Monday, October 05, 2015

What does unpublished mean?

I've never been entirely sure what exactly 'unpublished' constitutes. When I first started writing (mainly short stories) I posted all my work on various writing websites like   and

When I started submitting for publication, I had some publishers who didn't mind me posting to these communities, some who flat-out rejected me because they no longer considered my work unpublished, and some who just wanted them set to 'only viewable to other members' so that it was only posted to a community and not the public. So, at this point I'm rather confused what the industry stance is on this matter. I do like posting to these websites for feedback, but now that I've started writing more seriously do I have to have to worry about them jeopardising my first electronic rights?

Let's start with the fact that there is no such thing as "first electronic rights"

First SERIAL rights describe excerpts you publish before the book is published, be that electronically or in print. 

Second serial rights are excerpts you publish after the book is published.

If you elect to publish excerpts from your novel before it's sold you've licensed first serial rights. Format doesn't matter.

It's entirely possible an author could publish pieces of a novel pre-pubication to several outlets. (A WIP from Katherine Dunne, or Fran Liebowitz would certainly generate that kind of interest.) That's still first serial rights.

When you say "publishers didn't mind me posting to these communities" or "flat out rejected me" it sounds like you're talking about digital only publishers. Their contracts are for  (territory) (languge) and (format).

Thus if you license World English for digital publication to them, they have those rights. First and second don't come in to play here at all. If they fail to publish, or publish and then revert rights to you after a period of time, you can re-sell World English for digital publication again. No "second" needed.

As to whether they want you to publish excerpts or not publish excerpts, it's their call. They run their business the way they see fit.

There is no industry standard on this because every publisher has different standards.

The trick here is to keep VERY detailed records of what you've published or posted and where. Print out the terms you've agreed to (ie don't rely on being able to view them on the site) and make sure you understand the terms.


Sunday, October 04, 2015

Blame Robert Crais (for why the WIR is late)

Normally I tackle the week in review on Saturday morning.
It's one of my favorite things to do, so not much can divert me from it.

This week, one thing did.

I got an ARC of THE PROMISE by Robert Crais.

Now, I've known Bob Crais for a long time, and I am a DEVOTED fan of Elvis Cole and Joe Pike. I've read all of the early Elvis Cole novels more than once.

In recent years though, I've been a bit of a slacker fan. I'd discovered other writers that I needed to know to stay current, and I don't have as much reading time as I wish I did for authors I love as a fan.

But, when Jon Jordan extolled the THE PROMISE on Twitter, I tweeted back with a sad face that I didn't have a copy of the book. And Jon, being a VERY nice friend, sent me his ARC when he was done.

And that, dear reader, is why the Week in Review is going to be late.

THE PROMISE is like reconnecting with a beloved old friend. Like going home for Christmas after years away. Like rediscovering a favorite restaurant that has only gotten better in the years you've been off sampling fusion cuisine.

I may have been a slacker fan in years gone by, but never again. Robert Crais is the cat's pajamas. Elvis' cat's pajamas in fact.

Have you rediscovered an old favorite after a time away?

Saturday, October 03, 2015

My agent hates my new book. Not just sorta, either. A LOT. What to do?

I had an agent for (5) years with a well-known NYC agency, and although my initial novel had some interest, it didn’t end up going anywhere. Which is ok . . . it blends genres, and I knew it’d be a hard sell. However, I recently sent my agent another MS, which she’s since declined. Her critique was honest and decent, and she stressed that it was only her opinion and I could feel free to shop it around to see if anyone else might be interested.

So I’m kind of at a crossroads; I knew this new novel would also be difficult (all told in the present tense, doesn’t fit neatly into a genre, unsympathetic protagonist, etc.). But I’m also a firm believer that an author should write the kind of stories he/she wants to read . . . the trick being to pick stories other people want to read also. However, I didn’t expect my biggest critic to be my agent, who wasn’t even interested in a revision (the things that caused her angst being endemic to the story).

The agent liked the writing and some of the elements, but wasn’t digging the main character or how the plot developed. I guess what I’m wondering is: 1) does this happen often, and 2) would it be gauche mentioning the agency in a query letter? Or even sending query letters? I’ve had the first (50) pages workshopped with my book club, and the response was very positive (he said, knowing the next 280+ pages could suck). But agents have to make money, and I don’t know if this is simply a nice way of saying she doesn’t think the MS is up to par. I guess I’m looking for a Diogenes (with a pectoral fin) to light the way . . . if you have any opinions one way or the other, I’d love to hear them.

oh boy.
This is one of the questions you want to ask an agent before you sign on the dotted line: "what if I write something you hate. How do you handle that?"

My job is selling the work my clients write.

There are some exceptions to that: I will not send a book on submission if I find it offensive. That's simply my personal position, and I will tell a client that if needed. I hope we will have determined this BEFORE the book is written, but you never know.

I try not to send out books that I don't think will sell. That said, I've sold some stuff that I thought needed more work.

When I get a project that I'm hesitant about, I talk to my client. Your agent has done that too. She's said "shop around."

You now have two choices: sever, or write something else.

I can't tell you what to write, and I wouldn't presume to tell you your agent is wrong about a novel I've never read.

It's always less terrifying to do nothing, but you can't do that and have a career.

Talk to your agent again. Be ready to listen to what she's telling you. Ask her to be completely straightforward.  Does she want you write something new, or is this a sign she doesn't think you're a good match.

Agents need to make sales to stay in business. If she's shopped one novel to no avail, and gotten a second in that she doesn't like at all, be ready to hear that she's not as enthusiastic as you want.

As to your questions: this happens enough that my colleagues and I talk about it pretty often. It's a horrible situation for us, just like it is for you.

You can't query if you have an agent.  There are probably some agents out there who will talk to you on the down-low, but it's considered a pretty slimy practice.

I'll talk in general terms to an author who has an agent, but my most frequent advice to them, as it is to you here: talk to your agent directly. Find out what she's thinking. Make your decision based on that information.

PS I'm having "Diogenes (with a pectoral fin)" engraved on my business cards.

Friday, October 02, 2015

The Engagement Period

Recently I fell in love with a novel I received on submission.
I emailed the author and said "I love your novel. How's that query process going?"

Well, the query process was going just fine thank you, and, eager to press my case, I mentioned that now during the fallow time while he waited for those other slugabeds dawdlers agents to read his work, he could use the time to ask questions.

Even by email I could hear the gnawing panic and uncertainty. What the hell to ask? As a writer, with a real live agent on the hook, you really don't want to ask something so stupid they reconsider. As a writer, a woodland creature through and through, you are certain that EVERY question, up to and including "what is the commission rate?" is stupid.

Well, let's ease your fears.  Here's a list of questions to ask a prospective agent. None of them are stupid***

1. Have you read the book all the way through?
Now I know you think this is stupid. It's not. If an agent hasn't read the entire book before dangling a hook, you know a LOT about how they work.  Of course, if the agent has sent you back the manuscript with notes, questions, comments, etc. you don't need to ask this. You know the answer.

2. What's your commission structure? 
15% on domestic sales is the norm. 20% on subrights handled by the agency.

3. Is there a written author/agency agreement? 
Is it negotiable? I have a written agreement. And it's not negotiable. Every client agrees to the same thing. Yes, I'll send it to you. Yes, I'll explain it to you.

4. Is the contract for a certain period of time? 
In other words, at the end of a year (or whatever time period specified) is representation terminated?

5. What changes do you envision for the book? 
Obviously if you've gotten notes from the agent (see #1) you know this already. If you have not, ask. Make sure the prospective agent has the same vision for the book that you do.

6. Do you have comp titles in mind? 
What are they?  Do you think they're correct? If not, talk to the agent about this.

7. Do you have editors in mind already? 
What publishers are they with? If you're envisioning a big sale to a print publisher, and the agent is talking about a digital only publisher, you want to know that NOW.

8. What happens if you don't like other books I send you for representation?
(if #4 is for a specified period of time, you don't need to ask this.)

9. How is your agency structured? 
Is it a sole proprietorship or a corporation? If the agent is abducted by aliens, what's Plan B?

10. Can I get in touch with some of your current clients?  
If the answer to this is "no", run for the hills.

11. What do you do when a client wants to change genres?
Even if you think you will write dino porn forever, you'll want to ask.

12. How long does it take to  reply to emails, and read new work? 
(Ask that of the current clients too. I'm guessing the two answers are quite different.)

13. What does the agency do for subrights, and film rights?

14. What does the agency offer in terms of guidance on promotion and marketing?

15. How does the author get paid?
Some agencies have payments divided, and the author's portion sent directly from the publisher. Some agencies process checks and pay you directly. You should know which before you go any further.

An agent should be willing to answer each of these questions for you. She's not obligated to spend hours on them, but you should understand the answer, and if you don't, ask for more explanation.

The last, and I mean VERY last thing you want to do is sign with someone you end up not wanting to work with.

***there is only one stupid question in the world. I'll leave you to come up with what you think it is.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Sending comp copies of novels to agents

 I've published three novels with an independent press. The third book even won a legitimate mystery award. Yet I'm struggling to find a literary agent for two completed manuscripts. I've queried over 250 agents & had some close calls (some on-the-fence responses, which are often more frustrating than regular rejections) but at the end of the day, I can't land an agent. I don't think going back to "fix" the manuscripts is the solution. I've nitpicked them to death already.

I've been considering mailing a copy of my award-winning book to the 300 or so literary agents on my list. Chances are they will probably just throw it in the trash. But I keep thinking - what if one of them reads it & realizes this is literary genius? Of course she would sign me. The practical side of me tells me this is a bad idea. But I'm running out of hope.

Can you tell me why this is a bad idea? 

Well, it's not the worst idea I've ever heard about how to snag an agent's interest. 

My first concern is simply cost. The cost of the book and the cost of postage is going to set you back a couple hundred dollars easily.

Querying by email is free.

That said you've already said your querying isn't getting you where you want to be.

Rather than send unsolicited books to agents, why not use that money to pay for some face time at a writing conference? Find out what's wrong.  It could be as simple as your books simply aren't plotlines/settings/categories  that are selling right now. Or it could be that the market is glutted with this kind of book.

The way to get face time with an agent is to find a conference with attending agents that you'd query. In other words, agents working in your category. 

Sign up for a pitch session.
Don't pitch.
Bring your query.
Ask for help.

I reviewed queries at three conferences this summer: MidWest Writers,  ThrillerFest, and Writers Police Academy.  In all three places, it took only two or three revisions to help a writer get a better query.

If you're willing to listen to some hard truths, you'll be able to learn a lot.  It's not easy to hear some of this, and your (anyone's!) first reaction is to say "balderdash" but most of us will tell you the truth if you ask us to. And you're not carrying a box of ripe tomatoes.

If you do elect to send the books, PLEASE include a neatly hand written, or typed note telling me why you're sending it. Include your contact information.

Do NOT just put a sticky on the cover saying "hope you like this."  Assume I do like it, how the hell do I find you?

And be forewarned: I am an unrepentant book snob. If the cover is ugly, or the book's interior is badly laid out, I won't read it.  Life is too short for ugly books. Even prize-wining ones.

Also: you're trying to get attention for your NEW book/s, not the old book. You need to focus on why your querying for the new stuff isn't getting you what you want, rather than seeking attention for a previous book.I may love the prize winning book, but that doesn't tell you much about whether I'll love the new one.

And if you elect to follow my advice, I'll be at CrimeBake this year.  

Wednesday, September 30, 2015


I am a very small-time published author (m/m erotic romance), a genre I originally stumbled into (seriously) so that I could have a publishing history in the hopes of one day getting an agent for my young adult material. While I have enjoyed writing m/m, I feel it is time to "move on", and have begun querying agents for one of my YA novels. Your September 5, 2015 blog post post about being reachable, however, has made me wonder if I shouldn't delete my m/m persona just yet, although I am eager to leave the old "me" behind and delete my Goodreads author page, my blog and my Facebook presence. I simply feel that clinging to my old pen name is holding me back from pursuing a possible future as an author of young adult novels, or perhaps even some of my more conventional romances. I'm at a crossroads, and wondering which way to go.

Basically, my question is thus: should I wait until I'm done querying so that potential agents can find me on the world wide web, or should I jump in with both feet, delete the past, and go after what I want? Even if I'm unsuccessful, I have no plans to go back to writing m/m, its just not where my heart (or muse) is. In fact, I'm not even sure if I should tell agents when I'm querying about my published work--do you think they would they hold it against me? Would you?

If you know you're moving on,  make the changeover now. Do so for the same reason you don't buy new curtains for an apartment you're leaving in two months.

Invest forward.

The post on Be Reachable meant you should be reachable NOW, not that I need to see what you did in the past. I want to talk to you about your NEW work, not have a discussion about your old work.  Time enough for that later.

A lot of people have publishing credentials they don't want to talk about. It's not a deal breaker at all.

While the subject matter may not be suitable to every taste, it's not like you're publishing stories about evil librarians which would be a total deal breaker.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

When do agents read queries?

How often do agents read queries? I ask because several agents post query status updates that seem to occur monthly, or at least several weeks apart. Of course I know everyone’s different, and the answer will vary widely depending on one’s current workload and how many queries one receives. But I am wondering whether most agents tend to read a couple queries every day (sort of like taking one’s vitamins and just getting it over with), or do they set aside a day for it, curl up with a beaker of scotch and slog through as many hundred as possible? Are there days of the week or month or year that agents tend to attack the slush pile more frequently? Do most agents have interns for just this sort of thing? Do most of you work weekends? 

Oh my beloved woodland creature, you must be at a particularly difficult point in the novel if you are worrying about this!

What difference does it make to you?


However, because I know that you won't stop fretting till you have some information here you go:

It varies.

(helpful, I know)

I read queries almost daily. I like to keep up. A simmering vat of unanswered queries makes me slightly crazy.

I know other agents read as they can and get very very behind. One agent who shall remain nameless (because really why would you need a name when you can have 1000 words instead)

 often had 700+ queries backed up.

Another friend right now has over 1000.

That would kill me.

Some agents do have interns who do the first cull. A LOT of queries are so bad they can be rejected almost instantly.

Some agents read all their own queries. I do. Most of my colleagues read their own queries too.

And all of us read on weekends, in the middle of the night, on our phones on the subway, and when we should be paying attention to the flight attendant talking about water landings.

Here's the good news: no matter how many I get, the good ones catch my eye. Even if I don't request the manuscript, a good query gets serious attention.

As for posting updates: most of us post updates less often than we read queries because saying you're caught up throgh X date every day would soon become tedious.

I'm much farther caught up than my blog widget indicates. The reason it says 9/10 is because I have one  query from 9/11, two queries from 9/12, one from 9/13 and one from 9/14 still pending. Those are queries that merited a closer look when I was tearing through them a couple days ago.

Given I get 20 or so a day, you can see I've already said no to 18 or 19 queries from each day 9/11-9/14.

NONE of this matters to you. You have no control over it and how agents read queries doesn't have much to do with how they'll view your query.

There is ONE thing you can control: the effectiveness of your query. Work on that.
Send your queries. Count forward 30 days. Query again to those agents who are courteous enough to reply to all queries.

Quit fretting about this. Figure out what's really bothering you and go take a bite out of that.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Six of Crows writing contest results-FINAL--Now REALLY final!


The Six of Crows writing contest PRELIMINARY FINAL results!
Update: 9/28/15 8:28pm

It turns out our winner A.Velez is one of those Canadian know those really nice people that one of the Republican candidates wants to make sure we keep out of here by building a wall.

When the winner is one of them thar non-residendial types, I send their prize via

Well, in this case, the prize is a SPECIFIC ARC and package, so our winner gets the book (not the ARC) and our second winner gets the ARC...unless it turns out that s/he is one of them thar non-residents too.  Check the bottom of the blog for more info.

Not quite a story but I love the subtle elegance here
Shea 10:02am

oh dear, has something happened to Felix Buttonweezer?
Jeff Deitering 10:04am

Not quite a story, but a very creepy point of view!
Lisa Bodenheim 10:32am

Not quite a story but great two lines in what would be an enticing prologue for sure
"He comes in, weapon drawn. Killer or saviour, I don’t even care anymore."
Cheryl 10:36am

Oh Little Red Riding Hood, what have you done?
Jessi 10:40am

I'm wondering what happened to the spoonful of sugar!
Christina Seine 1:25pm

this made me laugh, and groan, out loud!
Jennifer Delozier 4:03pm
 "No harm, no fowl."

Not quite a story, but compelling!
Laura Mary 4:21pm

V. Interesting!
Kitty 5:24pm

Oh my god, Evil Librarians?? Quelle horreur!
E.M.Goldsmith 5:12pm
(good for one banishment to Carkoon…if they'll even have you!!)

And here are the nine finalists:

 (1) Laura Rueckert 10:28am

For a spy, secrets can mean the difference between life and death. Of an informant. Of a partner. And betrayal is a weapon to be wielded like a scalpel, not a crowbar.

Six lights blink on my screen--six men track me through this rundown Latvian town. One used to be my Matthew, before he wielded the crowbar and became her Matthew.

They think he's one of them.

He thinks I'm still his.

I think...I'm all out of forgiveness.

From a burner phone, I text:
Matthew Bennett = MI6.

One light winks out of existence. Like I said. A scalpel.

That one sentence " betrayal is a weapon to be wielded like a scalpel" makes the whole story. It's gorgeous writing.  And the progression here:

They think he's one of them.
He thinks I'm still his.

I think...I'm all out of forgiveness.

is just beautiful.

This is deceptively simple, and thus easy to overlook as the great writing it is.

(2) Steve Forti 11:39am
One step at a time, that’s how you get through life.
Two-step with a pretty girl.
Skynyrd’s Gimme Three Steps appropriately plays for the drunken crowd.
Four steps are what he gave me.
Five steps are what I needed.
Six steps to his assault combo.
Seven steps I tumbled down.
Eight steps until I find a
Nine steps later he’s
secreting blood.
Ten steps in the booking process.
Eleven steps from my cell, I
spy the warden.
Twelve steps, had I finished, would have kept me from that bar.
Thirteen steps up the gallows.
One step at a time.

This is brilliant. I love how the opening and closing sentences match. And "Twelve steps, had I finished, would have kept me from that bar." is exquisite.

(3) Colin Smith 12:03pm
"Land ahoy!" I call from the crow's nest.

Six long months I've been ship's lad under this Jolly Roger, taken aboard by the captain when my folks was drowned. Took me into his trust he did.

Big mistake.

For t'was his cannon that sunk my folk's ship.

So I'm playin' nice 'til I spy a chance. Maybe after we come to shore and find the treasure, when we've a moment alone. Then I'll show him two secrets hidden under my shirt.

And, while he's distracted with those, I'll use a dagger, my dad's own weapon, to cut his heart out.

There's nothing like a good revenge story to get the day started. And the perfection of the rhythm in "Took me into his trust he did" is breathtaking. It's so easy to pare down past the point of elegance with these short pieces.  Those two "extra" words (he did) are what give this voice.

(4) Donnaeve 1:48pm
We was in the field before six a.m.

A company of
crows skirted raspy stalks of corn, a whisper of winter in the air.

Roy bragged.

“Shithead. You wait, first shot.”

He won't nothing. A lowbrow bully like Pa, hitting their way through life.

My hands grew numb. This worried me.

I spotted the buck initially, but Roy, determined, delivered a gut punch, then took aim.

He missed.

Trembling, I raised my
weapon, praying I wouldn't.

He dropped,
secreting blood.

The numbness spread. I felt nothing.

Headlines declared, “Hunting accident kills brother.”

Year later?

I took Pa ice fishing.

Oh that twist at the end!  It's the rhythm here that I love. Very stark, very staccato.  And the use of vernacular to convey voice ("We was" "He won't nothing") is subtle and wonderful.

(5) CED 3:42pm
Branwen began feeding the crows when she turned six. Soon after, they brought her secret gifts.

At first, meaningless trinkets: a dollar stamped with the face of Sacajawea; pondweed stalks; an iridescent button.

Then, what they knew she needed: jewelry to pawn when her stomach twisted in hunger; a pendant she thought lost forever, discarded by her father in a drunken rage; a delicate pen knife to keep by her bedside.

Finally, they gave her what she wanted: Branwen, her wispy hair transformed into wispy feathers, flew away and carried gifts to little girls who had not yet lost hope.

(took five passes to find weapon!)

I like the subtlety here. Nothing overt, everything left to the imagination.

(6) Timothy Lowe 5:58pm
2082 and death was a secret, a lie whispered in the dark.

Galbier’s work in sixty six had laid it to rest. And humanity stood in awe, a ponderous debt finally relieved.

Until he turned up dead.

First they thought it was something in the formula, the squirreling away of tiny bits of genetic marmalade, tucked in as escrow against the night.

Then they thought suicide. But that was nonsense. Not when he had eternity.

It wouldn’t take long for detectives to espy the cold truth.

The secret, like Galbier, was dead.

Someone valued death enough to kill for it.

That last line is great. I love the idea of this story too. And "genetic marmalade" may put me off toast forever!

(7) Curtis Moser 9:27pm
My six-shooter was stuffed in the sock drawer of my studio apartment when The Crow arrived. He showed me a message from Sandra, sandwiched between two sliver-sheets of sandalwood, scribbled in her shaky scrawl:

Kill Sam Spade.

"Who's Sam Spade?"

"Sandra's spouse," the spy said. "He's the sap selling secrets to the States. I think he's living south of Spain. Suit up. I'll take you."

"Sure. Just need some socks and shoes." I slid the drawer open, showed him my weapon. "Sweet of Sandra to sell me out."

"You're Sam Spade?" he asked.

I smiled as I squeezed the trigger.

Simply superb! Some stories simply must be selected!

(8) Eve Messenger 10:32pm
No one’s crowning achievement should be a six-story date with concrete, yet here I stand, alone and teetering.

The roof door slams open.

Someone’s behind me, breathing fast, as if they’ve hurried upstairs.

“You won’t talk me down,” I say.

“Yes.” A woman’s voice, ra
spy, hesitant.

I shift cautiously around to face her. “I’m
six weeks along. My boyfriend won’t leave his wife.”

The Samaritan grabs my wrist. “Your b-boyfriend knows about...?”


“That baby was your
secret weapon. You should’ve told him.”

How her wedding ring gleams as she proffers her other hand.

And shoves me over the ledge.

It's pretty difficult to shift perception of a character in fewer than a hundred words, but that is artfully done here.  Our "Samaritan" turns out to have a wedding ring. This is a perfect example of exactly the right word at the right time.

Very nicely done.

(9) A Velez  8:51am
He’s on the sweet stuff again. Sander’s place lousy with pots. Dealing too. Lil Roo says he’s cornered the supply—made some deal with the queen bee.

The kid called in bunny boy first. Ridickerous. Got taken out with a crowbar by that gloomy heavy always watching the place.

But I’ve got a guy on the inside. My secret weapon.

A faint knock at the door and my spy scuttles in, face pink. “Thistle b-b-b-break. Six m-m-m-minutes.”

I said nothing. Time to pounce.

Because the Hundred Acre Wood needs a hero.

And I’m the only one.

This is just flat out brilliant. It's deliciously subtle, but just overt enough so we catch on just at the end (Because  the Hundred Acre Wood needs a hero) and then reading it again makes it even better.

I love this.

I want the finalists to have some time to enjoy being on the short list, and of course give the readers a chance to weigh in on which entry they would choose.

Final results will be posted tomorrow (Monday 9/28) around noon...I think. (I love to torment you!)

Update 12:47pm Monday 9/28.

This was a toughie this week. Nine very good entries made the finals, and some damn good ones didn't too.

After thinking about this over night and re-reading today, I'm coming back to the entry that made me gasp with delight when I first read it.

The winner is  A. Valez, Finalist #9. 

I love this entry because it's funny, a complete story, requires some background from the reader, and doesn't ruin the joke at the end. (That's hard to avoid sometimes in the writer's zeal to make sure the reader gets it.)

A.Valez if you'll email me with your mailing address I'll send you the ARC of Six of Crows (unless you'd rather have something else)

Thanks to all who took the time to enter. I really enjoy reading your work even if it doesn't get a mention or a selection (in other words, please don't stop entering JD Paradise!)

Congrats to the finalists for their amazing work!

UPDATE: A. Valez is Canadian! I know, who could believe such a thing about her!  She'll get a copy of Six of Crows, but the ARC and it's spiffy package will go to the OTHER winner:

(8) Eve Messenger 10:32pm

Eve, if you'll send me your mailing address, I'll send you the prize. If by some chance you are Canadian, we'll meet at the border, ok?


Week in Review

Welcome to the week that was.

During last week's review comment column Julie M. Weathers referred to losing her work in some sort of horrible computer meltdown. I weep bitter tears at the thought of some of those novels lost pretty much forever.

And let me say this about backup: it's really hard to beat an actual paper copy. I know they told us we would be in the electronic age and paper would be a relic of the past but I still like real copies of  things. Things like contracts. Addendums to contracts. Copies of checks. I have it all electronically too so I can send copies quick as a wink, but if the world falls apart, I've still got your novel. And your financial records.

Lance asked  about Miss TidyPaws the Blog tender who keeps her ice cream in alpha order:
Is the alphabetical order for ice cream necessary because the manufacturers misspell chocolate?

I may have had a run of bad spelling last week, but I think chocolate is spelled correctly on my ice cream

and Panda In Chief made me laugh out loud with this:
I am now picturing the Pope joining in with the Friday dance-a-thon, showing off his swing moves with Janet.
Wouldn't that have been GREAT??

I guess the next question would be: what CD would we choose for the Pope to dance to?

On Monday, we turned to the question of whether politically conservative authors have a harder time getting published.

DLM said exactly what I was thinking:
This is the only place on Teh Intarwebs I would dare to read the comments after a post like this. This community is exceptional.

Yes, you are. I often say it's the comments that make this blog what it is, and I mean it.

I love what Adele said:
I'm a little surprised at the number of posters who want their agent to share their values, worldviews or political affiliations. I'd want an honest agent who shares my devotion to furthering my career. Period.

Politics is a very sticky wicket and Julie M. Weathers pointed out one instance where an agent really shot herself in the hanging chad:


"But back to the question at hand: I'm sure there are some agents who might take politics into account when choosing a client."

Why, yes, there are.

An agent boldly demanded on twitter last year, "If you belong to this party, just stop following me right now!"

I didn't belong to the party. I don't belong to any party, but I stopped following her. It's none of her business what political party a prospective client belongs to. If she's that hardcore, I don't want to deal with her in any fashion.

Good to know this agent is an idiot now rather than find out later. Back in my early days I was hired to close up the office of a literary agent who died after fifty years in the business. Talk about eye opening!  One of the most interesting things to see though was that she repped books that had very Christian evangelical bent, and the lady herself was Jewish.  Her clients LOVED her (calling them to relay the news of her death was an emotional experience, let me tell you.)  I wondered at this odd pairing at the time, but soon realized the authors didn't want a minister. They wanted an agent.

On Tuesday we talked publishing terms again, this time wrestling with "what is previously published"

Dena Pawling asked
Janet, I'm curious why you [and/or other agents] won't look at previously published material. Is it because the editors/publishers you sell to, won't buy it?

It's easier to sell books that don't have a track record. Generally books that have already been published haven't sold more than a few hundred copies. Pitching that to an editor requires some fancy footwork on why this amazing novel and gung ho author with a crap sales record will be a good risk.

Craig said:
Decent Agents (not the money grubbers)

Wait! WAIT! I am nothing if not a mercantile capitalist shark. Money grubbing is NOT the insult you think it is!

Then Julie M. Weathers diverted me with a link to this book of maps

I ordered two copies of the book.
One is for me.
One I'm holding in reserve but I'd give it to His Holiness if he expressed interest.
But I'm also thinking of making it the prize in a writing contest. The winner might have to come wrest it from my clutches though.

On Wednesday the talk turned to evaluating agencies, rather than agents:

Her Grace, the Duchess of Kneale said:
I confess annoyance when I find a rather stark and uninformative agency Web site--and by that I mean little more than an agency name and contact address. At the very least I'd like an agent bio with some professionally useful info (ie "I have 20 years experience, rep romance, don't rep biographies.") and a client list of some sort.

Well, that sent me scrambling to check out my various bios hither and yon. And that's sort of the problem: there are about 20 of them at last count. Keeping them updated is one of those things that is never at the top of the priority list. That's why I try to keep mine very general. I don't want to have to change my bio if some of the specifics change every couple month.  Marginally uninformative is easier to maintain.

I understand and agree with your point and in a better world, I'd have the same bio listed in every single place, and a list of all the places it appears so I could update in the blink of an eye. It's not a better world.

Donnaeve was a bit off topic, but still, this was interesting:
Guess what happened to moi? I WROTE A SYNOPSIS and I liked it.

On Thursday we talked about how to evaluate a smallpublisher

Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli asked
Thank you for this and for those links. I've copied and saved the contract examples. I've never heard of 'control of characters.' Do you, kindest queen of Sharks, know of any authors who lost control over their characters.

The first and most obvious way to lose control of your characters is if the publishing contract transfers copyright from the author to the publisher. A book contract should never do that. The word LICENSE is imperative. A license to publish a book (ie permission to publish a book) should specify a period of time and the territory covered. Copyright transfer isn't permission to publish it's transferring ownership.

Second way is to have an unending contract. That means no reversion clause, no out of print clause, no termination clause. Without those specifications, a publisher can hold on to the rights to publish the book in perpetuity.  And if it's a really dreadful contract it might just not be the book, but the characters, setting, and time period. 

Many of you mentioned work for hire. Generally a work for hire does NOT involve an author selling their own novel; rather they are writing a novel within parameters of an existing series. Star Trek and Star Wars novels are classic examples of work for hire.  The authors who write those novels do not control the copyright for the books.

When Michael Connelly said he was "getting his rights back" I can assure you without even looking at his contract that he meant when the license expires, not that he'd actually transferred ownership of Bosch.

We talk about "getting rights back" a lot, but it refers to the period of time of the license running out.

As to the author who created an entire series, including characters, in a work for hire, I can't comment on that because I'm not familiar with it. My sense is that some terminology is being used in ways that are unclear....but again, I don't know.

DLM picked up on my point about book pricing and asked:
I find #5 especially arresting, in our list above, because it's hard not to wonder if some authors don't look at high prices and think "Yeah! I am worth $32.50!" before the dismay sets in ... Have you had to talk any authors down on expectations like that before?

Generally the only time I talk to my authors about book pricing, we're talking about ebooks. And that's a whole 'nother kettle of kvetch.

A publisher who lists novels at $32.50 is most likely a publisher I'm not working with. That kind of price makes the book less attractive to libraries, and all but the most fervent of retail buyers (mom, grandma, people trying to get into your pants.)   (Non-fiction book prices are different...and ask me how much I paid for the latest Bill Vollman novel)

High retail price is not a deal breaker but you really need to know where your market is when considering a publisher who does that. For authors who sell 80% of their books in ebook format or trade paper, a high hardcover price doesn't matter as much. If your first 500 buyers are libraries, it matters a lot.

This is info I give clients, but generally it's me telling, not us discussing.

On Friday, the Six of Crows writing contest was posted. Results for that will be up on Monday.

Just a bit more than a week to go until Bouchercon in Raleigh. I know Colin Smith is going (have given his photo to all security personnel along with kale detectives.)

Kale detective

 Are any other blog readers heading to Raleigh? Let me know!

Sadly, His Holiness did not stop by the office, but we were prepared if he did.

 Have a great week!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Six of Crows Writing contest

To celebrate the publication of the new Leigh Bardugo series, let's have a writing contest!

Prize is this ARC in the amazing winged-box! Trust me, this is very cool, You want this!

The usual rules apply:

1. Write a story using 100 words or fewer.

2. Use these words in the story:


3. You must use the whole word, but that whole word can be part of a larger word. The letters for the
prompt must appear in consecutive order. They cannot be backwards.
Thus: spy/spyglass is ok, but spy/soupy is not

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

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

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

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

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

8. It's ok to tweet about the contest generally.
Example: "I just entered the flash fiction contest on Janet's blog and I didn't even get a lousy t-shirt"

8. Please do not post anything but contest entries. (Not for example "I love Felix Buttonweezer's entry!")

Contest opens: Saturday 9/26/15 at 10am

Contest closes: Sunday 9/27/15 at 10am

Questions? Tweet to me @Janet_Reid
Ready? SET?

Not yet!


Rats! Too late!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

How to Evaluate a Small Publisher

1. Ask to see the boilerplate contract.

A. Lloyd Jassin has a list of things that should be in a contract.
B. Morse, Barnes-Brown, Pendleton also has one

There are lots of places to find lists of red flags in contracts.
C. EPIC has one here 
D. The Authors Guild has one here
E. The amazing and invaluable Victoria Strauss has a great resource here.

2. Ask if the terms are negotiable
That means the publisher will negotiate with you or an agent or a contract review specialist to change the terms of the contract either by deleting clauses, amending clauses, adding clauses and/or changing royalty rates.

If a publisher says s/he doesn't negotiate, you've got a big red flag.

3. Look at the books they're publishing
Do they look professional? Trust your instincts here. You've read books, you've held books in your hands, you can recognize when one looks cheap and poorly designed. What they are publishing now is probably what your book will look like too. I will freely confess I am a book snob. Maybe you aren't.

4. Is the only way to buy books through the publisher's website?
Most readers don't like giving their credit card information to a site they don't know or use often. If the only way to buy books from this publisher is on their own website, that's a problem.

A.  Are books for sale on Amazon and BN. com?
Verify. And check the prices. The LIST price, not this discounted price.

B. Are the books listed at Ingram and Baker & Taylor?If they're not, your chance to get into bookstores and libraries other than as a special order is close to zero.

5. Look for the price of the books.
Are hardcovers more than $25.00
Are trade paperbacks  more than $15.00
Are Ebooks more than 9.99

If the books are overpriced (I didn't say over valued so lets not open that tin of gummy bears ok?) you've got a problem.

6. How long has the publisher been in business?
One of my ironclad rules is not to be first. Let the new publisher learn those first hard lessons on someone else's client. I like to be third. Or tenth.

Has the publisher been in business less than five years? That's a brand new publisher since publishing is a very long lead industry.

You know who discovered that the hard way? Amazon. They knew a lot about selling books, but selling books and publishing books are two VERY different things. They had a lot of money and some very smart people but they still had a bumpy road the first few years.

7.  Is the focus of their website writers or readers?
If it's writers, they're not using their website to promote their product. A publisher should be focused on their product: books. If the website is largely about how to become one of their authors, how to query etc, that's a problem.

A lot of small publishers do very well. They know their business and they work very hard.
I've sold books to a goodly number of them.

Some aren't.

Make sure you can tell the difference.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Query Question: agencies not agents

 I've been researching agents until my file is bulging and arranged by best fit to long shot, but there is still something eluding my research, and that is the Agency itself.

A good many are venerable and thus, able to be researched.  Should the happy day arrive when I find representation, I would feel relatively certain the Agency or its agents won't be imploding the day after the ink dries.  This is not the case with new(er) agencies, agencies that post elevator music with their opening page (please don't) or where little or no information is available.  There's a surprisingly large amount of that.

As a venerable agent with a well-established Agency, you see from the inside of your industry.  Can you offer a bit of guidance where Agencies themselves remain a mystery. 

Since anyone can hang out a shingle and call themselves an agent (or agency) you're wise to understand that some vetting is very much in order.

BUT, I caution you about assuming all venerable agencies have a spiffy electronic footprint. That is not always the case. Some very good agencies have a very modest presence on the web and you'd be foolish to disdain them for that reason.

Look at who they represent. Google the authors and books. Look at who publishes those books.

The best way to distinguish between an established agent /agency who has a terrible electronic presence and a new agent/agency who has such limited experience you might think twice about querying them: how they talk about queries.

If an agency has almost no information about sales, and no address posted, and isn't trying to entice  you to query with statements about how they love authors, you've probably run in to an agent that simply isn't looking for new clients.  (Phoebe Larmore comes to mind here)

If an agency has no information about sales, no address listed and is chockablock FULL of ways to query, instructions on querying, and essays on how much they love authors, you've run in to an agency that probably doesn't have a lot of sales.

In general you want an agency that's been around for a while. My preference is for agencies that are not sole proprietors but many very good agents have solo practices. 

Remember,  agenting is not an entry level job.

If you're evaluating an agency, look at where the agents started their publishing career. Look at how long they have been in publishing. 

If that kind of information is not on their otherwise chatty website, it's fair to assume they don't want you to know cause it's not reassuring info. In other words, they didn't have a previous job, or they've been in publishing for five minutes.

There's almost no way to fireproof yourself from an agent or agency imploding but you can certainly ask some questions that might give you a heads up.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

What is "previously published"

I'm following a large group of women writers on Facebook, and enjoy the supportive and interesting posts. Almost every day, someone posts a question regarding placing any part of their WIP online, whether it's for feedback from an online critique group, or an excerpt on their blog, as to whether or not this constitutes "previously published" and hurts their chances of ever getting a publisher. Is this true? I sure hope not, but then, I don't know, and would appreciate your thoughts.

The idea that putting something on the internet hurts your chances of getting published is WRONG.
For proof of that:

As you no doubt know, this book sold so many copies, the publisher gave every single person in the company a year end bonus (and it wasn't $12.50 either.)

There are a couple things that will help you here:

1. A publishing contract template often does say "material has not been previously published" BUT that clause can be changed or deleted as needed. Agents negotiate that stuff ALL the time.

2. Many magazines or contests prohibit previously published material from being submitted. That is DIFFERENT than selling a book in that contest submission guidelines are NOT negotiated. You have to follow them exactly. They will spell out what "previously published means" and it may vary by contest or site.

3. Some agents will not look at previously published material.  I'm one of them. When I say this, I mean books that you've offered for sale, with an ISBN on it. I do not mean books you've posted on your website for free.  If I have any questions about this, I'll ask you.

The problem with posting your work to the internet is that it falls flat. The EL James example I used above did NOT fall flat. It blew up so fast she should have used TNT not EL.

Shorthand for "your book flopped worse than spinach flavored ice cream" is "you've already published it.

And by flopped I mean: no interest, no comments, no sales. No nothing.

If you want to demonstrate your writing chops on your blog, write something for the website: book reviews, essays, odes to librarians, sonnets to booksellers, quatrains to the QueryShark. Leave your novel off your webpage.

Public critique sites can be useful, but I MUCH prefer private groups even if they only meet online. You have much more control over who sees your work, and a much better sense of the value of their input.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Do conservative authors have a harder time getting repped or sold?

Senator Ted Cruz complains when he’s kept off the New York Times bestseller list, accused of bulk sales, and then proves there were no bulk sales.

Bill O’Reilly complains that he can’t get a Publishers Weekly blurb for his latest, Killing Reagan, despite the fact that his Killing Patton was the top nonfiction title of 2014.

From your perch, or shall we say depth, is there an institutionalized bias against conservative authors in the publishing industry? If a lit agent agrees to represent a book by a conservative author, do they risk the disdain of many of their peers? If Donald Trump sought representation for a new book, would many lit agents decline on ideological grounds, even if they stood to make a small fortune on the deal? 

It's interesting that you use the word institutionalized to describe the bias you think you've illustrated. Publishing isn't an institution, it's an industry. Some of us may belong in an institution, but nonetheless this is not some sort of lockstep monolith.

Yes it is true that the people who work in this industry tend to skew left in their politics. Since my politics is more middle of the road, that makes for some interesting bar conversation. I can usually stop everyone dead in their tracks with the bald statement that I am a registered Republican (and I am.)

Ted Cruz may have been unfairly blocked from getting his NYT Bestseller badge but he merely joins a LONG list of authors who have that complaint.  The NYT list is based on orders, not sales, and data is gathered from bookstores of the Times' choosing. That list is not published, nor is it widely known. Thus if Ted Cruz is bulk buying from Powells in Portland, Amazon isn't going to have a clue and Harper (Cruz's publisher) wouldn't know either.

The reason bulk buys are discounted for the list is that indeed, an author DID do this some 25 years ago. I'm iffy on the details but it was quite the scandal at the time.

As to Bill O'Reilly, he's just wrong about this, like he is about a lot of things. I've included the link to the PW piece that explains very calmly why that is so.

And honestly if those two rabblerousers are what you base your argument on, here's the counterargument:

Ann Coulter.
She's been publishing books with a major publisher for years.

And so has Donald Trump.

Let me remind you of one cold hard fact: publishers LOVE to make money. If there is "institutional bias" of any sort in publishing it's for making not losing money.

What Cruz and O'Reilly are complaining about is what EVERY author of every political stripe complains about: they didn't get their props.

I have no idea what anyone else would do if Donald Trump wanted a new agent. I'd say no because I prefer to work with people who are actually interested in being writers, not demagogues.

There is no political litmus test to pass here for becoming a client. I have clients who voted for Mitt Romney. I have clients who pounded the pavement for President Obama. I have clients who'd register as anarchists if such a thing was allowed. What they all have in common is they write REALLY REALLY well...and they were robbed of their spot on the NYT list.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Week in Review 9/20/15

Welcome to the week in review for 9/20/15. Egad, where is September going?

During last week's review donnaeve followed up on our discussion about geographical accuracy asking:

The setting is the North Carolina mountains, specifically Jackson County which has the Tuckasegee River running through it. I have all that in there, but I've created a fictional area, a branch off the Tuckasegee called Stampers Creek - which uses the last name of my MC's family. Plenty of folks have named their piece of land or path or trail using their surname. This is okay to do, in my story, isn't it? I.e. no different in my opinion than the fact my characters don't exist either. I don't know why I can't seem to decide, given the responses, if it is or isn't.

As a reader, this would make sense to me. It's authentic if not totally accurate. Sometimes what feels authentic isn't accurate at all: our sense of what criminal trials are like is based on television and anyone who's been involved in a trial at any level will tell you that TV trials are bunk.

And as a side note, I had a brief moment of panic when I wondered if I'd been misreading Tuskegee all these years and it really was Tuckasegee. Nope. Two DIFFERENT places.

Pharosian asked about made up places:

But I have a question: How does the importance of geographic accuracy pertain in a work like Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials? In that case, he set much of the story in and around the University of Oxford, but in a fictional college within the university. Sue Grafton made up the town of Santa Teresa for her alphabet murder series. And Lake Wobegon doesn't really exist in Minnesota. There are many such examples where the author wasn't sloppy or lazy, and yet chose to make fictional alterations to an existing place. What is your feeling about instances like those?

As a reader, I'm totally fine with made up places. I only get hot under the collar if you set something in New York City and talk about apartments on Central Park East.

Adele asked a really good question:

Thinking about the geography thing. In my original post, the situation was that the contest entrant had mentioned an area in British Columbia and referred to it as a desert. Well, it is a desert. It gets about 1/4" of rain a year and has sagebrush, rattlesnakes and scorpions. The contest judge did not know that, wrote "Canada doesn't have deserts" and carried on with a diatribe about how important it is to get your geography correct.

So here's the thing. Obviously, the geographic fact of this desert was not known to the judge and also probably not known to agents, editors, and most potential readers. So as a writer, do you think the contest entrant should have tried to explain more fully? Perhaps working in the info that lots of people don't know about the desert? Or was she right to just assume that if she says desert, there's a desert?
Clearly the judge (and I really hope it wasn't me) has forgotten that you really want to verify stuff before you rant about it. I didn't know Canada had deserts but since I know Central Oregon and Eastern Washington are both high desert I'd have checked a map to see if the Canadian location was due north of there.

It's always troublesome when someone judging a contest or reading your query has her facts wrong. There's no way I can think of to avoid it. Even the best of us (or should I say the nit pickiest among us) has made a bunch of mistakes on this.

If you have a situation that no one really knows about (lady bronc riders!) you might include a note that says these are based on real women with a footnote or citation. But generally you just need to write something that makes us believe there is in fact water on Mars.

I mentioned that I welcomed notice about the typos (which I do, and thank you to all who helped with those this week) but hands off the grammar/syntax. That brought this from kdjames:

It's a very small, almost minuscule, consolation that I wasn't the only one who oh-so-helpfully [ahem] offered suggestions on how to re-write your email response re fulls.
I actually DID ask for that help since it was clear that it needed some work. What I meant was people writing to correct something like "umbrage at this callous reception of his magnanimity muttering after him." since the syntax is grammatically wobbly but on purpose for style.

And so far, you've all been very helpfully mute on those liberties I've taken.

And Panda in Chief brought up one of my favorite movies of all time Trouble In Mind. I haven't seen it for years, but I always remember the baby named Spike. And the liberties they took with the Monorail indeed…but it was set in Rain City, so I guess we overlook it, right?

On Monday we talked about using real people in historical fiction:

There was a lot of great discussion about research, accuracy and anachronisms.

I couldn't spell libel right to save my life.

On Tuesday the topic turned to how much platform a novelist needs at the query stage.

the answer is none.

Nicole Roder
brought up a very interesting point:

This post is a major relief, thank you! However, I'm still confused, and I wonder if the rest of the agenting world agrees with you on this. (I realize you're the QOTKU, but still.) I've seen other advice online that says that writers need either a blog, Twitter, Facebook, or some other social media presence at the querying stage, and that we must update it regularly, or agents won't be interested.

and this even more troublesome stat:
This is bunk.

I think it's very easy for agents at conferences or on Twitter to make bold statements like that, but if you actually did a study of manuscripts read/manuscripts signed you'd find a far different story.

I simply can't imagine a terrific book coming in and an agent not signing the author because they don't have a website. Maybe I'm wrong. If I am, those agents are utter idiots. You can always build a platform. Hell, I can have a website up and running for you in three hours, and that's taking time to make sure all the words are spelled right.

As to that stat of of 62% of agents changing their mind, I call bullshit on that too. Now, if you were to ask me if I've googled someone who's queried me, and found weird ass stuff that makes me NOT want to offer, sure. But I do that stuff BEFORE I request a full. Any agent who invests five -ten hours in reading a full manuscript and then does rudimentary web research and finds a nutjob will only do that once. It's a total waste of time.

I've googled my fair share of writers but often times it's to see if they are as nutty as they sound on paper.

The bottom line is again: write something amazing. That's the ONLY thing you can do better than anyone else. Write something I want to read and we'll figure out the rest later.

And remember that some of these agents making this broad pronouncements are young and repeating what they think is true. Give them a couple more years and they'll tell you stuff based on their own experiences instead.

On Wednesday we talked about inventory novels

Julie M Weathers told us about this inventory novel:

Years ago I wrote a suspense novel called DANCING HORSES. It was about a young cutting horse farm manager who was also a rodeo bareback rider. He'd given up rodeo to manage the farm. Then champion horses started dying mysteriously and he suspected they weren't all accidents so he loaded up his horses and quit.

They weren't. The owner was involved with the mob and had hired a horse hit man, yes there is such a thing, so he could collect on the insurance.

Long story short. One of the MC's horses was a colt the owner had given him that was an embryo transfer from a champion mare. At the time AQHA only allowed owners to register one foal from embryo transfer. Since this colt had been born with a crooked leg, he gave it away. The vet cast it and it was fine. The colt the owner kept had zero talent. The colt he gave away was on his way to becoming a champion so the owner swapped out the horses and altered the markings via freeze branding.

A string of murders ensues to cover up the mess. Colton has hooked up with two Cajun cowboys and disappeared on the rodeo circuit and hit men are on his trail. yada yada.

I love the story. Love the characters. Then AQHA changes the rules so owners can register all foals from embryo transfer. That kind of kills a main plot point.

So, yes, timing is everything. DANCING HORSES will never see the light of day even if I felt like finishing it again. It was good practice.

To which I say: never let the facts get in the way of a good story. You know how many readers are going to know about how many foals can be registered from an embryo transfer? About ten. And they all read this blog.

and Rob Ceres had a very good idea:

Julie, not sure why the rules of today should govern your book. Just set in 2006 or whenever works! Sounds like a lot of interesting and unique plot opportunity here.

In other words, once again, Julie is tormenting us by telling us about books we want to read.

Adib Khoram asked

I'm curious what constitutes "inventory." Are manuscripts "inventory" before they're finished—that is, is a rough draft, or half of a rough draft, inventory? Or are they still concepts until the author has typed "THE END?"

I don't really have a definition for inventory. When I'm talking to clients about inventory, generally I mean novels I can read for possible submission. That would mean finished at the very least.

On Thursday I told you about an author signing event with "That Guy", the one with the ideas you'll write and then split the money with.

Stephen Parks asked

Janet, I’m curious what your author would have done if you weren’t present. Do you go through scenarios like this in advance?

All my clients have blanket permission to send all such inquiries to me. They're also told to send all blurb requests through me, and any requests to read manuscripts. Many of them handle these matters on their own of course, but I consider it part of my job to be there for this as needed.

arstoneauthor asked:
I have to ask, have any encounters with "that guy" resulted in a deal?

I can't imagine they have. I have never heard of any of them getting past the "hey, thanks for thinking of me, but I really don't do collaborations" stage with anyone. Generally writers are going to collaborate with people they know, or people recommended to them by an agent or editor.

Escape Artist Linda (and oh my god, what a great name!) offered this:

I'm not going to jump on the bandwagon here. The guy was excited. He got carried away.
Who hasn't done that at one time in their lives? Who hasn't made a little bit of an ass of themselves? We all have. I would rather have naivety out there and the enthusiasm of trying, then those who don't spark or try anything. So, I'm not going to diss the poor guy, for having his "cray-cray" moment, but I'm going to ask all of you to remember yours. Oh yes, I can see you blush. We've all got something to blush over. Remember it.

I think your sympathies are misplaced here Escape. This wasn't an over zealous fan. My god, we've ALL got those moments of shame, myself included.

No, this guy wanted to enter into a business partnership with someone he didn't know, in a field for which he had done no research and had not the faintest clue about how it worked. That isn't even hubris, that's just delusion.

Naivety and enthusiasm are great, but most of us recognize when that's ALL we have to offer, and we do some research, ask questions, or generally just hang around with people who know a lot more till we get some stuff figured out.

The first time I had a social engagement with two agents who were much more experienced than I was, I spake not a word the entire meal other than "please" "thank you" "I''ll have the same thing" and "wow, tell me more."

I knew NOTHING compared to these two and I kept my mouth shut for about a year till I had at least learned enough not to sound delusional.

Why we know Julie M Weathers is a southern lady:

When people tell me I should write this book for them, we'll split the money and get rich, I put my arm around their shoulder and smile. "Oh, honey. That's a great idea. I just don't think I could do justice to it though. This story is all yours. It lives in your heart. Truly. I believe you are the only one who could bring it to life the way it deserves. I know you can do this. Just sit down and write for fifteen minutes every day. You'll be amazed at what you accomplish."

"You know, I think you're right."

"Oh, yes. I'm sure I am. I just know these things."

On Friday an author asked about exclusives, and I used the post to remind readers to listen to all advice with a degree of caution (even advice on this blog)

ProfJMarie(JanetRundquist) put it a lot more elegantly:

There is no one right way for all things.

And LeahB asked a very practical question:

So how would you exclusively query a "no response means no" agent? Put querying on hold for the (usual) 6-8 week window they give themselves? Or hope that by saying "exclusive" they'll respond?

thinks she's going to Carkoon for this (but she's wrong)

I *didn't* take Janet's advice and agreed to an exclusive R&R and I think I made the right decision.

(I am actually, literally withering away to dust as I wait {it really hasn't been that long. I ought to toughen up}. Despite all my big talk about sending my little manuscript unicorn to find the right pasture, I miss it and I want it to come back and snuggle me.)

AND. As painful as the waiting is, I still think that I made the right decision in doing this R&R exclusively. Said agent put a lot of time and thought into helping me fix what was broken in my MS, and it seems like it's only right to let the person who took the time to work with me have the first crack at the book.

Off to Carkoon...

I think letting an agent have first crack at a revise and resubmit is quite alright. Obviously you don't let them have it exclusively for endless amounts of time, but if you've revised on their notes, giving them a headstart seems fair.

I don't ask for exclusives even on R&Rs because it just takes me so damn long to read things.

On Saturday the question was about holding out for big bucks advance

Gayle Carline makes an excellent point:

As a self-pubbed writer, I feel that this person would not do any better in the self-publishing arena than in seeking an agent/publisher. Yes, any yahoo can write something and throw it on Amazon, but if you want to treat your books as a business, you need to invest in their quality. That means hiring an editor (to touch your baby!), hiring a cover designer (to interpret your baby!), having beta readers give you their opinion of your baby (how dare they?!), etc. In other words, you have to make your books as professional as if they'd come from a publishing house.

Then you place them carefully on Amazon and other sites, and what happens? Strangers read them and POST their opinions as reviews. The horror! (Please note, I am using my sarcasm font.)

Miri Baker has my new favorite word with this:
I get the sense that OP also doesn't trust other people to offer constructive feedback on their wordbaby, either.

Wordbaby! I'd seen furbaby for pets before but never wordbaby! Honestly if you think of your novel as your wordbaby, you'll need to let it sit for awhile till it's at least a wordtween before you send it out. In other words: have developed a sense that the book does need to venture out in the world or it will just stagnate to death there in your computer. I'm not going to tell you your baby is ugly, but I am going to tell you if your tween needs to shape up her on her spelling tests.

Angie Brooksby Arcangioli brought up one of the parts of the post I also found troublesome:

...but at least I'll retain my rights From what I understand, agents deal well at negotiating all kinds of rights for their clients. Which rights are OP considering?

Let me be VERY clear: a publishing contract is a license of rights, NOT A SALE. Writers RETAIN those rights. They OWN them. They are licensing the exploitation of those rights as specified in their contract. The idea that you "give up" or "lose" rights is VERY misleading. Of course, if you didn't negotiate the contract very well, or you didn't have an agent or a lawyer, maybe you did give up your rights. My clients do not.

This just underscores my point that unless you understand how publishing actually works, you'll want to be careful about who you listen to and what you believe.

Which brings us to the end of the week and the very sad news that Jackie Collins has died. Her novels brought a great deal of pleasure to  many readers over the years, and that is, I think, one of the best things you can say about any author.

This coming week, His Holiness arrives in New York. We've got an extra chair for him here in the office in case he wants to stop by and discuss some book ideas.

Subheader of the week;

Ah, writers. We're such a charming mix of towering arrogance and crushing self-doubt. It's a wonder more of us aren't killed in our sleep.--kdjames