Thursday, April 17, 2014

Have a blessed Holy Week

I'll be off work from Thursday-Sunday. I'm hoping the Lamb of God thing remains a metaphor, cause I've already had a problem with sheep in church.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Query Question: can I lie about the book in my query?

How close must the query match the manuscript? I know this must seem like a stupid question, but I've been receiving query assistance from a literary intern (1), and he gave advice that I haven't seen elsewhere. I need to confirm it before I start sending out my query.

My manuscript mostly stands alone, but is the first of a potential series. Because of this, the plot of the sequel is *vaguely* hinted at in the stakes of the query. I asked the intern if an agent would be PO'd if something I mention in the query doesn't show up in the manuscript. He told me that things can be fudged in a query,(2)  and mentioned that one thing in his own query was an outright lie(3). He had revised and didn't bother to fix the query to match (he was signed by an agent). He said if the query is good and clearly for the same book, and if the book is good and similar to the query, no one cares about specifics. I'm hoping his advice is correct.

Can you "fudge" a few specifics in a query?

you can do anything you want in a query up to and including query for a fiction novel. The real question is what's at stake when you do something idiotic like...lie?

The purpose of a query is to entice the agent to read the manuscript. If an agent reads the manuscript thinking one thing is going to happen, and it doesn't, that's a pretty big thud.  Is that something you want to risk?

On the other hand why are you vaguely hinting about anything in a query? The stakes in your query are the stakes in this novel, the one you're querying. Not any other.

If you think you need to fudge a few specifics in your query, you need to fix the novel or the query or both. 

And I've got a few questions for you:

(1) what the hell is a literary intern? An intern at a literary agency?  This is the least informed and experienced person at an agency. I'm pretty sure it's the least right person to be asking for advice.

(2) Unless he's making the decisons on what's signed to the agent's list, he's not in a positiion to tell you this.

(3) oh great. Insert image of eye-roll here.  Even if this is true, it's absolutey TERRIBLE advice. He's mistaking HIS experience for the universal norm.  Well, that's typical of interns which is why (see #1)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Query Question: My comp is DaVinci Code

I'm querying a mystery/thriller MS and I'm having trouble finding comps because my real comp is The Da Vinci Code. I bet you just cringed. But the truth is that I was inspired to write my MS after reading Da Vinci Code.

Specifically, I loved the chase through Vatican City, Rome, and the surrounding countryside. I loved solving the clues and exploring the merits of a conspiracy theory. I wanted to mirror these same aspects in my MS. So I found a different conspiracy theory and spent several years researching it. I've made up my own math and science clues and run them past multiple co-workers who hold PhDs in math. I set my story in a foreign country and traveled there myself as well as spent days researching satellite maps and interviewing people from that country.

Knowing we aren't supposed to compare our work to a bestseller like Da Vinci Code or Twilight or Harry Potter, I searched high and low for a different comp. I've spent days on Goodreads creating shelves and looking for recommendations that are similar to Da Vinci Code. I've gone through half a dozen library sites where librarians suggest books similar to Da Vinci Code. I've ordered and read books that seem like a promising comparable because it was a thriller set in modern-day with realistic historic/scientific clues to solve, but inevitably find the book is derivative of other Templar/religious conspiracies (my MS's conspiracy is neither) and/or the quality is just not as good as Da Vinci Code.

So for the sake of having a newer, not-as-popular comp, do I compare my work to a substandard derivative? I've sent out a dozen queries that uses the Da Vinci Code comp, and gotten 6 rejections within a week. I'm afraid agents are writing off my query as soon as they get to that comp.

Your problem isn't that your comp title is The DaVinci Code. It's that your book sounds like a knockoff of one of the biggest bestsellers of all time from TEN YEARS AGO.  Agents were looking for DVC knockoffs in 2002, when the publisher was inundating the world with advance reading copies of DVC and everyone knew it was going to be huge.

Two years ago everyone wanted the next 50 Shades of Gray.

Two years from now everyone will want the next Patrick Lee. (I devoutly hope!)

In other words:The DaVinci Code ship has sailed and you will never row fast enough to keep up.

The good news for you though is that you are no longer limited to the narrow visioned agents and editors who want the Next Big Thing.  You can publish this on your own, find an audience and make us all look shortsighted.

Or you can write your next book, pop this one in your steamer trunk for later when you're a famous writer and your publisher will be glad to publish it.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Query question: link or list?

My question - I won a national Canadian fiction award for a book published in 2012 by a small press. (It was actually the Canadian Authors Association Award for Fiction <> ).

The award is not well known in the US, but it's totally legit. Is it okay to include a hyperlink to the award in a query? Or should I just list the award in the second to last paragraph and allow the agent to look it up?

First, congrats!

Second, I'm not a huge fan of hyperlinks in email for two reasons: 
1. my email management program finds them too spicy and often spits them into the spam filter (Priscilla eats anything) 
2. it offends my sense of aesthetics (this is just me, and clearly I'm deranged from paint fumes)

I'd list the award but not the link.  Remember though: that's my opinion not an ironclad publishing standard.



Sunday, April 13, 2014

And you thought *I* was harsh!

Gossamer the editor cat renders his opinion

Herewith the novel you sent me for consideration:

Not enough cats.
Too many dogs. 

Revise. Resend. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Friday, April 11, 2014

Query Question: More on comp titles

I've seen some agents say they like to see TITLE meets TITLE or "this would appeal to fans of ..." and some who don't like comparisons at all. When I think of my MS, immediately two things come to mind, a book and a TV show. What do you think of using both to show that I know who my book would appeal to? Or would using a TV show be a big no-no?

I have a real aversion to using film and TV shows as comps. This is particular to me I know. The reason is that I don't have TV so a lot of times the comparison is useless to me. On the other hand I haven't read every book in the world (not for lack of trying) so sometimes those comps go over my head too.

I don't think it's cause for setting a query on fire to use a TV show as a comp, but I think it's smarter to use books.

The only big no-no in queries is bad writing.