Monday, October 31, 2011

Social Networking Is So Easy

We live in a world where everything changes daily and changes quickly. And just as those changes happen, so do my thoughts on the many opportunities available to us. When the blog post I wrote on Twitter v. Facebook posted, it made me think a lot more about the two places, and I think some of your comments helped that as well.

When it comes to marketing I think it's pretty fair to say that everyone is looking for the quick fix. We all want to spend as little time as possible doing the marketing we know is necessary because, truthfully, we want to write our books. And of course you know how important that is because when all is said and done, the only thing that matters is the quality of your book.

Unfortunately, Twitter and Facebook, and other social networking markets, are not the time-savers we either like to believe they are or have convinced ourselves they are. Gone are the days when marketing meant taking a design to the printer, ordering a stack of postcards or bookmarks, and sending them to bookstores. Not that it was easy work, but it was a one-time deal (per book). You maybe took a day or two, or a week, out of your writing schedule to complete the job and then you moved on. Now marketing is 24/7, and if you're going to be good at it, and use it successfully, you have to do the work, which is a lot.

As I said in my earlier post, Twitter is great for connecting with new readers. It's a way to connect over publishing news, world news, or just pass along your favorite muffin recipe. It's a constant conversation with strangers, but strangers who just might find you interesting enough to want to learn more about you and buy your books.

Facebook is for fans. On Facebook people seek you out. Your status posts are not for public consumption. They are for your "friends" only. Therefore, Facebook is a way for you to connect with those who want a connection specifically with you. It's the place for you to talk about your upcoming book and connect with those readers in a conversation. It's the place for you to find out which of your characters is the most beloved or who they would like to see killed off in the next book.

I think both Facebook and Twitter can be hugely beneficial to all authors, but only if they are something you connect with as well. They aren't easy to use and they don't work if you don't use them properly, but if you do, wow, you can really find something special there.


Jessica

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Archaic Query

When authors spend time together complaining about query letters, one of the things I frequently hear is how archaic the process is, how queries should be done away with in place of sample chapters. The irony of this statement is that the importance of the query has grown significantly over the past few years, which makes it, in fact, not archaic at all.

As publishing gets "easier" through the use of technology, it's important for agents to come up with more ways to streamline their own processes. When we started BookEnds 12 years ago we accepted unsolicited proposal packages via snail mail. That allowed us to skip the query altogether and read the material. And then we got busier, more successful, and the proposals would come in at a stack that was somewhere between two and three feet tall daily. I'm not kidding. I had a wall of bookshelves dedicated to holding proposals and manuscripts. As time went on technology took over and things changed. I found that even if a proposal came in, half the time I wasn't reading it. I was basing my decision on the query anyway. So why was I asking people to submit the entire package?

I know many of you hate the query and feel that it's unfair because it's a different skill set. That might be true. I have to use many different skill sets for my job. Writing queries (ha! I write them too) is different than writing this blog, or the blurbs for the website, or the blurbs for my foreign agents, etc. It's what we do to become successful. We take time to learn what we need to do.


Jessica

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Workshop Wednesday

By repeated request we've started Workshop Wednesday. It will definitely play out through 2011, and beyond that we'll just have to see. We've received well over 200 queries at this point, but we are choosing at random, so don't be afraid to participate as per the guidelines in our original post.

For anyone wanting to comment, we ask that you comment in a polite and respectful manner, and we ask that you be as constructive as possible. If you can be useful to the brave souls who submitted their query and comment on the query, that's great. Please keep any anonymous tirades on publishing or other snarky comments to yourself. This is and should remain an open and safe forum for people to put themselves and their queries out there so that everyone can learn. I'm leaving comments open and open to anonymous posters, as I always have; don't make me feel the need to change that policy.

And for those who have never "met" Query Shark, get over there and do that. She's the originator of the query critique, the queen, if you will.


Dear Ms. Faust,

Sixteen year old transfer student Hannah Slaughtery never imagined her future would involve fighting against monsters she doesn’t believe in with people she’s not even sure she likes.


I like this opening. It grabs my attention and I think it works. If I wanted to get picky, although I don't know that it matters in the grand scheme of your query, I would wonder why you bother to mention that she's a transfer student. I don't know that it matters for a query.


But when she and four other students attend a retreat at Piaculum Academy, they discover they are the next generation of Partizans, a band of supernatural warriors dating back to the dawn of man. Each must decide how much of themselves they are willing to sacrifice as they stand against the Formorians, a ruthless and tyrannical empire of demons who have been wiping out the Partizan lines for generations in order to make way for their own ascension.

I like this, I only wonder if you aren't complicating things too much by over-describing. Do you need to name the groups in the query or can you simply say that they discover they are the next generation in a line of supernatural warriors charged with standing against an empire of demons . . . ? I also wonder, for the book's sake, if you need a bigger conflict. In other words, if they don't know if they are willing to sacrifice themselves, do they care about their own ascension (I assume you mean to power)?

All of that pickiness aside, I think this paragraph works.


As Hannah struggles to comprehend her legacy, she is distracted by the unexplainable, yet undeniable connection she feels toward Finn, another Partizan, who is obviously hiding something from her.

I think the problem I have with this is that I don't feel the action of the book or the big climax or conflict. I feel a little blah about all of this. You tell me the setup, but you don't really tell me a lot about Hannah's individual struggle, and I don't think her attraction to Finn is it.


Mentored by Garrett, a First Crusade era Catholic priest turned vampire, Hannah begins her metaphysical transformation to become a witch, knowing only one thing for sure: the carefree days of her youth have come to a screeching halt.

In the framework of your query this feels dropped in, and maybe this is the heart of the series. Maybe we need to learn more about this transformation. Maybe this is really the core of your query.


The Partizans, a YA paranormal is complete at 72,000 words and has series potential. Thank you for your consideration and I look forward to hearing from you.

Overall I think this is a good query and I definitely think you'll get some requests off it. I do, however, worry that it's a little flat, that you could insert some excitement, some action into it that would push it over the edge and give it that oomph to get you lots of requests. I think your book overall is probably different and intriguing, but that doesn't come through in a big enough way in the query. The query sounds a little like a lot of other queries, which is why I think you need to work on focusing on more action.



Jessica

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Taxes and Authors

Can you please tell me if a publisher takes care of income tax in royalty payments? Or is paying tax the job of the author or agent?

As an author you are not an employee of the publisher, you are an independent contractor. Therefore you are responsible for filing your own taxes and paying them (quarterly). Typically, all payments are sent through your agent and issued from your agent, less her commission. Therefore, at tax time you should receive a 1099 from your agent that shows your actual earnings. And don't forget to save those receipts for things like your computer, Internet access, printer ink, or the ereader you use. All of those would be considered business expenses.


Jessica

**Quick disclaimer. I'm not even close to a tax attorney so before filing make sure you check with your accountant on what you really can write-off and what you can't.

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Monday, October 24, 2011

Classifying Your Novel

My novel is about a collage age student on a journey of self discovery. There are paranormal events, some sci fi components, romance, but ultimately it is about the main character finding herself and accepting all that she is. So here's my question, where would my story fit? I have tried representing it in different ways, but some agents suggest different catagories. I even had it classified as New Adult, but is that the best place? Any resources or help would be greatly appriciated. :-)My goal is to reach a larger audience, but if I classify my novel as New Adult, would these other components be okay as cross genres?


It's really hard for me to tell you where your story will fit without reading it. My question to you would be who will read your book? What else are they reading? Personally, I'm not a fan of the term "new adult." I think it's silly and, yes, I could easily be proven wrong and it could become a new genre, but in my mind it's a trendy term that's going to be gone tomorrow. Besides that, at what point do people go to the bookstore or log into their ereaders and ask for the "new adult" section. There's YA, there's mystery, there's SF (not Sci Fi, by the way), there's romance, etc., but I've never seen new adult. When all else fails, label it fiction, but it sounds like you're writing a genre that needs a genre home. You need to find which home.

One thought, the one authors hate most to hear, is maybe it doesn't fit anywhere. Maybe you've tried to make your book into something it can't be and you need to go back in and strengthen certain areas of your book so that it is something.

Now, before someone named "anonymous" jumps in to tell me that this is the problem with publishing and all of us who work in it, that we have no imagination and need everything to be the same, let me point out that in the advent of ereaders we're seeing a real strength in proper categorization. Generally labeled books are not doing as well as genre labeled books. People are finding it easier to go into a section in their ereader bookstore to buy a book than they are sifting through a fiction section where some books might fit their interests while a lot do not. That does not mean that you slap any label on a book. Your label needs to fit the expectations of the readers.


Jessica

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

What Is Platform

Frequently agents will tell writers, nonfiction writers most specifically, that they need a platform. But what is a platform?

A platform is needed for non-narrative nonfiction. This is nonfiction in which your readers expect you, as the author, to have a certain level of expertise. If you're providing advice on anything—how to achieve happiness, credit repair, parenting, wart removal, movie suggestions, cooking, sleeping, eating, shopping, business start-up—you will need a platform. Heck, sometimes you will even need a platform for memoirs and humor, but not always.

So what is this elusive platform? Let me first tell you want it's not. A platform is not your credentials. It has nothing to do with your degree or degrees, or the level of respect your colleagues have for you. A platform is your name recognition on a national or international level. It's how well you can sell books simply because you have a following.

A platform is your national newspaper column, your television show on NBC, your regular appearance as an expert on radio, TV, or a major website, like theknot.com. A platform means you have thousands of Twitter followers, a blog with thousands of readers, and you get major attention for those things or have received major attention for those things through other outlets.

In other words, a platform means that thousands of people you don't know know you and would buy your book because they know you.


Jessica

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Workshop Wednesday

By repeated request we've started Workshop Wednesday. It will definitely play out through 2011, and beyond that we'll just have to see. We've received well over 200 queries at this point, but we are choosing at random, so don't be afraid to participate as per the guidelines in our original post.

For anyone wanting to comment, we ask that you comment in a polite and respectful manner, and we ask that you be as constructive as possible. If you can be useful to the brave souls who submitted their query and comment on the query, that's great. Please keep any anonymous tirades on publishing or other snarky comments to yourself. This is and should remain an open and safe forum for people to put themselves and their queries out there so that everyone can learn. I'm leaving comments open and open to anonymous posters, as I always have; don't make me feel the need to change that policy.

And for those who have never "met" Query Shark, get over there and do that. She's the originator of the query critique, the queen, if you will.


Dear [Agent's name]

Considering your client list and book sales, I am writing to seek your representation of my women's fiction manuscript "All of Us", complete at 85,000 words.

Dan Wilkins is having an affair – or at least, he thinks he is.


Hmm. I’m listening . . . I love this opening. I can’t wait to find what you’re talking about.


Gini is the spitting image of his wife, and everything he thought that depressed, lifeless Emma was when he married her. He didn't even know Emma had a twin, and now he's sleeping with her.

Dan wouldn’t find it incredible that another person looks precisely like his wife? He wouldn’t think it was his wife playing a trick? Have you ever met a person who looks so much like an unrelated person that they could actually be that person? This doesn’t seem plausible, and also, this part feels disconnected from the rest of the query—it’s completely forgotten after the next paragraph.


Then one day Emma shows him a positive pregnancy test – but Dan hasn't touched her in months. The truth comes out. Gini is Emma – she is one of seven alters in Emma's mind. Emma has Dissociative Identity Disorder, and Dan had no idea he married a multiple. He has to be the only man in the world to cheat on his wife with his wife.

Now Dan has to learn to accept the separate parts of Emma's mind or watch his marriage disintegrate. He joins Emma in therapy to meet her alters – none of which had any idea Gini was taking over.


He was cheating on Emma (at least emotionally) and thought she was lifeless and depressing. Seems to me his marriage had already dissolved. Yet he’s willing to go through therapy and the other issues that are often part of DID, such as paranoia, epileptic seizures, phobia, and panic attacks? I’ve missed something . . . I need to know more about Dan’s journey with Emma. Does he realize that he does in fact love her and want to help? Is he sorry or feeling guilty that he cheated? I think the part about Dan sleeping with Gini is not important enough, judging by your query, to be included. It might be best to scrap that part and focus on Emma’s disorder.


Assuming control of the body once again, Gini tries to get an abortion, and Dan feels he has no choice: he lays out an ultimatum. Emma must integrate all of her alters into one whole, or else give up custody of the baby. But is there a way to get rid of Gini so that Dan and Emma can become a family – multiple parts and all?

The element of the baby sort of takes this over the top for me. I think the baby is a great ticking clock to create a deeper sense of urgency to Emma’s healing journey and to up the stakes, but since you’ve started the query with infidelity, continued it with mental illness, and have now arrived at pregnancy and child custody, I feel like I have whiplash. It is probably because you didn’t want to leave anything out in your query, but that’s the thing with queries: to write one, you have to master the art of leaving the right things out. What is the main focus, the larger thread of your book? This is what you’ll want to focus on because a publishing professional will use it as a sales handle. It seems here the main idea is Emma’s mental illness. This is interesting enough without the infidelity and the baby. These bits should be in a synopsis, not a query.


Please find below the first [xx] pages of “All of Us” [+ other submission requests]. I would be happy to provide you with the complete manuscript. Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,


I would have rejected this because even though I love the intrigue of DID and Dan cheating on his wife with his wife, it seems like you present some misinformation, improbabilities, and contradictions, like Dan not knowing a person identical to his wife would be his wife, or Emma being expected to integrate her personalities during the short span of her pregnancy. Something about the casual way you discuss Dissociative Identity Disorder worries me that you haven’t done enough research to properly depict a character with this controversial disorder.

This query was a little jarring. I felt jerked around because things change abruptly on this page. First Dan's cheating, but only maybe. Then, he's cheating with his wife's long-lost twin. Then, he's actually not cheating at all because he's sleeping with two different women within his wife. Then! I don't like Dan too much in the beginning because he's cheating on his wife. Then, without much note to this, he's solidly helping her through her illness. Then we take another hairpin turn when Dan says Emma must integrate all her personalities, but in the next sentence, I'm told they are trying to become a family, personalities and all.


Lauren

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Reading Your Contract

It's a totally weird phenomenon, but I've had more authors hire lawyers to read the Author/Agent Agreement they sign with me than I have authors who have hired lawyers to read the publishing contract. Now, I'm not saying you have to hire a lawyer to read the publishing contract, since that's one of the things you pay your agent to do (read and negotiate), but when you do I find it odd you would hire someone to read the least important of the two contracts.

I appreciate that you trust me to negotiate a strong contract on your behalf, and I will certainly do that, but what I find most disconcerting of all is the recent realization that so many authors are signing these contracts without reading one word of either of them. Isn't that mom lesson number two? Right after saying please and thank you, aren't you taught to never sign anything without reading it first?

No matter what you think you are signing, you are responsible for it once you sign. Therefore, when getting your contract, it's important that you are aware of what it is you're committing yourself to.

Due dates? Those are your responsibility. That means if you commit to a due date that seems "absurd and ridiculous," well, you've committed to it, so if it is "absurd and ridiculous," maybe you need to discuss that with your agent and editor before actually signing the contract.

Manuscript length? The publisher expects your manuscript to be a certain length, and if you think it's too short or too long, discussing that with your agent and editor before signing is better than trying to argue the point with your publisher well after the fact.

Materials? If the contract says you are responsible for providing 25 pieces of artwork, permissions for copyrighted material, an index, or your firstborn child, you will be responsible for supplying that.

My point? Read your contract and ask your agent about anything that you have questions about. That's what you pay her for. I get that a 15-page legal document is a pain to read and can make your head spin. I read them almost daily and sometimes my head spins, and yes, I always think they're a pain to read. But they are important and they can be negotiated before you sign them. It's not so easy to negotiate after they've been signed and counter-signed and you realize you actually like and would like to keep your firstborn child.


Jessica

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Monday, October 17, 2011

An Offer on the Table

I was helped a lot by a previous post of yours, how to turn a small press offer into something bigger. I went back and read it again and was well prepared for the exciting day. I got the small press offer, did not accept it (but did not turn it down either), and found a good agent. The novel is now on submission with the knowledge that there's an offer on the table. My question is: how long can you keep the small press waiting? It's been about a month now (since the offer; two weeks since submission to other editors) and I'm hoping we'll hear from the other editors soon. Two weeks ago, I informed the small press that an agent would be handling the contract and could I have a few more weeks for my response? I haven't heard back from them as of this writing. Thanks very much.

In my opinion two weeks is more than enough time, bordering on too much time actually. I understand it probably took two weeks to find an agent and that's perfectly acceptable, but with an offer on the table, no matter how small the press, the other publishers should be jumping through hoops, at your agent's insistence, to respond as quickly as possible. In my experience, once you've secured an agent, she should submit the material immediately and ask for replies immediately. The only caveat to that is if you are fully intending to turn down the small press offer no matter what happens with other publishers.

What you really need to be doing is talking to your agent about her strategy and ask not only how she's approaching editors with the project but what sort of timeline she's giving them.

Jessica

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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Show Your Confidence

Whenever I compose an email to an editor I think about every word I type and how it will be perceived. For example, when following up on a submission, I never want to say I'm "just" getting in touch because it sounds like what I'm getting in touch about isn't that important. While certainly overthinking things can be dangerous and I don't want authors spending weeks laboring over each and every word, how we say things and the words we use are important. We already know that because as authors, you already spend weeks crafting the perfect paragraph or sentence in your manuscript, and the professional correspondence about that manuscript shouldn't be any different.

What inspired this post is that lately I've been noticing a real lack of confidence in emails to agents, or at least what I'm chalking up to lack of confidence. Authors aren't using the best word choices when querying, following up on queries, or getting in touch to tell of an offer. The words used are often coming across as either too weak or too strong, almost combative.

Certainly, we all read with our own issues. In other words, how I read something might not be read by someone else the same way, but I think when proofing and revising our letters we can often tell, pretty quickly, when a better word choice is needed. After all, it's our job as writers to understand and look for how what we're writing might be perceived. It's how we check to make sure our characters come across as likable, for example.

As an example, I've had a few authors check on submissions lately (and I'm not that far behind) by saying something along the lines of, "I'm checking on the status of my manuscript. If you are no longer interested please let me know." Why would you assume I'm no longer interested? Should I not be interested? Is this a challenge? Are you angry that it's taken me so long when in fact it hasn't?

The truth is this makes me not want to read more. If you don't think I should be interested, or are going to present yourself in this sort of angry and combative way in our first correspondence, how are you going to operate months down the line when we're working together? If you've done any research at all on me you know I reply to everything, and most definitely requested material, so this sort of tone seems especially unwarranted (especially if I know that I'm still well within my submission response time frame).

In another example, I've always encouraged authors to use an offer of representation to their advantage. Use it to make sure you can find the best agent for you and your work. That being said, when I'm contacted by an author I want to know that I'm actually requesting and reading the work because I'm one of the agents they are interested in hearing from, and not that they are simply contacting everyone because they were told they should.

There have been times when an author gets an offer of representation about the same time I've requested more material, but instead of saying something like, "I am attaching the material you requested. I have just received an offer so am asking to hear from all interested agents by Friday," the author says to me, "I just received an offer of representation and am waiting to hear back from agents who already have the material. Are you still interested?" I don't know. Should I be? It feels like you don't care whether I'm interested or not, like you've already made your decision, which, frankly, is fine. I'd rather that I'm only in the running if I'm really in the running. If you don't care to entertain an offer from me, let me know, if not out of respect for me and my time, then out of respect to your fellow writers, all of those waiting for me to read their material.

Think of it this way. How would you feel if you contacted an agent to tell her of an offer of representation and her response is something along the lines of, "Okay, I suppose you can send it to me." Why bother? Do you really want to send it after that?

What if an agent requested material off a query with something like, "This seems okay. If you think I'm the right agent, send it."

Remember, you have a product agents want. They are looking for new and talented authors, so present yourself that way.


Jessica

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Workshop Wednesday

By repeated request we've started Workshop Wednesday. It will definitely play out through 2011, and beyond that we'll just have to see. We've received well over 200 queries at this point, but we are choosing at random, so don't be afraid to participate as per the guidelines in our original post.

For anyone wanting to comment, we ask that you comment in a polite and respectful manner, and we ask that you be as constructive as possible. If you can be useful to the brave souls who submitted their query and comment on the query, that's great. Please keep any anonymous tirades on publishing or other snarky comments to yourself. This is and should remain an open and safe forum for people to put themselves and their queries out there so that everyone can learn. I'm leaving comments open and open to anonymous posters, as I always have; don't make me feel the need to change that policy.

And for those who have never "met" Query Shark, get over there and do that. She's the originator of the query critique, the queen, if you will.



Dear Ms. Faust,

I am seeking representation for my 50,000-word contemporary young adult novel, ORBITING JUPITER.


This might be a tad short, but at this point I'm not worried about that. I'll continue reading.


Addis Paeters was well on his way to becoming high school hockey royalty just like his older brother, Jupiter. But after missing a defensive block that cost his team the regionals trophy, he’s unable to get back on the ice without freezing up. Freezing at the thought of losing another match and freezing from the fear of suffering permanent injury like his dad did while playing in the NHL.

I have to confess here that I'm attracted to anything hockey related, so immediately you have my attention. Beyond that, however, I like this a lot. I'm really intrigued and I think your opening paragraph is perfect. It's the ultimate setup for a YA.


Junior year everything changes. Jupiter is appointed assistant coach, and promises to help Addis secure a spot on the varsity roster--the perfect cure for Addis’s shattered confidence.

But the first day of practice for tryouts, Addis gets a shock: Jupiter is a no-show, having traded his hockey jersey for a tattered tutu, his hockey skates for roller skates, and his position on the hockey team to be a cheerleader for a local roller derby team.

Addis may have blown the game, but Jupiter’s betrayed Addis and the team. All to impress a girl.


This entire thing, these previous three paragraphs, literally made me laugh out loud. Did he really decide to become a cheerleader for roller derby (another sport I love)? I'm not sure this connects as fully with the opening as I would like, but you have my attention. I'm really liking this story and, honestly, liking the twist it took. I'm not thrilled with the way these paragraphs are written, but I can overlook that for now.


Addis fears he can all but kiss his unclaimed confidence goodbye, when one of the derby girls--a chick who’s got more secrets than a gay senator and is even better at hockey than Jupiter--offers to help Addis get over his fear of contact. With try-outs only two weeks away, Addis must put aside his fears of failure, and find a way to rediscover his love of hockey—and his trust in Jupiter—in time to make the team.

I'd skip the "gay senator" comparison. I'm not sure that sounds YA to me. It just doesn't sound like the way a teen would think. Otherwise, I'm liking.


ORBITING JUPITER is Will Grayson, Will Grayson meets Whip It—a humorous take on high school, where underdogs struggle to find their place on the team, and everyone learns that the dreams they try to squeeze into aren’t always the dreams that fit.

Perfect. I'd have you send this to me in a New York minute (also not something anyone who is a young adult would say). And, by the way, if you haven't queried BookEnds yet, you should absolutely send this to me ;)


Thank you for your time and consideration.



Jessica

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Query Isn't Working, Maybe It's the Book

All too often I read a query, or hear a pitch at a conference, and think how the author didn't take the book to the next level. I'm sure many of you will say that it's hard to convey the entire book in either a query or a pitch, but I also think it's important to stop blaming the query process and start using it as part of your writing process.

Writing queries is hard. I know. I have to write them. I also hear that from authors endlessly. Writing a synopsis stinks. Something else I hear endlessly. But instead of looking at those two things as pieces that are separate from the manuscript, I think they should be looked at as part of the process. If you're working on your query and finding it hard to come up with something that makes your book sound special, maybe it's that your book isn't special. It might be a good book, but is it good enough to grab the attention of a brand-new readership, people who already have thousands of books to choose from?

If you're having trouble nailing down the true conflict in your query, maybe you don't have enough in your story.

Changing our mind-set to think of queries and synopses as part of creating the manuscript might make them more useful to you, as they should be, than just getting an agent or publisher.


Jessica

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Monday, October 10, 2011

It's Your Attitude I Reject

I had a boss once who was fond of saying "life is too short," and it's become a bit of a mantra of mine. Life is short and I want to spend it doing the things I love with people I enjoy spending time with. There's no doubt we always have moments in our lives when we can't choose who we have to spend time with, and there are always things we have to do even if we don't want to (clean toilets, anyone?), but when I have a choice I'm going to pick what I love (like my job) with people I know I'll enjoy working with.

Which is why a query like the one below is not going to get you in my door. It might work with another agent, but after reading this opening I don't care what your book is about, I know we're not a good fit.

I’m supposed to write a query letter to have you look at my book, and be interested in me as a writer. I’m an independent writer because I really have no use for formalities. I detest the pretentious rituals writers have to go through to kiss ass and hope they get their book published. And I would imagine an agent getting bored reading these monotonous ramblings of writers trying their best to write a query in the prescribed format, hoping they got it right, for if they falter in any way their hopes and dreams of “being” a writer will be lost forever. Their fate lies in that sacred of all documents: The Query. How can such a creative art have such dogma?



Jessica

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Thursday, October 06, 2011

Selling Novellas

I read the blog about Sally MacKenzie and her novella. My question is: What is the word count for a novella? I [redacted] wrote my novella about an FBI agent, [redacted] (first in series). The first one is 40,000 words and about a heart surgeon living in San Francisco. I didn't know what to do with a novella and stuck it in the drawer. Can you tell me how to "get it out there?"

Contracted word counts for novellas are typically between 25,000 and 35,000 words. Usually novellas are part of an anthology, and how long they are will depend on how many people the publisher is asking to participate in the anthology. Typically they are looking for a final total word count of about 100,000 words.

It's hard to get a novella into New York publishers without an agent. It's not something publishers typically take on submission, but usually something they ask for, asking an author specifically to participate. In the new self-epublishing market there are opportunities to publish novellas yourself. Otherwise you can always expand your novella into a novel or hold on to it until you get published with a novel and see if your publisher is interested in your novella at that time.

Another option would be to create a collection yourself--two or three of your own novellas into a collection that you could submit to agents.


Jessica

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Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Workshop Wednesday

By repeated request we've started Workshop Wednesday. It will definitely play out through 2011, and beyond that we'll just have to see. We've received well over 200 queries at this point, but we are choosing at random, so don't be afraid to participate as per the guidelines in our original post.

For anyone wanting to comment, we ask that you comment in a polite and respectful manner, and we ask that you be as constructive as possible. If you can be useful to the brave souls who submitted their query and comment on the query, that's great. Please keep any anonymous tirades on publishing or other snarky comments to yourself. This is and should remain an open and safe forum for people to put themselves and their queries out there so that everyone can learn. I'm leaving comments open and open to anonymous posters, as I always have; don't make me feel the need to change that policy.

And for those who have never "met" Query Shark, get over there and do that. She's the originator of the query critique, the queen, if you will.


Dear Agent,

I’ve said this before, but it is always best to address a specific agent in your query letter. Otherwise, it looks like you’ve sent your query out blindly to as many agents as you could, without researching to align yourself with an agent you believe is ideal for you and your books.


Thanks to her grifter mother and nomadic childhood, paranormal investigator Lizzy Lozada has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to bullshit. So when suspected murderer Wade Collins pleads not guilty by reason of demonic possession, Lizzy makes it her own personal mission to blow his devil-made-me-do-it defense all to hell.

This is interesting. I love that Lizzy has a great backstory, and that you’ve incorporated that without going into too much detail (it is backstory, after all). I love the paranormal investigator hook. I even like that you’ve used the word "bullshit"—it adds a certain cynicism to your voice and I’d like to hear more of that. The cynicism, not the swearing, necessarily.

But the paragraph didn’t entirely work for me. Why does Lizzy try to blow Wade’s defense? I don’t have a handle on her motive. Is she commissioned by the police? Did she see the case on TV and become impassioned because it reminds her of something in her past? Is she doing this to prove a point to someone? I need to know that she’s not just an annoying piggy-backer on police investigations, but rather that she has a legitimate reason for horning in on the case.


But debunking the urban legends surrounding Holbrooke House, the now-derelict boarding house where Collins lived as a child, won't be easy, especially with rival investigator Jesse and his ragtag gang of ghost-hunting ruffians claiming squatter's rights.

I’m still intrigued. I like this idea—the paranormal investigators working against each other for the same cause, Jesse’s ruffian posse, the boarding house. Everything here is working for me. On a less important note, though, this sentence is distractingly long.

Here’s another sentence that’s distractingly long:

Lizzy and Jesse share a history steeped in attraction, frustration, and self-preservation, the latter of which has Lizzy less than thrilled at the prospect of spending the night with a man who's as sinfully seductive as the devil himself. Too bad for Lizzy, she doesn't have a choice. Because she and Jesse aren't the only ones with unfinished business, and the house they're in knows something they don't:

History is about to repeat itself…for the last time.

THE HAUNTING OF HOLBROOKE HOUSE is a paranormal romance complete at 75,000 words. Chapters or a synopsis are available upon request.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

[redacted]



This was a respectable query.



Lauren

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Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Ten Rules for Twitter Success

There are a lot of amazing rules for Twitter success out there, they are easy to find, and in fact this post was inspired by a blog post by Novel Publicity.

However, since many of you read book blogs to help grow your career, I thought it would be valuable to include some tips of my own and hopefully encourage you, those of you hoping to use Twitter as part of your marketing plan, to do some other reading on the subject before diving in.

When I first started on Twitter I had no idea what I was getting into and, honestly, it took me a long time to get comfortable there and decide if it was for me. Now I love Twitter. I've connected with old friends, a ton of colleagues, and authors. I've signed authors because of Twitter exchanges, and introduced others to great books written by my clients. I've hosted give-aways and #askagent sessions in which I answer any questions writers might have about publishing. Twitter has also become my go-to source for news in publishing or otherwise. I've learned a lot from Twitter and you can too. You can also use it to market yourself and your book, but only if you use Twitter right.

These are rules based on my own frustrations with Twitter and those I follow or have unfollowed.

1. Include a bio. You have roughly 140 characters to create a bio for yourself. Use them. I can't follow someone by a name only. If I learn, however, that you're on Twitter because you're writing something specific, published in something specific, a blogger, an expert, or whatever, I might be inclined to test you out. And make your bio interesting and a little personal.

2. Personalize your photo. This is important. If I see a tweet from someone with no photo (or the "Twitter" egg photo), I immediately assume it's spam. When you sign up, include a photo. A lot of authors include the covers of their books. I get it, you're trying for maximum attention for your books. I don't like this though. I like some sort of photo or avatar because then, over time, I feel like I get to know the author and recognize the author whenever a tweet pops up, without the ever-changing cover. Don't be afraid to be creative either. If you don't want a photo of you, find an avatar that represents you.

3. Engage in conversation. You don't need to respond to everyone who responds to you. In fact, you shouldn't, but occasionally you should engage in the conversation you've started with your tweets. Or even connect with those you follow. I've found links on Twitter that I've tweeted to those I follow, but don't know personally, because it connected with something they had tweeted about.

4. Make your links make sense. I won't click on a link that's too vague. If your tweet is something along the lines of "Delicious Food [link here]" I probably won't click the link. If, however, you say something like, "Just made these amazing GF strawberry cupcakes [link here]" I will probably click the link. Like all of you, I don't have time to click random links just because someone suggested it. If I know the link is of particular interest to me I might click it, and if it looks amazing I will probably share it.

5. Be real. The best tweeters are those who allow themselves to be themselves. Sure, it's your professional face so you might not tweet every moment (and you shouldn't), but you are also going to let your passions come through. For example, in addition to a lot of tweeting about agenting and publishing, I share food passions on Twitter, as well as the occasional dog photo.

6. Be interesting. Too many people use Twitter as a regular way to post their morning blog link or to only tell about the release of their book. Boring and far too consistent. Sure, you can post those things, but you need something in between that's a little different and more interesting. For example, are you testing a new recipe to be included in the book? Don't post "testing a new recipe," post "can limes replace lemons in lemon meringue? b/c hubby bought limes instead."

7. Use Twitter. In other words, actually use it. No one is going to find you if the only time you post is the day your book releases. Why would anyone follow you for that? Make sure you post regularly. The beauty of Twitter is that you don't have to be there to post. If you know your schedule for the day you can easily set up some scheduled tweets. When I'm at a conference, for example, I often schedule my tweets based on my workshop schedule. That way I don't have to remember to tweet while I'm rushing to find the workshop, but everyone who follows me knows which one I'm speaking at.

8. If you're trying to start a contest or a conversation always include a hashtag. This way people who retweet can share the conversation by simply including the hashtag and people don't need to follow all of those who are retreating. They can click on the hashtag. Honestly, this is something I need to work on, but it's also something that will make a huge difference when your goal is to spread the word.

9. Feel free to walk away. Just because you tweeted something doesn't mean you need to now police it. Feel free to shut down Twitter whenever you need to and walk away. It's a constant conversation and you don't need to follow every single piece of it.

10. Follow others. Twitter is a conversation, not a press release. If you want people to follow you, you need to follow others, to find a purpose for yourself to be on Twitter beyond simply promoting yourself.

11. Schedule tweets. I mentioned this before, but it's worth mentioning again: If you know you're going to be doing a book signing at a certain place at a certain time, schedule that tweet ahead of time. That way your followers will know where to find you and you won't need to try to remember to tweet in the middle of prepping for your signing.


Jessica

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Monday, October 03, 2011

Random Facts

I don't often do this, but every once in a while I like to waste time by researching the readers of my blog. Honestly, this isn't a true waste of time because it does give some insight into why readers are coming to the blog, what's bringing them here and what some of my most popular posts are. If you are a blogger, or just have a website, this can be an incredibly useful tool (I use Google Analytics) to help you decide what types of blog posts are most likely to get you new readers and which blog posts people care the least about.

And in case you might be interested, here are some random facts about the BookEnds blog.

Most readers Googling for us come to the blog through various versions of a search for "BookEnds" or my name. However, the seventh most popular search that brings people to the blog are those searching for "thank you for your time," which I assume was based on a blog post I did a few years ago that exploded into a ridiculous rumor that I will reject anyone who thanks me in their query. Sigh. I'm surprised I didn't quit blogging after that one. Some variation of this search actually pops up again and again. I'm surprised, really, but I guess it's for anyone searching for letter writing advice?

"Literary Agency Jobs" is number nine on the list, and the tenth most popular search leading people to the blog is "nonfiction book proposal." This makes me think that I should probably add a section to our FAQs section on the website giving people guidance on finding a job in publishing. I already have one on the nonfiction book proposal.

Other Google keywords that lead people to the blog include:

  • Specific search requests for foreign rights for one particular book and author. Good to know. I'm going to pass that information on to my foreign rights agent.
  • Word count is another popular search, which makes me think I should probably do an updated word count post at some point.
  • Someone or a few people came to the blog after searching for "lonesome love moonette," and I have no idea what that means.
  • "what literary agents rejected twilight" — not me to the best of my knowledge
  • "adhd literary agency" — is that a book idea or a description of the agency?
  • "paranormal literary agencies" — wouldn't it be great if we had vampire or zombie agents working here?
  • There are a few client names popping up here and there. It's interesting to know which clients are leading potential new clients to us.
  • "writing apprenticeship," or some variation, comes up frequently. It makes me wonder if this is something writers could consider doing more of.


Jessica

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