Monday, June 10, 2024

Writing and Publishing IS Hard

I had a submission yesterday from an author. This individual noted in the query letter that he had thought that writing a novel was the hardest thing out there. Instead, he seemed to believe that agents would only represent published authors and "to be published you need an agent." So in this case, the author decided to send to me, via snail mail, the first three chapters of 6 of his 7 completed novels. 

None are romance or women's fiction...

But, part of what this author said is true. Writing and publishing IS hard. It requires not just sitting at a computer and typing your story, it also involves doing market research and knowing A) if your story is something that is marketable; and B) finding the right person to send your story to. 

I have to say, when I get submissions like this, I really feel sorry for the authors. I know that they have busted their butts to write that story. I know that they feel that their passion for their projects was really enough. I hate writing these letters. 

HOWEVER...

This is a business. This is a career where you need to be educated and you need to know what you are doing. I use this analogy all of the time. In every career out there, people "go to school" to learn what to do. They go to college. They participate in internships. For doctors, they go through residency. They don't just get up one morning, after watching Grey's Anatomy and say they are going to be a doctor and open up shop. 

Being a professional author is no different. Please note, I am using the term "PROFESSIONAL" here for a reason. Just throwing something out there, printing it and calling yourself a professional writer is not a career. The authors you admire out there, who are making "real money" and being successful have learned the craft, learned the business and are still learning.

Now, with that said, let me tell you something I say at almost all conferences I go to. Writing is something EVERYONE can do. It is part of the humanities and it something that we can do to express our feelings and emotions. We can tell our stories. Does that mean we are to be publisher. NO!  Write if it means having fun. Write because you have a story to tell. But remember, if you want to be a professional writer, it takes a lot more than typing 90,000 words on a page. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Quit Over-Thinking Your Story

I remember I was working with one of my authors and her editor early on at Greyhaus. The editor was concerned about an element in the storyline and was trying to get the author to add all of this backstory and additional layering to justify why the character was not interested in a relationship at that time. Honestly, while it seemed probably from the editors point of view, as an easy fix, it would have involved a huge rewrite of over 50% of the book. 

Not necessary.

As we discussed it, the solution was amazingly simple. We made him a widower. Yes, we off'd the prior wife. Of course he was not ready to move on. The solution took up a couple of paragraphs, we had full justification for not moving on, and the solution was fixed quickly.

More often than not, you will be faced with a situation that might involve making a change. Before you go into over-drive, take the time to figure out what the underlying problem is. Is it an issue where you just need to get the character out of the house? Is it something such as a time sequence? In a lot of cases, this can be fixed with something relatively easy.

Unfortunately, too many authors make it harder than it needs to be. Some of this comes from just being too attached to the story and you cannot see beyond the original concept you had planned. In other cases, you are following the lead of people who many not see the entire story and just start giving you unhelpful advice. It may also be that you are not looking at the big picture of things with your story. In this last case, it is just looking at the scene in question but not thinking about the impact it will have on the entire story.

So, before you take that huge chainsaw to your book, stop and think. You may just need to fix one issue only.

Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Is Your Query Letter Failing You?

I get it. You all hate writing query letters. These nasty little buggers are just as bad as writing cover letters for jobs...oh wait, these are the same thing! The point is, your query letter may be the reason you are getting rejected over and over again.

First of all, I want to remind you of one of my favorite quotes. "You never get a second chance to make a first impression." That is your query letter. When I open up your email with that query, I will be immediately making decisions about you, your book and your potential. Turn me off there and we are not moving any further with your project.

When you send that query letter, you are supposed to be showing the agent that your story fits EXACTLY what that agent is looking for, and, more importantly, why YOU are the right fit for the agency. I don't care about the fact that you keep hearing it is all about the story, the reality is that, you have to convince us before we even get to your story.

Let me just say that this is the reason why those of you who use Query Manager are probably failing the most. You have your single query letter and all you do is change the name of who you are sending it to. For so many on Query Manager, you aren't even taking the time to do that. You just start talking about your book. What you are telling us is that you really don't care who you sign with, you just want to make money. Hmmmm? Where is your motivation to be a great author? Where is your motivation to want to work with that editor or agent for the long haul. You seem to think it is only about contract negotiation. Sorry, it is about much more.

When you write that query letter, you need to be demonstrating that you have bothered to take the time to know who you are sending it to. What have we said at conferences, on our blogs, on our websites, or articles we have written that fits with what you are offering? What is that makes you a client we would want to work with? Remember, when you apply for a job, the employer is not just looking at how skilled you are, the employer is spending a lot more time determining if you fit with their team. 

The simple thing you can do is read your query letter as if you have no clue who you are. You have never read your story. You have never met you. WOULD YOU HIRE YOU just based on what you wrote? 

If not, fix it.

So, before you spend your day firing off those query letters, take the time to really see if you are selling you and  your book properly.


Monday, June 3, 2024

If It Was A No, It Is Probably Still A No

I was reading submissions on Query Manager this weekend, and, once again, I had an author submitting material I had already passed on. Now, let me say first, there are agents who will look at revised projects. It is always important to ask first before sending it again. If anything, mention at the very beginning of the query that you sent the project earlier, and you have made revisions. For me, I do not look at revisions. I will look at new projects and should one of those work, we can always go back and revisit the earlier project.

But that is not what is happening here. 

Authors just move from one submission platform to the next with the same project. Now, this might be due to poor record keeping. However, that can easily be remedied by using something as simple as an Excel spreadsheet. For the author this weekend, I passed on the project in October the previous year noting that I simply did not like the premise of the story. This was not a case of something to be fixed. Then she submitted again about a month ago on Query Manager and then again just this last week. This one has be puzzled. Query Manager allows you to keep track of these submissions. 

Could this be an honest mistake? Sure... but I still see this far too often. It seems there is this belief that if you keep submitting, maybe the agent or editor will suddenly like something and their attitude changed. Maybe there is this belief that since we get so many submissions, we won't remember. For me, I use a spreadsheet so when I type in your name or the title of your book, it does pop up as something I have already seen.

I do think the other factor here is that authors are just sending their projects out to anyone who is breathing. The reality is that you should not be sending a story out to hundreds of people. You MAY get to 20 but after that, you are just throwing darts.

If you like rejections, keep doing what you are doing. If not, stop sending it to people who have already said no, or keep track of those submissions.