Tag Archives: Agents

News & Notes: November 19, 2012

Everyone:

Just wanted to let you know I sent the manuscript of An Unsuitable Suitor off to four agents, and have given them until the end of December to reply. If I don’t hear anything, I’ll be self-publishing it early next year.

Meantime, I’ve rolled out another version of Thwarted Queen, this time the whole version in paperback for $18.99.

I’ll be taking Cecylee on a blog tour early next year in a ongoing effort to promote this novel.

Lastly, I have devised a reader’s guide to Thwarted Queen, which I’ve put right at the back of my paperback editions. For those of you who are interested, I’ve also posted this guide on my website, Spun Stories

Have a fabulous week!

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WHITE OLEANDER by Janet Fitch

WHITE OLEANDER is the kind of novel that agents still talk about, over ten years after it was published in 1999. As I was curious to see what they were talking about, I recently read it.

The agents were right. This is an amazing novel, not just for the outrageous but believable character of Ingrid Magnusson and her daughter Astrid, not just for the amazing plot twists and turns, but for the amazing prose style.

 

 “What was the best day of your life?” she asked me one afternoon as we lay on the free-form couch, her head on one armrest, min on the other. Judy Garland sang on the stereo, “My Funny Valentine.”

“Today,” I said.

“No.” She laughed, throwing her napkin at me. “From before.”

I tried to remember, but it was like looking for buried coins in the sand. I kept turning things over, cutting myself on rusty cans, broken beer bottles hidden there, but eventually I found an old coin, brushed it off. I could read the date, the country of origin.

It was when we were living in Amsterdam.”

 

What a great use of metaphor and simile. Here is another example.

 

And now it was too late. I looked at Sergei across the table in Rena’s kitchen. He could care less about my boyfriend in New York. He didn’t even care about his girlfriend in the next room. He was just like one of Rena’s white cats – eat, sleep, and fornicate. Since the night I’d seen them together on the couch, he was always watching me with his hint of a grin, as if there were some secret we shared.

“So how is your boyfriend?” he asked. “Big? Is he big?”

Niki laughed. “He’s huge, Sergei. Haven’t you heard of him? Moby Dick.”

Olivia had told me all about men like Sergei. Hard men with blue veins in their sculpted white arms, heavy-lidded blue eyes and narrow waists. You could make a deal with a man like that. A man who knew what he wanted. I kept my eyes on the broccoli and cheese.

“You get tired of waiting,” he said. “You come see me.”

“What if you’re no good?” I said, making the other girls laugh.

“Only worry you fall in love Sergei,” he said, his voice like a hand between my legs.

 

What’s not to like about this book? The ending. I really didn’t like it. I didn’t like being left with two choices, two ways that this heartbreaking story might go. I thought that the author should have done that hard work for me. Four stars.

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DON’T leave your MSS moldering in a drawer…

Recently, I attended the Fall meeting of the Mid-Atlantic Book Publisher’s Association (MBPA), a regional affiliate of the Independent Book Publisher’s Association (IBPA). The whole day was devoted to discussing e-books.

The industry continues to change at breakneck speed. When I mentioned at the beginning of this year that I was still seeking representation, an online acquaintance dismissed that with the comment that is was “so 2010”. On the other side, I once heard a well-known New York agent say, when asked about self-publishing, that she wasn’t interested in stuff that had already been published. That was in December 2010. Now, it is November 2011, and my colleagues at the MBPA were sharing stories of how agents are actively pursuing some of us who have self-published. Why? Because if we can demonstrate that we can sell our books, they become very interested.

Similar changes are taking place at Publisher’s Weekly, which is now giving self-published authors an opportunity to present their titles to the publishing trade, in recognition of the fact that  valuable works are being published outside traditional publishing. PW has launched a new program called PW Select, a quarterly supplement that presents self-published books to PW’s trade audience. Authors are required to pay a processing fee of $149. The carrot is that if PW really likes your work, they’ll do a full review of it in this supplement. A lucky few from among the listed titles will be selected for an interview and given an opportunity to pitch their book.

To read more, click here.

The moral of this story? Don’t leave your MSS moldering in a drawer. With determination, persistence and a great deal of work, self-publishing can be a venue to a publishing career.

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THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO GETTING YOUR BOOK PUBLISHED by Arielle Eckstut & David Henry Sterry

Here is another book from my pile of how-to books on self-publishing. THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO GETTING YOUR BOOK PUBLISHED by Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry covers just about everything you need to know about the Wild West World of publishing today. Earlier this year, I reviewed Dan Poynter’s classic book about self-publishing and praised it to the skies. The only shortcoming with that book was that it focused on publishing an actual physical book. In a way, this book takes up from where Dan Poynter left off. In addition to the usual advice about how to get an agent, and how to publish a softcover book, this book also looks at e-book and social media.

 

The book is divided into three parts:

  1. Setting up Shop, which covers how to get an idea for your book, how to develop your author platform, how to package your book with a title and a pitch, how to get an agent, the agonies of the submission roulette and what to when (not if) you get rejected.
  2. Taking Care of Business covers selling your book, contracts, working with your publisher, and self-publishing.
  3. Getting the Word Out covers publicity and marketing, the book launch, how to keep your book sales alive and royalties.

 

There is no better recommendation I can give than to tell you that my softcover copy is bristling with those sticky markers, which indicates that I found plenty of nuggets inside. If you are trying to publish your book, I recommend that you read this one carefully. You might find exactly what you need inside. Five stars.

–Cynthia Haggard writes historical novels.  She has two completed manuscripts that will be published in the coming year. THWARTED QUEEN  is a portrait of a woman trapped by power, a marriage undone by betrayal, and a King brought down by fear.FAMILY SPLINTERS is  a novel about identity, forbidden love and family secrets. (c) 2011. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Dan Poynter’s SELF-PUBLISHING MANUAL

I was going to write about something else today, but I’ve just finished reading Dan Poynter’s THE SELF-PUBLISHING MANUAL, and I think this is such an important book for an aspiring writer, that I’ve decided to share my observations.

The history of publishing in the last 100 years, has been one of increasing difficulty for writers. (And I’m not even talking about the insultingly low royalties that writers are expected to put up with! ) Up to the 1980s, it was not unreasonable to hope that an editor might take you on, even though you were an aspiring writer with a flawed first manuscript. Then editors got too busy to do that, so agents took over that role, and found publishing houses whose job it was to sell your books.

As many of you know, the new reality of publishing is that traditional publishers no longer see it as their job to sell your book, unless they think it is going to be a blockbuster. Too many authors have assumed that publishers will market their books, only to find out too late that very little effort was expended in that direction.

This is why Dan Poynter’s book is so valuable, both for those who choose to publish with a traditional publisher and those who choose to self publish. Why? Because I have never met an author who was so thorough and conscientious at explaining all the ins and outs of something.

You want a marketing plan for selling your novel? Buy this book, and flip through it. The chapter outlines will tell you exactly what to do. If you’re still unsure, Appendix 1 gives you a calendar of what to do, while Appendix 2 gives an exhaustive list of resources. Need more help? Go to his website, www.parapublishing.com, and you will find more articles, some free, some for a modest price.

If you do nothing else, buy this book. No-one else is going to care as much about selling your novel as you are.

I know. You would much rather be writing than selling, and thinking about selling gives you indigestion. But if you want people to read your books, you are going to have to do something to make them more visible.

Best of luck, and feel free to share your experiences by commenting below.

–Cynthia Haggard writes historical novels.  She has two completed manuscripts that will be published in the coming year. ONE SEED SOWN, TWO MURDERS REAPED is a portrait of a woman trapped by power, a marriage undone by betrayal, and a King brought down by fear. HE MUST BE SOMEONE is  a novel about identity, forbidden love and family secrets. For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories. (c) 2011. All rights reserved.


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Websites for workshopping your manuscripts

It is so hard to get quality feedback these days. Editors and agents are too busy to give it to you, and so you are forced to rely on the good nature of friends or relatives, or the people you happen to run into when attending a writing group.

My experience with writing groups has been mixed. In the beginning, when i was a brand-new writer, I found them enormously helpful, because I had so much to learn. Now that I have 2 novel-length MSS under my belt, I find them less helpful, because most of the people who show up are typically beginners with an incomplete first draft that needs some TLC. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if you are a more advanced writer, you need more help than that kind of person is typically able to give you.

I’ve written before about joining book clubs, and how helpful that can be. I now want to mention a couple of sites that are designed to help writers workshop MSS.

The first one is Critters, which is for “serious writers of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror” to quote their website. To read more, click here.

The second one is Historical-Fiction-Writers-Critique-Group, which is a Yahoo! group. To belong to this group, you have to be extremely dedicated, because you are required to critique 3 MSS a month. This is a group I would love to belong to, but don’t because I can’t make this commitment. However, if you are in a position to do this, and you have a completed MSS that is ready for feedback that is a historical, you should definitely check it out. Click here to find out more.

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–Cynthia Haggard writes novels.  She is currently seeking representation for HE MUST BE SOMEONE,  a novel about identity, forbidden love and family secrets. For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories. (c) 2011. All rights reserved.

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Jane Friedman’s blog THERE ARE NO RULES

This Friday, I’m going to try something different. I’m going to start a series of Friday posts that will highlight a blog or website that I think is particularly interesting.

Today, I’m going to talk about THERE ARE NO RULES, a blog owned and operated by Jane Friedman. Jane is the former publisher and editorial director of Writer’s Digest. She is currently visiting professor of e-media at the University of Cincinnati and contributing editor to Writer’s Digest. Jane is very generous in passing on information via free webinars and blog posts, and I have learned a great deal from her on the changing nature of the publishing industry.

On Wednesday, Jane posted a blog from guest blogger John Rember, who wrote on the relationship between authors, agents and publishers.  Here is an excerpt from his blog:

But my troubles with my agent were never her fault. They were inherent to the relationship between agents and writers, which is a predator-prey kind of deal. Agents are not hoping to find, in you the writer, a diamond in the rough, a talent to be nurtured, a friend to be encouraged. They’re looking for the next John Grisham and they’re looking for 15% of a multi-million dollar advance. They are cold and hard businesspeople—if they aren’t, they end up living under bridges, and not the bridges in the Hamptons—so your talent or niceness is not their first consideration.

Many writers assume that with the big houses, a few bestsellers subsidize midlist writers. That’s the way it used to work. Now the CFOs of publishing houses demand that every book be a money-maker. In practice, this means editors are told to look for the next bestseller, and they, not being psychic, think that it looks like the last bestseller. Hence John Grisham, James Patterson, Dan Brown, and the dead Swedish guy.

To read more, click here.

To read Jane Friedman’s blog, THERE ARE NO RULES, click here.

–Cynthia Haggard writes novels.  She is currently seeking representation for HE MUST BE SOMEONE,  a novel about identity, forbidden love and family secrets. For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories. (c) 2011. All rights reserved.

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THE KING’S GRACE by Anne Easter Smith

Joseph II’s admonition to Mozart – “too many notes, my dear Mozart” – could be applied to Anne Easter Smith’s third novel THE KING’S GRACE, where there are too many words.

How can a novel have too many words? Isn’t a novel made out of words? The answer is that a novel can have too many words if the words get in the way of the reader’s attempts to get through the story.

Most writers want readers to love their books. They want their readers to find it hard to put down their novels. But to do that, we all have to follow certain rules. One rule has to do with adjectives and adverbs: Do not stuff your sentences with them, because they make your writing weaker. You might think that writing that someone does something with “unabashed glee” is stylistically valid. After all, don’t those words convey exactly how someone does something? Maybe. But as in all things, it is a question of balance. You can use adverbs and adjectives, but sparingly. You cannot do this in every sentence   – as Ms. Smith has a tendency to do – otherwise you leave your readers feeling that they are fighting their way through a thicket of words.

The situation is even worse for historical novelists, particularly those who are writing about real people. What to do with all that research? Especially if you have put the time and effort into doing the research that Ms. Smith has.

The sad truth is that you have to get rid of most of it. Most readers don’t want to be told that the name ‘Mons’ means a city on a hill. They don’t want the names of minor characters thrust upon them, because they’re going to find their names hard to remember, and because the mass of Richards Cecilys Annes and Neds is confusing when you’re trying to work out who these people are. Most of all, readers hate information dumps because they slow the story down.

I understand that agents won’t accept manuscripts that start with prologues on the grounds that too many authors use them as information dumps. Unfortunately, Ms. Smith’s Prologue to THE KING’S GRACE illustrates these concerns. Apart from the head-hopping between young Jehan and his patroness Margaret of York, what strikes this reader is the density of the information that is being presented. It is too much to take in. Most agents advise authors to ditch the prologue in favor of slipping the information into the text in small doses, so that readers can absorb it without noticing how much they’re learning.

There are some good things about this novel. The character of Grace is well-drawn, and her development from a shy young girl to a strong woman convincingly told. I loved the scenes with Princesses Cecily and Bess, whose sisterly squabbles were very true to life. The men were less successful, being consistently handsome, glamorous and kind-hearted, whose formal addresses and hand-kisses always made the protagonist go weak at the knees. They didn’t feel alive to me.

As I’ve said elsewhere, Ms. Smith’s research is impeccable. I don’t know how she does it, but I gather (from what she says in her interviews), that she has a team of people to help her. Being a talented researcher doesn’t translate into being a great storyteller, the sort that keeps the reader glued to the page. This is Ms. Smith’s third novel, and I think her record as a storyteller is uneven. I thought her first novel – also about a humble girl who rises high – quite wonderful. I was less enthusiastic about her second novel, because I found the story of the supposed love-affair between Margaret of York and Anthony Woodville less interesting. This novel is not as good as Ms. Smith’s first, even though it is a similar kind of story about an innocent young cipher who reports on the goings-on of more famous folk. It should have been as good as A ROSE FOR THE CROWN. Instead, THE KING’S GRACE sank under the weight of its own research.

–Cynthia Haggard writes novels.  She is currently seeking representation for HE MUST BE SOMEONE,  a novel about identity, forbidden love and family secrets. For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories. (c) 2011. All rights reserved.

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How to freelance for magazines

It is so hard to get the attentions of an agent these days, anything you can do to help yourself should be pursued. One thing that is frequently recommended is selling articles to magazines to convince your agent that you actually have the skills to write at a high enough level to be published.

I took a webinar recently on this subject. Perhaps the most important thing that was said was this simple little question: WHY? Why do you want to pitch to a magazine? Is it for money? Or to meet interesting people? Or to get more work?

Here are some tips for how to get out of the slush pile:

  1. Write to the Managing Editor or Acquisitions Editor, and if you can find their names on the masthead of the magazine, use them.
  2. Ask for small assignments first. Assume that you’ll be writing the 300-word fillers until they get to know you better.
  3. Don’t sign a contract before checking out the magazine. Use Google, Preditors  & Editors, and Mr. Magazine.
  4. Take some time to find out how to write a good query letter. You could do worse than look at The Writer’s Digest Guide to Query Letters.
  5. Last but not least, have fun! Write about things that you enjoy doing.

–Cynthia Haggard writes novels.  She is currently seeking representation for HE MUST BE SOMEONE,  a novel about identity, forbidden love and family secrets. For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories. (c) 2011. All rights reserved.

Next: Who are the Iowa Book Doctors?

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Publisher’s Marketplace

If you are seriously interested in publishing your novel, you should join Publisher’s Marketplace. For only $20 a month, you get daily listings of deals that agents make to sell forthcoming novels, as well as industry news and useful links.  You can use their website to track book sales, find agents, and read reviews. You can find reviewers, bookstores and bestsellers. (And, if you are an agent, you can use their recently unveiled Nielsen BookScan to track book sales.)

But for the unpublished author, the real benefit is that Publisher’s Marketplace opens the door into the publishing industry. And these days, it pays – literally – for writers to be savvy about book sales.

–Cynthia Haggard writes novels.  She is currently seeking representation for HE MUST BE SOMEONE,  a novel about identity, forbidden love and family secrets. For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories. (c) 2011. All rights reserved.

Next: How to freelance for magazines.

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