court justice. Show some decorum."
He mooned me.
364 days a year Hal and I are total professionals. On our birthday we sail my boat to the Caribbean and relax.
This year we weren't alone. Snickering carries over water.
I closed my book, grabbed my 30-30, shot the camera out of Mr. Paparazzi's hand into
"Shark-infested waters!" we yelled.
The man dove anyway.
Crimson tide.
"Thanks, Sis," said Hal.
"Thank the shark."

Beth 10:41am

Marcus glowered at the spectators.

“This is sick. Watching a man flying a Little Red Wagon over a flaming pit? They want to watch me die.”

“No,” Jens responded. “They want to watch you survive.”

The flames roared, groping for their victim. Marcus shuddered.

“It’s not too late to get some hotdogs, turn this into a cookout.”

“You’re a total wuss! Just think; one ride, and you’ll be famous!”

Marcus tested the wheels.

“I think it’s broken.”

“Let me see.”

Jens climbed into the wagon.

“I don’t see anything…”

“See ya, buddy,” Marcus said, giving the flimsy cart a shove.

Elena 11:05am
Sarah clutched the flask. Watcher’s Whiskey, cheap rotgut her flimflamming husband favored. Ten ounces total, and the sympathetic chemist had doctored it just right. Nothing detectable.

“…Like to go home,” a woman opposite mumbled at the subway floor.

“Come on,” the woman’s companion, aggressively petulant, draped further over her rigid shoulders. Sarah narrowed her eyes as he clapped a palm upon her knee, forced it back toward him. “You owe me.”

The woman closed her mouth.

Sarah supposed she wouldn’t need all ten.

“Mister,” she said congenially, extending the flask. “You look like a man who could use a drink.”

christinadalcher 11:22am


I can't see the car from here, only sunset-colored flames. Flimsy piece of crap is totaled, but I'll be okay. I don't even feel anything. No pain in my legs, none in the back of my head. I'm sure I'm fine.

Damn iPhone's stuck in repeat mode. Must've tapped the screen when I hit the ground. Total nose dive, which is funny, since that's the new Saskwatch album playing. Track Six, "Call Your Mane." No, wait, it's "Mall Your Cane." Maybe "Call Your Name?" That's it. Call … Your … Mall …

My head's fine. I'm sure of it.

this entry would be stronger without the title. More subtle. It's very good, but if we aren't told what's going on (which the title does) we have to figure it out for ourselves. That's much more satisfying in a story. Have confidence your readers will get it!

Jeffrey Schaefer 12:20pm

Byron watched from his beloved perch, waiting for the man below to finish.

“How much longer you reckon he will take?”

Byron cocked his head leftward.

Sylvia stared back at him with beady eyes, totally black.

He scoffed. “Must you come every day?”

“Times are good,” she replied. “Morality is at an all-time low.”

“Clearly.” Byron noted the flim and flam growing beneath her feathers. He officially considered her large. Even though the men used the square more frequently, he still liked to show restraint.

“He’s ready.”

Byron acted first. He cawed and then swooped down towards the gallows.

I love entries like this where I have to re-read to suss out what's going on. This is deliciously subtle, particularly "waiting for the man below to finish" which you think might be a picnic tilll you read the final sentence.

Timothy Lowe 3:29pm

Darkness so total it hums.

He taps an old man’s cane along withered scraps of streets, feeling the watchers, their unblind eyes heavy but unseeing.

“C’n I help ya mister?”

A young boy. Polite. Freshly scrubbed. He can smell the soap on his skin.

“Can’t see, can ya mister?”

Another, a girl. She’s a towhead. He hears it in her voice.

“Dear,” he begins. Pauses. Decides. “No, but thanks to you and your brother here.”

He hears her frown.

“How’d you know he’s my brother, mister?”

He taps his empty sockets. She’s another he’s flimflammed.

“I’ve been watching you both.”

Great first line!

CarolynnWith2Ns 4:31pm
She was flim flamed from advancement by the promise of a man whose total focus was commitment to his own success. He the supervisor, she the subservient dedicated to coat tails and riding them.
She knew the man was a watcher, a studier, a man totally pledged to self, with a focus so narrow, he would not notice a flim flam flipped his way. She promised total dedication to his accomplishments until she reneged with a Beretta, a silencer and an alibi of vacation.
Sitting at the man’s desk now, she watches and flim flams the next in line.

Pharosian 5:00pm
You used to protect me. I looked up to you because you're my big brother.

But when I started to think for myself, you grew angry. And when I learned to destroy your specious arguments with logic, you struck me.

Then I met David, who delighted in my totality. We would talk into the night, and laugh, and love.

Your flimsy ego, bolstered only by an inflammatory religion, couldn't stand the idea of my independence. Your jealousy poisoned your brotherly love for me. Your so-called honor demanded putting me in my place.

And now you watch me burn.

Yikes! This grabs a reader and won't let go!

Steven 6:20pm
I should be elated, right?

Under my watchful guidance, Bill changed radically, presumably for the better. He transformed from dipsomaniac to teetotaler in record time. He replaced womanizing and nightclubs with couch-surfing, and foodie blogs. Once a trading floor workhorse, he’s now devoted to me … endlessly … and his meager take-home corroborates his renewed commitment.

I douse him with my favorite fragrance and we head to Havisham’s; he adores their cherries jubilee.

A strange coincidence occurred as the flambé was served. My flimsy heel snapped, my foot collided with the waiter’s, and the sloshed cherries ignited Bill’s cologne.


John Frain 6:24pm
Night watchman darkens the store one last time. Lock clicks. I peek from my hiding spot. Toy soldier, teetotaler it turns out, toots his trumpet. Party!

There are flimsier reasons to celebrate. Black Friday comes to mind.

Barbie tickles the Big piano. I gnaw a fire-sale price tag off my neck – even this stuffed lion has some pride – and share a drink with an American Girl. Hey man, ya never know, right? Then G.I. Joe saunters over and kills the mood.

This, too, will flame out. But not till we cross Fifth Avenue and rock the Plaza one final night.

SiSi 8:41pm
I leaned over the flimsy railing and checked my watch. Thirty minutes since lunch.

My new husband emerged from the ocean, his normally flamboyant gray hair plastered to his skull. “I love you,” he mouthed.

Yeah, I love you too. Forty minutes.

A handsome man offered me a drink. No way. I pointed to my wedding ring, pleased to prove my total faithfulness. Forty-five minutes.

My husband stiffened in his beach chair as if planning to stand. I looked concerned. Fifty minutes.

His body relaxed. His head lolled to the right.

Fifty-five minutes. My late husband was early for everything.

Terri Lynn Coop 12:04am
The need blazed in his steel blue eyes as my flimsy negligee surrendered to his impatient hands.

“Mommy! Watch me!”

The scene retreated into the glaring light ricocheting off poolside concrete that was as harsh and unyielding as the totality of my loveless marriage.

“Yes, Honey, I’m watching.”

Clutching the romance novel that spurred my dream, I closed my eyes, longing to experience what came next.

Blond hair. Shimmering bronze skin.


“I’m watching.” The indulgent reflex was heavy in my voice.

Rippling muscles.


“What is it?”

The empty flamingo raft, swinging gate, and man-size wet footprints answered me.

And here are the entries that were better than good--the two finalists:

(1) MeganV 11:13am

Definitions are vicious things.
def·i·ni·tion /defəˈniSH(ə)n/ noun a statement that explains a word’s meaning.
Example: The MAN didn’t know the definition of inFLAMmable.
mean·ing ˈmēniNG/ noun intend to express
Example: He didn’t understand the word’s meaning when he struck the match.
in·tend /inˈtend/ verb to plan.
Example: He didn’t intend to hurt them (a FLIMsy excuse).
in·flam·ma·ble inˈflaməb(ə)l/ adjective easily set on fire
Example: But the house was inflammable.
fire /ˈfī(ə)r/ noun destructive burning.
Example: And fire killed my family while I WATCHed; TOTAL survivors: one.
Definitions can’t tell me why.

I love the innovation and imagination at work here. It's a story, but it's also a list of definitons. That's pretty damn amazing.

(2) Kat Waclawik 5:47pm

“Feel,” she demands, so you lie awake tracing tiny feet as she dances flamencos inside your distended belly.

Watch,” she demands, so you roll out of bed in total darkness to see what Santa brought her.

“Listen,” she demands, so you wrap the robe tighter around your shoulders as she lays out her flimsy, post-curfew excuse.

“Smell?” she asks, so you rub sleep from your eyes before concurring her daughter needs a fresh diaper.

“Eat,” she pleads, so you lift your head enough to sip a spoonful of your—now her—famous chicken soup.

“Rest,” she concedes.

So you sleep.

This is utterly sublime. So elegant you want to read it while wearing pearls and a little black dress by Chanel. That perfectly turned phrase "your--now her--famous chicken soup" is the world you can see in a grain of sand.

This just knocked my sox off.

One entry is perfection, the other pushes the boundaries of imagination and story telling. Both are terrific. How to choose?

Hell with choosing. I pick both.  It's good to be me.

Kat Waclawik and MeganV if you'll both email me your preferred mailing address I'll send you either a copy of Go Set a Watchman or if you'd prefer another book, let me know what you like to read.

Congratulations to all the finalists for making this one of the best contests ever, and thanks to all who entered.  It was a lot of fun to read your entries.

Contest results...well, not so much

Contest results?
What contest results?
Ok, I'm still working on them.
I got sidetracked yesterday working on the queries for MidWest Writers.

Look for them later today or tonight.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Week in Review July 18

Welcome to the week that was!

Last week had two posts for the week in review. The first was that it would be late because I had a really gawdawful headache.
I loved John Frain's comment:

(yes, it was blank)
Very evocatove of John Cage's 4'33"

I got some meds and do feel better, thank you all.

The actual review of the week came a couple hours later:
Adib Khorram revealed he collects conference ribbons. I used to have one that said "certified" Sadly, long gone after one of the massive cleaning binges that over take me periodically.

Turns out that if your comment is selected as the blog subheader of the week, you want to be exiled to Carkoon. Amy Schaefer, here's your ticket:
Hey, a subheader! Just a moment while I press PrtSc. I'll even overlook the fact it is attributed to boring old "blog reader Amy Schaefer," rather than "Paradise dweller Amy Schaefer" or "the massively talented Amy Schaefer" or anything else of a more descriptive nature. (Blog readers - don't give them an inch.)

The conversation drifted off into lies and lays which bewilder and bother most of us. I have to pause every time I use the damn word to make sure I have it right. It's and its too. And don't get me started on how to spell things like necessary and guartuntee. (those are uncorrected versions) Spell Czech is the only thing that saves me on those.

turns out I spelled necessary correctly. That's the ONLY time that has happened in living memory.

On Monday the question was whether requested fulls go withan agent who moves agencies.
My answer was true but not helpful: it depends.
Kitty asked:
How would the writer know the agent has moved unless the agent notified the writer about the change of address? And if the agent did that, why not include the info about the requested manuscripts?
Most trade publications carry news of agents changing agencies, and writers see that. It's often tweeted, and updated on places like QueryTracker and Agent Query.

LynnRodz asked:
Okay, back to the OP, so what happens if let's say you query Agent A and Agent B at the same time because they're both at different agencies and both requested fulls, then Agent A moves to Agent B's agency and now they both have your manuscript and want it? And let's say, you weren't even aware that Agent A decided to move so this was definitely not your fault.

Talk about bad luck if both say, "Okay, never mind you can have it." and then neither one takes it. I think I read that scenario somewhere or maybe it was just a bad dream.
You email the agent who moved and tell her the other agent also has a full. They'll sort it out on their end. Most of us don't talk about requested fulls with our colleagues until we're ready for beta reads or to make an offer. That's NOT the time to find out someone else has it too.

Terri Lynn Coop asked:
Addendum to question. An agent moves to a new agency and takes their fulls. A bunch of the fulls, and maybe even the clients, are just not what this agency wants to be known for. Does everything (and possibly everyone) just get the heave-ho or does the agent try to place them?

I've never heard of that happening but of course, you guyz think of all sorts of things that could maybe possibly might go wrong in months starting with Q and twice when the blue moon is full.

Here's WHY that doesn't happen: when an agent moves it's not in a vacuum. The new agency has looked at the agent's client list, deals, and prospects. An agent that is strong in urban fantasy isn't going to land at an agency that only wants to do non-fiction unless the agency is purposefully branching out.

Agents aren't valuable for their own sweet selves; their value is in their clients and ability to find and sign good writers. In other words: I'm nothing without you.

When my colleague Brooks Sherman got Bent, we announced to the trade after he'd told clients and other writers who had fulls with him.

Our FPLM website was actually the last place to look for the updates, since those happen irregularly.

Then, the discussion meandered off (as it often does), this time to a Twitter brawl the ensued when a person calling herself an agent told writers they should expect to say yes to an offer of representation without dallying around to let other agents finish reading.

This is bad advice of epic proportion.

For starters, it's incredibly rude to the other agents who have requested your manuscript. If I request a manuscript I don't generally read it as soon as I wish I could. I tell writers that when they send the ms. If they get an offer, I hope they'll email me and inform me of their timetable.

For example: Dear Snookums, You've got Carkoon for Lovers and Other Strangers on your list of requested fulls from 2009. I've received an offer from another agent. I've told her I will respond within a week. Thanks for your time (all six years of it, you slacker) and consideration.

That gives me the heads up to read now, or forever hold my peace. Often I will ask the writer who the agent making the offer is. I do this because if it's a good agent and I know the writer will be in good hands I can say so to the writer even if I pass.

On the other hand if the offer is from someone like this person on Twitter I can offer some comments like "here's a link to questions to ask a prospective agent."

More important though is that "answer me now" demonstrates that the person calling herself an agent is NOT acting in the writer's best interests. I would think you'd want an agent who lets you know what your options are, and gives you advice on how to make a decision that's right for you, not for her.

Someone who wants you to act quickly rather than carefully raises a red flag for me.

And of course, when you look at this person's bio, there's no agent experience at all, no sales, no support structure, and no background in book publishing of any kind. This is a textbook example of why you want to be cautious about who you listen to for advice.

And I've also blogged about that more than once.

In the second blog post I said agents won't actively give you bad advice. I'll stand on that opinion, but I'm not going to call that person who tweeted an actual agent either.
and it turns out Dena Pawling has her own Janet!
This week started with Janet-the-agent felled by a nasty sinus headache, and Janet-my-daughter felled [literally] down the stairs at our church. X-rays today reveal only a bad sprain of the ankle, not broken thankfully.

On Tuesday the topic was the winner of the writing contest:
In addition to the kudos, Colin Smith rallied the troops to encourage more of our lurkers to enter.
There are a lot of us who regularly participate in these contests, but there are also some who don't. Maybe they feel intimidated by the quality of the winning entries. Or maybe they don't think they can tell a story in 100 words. Perhaps they're afraid to post their work, knowing hundreds (perhaps thousands) of people will read it.

What words of encouragement would you give to these people? What do you find most fun about writing drabbles?

There were a lot of terrific answers to that question. Bottom line is: just try it once.

CynthiaMc said:
I didn't know the "don't use the words as names" rule

It's not really a rule, in that using prompts as names doesn't get you disqualified or even prevent you from being a finalist. I just prefer that the prompts be used as words not names. I think it's a bigger challenge. I'd rather pick an entry that tries too much and doesn't quite get there, than something safe.
I mean, please, I represent guys like Sean Ferrell and Jeff Somers. They take all sorts of interesting risks in their fiction.

LynnRodz asked:
I wonder if there are other things we lose points on. I need all the help I can get.
Not really. I'm not much keen on the referential stuff (bringing me in to the story in either blog or shark form) but it's not like I hate it.

I was VERY glad to see that people are using the contests to try new things, and to get over shyness about sharing work. I encourage both those things. I'd rather see you try but splat than stay safe and boring. Interesting failure is better than boring success.

On Wednesday, we heard from a writer who was in the bleakest of places, wondering if agents were actually reading her queries.

I told her we were, in no uncertain terms, and also to quit fretting over something she had no control over. That is a recurring theme here with all you woodland creatures.

Kitty said:
there was a time when I did send out some of my stories. Some of the rejections came back so quickly I swore they passed my stories in the mail.
I actually stopped replying to queries on the day they arrived because writers were skeptical I'd read them. I do reply to paper queries the day they arrive and I'm sure people have wondered. Sometimes the post office likes to be speedy with bad news.

kaitlyn sage brought us a new word "lurky" to describe what she's trying to be less of. I intend to use it often.

Terri Lynn Coop reminded us of a great comment she wrote about how an anthology selected stories:
The comment was made here on this blog post was this one

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.

bjmuntain reminded us of one of the earliest forms of agent stalking on the internet.
Julie: I remember that guy, too. He would post everything he could about an agent who rejected him - phone numbers, everything. These days, I believe that would be called doxing. He used to get requests from agents to please take down their information (like their own phone number at work, instead of the office number), and he would gleefully post those requests, as well. *passes on the R O C Cola, takes a sweet tea instead* Didn't remember his name until reading Janet's link.

Julie was actually talking about a different guy, the writer who queried a novel about a woman composer. That guy didn't do the agent list. The agent list was from another writer whose novel was originally titled something about Oprah and mayonnaise. He only queried each agent once or twice, but posted agent contact info LONG before such things were the norm.

He's actually a pretty nice guy. I had a couple of conversations with him over the course of the years. And as it turned out, now our contact info is everywhere on the net so all that sturm und drang seems pretty funny.

Keeping that much data current is more than a full time job. Since I do exactly that with editors (but my data base isn't public of course) I have sympathy for him. It was particularly interesting to find out he sorted names by whether he like you, not by alphabetizing.

Stephanie had a reasonable complaint here:
My one complaint is when the agent uses an assistant to read queries. How the hell does a green college kid know what an experienced lit agent is looking for?

It's not so much that someone reading my queries knows what I am looking for, as knows what I'm NOT looking for and can cull those out for me. I don't actually have anyone doing that right now, but I do know agents who do, and that kind of culling can often cut the queries by half or more.

A lot of the queries I get are from writers who simply are not publishable right now. Even if they have a great idea, good plot, interesting characters, the writing is not good. And before anyone tells me that Dan Brown is a bad writer, let's all remember that he may not be literary but he's a pretty darn compelling commercial fiction writer.

The closest we can come to bad writing that did well is E.L. James and that was an anomaly. And no one found EL James in the incoming queries either.

And if you really want to make sure you wake up in the middle of the night wondering if you know how to write, here's our own Duchess of Kneale's link to wikipedia page on Illusory Superiority.

I remember when these studies first came out. It scared the crap outta me then cause I really thought I knew what I was doing. Yea, well, all these years later, when I really think I know what I'm doing, it scares me worse.

On Thursday I posted a list of ten things that are a redflag in any query.
This post got more comments than any other post in the history of this blog.

Laura Mary, who is apparently much much nicer than I said,
On the one hand it does seem a little harsh to be so hard on people for their naiveté, however, there is so much information out there, that there is little excuse for not knowing the basics at least!

I'm not saying I toss the query when I see this stuff. I am saying it tells me the writer is going to be a work in progress. I've taken on several clients who didn't know much about the ins and outs of publishing, but at least knew that a business letter format meant you referred to yourself in the first, not third, person.

Sam Hawke said:
When you hang out in places like this, where you assume most people know their stuff, it's sometimes handy to remember that a big chunk of your competition for agents' attention do stuff like this...
All those examples were drawn from queries I've received in the last three weeks.

Yes, sometimes I want to shriek at people. It's not like there isn't something called QueryShark to help you out.

Colin Smith asked about #4
4. The bio section refers to a recent retirement that now allows time to write.

On Topic: The point on the list that made me pause was #4. Is it a bad thing that one waits until retirement before taking up writing, or is it a bad thing to mention the fact in a query bio? I'm hoping just the latter since I'm sure some very good published authors have taken the opportunity of retirement to indulge that life-long dream.

Generally when I hear the underlying sentiment that the author just didn't have time to do this writing thing till now. Sort of like, ok, now I'll do this instead of that.

Most of the writers I represent have been writing since they were sprouts; writing through day jobs, small children, illness; adversity, famine and flood. Sure there have been breaks, sometimes for a couple years, but they didn't wait till they had time: they made time. And they made time because writing was something important to them. Something more important than other activities. More important than television. More important than a clean house. More important than golf.

I really dislike the idea that someone thinks all it takes to get this writing thing going is time. If it did, the best writers in the world would be guys in prison.

Irene troy asked about #6
6. The words "beta readers" are present.
Beta-readers? I thought using beta-readers was a good idea and one welcomed by agents. Or, am I being a bit dense and you mean don't include something such as: My beta readers loved this fiction novel?

Beta readers are terrific and every writer should have a bevy of them. What I object to is hearing about them. I don't want to know the sordid details of the novel's conception or development, much like I don't want to hear that about your kid's conception and development either. (no, really I Do Not!)

Since you wouldn't tell me if your beta readers hated it, you shouldn't tell me they loved it. In other words, we'll assume they did.

You also don't have to tell me it's written in English, uses standard spelling and punctuation, and you'd be glad to hand deliver it to my office via liveried footman in a horse drawn carriage if I so desired.
Susan Bonifant made me laugh with this one:
Please check again, maybe in a folder called "LOL" or "WTF" or something like that, for letters that have:

1. Suggested who should star in the movie
2. Included pictures of themselves dressed as character (my personal favorite)
3. Asked who else they should contact if you turn them down
4. Explained that it's your lucky day, now that they've queried you
5. Opened with a question like: "ever wondered who you'd be if you were the person you wanted to be before you were you and wanted to be someone else?"

I know they're there somewhere.

I'm sure they are. I created that list from recent queries. I just haven't seen these others in a while. But yes, they are red flags as well.

Jenny C confessed she's committed #9
9. Love for the written word is professed.
I am guilty of having professed my love for the written word, however it was done so in conjunction with mentioning my 17 years as a bookseller so does that make it ok? No? Ok. Nevermind.
If you mention you've been a bookseller ever, let alone for 17 years, I know you love writing and books. And doing inventory.

Irene Troy made me laugh with this:
Someone in my local writers group became very angry when an agent rejected her query. Note I said AN agent, as in singular. She turned around and wrote the agent back saying the agent knew nothing because her beta-readers loved the book. She also told the agent she would be sorry when the book was published, turned into a movie and then made her and another agent millions. Okay, one foot shot to hell.

DLM's reply made me laugh even more:
Irene, it looks like that querier had better get one HELL of an offer on their very second query ever, because otherwise there'll be a distressing lack of feet to shoot thereafter ...

I do get letters like that sometime. And I keep track of the people who send them. Here's one such entry from my address book

On Friday I announced a flash fiction contest for Go Set A Watchman. I read the book this week (it was a necessity since so many people were talking about it) I was not one of those die hard Mockingbird fans. I've read it, and I think it's a terrific book, but I knew that lightning doesn't often strike twice. My expectations were reasonable to low.

Even then, I was underwhelmed. I can see very clearly how an editor reading this suggested the revisions that became Mockingbird.

And if gossip is true, Truman Capote had a big hand in shaping Mockingbird (he and Harper Lee were friends both in Alabama and New York) Since Capote is long gone, this book did not benefit from his editorial eye.

Mostly though I think someone thought "hey we can make a boatload of money here" and didn't give a single thought to whether it was something that should, rather than could, be done.

I think the folks at Vulture made a good point about this book being much more suitable for an academic press:
The appropriate publication of Watchman would have been a scholarly edition issued a few years after its author’s death. The only person who comes out of this affair looking good is Tay Hohoff, the Lippincott editor who told Lee to start over.

Had Go Set a Watchman arrived as a scholarly curiosity, however, rather than as a preposterously overhyped publishing “event,” it would have taken its logical place in the ongoing debate about the racial politics of To Kill a Mockingbird

I don't think it's an accident that this novel came to light only after the death of Miss Alice, Harper Lee's sister, and after the author herself was clearly disabled by age and infirmity.

Honest to god, this is as clear a lesson in why you don't publish trunk novel as I've ever seen. AND the value of a literary executor who knows your wishes. Maybe Harper Lee did want this book published; who knows.

As I write this the flash fiction contest is in full swing, and I'm looking forward to seeing what you've done.

There were some totally off any sort of topic questions this week:

Janet - is QueryShark dead? There have been only two posts this year, the last in February.

I, for one, always found it educational, and I know there is a LOT of archived content still there. But I would miss it if it fades away. And I doubt I'm alone in that.

I've had a hard time finding queries with anything wrong that's new or interesting. I love QueryShark but there are only so many times one can give the same advice. The blog isn't dead but I've focused more on answering questions here for a while. With 265+ entries at QS, I'm hoping it's a pretty complete education about revising!

For those of you watching for an update, QueryShark as a Twitter account: @QueryShark. When a new post goes up, I tweet it. When a revision goes up, I tweet that too.

And there were some asides that I just loved:

Colin Smith mentioned his love of archaic languages. I had to look up Conversational Ugaritic.  I really love that alphabet. Maybe I'll get my name tattooed in Ugaritic:

kdjames has a portmanteau for us that I love:
Given all the twitter-frothing I've witnessed from agents about rhetorical questions, I'm surprised not to find that in the Top Ten.

Blog reader Jenz is published this week! Congratulations!

ok, youze guyz, none of this "I was gone, and you didn't notice" stuff. If someone cares to comment on the absence of another, that's fine, but you can't try to glean it for yourself. The woodland creatures who enrich this blog with their amazing knowledge and humor don't need anyone telling them they're doing something wrong. Well, unless it's ME of course.

Got it?

Subheader choices:
"We don't hide crazy in the south. We parade it around on the porch and give it sweet tea, but seriously, are agents trying to drive writers nuts? Do they think it plumbs a new level of their soul?" --Julie M. Weathers

"Around here staying on the topic is sort of like turning ferrets loose in a pool of packing peanuts. Everyone now and then someone pops up momentarily and says, "Oh yes, topic." --Julie M. Weathers

"Janet's blog however is a spewing geyser of stuff nobody else touches. No wonder we lurk around here wondering what will come flying out next." S. D. King

"there's simply no reason to try and drive authors crazy, aside from the amusing aspect."--Julie M. Weathers

"'allo. My name is Mark Anthony Songer. You read my query. Prepare to sign." --Inigo Montoya

"I'm starting to believe success in the writing word is 50% good writing, 50% studying the industry, 50% perseverance and maybe a pinch of good luck. --Christina Seine

"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."--Scott Sloan

I'm going to be away from the computer when this blog post goes live, so I will not have changed the sub-header.  If you have a favorite, let me know. NO promise that the most popular one wins, but I can't quite decide so help me out.

Next week is the Midwest Writers Conference in Muncie, Indiana.  I'm in touch with some of the writers who are attending, and looking forward to meeting some of you blog readers who will be there.


Friday, July 17, 2015

Go Set a Watchman flash fiction writing contest

The most talked about book this summer is Harper Lee's Go Set A Watchman. I purposely avoided  all the pre-publication reviews and yammer so I could open it with the freshest possible eye.  I read it in a day and I'm still not quite sure what I think of the book.  Mostly I think someone with avarice in their heart had a lot to do with publication.

But, let's mark the week with a flash fiction contest! Prize is a copy of Go Set a Watchman.

The usual rules apply:

1. Write a story using 100 words or fewer.

2. Use these words in the story:


3. You must use the whole word, but that whole word can be part of a larger word. The letters for the
prompt must appear together and in consecutive order.

Thus: flam/flamingo is ok but man/mean is not.

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

6. 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.

7. International entries are allowed, but prizes may vary for international addresses.  Prize is generally a book.

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

9. 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. Tweeting things in general about the contest is fine: "I entered the flash fiction contest!"

8. Please do not add any comments about contest entries. (Not for example "I love Felix Buttonweezer's entry!")  They will be deleted and you will find yourself in Hot Water.

Contest opens: Saturday, July 18,  5:44am (ok, I changed this without notice but I got up early, so there ya go.)

Contest closes: Sunday, July 19, 6am (note that this is EARLIER than normal!)

Questions? Tweet to me @Janet_Reid

Ready? SET?

Not yet!
Oops, too late.
Contest closed at 6am Sunday July 19.


Thursday, July 16, 2015

Ten Red Flags in ANY Query

1. The first sentence has more than 25 words.

2. The first sentence has more than two clauses.

3. The author refers to himself/herself by name (rather than "I")

4. The bio section refers to a recent retirement that now allows time to write.

5. The phrase "film potential" is present.

6. The words "beta readers" are present.

7. The words "why this book will be successful" appear in the query

8. The phrase "my name is"** appears

9. Love for the written word is professed.

10. Instructions for pronounciation of any name is included.

Any questions?

**and is  not followed by "Inigo Montoya"

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Query Question: are you even reading these?

I queried a novel 5 years ago and after 15 no responses, I gave up.

I am now in the process of the dreary queries again (different novel) and tried something crazy, just to test out a theory. Honestly, I don't think my writing career can get any worse at this point.

I sent out a query to an agent and within 3 days had what I knew was a "form" no. I shook it off and hoped that maybe one of the other agents I sent it to would be interested.  One "no" is no big deal. Only I couldn't stop thinking about it. The more I read about agents and writer's good and bad experiences, the more I started to think. 

So this is where the crazy comes in. I sent the exact same query for the exact same book. I literally copied and pasted the original letter in an email and sent it in to the exact same agent. Same thing, 3 days later I got a response from her. The exact same form response.

I can't help, but wonder if my letter and sample were even read. I followed the instructions posted to a T.

I feel like if she read the exact same twice, she would have just ignored the second. Right? I mean why tell me the same thing twice. I clearly wasn't smart enough to understand the first no (I'm thinking this from her perspective here of course).

She could just feel sorry for me and be politely telling me to leave her alone, again, in that same e-mail "form" fashion. I don't know.

It just seems as if an "I don't have time to read this right now" form letter is a better response than, "Your project sounds very interesting, but it's just not for me" email.
Of course this is me assuming that on Wednesday she rejects all of her Monday queries and on Friday rejects all of Wednesdays.

Now that I have typed all of this, I have lost sight of my question. I don't even know if I have a specific question. What do you think about his whole experience and my theory that agents aren't actually reading our letters?
Obviously, all agents aren't the same, and I'm certain that some do take the time to read the queries even if they don't take time to respond. 

In your spare time do you like to beat your head against the wall?

At this point I almost want to read your novel because you have a fevered imagination. Too bad you're using it to torment yourself instead of entice ME.

For starters, let's both of us agree that you don't know a damn thing about how the OTHER side of the query process works. By my count,  you've sent 17 query letters total, and that's over the course of five years. 

I read 17 query letters in 30 minutes a day. Every day. For YEARS now.

And I can tell you that people sending duplicate queries by mistake, or because of bad record keeping, or because they misspelled one word in the closing paragraph, or they failed to add their twitter handle is so common that I don't even notice any more.

I don't investigate. I certainly don't assume the writer is stupid. Or poorly organized. Or anything. I just reply again.

I do this because it's the easiest thing for me to do. And frankly, I'm very invested in keeping things simple.

Now, you're about to become a crazy person here, and you're doing it over something you have ZERO control over.

Do not do that.

Do this: Send more queries.
You can't start to complain or kvetch until you've sent 100.

For ONE book.

And if you don't think your writing career can get worse, let me introduce you to a cold hard truth: you keep sending duplicate queries to torment yourself or prove that agents aren't reading your stuff and you're going to find even agents like me [who respond to ALL queries] ignore you. One fast way to get on my Very Bad Side is to resend the same query endlessly. [Yes, that happens.]

If you're really seriously worried agents aren't reading your work, get to a writing conference. Make some pitch appointments. Take your query. Find out what needs improving.

There is one basic fact you're forgetting here: agents are looking for things to sell.  Finding them is largely a numbers game once your query and pages are in good shape.

Quit making yourself crazy. Go work on your novel. I'm sure there are a few characters in there who could use some skullduggery in their lives.


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Writing contest results!

This was a really interesting challenge for y'all!
And the results gave my Spell Czech a bout of anxiety that damn near killed the poor fellow!

Herewith the results:

Special recognition for a great first line:
"It needed a burning." Timothy Lowe 8:04am (but holy moly, that story seared my sensibilities, yes indeed)

Special recognition  for evoking James Joyce
kregger 8:26am

Evocation of pure writer panic
Bronwyn Deaver 8:47am

This one made me laugh
DeadSpiderEye 8:54am

Brilliant manipulation of prompt words
Steve Forti 9:23am

Absolutely gorgeous evocation of the Scottish play
Kitty 11:08am

Special recognition  for a great  line:
Scott Sloan 3:11pm
"They had a shtick, and they were shticking with it…"

I'm not sure what this is but it's amazing
Steven 4:34pm
FlashFriday 2:03am ("and no one can chep like a fluven-bangle")

I love the subtlety of this one "matching orange blouse and pants" is a sublime
Irene Olson 5:25pm

Unionized Elves!
Mark Anthony Songer 5:26pm

So creepy I had to go look at kitten videos for a minute to regain my composure!
Marie Wallace 5:26pm

And here are the nine finalists

(1) Madeline Mora-Summonte 8:25am
The creature leaves Janella gifts. She is his intended. Or so say the Donglenn village elders - after she dared to stare them down when their greasy gazes slid over her body, after she fought back when one cornered her, licked her neck, bit at her breast.

She slips on tonight's present, fingers the bracelet's bangles of bone, its fangles of flesh. Here are teeth that will never again tear female skin, eyes that will never again leer at a woman. Janella, shivering with horror, with understanding, whispers, "Thank you."

The creature slithers from the shadows to claim his bride.

who could not love the phrase "greasy gazes." And this is deliciously subtle while telling a complete story.

(2) Ryan 9:30am
“You understand the examination?” asked the chief instructor.

The pupil nodded.

“Then tell me – how does the dongle dangle?” the instructor asked, overturning the hourglass. “You have ten seconds.”

The pupil cleared her throat and replied:

“Oh, isn’t it a fangle
That the dongle dangles
Rather like a bangle
Shining in the rain?”

The instructor’s hand reached for the hourglass, but the pupil raised a finger.

“But if ten dongles dangled
They’d be tough to wrangle
And in such a tangle
They’d never shine again.”

A tear welled in the chief instructor’s eye. “I pronounce you Doctor of Computational Poetry.”

 Computational poetry!

(3) Lance 9:33am
We were in the Oldfangled Tearoom right there on Beach Cliff Way.

I gave her this tennis bracelet. Real diamonds.

She saw it was no bangle, but the real deal.

When she hugged me, she said Oh! Dingle!


She said Dingle, but my name's Dongle. Dingle's my twin brother.

She'd been two-timing you with your own brother?


What happened?

I dangled her for a bit, but had to let her go.

Did she go back to Dingle?

No. When I let go, she plummeted straight down the face of the cliff. No arc at all.


Finalists lose points when prompt words are used as names. That has always seemed a bit slackerish to me. This one is better than most that use names cause the name is an integral part of the story. And I do like the double meaning of "when I let go."

(4) Colin Smith 9:50am
Impassioned in enlovery, we made a dread discovery:
A hole in the arm of the couch!
"The angle of your bangle made a tear in the chair!"
"Well, dingle dongle dangle—the angle of my bangle! Will the tear in the chair be expensive to repair?"
"Not if I can wrangle all the pieces of this tangle. I'm sure amongst the mangle there's a fix that I can fangle."
Mary looked dubiciously, regarded me suspiciously, but relented most compliciously to let me have my way.
A tenuous solution, though still a resolution:
You couldn't tell the duct tape was there!

This is just too fun.

(5) Laura Rueckert 12:54pm
"I love you," he'd said.

And I love him.

Who wouldn't want to marry a time traveler, to see the world and all the times?

But after ten near-death experiences, after tears of frustration at trying to make new-fangled technology work, I finger the bangle of my bracelet—the heart-shaped one linked to his time travel dongle. Take it off and his next trip will whisk him to 2134 or 1077, while I remain home in 1786.

Deep breath. Clink. The tiny heart hits the saucer. I'll stow it away forever, in some dark place, like my cowardly, real heart.

 I love the unexpectedness of "who wouldn't want to marry a time traveler"

(6) Michael Seese 1:38pm
Dr. Mnemosyne turned the monitor.

"A trip to the Smithsonian, seeing the Star Fangled Banner."

"When she was ten. And it's Spangled."

"Of course. Front row at a Bangles concert."

Adam continued studying the images. "That's her," he finally said, looking at the inert form, wiping a tear.

"She'll be awake in a few hours."

"And she won't know she's a copy?"

"No. Do you want this?" Mnemosyne asked, holding up the dongle.

"Just destroy it."

"I will," he said, sliding it into his pocket. The daughter of a multi-billionaire should command top dollar on the memory market, he thought.

This is so subtle you have to look up the doctor's name to get the full impact of the story. I love that!

(7) Amy Schaefer 5:19pm
Nobody understands the pressure. Everyone expects me to get into Frothing Mad Scientist Academy. My Ten Sun Heat GunTM liquefied London Bridge. I was Junior Evil Genius 2074. Fail, and I’m another child-prodigy loser.

I suck on my braces and ignore the packed arena. Final device check. I bangle the fangle. I hongle the dongle. Adjust the crosshairs and

A flash, a shriek, and five judges zzzzzoop
through the dimensional tear yawning above them. It snaps shut, leaving a burnt-pickle stink.

The remaining judge nods. “Accepted.”

I sketch a bow. The crowd roars.

Suck on it, haters.

Frothing Mad Scientist! The double meanings here are just delicious. And the pacing is perfect. 

(8) Nate Wilson 11:13pm
"Ah, cons. The only place I can truly be myself. Outside of Halloween, natch. #urbanglee"

"Dude, quit with the spoken hash tags. It'll never catch on."

"This weekend? With this crowd? It's totally gonna be a thing. #totallyathing"

"Fine, whatever. Just promise you won't around Kristen."

"Ooh, Krissy. Can't wait to tear into that. #themsthesweetmeat"

"What? No! She's mine."

"Right, cuz you won't scatter the moment she sees you. That never happens. #dingdongleaveemptyhanded"

"Enough. You owe me. I'm calling in the big one."

"You wouldn't."

"I would. Tonight, you stay human. #fangless"

"Bastard. ... But see? Totally a thing."

 Absolutely masterful use of the prompt words, funny as hell, and a twist to boot. This is a perfect entry.

(9) Katie 11:24pm
“Where’s my dangle? I mean…dongle? My spongle.”
“What’s that you’re asking hon?” Bernice, right there to help. She had been right there for the residents for close to forty years. She had interpreted ten thousand misspoken words.
“I’m looking for my…my bangle. It was right here.”
“Your mean your fork, honey. Here’s a new one cuz it looks like you knocked the other one on the fangle. I mean the florten. The…?”
“Yes, yes. You’re a dear.”
Bernice sat down heavily and a strangled sound pushed out of her throat.
“Now, now, no tears Bernice. It’s just a spongle.”

This took the idea of made up words in a whole different direction. I love that. And it's got a twist. And it grabs your heartstrings.  

This was an incredibly difficult choice. No surprise, you guys are tormenting me with increasingly brilliant entries every time we do this.

In the end I want for the heartstrings instead of the humor. It could have gone either way though, to be honest.

so, the winner this week is Katie 11:24pm

Katie if you'll email me with your mailing address and the kinds of books you like to read we'll send you a prize.

Thanks to all of you who entered. It was great fun to read your work. Some really great stuff here that knocked my sox right off!