Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, April 26-May 2, 2015

Your prologue could be destroying your story’s subtext. K.M. Weiland – Helping writers become authors.

Are you misusing cliffhangers? Find out in Katie’s Wednesday vlog.

Christine Frazier of the Better Novel Project presents an infographic that will show you how to deconstruct a scene like Katie 🙂

Ruth Harris discusses the magic of novel rehab on Anne R. Allen’s blog. Never give up!

Gwendolyn Womack writes about the story iceberg on Writer Unboxed.

Jordan Rosenfeld guest posts on Writer Unboxed: the seven secrets of highly persistent writers.

Janice Hardy explains how mini arcs create more story depth.

Jane Friedman compiles links to all the relevant resources on her site for this post: How to find a literary agent. Heading into querying (most likely June), so I needed this 🙂

Books & Such agent, Wendy Lawson, discusses the issue of “Playing around the Edges.”

Writer tech awesome: Veronica Sicoe shows us how to format our novel for Smashwords in one day. Note: requires a #gallonofcoffee 🙂 Step by step with screenshots. Extremely helpful.

Klexos from the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows:

The case for physical books. The National Post.

Grammarly presents the dark side of nursery rhymes.

Publisher’s Weekly lists their top ten most difficult books. How many of them have you read (or tried to read)?

Here’s Buzzfeed’s list of 26 books from around the world that we should read before we die.

How Shakespeare’s heroines evolved from one-dimensional to feminist. Flavorwire.

Last week’s Outlander episode featured full frontal male nudity and laughed in the face of rape. Salon.

Thanks for making Writerly Goodness part of your blog-reading pleasure 🙂

See you Thursday!

Tipsday

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Behind the curtain: How mainstream publishing works

This was a fun panel with an author, an agent, and two editors.  They took us through the publication process at each stage, author, agent, and editor explaining how their part of the puzzle looks.  Then they fielded questions.

I’ve attended panels before that featured all publishers, or all editors, or all agents.  While informative, how everything dove-tailed was missing.  Occasionally, panelists might say that they couldn’t comment or speculate on what others in the process might do or experience.

‘Twas excellent.

The behind the curtain panelists

The behind the curtain panelists

Panelists: Emily Ohanjanians, editor with Mira Books, the commercial fiction imprint of Harlequin; Eileen Cook, author of YA novels with Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins; Rachel Coyne, agent with Fine Print Literary; Sara Sargent, associate editor with HarperCollins’s children’s imprint, Balzer & Bray.

EC: We’ll start with the author’s search for an agent.  First you have to understand what an agent does.  Most are busy with their current authors and are not actively looking for new authors.  Do your research to find the best fit.  Newer agents will be more available.  Ultimately, it comes down to personal taste.  One agent may not like your voice or style, but another might love it.

RC: I receive 150 to 300 queries per week.  It’s impossible to respond individually.  When I started, that was my intention, but it just can’t be done.  Agents get rejected too, by editors.  There’s a certain disappointment when another agent snags an author from you, especially one that receives an award or does really well.  After I’ve agreed to take on an author, we have a one on one call to discuss next steps.  There is a two page author agreement.  It’s not a contract per se.  Standard percentage is 15% for domestic sales and 20% for foreign, TV, film, and other rights.  Most houses have one agent who is dedicated to subsidiary rights.  Once an author has signed on, the editing begins.  This could mean several rounds, back and forth.  Then the agent will submit to her first round editors.  Usually these are people the agent has an established relationship with.  Sometimes, if several editors are interested, an auction takes place.

SS: At HarperCollins, there are several meetings, one with the acquisitions team during which a profit/loss statement is generated.  The agent is advised of the proposed deal, and negotiation begins.  At the acquisition meeting, everyone sees the property.

EO: It’s the same at Mira, the meeting with the editorial director is followed by the acquisition board meeting, the agent is informed of the proposed deal, and negotiation follows.

Q: Once the book is sold, what happens?

RC: I would make recommendations to the author based on what they hope to achieve.  Usually there is a year between the deal and the publication date, so there is time to implement an author web site or blog, develop social media following, or begin on the next book.  The contract can take anywhere from two weeks to nine months to hammer out.  An advance might be $10,000.  Royalties could be 10%.  First you earn back your advance, then you begin to receive regular cheques.

Q: How does the editor work with the writer on further revisions?

EO: When the launch date is decided upon, it might be a year, or a year and a half, we work backwards, get our endorsements in place, schedule substantial, line, and copy edits, proofing, typesetting, cover art, blurbs, back cover copy, determine the meta data for online sale.

Q: So what happens when you write an editorial letter for the writer, and the writer refuses to budge?

SS: Usually I’ll read and mark up the copy, then prepare a three to ten page editorial letter for the author.  The author will usually sit with it for a few days, then I’ll meet with the author by phone and the author will indicate what they are willing to do and what they are not.  The biggest issue that comes up is characters that are not received as the author intended.  The next is the market: similar books may have tanked for specific reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of the writing.

EC: We work together to reach a solution.  e.g. I hate the character!  My character is brilliant!  How do I show it?

RC: The biggest asset a writer can have is the willingness to be edited.  I like to meet annually with my authors to find out what their plans are for the coming year.

Q: Describe your ideal author.

EO: An insecure author can become overwhelming.  20 emails a day can be draining.  An author coming out of another house might cause me to do some research.  Were there reasons for this?

EC: You have to own your neuroses as an author.  You must be open to communicate.

Q: If your author had to choose between a Canadian and American publisher, which would you recommend?

EC: Commission can be less with a Canadian publisher.  Most American publishers will include Canadian distribution.  The deal is for North American rights, not Canadian or American.  Canada is not considered a foreign market.  Really, your agent is a match-maker, trying to find the best possible home.  It used to be that agents had to be in New York, now they can be anywhere.

RC: There is a right agent and a right publisher for every author/project.

Q: What about e-rights?

SS: They are considered subsidiary rights.

Q: How often do you have to meet in person?

RC: Never if you don’t want to or can’t afford it.

Q: What is your education/experience?

SS: Placement with Disney/Hyperion, BA in English, then an MA in Journalism.

RC: Writer’s Digest Books, Donald Maass Agency, Forward Literary, then Fine Print Literary.

EO: BA in English literature/linguistics, job in finance, but I always wanted to be an editor.  I started working for magazines, then got on with Harlequin, took some courses from EAC and Ryerson in editing, and at every stage, working up through the ranks.

Q: What’s the difference for non-fiction?

EO: It’s based entirely on platform.  Not voice.  Not skill.  Who’s the audience for the book?

RC: Blog-books have been happening recently as well.  Narrative non-fiction works the same as fiction.

EC:  With a novel, you have to have the novel completed before you can query.

RC: With non-fiction, a proposal and platform is often enough.

Q: What should your word count be, and do you talk about series?

SS: Word count isn’t critical.  I’ve never rejected a book on the basis of length.  You should concentrate on one novel per query and treat it as a stand-alone.  It’s important to have a vision, though of how your writing future will look.

RC: We’re not looking so much at the concept, but the creativity of the author.

SS: With children’s literature, you have to be aware of the market.

EC: Not many YA novels are 300,000 words long, but submitting a 20,000 word novel would be too short.

Q: Can an author ever go direct to editor?

EO: If I have the time, I’ll always look.  Why not?  I could find a gem.

Q: When do you know when to stop editing and query?

EC: Write the best book you can.  No matter what you write, you can find an association (RWA, SFWA, etc.). These associations will often offer editing services, or members can serve as critique partners and beta readers.  When you do query, send out five at a time.

Q: Is a rejection a burned bridge?

RC: Not necessarily.  If you revise and resend, there’s a chance that the agent will not remember, but if they do, they are not likely to give you a second chance.  It’s better to try a new project.

Q: How long is it for an editor to respond to an agent?

RC: Between three months to a year sometimes, but the average is three to four weeks.  If there is a closing date or an auction, all interested parties are called.

Q: Do agents want to have input into the author’s platform?

RC: It’s more a matter of making suggestions, showing examples.

SS: In concert with publicity and marketing, publishers may advise.  But if you’re not comfortable on Twitter, you don’t have to use Twitter.

EC: Some agents will advise you with regard to your career in general.  Some agents will never go there.

Q: Have there been books you just couldn’t sell?

RC: Every agent has a book that they felt passionate about, but just couldn’t move.  I make every effort to sell every project, but between 60% and 90% of books signed actually sell.

EC: Hopefully you have more than one book in you.

EO: It’s often the second submission that sells.

RC: Some projects are bought on voice alone.

Q: If you’ve self-published, is it a deal-breaker?

RC: Only if it’s the self-published effort and it’s not sold well.  If it’s a different effort, no problem.

EC: They call us hybrid authors now.

Q: How about posting your work in progress on the internet?

RC: It depends on how much of your novel is out there, and at what stage.  If most of the novel is already “published,” I probably wouldn’t take it.  Do not blog your book.

Q: Can you self-publish one book and e-publish another?  Specifically, the rights on my first novel are reverting to me and I’d like to self-publish.  Meanwhile, I’m in negotiations for my second book.

EC: If your first book is erotica and your second is YA, then they’re not likely to get in each other’s way.

EO: If both books are comparable, you could offer the self-published book at a deep discount.

RC: It would be wise to check with the publisher about to put out your second novel if self-publishing your first is okay.

EO: Be up front with all interested parties.

This brings us to the end of Friday’s sessions.  I’ll have the Friday night and Saturday morning keynotes before moving on to Saturday’s sessions.  We’ll see how far I get tonight.  I’ll be travelling home tomorrow and won’t finish off whatever remains until Tuesday.

CanWrite! 2013: Day 2 agents’ panel

After another morning of creative writing and lunch, conference-goers again gathered in the academic building for the 1 pm Agents’ Panel Discussion.

James Dewar acted as moderator for the panel, which consisted of: Sam Hiyate, president of The Rights Factory and Carly Watters, agent at the P.S. Literary Agency.

JD: What are you looking for right now?

CW: Picture books; contemporary YA (thriller/mystery, romance); women’s fiction; upmarket; non-fiction; and multi-media.

SH: New agents are looking for new clients. I’m full up myself, right now, but occasionally I do sign the odd author.  For non-fiction, a platform is essential. Most non-fiction sells on proposal alone.

JD: What can a fiction writer do to obtain representation?

CW: Write an amazing novel.  Platform does not matter.

SH: Debut novelists—sometimes even established ones—can fail to sell.  I like a strong voice, someone who can perform acrobatics with a sentence.

CW: I have a more commercial taste, a Book Club book would appeal to me.

JD: How do you move an “almost there” author to “there”?

SH: I’m a different beast than most agents and will work with the writer to edit the work.  Most agents won’t.  Others will set the writer up with a freelance editor.

CW: I’ll write an edit letter to the writer if the good stuff is REALLY GOOD.  Some books are edited seven times before they are sent to a publisher.  If the writer has the ability to turn their MS around quickly, the chances are better.

SH: My best advice is to find an agent who “gets you.”

JD: What should authors NOT do?

SH: Don’t send your MS in too early.

CW: In a pitch session, do not go through your whole synopsis.

SH: Sometimes the pitch or query can be better than the book.

JD: We’ll open the floor to audience questions (AQ) now.

AQ: Do I need an agent first, or can I approach a publisher directly?

CW: Agent first.  Most larger publishers won’t accept unsolicited manuscripts.

SH: An agent can say “no,” however.  An editor will refer the author to an agent anyway.  Send it and see what happens.

AQ: What does an agent do?

SH: Our job is to create a competitive situation around your book.

AQ: Can you have more than one agent?

SH: We contract exclusively, much like a real estate agent would.  Your book is the property we’re selling.  Our commission is 15% on domestic and 20% on foreign sales.

AQ: In the context of the “Literary Apocalypse” of self- and ebook publishing, do writers even need publishers anymore?

CW: Some agencies have publishing arms, but it gets complicated.

SH: Self-publishing is a new way for agents to discover talent.  Eventually, all the good material gets scooped up by the publishers.  Cases in point: Amanda Hocking, E.L. James, and Hugh Howey.

CW: These are exceptions to the rule.  Agents can’t turn $10k ebook sales into a traditional deal, but if you sell $200k+, that’s different.

SH: In the future, writers will have more control.

AQ: If an author has published a book but is not happy with the rights (terms) is there anything that can be done?

SH: No, if the rights have already been contracted out, that’s it.  Most agents won’t negotiate a bad contract for you, though.  Publishing houses and agencies start out with really talented, committed, and enthusiastic people who are grossly underpaid, for like ten years.  In that time, the ones who can’t maintain their passion leave for greener pastures.  The ones who can, become successful.

The agents’ panel was great, and both Sam and Carly were professional and up front with their insiders’ looks into the publishing world.

Tomorrow: I’ll cover Day 1 and Day 2 evening events, and Day 2 and 3 afternoons with Andrew Pyper and Cordelia Strube.  That will leave the Awards Gala and wrap-up posts.  So three more days, and it’s all over!

Don’t despair, there will be lots more Writerly Goodness coming your way this summer.  Book reviews and hopefully some more author interviews, pupdates (yes, there’s at least one more coming), and updates regarding the backyard office (interesting things afoot there).  I’ll also have some updates on my work in progress and any other conferences or events that I get to.

I will be returning to my weekends-only posting schedule after this week, though.  Blogging every day, though fun for a short period, takes up a lot of writing time (!)  My goal is to have my current revision done before the summer’s out.

Until tomorrow!