Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Ask The Editor Free-For-All Today!

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It's back - The Ask the Editor Free-For-All

Last month's Ask the Editor Free-For-All drew a terrific response from our readers, with corresponding great answers from our editors. I counted 68 comments in all. Hopefully, the tradition will carry forth, bringing us even more wonderful questions and answers.

In case you're new to what's going on, this is where you get to ask those embarrassing questions you're dying to know the answers to, but don't want to sound silly asking them of an acquisitions editor or agent.

Here's how it works:

Today, and Every First Tuesday of the Month, The Blood-Red Pencil holds what we call the Ask the Editor Free-For-All. I scour e-groups beforehand, putting out a cry for likely guinea pigs; no, seriously, I mean candidates. Even if you don't see the call in one of my e-groups, you’re more than welcome to join in.

I’m sure many of you have questions you’d like to ask editors. Maybe you’re submitting a manuscript or thinking of submitting one, but are afraid to ask for an explanation of a fine point that really bothers you. You don’t want to sound like you don’t know the business, yet you’d really appreciate knowing what to do before you submit. Doing the wrong thing could mean rejection. Here’s your chance to get an answer before it’s too late.

Even if you haven’t reached the submission stage, a question or two might be hindering you from getting down to writing, or perhaps producing your best work.

We’re offering you a chance to put our mind at ease by solving some pesky problems beforehand. Ask and one of our able editors will answer.

To Submit A Question, Follow These Easy Steps:

Leave a comment in the comment section below. Make sure you include your name and blogspot or website not only for promo, but so we know you’re legit.

One or more of our editors will hop over during the day and answer your question in the comment section. If an editor feels your question needs a more lengthy explanation, you'll get a comment to the effect that an entire post will be devoted to the subject at a later date. If that's the case, you'll receive even more promotion. You may even be told where to send a jpeg of your book cover and/or yourself and a buy link.

If you wish to leave your e-mail address with your comment, you may, but it's not required. Because your question may require a follow-up, it wouldn't hurt if you do mention somewhere in your comment where you heard about our Ask the Editor Free-For-All. That way we can contact you so you don't miss the answer.

Remember to check back here not only for your answer, but also the answers to other people's questions. You never know if they could prove helpful as well. Since some are on Digest, questions and answers may carry on through Wednesday, and possibly Thursday.

As I mentioned before, don't be afraid that your question might seem silly. We all start somewhere. That's how we learn.
Okay, bring on the questions!
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Morgan Mandel
http://morganmandel.blogspot.com
http://ourlittlerascal.blogspot.com
http://facebook.com/morgan.mandel

63 comments :

  1. I queried several editors instead of agents. If a couple of editors responded that I need to find an agent, and they said where to find one (agentquery, query tracker), does this mean I'm getting closer to publication, or is this just an editor's version of a form rejection?

    Thank you
    http://sharonaustin.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. Sharon, more and more NY houses are only accepting material from an agent, which might have been what prompted the response you received. On the other hand, if the editors have done more than simply say, "Sorry, we only accept agented material" and given you tips on how to find one, it may mean they found your work deserving of publication. The best bet is to start that query process and see where it goes. Good luck.

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  3. Good evening from Australia,
    My question is. At conferences, when an author pitches to an editor,do you tell every author to send in their work? If not, what is the percentage that you request. Many thanks.

    Margaret

    mjljtanner@hotmail.com
    http://www.margarettanner.com/

    ReplyDelete
  4. I am a book reader and want to ask book writers do you ever watch a tv show and get a story line or idea from that? I always think of writers just sitting at a desk looking into the air for inspiration...lol

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  5. Hi Val,
    Hope this finds you well.
    Yes, as a published author, I do sometimes get a germ of an idea from watching a TV show, and as it churns around in my mind it expands until I have something really tangible that I can write about.

    Cheers
    Margaret

    http://www.margarettanner.com/

    ReplyDelete
  6. Val, I wish I had time to watch TV, but that seldom happens . . . so television is never my inspiration as a writer. (I speak only for myself in this case.)

    My inspiration comes from a wide variety of sources. Personal experience and the experiences of others I know can provide a wealth of storylines. Newspaper articles often inspire plots. People-watching can't be topped as a plethora of potential stories. Stressful or tragic events--mine or someone else's--can lead to incredible books that touch the hearts of readers. Soapboxes, aka issues about which I feel passionate, can evolve into great storylines. The bottom line for me is this: If I can look at a scene or situation in real life and ask, "What if . . . ," then I have a potential story. Does this answer your question?

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  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  8. Which is an easier sell, a series or a single title?

    http://www.redroom.com/members/fixnwrtr

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  9. Can you give a good description of urban fantasy and then a few examples of books in that genre? Contrast it with paranormal romance? Please?

    Thank you,
    Pamala

    http://pamalaknight.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hi-
    I'm a nature and landscape photographer and writer in Vermont, and I'm working on a book that doesn't fit any particular genre (other than non-fiction), though I feel it has a lot of potential. It's more of a portfolio piece for my photographic work, but I write about what I photograph as encouragement to others to explore their connection to the natural world-
    Any suggestions as to how I go about rustling up some interest in a book that doesn't necessarily 'fit a mold'?

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  11. I'm halfway through writing a mystery/satire. I have a published, un-agented children's series, but believe this new work may be best served by an agent.

    Is this the case? Do I need a complete ms before submitting to an agent?

    Thanks for your reply,

    http://marycunninghambooks.com

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  12. Margaret:
    I have organized many writers conferences and spoken with many agents about their practices. The definitive answer is...they differ. Some, hating interpersonal confrontation as much as the next guy, arrive already knowing they will ask everyone for their submission. In my experience, these agents rarely ask many questions, but simply listen to your pitch and hand you their card with a request for three chapters.

    Personally, I like the agents who choose not to market false hope. If they know the project isn't right for them I'd rather they say so--and I have had that happen. This one agent put no stock at all in the pitch process--he simply wanted us to arrive with cover letter and ten-page sample in hand and allow him to read. I even said, "This is it? You just want me to sit here?" and he said yes! He read the cover letter then skimmed the sample at a rate of about 8 seconds per page for some five pages before closing it. After commending my writing he told me the project wasn't for him, told me why, then offered a few suggestions for my query letter!

    This agent demonstrated what usually goes on behind closed doors--a breezy consideration of your work. They aren't trying to accept it, they are trying to rule it out and clear their desks. That's how important it is to hook him! He also exemplified the fact that in the end it isn't about the brilliance of your pitch, it's about the writing. And to assess your writing, they need that submission. Knowing that, many just ask for it.

    This is still an incredible opportunity, and the one you've been working toward. Many agents are not open to new authors unless you've been referred by a current client or unless they met you at a conference.

    So whether or not the invitation is handed out gratuitously, embrace it for the opportunity it is!

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  13. It's great that this is back again. I received such helpful information the last time, I knew I would be back.

    I have a question about POV. Well, actually two questions about the same WIP.

    Does a middle grade story need to be told entirely from a single POV, that of the main character? My critique partners have offered very positive feedback on my current WIP, but there are smaller portions of it where the MC is not present and the POV is from an adult. Is that okay?

    Also, I need some help with deep POV. It seems I'm not always hitting it in my WIP. Can you suggest any resources?

    Thanks. I truly appreciate your help.

    Cheryl

    cg20pm00(at)gmail(dot)com

    The Book Connection

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  14. Mark:
    I'm wondering if you have completed your market research thoroughly enough. I find it hard to believe that no published projects comparable to yours exist in the huge universe of coffee table and photography-based books, let alone inspirationals and devotionals. My first suggestion is to spend some more time at a huge bookstore.

    This is essential research for your proposal. Knowing right where it would sit on the bookstore shelf will boost your belief in the marketability of your project, and help you find the comparables that will convince an agent or publisher of the same. If your book is truly unique (and I cringe as I write that word, and do not suggest you use it in your pitch), you can say it combines the approaches of [photographer's work] and [writer's work].

    A photography-based book is expensive to produce. Since you are selling both photography and writing, and the project as a whole could be rejected for either one, everything will have to be top notch.

    You will have to prove a platform, meaning exhibitions and publications and awards for the photographs at the very least--and publication for your writing, or a reputation as a workshop teacher in this regard, wouldn't hurt, either. (Take Julia Cameron, for instance, whose series THE ARTIST'S WAY began with a series of popular workshops for which people were begging a written guide.)

    If you are starting from scratch as concerns your platform, I suggest submitting smaller pieces to magazines until you have a nice collection of publications to reference.

    Sounds like a beautiful book, though--good luck, and let us know what happens!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Hi,

    First, thanks to Morgan Mandel for sending out the email notice to all MWA members of this service!

    My question is, I have self-published several books with moderate success. I recently did a huge re-write of my first book, "Don't Talk to Strangers". I know I will need a new ISBN, but should I change the title also?

    Thanks,

    Jerry

    www.jerryhooten.com
    jerry@jerryhooten.com

    ReplyDelete
  16. Recently at the BRP, Patricia talked about finding and creating agent lists through Twitter. You can pick those up engaging in some of their conversations over there. For example, if you search the hashtags #memoir or #kidlit, you'll bring up all the comments that have been labeled that way, and discover all kinds of folks interested in these subjects - including agents and publishers. The same sort of scenario occurs at Facebook. Look at publisher websites and agent blogs. Often they have links to Facebook. Even if they don't, check at Facebook to see if they have accounts and see if you can add them to your list. Once you start "listening" to people and even interact with them in their updates, you get a real sense of the person - what they like, what ticks them off, and so forth. Don't underestimate this fine-tuning process in finding the right agent for you. It's a lot of work, but much more reasonable than shooting into the dark. And for heavens sake, don't piss and moan that nobody is paying any attention to you. I finally privately wrote one author that she was ruining any chances of engaging any normal person with her unpleasant tactics. I mean, who would want to work with a whiner like that? Finally, one of the best places to meet agents and publishers is at a conference. They won't necessarily ask for a manuscript (although some will so be ready) to take home with them, but get a business card and keep notes about what they did instruct you to do on the back. Then follow through. This game is as much about persistence as anything.

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  17. Ginger, what that instructor was saying is that when you add "he thought" (or similar words), you pull the reader out of the character's head.

    Here's an example of deep POV:
    Run! Get out of here. Jack's dead. There's no saving him. Get out, get out, get out before your head is laying next to his.

    We're in his head, we hear his thoughts, our adrenalin begins to race.

    This, on the other hand, takes us out of deep POV:
    Run! Get out of here. Jack's dead. There's no saving him, Mike thought. Get out, get out, get out before your head is laying next to his.

    Those added two words pull us out of his head and remind us we're reading.

    This is not to say it's always wrong to use "s/he thought," but you want your readers to stay immersed in the story and characters whenever possible.

    Helen
    Straight From Hel

    ReplyDelete
  18. On the subject of image-intense books (formerly called coffee table books;), there is new page-turning software coming out called Blio. It's free, and there is speculation that it will be much-used with the newer gadgets like the iPad for illustrated children's literature and photo-documentaries. This will be another option rather than actual printed books, most of which are manufactured off-shore because they're expensive to print. So new technology is definitely something to keep tabs on with niche books.

    Dani

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  19. J.M.: on whether or not a single title or series is easier to sell, I think that really depends on the genre and the needs of the publishing house. If you write thrillers or mysteries or some other genre in which series characters are prominent, and if this is your first novel, I suggest this: Write a novel that can stand alone, that shows satisfying character growth, but that leaves a window open for future development. Be prepared with an outline of the next few books in case the agent or publisher wants to know if you see series potential--but let them be the judge of that. It's hard enough to get a contract these days, let alone a three-book deal right off the bat. The "stand-alone with series potential" approach shows you are ready with more material that can capitalize on the success of your first book. A popular series can be a great boon to a publisher, although a tough investment to make up front.

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  20. Thank you for this opportunity to ask a question.
    Are agents (or publishers) likely to look at works by self-published authors? That is, books that are already in print. And if so, is it better to send a book rather than a manuscript?
    Thank you
    http://hobsonsbooks.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete
  21. Does it hamper or help a writer's saleability by writing in several genres? For instance, if an author writes romance, mainstream, literary, mystery, Victorian, etc., is that a help or a hindrance from a publisher's or editor's point of view?

    http://www.redroom.com/members/fixnwrtr

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  22. Ginger, what Helen said is absolutely right. When in the midst of a powerful or intense scene, the reader is envisioning the action/situation and should not be distracted. In fact, in any scene where the speaker can be easily identified, it's best not to use dialogue tags.

    Let's take this a step further. When you do find it necessary to identify the speaker, do it simply.
    "Mary said" works very nicely. It doesn't work nearly as well if you write "Mary said with a smile," "Joe said with a scowl," "Liz said with a sigh, shaking her head." This is telling the reader. Instead show the reader by the character's actions rather than through an extended dialog tag because this creates a much more effective scene and keeps the reader engaged instead of distracted.

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  23. J.M. Cornwell,

    This is an interesting question, and you may get a variety of answers. As a small publisher, I don't mind whether an author remains true to one genre or writes in several because my focus is on excellence in writing, not consistency of genre. As an editor, I again look for quality rather than genre. As a writer, I've already produced works in two genres, so I guess that speaks for itself.

    A number of well-known authors write in different genres. Take romance writer Nora Roberts, for example. She also writes as. J.D. Robb, and Wikipedia lists two more pen names: Jill March and Sarah Hardesty. Her other genres include fantasy and suspense. This suggests that a different pen name for different genres is a good idea. It also makes sense because some readers may love romance and hate suspense, so they need to know what genre they're buying--which they may not if you use the same name on everything you write. And yes, my mysteries are written under a different name than my women's fiction.

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  24. I am currently submitting a YA contemporary about a subject that is garnering media attention. Do publishers ever move more quickly to make a book available if there is unusually high interest in the topic? The usual two-year time period between acceptance and publication might mean a loss in buzz and sales.
    Thank you.
    www.karencoombs.com

    ReplyDelete
  25. Mary,

    Since I've chosen not go through an agent, I can't with any authority address the portion of your question that deals with whether or not you need one for this project. I will, however, comment on whether you need a complete manuscript to submit to an agent. To do that, let's create a potential scenario.

    You've done your research and you've found 3 agents who seem almost perfect to represent you/your manuscript to appropriate publishers. Complying with their requirements, you fire off a cover letter, synopsis, and the first 20 pages of your story. But since it isn't finished, it hasn't been edited. So you don't see the minor (or major)flaws. Do you think the agent will see them? You'd better believe it! That agent is in business to make money, and he/she has a reputation to protect. Sending out even slightly flawed work to a potential publisher does nothing to enhance that agent's reputation. Result: an almost 100% guarantee that you'll get a rejection.

    Now let's suppose you are the rare writer whose story isn't in serious need of editing. In fact, your first 20 pages are a compelling hook that leaves him hungering for more. He requests the rest of the book by return mail within 15 days. What are you going to do? The book isn't finished. Can you complete the task and get the manuscript (in almost perfect condition) to him within that time frame? What a shame to lose such a golden opportunity because you sent out the beginning of your manuscript before it was finished (and edited)!

    One more point: Good fiction writers allow their characters to tell their stories. And sometimes those stories don't go where the writer thought they would. Might this impact the synopsis? How would the agent react if the synopsis he loved didn't quite match the manuscript he requested and received some months later?

    It's hard enough to get an agent without creating a minefield for yourself. I strongly recommend that you finish your manuscript and have it edited by a competent professional prior to submitting it to an agent. And I wish you much success. A mystery/satire? Sounds intriguing to me.

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  26. Thank you both for the clarification of deep POV. It's just as I thought, but isn't it strange that editors today are teaching us things that editors five years ago didn't know about. *smile*

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  27. Hi all,

    In regards to paranormal romances, do publishers/agents expect a new writer to earn accolades in contests before considering their work? Or should I focus my supernatural skills on a catchy query letter?


    Thanks,
    Sandra
    http://sandragonzalez23.blogspot.com/
    http://twitter.com/sandrajg23

    ReplyDelete
  28. Sorry to be late today. I'll give a short answer to Sandra that's not genre specific as I have no experience writing or trying to sell paranormal romance:

    Although contests can be a great experience and can add to a good query, I don't know of any publishers of any genre who would require contest wins before reviewing your submission. If there is such a requirement, the publisher's submission guidelines should tell you so.

    A top-notch query letter is worth the effort.

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  29. Karen, I'm sure publishers occasionally take a book on a timely topic and bump it up on the publication schedule, but I suspect this happens more with nonfiction than fiction. My own publisher (4 mysteries a month) sets its schedule more than a year out and tells the authors when to expect their book to release. To move someone else up on the list means bumping another author out of the queue -- you can see why that action would not very popular for the authors already scheduled.

    I won't say it never happens though, because no publisher wants to lose out on a good thing (and what's good for publishers is good for authors).

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  30. Thanks Patricia. You may have been late for the Ask the Editor event but you were Flash Lightning for me. :)

    Sandra

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  31. Have no sensible question but enjoyed reading all the questions and answers above. Learnt what a deep POV is; goodigood >:)

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  32. Jerry,

    While I'm no expert on the intricacies of ISBNs, I believe you're correct in thinking a new one is needed if you do a major rewrite.

    So why are you rewriting your story? Are you just fleshing it out or making major changes? Is it the same story or has it evolved into a different one? Does the original title still fit? Did you sell a lot of copies under that title? Would it work to put a note in the front matter that states the book was originally released under the title . . .? Can you be more specific about the whys and wherefores here? Then maybe we can give you a more solid answer rather than asking you questions.

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  33. Gladys, there are some genres in which self-publishing is more a handicap than an aid -- mystery writing is one of them. One of the ways we promote our books is to participate in panels and presentations at conferences and conventions sponsored by Mystery Writers of America or Sisters in Crime. Self-publishing venues tend not to appear on the approved publisher lists for these opportunities.

    We could write a book on the pros and cons of self-publishing, I think. Those Blood-Red Pencil contributors who have tried it can answer the pros better than I can. From the fiction side of the aisle, I'd suggest doing your best to find a traditional publisher first.

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  34. Jerry, I'm going to give you personal opinion from an reader's point of view:

    You don't want to mislead your fans/readers into thinking they're getting a brand new story if the plot and characters are essentially the same. However, if your rewrite is substantially different from the first release, different enough that your fans would want to read this new release, I think changing the title is fine.

    Either way, I'd definitely add a statement of full disclosure to your publication information.

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  35. Jerry, I'm going to assume you hope to sell your books (don't we all!). Since you've completed a huge rewrite of your book, I'm also going to assume that you'd rather people buy your new version, not the old one.
    1. If the titles are the same, some people will get them mixed up and buy the old.
    2. Perhaps more importantly, if you decide to query an agent and mention the book in your query, the agent may check out the original, not the much better new version.
    3. Let's say you set up a signing at your local bookstore. They agree to order copies of your book for you to sign and sell. You can probably predict where I'm heading here...the old version shows up.

    Yes, change the name. In fact, check to make sure the title is not already in use for another book. I have a friend who, for her first book, had a signing at B&N. She showed up. The CRM brought books to her table. A big stack of books with a similar title but authored by someone else.

    If you were only making minor changes, I would recommend you keep the same title. But since you did "a huge re-write," I think you should change the title.

    Helen

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  36. I have a book that has been going through "the literary agent mill" for two years now.

    THE BACKSIDE OF YESTERDAY is a book set during "The Great Depression", it is part mystery, adventure, suspense and seen through the eyes of children. I researched the era for over a year to understand the language used and other information needed on this period.

    I have been rejected as a "no sale". What do you think?

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  37. Gladys,

    I'm responding to your question because I have chosen to self-publish. Why? I did it for a number of reasons, two of which I will explain here.

    First, I'm not young. I was in my mid-sixties when I published my first novel seven years ago. I'd spent five years writing it and wasn't willing to wait another three-to-five or more years to try to find an agent and wait for the agent to try to find a publisher and then wait another eighteen months to two years to see it in print. And there were no guarantees that I would find either an agent or a publisher. So I opted to do it myself.

    The second reason had to do with control. I choose not to write certain types of scenes, not to include profanity in my dialogue, not to delve into religion or politics or the supernatural. I didn't want a publisher to insist I include dialogue or scenes that I would be embarrassed to have my children or grandchildren read. (Yes, I have written "sex" scenes, but they contain no explicit details.)

    Have I sold a lot of books? No. I'm not good at marketing, and I haven't really tried . . . but I'm about to learn because I've just released my second book, a mystery that brings the lives of three attorneys together in ways none of them wants. The feedback from my manuscript readers has been great, but that doesn't sell books.

    Still, it's not all negative. I personally know two writers here in Colorado who self-publish and who each have sold over a million copies of their books. One writes nonfiction aimed at a specific audience, and the other writes fiction--young adult fantasy. So it can happen, but it takes work. However, the line between traditionally published books and those that are self-published can be very blurred when it comes to marketing. Big names get big publicity. Others often have do their own marketing, including some who are well-known.

    I visited you on blogspot and was impressed by the number of books you've already written. (I'm rather fascinated by Payton Inkletter's review of Desire.) If you wish to further pursue this topic, please feel free to post another question or to contact me privately.

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  38. To Utahwriter1:

    A few years ago, Utah writer Camron Wright self-published his first novel, Letters for Emily. He sold enough books on his own to be noticed by a traditional publisher that picked it up and reissued it. These things happen, so sometimes it's worth considering a different route to achieve your goal.

    Personally, I'm intrigued by the sound of your storyline. What kind of feedback have you received from your manuscript readers? from your editor?

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  39. Linda,

    Thanks, so much, for your thoughts on agents. I probably knew what your answer would be, but you left no doubt with your clear, concise reasoning.

    And, since I rarely synopsize a book, and have been known to let my characters dictate the story, I'd be up a creek if asked for an entire storyline. :>)

    Very much appreciated!

    Mary
    http://marycunninghambooks.com

    ReplyDelete
  40. For Gladys and Sandra: I attended a talk by literary agent Janet Reid recently, and she said that if you have self-published a book or even if you've been published traditionally, only mention this if you have had exceptional sales (over 1,000)--because, she says, "We'll have to start all over anyway." Since the presentation of a book says "here's my compIeted project," I suggest you submit it as a manuscript--this shows that you are open to revision and new marketing strategies. She also said that contest wins were of no importance to her and that mentioning them was not worth the room you would have to devote to it in your query letter! (Tears here.) Not all agents feel the same way, of course. I think most would say that if you've been nominated for a Pushcart prize or a Whiting or anything of similar quality, go ahead and say so--but don't call yourself an "award-winning writer" if you've only garnered accolades in regional writing competitions. They'll see right through that. With national distribution you are asking to step onto a whole new playing field; the only difference between this kind of "award-winning" author and any other is that you paid to enter the contest.

    ReplyDelete
  41. Thanks Kathryn. I'm almost finished with a couple of shorts (my novel has a ways to go) and debated on entering contests. I see what you mean about the big league recognition vs regional. Sounds like a solid query letter is the ticket. When the time comes I'll have my crit partners go at it first. :)

    Sandra

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  42. utahwriter1,
    I'm intrigued by your storyline too! It sounds great. You may want to research smaller, independent publishers who don't require an agent. Sometimes you can find just the right fit that way (I did). grin

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  43. I am promoting my book. I am on many websites, I contact members/friends, I blog, I am getting reviews, and, I still have difficulties getting my book sold. I was in the 130K zone (Amazon) for a while, and now I am back in millions. My friend recommends a video promoter, another author recommends a 'guru' promoter. My Crossroads is a five stars novel. What should I do? My second book is published and should be out this month. I have a small publisher, little promotions if any. How much should I spend? Why would a promoter give me a better book coverage and how? Could you recommend someone reliable? My website is at http://snedelton.com. Email: snedelton@aol.com, name: Steven Nedelton.
    Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  44. Val, if you're into knowing one newbie's stimulus, then most of my ideas have come from dreams. Once I start to develop the story in my head and through an outline, other characters surface and their adventures show up. I have five novel outlines made for a series that keep nagging me for attention. Since I want to finish a project not collect ideas, I have to stay focused. That's not to say TV shows and other novels don't inspire. Sometimes, they instigate my dreams or flesh out scenes.

    Sandra

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  45. I have to chime in about self-publishing. After getting two prior books published through a small publisher, I went the self-publishing route this time.It was a learning experience. I discovered it's very risky because you can't get your book into stores unless you accept returns. Once your books are there, the booksellers don't go out of their way to sell them.

    Because of that, and because everyone else does so much promotion these days, you have to go that extra mile to get noticed.
    Even if you've hired a great editor like Helen Ginger here, like I did so you can make sure to present a quality product, you still have to fight the prejudice in the writing community that a self-published book can't be any good.

    That said, the general public has no problem accepting a book if it sounds interesting and the cover is eye catching.

    The upside is you are your own boss, you get your book out in a timely fashion, and you feel like you've really accomplished something. I know I worked harder on this book than my first two.

    I'm leaving the door open to try it again. I'm also investigating the growing ebook trend.

    Morgan Mandel
    http://morganmandel.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  46. On the subject of contests, I did have an agent ask me at a conference if I'd won any contests. She suggested I enter some and seemed to think it was important to have won them. Now, this was a romance agent, so I'm wondering if they put more stock in RWA contests than perhaps a mystery agent would for other contests. Of course, a Golden Heart win would really push a romance writer over the top, but that's not exactly easy to accomplish. I guess it depends on the agent or editor. If you can sneak something about a contest win in your query letter, it probably wouldn't hurt.

    Morgan Mandel
    http://morganmandel.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  47. Thanks Morgan. I've been holding off joining the RWA until I actually had completed a story since I'm low on cash. In the meanwhile, I've participated in the Muse Online Writer's conference and reading more articles, books, and blogs to learn about the industry. :)

    Sandra

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  48. I have been published successfully in both the fiction and nonfiction markets and am switching back to fiction with a novel that I am still working on. Changing genres is often difficult once a lable is pinned on a writer and I am going to have to find a new publisher or agent. My question is: How can a pitch my novel because it is a dark comedy with elements of drama, sex, romance, coming of age, horror and mystery? It is almost undefineable when it comes to proposing a specific genre. Changing genres is difficult enough, but not being able to define one seems like it might be an unscaleable hurdle although there is something for everyone in the novel so it might appeal to a broad audience. I hope to get some advice. lehighwriter@yahoo.com

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  49. Steven, your question on how to pitch a cross-genre(s) novel is one that's debated often in workshops and at writers' conferences. It helps if you can identify where you would locate your book in a bookstore.

    As far is the actual pitch is concerned, I recommend you focus on the story and characters first and mention only the dominant genre.

    If you need help doing that, try submitting your synopsis to a writer's coach or fiction editor for a review. Often an outside reader can spot the strongest genre faster than the author can.

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  50. Hi Pamala -- urban fantasy and paranormal romance...I suppose you noticed none of us jumped up to answer this question on the blog. I don't know enough about these genres to speak with authority, but I know some fantasy writers who might be able to help us out if your question isn't answered by one of our other contributors in the next day or so. Thanks for the excellent question.

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  51. Pamala,
    Great question! ("Can you give a good description of urban fantasy and then a few examples of books in that genre? Contrast it with paranormal romance? Please?")

    Urban Fantasy involves some sort of magic or superhuman power (usually by the main characters), or some bending of the normal rules of physics that don't satisfy definitions for Sci-Fi or Science Fiction, or even an alternate universe, where the setting is a modern or futuristic cityscape and where such a setting plays some role in the story.

    I'm not clued up on urban fantasy books as such, but I can give you good examples of urban fantasy television series' and movies: Charmed, X-Men, Batman, Spider-Man, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Practical Magic.

    Paranormal romance, on the other hand, need not involve magic use by the main characters but rather their encounters with supernatural effects or anything outside the realm of "normal" (although characters are often given a psychic power in order to facilitate the encounter) PLUS a romantic encounter that forms a major part of the story. Urban fantasy need not include romance, or if it does it is a minor subplot.

    I hope that helps. (Thanks for pulling this one out Patricia.)

    Elsa Neal
    HearWriteNow
    Blood-Red Pencil

    ReplyDelete
  52. Thanks Kathryn,
    I am grateful that you took the trouble to answer my query. I agree,I would prefer to be told, sorry we don't think it is suitable, rather than be given false hope.

    Regards

    Margaret

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  53. OK, here's a late question from the UK - and I hope you answer it, 'cos it's my birthday. Honest. My question is about industry standard presentation. I feel that as writers we spend so much time worrying about whether we've unblocked the first lines of chapters/sections or whether the indent is 0.3" or 0.5" or whether the font is acceptable that it gets in the way of the writing. I know that US subs are different, but what's your take on this?

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  54. When you use the word President, when does it have to be capitalized? I thought that only when you were referring to President Obama, that you must capitalize. Other people think that the word president should always be capitalized What do you think?

    Janice E. Greer
    Reference Librarian
    Fordham Law Library
    140 West 62nd Street
    New York, NY 10023

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  55. Janice,

    The Chicago Manual of Style addresses the issue of capitalization. Here's the general rule:
    "Civil, religious, military, and professional titles are capitalized when they immediately precede a personal name and are used as part of the name . . . "
    Example: President Obama

    Titles may also be capitalized when following a name in usages "such as a displayed list of donors in the front matter of a book or a list o f corporate officers in an annual report." Other exceptions include "promotional or other contexts for reasons of courtesy or politics."
    Example: "Maria Martinez, Director of International Sales"

    A title alone that replaces a personal name "is capitalized only in such contexts as a toast or a formal introduction, or when used in direct address."
    Examples:
    "Ladies and Gentlemen, the Prime Minister"
    "I would have done it, Captain, but the ship was sinking."
    "Thank you, Mr. President."

    Titles used in apposition that precede the name but are descriptive rather than part of the name (often used with "the") are lowercased.
    Example: . . . the director of sales, Maria Martinez

    Information comes from the 15th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style, numbers 8.21, 8.22, & 8.23. See also 8.25-8.35 for very specific usages.

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  56. For Linda Lane
    Thank you for your answer and suggestion to get in touch. If you have been to my author site you will know that I too am no spring chicken, in fact a positive broiler compared to you. I started writing novels eight years ago when I was sixty-nine (having just completed a BA (hons) course with the OU. So began the dreary road of submissions to agents and publishers. Then I wrote my illustrated book of childhood memories to raise money for a children's charity. It was published to a high standard and raised £1,500, though sold mainly locally. My son having formed Magpies Nest Publishing then set about formatting my novels.
    All my work is edited and proofread, usually several times. But producing a good book is one thing, getting them printed is easy, but marketing is a different ball game. Independent booksellers are fast disappearing and large bookstores will order but not stock. A large book warehouse that bought a bulk order of two of my anthologies is cutting back in these uncertain times and don't buy novels anyway. So, although I have books being read in a number of countries and in libraries, and have excellent reviews (but none by top magazines or national newspapers) sales could be better! The Internet is time-consuming and has produced few sales. Hence my original question.
    It was suggested by one known Internet critic - reviewer (now retired) that I send Awakening Love (a book he reviewed) to suitable publishers. But most publishers tell you to find an agent. Agents are not interested, after all they get thousands of submissions every year and only take on one or two. But I am considering just posting off the odd book. (as I have done to book warehouses) No doubt it would be dropped in a bin as that would fall foul of submission rules. Expensive!

    AGPress are now publishing my books for the USA market. (My Magpies Nest Publishing is here in the UK) But they need to be marketed.

    We would all like to have a top publisher. But in the end, does it really matter? I have a few fans and I see my books in print. Funny enough, it seems men enjoy my books, even if it is Romance.

    At the moment I am considering finding an Ebook publisher for my Romance trilogy - others too. Or I might just put the books on the Internet for anyone to read.

    Thank you for your interest

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  57. Regarding the use of italics for characters' thoughts, would you recommend using them:

    1. whenever technically correct, even if it leads to long paragraphs of italics.

    2. very sparingly, just to make a point.

    3. not at all (interlaced with the regular narrative).

    Thanks for your input.

    Mark Bouton markbouton@msn.com
    website under construction; published mystery author

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  58. Happy Birthday Avril!

    The advice I've received on submissions is to try to avoid calling attention to your formatting so that your content can grab the agent/editor. That means your ms should be formatted in the way that agents/editors are expecting and are used to reading. I have heard that some industry people are so used to reading 12pt Courier that they can tell if the size has been increased or decreased by even a half a point. When so many thousands of mss land on the slush pile unfortunately it is true that some slush pile readers filter by glancing at the formatting.


    Elsa Neal
    HearWriteNow
    Blood-Red Pencil

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  59. Hi Mark,
    That's an excellent question and I hope some of the other editors chime in on this as I think there are varying opinions on italic use.

    Personally, I have no problem with lots of italic for direct thought but I think it is an individual preference and may come down to the house style of the publisher. I have seen books using italics and also books using no emphasised formatting for direct thought.

    I would advise picking up some recent books put out by the publisher(s) you wish to query and checking whether and how italics are used and then trying to match their style when you submit.


    Elsa Neal
    HearWriteNow
    Blood-Red Pencil

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  60. Mark, I'll add a note to Elsa's answer because I tried not using the italics for direct thought and found it muddied the POV for the reader and required the addition of "he thought" way too often.

    My own publisher (Five Star) has authors format with italics, but once again, publisher submission guidelines rule.

    For interesting use of italics in long passages, take a look at Michael Gruber's first novel, Tropic of Night.

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  61. utahwriter1, I like the title of your book, it's appealing. Clearly, I can't speak to the writing, since I've never seen it, but the description you give may be a clue to the problem.

    The Depression era won't be a good sale now. When the economy is down, people tend to want to read lighter books or happy books. Although in two years when the book might come out, we hope the economy is better, but now is the time when the agent or editor would have to make the decision on it.

    The mystery/adventure/suspense combo is good. However, as seen through the eyes of children might be a hard sell if it's not a YA or children's book.

    If you've been going through the agent mill for two years now, it's time to rethink the book. Work with a critique group or trusted readers. Or talk to a professional editor. You might be able, on your own, to analyze what you could do to change the storyline or the way the story is told. If not, don't be afraid to let others help you.

    Helen
    Straight From Hel

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  62. Thank you Patricia and especially Elsa for shedding some light on the nuances between UF and paranormal. Sounds like the industry might interchange the two sometimes.

    Awesome event! I appreciate the help.

    Pamala
    http://pamalaknight.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete

The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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