Monthly Archives: January 2007

"The Communication"

I guess I’m still on the blogging-about-agents kick because I was reading the latest entry on my agent’s blog about communicating with your agent, and aha! Blog topic. :)

When you first sign with an agent, it’s really easy to email your agent a lot. I know I did, but Kristin has always been really understanding about it. In fact, I think she calls it the “needy stage” of a new client. She had written “relax” in response to many of my emails our first year. haha! We writers are a sensitive lot. ;)

In order not to feel like you’re emailing your agent too often regarding your submissions, ask upfront the agent’s strategy on updates. For instance, I’ve learned my agent usually lets about 8 weeks pass on my submissions before she checks on status with a pub house. So if I haven’t heard from her after that time, I can feel comfortable sending her an email regarding the status. I also know a usual time frame she takes to read partials and full manuscripts. The longer you are with your agent, you both will learn how each of you work.

Now, I’m going through another new experience–or needy stage!–with my first release and I have a lot of questions. *sigh* Questions I never even thought to ask before…such as promo I’m doing on my own before I’ve chatted with the house publicist and how independent stores are able to order a small quantity of my books. Blah, blah, blah. I’m telling you, the questions never stop!

This leads me to about asking general questions…

If I have a quick question, I can usually count on hearing from my agent quickly. If I know my question is pretty meaty, it can take a bit of time to hear back in order for her to write out a detailed email. I haven’t felt the need to call her much because I live by my email, and the same goes with my editor. She told me upfront she’s more comfortable communicating through email, too. If I did feel I needed to talk to my editor or agent, I would feel comfortable setting up a conference call instead of calling and hoping to catch them at a free time.

Now, if your agent is ignoring you completely for weeks that has got to be an awful feeling and after you made all attempts to speak with him or her and the agent still does not return your messages, it may be time to part ways. I have heard many times, it’s better to be without an agent than to be signed with the wrong one. :)

"3 Things To Sharpen"

I know I’ve been pretty blog-lite lately. No, particularly heavy posts. No, profound deep thoughts. heh. Well, I’ve been revising a new partial to send to my editor soon. I had wrote 3 chapters and a synopsis, which I am so awful at–syns really are tough for me. Seeing the whole picture isn’t how I do things. I always see in steps…one scene, then the next. Imagine how hard it is for me when I’m at step 20 and I have to see all the way to step 200. So this week I have been revising some thoughts my agent gave me to give this partial more…oomph.

When writing in first person, I tend to get a little narrative instead of just showing. Show don’t Tell, Kelly. One of the first writing tips I learned when rewriting my first novel, but when I’m in a character’s head it’s so easy just to write what I think is on her mind. So then I have to go back and revise and see how I can show something instead of telling the reader about it. And these Show-Don’t-Tells can be so subtle, I’m not even realizing I’m doing it. Just one little line…one little thought from the character…can be a tell that could be stronger shown. Just like now, I’m trying to tell you what I mean, when I should be showing. ;D

The Mood of the scene. I tend to get descriptive. Plainly descriptive. I can tell you what something looks like to the character but what I also want to do is add some emotion or mood to the atmosphere or scene. Give it some depth.

These are the 3 things I am working on to sharpen the partial. Shaping up the syn, working on the show-don’t-tell, and adding more mood.

yada, yada, yada. ;)

"Lucky 500 & Quotes!"

What do you know? I’m at my 500th blog entry. Craaazy. Since I must go watch the Golden Globes this evening–you know, to see which movies to add to my watchlist. I mean, it doesn’t have anything to do with celebrities and fancy dresses or anything–I have more good quotes to share! ;)

Martin Luther King Jr.
“Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.”

Martin Myers
“First you’re an unknown, then you write one book and you move up to obscurity.”

Dr. Seuss
“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, It’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope. Which is what I do, And that enables you to laugh at life’s realities.”

Henry David Thoreau
“Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.”

William Dement
“Dreaming permits each and every one of us to be quietly and safely insane every night of our lives.”

Franklin P. Jones
“Experience is that marvelous thing that enables you to recognize a mistake when you make it again.”

Dave Barry
“You can only be young once. But you can always be immature.”

"The Agent ?s"

Okay, so I neglected to mention what kind of questions you might want to ask agents before deciding to sign with them. I had no idea what questions to ask, either, but I had friends who did. :) Here are some sample questions to start you off…

1) Do you represent other authors in my area of interest?
If you write Romantic Suspense, does the agent rep other RS clients?

2)What is your normal submission process?

3)What is your normal reading time with partials and full or revisions for your clients?
This is a good question because I often see new writers asking opinions on how long her/his agent should be taking to read their work.

4)Will you oversee and/or keep me apprised of the work your agency is shopping on my behalf? How long in between updates?

5)Do you issue an agent/author contract? Is so may I review a copy?

6)What is your approach to providing editorial input and career guidance?
There are authors who don’t want their agent telling them how to write their books and prefer only editorial input. So it’s always good to know ahead of time what you expect from each other.

7)How do you keep your clients informed of your activities on their behalf?
Does the agent send them the rejection letters? Does the agent keep an activity report?

8)Do you consult with your clients on any and all offers?

9)What are your commissions? Basic US sales, movie/film, audio, foreign rights?

10)What are your procedures and time-frames for disbursing funds?

11)What are your policies about charging expenses incurred by your agency?

12)What will happen if something happens to you?
For example, who will take over and finish getting that last check or book business done while the agent is unable to do so?

13)If we should part company, what is your policy about handling unsold rights to my works?
Meaning where do the rights go? Make sure this is in your contract and in your favor. If you part with an agent and you sell the work yourself a year down the road, you don’t want the agent to still get a commission after all this time.

And I’m sure there are a lot more questions, but this is all I have. Always go over the sample contract with someone you trust or ask questions on points you are not clear on. My brother-in-law is a lawyer and gave a list of clarifications to ask my agent, who cleared up all my questions. But still he didn’t know anything about publishing and what was standard. If you know someone who does know the biz to look over the contract, that is even better.

Any other experts or authors reading this, feel free to add any advice. There are no right or wrong questions here, you really have to ask the agent what you feel is important.

Um, any questions? :)

"Library Widget"

My blogging friend, Jeff, recently mentioned his Library Thing. I had signed up too, but it’s taken forever to gather the books that own, and I still haven’t finished. I think I have about 50% of my books listed, which is sad because I’m only allowed 200! (And what’s even sadder is that when I moved last year, I donated over a hundred to the library. *sigh*) Anyway, I signed up for this little widget that will display my random collection. I’m still getting a feel for the site, but it’s pretty neat. =)

"The Double Offer"

Over at Miss Snark’s blog, someone has three agents interested in her novel. I’ve never been “inundated” with agent offers, but I did have two agents offer representation for my romantic suspense. You would think it would be so great to have more than one agent interested in your book at the same time, but for me it was a very unpleasant feeling! ;)

This occurred almost two years ago, so I’m a little blurry on specifics but here’s the general way it went down.

One agent (we’ll call her Agent A) I cold queried without ever having met or spoken with her. The other agent (Agent B) I was referred to by a friend.

Agent A was interested in my query and asked me to mail her a partial.

Since I was referred to Agent B, I sent her a partial right off.

Agent B read the partial within a few days and asked for the full. She had it for a few weeks, when I heard from Agent A that she was interested in reading the full manuscript. Agent A asked if I had the full out with anyone and I told her, yes, I did. She said great, please let her know of any developments and that she’ll do her best to read quickly.

I let Agent B know that I sent the full to another agent. She thanked me for letting her know and she would get to the full soon.

Surprisingly, Agent A called within a couple weeks and offered representation for the novel. She told me the strengths and weaknesses of the book and said she would give me time to contact any other agents who had partials/fulls before I made my decision. I had two other partials out with other agents so I sent them a brief email of the situation. The other two passed on the project.

I contacted Agent B and told her about the offer, she said she would finish reading and get back to me. She soon called with an offer to rep as well, describing her vision of the novel. I informed Agent A of the development, and they both sent me sample contracts to look over.

At this point, I was completely torn. These women both had many strengths and a strong background in the industry and I hated to be in the position to tell one of them no. haha! I knew neither would lose sleep over me, but it was just really hard for me to make the decision because they were both so pleasant and nice, and I could see myself working with both of them.

Finally, I went with my instincts and I signed with Kristin, who did indeed sell my first and second contract last year. It was certainly the right choice, but a far from easy one.

So if someone was in a similar situation, my advice would be to speak to both agents on the phone. (Assuming you have already researched both agents sales history and track record before querying them in the first place.) Get a feel for their personality and the changes they see for the novel. Have a list of questions you want to ask each agent and view their sample contracts. Don’t be afraid to speak with current or past clients of the agents and ask about their experiences. Then weigh the pros and cons per each agency and go with your gut who you feel the best agent is for you. :)

"Headliner: Subway Hero"

One of the big reasons I love to read fiction are because of the heroes I can root for. But some heroes do not need to be made up.

Fifty-year-old New York resident, Wesley Autrey, is a real life hero, folks. After watching a film student have a seizure and tumble onto subway tracks of an on-coming train, Autrey jumps down to help him. When he realizes he cannot lift the larger man as the train speeds closer, what does he do?

With his two young daughters watching, he jumps on top of the man just as the train rolls over both of them. Something I thought could only happen in the movies.

Check out his entertaining interview with David Letterman. Mr. Autrey made me chuckle many times here.

When I first heard this story, I was so in awe. I could not believe someone would risk his life like this. Yet here is a man who just wanted to help someone who couldn’t help him self. And I know there are people who help others every day, but you don’t often hear how life-threatening it can be for the rescuer as well. I mean, how many people could honestly say they would jump in front of an speeding train to save a stranger? To even have the instincts to move fast enough to save both of their lives?

And the great news is that this hero is being rewarded in many deserving ways.

It makes me feel a little brighter knowing there are good people like Mr. Autrey in the world. :)

"Sorry, But I’m Low on the Food Chain"

On a recent blog entry, my agent discusses reading guidelines. She has writers sending her unsolicited manuscripts and I’ve read in the past she’s even been queried for projects she doesn’t rep, obviously by writers who either don’t read her guidelines or don’t bother to follow them.

This got me thinking of a couple of recent experiences I’ve had with writers contacting me in order to send their website or blog URL to someone at MTV Books or give them a contact name because they think their novel would be perfect for MTV.

And these books might be. You never know.

The thing is, I don’t know these people at all. I’ve never even chatted with them on a forum. They’ve never emailed me before. They could have done a search for MTV and thought because I sold one book to MTV Books I had some pull.

Sorry, but I’m as low on the food chain as you could get. ;)

Besides that, why would I forward their emails to my editor like a total in-house spammer?

Eek. Very uncool.

So I answered these writers because I know what it’s like to want to be published so badly. I still feel that want, and probably will until I have my actual published book in my hands.

So I sent them the links from the Internet that MTV books is pubbed through Simon and Schuster. It’s not a secret, says so on the website. If you also go to the site map and read under “manuscripts” it states S&S does not accept unsolicited manuscripts. I hate to state the obvious, but I’m not an agent. I can’t forward anyone’s unsolicited work. I don’t think reputable agents do that either. They discuss the project before they send it to the editor.

I also gave the writers a tip, one that I take for granted that most writers know. That he/she can do a search on for the publishing house he is aiming for and get some names of agents and editors who may be interested in the the type of book he/she has written.

One writer didn’t even respond, the other gave a thanks.

Truthfully, I find the whole process of not following guidelines…a little arrogant. Gutsy. You got to have some, um, guts to email a writer you don’t even know and expect them to forward your stuff just because you asked them to. I know about the whole networking thing, knowing the right person and so forth, but I thought that was when you actually met someone in person like at a writer’s conference or gotten to know them through forums.

Anyway, I know most of the writers who comment here already know all this, but for those who accidently find me by a web search, I thought I’d make it clear that I won’t be forwarding any blogs or books to my editor. It’s not that I don’t think your books are awesome, it’s just that I don’t know you and I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing so for a complete stranger or someone I know casually. And as I mentioned, I have no pull. My only advise is to follow the steps, write the book, polish the book, reasearch the market, agents and publishers, write the query, polish the query, follow the guidelines, and submit, and keep doing it over and over as many times as it takes. I know it’s frustrating to take the long road, but it can happen.

Thanks and best of luck!