Friday, July 12, 2024

Something To Consider About Simultaneous Submissions

I am going to keep this one short and sweet today.

Agents and editors fully know that you are not just sending your project only to us. You are sending it out to other editors and agents...

And that is just fine!

But this is what I want you to remember. If you send me a project and I love it, and I want to offer representation, you should be fine with that. For me (and I am assuming other agents do the same thing), I am not going to offer you representation until I have had a chance to talk to you and for you to ask me questions. We should all be on the same page after that talk. But...

If I do that, and then you respond that you have tour manuscript out with other agents you just told me that I was not your first choice. You want something better.

I have even gotten emails from authors who, after I have asked to read a partial, they email me and tell me they have been offered representation somewhere else, but they still want me to respond. When this happens, I tell them to take the offer. 

This communication you are sending out to the agents doesn't really give us a sense that you are in it for the long haul, or that you really want to be with that person. What this tells us is that you simply went through a list, sent it out to anyone with a pulse and haven't done your research.

My recommendation on this is simple. Who you send that project to, SHOULD be people you want to work with. If any of those people reach out to you positively, don't mess around with other people. You have already vetted these people. You know what you are getting. Besides, as a new author, you don't have any room for negotiation. Agent contracts are pretty standard. 15% commission and we will work with your on your project and push to get it sold. We are here for you, not just for this project, but for other projects in the future.

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Why Romance Chapters Need To Unify

Mentioning the Romance Writers of America often brings up harsh feelings for many authors. Several years ago, the organization ran into some political problems and internal fighting that led to writing chapters breaking away from the organization. This, of course, led to a chain reaction of other problems. I want to skip getting int the political drama that many were involved with and talk about issues that writers are now facing due to not being part of a larger organization. 

I remember, early on with the agency, when I went out to various conferences around the U.S. that were part of the RWA. The differences were huge and it is these differences I want to talk about. Several of the chapters were small with not a lot of big name authors in the membership. These chapters were struggling because it was a case of the blind leading the blind. In one case, the authors who were published were all published with the same small e-book publisher (who BTW has now gone under). They attempted to run contests as fund raisers but these often struggled as well. The prestige was just not there. Still, they were able to run the contests because these were advertised nationally through the RWA.

On the other hand, there were chapters who were doing amazing. They were larger and continued to draw in more membership. Their authors were being published with larger publishers. They had the "big guns" in their chapters. These people taught others how to write. 

They had resources and connections. 

And then the drama showed up. 

And chapters broke away.

Now, I do want to stress that Covid did intensify a lot of the issues and some still just blame Covid, but the problems do run deeper.

Once these writing organizations and individual authors broke away from RWA they lost their connections and shared resources. Any information on the industry, the craft of writing and so forth came from what individuals could scrounge up on the Internet. The contests they ran now were failing due to a lack of authors paying to play because these people did not even know of the contests. They had become a closed system so, unless you were in the system, you had no idea what was happening on the outside.

The chain reaction continues with the quality of the writing just going down hill. If the quality of the writing is not there, the editors and agents don't see a benefit now of attending conferences because they just are not going find anything worthwhile. In this case, think about the RWA National Conference and you can really see the chain reaction. When the drama hit, the big publishers all pulled out of going. Without the big publishers, you lost the big name authors who would show up. There was now nobody to network with. Without the editors and the big publishers, agents all said, "what's the point?"

Even agents have now started reconnecting in smaller groups. There is a group of about 15-20 agents who meet up regularly via Zoom just to network since they no longer have the connections from the conferences. 

So, what do I see now as an agent? I attend conferences where it looks more like those small writing groups that meet at the local library. At a recent conference, I was told, by the coordinator, that they could not convince any editors or agents to attend. The editors they did get were free-lance editors who were there just to get authors to buy there services...

Hopefully you see where this is going to.

Honestly, if writing chapters and authors want to see a growth, they need to start reconnecting with people and not just those in their closed systems. Being part of a larger organization will increases exposure to what your smaller groups are doing. Being part of a larger organization now increases quality educational resources to improve the genre, the writing and the image. And finally, being part of a larger organization gives the editors and agents a reason to now want to work with them to find the great authors that may be hidden out there.

I get that some people walked away because they felt they had a reason. Others walked away, not because they felt they had a reason, but because they were told they had a reason (thank you social media). Others walked away because they no longer felt connected. I know I had several authors who walked away from the RWA because the contests they loved, were no longer available. But, just walking away and not attempting to address the issues (real or perceived) does not fix anything. 

It might not be easy, but it will be worth it.

Tuesday, July 9, 2024

Making Your Character A Trope Does Not Make Your Story Better

Over the weekend, I was reading submissions and there was a wave of Rom Cons coming in. OK, I get it, these stories are fun to read, and if you look to what the editors are talking about, they love getting these stories (right now...I stress this because the winds will shift as quickly as they came in). But here is the problem too many authors are having. They are writing these stories, setting the stories in a sports venue, making their heroes a hockey player, and thinking that this alone makes the story marketable.


What makes the story good and marketable are great characters, a realistic plot, a conflict that is significant, and obviously quality writing. It is not the character.

Again, time and time again with the submissions I read, it was clear people were simply looking at the surface level of many of these stories. They were just writing using these devices and not realizing the story was far from good. This is what I saw:

  • Stories written in first person because they seemed to believe that is what it took.
  • Heroine was someone thrust into the sports venue with clearly no knowledge of the game but just doing it because she needed to pay the bills.
  • Hero was a [insert sport but more often than not, a hockey player] coming off of an injury and trying to make a comeback.
  • Both characters coming out of a disastrous relationship (heroine was likely engaged) but now, after 6 months are just wanting to "get in the sack for a quicky".
Is there a plot? No. The story was just episodic of characters arguing about something insignificant followed up by a sex scene. I should also note that the tone of the sex scenes shifted a lot. There may have been fun narrative, but once they get into the sex scenes, the authors felt that just writing as graphic as they could would make it better.


So, when you hear editors or agents telling you what type of story they want, this is a VERY BROAD category. In the end, it still means that the story must be good.  

Monday, July 8, 2024

Does Your Developmental Editor Read Your Genre?

You have now finished your book. You want to get it published, but you don't know the next step. The last writing class you took was in high school, but, you have gone to a couple of workshops and conferences on writing a novel so you think you are "good to go." At one of those conferences, you were convinced by a panel of presenters that hiring someone to be a developmental editor is the way to go!

According to the panel, these people will read your entire novel, give you an in-depth read and fully give you suggestions and feedback to make that story something EVERY editor or agent will beg to see. After that one hour presentation, how could you not get a six-figure deal from the book. This money will be well spent and you will get it back with that first advance which you are going to buy a new car with as well.

It is time to get a few things straight here with our fine author who is really eager to be published and we'll start with hiring a developmental editor.

Can these people give you feedback on your project? Yes. Can these people make your writing "better" than it was when you submitted it to them? Yes. However, and this is a big however, do they read the genre that you write?

You have heard may say on this blog that you need to read what you write. If you do not actively read, and for that matter, study, the genre you are writing, you are missing out on the nuances of that writing. Think of it this way. If you read science fiction, it has a unique voice and style to it. The quality authors know how to use those plot devices in a way to draw in the readers because they "understand" the genre. 

This last weekend, I was researching a few developmental editors out there for this post. I wanted to see what their backgrounds were and what they were saying they would do for a reader who hired them. A lot of them had no background in publishing other than being a copy editor for a magazine, or had a MFA in Creative Writing from some university. I saw a lot of them who worked with their college alumni magazines. I did read the ABOUT FAQ page for one and this person writes poetry (no books out yet) and dabbles in fantasy writing. Only two out of the developmental editors that I read up on, I looked at over 20, had any background in the publishing world. One had been an editor and an agent and was now editing in their genre. The other had just been an acquisitions editor but was also editing in their genre.

BTW, did you note those three words I used? "IN THEIR GENRE".

These other people had pretty much earned an English degree, went on to get a creative writing masters and with that "workshopping background" they are going to edit your work! And for a lot of money.

You have to be able to trust the person you are sending it to. Don't get me wrong. They have a lot of great intentions and enthusiasm. They DO want to help you and yes, the feedback they give you will probably be fine. But, if they are not active readers of your genre of writing, the feedback you get will be very superficial. It will be more in the way of line editing where they have just done a lot of work to make your writing pretty. The odds are, if they do not read and fully understand your genre, they will not have shaped it to something that can be marketed in that genre.

As you know, I did recently sit on a panel where we were talking about editors and what they can do for you. What I found interesting is that they were able to shape their responses of saying, "if you don't write genre fiction" but "write with a literary voice" then they somehow worked themselves out of that jam. What you need to understand is that even "upscale literary fiction" or even "narrative poetry" has a niche, has a unique voice, and does require extensive knowledge to give you that feedback.

Again, I am not going to say not to hire these people. All I beg is that you take the time, make sure they are immersed in your genre and verify before you send them that manuscript and money.