Wednesday, December 28, 2011

#AskAgent Goodbye 2011 Edition!

Ask away! Questions are totally up to you. You can ask in the comments section between noon and 3 EST today.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Writer's New Year Resolutions

What are your writerly new year's resolutions for 2012?

I mean, not that it'll matter since the world is going to end next year (kidding...but, you know). :)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

How To Get A Job In Publishing

When I got out of college and decided I wanted to do that publishing stuff, I liked some weird fiction. Fiction that, however artistically valuable it's now been decided to be (cough...30 years post-publication), would never ever be mistaken for "commercially viable."

That's why I have some empathy for people like the ones detailed in this NYT article. They're young, more than likely brilliant, and they love writing. Maybe their own, definitely others'. And they can't get a job in publishing.

These job seekers, not to mention the NYT, sort of likes to talk a lot about the "publishing establishment" as this big bad elitist enclave of insular haters. And that's why these brilliant, writing-loving people are having trouble getting publishing jobs.

But you know what? That is a big fat load of stuff-that-also-fills-crocks. 

And I know, because I would have made prime member of one of those classics-and-poetry reading clubs where people complain about The Publishing Establishment. But I was lucky. I got a job in publishing (a luck-filled story for another time), and I learned real, real quick that publishing is about loving the classics--but about knowing today's market and today's publishing landscape. And did I mention I was lucky?

This is a business. As much as every single person I've ever met that works in publishing LOVES writing and LOVES authors and loves art, they are also people who do relentless market research and read two or three published books every week (almost).

Now, the people in this particular article might not even want to be a part of the publishing industry...shoot. They might not want to be a part of any establishment. They seem happy, which is great. But, for people that do want to be in publishing, the industry (which is also full of art, if not exclusively):

Put down the Sartre and read some Suzanne Collins. Read Malcolm Gladwell and the new political nonfiction. Find out what categories you love and read what's coming out now.

Honestly, you'll be leaps and bounds ahead of your peers when you walk into an internship interview.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

How to Read Your Beta Readers

Yesterday, I wrote a post about when to query your manuscript.

But astute #AskAgent participant pointed out something else: It's hard to incorporate advice when all the beta readers say different things.

This is true! And agents face this all the time, too. When subbing a client's book to editors, we frequently get completely conflicting feedback from the different editors: I LOVED the worldbuilding! The worldbuilding just wasn't there...what do you believe?

The truth is it's good when everyone is saying different things. It means that there's nothing glaring that you're missing. And, if all of the feedback is generally very positive, it means the book is probably pretty ready to go.

Beware, though, that you don't try to make consistent feedback into divergent feedback. If all of the critiques coming back are character related (the voice isn't right, they feel flat, they annoy me, she doesn't feel real--all technically "different things"), it means that character is NOT working. It might mean it's up to you to put your finger on exactly why, but your Betas are telling you something useful.

Look for trends in your beta feedback in the following major areas:

  • Character
  • Worldbuilding
  • Pace
  • Plot
  • Tone

Saturday, December 10, 2011

When Is My Manuscript Ready To Query?

One of the excellent contributors to #AskAgent yesterday asked about what state a manuscript must be in before being sent out to query agents. My response is this: you should feel like the book could go to print tomorrow.

And, of course, everyone feels like their book is perfection. That's why they wrote it that way. But an astute writer understands that a whole team is involved in sending a book out into the world. Agents and editors edit and write kickass pitches to sell first the editor and then the sales team on the book.

So, not having HarperCollins' editorial staff on hand (unless you do...and if so call me), you have to do your best to replicate that team. So having beta reader feedback is essential. Using available resources to perfect your pitch (query) is essential. In short, yeah. You put some work in beyond typing "The End." A skeleton model of this looks thusly:

  1. Finish the book.
  2. Let it sit for a week
  3. Reread the book, correct inevitable glaring things.
  4. Send to beta readers.
  5. Consider reader feedback and incorporate. This take humility, which you will need in spades.
  6. Let it sit for a week.
  7. Reread, re-edit. Perhaps send to your most trusted Beta.
  8. Reread one more time.
  9. Query!
Time away from a book is really important in the editing process so that you don't get buried in knowing how it's supposed to read. Fresh eyes.

Take these steps and you'll not only be querying a damn fine manuscript, but you'll be leaps ahead of the people who don't do this work. Don't you want that? 

Thursday, December 8, 2011


OK, time for the next AskAgent! Questions are open from NOON TO 4PM EST.

Have at it!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Are there any billionaires out there?

I would like to do a funny, tongue-in-cheek "How To Be A 1%er" book.

Have your people call my people.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Occupy Wall Street Generation

Well, this is totally off topic, but what do you guys think of this? The article is hilarious, but also has a lot of good insight about what's going on these days. In a nutshell:

"We talk a lot on this site about how geek culture has taken over the mainstream and I worry that another part of geek culture -- the social awkwardness and inability to deal with social settings -- is also going to become the norm. We've slowly killed off most of the activities where kids get together with other kids and have fun (and in the process, learn how to interact)."

Read more: 5 Ways We Ruined the Occupy Wall Street Generation |