Monday, October 26, 2009

Rollercoaster Ride

I had my first manuscript request and drank a few beers to celebrate, now I've received my first manuscript rejection and I plan on drinking a few beers to drown out my sorrows. The Coors brewing company must love me (this may be considered an insider tip if you are planning on buying stock)

However, the rejection was an extremely thoughtful rejection, so I'm trying not to take it too hard. Loved the plot, loved the title, but not in love with the voice. OK, I can understand that. I still have two partials out and about eight queries in the slush pile.

After receiving the kind rejection, I thought a lot about the agent practices I have encountered, and liked, which I would like to list below so we can improve the process for everyone.

1. Timely feedback - I know this isn't always a possibility due to the number of queries you receive, but it does keep us writers from going insane waiting...and waiting...and waiting...
2. Using our name and/or title of our book in the rejection - Even if the rest of the response is a form letter, this leads us to believe that you did in fact read our submission.
3. A reason for rejection - "I'm not completely in love with this project", "I don't have the time to commit to your project", "This isn't the right project for me". Even if it is vague, it's still something.
4. Constructive feedback - I know this is also difficult to do because of time constraints, however, pointing out things that you love or hate may help us when writing our next book, and that book may be one you'd like to rep.
5. Clear and consise submission guidelines on your website - I make a new query packet for each agent. Some pieces are copied and pasted from others, yes, but if an agent clearly outlines what they are looking for, I will include it. And hey, if you give us great guidelines and someone fails to follow them, then BAM, quick form-letter rejection. If a writer can't read, how do you expect them to write?

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Price Wars

I'm sure you've heard about the Battle of the Books that is going on between several mass market retailers. (And if you haven't, you can read about it in the Wall Street Journal here.) Most of my favorite bloggers have expressed their concerns on the situation, and these are the two things worry me most:

1. People are going to expect hardcover books to always be $10.
But they aren't. Walmart.com, Amazon.com, Target, Sears and everyone else jumping on the bandwagon are only discounting the top 10 or so books. As a potentially new author, my book would still be priced at $20, which could deter buyers.

2. Independent book stores cannot meet these prices.
This really bothers me because I am a big supporter of local business, and I would hate to see small business disappear. However, we as a group of consumers can stop this by not shopping at mass market retailers and trying to purchase things from local retailers when we can.

However, on the bright side...
1. I remember when gas stations were having a price war in the late 90's and gas dropped below a dollar. I would drive a block and then fill-up again because sadly, I knew it would end soon and the prices would shoot right back up. And they did. There is only so long a retailer can sell things at a loss.

2. Since books are currently on sale, perhaps the lower prices will get people buying and reading and they will remember how nice it is to curl up on the couch with a good book. More people reading is always a good thing for the publishing industry.

So in closing, I'm not going to panic just yet. I'm going to wait and see how this all plays out. One thing I am sure of is that printed books will never go away completely.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sensitive Writer Types

I just read Nathan Bransford's blog that suggests that us writers do not take criticism well, and unfortunately, criticism is part of the biz. Everytime I've written something that has been circulated among the public I have received some sort of hate mail, so I am well-prepared for what is to come.

Case in Point I
I won an essay contest in college that was published in the most prestigious campus newspaper, the State Press. After publication of aforementioned essay, one of the students who worked at the front desk of our dorm took it upon herself to slip me a hate letter explaining to me why my essay was total crap and I was just a spoiled rich white kid who didn't know anything about diversity.

What did I do? Nothing. I won a gift card at the campus bookstore so I didn't have to pay for my books for the rest of the year which left me with enough extra cash to drink away the memory of her hate mail.

Case in Point II
I published my own punk zine in College called Chelsea and actually had advertisers and readers who submitted stories and artwork that I included in my printings. Of course, there are always some sore apples in the bunch so I received copius amounts of hate mail and one death threat.
My response was always , "If you hate it so much, don't read it."

And of course I tallyed the hate mail responses into my readership rates and used it to get more advertisers.

I know that if I get my book published, I am likely to receive a much larger hate mail response rate, and I really don't care. As long as they bought their hated copy and didn't borrow it from someone else.

Monday, October 19, 2009

My First Pitch Session

I questioned what to entitle this post because in all honesty, my day in New York City at the conference was not at all what I expected. Was it interesting? Yes. Was it informative? Yes. Will my attendance be beneficial to my writing career? We'll see.

Part 1- Meet the Authors
The day began with short speeches from a panel of authors involved with the IWWG. Of course, my friend and I arrived late due to the weather and traffic on the way from RI to NYC. (However I did score a free parking space right across from the venue) The venue was cold and the metal folding chairs that were crammed into the space did little to promote my comfort.

Of the 8 or so authors who spoke, only 2 had gone the traditional publishing route. The rest had self-published. The founder of the organization said, "Self-publishing does not have the same stigma it did years ago." However, when the agents heard this, they all rolled their eyes. I'm not against self-publishing, but clearly, it does carry less weight in the industry.

Of the authors who spoke, the ones who were helpful and interesting spoke the least, and the ones who shouldn't have spoken at all, talked the longest. Some took the opportunity to sell us their books, and others actually gave us helpful advice on how to further our writing careers. Needless to say, when we broke for lunch, I high-tailed it somewhere warm with comfortable chairs and alcohol.

Part II - Meet the Agents
More writers arrived for this segment, and surprisingly, many of the attendees were wearing jeans, sweats and sneakers. (As a side note, if you are looking to sell ANYTHING, it is better to overdress than underdress and I felt quite pleased that I had dressed professionally)

The agents were very informative, however, only one was actively seeking YA, so after the entire trip, I only had one agent to speak with. I hadn't felt nervous all day, but as soon as I started talking to her, I felt the heat rise. I managed to get out part of what I wanted to say, but she cut me short and said "Sounds great, send it to me." I'm not sure if that is a good or a bad thing, but of course, I'll send it along and hope for the best like always.

Would I attend another conference? Of course.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Where are these girls?

Yes, they are YA fantasy novels, so I suppose the authors are entitled to some liberties but really? Teenage girls who behave like middle-aged women and cook dinner every night? Please. I feel it is more likely that I will come across a vampire or a werewolf in my travels. Not to say that I don't love these novels, because they have great stories and are well-written, but I am concerned about the impression these heroines are going to leave on the youth of today.

When I was sixteen, I was surly, rude, obnoxious and way more concerned with clothes and boys than making sure my parents ate a hot meal. Goodness. I couldn't even cook anything without disabling the smoke alarm first. Secondly, my parents were parenting, and yes, I did have some friends with negligent parents, but of those friends, not a one of them ever cleaned the house or cooked a meal for them. In fact, we took full advantage of those kinds of parents and always threw the parties at their houses.

The other thing that bothers me is how fast these girls ditch their friends for some boy. To coin the old phrase, probably dating myself, "Bros before hos". Boys come and go but good girlfriends are hard to find.

This is why I really hope my book gets published one day, because my teen protagonists behave like teenagers, keep their friends, eat junk food and go to college. And that is what I would like the new YA trend to be.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Why are you the best person to write this book?

That is often one of the pieces of information agents ask you to include in your query letters - for fiction. But how does one answer that question? What makes someone qualified to write about zombies or magic amulets? Have you ever been in contact with the living dead or found an other-worldly piece of jewelry in your Grandmother's attic? Chances are - no.

So what exactly are they looking for? (and it's not writing credits because that is in itself an additional question) Am I qualified to write about teen romance? Yes. Why? Because the number of boyfriends I had exceeds the double digits and we don't even want to talk about the number of boys I dated that never evolved into actual boyfriends. But somehow I get the impression that is not a piece of information I should put in my query letter.

So dear agents, please explain, what exactly are you looking for when you ask this question? And if I'm writing about zombies should I just ignore it?

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Average Work Week of a Struggling First Time Novelist

Monday through Friday
7:30 a.m.
Crawl out of bed thirty minutes late and curse and swear at myself for sleeping through the alarm before I get up to hit the snooze button and then fall back asleep for nine more minutes and repeat process.
8:30 a.m.
Run out of the door fifteen minutes late with one shoe in my hand and my fly unzipped.
8:40 a.m.
Arrive ten minutes late at day job and pray that the bosses are running late as well.
8:45 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.
Check work email, then personal email, and read snarky agent blogs causing me to question the quality of my work and if I should just face the facts...I'll be a nine to fiver until the day I die.
10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Take care of the important day job tasks while I daydream about ways to improve my book.
1:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m.
Eat a dry sandwich from Subway, run to the bank, go to the grocery store, the pet store, etc. and then try to speed read ten pages of a novel while I smoke a cigarette.
2:00 p.m. - 2:05 p.m.
Check personal email again to see if I have any manuscript requests and then sigh heavily with dissapointment when I discover I have none.
2:05 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Finalize all of my day job tasks while planning out my book tour having forgotten all of the advice from the snarky agent blogs.
5:00 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.
Kiss the husband, pat the dog, drink a beer and smoke a cigarette before settling into the home office.
5:30 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Eat a nutricious dinner of Triscuits and cheese log while reviewing submission requirements for several agents.
6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Prepare new query letters, plot synopsis, biography, resume and whatever else agents are looking for. Possibly complete one or two agent submissions, and then drink another beer because regardless of what I have prepared and sent, I get the feeling that they will end in the same result...nothing.
8:00 p.m. - 12:00 p.m.
Work on new novel because I have convinced myself without a doubt that the first one is going nowhere. Yell at my husband in the room next door because his cursing at CSS is disrupting my train of thought. Since my concentration is broken, I get up and drink another beer and then swear at the cats for having thrown up on the kitchen table again. Clean up vomit, check facebook and then return to writing. (Repeat several times)
12:00 p.m.
Go to sleep slightly drunk and try to end the day on a positive note by telling myself, "it only takes one"