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 |

Monday, November 21, 2011

Jennifer "The Brilliant" Laughran on "The Market"

Wondering if "there's a market" for what you're writing? You'll want to read Children's agent Jennifer Laughran's (aka Literaticat) post on the topic. It's here:

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Very Special #AskAgent

Well, today was my Writer's Digest webinar on self-publishing and its relationship to traditional publishing! I had a great time, I hope everyone else did as well. I think you can buy a copy or something even if you didn't see it live, so check out Writer's Digest's website.

At the end of the webinar, there was question time. I want to dedicate today's #AskAgent (open a lot longer than normal!) to questions that you didn't think of during the webinar! And if you didn't attend the webinar, don't worry. Ask your questions on other topics as well!

Questions are open from 3:30 pm EST (now) to 3:30 pm EST tomorrow (Friday)
I'll answer questions by the end of the weekend.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Tweakers: Steve Jobs and Writers

I read a very, very excellent article by Malcolm Gladwell last night on the train home. It was about our recently departed Einstein of Design (he would have hated that), Steve Jobs. 

Gladwell points out that there are two types (well, for our purposes) of genius: the Creators and the Tweakers.

The creators make huge innovations. Come up with things that have never been done before. The Tweakers, well, "tweak." Tweakers make the "micro inventions necessary to make macro inventions highly productive and remunerative." In other words, tweakers take the big bangs and, with a series of small, well-placed sparks, make a bigger one.

I think this is relevant to writing, in the sense that writers live in fear of not being original. Fearful of that old adage: "There are no new stories."

Gladwell points out, and I agree, that small innovations are as important as the earthshaking ones--can, in fact, be the earthshaking ones. 

So write what you're writing, and don't worry that J.R.R Tolkein did it first. You're doing it different. Shoot, you might do it better. (Just don't tell me that in your query)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

No Response Means No. Rawr.

I'm just going to say a couple of things about all of this No Response Means No/Querying nonsense.

  1. To all of you that are thinking "FORM REJECTIONS TAKE 3 SECONDS YOU LAZY LOUTS": Try 3 seconds...multiplied by hundreds of queries. Every day. That I'm handling at 9 pm. After working all day...not on queries.
  2. No agent has ever argued against multiple submissions.
  3. I'm one of those crazies that actually responds to all of my queries. I have an ungodly number backed up. I work on them every single day. And I have interns who work on them. 3 seconds is not nothing.
But, shoot, if you're still fed up with us, there's always self-publishing, on which I'm teaching a Writer's Digest webinar tomorrow at 1pm. And I'll be offering a which I promise to respond. Sign up here:

Monday, November 14, 2011

Query Etiquette

A lot of people ask me how long they should wait after a rejection to requery the rejecting agent.

That timeframe depends on what you'd be querying when you do requery. A new project? A new draft of the old?

If it's the latter, a new draft of an already-queried book, I'd say you should wait at least a year. And in that time you should be revising and using beta readers to figure out how the book can be made genuinely better. We all know my opinions on too-quick revision. (If not, read the #AskAgent archives)

If it's a new project, I say you can requery immediately, so long as the book is ready. Meaning it's been read, revised, read by beta readers, revised, let sit, revised again, and then queried.

A different project, for me, is a fresh start.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Writer's Digest Webinar: Self-Publishing

I'll be giving a webinar through Writer's Digest on Thursday, November 17th, about self-publishing.

We'll cover everything you could possibly want to know: the strategy behind self-publishing, its relationship to traditional publishing (aka will it help you get signed or published), file formats, different platforms to use, metadata, etc. etc. etc.!!

And just for icing, there'll also be question time and a guaranteed critique from me. Sign up here:

See you there!!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

We're Back!! #Ask Agent 9

After a bye-week for the Backspace Conference (which was awesome, by the way!), we're back for #AskAgent!!

What's on your mind?

Questions are open from noon to 3 EST.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Book Trailers

Today, the LA Times did a story about book trailers: their blockbuster-like budgets and their ability to sell books the way movie trailers sell tickets.

I don't know, though. I've enjoyed the book trailers I've seen, but I wonder if they really have an effect on sales.

What do you think? Has a book trailer convinced you to throw down at the cash register? Share your favorites in the comments!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Conference 101: Pitch Sessions

Easily the most terrifying thing about the conference. But before you decide to sneak in some mini bottles, consider this. Pitches are hard because they ask you to verbally represent a written medium. You're taken way out of your element--so don't beat yourself up.

You're going to a writer's conference. It's actually a bit unfair to ask you to take something that's hard enough to do well: write a query, and convert it to something even harder: an elevator pitch.

Elevator pitches are definitely good to have. They're particularly helpful when talking to other authors and finding beta readers, because they keep you concise. And at some point, you're probably going to have to whip out that short verbal pitch, so don't discount it.

But at a writer's conference, your main goal is to learn (not, as we've covered, to get signed). The verbal pitch is important, but more important is your written pitch. Your query.

When you sit down to pitch, you should have copies of three things (all with contact information):

  1. Your query
  2. The first five pages of your book
  3. Your synopsis
When you sit down, have the query out and start like this: 
"Hi, thanks so much for taking the time. I've got a [CATEGORY] [GENRE] complete at [WORDCOUNT] called [TITLE] for you today, and I have my query here as well, just in case." 

Then start into your pitch. It should be only two sentences maximum, and in the first sentence you should name your main character and the main problem. Then, STOP TALKING. The agent or editor will then give the session some direction by asking for the information that's most important to them. Or they might read over your query. Either way, the pressure's off of you after those first two or three sentences:
  • Sentence including wordcount, title, category, and genre
  • Sentence or two (max) that names the main character and presents the main conflict
The synopsis and first five page are there just in case. If the editor or agent really seems enthused (beyond requesting a full--that's not so uncommon) ask if they'd like to take the pages or synopsis with them. Most of the time, they'll say no. But you never know, right?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Conference 101: Working the Room

So, there you are. You've found the hotel, your room, your conference check-in packet, your name tag, and the bar.

Especially if you haven't come with a writing group or friends, fear of making connections can really hamstring your conference experience. But now that you know, based on our last post, what you're there for (and what you're NOT there for) at a conference, you can rest a little easier.

In approaching anyone at a conference, first and foremost, read nametags. They will give you not only the person's name, but also what category they fall in--are they an agent or an editor, for instance. Just this simple info-gathering tactic will protect you from a lot of foot-in-mouth moments. There are three types at a conference:

Editors are likely at the conference to network with agents--to find out what agented projects are in the pipeline--than to sign content straight from the author (not that that couldn't happen!). So don't pitch an editor unless you're sitting in a pitch session...and even then know that they're ultimately gonna want an agent involved before they really commit to anything. If you're agented and you ask an editor about your project that your agent sent to them...your agent will kill you. Outside of pitch sessions, stay on more general topics like pop culture or favorite books that have come out (the better if it's the editor's!!).

Agents are definitely at the conference to network with editors, but we're also interested in connecting directly with authors and their writing.
That being said, we'd definitely rather chat with you in the bar about pop culture or clients' books or the publishing industry than your personal projects. It's just not cool to be put on the spot when everyone is there to hang out. If we're not in a pitch session or a panel, we're off the clock. We just want to meet you, cocktail party style, not be interviewed. STAY AWAY FROM PITCHING unless you're in a pitch session. Period.

Other Authors
Ah, authors. Your kind. Around your fellow author folk, you can let down your hair and talk writing. Talk about your project, your hang-ups, your frustrations (be careful, though, about naming names...particularly if the frustrating agent/editor is there!). Writing is probably the most productive topic you can talk about with your other writers. A major goal of conferences should be to walk out with some Beta Readers. Only way to do that is to find other writers who write and read your genre. So open up!

There's always a feeling that you have to connect with editors and agents at a conference--that you're going in order to circumvent those cumbersome mechanisms that the peons have to go through: queries, submissions, waiting. You've got a direct line to pitch the crap out of your book, right!? Well, yes and no. 

You should never, never pitch an editor or agent unless you're in a pitch session...or they literally say "I'd really love to hear about a such-and-such project RIGHT NOW!" And you're writing that! And it's ready! And you're agented.

When you do pitch an agent or editor, you're probably going to get requests. Not only is it just hard to say no right to someone's face, but it's also just better safe than sorry! Even if you don't get a bunch of business cards, you're guaranteed to walk out of there with a lot more insight into the industry and your pitch is gonna be improved. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Conference 101: Know Before You Go

Prior to a writer's conference, it's natural to feel overwhelmed. Most authors go to conferences with a sense of "Do-or-Die": pitch your heart out and get signed or...well...something terrible will happen. There's a sense that there are people at a conference that could make or break your writer self and the pressure is immense.

I encourage you to take a different, more laid-back approach to conferences. Here's the number one reason why:
Agents and editors don't go to a conference specifically to find new clients.

It's true. Here's why. There are other, better mechanisms in place for finding new clients. For agents, that's the query. It gives an agent time to read your pages, Google you, etc. Get a full picture of the project and of the client. For editors, it's the agent. There's a reason that most houses don't accept unsolicited manuscripts, and being at a conference doesn't mean you'll jump that policy.

The mechanisms already in place for connecting authors, agents, and editors actually benefit the author, too, by providing you a way to pitch your work in the format you're comfortable in: writing. True, some of you are as comfortable speaking about your work, but for the most part people find verbally pitching a book really, really hard. It's not an ideal way to present your work (more on this later).

So go to your conference more focused on networking than getting signed (which will for-sure not happen to you at the conference). Get to know agents and editors, exchanging Twitter handles, finding other writers that might for critique groups for you.

Go to the conference armed with the following research, and you'll be well-prepared to network:
  • Check out the photos of the various faculty at the conference. This is so you can say Hi with confidence if you find yourself in an elevator with them.
  • Find the agents and editors that will be at the conference on Twitter and follow them.
  • Have a book in mind that each editor worked on, that you would like to talk to them about--a list of books might be in his or her bio on the conference website, or you can find it on Publisher's Marketplace if you're a member.
  • Pick a client whose work you like from each agent's list and do some research on that author and his or her books. If you can't find a client you like, that's probably not the agent you want to be chatting up.
  • Take a look at blogs like Galley Cat and Media Bistro in the weeks leading up to the conference. Know what's going on in the publishing world.
  • Who are the major author guests at the conference? Take a look at their blogs and books in case you get a chance to chat.
Doing the above will ensure that you have a head start on conference conversations, and that you will come across as a well-informed publishing aspirant. If all you can talk about is yourself and your book, you're not going to get much out of the organic connections that are there to be made in a conference setting.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Getting The Most Out Of Conferences

Conference season lite has started, and there will only be more throughout the Winter and Spring, so I figured I'd do a little series on what the best practices are for a conference. For reference, I'll be attending:

Backspace Writer's Conference November 3 - 4 2011
Oklahoma Writer's Federation May 5 - 3 2012
DFW Writer's Conference May 19 & 20 2012

And I'm also going to be teaching a webinar for Writer's Digest sometime this winter. More on that soon!

For our first installment, I thought I'd start with why one even goes to a writer's conference. What's the point? Does anyone actually get signed off of a pitch session???

Well, maybe. It's hard to say whether verbal pitch sessions are really all that great for authors...more on that in subsequent posts. But conferences are excellent places to get other things accomplished: to ask industry people the questions to which you can't find answers. To talk face-to-face with people with whom you have chatted here and there on Facebook or Twitter or via email. To find Beta Readers.

Conferences are excellent resources for your writing career...even if you don't come out of it with any new insights on your craft (although I bet you do). Panels and impromptu conversations at conferences give you a better handle on the Industry as a whole, which makes you a more astute and appealing queryer to agents or a more prepared self-publishing candidate. They're also amazing networking events.

I highly recommend them!

In the next few days, we'll address how to go in to a conference well prepared, how to deal with pitch sessions, how to work the room, and how to go to panels. Any specific questions leaping out at you already?? I'll try to tailor the posts.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

#AskAgent 8

It's Thursday! Ask me anything!

Questions are open from noon to 3pm EST today.

Wanna read other #AskAgents?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Jumping The Gun

One of the most important skills to develop as an author, particularly an unsigned one (i.e. my favorite type of author) is patience.


It's a beautiful word. It's nigh perfect. It sort of takes a long time to say, too, which sort of fits. Am I hyperanalyzing here? Perhaps. 

But I can't explain how much better and easier your writerly career will go if you also treasure this virtue. Do your research. Give that manuscript one more week to sit, so that you can read it one more time with fresh eyes. Take care with your queries so that the list of agents is right, you have your personalization planned, and you make a good impression. If you're think about going the self-pub route, get all the information and plan out what your journey will look like.

You'll be glad you did.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Closed To Queries

You've probably heard it out in the Twitter-fueled gossip farms: I'm closing to queries starting 10/15 (yesterday). All queries received after I've closed will receive an automated response telling you what I'm telling you here: I'm closed to queries, please requery after the first of next year.

So what that means for you if:
  • You already queried in the past: your query will be responded to within four-to-six weeks of your sending it. If you believe your query should have already received a response, JUST WAIT. If you send a follow-up now you'll just get the closed auto response. If you still haven't received a response in 2012, requery then.
  • You've queried yesterday or today: if you don't get the automated message, you snuck in! Your query will get a response in four-to-six weeks. If you did get the automated message, you missed the closed date--please requery in 2012!!
  • You were planning to query in the near future: You will (I hope) requery in 2012 or someone else will snap you up in the meantime, to my eternal sadness.
  • You were planning to query in 2012: You're go! Keep polishing your query and manuscript and we'll talk soon!!

Other rules:

  • DO NOT respond to the automated response. Any replies cluttering up the inbox will make it harder to clean things out and will make it more likely that I have to extend my closed-to-queries-ness.
  • We won't hesitate to mark as spam anyone who repeatedly responds to the auto response or is in anyway abusive--expressing frustration, telling us we're missing out on the next big bestseller, etc. That means we won't read your query next year. Or ever.
  • Don't worry! I have plenty of room on my list, and that space will still be there in 2012! We'll speak then.

Closing to queries now is going to allow me to focus on client projects in the last quarter of this year. It'll also allow me to speed up response times next year. Thanks!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

#AskAgent 7

I'm late to #AskAgent because I was writing an ed letter. :) Sorry!

Questions will be open 6pm to 9pm EST this week. I'll answer manana!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Facebook as Promo

Authors are encouraged to establish an "online presence" these days, and that typically consists of some combination of a Facebook page, Twitter, and a blog (not always all three).

I think Facebook is the most difficult of those three to do well, because it takes a lot of effort to maintain the multiple types of media (photos, videos, wall posts) needed to make a Facebook page seem active, and also because it's hard to find the tipping point where your fans start engaging with your page and sharing it, which gives you viral marketing, which is where Facebook outpaces all other social media platforms.

How have you been using Facebook, if you have. What's been the best and worst part? Are there any Facebook pages that you think are really getting it right?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

#AskAgent 6

If you're enjoying these, make sure that you search #AskAgent on Twitter...or if you have general questions for the agent community, use the hashtag! It will help agents see your question on Twitter, one of the most amazingest information tools in the universe.

And now to our little #AskAgent! Questions will be open from noon until 3pm EST and they'll be answered by Friday. Anything's game, even project-specific questions. 

Be sure to read the #AskAgent Archive:

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

We need to talk about Beta Readers

I love the "off-the-page" opportunities afforded to books. New things are happening every day! But I never lose sight (as I hope you don't either) of the fact that books are first and foremost about writing. Writing stories.

These stories might take different forms: images, video, etc. etc. etc...but they are first of all stories. And there are some things about writing stories that will never change.

Stories have to have good pace. The characters have to feel real and deep. The tone has to fit the subject matter. The writing has to be beautiful or fantastic or funny or lively enough to pull someone all the way through your thriller.

All those things take a lot of editing. These will never ever come together all on the first go. And the one universal truth about editing is that you can't edit yourself. Just trust me. You can't!

You're too close to the writing and to the story. Meaning it all makes sense to you because you conceived it all. But how about what your readers will perceive? The only way to find out is to have readers read it.

Please, please get Beta Readers. Please get them before you query me and please listen to them. If they tell you to change something, consider it! If they tell you something and then it's corroborated, REALLY consider making the change. If nothing else, it'll be good for you to feel what it's like to change something because others perceived a flaw--something you'll be doing a lot of if you get agented and get an editor.

Don't know how to find Betas? Leave a comment with your genre and category and we'll see what we can do here for ya. Got opinions about Betas? Leave those too!

Monday, October 3, 2011

I just had the best idea for a mystery/crime novel plot

So. What if the serial killer kills his/her wife/husband and then hires our private eye main character to solve the case. THEN the serial killer kills all the suspects as the main character discovers them and presents them to the client/serial killer (I guess as client updates or something? This part is your job).


ok, that's free. Go with it!

Friday, September 30, 2011

When is it right to self-publish?

It's probably one of the hardest decisions authors today face. Both sides, legacy and self-publishing, have benefits, and there's absolutely no way to predict results until you're knee deep in either choice.

My advice is, if you ever might maybe-perhaps-one-day want to be traditionally published, query exhaustively before going to self-pub. Self-publishing can really complicate getting an agent (see why here). If you're sticking it to the man by self-publishing, that's cool. Don't query, too, though. They're separate paths; until you sell a million copies you've got to step on to one or the other.

But saying "suck it" to traditional publishing (or agents) might not be why one self-publishes. You might be *fine* with traditional publishing. You might be torn, feeling discouraged after a bunch of form rejections from a book that, by many unbiased accounts is PRETTY DARN GOOD. So when do you take the plunge, call it quits, and go self-publish?

Actually, wait. there's one caveat first: No one should self-publish without expecting it to be a lot of work. Without having an active online presence, a slammin' cover (peer edit, just like with your writing), and a marketing plan of your own design or someone else's. Books don't just sell. Ever.

If you fall into one of the following categories, self-pub might just be the best route for you:
  1. You're writing what's in bookstores right now and you're getting form rejections. If you're seeing books that are suspiciously like yours come out right now, it means that they were being bought a year ago. Unless you think you've got a pretty substantial twist or a really new take (be real) you might be better off self-publishing it.***
  2. You're writing significantly shorter or longer than traditional wordcounts.
  3. You're writing poetry without the platform of some amazing prizes and journal publications.
  4. You're writing a memoir with neither a strong platform nor a "third act"--something that happens as a result of what happened to you that makes yours a more universal story: legislation that was enacted or overturned, for instance. This does not go, however, for other types of nonfiction (in my opinion).
  5. You're writing extremely graphic violence or sex. Or both. 
*** The relates the most to young adult fiction. People seem to be jumping on that bandwagon with stuff that's past its prime: dystopians, vampires, werewolves, angels. 

The reasoning here is that there may very well be an audience for your book, but that might also be a very small audience or one that's not easily reached by the typical event-oriented marketing that publishers do. Therefore, an agent might also have a hard time finding an editor to buy it. If you sell a billion copies, you'll be laughing all the way to the bank because you found the audience no one else was willing to.

However. This does not give you license to not edit. You still should have a writing group or beta readers of people who write and read in your genre. You should still listen to them. They ARE your audience. Let them judge your cover, too (PLEASE).

Anything else that's prompted anyone to self-publish?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

#AskAgent 5

#AskAgent time again!

You know the rules: questions are open from noon until 3pm EST, answered by tomorrow evening. The topic (although feel free to ask whatever, including questions about specific projects!) is revision. Thanks for playing!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Submission Guidelines

Nothing is more frustrating than authors who query without following submission guidelines. The wrong subject line means your email isn't filtered properly and my response is delayed--sometimes meaning we miss out on ever getting a chance to work together at all. People send their query as an attachment, with no information about the project in the body of the email...and no, I don't click unsolicited links or attachments. Not many agents (read: nearly 0) do.

But the worst of all is when I get a well-crafted query with the right subject line with a good idea...and no pages pasted into the email.

Seeing the writing is so important, and it can remedy many common query faults, at least for me. If the story doesn't quite make sense or it sounds like something I'm seeing too much of, seeing great writing will always, always give me pause and make me reconsider rejecting.

So submission guidelines aren't just because agents are ego-maniacs who demand that you jump through a lot of hoops. We take great care with our query inboxes to keep them organized and responses quick. And, even more importantly, we want to give you as many chances as possible to get our attention: query and pages.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

#AskAgent 4

Welcome to our fourth #AskAgent! This is a weekly Thursday feature on ze blog that has a Tuesday night equivalent on Twitter (just search "#AskAgent"). I think today we should talk about agent function. What we do in various scenarios, from contract negotiation to self-publishing consultation.

Rules are as always: questions are open from noon until 3 EST, I'll try to get them answered by Friday night.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Finish Your Manuscript

One of my phenomenal interns emailed me this morning and asked if it was OK to read only the partial of this manuscript that she thought looked really good.

"Why don't you read the full, if it looks so good?" I asked, drooling at the prospect of something kicka$$ soon to cross my desk.

"Oh, he hasn't finished the book yet." She replied.


Y'all finish your books before getting our hopes all up and stuff! This goes for all fiction and for memoirs. Finish the book, let it sit a couple days, edit it, have beta readers read it, and take their suggestions to heart. Let it sit a couple more days, do one last pass, THEN send.

If that seems like a lot of work, consider the competition. There are authors out there that are doing that, and they get signed. And then they go out on submission faster because they've done work on the book. And then your agent feels happy because they didn't have to re-write the book for you.

I'm going to do my job: find editors that will want this book and sell the crap out of it. Hell, I like editing, so we'll do some of that too. But don't you cop out on your job. You should be of the (honest, corroborated) opinion that your book is ready to sell THE DAY you query it. Get used to editing. You'll do a lot of it.

Just a note, nonfiction can be pitched and sold on proposal and a sample chapter. So that's a different case. Nonfiction authors do their pre-query work on the platform side.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Synopsis Monday

It's Monday, which is bad enough, but I'm also working furiously on some series synopses for a couple of backlist series that we're sending to digital publishers to be published as ebooks. One is a Western series, which is difficult to sell these days but which did quite well in the 80s and 90s; I think we'll see them have new life as ebooks. The synopsis is hard to write, though!

Anyone out there working on synopses? Do you hate them? Love them (crazies)? 

Friday, September 16, 2011

My Cover Art

I made these covers, for Mary Mackey's Earthsong Trilogy, soon to be re-released as ebooks (yay!!). They're Jean M. Auel-esque (pre)historical romances. She has a bunch of other awesome books, most recently Widow's War (Civil War era women's fiction) and Sugar Zone, a collection of poetry.

I guess I sort of do this freelance now, because I really liked the project. Just letting everyone know. if you're interested in commissioning me for cover art, email me at proseblog[@]gmail[dot]com.

I am proud of these covers. If you hate them, please don't say anything. :)

I also did this cover, for Sukie Miller's nonfiction book AfterDeath, available here.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Ask Agent #3

Here we are again! It's our third ask agent. The topic is, loosely, etiquette. But you're free to ask whatever you want! Rules are as usual: no personal questions and no abuse. Questions about your own projects are welcome.

Questions are open from noon until 3pm EST and everything will be answered by tomorrow at midnight.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

How to Get Twitter Followers

I've noticed a rash of "so-and-so is trying to get ## more followers by the end of the day! Go follow her/him!" tweets recently.

Why is this happening?

I've seen others taunting people: "I'll post XYZ picture if I get ## more followers!"

This is so completely backwards. Posting interesting content will cause people to want to follow you. Interesting content is not a weapon. It goes against everything organic about social media to use it to taunt people into following you. And those people are probably not going to return to your feed, so I hope you don't intend to ever use it to tell them anything else.

Twitter and Facebook followings are built over time, not crammed into one or two "follower drives." What sort of artificial timeline is making people do this all of a sudden??

Traditionally, marketing centered around "events" (hence Event Marketing). So, say, a book launch. A very clever marketer would arrange a series of appearances or reviews or other buzz-generating items slightly before, on, and after, a certain date.

Social media--the internet in general, really--is making Event Marketing a thing of the past. Which is not to say that it's not useful or that no one does it anymore. It still has its applications. But crafting an online presence is not meant to serve one date (although a good presence will give you a strong platform when there is a specific piece of info you need to disseminate). You have to create a reason for people to want to add you to the noise of the Interwebz, so make an effort. Followers drives ain't it.

Monday, September 12, 2011


It never ceases to amaze me how powerful randomness is. How one seemingly random occurrence can be related to other recent random occurrences and how fast the randomness synergy adds up to something wonderful.

For instance, my love affair with StumbleUpon has brought me two clients. I set aside 20 minutes every day to use it. If nothing else, I see some really cool stuff and it gives me fresh fodder for my social media accounts. Sometimes I even find things to pass along to my authors for their social media accounts.

There's so much information available to us these days. It can be so overwhelming, but if you just let randomness take over (in moderation) you might be surprised at the benefits.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

#AskAgent 2

OK, topic today will loosely be self-publishing, since that's what we've been talking about this week. But feel free to ask anything, even if it pertains to your own project, so long as it's not a personal question for me.

Questions close at 3pm today, Thursday, EST. I will answer by Friday night...I hope. (I'm travelling this Labor Day weekend)

Go for it!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Self-Publishing: Where's the Marketing?

I can't tell you how often I see queries in my inbox that start "I self-published my book ___, but I am frustrated/underwhelmed with the sales and now I need an agent to take it to the next level."

They need someone to boost sales for them and teach them how to market. A publicist. Not an agent.

Agents do more marketing all the time as the landscape shifts (me more than many--I like it). But this is done for clients--people for whom we have sold a book. Any marketing assistance would be supplemental to the function of selling the book (the only thing, incidentally, for which an agent is traditionally paid--on commission). If you've already gotten the book published, you've essentially done the agent's primary job. 

As I said in the previous posts in our self-publishing series, legacy/traditional publishing and self-publishing are different paths. If you're looking to move between these paths make sure you're realistic about how much you expect the other system to bend over backwards to accommodate you.

Agents functioning primarily as a publicist is just not going to happen. We sell: foreign, print, audio, etc. etc., and we want to do so for self-published authors too. But you've got to sell those copies yourself first.

Tomorrow's #AskAgent!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Self-Publishing Mechanics

Most agents and editors agree that 5,000 is the minimum number of copies a self-published book has to sell in order to be considered a viable choice for a traditional publishing deal. This within 6 months or fewer, in order to be really eye-catching.

That is a lot of copies.  

It seems sort of unreasonable, really, if you don't know why a book has to sell that many. Honestly, one thousand copies, essentially sold by hand, while holding down a full-time job, should impress pretty much anyone. And in truth, it is impressive!

But you're not trying to impress a person. You're trying to impress a Profit and Loss Statement (a P&L: example here). This financial statement is used to project profits for a publishing house. In the case of debut writers, the "Revenue" section is guess work, based on how books like theirs have sold. In the case of non-debut writers, it's based on their actual past sales numbers. If the "Revenue" doesn't exceed expenses, book 2 (or 3 or whatever) is in trouble.

The P&L is one of the most common causes of a book getting turned down by a house, particularly in the case of authors who were first published by a small house or self-published. It's the P&L that agents have in mind when they say that you must have 5,000 copies sold in order to be considered for a traditional publishing deal. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Self-Publishing vs Traditional Publishing

Agents wear all sorts of hats these days, but it's important to remember the first hat any agent wears (or should wear) and that's to sell books to publishers.

Which means self-publishing and traditional publishing diverge very fundamentally.

If you've published your book in any way, whether it's on your blog for free, as an ebook, or through a small press, you've essentially taken over the agent's job. Many do this to great satisfaction. Most, though, find themselves frustrated and feeling duped without representation.

Of course, some self-published authors get leveraged into traditional deals with publishers, but these are few and far between and the mechanics are complicated (more later this week). There is about a 1% chance that your self-publishing experience will look anything like John Locke's.

If you're hoping to be published traditionally, the best way to get there is traditionally. Query agents. Revise for agents. Attend conferences. Do research. Get an Agent. Get a Book Deal.

If you exhaust that avenue, and no one is smart enough to see you've written a bestseller, then self-publish (this is almost universally better than signing with a small press, believe it or not, because you keep ALL your rights--meaning you can sell them later if a big publisher is interested).

If you self-publish and then try to query agents, you will universally get "No" unless you've sold in excess of 5,000 copies. This is not an opinion of mine, it's the fact of the matter. An agent cannot leverage print rights on a self-published book without sales numbers to back it up. As a debut author, querying agents, you have no sales numbers and no one expects you to. You're a debut. But once you're published, even if you do it yourself, publishers need to see some $treet cred.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Queries of a different sort...

Yesterday was so much fun that I vote it become a Thursday institution on this blog. All those in favor? All those opposed? OK. It's settled.

Thanks so much for all the questions, everyone, and let's tune in next week for a discussion of self-/indie publishing and the relationship to traditional/agented publishing. Are they symbiotic? Mutually exclusive? The basics are covered in yesterday's comments section, so take a look there if you're wondering. But does anyone have any follow ups to yesterday's discussion of the matter? Let's make sure I answer them next week!!

Yay collaboration!

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Let's have question time. You can ask anything for the next two hours and I promise I'll answer it before midnight tomorrow (so end of the day Friday). Yes, questions about your projects are OK, but let's keep it general: word count for a particular category (or look here), character age, whether a character name is distracting. We're not editing (although maybe you'll find a good beta reader!), so don't post excerpts. Know also that this is public--don't post anything that you might not like the answer to (so no marriage proposals, please) or that might cross the "too personal" line!

Some of you will probably have awesome questions that are too complex to answer in the comments--for those, I'll do blog posts in the coming weeks.

Use good judgment, please, so that I want to do this again. :) 

Questions open now until 6:15 pm EST.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Word Counts

Approximate word count ranges for major categories are:

General Adult/Women's Fiction: 60-90K
Thrillers: 80-100K
Fantasy/SciFi: 80-low 100K
Young Adult: 60-85K (more for the scifi/fantasy/paranormal brethren)
Middle Grade: 40-60K (ditto)

I wonder if, with media being constantly condensed (shorter blog posts, headlines in lieu of full news reports, 140-character updates), readers will start to be less tolerant of longer books?

I've heard some rumblings about this, and I think there is definitely some trend here toward bite-sized media in all forms. But then I hear about all of the cool additions being made to books these days (like soundtracks), and I wonder if the changing face of media isn't going to make for richer multi-sensory experiences, even as some things, like word count, change.

Then I wonder if I'm really going to like all the add-ons all that much. So, you know.

What do you think?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Is your book melodramatic?

How does one know when his or her writing crosses the line from emotionally compelling to just too much?

For me, it's often in "the twist." Something that's merely intense veers into soap opera territory when an author adds that one. more. thing. The twist in these cases is often highly salacious or verboten rather than subtle and surprising.

For instance: pregnant terminally ill main character discovers she has to solve a murder--of her baby daddy.

Or: Small town guy realizes he's gay and must face coming out to his Bible-belt family and friends--but then his father dies in a plow accident and CAN HE REALLY RISK TEARING HIS FAMILY APART MORE?? Oh, and then he discovers his father's stash of child porn when going through his effects.

No joke, those were in my inbox.

Trust yourself, writers. The above stories have great hearts: facing one's own death as a new one is starting. Navigating prejudice of those close to you. Tell those stories; you don't have to throw the kitchen sink in, too. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

QR Codes

A few months back, I posted about my favorite things as a way to talk about Quick Response codes, like the one below which will take you to the post in question:

Today there was a neat article in Publishing Perspectives about how these codes are being used to enhance print books, which I think is brilliant. For instance, Bill Cameron's COUNTY LINE (Tyrus Books) has QR Codes that link to discussion guides, an author video, and even a deleted scene. Our own Gordon Thomas' next edition of GIDEON'S SPIES, about the Israeli intelligence force Mossad, will include a QR code that links you to his blog for between-book updates.

What do you think?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Self Publishing: I Wanna Know

Yesterday there was a link circulating around the pub-peeps Twitter-verse (along with commentary ranging from outrage to profanity) to an offer from Publish America.


The link took you to a buy page: pay $49 and Publish America (my fingers burn to type it) will show your book to J.K. Rowling and "ask her what she thinks."

To me, this just sounds insane. Completely implausible. But I empathize with writers, and I sort of see how PA gets people. The suggestion that something might get an author published is a powerful thing.

I know this, too, because I see so many queries that start out "I self-published with _____ but the experience was not what I expected (or) I am disappointed (or) they totally jerked me around." And my heart goes out to these people! Because often that project is shot--without serious sales numbers (5K+) an agent will have a very difficult time leveraging a self-pubbed book for print sale.

So I want to ask you guys. What offers entice you/your compatriots to pay the $49, to sign a contract without representation? Is it resentment toward the Publishing Establishment? Snazzily worded pitches from the self-pub companies? What value do you see in the self-publishing world, in having to do it all on your own??

Further, what do you want to know from the Publishing Establishment? Does it make sense that agents cite such a high number of sales before a self-pubbed project is valuable for the traditional publishing world?

My instinct is that there was a lot of "Eff the Man" talk about a year ago. The sad stories I'm seeing in my inbox now are the result of the early adopters of self-publishing getting burned; the backlash. I feel now that there's a more cautious view of self-publishing: that it's a dangerous, potentially career-harming move if not done correctly, with a lot of back-end work. But then I still get emails asking what the point of an agent I dunno.

Monday, August 15, 2011

MUST READ Online Marketing Post from Nancy Coffey Literary and Media Representation

It's sometimes hard to talk about online marketing because every book and every campaign is so different. The strategy changes 100% with each new project. It's easier to talk about what not to do, but that'll only get you so far.

Case studies, man. Case studies is where it's at.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Online Author Marketing: Your Book Is Pubbing!

You're living the dream, man. An agent, a book your book is about to come out!

This is going to be AWESOME.

Publishers dedicate marketing and publicity staff to your book, with their biggest push focused around the launch. It's called "event marketing" in the industry.

What that means is that there's one big push, but no long term marketing strategy for the book...and this is where most authors (and some agents) get really grouchy. ("They're not doing anything anymore!")

But before we start Publisher bashing, as is so en vogue these days, consider that just as your book had some launch-time marketing (galleys printed, an ad somewhere, etc.) the next book on that publicist's list has to get the same attention. The publisher has to move on.

Which means that, at this stage, your own marketing efforts have to get more aggressive and your strategy more sophisticated. In post one, we talked about building the foundation of your online presence. On Tuesday, about focusing your online strategy. At this stage, you should focus on marrying your marketing foundation (blog, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) with specific marketing strategy.

This means getting creative. Your goal should be to keep your book(s) on people's minds in the online space, where attention spans are notoriously short.

This is not done by "selling" your book.

As you've no doubt heard before, broadcasting "BUY MY BOOK" is a quick way to get ignored. Create value for your audience--by being funny, like Maureen Johnson, finding interesting images on Flickr, or marrying your writing interests with something broader, as Sarah Fine does with psychology and YA literature.

Keep them coming back for your digital content and persona (separate from your book) and they'll get your book news (new releases, discounted ebooks, etc.) too. Organically piqued interest has a much greater chance of generating sales and word-of-mouth advertising.

Yes, this "online stuff" takes time. Or money (you can certainly pay some very talented professionals to do this for you). The online space has become a hugely important marketing and sales environment. If you choose to ignore that online space, you risk dooming your book to the "Launch and Fizzle" pattern so many books fall into.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Online Author Marketing: Agented!

You may have been an unagented writer before, just trying to build a basic online brand (see yesterday's post) but now...


You landed an agent. Nice work! You've got a blog with a few followers and you've done some guest posts here and there for other bloggers who've even returned the favor. You may have figured out The Twitter. The two platforms, through cross-linking, support one another.

Things feel a lot more concrete than they did when you were just hammering away at different projects. You've got one to really focus on, with some in the wings (your agent hopes).

Now that you have something specific to promote, whether sold or unsold, you should reevaluate your online strategy and perhaps expand into new platforms. Hopefully your agent can help you. For instance:
  • Are you writing nonfiction as an expert in some area? You could join Quora and start answering questions there--it's a great way to build platform.
  • Facebook. This is more complicated because everyone thinks they know how to do The Facebook. Most people have a Facebook page of some sort, but few have one that's really effective in building an online brand, (see here for some details). Think of a strategy for Facebook: what are you promoting? A single title? A series? You as an author?
  • Flickr. If you're an artist or illustrator, Flickr is a great place to showcase your work and build stories--supplemental, perhaps, to your book--in a new way.
There are many more ways to build an online brand; your agent can and should help you with this strategy, although you shouldn't expect them to do it for you. If you're too busy for social media, see here. Apply to all social media platforms.

A word on oversharing: you're going on submission now. It's a nervewracking experience for all involved and it can be really frustrating. Don't blog about it. Don't tweet it. Don't write angsty poetry about it and post it to your Tumblr. Don't.

So in the agented stage you get an online presence with a little more flair, guided by your agent. You've also got a more focused message, since you'll have a project to promote. Go get 'em!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Online Author Marketing: Pre-Agent

On Friday, I participated in an amazing interactive interview on Krista Van Dolzer's Mother. Write. (Repeat.) Blog. One of the questions asked, concerning author online marketing, was too complex to discuss in the comments section:

How can a writer get the most out of the Internet at each stage of the writing journey (pre-agent, post-agent, pre-book release, post-book release)?

Since we couldn't talk about it on Friday, it'll be the subject of a series on the blog this week.

First, we'll cover pre-agent online marketing and platform-building tactics.

Since your online presence is the foundation for your online marketing in the future, you should have a strategy before you just jump on Blogger. What brand are you trying to build? What other people are already talking about what you want to? How can you possibly collaborate with them? Unfortunately, blogging about "your writing process" or "your publishing journey" is not going to cut it if you really want to build a following--too many are already doing it. For tips on blog topics, check out this post here (and the surrounding posts).

I suggest a blog and a twitter account as a good online foundation for an aspiring writer.

You don't have to be super active on Twitter as soon as you sign up. Go ahead and find 20 or 30 people to follow--a mix of writers you admire, agents, editors, and non-publishing people--and just lurk. Listen to conversations, jump in where you feel like you have something to say. As you get more comfortable with the platform, you can tweet more. A fully active account should be tweeting no fewer than three times a day.

The hashtags #askagent and #yalitchat are examples of ways to find others interested in the things you're writing about: both agents/editors and beta writers. You can search those terms on Twitter and read the transcripts of the chats, which are always full of great info.

A blog is another good way to get started building an online presence. As you'll see as you get your feet wet with Twitter, the writerly blogosphere is incredibly interconnected. Bloggers guest post, start series together, and share thoughts on books they loved (And hated). But here more than anywhere else you have to worry about oversharing.

Many writers serialize their work on their blogs. I cannot encourage you strongly enough to avoid that. Authors nearly always list "getting an agent" as the reason they put "teasers" on their blogs. But there is already a mechanism for showing your work to agents: the query. Trust that process; it is highly unlikely that an agent will just stumble on your blog. They usually find it by clicking links in a query. So why put it on the blog?

If you choose to do so anyway you may put yourself breach of the warranties and indemnities clause of the publishing contract that you haven't even signed yet. I like Krista's strategy: she has a widget on her sidebar that lists a logline for her book. That's interesting without crossing any lines. Kathleen Ortiz has a great author website post here that lists website elements you should focus on.

You should try to post about twice a week on your blog--a link with a caption is still a post, but try to make a habit of producing real content--between 100 and 400 words.

So what do you think? Any questions? Tomorrow we'll talk about changes you should make once you're an agented writer.

Friday, August 5, 2011

If nothing happens...

First line in a query today:

"What happens when everyone expects the apocalypse--and nothing happens."

Well, this agent stops reading, for one. If you say the words "nothing happens" in your query you're just sinking yourself.

Your query should tell me what happens. Not what doesn't.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Meredith in the ATL

The Atlantic, that is.

I'm honored to be featured with some much more impressive names than my own in an article about YA literature, growing up, and what "art" means anymore at

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Oh, all right. I'll bite.

So, there's this blog post over here that was pretty incendiary re: Agents and their "money grabs" with authors who are self-publishing and using the agency to do so.

It was a...something...enough blog post to make a bunch of agents really mad in a "NU UH!" Sort of way. Like in a way that just makes one shake one's head and think "you just. don't. get it."

One thing she said struck me as particularly "not getting it," here:
But they don’t know the right answers in self-publishing. There isn’t an agent out there that has the savvy that Bella Andre, Joe Konrath, and Amanda Hocking have in self-publishing. Not a one.

This woman points out that authors are talking about agents and "what they're doing." I wish authors would stop talking about their agents and start talking to them (just in general, actually)--ask questions about how things will be done and ask the agent to explain commission break-downs if there are increases. If nothing else, you have a good resource on this blog (here, here, here, here, and here on this topic, among others).

You have no excuse to not have intelligent questions on this process--ask them of your agent. And if you're feeling squeamish and, by god, if you feel like the agent you're talking to is a sleaze or a moron, go elsewhere. Or publish online yourself; we're lucky to exist in a world where that is totally possible.


Know also that knowledge of the self-publishing process is NOT step one. It's like Step .75. You get your book online and then what?

Amanda Hocking sold books by marketing books, and she researched marketing on Agent and Publishing Industry sites (and, by the way, is agented with a traditional book deal). All the moguls of self-publishing that people hold up as leaders of the MOVEMENT self-published and then spent thousands of hours, if not dollars, marketing the books.

If marketing is overlooked, whether you self-publish or you're going through an agency or ePublisher, there had better be marketing in place or all the "self-publishing savvy" in the world isn't going to get that book sold.

Agents know marketing. Just as many as are setting up publishing arms are setting up marketing initiatives to compliment them. And that is worth 15% just in and of itself.

It's an agent's full time job to deal with their clients' books, and it's not most author's full time jobs. It's a huge sacrifice that may never pay off, something, incidentally, that agents know well,
since we don't get paid until you do.

Writing Process

Writers out there, you baffle me.

I was at Books of Wonder last night for the launch of the DELIGHTFUL Arlaina Tibensky's AND THEN THINGS FALL APART, her literary-reference-and-comedy-filled YA contemporary.

She was answering questions and, as is wont to happen when writers get in a room together, someone asked her about how she writes, and how her characters develop. Charmingly, she said that her characters develop through her "making them do things." That they just sort of spring up one day, "wearing a cute little outfit." She also said that her book, once she gets an ending in mind, just sort of comes out, moving somehow in the direction of that ending.

Of course, for me, a non-writer, that all sounds very strange. Of course the characters don't literally spring up one day--you have to write them. But it's interesting shorthand for how it feels when a story is just right.

How does it feel for you? How, in the WORLD do you do it!?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Agencies with Separate Publishing Divisions

I got word recently that yet another agency has decided to set up a side-project to handle "ePublishing." This division will not serve (1) clients self-publishing themselves (no commission taken) or (2) clients who bring the agency ready-to-upload files that the agency then uploads and monitors for royalties/earnings (15% commission taken). It's for (3)clients for whom the agency will handle all aspects of the epublishing.

Sounds alright, right? That's got to be a lot of work!

Unless the agency has undergone some MAJOR personnel changes and hired cover designers and converters, the work of converting and designing the cover of the ebook will be done by outside freelancers.

AKA the agency has a list of a couple of people they know who convert books and/or design covers and they send your book to them, get it back a couple weeks later, then proceed as with client-type (2).

The agency has probably done extensive work on these projects, even the ones that are self-published, and even tried to sell it in many cases. They've certainly earned their 15%. But I'd be hard to convince that the agency is earning more than that 15%.

You should be hard to convince, too.

Ask a lot of questions before signing up for anything that involves more than a standard commission. Who's doing the work? Who's paying them? Get the facts, and you may feel that an increased commission is justified...or you might not.

Friday, July 22, 2011


Response to a form rejection in the slush today:
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Regretfully, I am unable to accept your rejection at this time.
Despite what might sound like a cocky attitude, I am, to the contrary, quite unique in that I have until recently refused to allow myself to be certain about any of the major areas of life. It has been my observation that most others are absolutely certain by the time they are twenty years old of their beliefs toward themselves, other indivdiduals and groups, religion, politics, relationships, social issues and everything else in life.

This makes little sense, as did the next several paragraphs on...some stuff. Then there was a note that let me know that the book was 90% ready to go and how I probably didn't see much of that.

Jaw. Drop. All this has done is inflate the count on my inbox. Please don't respond to form rejections. I know they seem callous, but with literally thousands of queries to read, they're necessary if I'm going to reassure you that your query was read. By a real person.

Sending me a response (and a long one at that) is just annoying, unfortunately--even a thank you is just upping that "Unread" count.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

I interrupt this broadcast...

OK, OK. We will get back to Facebook. But I just wanted to say real quick:

(I'm still telling you so)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Facebook: Importance

Facebook is the mother of all Social Media networks. Building a presence there is harder than on other platforms because Facebook utilizes all of the content that you might put on other platforms: pictures, blog-like notes, and tweet-like status updates.

Facebook has also really blossomed in the last little while. E-commerce through Facebook is starting to pick up (Facebook as another online retailer?? You want to be there). With one-in-every-eight online minutes spent on Facebook, some are saying that Facebook is the internet. It's the new "mall." A one-stop shop for shopping, news, friends' updates, and entertainment.

But isn't Facebook just for the kids? I mean isn't just for college students to post, then untag that pic of them doing a kegstand?


Here're some stats to illustrate:
  • Facebook has 750,000,000 users worldwide, 350,000,000 (50%) of which log in every day.
  • The average user has about 130 friends. That means that if you have a Fan Page with 50 fans, you're actually reaching, on average, about 5000 people every time you post.
  • Facebook is second only to Google in terms of daily traffic.
  • Over 50% of Facebook users are over the age of 35. There are about 30 million users in that age range just in the US.
  • Books are the third most-liked products on Facebook, after Movies and TV shows (wompwomp)

Most shockingly:
57% of people--all people--say that they talk more to their friends/family members online than they do in real life.

Bottom line, get on Facebook. But know, before you do, that Facebook isn't magic, any more than anything else online. You have to be smart about planning a strategy.

In the next post, we address how you should get on Facebook. Posting schedules, types of content, and the like.

Anyone out there already on Facebook as a Fan Page, not a personal Profile?