Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Workshop Wednesday

Thanks to all of your contributions, Workshop Wednesday has been a success. We're going to continue on with it for as long as we have entries and the energy to comment on them. If you haven't yet submitted but are still interested, 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.

In Morning Glory gardens are used as family escapes in to and out of abuse, silences, solitude, and depression, and through the revelations of both family and landscape history, the author slowly discovers how nature—specifically as gardens—has confronted his own dark character.

First, I really like to see some sort of greeting in a query letter. Call me a nit-picker, but otherwise, I feel like you dumped something in my lap without warning and walked away.

This ”parasentence” confuses me. Why would anyone want to escape into abuse or depression? After the word “depression,” you’ve lost me already. I’m still trying to figure out what could be so bad that someone would want to escape into abuse while you’re rambling through this run-on sentence.

However, if you could find a more concise way to get your idea across to me, I do find it intriguing that a person’s gardening history could make such an impact.


MORNING GLORY: A STORY OF FAMILY & CULTURE IN THE GARDEN is my completed 75,000 word memoir. At once a history of my mother instructing me how to be a gardener as a child, it is also an exploration of our careful relationship, and an unearthing of who my mother and I are in the shadow of her own childhood.

Memoirs are tough. The reason for this is that no one really cares about anybody else’s life unless you make it spectacularly interesting. Unless you are a celebrity, have a life that is heartbreakingly poignant and can write like a master, a memoir is going to be a tough sell. I do not think a mother teaching a child to garden is intriguing, nor do I particularly want to know how anybody else shaped their relationship with their mother. Who you are and who your mother is are very interesting topics to you, but to me — a person sitting miles and miles away who has never met you — they’re boring as white rice. I would like to point out, though, that I like your word choices. “Unearthing,” “exploration” and “shadow” make me feel like I’m in a garden.


As I grow older and begin writing this book, my mother forces herself to reveal her past and how it has shaped her and a larger family obsessed with silence, fear, and distrust.

Is your family well-known on a huge scale? Otherwise, I can’t say I find it interesting that your mother reveals her past or that your family has issues like anybody else’s. If the issues are unique to your family, that’s something I’d love to know.


These revelations ultimately help me to identify and confront my own harmful nature in a young marriage. Through narratives on topics such as science, religion, ecology, philosophy, and garden design—as well as lyrical sections on landscape and place—Morning Glory proposes that the answers to ending our violence toward each other may rest in ending our violence toward the planet, and vice versa.

Now I’m really confused. This began as a memoir of a mother, child and the larger family surrounding them. Gardens were a focal point. But now you tell me science, religion, ecology and philosophy are involved. I have a hunch that you’ve given smaller threads of your book grandiose mention here with these puffed-up words. Ecology would be present in this book, as would religion and philosophy—as they apply to the gardens involved and to the family involved here. But you make it sound as though this is a preachy diatribe, a plea to the world to treat the planet better. I’m not sure which is the case, but I have trouble believing this could be both.


I have an MFA and PhD in writing, and have received several fellowships, awards, and Pushcart Prize nominations. My creative nonfiction and poetry have appeared in almost fifty literary journals, anthologies, and textbooks, while I have also published two poetry chapbooks: [redacted]. I am the author of a top 80 blog on the #1 gardening blog portal Blotanical, which features over 1,500 international sites; I often post material from my manuscript and am frequently asked when it will appear in book form. Including my many blog readers, and the over 40 million intermediate and advanced gardeners in America, there is a ready audience for my work.

This is great information. Knowing that you’ve published work before, even if it is not in the same genre, is helpful. However, I don’t think that just because there are 40 million gardeners in America those 40 million people might buy your book, which is a memoir and not a gardening book.


If you’d like to see more material please let me know and I’ll send it out immediately. I look forward to hearing from you.

This last sentence is fine.


Lauren

Reactions:

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Is Your Promotion Making Sense

You've been told by someone what you have to do. Now that you have a book out or coming out you need to be blogging, Tweeting, Facebooking, LinkedIn, Glad-Handing, and selling your soul. You need to add an extra 12 hours into each day just to manage the new schedule your publishing contract requires. But is any of it actually working and are you paying attention to that?

I think I've always been very open about the fact that I don't necessarily believe that social networking and all of the "have to" publicity and promotion you hear about necessarily works or should be required of all authors. I don't necessarily think that blog tours sell books, especially if you don't even know the audience you're reaching with each blog. What I wonder, though, is how many of you are actually tracking the success of the publicity you're doing.

When sending bookmarks to writers conferences, for example, do you really pay attention to how many bookmarks are taken from the table versus how many are simply tossed in the trash at the end of the weekend? When you do a blog tour do you actually follow up with the host of the blog to see how many readers (not hits) the blog gets both before and after your post? Have you ever polled your readers through Facebook, Twitter, or your website to actually learn what brought them to your book?

I guess what I'm trying to say is are you running your publishing career like a business or are you simply throwing stuff into the wind book after book, the same "stuff," and assuming because that's what you're "supposed to do" it must be the right thing to do?

Do blog tours sell books? I don't think they can hurt, unless you're spending hours and hours on a blog tour and not selling one book. Time is money and losing all that time is losing money, so in that sense then yes, I guess it can hurt. Great publicity and marketing means changing things up. It means not doing the same things book after book, and it also means that you need to understand that what might have worked for one book or one author doesn't work for another, even if you are the same author with another book.

When planning your publicity and promotion it's important to work smart. If you're going to spend time and money doing something then I think it makes sense to spend time figuring out if that something worked. If it didn't, then for your next book it's time to switch things up, think outside of the box. Just like you did when you wrote the book, it's important not to follow the crowd. If everyone is doing a blog tour, does it make sense for you to jump in and join the pack, a very full pack, or find a new way to sell yourself and your book?

Jessica

Reactions:

Monday, February 27, 2012

Dreams of Working in Publishing

Hello, I read your blog (Jessica's) about getting a job in publishing. I want so badly to work with new authors everyday, to be involved in the process of publishing and be with great works from the beginning.

It seems clear the main place to be is New York City. I live in West Texas. I am an English major (minor: Communications) and I will be certified to teach high school upon graduation. I do not have the resources to just up and move to the city. I was thinking of completing my Bachelor's degree and using teaching as a way to live comfortably and realistically be able to relocate to the city. That way, I could search for entry-level positions without fear of being destitute or having to move back home.

Is this a good plan?

I know it sounds like I'm not fully committed to my dreams of working in the publishing industry, but I think success stories I hear involve people who have money and resources. I have neither. And I've tried moving to big cities and waiting tables- let's just say that's not an option for me.


It warms my heart to hear someone say that their dreams are to "work with new authors" because that's really what publishing is all about. So many people go into this business because they want to be writers. I'm not sure I ever wanted to be a writer, but I wanted to be a part of the process, which is why my job is perfect for me. I get to work to my strengths and hopefully encourage authors to work to theirs.

You are correct that the right place to be is New York, and I think you have a good and smart plan. It's not easy to simply pack up and relocate to a new place. I know. I did it. When I first decided to move to New York to "make it there" I had nothing but a degree in hand. Okay, I lie. I also had five years of waitressing experience on my resume and, let's face it, you can almost always get a job waiting tables. I knew that I could find a waitressing job while I searched for my calling. That was my plan.

I think packing up to move to a new city and working at something while you achieve your true dreams is commitment. A huge commitment. Once you get to the City there are a lot of opportunities available to those who are searching for jobs in publishing. Both NYU and Columbia have publishing programs. I'll let others comment on the usefulness of those. I don't think they are at all necessary (I know more people who did not do those than did), but I understand they can be good for networking.

Publishers Marketplace has a Job Board that is a definite must for anyone looking for a job in publishing. I know there are other publishing job boards, but I can't say I know what they are off the top of my head. Watch the comments, I'm sure someone will post a list of other places.

There are internships every summer that might work perfectly for you if your "other job" is teaching. Most are unpaid or barely paid, but they will get your foot in the door. And lastly, send resumes blindly. You never know when an opening will come up, so every few months or so send a round of resumes to every publisher you're interested in working for. If you love mysteries, scour the mystery bookshelf and submit your resume to all of those publishers; if you love romance, do the same with the romance shelf.

And good luck. I think your plan is solid and it sounds like you have the drive to achieve your dreams.


Jessica

Reactions:

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Maybe I Missed These Lessons . . .

All right, so I wrote the novel, revised the novel (and again ... and again) and thought I was all ready to jump into querying. Not so fast. Unsurprisingly, I ran into several questions, and I'm hoping you can answer them.

1. My novel has a prologue, but the "voice" in the prologue is much different from the "voice" in the rest of the book (long story...). If the submission requirements for Agency X want the first ten pages of the manuscript with your query, is it better to include the prologue in those ten pages, for clarity (my prologue is less than ten pages), or just begin with chapter one? In my case, at least, the prologue is referenced many times in chapter one, and I don't want to confuse agents.


If your prologue is truly integral to the story, then there should be no question that you should include that in any submission to the agent. If you feel that you should or could eliminate the prologue when sending pages or chapters to the agent, then my suggestion is to look more carefully to see if you need the prologue at all.

2. Maybe this is obvious, but I was wondering: If an agent's submission guidelines ask for a query and the first ten pages, those ten pages should be double-spaced, right? I don't want to be sending more or less than I'm supposed to! (Maybe I'm alone in this, but I always write with single-spaced lines. It wasn't until I started researching "how to get published" that I realized my idea of ten pages might be very different from someone else's.)

Any pages you send should always be double-spaced. The only exceptions are the query and the synopsis. Those can be single-spaced. This "rule" stems from the "old days" when all agents read on the printed page. The double-spacing allowed editors and agents to make notes on the pages, and it also protected their eyes. Now that agents read on ereaders this probably doesn't matter as much, but that's assuming you know for sure that the agent you're sending to is doing all of her reading on an ereader. Since you don't know that, always double-space your manuscript pages.

3. I've read many times that it's a mistake to put too much about yourself in a query letter; that agents don't care how old you are, etc. I'm 16. Does that make it different for me -- should I mention my age in the initial query? I don't want to risk an agent just hitting "delete" on my query or throwing it out when he or she sees "16," without considering me for my writing first. I also don't want an agent to feel like I was deliberately holding back information or being dishonest, if I'm lucky enough to get beyond that initial query stage and actually talk to an agent about representation (at which point I realize my age would definitely have to come up). Would the idea of working with a teenage author really cause an agent to back away?

It's not different for you. Your age doesn't matter. It's all about the book. I agree that it's a mistake to put too much of yourself in the query. That doesn't mean we don't want to know a little about you and who you are, but what we really want to know first and foremost is what your book is about. Never mention your age whether you're 16, 60, or 96. It just shouldn't be important.


Jessica

Reactions:

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Workshop Wednesday

Thanks to all of your contributions, Workshop Wednesday has been a success. We're going to continue on with it for as long as we have entries and the energy to comment on them. If you haven't yet submitted but are still interested, 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. Ruth,

I have read your interview with Monica B.W. and your reply to question number five leads me to feel that you would be a good agent for me. I see that you represent mysteries and was wondering if my completed 70,000-word manuscript, Led By Lies, would interest you.


I think think is a great opening. Professional, personal and gives details. Perfect. Nothing fancy, but still good.


Imagine finding out someone close to you is linked to the murders you’re investigating, or worse yet, involved in the death of your sister.

To me this sounds like a rhetorical question without the question mark. I'm not a fan of this sort of plot introduction. It falls a little short for me. I'd rather you get right into the issues Lily has.


That is what second-generation detective Lily Blanchette endures when she is assigned her first case as lead in a double-homicide. After arresting the man she believes is responsible, another body surfaces and family secrets are unearthed. Left with no other alternative, Lily kidnaps her suspect hoping he’ll reveal who else is involved. In the shocking revelation more of her family’s deception is exposed.

I'd rather we start the entire description with Lily. Make it all about her and give it some oomph. Honestly, this entire blurb falls a little flat for me. The biggest problem is that there's nothing here that hooks me or makes this book feel like it's going to stand out from the many other similar books on the market.


In 2007, I worked at the State Public Defender’s Office where I did Intake for the Milwaukee Police Department. In 2009, I won honorable mention for my screenplay, [redacted], in the 78th Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition.

Good bio.


If you would like to see the manuscript, I can send it via e-mail or regular mail. I look forward to hearing from you.

You wrote a very professional letter, but I question whether you'll get many bites since the hook falls short for me.

Jessica

Reactions:

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Typos in Queries

Many times on Workshop Wednesdays typos are pointed out by fellow writers in the comments, and rightfully so: making your query and your manuscript as clean as possible is important. However, recently one commenter pointed out a typo in the first line and asked, "Would a typo in the first line not make you want to reject it?"

There's a distinct difference between a typo and a writer who doesn't have a good grasp of the English language. I'd like to think that a lot of the time I can tell the difference. Sure, typos might hurt your query and you should do your best to eliminate them, but a good query, a great and intriguing story, will rise above all typos.

Jessica

Reactions:

Monday, February 20, 2012

Twitter Tips

I love getting book recommendations. I mean face it, I'm a book person, I love to read and I love it when someone emails me or sends me a Tweet to tell me about something new they have just discovered. That being said, there's a big difference between Tweeting about your book release and spamming your book.

If you're a Tweeter it's perfectly acceptable, and encouraged, to let all of your followers know when your book releases, when you received your new cover, or where your edits stand. Of course, it's also encouraged to let them know where you are on vacation, what you're eating for dinner, what you're reading and other more personal bits of information.

It is unacceptable to send Tweets directly to other Tweeters (starting your Tweet with an @BookEndsJessica is what does this) to tell them about a "great new read" and have it be your book. Frankly, it turns me off. If you're telling me about someone else, I'm interested and appreciate it; if you're telling me about your own book, it's spam and it's irritating, and out of irritation I will probably not read your book.


Jessica

Reactions:

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Working with Your Agent

I'm often asked what makes the "perfect client," and the only answer I have is a great sense of communication. The desire to keep me posted on all things good and bad so that if something can be done (even if you don't know it can) I can jump in and do it.

One thing a few of my clients do that I LOVE is send me monthly or quarterly updates. Even if it's information I know or have it's extremely helpful. I get an email that says something like this:

Delivered Book 3 in series X, awaiting revisions
Finished copyedits on Book 2 in series Y, love the new cover
Starting promotion on series Y
Release date of series x is next week
Had long talk with editor about new ideas and will run those by you when I have time to think about them more.

Now, I do try to check in with clients occasionally, and to some maybe I check in too often, but an email like this helps the author center herself and feel a sense of completion and helps the agent step in with thoughts she might have. Maybe I never saw the cover so can remind her to send me a copy for the website, or maybe I just had my own brilliant idea for a new idea for her and this is the perfect time to send it along. Even if I have nothing to add, keeping an agent in the loop helps everyone work together better, which is what we're all striving for.

Jessica

Reactions:

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Workshop Wednesday

Thanks to all of your contributions, Workshop Wednesday has been a success. We're going to continue on with it for as long as we have entries and the energy to comment on them. If you haven't yet submitted but are still interested, 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 BookEnds,

This greeting is probably for the blog, but in a query letter, you should address only one agent.


Zell Jinn doesn't do things like a normal teenager would. If he did, he would've met Shyla Franklin at school or online, rather than inside Hell.

These are small things: “Zell Jinn” sounds like “Sell Gin.” Is this deliberate, and if so, why? The word “inside” above irks me because, unless Hell is something that has physical dimensions and is enclosed like a box, this is the wrong word.


But for the modern day paladin, putting a soul back inside a vampire, then falling in love with her, and managing to literally piss off the Devil in the process are average days.

If he literally pissed off the Devil in the process, he’d be standing on top of the Devil and urinating off him while simultaneously falling in love with a vampire whose soul he just replaced. Please be careful with the word “literally” because you’re asking people to take what you say completely literally. You can’t call a figurative statement literal.


If only handling the weight of being the top point guard in the state and most popular kid in school was as easy as ganking the undead.

I like that Zell is living a double life, and I also think it is interesting that he’s the popular kid rather than a geek. “Ganking” is probably not a good word choice because as far as I know it only exists in video games like World of Warcraft with which literary agents might not be familiar.


But since Shyla's rescue, things have gotten bizarre. Or as the other paladins are used to saying: things have gone all to Zell. After returning from a mission in the Sierra Nevada broken and almost dead, Zell learns a new type of undead is stalking him.

I feel a little lost. What does returning from a mission broken and dead have to do with the new type of stalker undead? What does Shyla’s rescue have to do with it?

I’m not sure I know what’s going on and this is because you’ve made up a world in your head and then discussed it with me without telling me how it works. Above, you set your reader up to receive new information about a plot turn (“But since Shyla’s rescue, things have gotten bizarre . . .”) and then it seems to take forever to actually get the information . . . two sentences to be exact.


This enemy looks human and can block his ability to sense the supernatural. Now a danger to everyone, he is forced into seclusion. No paladin can help him.

Why would Zell’s inability to sense the supernatural make him a danger to everyone? When I think about it, I can assume that this ability is necessary for paladins, but this is vague and confusing. Further, why would he be so dangerous to others that he is forced into seclusion? Wouldn’t having the abilities of his comrades nearby make more sense? Why can’t the other paladins help him? What’s a paladin? Paladins are Medieval champions for others’ rights, so you can’t commandeer this term without clearly giving it a new meaning for your world.


The fun continues. A hellrift opens up on the coast of Maine, threatening to unleash hordes of undead.

What is a hellrift? This is one of the largest problems with this query. Because the story takes place in a world that I know nothing about, I’m confused and disinclined to want to read more of this.


Much is placed on Zell as he has to leave Shyla in the care of a man who wants her given back to the vampires, and go into a portion of Hell that has already claimed one of his friends.

What man? What friend? Shyla was taken away from the vampires? Why is it significant that she’ll return to them? Why does Zell have to do this, with his vulnerabilities?


Through these battles truths and powers will be revealed, explaining why normal has never pertained to him.

What battles?


Of course first, to make everything more Zell-like, he'll have to do something no paladin has ever done before: kill a host of demons.

We do not know what Zell-like is. We don’t get a very good sense of Zell, which is another problem in this query. His high school status, by this point, has been forgotten about and that makes me think you threw it in to make this YA.

Since “kill a host of demons” is the last line of the query and comes after a colon, it seems like you’re trying to give it weight. But we already know that Zell “ganks” the undead, so this is ineffective unless there is some type of characteristic the demons have that’s much stronger than those of other beings.

My main concern in this query is that there is not enough world-building. I need to know, at a minimum, the basic information needed to understand what is happening, its significance, and why it is happening, and that is not the case here. I’m also concerned that Zell’s high school life has been abandoned at the start of the query. I worry that your book will have all sorts of terminology only you know and situations that are unexplained. I worry also that it might seem contrived and forced that Zell is a high school student since this is not given enough attention.


OF FIRE AND FAITH is a YA urban fantasy novel, complete at 100,000 words. It is a first in a series following Zell's journey through paladinhood. The sequel, OF ANGELS AND ASHES, is already in the works.

I have been published by Keen Publications in their anthology [redacted] and by Anotherealm.com.


The last sentence is good. It is always helpful to know if a writer has been previously published, small scale or large.


Lauren

Reactions:

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I have to admit, this is one of my favorite holidays. Who doesn’t love the idea of a celebration of love and friendship? For Valentine’s Day this year I wanted to change things up a little, and thanks to my public library I came up with this terrific idea. Okay, I stole this terrific idea.

Today we’re going to celebrate Valentine’s Day with a Blind Book Date. How it works is that you comment in the comments with your favorite book, and the person who has commented before you has to read that book. In other words, it’s a blind date with a book.

How it works: The very first commenter will post the title and author of a book he or she loves. Since no one has commented before them, that will be the book I will read. Then, the first commenter’s blind date with a book will come from commenter #2, and so on and so on. If you’d like, you should also feel free to include some information on what the book is about or why you love the book.

The event will end at midnight on February 14, EST. At that time (or soon thereafter) I will post my book (the final blind date offering). Then, I’d like all of us to return on March 19 to discuss our experiences. Did we love the book? Hate the book? Was it something different, maybe a genre we’d never read? I’ll post some questions on March 19 for us to discuss.

The only rules are that you are NOT allowed to post the title of a book you have written. This is not an opportunity for self-promotion, but an event for readers and book lovers. If you want to post the book of a friend I can’t stop you from doing that, but I hope that we all look at it as readers and not writers and post books we love, books that have changed us or that we just want others to experience.

I debated requiring that the book be available in print and ebook, but I don’t want to rule out the fact that you might have read a book you love that’s only available in ebook format. What I would suggest, however, is that if you’re debating between two books, pick the one that’s available in both print and ebook format to give those readers who haven’t yet gone tech the opportunity to read the book as well.

And finally, there are no rules regarding genre. A pick you love could be new, a classic, YA or horror, romance or mystery. Whatever it is, please share it. I’m eager to see what everyone comes up with and what we’ll all be reading.

Enjoy!


Jessica

**one additional note. Any comments that are specifically to promote your work will be deleted. Thanks.

Reactions:

Monday, February 13, 2012

Choosing a Genre

I have written a novel where the main POV character is around 18 years old. There’s also a secondary POV character who’s 45 years old. This secondary character takes up almost as much page space as the younger character. It’s maybe a 60-40 split. There’s a mystery involved, and while the younger character gets involved in the mystery, his story is really a coming of age. The secondary protagonist’s job is to solve the mystery.

My beta readers all say I have written a young adult novel.

Based on the younger protagonist’s POV then yes, I can see what they’re saying. Also, my writing style fits YA quite well. However, almost half the book is from an older woman’s point-of-view.

I might add that the book was not written as YA. It’s just that the protagonist was young.

If I take the basic rules of query writing – stick with the character you start the story with and follow their arc – then when I query it’s going to be about the kid. Sample pages will be from the kid’s point-of-view, because the first couple of chapters are his.

Does it matter if I say it’s a young adult novel and then have a major secondary character who is a lot older?

If I say it’s an adult novel – or rather, don’t say it’s YA – how will an agent feel when they read the query and the sample pages? This author has no idea of her own market?

Do I need to explain about the two different protagonists in the query?

Does the very thought of a combination like this make you, as an agent, throw up your hands in horror?



This is one of those situations where I would have to read the book to know which genre it fits into. Honestly, based on your plot description, it doesn't necessarily sound like a young adult though. It sounds like for one character you have a coming of age, but the book overall is a mystery.

Ever since YA became "the thing" there's this assumption that just because you've written a great young adult character in a book the book has to be characterized as young adult. Not true. There are many fabulous works of fiction that have included well-written young adults, but would not be classified as young adult. One that pops into my head at the moment, or an author that pops into my head, is Jodi Picoult. Jodi regularly includes a character arc for a young adult character and often that character arc plays as strong of a role as the adult's arc, but never (to the best of my knowledge) have her books been classified as young adult. Part of that is that she doesn't have a young adult voice.

I think what matters is knowing who your audience truly is. Is this a book that would fit in today's young adult market, that would sell on those shelves to those readers? if so, it's definitely young adult. Or would you say this is a book that would appeal more to mystery readers because the mystery is truly the element that's the strongest? What about fiction, is this maybe a piece that's better classified as women's fiction or literary fiction? Who do your readers otherwise commonly read? Where is that author placed on the shelves? Maybe that will help you have a better understanding of where you should classify it.

I don't think you need to explain the two different protagonists per se, but I do think it's important that you explain the story as a whole. If the older woman plays as strong of a role in the book as the younger character, are you misrepresenting the book by only talking about the story arc of the one character? In other words, is it the story of "two very different people..." instead of focusing on individual characters?

A lot to think about, I know, but without reading your query and knowing your book I'm afraid I don't have any specific answers.

Jessica

Reactions:

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Updated Publishing Dictionary

It’s become an ever-popular post, my Publishing Dictionary. This is the fourth version I’ve done. Some of the words and definitions remain the same, but at your requests there have been a number of additions. For those who have been regular readers of the blog, I apologize for the repetition. But just like any good dictionary, we need updates, and here is the New and Updated Publishing Dictionary.

AAR: The Association of Authors’ Representatives is an organization of literary and dramatic agents that sets certain guidelines and standards that professional and reputable agents must abide by. It is really the only organization for literary agents of its kind.

Advance: The amount the publisher pays up front to an author before the book is published. The advance is an advance against all future earnings.

ARCs: Advance Review Copies. Not the final book, these are advance and unfinalized copies of the book that are sent to reviewers. Sometimes called galleys.

Auction: During the sale of a manuscript to publishers sometimes, oftentimes if you’re lucky, you’ll have an auction. Not unlike an eBay auction, this is when multiple publishers bid on your book, and ultimately, the last man standing wins (that’s the one who offers the most lucrative deal).

BEA: BookExpo America is the largest book rights fair in the United States. This is where publishers from all over the world gather to share rights information, sell book rights, and flaunt their new, upcoming titles.

Blurb: A one-paragraph (or so) description of your book. People often compare a blurb to back cover copy, and while it’s similar, it’s frequently more streamlined and focuses on the heart and the chief conflict in the story. This is the pitch you use in your query letter as well as the pitch you would use in pitch appointments.

"Blurb" can also be used in a publicity sense. You might ask someone to "blurb" your book, in which case they'll give you a positive quote that can be used to help sell the book.

Book Proposal: The author’s sales pitch for her book. A good book proposal is used to introduce agents and editors to your book and show them not only why it’s a book they need and want for their lists, but also how well you’ll be able to pull it off.

Category or Category Romance: “Category” is the shortened term often used to refer to category romances. These are romances typically, and almost exclusively published by Harlequin/Silhouette in their lines. Examples of category books are published in Silhouette Desire, Harlequin Superromance, or Silhouette Special Edition. Note that not all Harlequin/Silhouette imprints are considered category.

Commercial Fiction: Fiction written to appeal to a large or mass-market audience. Commercial fiction typically includes genres like mystery, romance, science fiction and fantasy. Popular commercial fiction writers include Nora Roberts, John Grisham, and James Patterson.

Commission: The percentage of your earnings paid to your agent, typically 15%.

Copy Edits: Edits that focus on the mechanics of your writing. A copy editor typically looks for grammar, punctuation, spelling, typos, and style.

Cover Copy: The term used to describe all of the wording and description on the front and back cover of your book.

Cover Letter: This is the letter that should accompany any material you send to an agent or an editor. A cover letter should remind the agent that the material has been requested, where you met if you’ve met, and of course the same information that is in your query letter—title, genre, a short yet enticing blurb of your book, and bio information if you have any. This can often be interchanged with Query Letter.

Credentials: What make you qualified to write a book and knowledgeable in your field of expertise. Credentials are usually defined by your level of education and experience on the job.

Editor: The person who buys on behalf of the publishing house. While jobs differ from house to house, typically the acquisitions editor is your primary contact throughout the publishing process. Her editorial guidance comes in the form of the book’s overall structure and writing. She’ll supply major revisions if needed.

Fiction: A story/book based on research and imagination.

Foreword: An introduction to your book that’s always written by another person, preferably someone well known and highly credentialed.

Full: A full manuscript.

Galleys: Another word for ARCs. Galleys aren’t always bound, but are also sent to reviewers as well as other sources for publicity. Galleys are often a copy of your Page Proofs.

Genre: The classification of books. Examples of genre in fiction include mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, nonfiction, and in nonfiction you might see sub-genres like business, health, parenting, pets, art, architecture, memoir, or current events.

Hardcover: A book printed with a hard cover.

Hook: What makes your book stand out from every other title on your bookshelf. If you’re writing mystery it’s that one element that makes your book different from other mysteries, outside of the mystery. If you’re writing a business book it’s how you make your business book different from the others in your field.

Imprint: The name within the publishing house that the book is published under. Usually done as a way to market certain types of books. For example, Aphrodisia is an imprint of Kensington. It is still a Kensington book, but by publishing under Aphrodisia you are branding the book as erotic romance. Prime Crime is an imprint of Berkley that brands the books published as mysteries.

Literary Agent: A literary agent works on behalf of the author to sell her book and negotiate with publishers. A literary agent also helps with career planning and development and sometimes editing and marketing.

Literary Fiction: Fiction that appeals to a more intellectually minded, smaller audience. Literary fiction tends to have a stronger focus on writing, atmosphere, and style than commercial fiction might. Popular literary fiction authors include Toni Morrison, Cormac McCarthy, and Elizabeth Strout.

Marketing: Marketing is advertising that is paid for, including ads in magazines, display units in stores, and things like postcards or posters.

Mass Market: Also called “rack size,” these are paperback books originally designed to fit in rotating book racks in non-bookstore outlets (like grocery stores and drugstores). Mass market paperbacks are roughly 4" x 7" in size.

MWA: Mystery Writers of America is the national organization of mystery writers and a great source of information for all writers.

Narrative Nonfiction: Nonfiction written in story form like memoir, biography, autobiography, etc.

Nonfiction: Writing based on fact.

North American Rights: These are the type of rights licensed to the publisher, allowing the publisher only to handle and represent book rights in North America. This means that the author and the author’s agent are responsible for selling/licensing rights anywhere outside of North America (and usually a designated set of territories).

Novel: Book-length fiction. Therefore, note that it is redundant to say “fiction novel.”

Option: Also called the right of first refusal. This is a clause found in almost every publishing contract that gives the publisher the right to have a first look at your next book before you can show it to any other publishers.

Partial: A partial is frequently what an agent will ask for when taking a book under consideration. For fiction and narrative nonfiction a partial usually includes a cover letter, a designated number of chapters from the book, and a synopsis. For non-narrative nonfiction a partial usually contains an extended author bio, an overview of the book, an expanded table of contents, detailed marketing and competitive information, and of course sample writing material (usually a chapter or two). Also called a Proposal.

Pitch: Frequently verbal, the pitch is your Blurb. It’s a one-paragraph (or so) description of your book. It’s what you use to describe the story and entice readers to read the book.

Placement: When your book gets special treatment in the bookstore. Outside of just putting your book on the shelf where it belongs, publishers can pay to have it put on tables or in displays. This is called giving your book placement.

Platform: A term typically used for nonfiction authors, it’s what makes a writer stand out from all of those with similar credentials. A platform is more than just your work experience or educational background, it is the media coverage or speaking engagements that give you national, or at least local, recognition to potential readers.

Preempt: When a publisher makes an advance and royalty offer high enough to take the book off the auction table. In other words, a publisher offers enough money that the author and agent agree that they will sell the book without asking for bids from other publishers.

POD: An abbreviated term for Print on Demand.

Print-on-Demand, aka POD: With improved technology it is now possible to print copies of books based on exactly how many are purchased. Print on Demand books can be electronic or paper.

Proofs/Page proofs: This is the last stage of editing that a book goes through. They are a copy of the designed pages, and the author is given one last chance to review the typesetter's “proofs” to check for typos or other small errors. Proofs are also what are used to make review copies for reviewers and sometimes rights sales.

Proposal: A proposal is frequently what an agent will ask for when taking a book under consideration. For fiction and narrative nonfiction a proposal usually includes a cover letter, a designated number of chapters from the book, and a synopsis. For non-narrative nonfiction a proposal usually contains an extended author bio, an overview of the book, an expanded table of contents, detailed marketing and competitive information, and of course sample writing material (usually a chapter or two). Also called a Partial.

Pseudonym: A fictitious name often used by writers who want to hide their real identities. The use of a pseudonym can happen for a variety of reasons. Some writers prefer to keep their real identity hidden because they are writing something controversial (erotic romance, for example), while others like to create alternate identities for different styles of writing, and even others use a pseudonym as a way to re-launch a stalled career.

Publicity: Advertising that is free. Publicity includes magazine and newspaper articles, radio and television interviews, and of course MySpace and other networking Web sites.

Query: A one-page letter sent to agents or editors in an attempt to obtain representation. A query letter should include all of the author’s contact information—name, address, phone, email, and Web site—as well as the title of the book, genre, author bio if applicable, and a short, enticing blurb of the book. A query letter is your introduction and sometimes only contact with an agent and should not be taken lightly.

Revisions: This is when the bulk of your edits are done. Revisions are typically done with the editor acquiring your book and sometimes with your agent before even submitting a project. Revisions can include anything from fixing punctuation to rewriting the entire book. It’s a collaborative process between the agent or editor and the author.

Royalties: The percentage of the sales (monetary) an author receives for each copy of the book sold.

RWA: Romance Writers of America is the national organization of romance and women’s fiction writers and a great source of information for all writers.

SASE: Short for self-addressed, stamped envelope, a requirement for any author who wants a reply to a snail-mailed query.

Sell-Through: This is the most important number in publishing. It’s the percentage of books shipped that have actually sold. For example, if your publisher shipped 100,000 books but only sold 40,000, your sell-through is 40%. Not so great. However, if your publisher shipped 50,000 books, and sold 40,000, your sell-through would be 80%. A fantastic number.

Serial Rights: These are rights for serialization often sold to magazines. Cosmopolitan magazine, for example, has started serializing erotic romances, which means they pay to publish a portion of the book around the same time the book is first published.

SFWA: Science-Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America is the national organization of science fiction and fantasy writers and a great source of information for all writers.

Single Title: A term typically used in romance (the romance genre) to differentiate category books from those published by other publishers. Single title books tend not to follow strict guidelines like category romances do and can be published by publishers like St. Martin's Press, Berkley Publishing, Random House, etc. Mira and HQN are Harlequin imprints that also publish single title. Single title tend to be longer, 80,000 to 100,000 words. Note, single title books can be part of a series.

Slush/Slush Pile: Any material sent to an agent or an editor that has not been requested.

Stand-Alone: Stand-alone books are those that are not part of a series. This is a phrase often used in mystery, but can definitely be used in other genres as well.

Subsidiary Rights, aka Sub Rights: These are rights to use the books in other formats. Sub rights could include foreign translation rights, book club rights, movie rights, audio rights, etc.

Synopsis: A detailed, multipage description of the book that includes all major plot points as well as the conclusion.

Tag Line: The one line often used on the front cover of the book to grab a reader’s attention. Tag lines, while fun for writers to write, really aren’t necessary until you have a publishing contract.

TOC: An abbreviation often used in publishing to describe the table of contents, otherwise thought of as the general outline and organization of your book.

Trade: To make it easy, trade is the shortened name for trade paperback books and is basically any size that is not mass market. Typically though they run larger than a mass market edition.

Vanity Press: A publisher that publishes the author’s work at the author’s expense (not a recommended way to seek publication by most agents or editors).

Voice: The author’s style or characteristics of the author’s writing that are unique to that person.

World Rights: When World Rights are sold/licensed to the publisher the publisher has the ability to represent the book on the author’s behalf and sell foreign translation rights anywhere in the world. Keep in mind that the author does get a piece of the pie no matter where the book is published.

Reactions:

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Workshop Wednesday

Thanks to all of your contributions, Workshop Wednesday has been a success. We're going to continue on with it for as long as we have entries and the energy to comment on them. If you haven't yet submitted but are still interested, 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.

Last year a statue chased Angela off a cliff at a Midsummer masquerade ball. When no one else remembers the statue or the ball, Angela's determined to find out why. Another Midsummer's Eve brings answers, missing girls, and a wolf that claims to be her grandmother. Much to Angela's consternation, the wolf has the answers.

This feels a little scattered to me. I think there are a lot of pieces here that grab my interest, but the lack of real cohesion makes it hard to hold my interest. I think part of the problem is that there's no sense of voice in this opening. And no sense of excitement.


Wolves convert human memories to supernatural energy; the party hosts, the Merdemars, have exploited this ability to steal their guests' memories to build a perfect life with magic. Angela does the opposite, converting magic back into memories, but she doesn't have her gift under control. She also has little time to learn; the Merdemars have imprisoned two thousand guests and just as many wolves in a “nowhere land”. They won't let a 12-year old ruin their perfect life, and their moving statue feels the same way.

This feels disconnected from the first paragraph. It feels like you're explaining the world instead of telling us the story. Personally, I love the idea of this Midsummer's Ball that no one else remembers.It has a very magical, fair-tale feeling, but none of your query had that feeling. In addition, I was lost by this paragraph. As a query reader I wouldn't have even read it. The minute you started explaining the conversion of memories to energy, which felt like a disconnect from a girl that was tossed off a cliff, I quit reading.


Sometimes Beautiful, a young-adult urban fantasy, is complete at 41,000 words.

There are a couple of problems with this off the bat. 41,000 words is too short for young adult and a 12-year-old protagonist is too young. Is your book really middle grade? But then are the themes and voice middle grade? One of the problems with not understanding the genre is that, sure, you could simply change young adult to middle grade, but it's typically not that simple. To write in a certain genre it's important to understand the expectations of the readers of that genre in terms of voice, style, plot, characters and tone. I'm not sure, based on the character's age and word count, that you understand the requirements or expectations of the genre.


Thank you for your consideration. I hope you have enjoyed reading this query.

You should also be aware that something messed with your formatting in translation and the fonts were really off in this letter.


Jessica

Reactions:

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Why Agents Edit

my AGENT and I have just gone through this process (from a Blog post on Stages of Editing) up through lines - revisions early on and now just finished line edits. I know that a publisher's editor will edit too, but I'm wondering if my agent only did this because SHE was an editor too? I guess that like many here, I figured a publisher wouldn't buy a book first and then say that major things had to be changed. I didn't pose that as a question, but it is one!

I suspect that agents who were once editors tend to do more editorial work than those who have no previous editing experience. However, no agent in her right mind simply edits or works that hard on a manuscript because she was once an editor. The reason any agent edits or works with an author on a book is to try to eliminate as many reasons for rejection as possible.

Yes, it's very likely your editor will have you go through revisions and edits of some sort and yes, it's possible some of those could be very heavy. However, no editor will buy a book if she thinks it's going to need heavy editing, and that's why an agent works with an author on a book, to eliminate the feeling that the book will need heavy edits.



Jessica

Reactions:

Monday, February 06, 2012

Ellery Adams on Being a Coauthor

Lucy Arlington
Buried in a Book
Publisher: Berkley
Pub date: February 2012
Agent: Jessica Faust


(Click to Buy)


Do You Have What It Takes to Be a Coauthor?
by Ellery Adams – ½ of the Lucy Arlington Writing Team


Ellery Queen, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, Jonathan and Faye Kellerman, David and Leigh Eddings, Frances and Richard Lockridge, Stephen King and Peter Straub—these are just some of the successful writing teams who’ve made their mark on the publishing world.

Have you ever considered coauthoring a book? Perhaps a friend, spouse, or business associate has tossed out the idea and you’ve been mulling it over, but don’t believe you could actually complete a project with another person.

Two years ago, I believed the same thing, but then a friend and I were driving home from the Malice Domestic Mystery Conference and began to bat about a fun and clever idea for a cozy mystery series.

“Why don’t we try writing it together?” I asked my friend and current writing partner, Sylvia May. And though we both had our doubts, we decided to produce three chapters and send them to Jessica. Sadly, my fabulous agent was less than dazzled and told us that our two voices just weren’t meshing.

Our greatest fear about working together had come to pass: we couldn’t find a way to make our separate writing styles seamless, so we abandoned the project.

Life went on. Sylvia was busy working on her women’s fiction novel and I had the Books by the Bay series to pen. Then, out of the blue, I took our proposal out of the proverbial drawer and reread it. All the trouble spots leapt out at me in a way they hadn’t before and I called Sylvia and talked to her about how we might fix them.

Once upon a time, I could have walked down our street in Richmond, Virginia, sat at Sylvia’s kitchen table, and hashed out the whole thing face-to-face over a cup of coffee and a slice of chocolate banana bread. But she moved to Bermuda, leaving us to resort to phone calls and emails (we never took to Skype).

Obviously, we polished our proposal and Jessica sold it right away. We signed a three-book deal with Berkley Prime Crime. Agreeing to split all the expenses and profits fifty-fifty was the easy part. Plotting and writing an entire novel was more challenging.

First of all, we needed to get over being polite. “I’m sorry, but do you think that character sounds a little wishy-washy?” is too, well, wishy-washy. We had to learn to get past worrying about hurting each other’s feelings and reach the point in which we could insert a comment in the margins saying, “This is awkward. Can you rephrase?” or “That doesn’t sound Southern. Let me rewrite that part and you can polish that scene between Lila (our heroine) and Trey (her teenage son).”

Once we were able to be completely honest and unafraid, everything clicked. We wrote over each other’s passages, we edited each other’s segments, debated scenes and praised stellar segments or jotted LOL next to the funny parts. Every year at Malice, we get together and have an intense plotting session. We’ve just started the third book in the series and are both amazed over how well we’ve learned to work together.

With Buried in a Book being released this month, Lucy Arlington will be all over the Internet because there are two of us promoting the book. While I’m doing this guest post, Sylvia’s doing another. While I’m Tweeting, she’ll be posting on Facebook. I’ll be signing stock in Virginia and she’ll sign stock in Bermuda and Canada.

This collaboration has been an adventure and I know that I couldn’t have done it with anyone else. If you’re thinking of coauthoring a project, make sure that you and your writing partner divide your roles before you begin. Who will create your website? Who will answer reader email? Who will order bookmarks or make the book trailer? The more you put on paper before you write a single word of your book, the smoother your partnership will be.

So . . . has it ever crossed your mind to coauthor a book or are you flying solo all the way?

Feel free to post questions.

Ellery Adams is the national bestselling author of the Books by the Bay mysteries. Her most recent title, The Last Word, was released in December. Her first title written as Lucy Arlington, Buried in a Book, comes out tomorrow! For more info, visit www.elleryadamsmysteries.com or www.lucyarlington.com

Reactions:

Thursday, February 02, 2012

The Book/Author I Wish I Had Discovered

This post is actually inspired by a series of tweets agent Deidre Knight (@DeidreKnight) did a while back.

What book or author do we wish we had discovered?

When I first read her tweet there was one person who immediately popped into my mind and that's Sarah Addison Allen. I've read all of her books and I can say I have loved almost all of them, the other one I just liked. I love the way she weaves mysticism into women's fiction, creating almost a genre of her own. This is someone I would love to have found in a slush pile somewhere.
—Jessica Faust


Just one? Of course, I wish I had discovered J. K. Rowling and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Other dream books are Megan Hart's Dirty and Mary Roach's Stiff. Three very different books, but three I never get tired of rereading.
—Jessica Alvarez


R. L. Stine. I know that sounds weird, since I don't represent horror for any age group, but I admire Stine (and his 350 million books sold) because he's been writing for decades, has churned out one fun, cool title after another, created a middle-grade series (Goosebumps) that became a television series and selection of movies, and most intriguing and valuable to me, he writes in several age groups from middle-grade to adult—and he shifts with changes in publishing. Aside from all that, I still read his books . . . and I'm still scared. If R. L. Stine suddenly queried me, I'd represent horror.
—Lauren


While it may seem like too obvious or easy an answer, I have to say Suzanne Collins. Honestly, even though I first read The Hunger Games as a book and not a submission—and even though millions of readers had already found her before me—when I was turning those pages I felt like I had made an amazing discovery. That trilogy—especially the first book—really is the whole package: characters we care about, edge-of-the-seat suspense, and an always-keep-us-guessing romantic triangle. When I finished it, I really felt like I'd just ridden a roller coaster and experienced a true classic at the same time.
—Kim

Reactions:

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Workshop Wednesday

Thanks to all of your contributions, Workshop Wednesday has been a success. We're going to continue on with it for as long as we have entries and the energy to comment on them. If you haven't yet submitted but are still interested, 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,

It is always best to personalize your query so that it doesn’t look like you’ve sent the same query to everyone on AgentQuery.com.


Powers she’s sworn to keep secret…

…an ancient society in hiding…

…a soul-mate she never knew existed…dead.

In Morgan Cauldwell’s life, nothing is as it seems.


This sounds like one cliché after another and it doesn’t tell me very much about your book. Also, the unorthodox style feels like a lazy cop-out. I would much rather have this information — and much more — in a few well-written paragraphs.


After her Grandmother's passing, Morgan must make a new home at secluded Manchester Academy, where mysterious Chase Thomas knows some of her deepest secrets. He knows much more than Morgan bargained for; especially when it comes to the inexplicable powers she’s been guarding so carefully.

Is Chase a student? The weird janitor? What do you mean when you say he knows more than Morgan bargained for? Why did she bargain for him to know anything?


But when the secrets come out, when will they stop? How much power should one person possess?

I do not like these hypothetical questions. I would like you to tell me about your story, not ask me about it. A simple enticing question at the end of a well-written query such as, “But will she get there in time?” can be effective, but questions don’t work here because all we know about your book is that there is a young girl with supernatural powers and someone knows about them. What conflict is Morgan fighting? Why does Chase matter and what role does he play in her journey?


Gifted is an 86,090 word YA Fantasy Romance. 

I appreciate your time and consideration. 

Thank you.

This is romance? Oh. I didn’t know — and that’s a problem. If, by the end of your query, I was not able to categorize it, I worry that I won’t be able to categorize your book — a requisite for pitching it to publishers.

I would have rejected this because I don’t have enough information and I worry that, since you’re not able to get across your point in a one-page query letter, your book’s plot might have interesting elements but go nowhere.


Lauren

Reactions: