Monday, January 31, 2011

Revisions from an Agent

Not long ago, @agentgame posted this on Twitter: “I've gotten back revisions on an overly fast turnaround that damaged the book rather than making it better.”

I immediately knew exactly what she was talking about. Frequently, I send back revision suggestions to unpublished authors. There might have been a number of things I loved about the book, but it was still far from perfect and needed a lot of work. That being said, I also felt a certain passion for the book and definitely wanted to see it again.

All too often what happens is the author feels rushed to get the material back to me as quickly as possible because she doesn’t want to lose my interest, and I get that. But listen here, folks, getting it back to me quickly isn’t going to do you a damn bit of good if what you send back is in even worse shape than the first version. If you think it had to be perfect before, now it has to be even better than perfect. There aren’t many second chances in life. When you get one, use it wisely.

When an agent sends you revisions with a request to resubmit, I have a few tips:

  1. Respond with a thank-you and let the agent know you’re going to take a close look at the revisions and are looking forward to resubmitting when it’s done. DO NOT commit to a time limit. You’ll only put undo pressure on yourself.
  2. Remember that revisions to a submission are only just the tip of the iceberg. Revision letters to my clients can be pages and pages long. I’m not going to spend that time on a submission. Therefore, you have to carefully read between the lines. Look at what I’m saying and then beyond that, and fix it all.
  3. Do only what works for you. If you are fixing something because it’s what you “think” someone else wants it WILL NOT work. You need to fix only what you see needs to be fixed.

And by the way, all of this holds true even for those already represented by an agent, as well as for those under contract with a publisher.

Jessica

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Friday, January 28, 2011

Thought for the Day

If you're going to compare your book to those on an agent's list, at least have some idea of whether it's a comparison that works. You don't want an agent to laugh at your query.

Jessica

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Excited for Something New

One of the best parts of my job is the thrill of the hunt. Sure, I am frequently overwhelmed by the hundreds of queries I find in my in-box, but when time allows, there’s nothing more exciting than sitting down and sorting through them in the hopes of finding that one big thing. Think Indiana Jones and the search for the Ark of the Covenant. There’s no doubt that the pit of snakes was a little much, but in the end, the thrill of the hunt and the final prize were worth every slithery creature.

As I said earlier, I have had time to refresh myself, clean out my in-box, and take a deep breath. And I’m back at it with a vengeance. With the new year comes renewed excitement for something fresh, something that will make me stand up and take notice and a book I can sell with enthusiasm.

While of course I’m looking for every genre (within the confines of those I represent, of course) there are a few things that I’d really like to see right now.

Steampunk. Please, please send me steampunk of all sorts. Adult, young adult, romance, mystery. I personally love this genre and can’t get enough of it.

Historical mystery. I represent a lot of cozy mysteries, but very few historicals, which is funny since historical mysteries were what I cut my teeth on. I would love to see more historicals like the one I sold, Amy Patricia Meade’s Rosie the Riveter series featuring a real-life Rosie the Riveter in WWII-era New York City.

Contemporary romance with a sense of community and big issues. Books that face life head-on and prove love can be found. I have a couple on my list right now and I’m excited about this genre. Many of the books have a flare of women’s fiction in them and more and more editors are asking for these types of books. Examples of books in this genre are those written by Kristin Hannah or Susan Elizabeth Philips or Susan Mallery. Or, of course, our own Bella Riley (yet to be published).

Big fantasy romances. Romance that crosses over into the realm of fantasy, beyond simple paranormal. Worlds like J. R. Ward's or our own Elizabeth Amber's (although it doesn’t need to be erotic).

Historical romances. I really love this genre and would love to see more. I have to admit, my preference in historicals tends to still be Regency England. I love the sweeping historicals like those of Sharon Page as well as the lighter, more contemporary feeling historicals like those of Sally MacKenzie. And I suppose all of this ties nicely into my desire for more historical mysteries and steampunk.

And last, in nonfiction, I’d like to see more journalistic narratives like the one I’m currently representing about the animal control system in the United States.

Let me reiterate that I am still looking for all sorts of great mysteries, romances in all sub-genres, fantasy, women’s fiction, and nonfiction. These are just the subject areas I’m most excited to be reading in right now.


Jessica


P.S. Somehow I totally missed Dystopian. Even Kim couldn't believe it. So while I tweeted about that miss I know not all of you follow Twitter. I'm also looking for anything Dystopian--YA, Romance, Mystery...

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

More on Author-Agent Relationship

Recently I worked with an agent who loved my book, until he finally read a chapter near the end. Apparently he agreed to work with me after only reading the first half of the book. The offensive chapter was about the heroine who dies on the operating table and has an out-of-body experience that ultimately allows her to save someone's life. This wasn't about believability, since similar events are well-documented. His objection was this event was not "fore-shadowed." My instinct was to say yes, but that's how it happens in real life. Death sometimes happens without warning. I should add that while frozen she has a supernatural dream that foreshadows an important plot point. That might have been the problem.

That ended the relationship. I started over with another agent who wanted to rewrite the plot, except I'm an expert in the field I was writing about [subject redacted to protect author’s identity]. He seemed to resent my fame (there's a book written about me) and instead of helping me he seemed to compete with me, always talking about what a great agent he was and how lucky I was to have him while criticizing me (but not my writing) in trivial and obnoxious ways.

It's my conception that the agent supports the author, and does not compete with him. Am I being naive? In the first case, I suspected the agent was trying to steer me away from any themes that contradicted his religious beliefs. In the second, the agent's ego seemed to be more important than my success.

Frankly, at this point agents seem more of an impediment than anything else. Is this typical? Perhaps the real secret here is don't bother with an agent until you have a track record that establishes your credibility.


A lot of different thoughts ran through my head while reading about this situation, the first being that I think there’s a lot to both of these stories that is not being said. In other words, I have a feeling these situations are being spun to make the agents look bad. I just find it hard to believe that one author had similar problems with two different agents and yet the author is totally blameless.

Let me break this down a little further.

Situation #1: It sounds to me like the agent’s critique was a perfect and valid revision suggestion. Sure, in real life things like death or life after death are not necessarily foreshadowed, but books are not real life. There’s a reason they’re called fiction, and for fiction to work we need to, as readers, have some sense that either something is going to happen or even what might happen. Your trick/talent as the writer is to lead us through the story to that point, giving us clues along the way, without revealing what’s really going to happen or making us feel manipulated.

What I read from this, though, what stood out to me the most, is that the agent’s request for revisions ended the relationship. Instead of working with the agent to learn why it wasn’t working for him, you simply ended things. Now granted, I could be wrong, but I’ve been in this business long enough, met enough authors, to suspect that I’m pretty close to the truth. I’m sure my authors will happily tell you the many times I told them something wasn’t working in their books. Thank goodness they don’t fire me every time. Instead we work together to find a solution or uncover why it might not have worked for me. I think that 90% of the time they’ll agree the book is stronger in the end.

Situation #2: Now you’ve found another agent for the book, one who also sees that there are problems with the book and, again, instead of working with this agent you have decided that he’s resentful of who you are and working for his own ego instead of what’s best for the book. While I don’t doubt there are agents out there who are egotistical, I have a hard time believing that this agent read the book, worked to write up a revision letter, and discussed his concerns with you just to prove to you that he was better.

I’m not saying these agents are saints. Heck, I don’t even know who they are, and if agent #2 really criticized you personally then shame on him. If agent #1 offered on only half the book, then you must have a good product there. That being said, it’s not entirely uncommon. It’s also not uncommon for an agent to feel the first half of the book is great, offer representation, and still have revision suggestions. I’m not sure that makes him a bad agent.

Based on the two stories I’m reading about, and the two similar situations with agents, it’s starting to feel to me that maybe you’re the one who needs to put your ego away for a little while and look at the book objectively. Does it really need work? If two people think there are problems, whether they are agents or not, I would believe there might be problems.

It’s hard for me to objectively say that agents are an impediment. After all, I’m an agent. I think an agent can be a wonderful resource and business partner and that, if they work together, an agent and author can really make a book shine.

In your case, maybe the best solution would be to work without an agent. It doesn’t seem to me you want to listen to one anyway.

Jessica

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Something about Voice

When reading requested material, one thing I like to do is simply go through my email and randomly open the attachments. Without knowing whether the book is romance, fantasy, mystery, YA, or nonfiction, I start reading. A good book with a good voice will tell me what genre the book is without me ever asking. In other words, I shouldn’t have to know ahead of time because the author’s voice will tell me where in bookstores the book belongs.

Jessica

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Monday, January 24, 2011

A Thank-You to "Trolls"

I know. You’re shocked, but hear me out.

We’ve often talked about the necessity to be careful on the Internet and to remember when writing your blog or tweets that people are watching and it’s important to keep things as professional as possible, and for each of us the meaning of that is different. Certainly if you read the tweets of a handful of agents you’ll very obviously see how different we are. I like to keep my personal and professional lives separate, and I tend to have separate accounts for those things. That being said, after a while on Twitter I can see how easy it is to get comfortable and let some of your inhibitions go. I’ve been chatting with more than a few people and I’ve gotten to know others. So it’s easy to forget the 5,000 or so other followers I have.

But thanks to the “trolls” (I could think of no other name for those who like to pop into the blog for the sole purpose of bad-mouthing me) I am reminded to keep it simple and keep it professional.

So thank you, “trolls,” for reminding me to scale it back whenever I think of letting go.

Jessica

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Friday, January 21, 2011

Email Headaches

As some of you know I've been having some email headaches lately. For years I was using Entourage, Microsoft's Mac version of Outlook. It was fine, worked well, but for months has been giving me a lot of trouble, including the week's worth of email I lost back around Thanksgiving. So for the new year I dumped Entourage. I'm now using Mac Mail and while I like Mail, as all of you know, with a new program there's a bit of a learning curve.


I set up my "rules" on mail to reply to queries when they're received, to let you know they've been received. Unfortunately, my mail program has also taken it upon itself to reply to those I haven't yet answered with a blank email. Sigh. I'm working on sorting this problem out but in the meantime, if you get a blank email from me please disregard. I guess it is my mail program's way of telling you that "you're still under consideration please wait patiently."

In other query news I have replied (yes I was the one who did this) to all queries through January 11. If you submitted prior to January 11 and have not received an answer (with actual text) please resubmit.

I have responded to all requested submissions through November 2010. Again, if you have not received an answer for requested material sent prior to that time please resubmit.

Already it's been a helluva year and I can't believe it's still only January. If these few weeks are any indication I better buckle up because 2011 is going to be quite the ride--and that's a good thing.

--Jessica


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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Performance Reviews

A friend of mine emailed to tell me she had just gotten out of her performance review. She was relieved it was over and heading to Starbucks for a coffee. As the owner of BookEnds, I don’t have performance reviews anymore, and, frankly, in publishing I only had a few. That being said, I kind of wish I still did.

I’ve learned a lot from my blog readers about what you’re looking for in an agent and a lot about ways I can change my processes to make things easier for authors. Because of you I’ve added an auto-response to all queries I receive and I have altered my rejection letter. Because of my clients and their needs I work hard to update myself monthly on where each of my clients is at, and if I haven’t talked with someone in a while I check in just to see how things are going.

Wouldn’t it be nice though to sit with each client once a year, not just to talk about the client’s plans and goals, but to learn more about what is needed from me, what I can do to help achieve those goals. I have had wonderfully communicative clients who are good at telling me what they need, but with others I’m not always so sure.

So, authors, even though you don’t have set performance reviews with your agents, I think it can be truly beneficial to both of you to include those sorts of discussions when you meet up at conferences or talk over the phone. Now that I don’t officially have performance reviews I can see how truly beneficial they can be to helping me become a better agent.

Jessica

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Pop Culture in Fiction

It’s very common for writers to use pop culture references in the fiction they’re writing. For example, it’s a lot easier to compare someone to Tom Cruise or a situation to The Sixth Sense than it is to really take the time and energy to describe that person or situation in your own words. If you ask me, or even if you didn’t, I think this is a very dangerous habit.

One of the reasons I don’t like this, besides the fact that I feel it’s lazy writing, is because I’m not a huge pop culture junky. Don’t get me wrong, I live and breathe Top Chef, but I rarely see movies. In fact, and I hate to admit this, the last time I saw a movie in the theater was more than five years ago. No joke. If your average reader is anything like me, you’re going to lose her with your first reference. She won’t get it.

The other reason I dislike pop culture references is that they quickly date your book. I read a YA recently in which the author used The Sixth Sense as an example. The Sixth Sense was released in 1998, when most of your YA readers were about four, maybe. Now, I’m not saying they haven’t seen the movie, and maybe it’s enough of a classic that they have, but this still sounds like a rather adult comparison to me, and one that definitely dates the book. Wouldn’t a young adult more likely think of something more recent, more relatable to their world, not a movie they would deem a classic?

What about a book that’s published, or still in publication, five years from now? At that point your readers weren’t even born when The Sixth Sense was released. Now, how does that date your book?

While I think it’s okay to use some pop culture in your writing, my suggestion is to use it sparingly and only if you absolutely need to.

Jessica

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

My Thoughts on the Brave New World: Bookstores

When I talk to members of the publishing community about all the changes that are happening in publishing these days, I think one of the biggest concerns everyone has is for the bookstore. None of us can imagine life without a bookstore. I’ll admit, I love shopping online almost more than the next person. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it fits into my lifestyle. But it’s not shopping. In my opinion, it’s almost impossible to make an amazing discovery online. I can’t just go to the mystery section because that’s what my brother likes to read and discover something fun and exciting that I know he’s never read before.

I do think bookstores will make it, but I think to do so they need to stop fighting each other, stop worrying about their individual electronic devices, and start coming together as a community. In other words, they need to work together. Do you know what I would like?

I would like to be able to go into a bookstore and browse books, admire covers, read the back blurbs, and buy the book in whatever format I have available to me. I would like to be able to browse the bookstore and enjoy the experience. I would like to have a coffee from the coffee shop while I’m doing this and maybe even drop the kids off for a reading hour so I can shop unencumbered.

How will this work? I’m not sure, primarily because you can simply download the book on your own device and the store gets no credit, but it seems there has to be a way for bookstores to get some sort of credit for whatever books are downloaded from their store, even if it’s for a device that’s different from the one they make themselves.

Jessica

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Monday, January 17, 2011

My Thoughts on the Brave New World: Nonfiction

We talked a little last year about “the brave new world” of publishing and how authors can take advantage of self-epublishing, the pros and the cons. I’ve been thinking a lot about epublishing and what it means for the publishing business, and I have a lot of opinions (surprise, surprise) on the topic. Now, I’m not in the know on what publishing execs are planning, but if they are not looking down the line and thinking in new directions, we’re all in a lot of trouble.

One of my thoughts is about nonfiction, specifically self-help nonfiction. You know, things like parenting books, business books, do-it-yourself type of books. In my opinion, these subject areas are going to be some of the hardest hit in the years to come, primarily because authors with platforms might find that they can do it on their own, or keep their audiences better updated through the Internet and their own sources. Seth Godin and his decision to dump his publisher and do it himself is a perfect example of this.

So what do I think publishers need to do to keep updated and what do I think they should do to keep readers happy. It’s really simple if you ask me (or one of my ideas is simple). When a business author comes to you with his amazing new idea, you publish the book as you normally do through normal channels. You issue a print version, an epub version, and any other versions the market can support. And then, when an update occurs, let’s say it’s an update to chapter 10 on tax laws for the small business owner, instead of updating the entire book and selling it again for $9.99 (and incurring all the production costs of doing so), you update only chapter 10 and sell it for $1.99. When buyers of the original book want an update, they can simply buy that chapter, which should (tech guys, pay attention) automatically update and replace the chapter of the book they already have in their ereader.

Let’s use a popular pregnancy book as another example. Every woman buys this book when she first learns she’s pregnant and then uses it with each subsequent pregnancy. But let’s say her pregnancies are five years apart. A lot can change in five years. Sure, the core information is still there, but the book has had some updates, maybe a new edition, but mom-to-be doesn’t feel like shelling out another $9.99 for the book. She’ll just use what she has and read the Internet for the rest. On the other hand, she would consider shelling out $2.99 for an update to the book she’s already using, something that would give her all the new information without costing her nearly as much. Think software update.

Sounds simple in theory anyway, and, if you ask me, it’s a win-win for everyone. Readers will have an easy way to always keep the information in their ereader current, publishers and authors can continually make money on the same book and keep that book current, and it’s a great way to use this new technology in a way that makes sense.

Jessica

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Friday, January 14, 2011

Friday Thought for the Day

I've been requesting a lot of proposals, which means my reading list is growing, which means a greater workload, which means I'm looking for a reason to reject your query. Don’t give me that reason.

Jessica

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Thankful for Social Networking

Over Thanksgiving weekend last year I had an email crash. In the grand scheme of crashes it wasn’t that bad. I only lost a week of email, nothing else. I do have Time Machine backup, which thankfully keeps everything backed up and me less fearful of crashes.

Once my email was back up and running I did three things immediately.

I emailed all my clients to tell them about the crash and ask them to resend anything they had sent during that week that I hadn’t answered.

I did a blog post about the crash, alerting as many people as possible and explaining how lost queries would be handled (since I was closed to queries I simply asked that they requery in January). The other problem was that I had responded to and deleted queries that were now showing up in my in-box, so I did have to rework my response to explain why some people might be getting the same reply twice.

And last, I tweeted multiple times about the situation to spread the word as much as possible.

And it worked. While I’m sure there are plenty who missed the news, plenty more retweeted my announcement and requeried or resent material I had requested based on my tweets.

Social networking can be a truly amazing thing.


Jessica

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Digital Media Queries

A Twitter follower recently asked me if I would ever consider digital media submissions and sent a link to a YouTube video about her book. Honestly, I can’t see many agents embracing this type of query. For one reason, it takes way too long. Watching a video, or just getting to the part of a video that actually tells you anything, takes far longer than reading a query. For a second reason, unless the book is an “enhanced ebook” and contains a lot of video, a YouTube video doesn’t really tell me what I want to know about your book, which is what your story is about, not how you can sell it later.

Jessica

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Multiple Personalities

I was checking my Twitter account recently and thinking about the multiple personalities of authors, those who write under two (or sometimes more) names, and wondering what that means for social networking. Obviously if you write under both Jane Doe and Janet Buck you’re going to need two different Facebook accounts and Twitter accounts so that readers of Jane can find Jane and readers of Janet can find Janet. But does that mean you need to also update two different statuses each time you update one, or can you simply link all of your accounts together and only post once for all accounts?

My theory? If your fans are only fans of one of your personalities, then go ahead and link all of your accounts together, but if your fans are fans of both personalities or tend to be attracted to both personalities (let’s say you write the same genre under both names), I think you need to handle them separately, as if they’re two different people. Otherwise you’re going to end up taking over everyone’s Twitter or Facebook with the same status two, three, four, or however many times it posts.

What do you think?

Jessica

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Monday, January 10, 2011

NANO and What's Next

For those who have been living in a publishing bubble, November is otherwise known as NANO—National Novel Writing Month—in the writing world. Frankly, I never had much of an opinion of NANO, but I realize that a number of my publishing colleagues do, and for good reason.

For the month of November thousands of people, many whom have never done anything other than think of writing a novel, sit at their computers and pound one out, a novel that is. Then, inspired by their achievement, they quickly turn around on December 1 and query every agent whose name they can get their hands on. No research, no editing, and no real consideration for what this business is about.

Before you all start defending yourself, let me say that there is a good reason for NANO and it’s not all bad. For those of you who have been working hard at your craft it can be a good exercise and, let’s face it, anything that stretches us can be a good exercise. However, just because you wrote it doesn’t mean it’s ready to be submitted. So here’s what I propose:

NAREV—National Revisions Month. The month of December is slow in publishing anyway, so it’s a great time to spend rewriting, revising, and editing your NANO book.

NAQUY—National Query Month. Now that you’ve finished your book [skeptical that you can really “finish” in two months] it’s time to really learn the craft of the query, which means more than just writing the query. It means researching the business as well.

Once you’ve spent three months on your book and your query, I think you’ll really have the distance you need to see if your book is ready to be submitted, and hopefully the knowledge to be a wise investor in your own publishing career.

Jessica

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Friday, January 07, 2011

Submission Update

Closing to queries for the month of December was really wonderful. It gave me time to catch up, clean out my inbox and actually do some reading that had little to nothing to do with work, although not nearly as much reading as I would have liked.


Just to update you on where things stand. Obviously I am completely caught up on all queries through 2010. I actually finished those sometime in early December. If you submitted a query anytime in 2010 and never received an answer either I didn't receive your query, my response ended up in your spam, or it was wiped out in my week of lost queries in November. Either way, if you submit a query and don't receive a response please resubmit. I always respond.

I am caught up on all requested submissions through October 2010. I have six requested submissions (two fulls and four partials) from the months of November and December and will be working my way through those. I also have three submissions already requested this week and, now that I'm back up and running, I have roughly 100+ queries in my inbox from this week alone (and I only opened on Wednesday).

It's exciting to be back up and running and so far 2011 is looking good.

Happy New Year!

--Jessica

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Thursday, January 06, 2011

Unlikeable Characters

I did a blog post a while back in which I made the mistake of using what I thought at the time was an innocuous example of rejecting a work because the characters were unlikeable. These two words, "unlikeable characters," set off a bit of a sh**storm, if you’ll excuse my language.

What many of you tend to forget is that this business is subjective, and the likeability of characters, the likeability of people, is subjective. In the comments section you listed a number of examples of characters you felt were unlikeable but clearly worked in literature, one of whom was Lisbeth Salander from the Stieg Larsson series. I didn’t find her unlikeable at all. I thought she was damaged, odd, interesting, and intriguing. Not unlikeable. My opinion, of course.

For me likeability tends to coincide with one-dimensional. A character being unlikeable usually means she has no redeeming qualities, and usually even unlikeable people have a redeeming quality or two, something that gives them more depth. Lisbeth Salander, for example, has a vulnerability that gives her an intriguing dimension. And I find that true of any successful but unlikeable characters, typically they have qualities that make them likeable, or at least intriguing. Maybe they have a brilliant mind or damaged past. Either way, we desperately want to know more about them, want to spend more time with them, despite the fact that they repel us.

The other thing to consider when writing an unlikeable character is what genre you’re writing. In romance, for example, it’s really hard to write an unlikeable hero. Sure he can be damaged and yes, he can definitely have flaws, but your readers, along with your heroine, need to fall in love with him, so we need to see the good side of him too. And that’s just one example.

Certainly if an agent or editor tells you she didn’t find your character likeable, you can ignore what she says, assuming it’s subjective, and find someone who does. Or you could take a close look at your character to see if possibly it’s that she needs that thing (or two) to give her more depth and vulnerability.

Jessica

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Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Finding an Editor

I read in one of your blog that the new writers should make sure that their submission should be polished and well-edited. What can I do to convince an editior to read my work?

You’re correct. Before submitting anything you need to make sure you’ve done all your revisions and editing, but this doesn’t necessarily mean you need to bring on an editor. Every writer needs to learn how to edit their own work and make it as clean as possible. If you still feel you need, or could use, guidance from others, there are a lot of great resources. Certainly there are editors you can hire, many who have had experience at publishing houses. Some will edit only for content, others will only do copyediting, and certainly there are some who will do both.

You can also get involved in a critique group or use beta readers, primarily made up of your author peers. They can also help you get your work into shape, and by helping them with their work you’ll learn a lot about what you can do to strengthen your own book.

“Getting an editor to read your work” implies that you are looking at publishing houses for editorial guidance, and that’s not the way to get your work ready for an agent. Before approaching publishing houses, your work needs to be as polished as it is for agents, if not more so.

Jessica

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Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Fantasy Word Count

I have just finished a 145,000 word fantasy novel, but read in your post that fantasy should hover around 80,000. As this is my first novel should I be considering making it my first and second novels?

I guess the question would be, if a first time author queried you with this massive length story, would it be an automatic rejection?


I think I once stated that 80,000 words was really the magic number. You can never go wrong with a book at that length. That being said, different genres have different limits, and fantasy is a genre that falls in the higher range of those limits. 145,000 words is still a little high, but since fantasy can run to about 125,000 or so, it's not as high as for, say, cozy mystery, which tends to top out around 90,000.

145,000 words would not be an automatic reject for me. That being said, if I did reject it I might tell you that it’s a little long. I don’t think you should make this books one and two, I think you should simply cut 20,000+ words. Easier said than done, I know, but I bet your book would be tighter and stronger once you did.

Jessica

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Monday, January 03, 2011

Happy New Year!

I had a wonderful time away and was able to get caught up on a lot of my to-do list. The smartest thing I did over the holidays? Close to queries. It allowed me to catch up on what I had in my in-box and refresh after a wonderful year. Now I can go into 2011 with a nearly clean in-box and hungry for something fresh and new. What am I looking for? Well, keep an eye out for a later post on that topic.

For today I want to talk about New Year’s Resolutions. They aren’t something I typically make because it’s just another thing to add stress to my life. Sure, I want to get to the gym more, and of course I want to keep the top of my desk clean. Those aren’t New Year’s Resolutions, though, they’re everyday resolutions. That being said, I was inspired by something on Facebook of all places for a new, let’s call it, Lifetime Resolution.

If you’re on Facebook you’ve undoubtedly seen the Book List Challenge. It’s purported to be from the BBC, a list of 100 books that they believe most people will have read only six of. I think it’s fair to say that most people reading this blog will have read more than six. That being said, there are still a huge number I haven’t read. So my Lifetime Resolution: to read at least one of those books a year (let’s make this realistic) until I’ve read all 100.

Before I go any further let me tell you that I think some of the list is a little lame. I mean, why do you need to read the entire Harry Potter series (as the original list states), and why is The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe on there as well as The Chronicles of Narnia? It seems silly. So my rules will be that I don’t necessarily need to read the entire Harry Potter series unless I want to. One book should be enough. After all, this isn’t about torturing yourself if you don’t like what you’re reading, it’s about trying some new things. That being said, I will also work my hardest to complete each book, but life is too short and if I really am not enjoying myself, then trying is enough.

Facebook has an app now called Book List Challenge, and I think I’m going to use that app to track my progress (some of the books from the app are different from the list below). If you follow me on Facebook, I think you should be able to track my progress too. I believe it’s called Book List Challenge.

Anyway, for those who haven’t yet seen the list but are interested in participating, here is one variation. There are many. And for the record, I’ve placed an asterisk by those I’ve read.


1. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

2. The Lord of the Rings – J. R. R. Tolkien

*3. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

*4. Harry Potter series – J. K. Rowling (I’ve read the first book, which is what the FB app list has on it)

*5. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

6. The Bible

7. Wuthering Heights

*8. Nineteen Eighty-Four – George Orwell

9. His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman

*10. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

*11. Little Women - Louisa May Alcott

12. Tess of the d'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy

13. Catch-22 – Joseph Heller

14. Complete Works of Shakespeare

*15. Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier

16. The Hobbit – J. R. R. Tolkien

17. Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks

*18. Catcher in the Rye – J. D. Salinger

19. The Time Traveler's Wife – Audrey Niffenegger

20. Middlemarch – George Eliot

21. Gone With the Wind – Margaret Mitchell

*22. The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald

23. Bleak House – Charles Dickens

24. War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy

25. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams

26. Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh

27. Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

28. Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck

29. Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll

30. The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame

*31. Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy

32. David Copperfield – Charles Dickens

*33. The Chronicles of Narnia – C. S. Lewis

34. Emma – Jane Austen

35. Persuasion – Jane Austen

*36. The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe – C. S. Lewis

*37. The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini

38. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Berniere

39. Memoirs of a Geisha - William Golden

*40. Winnie-the-Pooh – A. A. Milne

*41. Animal Farm – George Orwell

*42. The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown

43. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving

45. The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins

*46. Anne of Green Gables – L. M. Montgomery

47. Far from the Madding Crowd _ Thomas Hardy

48. The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood

*49. Lord of the Flies – William Golding (Hate this book!!!)

50. Atonement - Ian McEwan

51. Life of Pi - Yann Martell

52. Dune – Frank Herbert

53. Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons

54. Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen

55. A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth

56. The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon

57. A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens

58. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley

59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon

60. Love in the time of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

61. Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck

62. Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov

63. The Secret History - Donna Tartt

64. The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold

65. Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas

66. On the Road - Jack Kerouac

67. Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy

*68. Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding

69. Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie

70. Moby-Dick – Herman Melville

71. Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens

72. Dracula – Bram Stoker

*73. The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson

74. Notes from a Small Island - Bill Bryson

75. Ulysses - James Joyce

76. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath

77. Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome

78. Germinal – Emile Zola

79. Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray

80. Possession - A. S. Byatt

*81. A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens

82. Cloud Atlas - Charles Mitchell

83. The Colour Purple - Alice Walker

*84. The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro

85. Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert

86. A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry

*87. Charlotte's Web - E. B. White

88. The Five People You Meet in Heaven – Mitch Albom

89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

90. The Faraway Tree collection - Enid Blyton

91. Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad

92. The Little Prince - Antoine de Saint Exupery

93. The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks

*94. Watership Down - Richard Adams

95. A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole

96. A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute

97. The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas

*98. Hamlet – William Shakespeare

99. Charlie & the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl

100. Les Miserables – Victor Hugo


And since I’m staring at a copy of The Hobbit, I think that’s as good a place as any to start.


***Quick reminder--Rosalie Lario was the winner of the last contest of 2010. Two mystery galleys. Please email your address to blog@bookends-inc.com. If I don't have it by the end of the day I'll randomly pick another winner from today's comments.

Jessica

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