Nathan Bransford, Author


Friday, July 14, 2017

This week in books 7/14/17


This week! Books!

But first, a programming note. Posts will be a bit sporadic in the next few weeks as I am headed to San Diego for the wonderment known as Comic-Con International, but you can expect some good cosplay photos on Instagram.

Then I'm moving apartments. You won't notice, but I sure will.

But. BUT. I have some great stuff in store for August. So please stick around. Like, okay, don't just stare at this page for two weeks but please remember to come back for August.

SPEAKING OF COMIC-CON. I'm going to be moderating not one but count them TWO amazing panels, so if you somehow White Walker-ed your way into getting a badge, please attend them both.

Panel #1: Writers: Get Published! Get Greenlit! Get Working!
  • Want some secrets on how the publishing process works? This panel will explore the process end-to-end, and it features agent Holly Root (Root Literary agency), editor Adam Wilson (Simon & Schuster), publicist Kristin Dwyer (Leo PR), brand licensing agent Jane Putch (Eyebait Management), and Sean Berard (Agency for the Performing Arts). That's Friday at 3:30pm in 24ABC.
  • The seventh edition of this panel is one of the best ever! It features Jennifer Armentrout (The Problem with Forever), S. Jae-Jones (Wintersong), Lish McBride (Pyromantic), Brendan Reichs (Nemesis), Beth Revis (Star Wars: Rebel Rising), Megan Whalen Turner (Thick as Thieves), Kiersten White (And I Darken), and Nicola Yoon (Everything, Everything). That's Sunday at 1:00pm in 29AB.
Now then. On to the links.


When I reach 84 years old, I hope I'm cutting eight figure book deals like Wilber Smith. [Insert We're Not Worthy GIF]

Meanwhile, a new book by the late Maurice Sendak has been discovered and will be published in 2018! (via Alyce Harley)

Author Jennifer Hubbard has a great image for what it feels like when a story is really working.

Michael Bond and Paddington Bear had a huge influence on me when I was younger, to the point that I even tried to like orange marmalade. He passed away last month at 91 and will be missed. 

I love Jimmy O. Yang on Silicon Valley as the jerkish prankster Jian-Yang and foil to Erlich Bachman, and was psyched to see he's writing a book.

Joanna Penn had an interesting interview with agent Mark Gottlieb about the changing publishing landscape.

Why does Jane Austen endure? Well, the NY Times Upshot has some cool charts and theories that I do not profess to understand in the slightest.

This week in the Forums...

A request for query help
Ask me anything!
Nominate Your Query for a Critique on the Blog
Nominate Your First Page for a Critique on the Blog

Comment! of! the! week! goes to Julie C., who had a great and evocative comment about what Harry Potter meant to her. I think we've all been there with a book:
...Years later, I made my first cross country move all on my own to a new town in a new state, where I knew no one. The day after I got there, my possessions were unloaded and crammed in my small apartment. But the bright spot was, that was the day The Goblet of Fire came out. So I grabbed my wallet and headed to the nearest store. I got home with my book and lunch, literally crawled over boxes to get to my comfy chair. And sat, cross legged as boxes were surrounding my chair, and read. And for that time, things were so scary in my world. It gave me an escape from the uncertainty of my new life and gave me some comfort when I needed it.
And finally, we should all be so lucky to have this problem, but it can be daunting to choose a life when you live in a world of limitless career options with a nonexistent ladder. I really enjoyed this article and the advice therein.

Have a great weekend!

Art: Photo by me. Follow me on Instagram!






Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Query Critique 7/11/17: Make sure your query is fully baked


If you would like to nominate your query for a future Query Critique, please enter it in this thread in the Forums!

Also, if you'd like to test your editing chops, keep your eye on this area! I'll post the pages and queries a few days before a critique on the blog so you can see how your redline compares to mine.

Now then. Time for the Query Critique. First I'll present the query without comment, then I'll offer my thoughts and a redline. If you choose to offer your own thoughts, please be polite. We aim to be positive and helpful.

Random numbers were generated, and thanks to Feltenk, whose query is below:
Dear (Agent's name)  
Counting the Stars, a YA contemporary novel with speculative elements, is complete at 83,904 words.  
16-year-old Lucy Andrews knows she's different. No one else fears the color red, secretly draws in bathroom stalls, or blames themselves for the world's problems. Fortunately the people who mean the most to Lucy accept her, quirkiness and all. But then her best friend Janice commits suicide and her father is in a car accident that leaves him in a coma.  
Lucy is left with Janice's parents who notice her odd behaviors, worry that she'll hurt herself, and have her committed to a mental hospital. In the hospital, Lucy is given a drug which "cures" her Obsessive Compulsive Disorder but destroys her creativity. She realizes she'd rather be so-called crazy than unimaginative.  
Along with the help of her new artist friends, Lucy must destroy the drug before it is mass produced and prescribed to teens everywhere.  
Thank you so much for taking the time, and I look forward to hearing from you.  
Sincerely,
Kristy
One of my key posts on how to write a query letter is a basic query formula where you can plug in some elements of your novel and then output a basic query letter. This gives you a natural starting place.

But it's just a starting place. It's important to flesh out your query with more details and really give an agent a sense of what it's like to read your novel.

In this case, there are some good ingredients here, but it feels a little rushed -- it's only 175 words, well below the 250-350 I'd recommend for a query -- and it appears as if the main plotline is introduced abruptly at the end.

Flesh this out, add a bit more illustrative detail, and you'll be in your way.

Here's my redline:
Dear (Agent's name)  
[Insert personalized tidbit about agent] 
Counting the Stars, a YA contemporary novel with speculative elements, is complete at 83,904 words.  
16-year-old Lucy Andrews knows she's different. No one else fears the color red, secretly draws in bathroom stalls [not sure this feels that extraordinary - might be helped by the detail of what she draws?], or blames themselves for the world's problems. Fortunately the people who mean the most to Lucy accept her, quirkiness and all. But then her best friend Janice commits suicide and her father is in a car accident that leaves him in a coma. [This feels a tad too jarring relative to the tone to this point]
Lucy is left with Janice's parents, who notice her odd behaviors, worry that she'll hurt herself, and have her committed to a mental hospital. In the hospital, Lucy, where she is given a drug which "cures" her Obsessive Compulsive Disorder but destroys her creativity. She realizes she'd rather be so-called crazy than unimaginative.  [This paragraph feels a little rushed]
Along with the help of her new artist friends, Lucy must destroy the drug before it is mass produced and prescribed to teens everywhere. [Not sure how literally to take this or how she thinks she's going to do it? This feels abruptly introduced]
Counting the Stars, a YA contemporary novel with speculative elements, is complete at 83,904 words. [This is more a matter of personal taste, but I tend to prefer the title/summary at the end to facilitate just getting into the story]
Thank you so much for taking the time, and I look forward to hearing from you.  
Sincerely,
Kristy
I’m available for manuscript edits, query critiques, and consultations! And if you like this post, check out my guide to writing a novel.

Art: The Baker by Job Berckheyde






Monday, July 10, 2017

Superstar editor Krista Marino on championing books and the publishing climate


My friend Krista Marino is a Senior Executive Editor at Delacorte Press (part of Penguin Random House), and is one of the top young adult and middle grade editors in the business. Some of the authors she's edited include James Dashner (The Maze Runner series), Brandon Sanderson (The Reckoners series), Matt de la Peña (Ball Don't Lie), and Jennifer Donnelly (Revolution).

She very graciously agreed to an interview, and here it is!

Nathan: Let's cut to the chase. How do you go about deciding whether to make an offer on a book?

Krista: Well, first I have to love the read. I can get past editorial issues—plot holes can be fixed and storylines improved. There needs to be something special about the voice or something innovative about the storytelling for me to fall in love enough to champion a project through the whole publishing process. Possibly most important, though, is I need to know who the reader is. If I don’t know who the reader is, how can I publish the book successfully?

An offer happens in different ways. I always confer with my publisher—she needs to be on board with the acquisition—but we don’t face an acquisitions board unless we are looking at spending over a certain amount of money. This generally happens when we are involved in an auction situation.

Not everyone knows that there's a whole lot more to an editor's job than just acquiring and editing books. What are some of the key things you do behind the scenes to help make a book a success?

I mentioned “championing” a book earlier. Your editor is your #1 cheerleader within your publishing house. All of the enthusiasm for a title starts with the editor, and many special little extras a book gets come from the editor buzzing in ears. Lesson #1 for every author should be, always be nice to your editor because they are your greatest ally.

Outside of always pushing for more for our books, editors are writing memos to design to get the right cover on a book; working with design on cover comps; writing copy for jackets; writing title information sheets for sales and marketing; approving marketing pieces; presenting books to marketing, sales, publicity; attending meetings about books to come; attending meetings about books that have been published; greasing palms with friends in sales for extra favor; emailing with agents and authors to keep our lines of communication open. 90% of all editorial work takes place outside of normal business hours.

How do you decide whether a book would be better as a standalone or a series?

There are a few ways to answer this question.

In terms of story: Many times stories are envisioned to unfold over an expanse of time—these are the stories that can naturally sustain a series. Some stories are over at the last page of the book, though.

In terms of sales: Sometimes people love a story or a character and they want more. If the readership is there, a series can work. The flip side of this is that some stories envisioned as a series don’t have the readers. No one wants to continue to publish a series with no readership.

You edited The Maze Runner, which has now become a huge franchise with movies and games... I mean I'm pretty sure they're carving James Dashner's face on Mount Rushmore at this point. What was it like to read that manuscript for the first time? Did you have any inkling what a massive success it would become?

Here’s what I will admit: I have read manuscripts that I thought were going to set the world on fire and they were published to little fanfare. The opposite has happened as well.

In the case of The Maze Runner, there was something so unsettling and different about the story, and yet—at its core—something so hopeful. I will never claim to be able to tell if a book will be a massive success—I have seen publications of books go in every crazy direction—but I will say I knew it was a story kids would love. It’s about friendship and loyalty to the end, it’s about questioning authority (which is something I have been in trouble for since I could speak), and it’s about surviving and thriving in the world you live in, despite how terrible it seems. And everyone wants a friend like Thomas, right?

It seems like we're in a "feast or famine" moment in publishing, where a few books get a ton of attention, many others languish, and unexpected hits are few and far between. Has that been your experience, and has this changed how you approach your job?

Don’t depress me! It does feel this way and my reaction has been to actually acquire less. I only acquire books I’m wildly crazy about.

And what's an author to do in this environment? How can they increase their chances of being on the "feast" side of "feast or famine?"

Unfortunately, we’re living in a publishing age where an author can’t just write an amazing book and step back. Authors need to be connected with their readership and connected with the writing community. They need to be savvy about social media and have some sort of presence and they need to physically be at book festivals and in schools. They need to engage with their readers—which takes time away from writing, but it’s so very important.

If you had a magic wand, what would you change about the publishing industry?

That we would publish less books.

Anything else you'd like to say? The floor is yours!

I think the best advice I have is to be nice. It’s a small industry and your behavior follows you. (We talk.)

Thanks, Krista!!






Thursday, June 29, 2017

7 things to consider before hiring a career coach


Nathan here! So much is required of authors these days, everything from writing the darn thing to making sure your book is being marketed to managing your social media presence. To be a successful author in this landscape, you have to have an entrepreneurial mindset, which doesn't always come perfectly naturally to creative types.

My friend Justine Clay is a successful career coach who specializes in helping creatives organize their businesses so they can thrive. I asked her if she could please write a post on how authors might benefit from the services of a career coach and what they should keep in mind. And here it is! Enjoy!

Do you remember the good old days when all you needed for a successful writing career was a ton of great ideas, a typewriter, lots of solitude, and a great agent?

Is it any wonder there are more struggling writers than stars?


As a former-agent myself (though I represented advertising creatives, rather than literary ones), I learned that a good agent is a fantastic string to have in ones bow.  But luckily, agents are no longer the only route to building a successful and meaningful career.

My belief that everyone (yes even creatives!) can learn how to successfully position, market and profit from their creative talent is one reasons why, I left behind my 15+ year career in creative representation to become a business coach for creatives. The thrill I get from re-framing the myth that creatives aren’t good at business, and teaching artists of all stripes how to build a successful and meaningful career, far outweighs any kick I got out of seeing a campaign I produced on a billboard.

If you’re not of a mind to put your career on hold until you find the perfect agent, or you’re simply looking to take control of your creative career, business coaching might be a great way to reach that goal.

Now, when it comes to coaches, you can’t swing a cat without hitting one, so here are a few guidelines on what coaching is, what it isn’t, and the 7 things you need to consider before hiring someone.

Coaching is...
The practice of helping people develop the skills, habits and routines they need to realize their mission, vision and goals.  It’s about building a better future, starting now.

Coaching isn’t...
Therapy, which tends to focus on how your past affects your now. It’s also not a guaranteed formula for a specific outcome such as building a six-figure business in six months.

Coaching is perfect for…
Someone looking to learn the skills and mindset they need to continually grow and fulfill their potential.

Coaching might not be right for….
Someone looking for a silver-bullet, or someone to do it for them. Coaching requires you to challenge your assumptions, be OK with being uncomfortable, and do the work.  If that’s not where you’re at right now (and that’s OK), save your money for now.

Still thinking about it?  Here are 7 things you consider before hiring a coach

1) Get specific about the outcome you want

Are you looking make more money, become a household name, or improve your process and output? Coaches run the gamut from marketing expertise, money & abundance work, to straight-up business skills and finding one who is aligned with your goals will have a huge impact on your results.

2) Know your learning style

Do you just want the facts, supported by concrete actions you can take, or do you need to talk about your emotions and feel heard?  A good coach adapts their style to meet the learning style of their client, but the relationship will be a lot more fruitful if their teaching style is aligned with your learning style.

3) Do your homework. 

A personal referral is a great way to narrow down the field. Ask around and see if anyone in your network has worked with a coach. Don’t stop there; ask them why they felt they needed a coach, what tangible results they got, and the three main changes they’ve experienced as a result.

4) Beware of the hype

This is a big one for me.  No one can guarantee their formula can make you 6 figures in 6 months (or whatever the claim is).  If a coach is aggressively poking at your pain points and goosing up your vulnerability in their marketing, that might be a red flag.  Do your due diligence before making emotionally-driven decisions.

5) Look for a process with structure and flexibility   

It’s easier to buy into a process that has built in milestones and tangible outcomes.  That said, you should ask how flexible the process is. You are unique and a good coach will meet you where you are (not where they think you should be), and draw upon their arsenal of experience and resources, to help you move forward, rather than force you down a path just because it worked for them.

6) Interview coaches before you sign up 

To ensure you get the best out of your experience, it’s important that you have a genuine rapport with the coach, as well as feel confident about their experience, expertise and results. To help prospective clients figure out if I might be a good fit for them, I direct them to a FAQ page on my website before we jump of a free 30-minute call where we talk about their business sin more depth.  A good coach will be invested in making sure they are the perfect fit with you before you sign up with them.

7) Check out their client testimonials 

Client testimonials are a great way to see what other people have got out of their experience. Look for testimonials that go beyond “Lisa’s awesome!” and speak to the specific results clients have got from the process. You should also feel to ask for a couple of client references so you can speak to someone in person about their experience.

If the idea of gaining clarity around what you want, devising a plan to help you get there, and having the accountability to keep you on-track with consistent action, I’d love to chat and see if I can help. Go ahead and click here to book your free assessment call where we will talk about your career, you can ask questions, and we’ll discuss solutions.

I look forward to helping you take the next step towards your goals.

Justine Clay is a speaker and business coach for creative entrepreneurs and freelancers. Through a series of clear, actionable steps, Justine will teach you how to you identify what makes you stand out from the crowd, create a marketing message that resonates with your ideal clients, and build a successful and fulfilling creative business or career. Sign up for Justine’s free guide: How to Find High-Quality Clients and Get Paid What You’re Worth and start making monumental changes in your creative business or career today.






Wednesday, June 28, 2017

When did you start writing?


Some people got an early start, some people got a late start. But we all got started somewhere.

When did you really start writing?

I started in high school, then spent most of my twenties convincing myself I wasn't a writer before I picked it up again.

What about you?

I’m available for manuscript edits, query critiques, and consultations! And if you like this post, check out my guide to writing a novel.

Art: The Difficult Reply by Guy Rose






Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Page Critique Tuesday: Dial down kids' excitablity


If you would like to nominate your page for a future Page Critique, please enter it in this thread in the Forums!

Also, if you'd like to test your editing chops, keep your eye on this area! I'll post the pages and queries a few days before a critique so you can see how your redline compares to mine.

Now then. Time for the Page Critique. First I'll present the page without comment, then I'll offer my thoughts and a redline. If you choose to offer your own thoughts on the page, please be polite. We aim to be positive and helpful.

Random numbers were generated, and thanks to julieorris, whose page is below:
Title: Etta & Otto
Genre: Middle grade, Adventure 
First 250 words: 
Looking at the pile of suitcases lying around her, Etta couldn’t believe she was really doing this. 
Granted, her choices were limited…this was her only option. She was excited about spending time with her aunt but nervous about what she would do for a WHOLE SUMMER in Three Trees. She had always enjoyed listening to her dad’s tales about growing up there, but she had visited a few times and knew that her dad was exaggerating…a lot. 
She had spent the last three weeks of 6th grade daydreaming about carefree, summer days at Aunt Etta’s house, but now she was dreading being left there for three whole months! Her parents would be spending the summer in France studying l’art de culinaire (in other words: cooking fancy foods that no one wants to eat) and she would spend the summer watching cows chew grass. And if she was really lucky, she would then watch the grass grow back. 
“Stop procrastinating Etta,” her mom yelled from the driveway. “We have everything you need!” 
“Yeah,” said her dad, “including an entire suitcase of shoes that have no place in the country.” 
“FINE! I’m ready to be dropped off and forgotten,” huffed Etta. “And just because your only friends were farm animals, doesn’t mean a girl like me won’t have a reason to dress nice.” She knew she wasn’t being fair to her parents. But she still felt a little like Orphan Annie. 
Five hours later, they entered Three Trees. The sign next to
From an adult's perspective, children seem rather excitable. They are emotional, they are prone to outbursts, they live in extremes, they huff and puff a lot, and the way they choose to act in any given moment is slightly incomprehensible.

From a child's perspective, they are 100%, totally, completely rational human beings. It's adults who are arbitrary and unfair, not adhering to their promises, making exceptions to "rules" whenever they please, and, fundamentally, constantly failing to understand and appreciate how 100% totally rational their children are thank you very much.

In order to write a children's book from a child's perspective, it's super necessary to get back in touch with the child's perspective. Ditch the excitability, think of them like miniature adults who can be somewhat angst-ridden but still have a sense of wonder, and show their emotions through clear observations from their perspective, rather than trying to authentically capture the way their exhortations sound to an adult ear.

In this case, while I think there are some good ingredients in this page (in particular, I love the line "I'm ready to be dropped off and forgotten"), slowing down, letting Etta really observe her surroundings with more specificity, and dialing down the excitability would go a long way toward making this feel like a more authentic middle grade voice.

Here's my redline. I'm going to take a bit more of a heavier hand and invent some things in order to demonstrate what I mean:
Title: Etta & Otto
Genre: Middle grade, Adventure 
First 250 words: 
Looking at the pile of suitcases lying around her, Etta couldn’t believe she was really doing this. She was surrounded by suitcases, stuffed full of every article of clothing she owned, and some she had never even realized she possessed.
Granted, Her opportunities for escape were limited… this was her only option. She was excited about spending time with her Aunt Mabel, learning to bake bread and watching old TV shows past her bedtime, but nervous about what she would do for a WHOLE SUMMER how could she survive a whole summer in a dump like Three Trees? Sure, Dad loved to tell whoppers about the gigantic fish he caught in sparkling mountain streams he had always enjoyed listening to her dad’s tales about growing up there, but Etta had visited a few times and knew that her dad was exaggerating…a lot. the only fish anyone was catching were some sad goldfish at the county fair.
Etta had spent the last three weeks of 6th grade daydreaming about carefree, summer days at Aunt Etta’s house, but now she was dreading being left there for three whole months! H Meanwhile, her parents would be spending the summer in France studying l’art de culinaire (in other words: cooking fancy foods that no one wants to eat) while Ettta she would spent the summer watching cows chew grass. And if she was really lucky, she wouldn't die of boredom before she then watched the grass grow back. 
“Stop procrastinating Etta,” her mom yelled from the driveway. “We have everything you need!” 
“Yeah,” said her dad, “including an entire suitcase of shoes that have no place in the country.” 
Etta trudged downstairs, grabbing only her most prized suitcase of clothes, and plopped in the car.FINE! I’m ready to be dropped off and forgotten,” huffed Etta. she said “And just because your only friends were farm animals, doesn’t mean a girl like me won’t have a reason to dress nice.” She knew she wasn’t being fair to her parents. But she still felt a little like Orphan Annie. 
Five hours later, they entered Three Trees. The sign next to
Here's a clean version of the redline:
Title: Etta & Otto
Genre: Middle grade, Adventure 
First 250 words: 
Etta couldn’t believe she was really doing this. She was surrounded by suitcases, stuffed full of every article of clothing she owned, and some she had never even realized she possessed.
Her opportunities for escape were limited. She was excited about spending time with her Aunt Mabel, learning to bake bread and watching old TV shows past her bedtime, but how could she survive a whole summer in a dump like Three Trees? Sure, Dad loved to tell whoppers about the gigantic fish he caught in sparkling mountain streams growing up there, but Etta had visited a few times and knew that the only fish anyone was catching were some sad goldfish at the county fair.
Meanwhile, her parents would be spending the summer in France studying l’art de culinaire (in other words: cooking fancy foods that no one wants to eat) while Ettta spent the summer watching cows chew grass. And if she was really lucky, she wouldn't die of boredom before she watched the grass grow back. 
“Stop procrastinating Etta,” her mom yelled from the driveway. “We have everything you need!” 
“Yeah,” said her dad, “including an entire suitcase of shoes that have no place in the country.” 
Etta trudged downstairs, grabbing only her most prized suitcase of clothes, and plopped in the car. “I’m ready to be dropped off and forgotten,” she said “And just because your only friends were farm animals, doesn’t mean a girl like me won’t have a reason to dress nice.” 
Five hours later, they entered Three Trees. The sign next to
Thanks to julieorris for volunteering!

I’m available for manuscript edits, query critiques, and consultations! And if you like this post, check out my guide to writing a novel.

Art: Poplars (Autumn) by Claude Monet






Monday, June 26, 2017

Harry Potter at 20 -- What has the series meant to you?


Today marks the 20th anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's/Sorcerer's Stone, and what a twenty years it's been. An entire generation has now been raised on Harry Potter, in addition to those of us who came to the series as adults.
I came to the series a bit late, and first read Harry Potter during one of my summers in college, when I was spending six weeks in remote Alaska. What a magical time to read it though. I would read it by sunlight until 1 AM in a few of Alaska's strange and amazing summer perma-days.

The books are not without their flaws. The rules of Quidditch still make no sense whatsoever, and the adverbed dialogue tags can rankle.

But what an incredible series! So richly imagined, so well-executed. It's just so fun to spend time within those pages, when it's not harrowing and when Dolores Umbrage isn't making our skin crawl with rage.

Like nearly every children's book author, I had Harry Potter in the back of my head as I was writing Jacob Wonderbar, knowing how thoroughly J.K. Rowling had raised the game and setting nearly impossible expectations. I now know just how hard it is to do the things she pulls off seemingly effortlessly, and I bow to her for pulling it off.

What has Harry Potter meant to you?

I’m available for manuscript edits, query critiques, and consultations! And if you like this post, check out my guide to writing a novel.






Friday, June 23, 2017

This week in books 6/23/17


This week! Books!

I skipped last week's roundup because we were a bit light on the ol' content, but now I have a whole slew of good links for your enjoyment.

Who'd have thought that Instagram, a photo app, would be an influential way to market books? Jo Piazza takes a look at the world of Bookstagramming. (via The Millions)

And speaking of Instagram, The Next Web had a pretty solid guide to killing it on Instagram.

BLACK MIRROR BOOK SERIES YOU GUYS. (via Alyce Harley)

Agent Jessica Faust has an interesting post about fear, and how you should respond to it and let go of it. Also from Jessica, first impressions mean (almost) everything.

Over at Publishers Marketplace, there's a really interesting series of posts that scopes the size of the US book market (subscription required). Two interesting nuggets of many: Amazon has about 75% of the e-book market, and independent authors represent a little less than 25% of the e-book market.

Speaking of which, do Amazon ads work? Reedsy takes a look at a few case studies.

Check out this incredible book art from a few years back in Spain.

Slate is launching a new podcast devoted to conspiracy thrillers. They're focusing on movies, but it may be interesting for book lovers out there. (via John Ochwat)

This is some really interesting writing advice from Murakami.

And in science news, a new experiment has proven spooky action from a distance. Spooky and amazing!

This week in the Forums:

Ten (Totally Made Up) Commandments of Querying
Request for feedback
Ask me anything!
Nominate Your Query for a Critique on the Blog
Nominate Your First Page for a Critique on the Blog

Comment! of! the! week! Goes to Unknown, who I think had some good advice for authors on the do you have beef with agents post:
I think writers should get on with their writing lives and not put all their eggs in the seeking-an-agent basket (one egg at most, zero is better). (1) concentrating on getting an agent's validation can lead to tunnel vision, as well as despondency and loss of motivation when you don't get one. (2) Agents are looking for something they think will sell, i.e., something that's like a recent big publishing success, which may not be what you write. (3) Concentrate on challenging yourself and enjoying writing. (4) Join or start a writing group. This is the single most important thing you can do to improve your writing and be successful. Really! While I don't entirely agree with Anonymous above, because the way he puts it, it sounds like if you just know the right people they will get you published, it is true that having a circle of writing friends and colleagues will help you in a multitude of ways. There is a social side of writing, and it is vital. (5) Take every opportunity to find readers (blogging, self publishing, whatever) because you simply don't know what's going to draw attention and readers to your stories. No one is an overnight success. (6) Learn about the business side of writing so that you don't become the victim of a lazy or unethical agent or publisher. Never sign a contract that you don't understand thoroughly and that your attorney hasn't read and explained to you. People's careers are ruined by bad contracts. (7) Join a writing group. (8) Join a writing group. (9) Join a writing group. (Repeat as necessary)
And finally, Bill Ferris does not want you to support his Patreon.

Have a great weekend!

I’m available for manuscript edits, query critiques, and consultations! And if you like this post, check out my guide to writing a novel.

Art: Photo by me. Follow me on Instagram! @nathanbransford






Wednesday, June 21, 2017

How do you cope with staring at screens so much?


Many of us look at screen all day as we work. We look at screens when we are reading the news. We look at screens when we're watching TV. We look at screens when...

Okay you get the point.

Looking at screen all the time can make writing very difficult. To wit:
  • We often write on the same devices that have access to email, Twitter, Facebook, and any number of other distractions. So blocking out the outside world is a challenge.
  • It can cause eye strain, especially as day shifts into night. 
  • Perhaps most importantly, it can feel claustrophobic, like you're in a very small room whose furnishings don't really change much.
So how do you cope? How do you force yourself to keep staring at the screen when you really need to write, especially when you don't really have an alternative to screen-staring?

Devices? Apps? Screen settings?

(Thanks to Olivia Clements for the question!)

I’m available for manuscript edits, query critiques, and consultations! And if you like this post, check out my guide to writing a novel.

Art: A Writer Trimming his Pen by Jan Ekels the Younger






Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Query Critique Tuesday: Read your query out loud before sending


If you would like to nominate your query for a future Query Critique, please enter it in this thread in the Forums!

Also, if you'd like to test your editing chops, keep your eye on this area! I'll post the pages and queries a few days before a critique on the blog so you can see how your redline compares to mine.

Now then. Time for the Query Critique. First I'll present the query without comment, then I'll offer my thoughts and a redline. If you choose to offer your own thoughts, please be polite. We aim to be positive and helpful.

Random numbers were generated, and thanks to Michael Carroll, whose query is below:
Dear [Agent Name], 
After discovering your passion for education, through your work as a teacher, literary agent, and [Company], I think you would be the perfect fit to represent my manuscript. DOG GONE DOG is a humorous middle grade detective adventure about a 12-year-old inventor. 
Dewey “Mac” McClain is a desk-drumming, creative goofball. Through his love of science, and how cheap his mom is, he has learned to make inventions out of common items. After a former friend’s dog goes missing, Dewey decides to find the dog to repair the friendship. When partnered with loudmouth and overconfident Ched and Betty Bacon and feel like they have it solved until Betty’s dad is framed for the job. Now the three need to hurry and find the real thief, free Betty’s dad, and complete their school projects. 
The manuscript contains two parts: a narrative section (30,000 words) and THE HAM DETECTIVE MANUAL (5,500 words). The Detective Manual contains simple step-by-step directions to build STEM gadgets from common or inexpensive items. No project is too hard or too expensive, so all children can enjoy, experiment, and learn.  
In late 2015, 2,000 copies were printed through a partner publishing contract with Mascot Books. These were used to fulfill a Kickstarter campaign that was over 300% funded. The book was launched at World Maker Faire, where it was honored with an Editor’s Choice Award and an Educator’s Choice Award. Only a few hundred copies remain unsold. I have retained the rights to all content, characters, and artwork. 
As a third grade teacher, I see many students who are currently disenchanted with reading because of a lack of initially appealing books. I also see many students who don’t realize how interesting STEM can be. I would love to team with you to help put DOG GONE DOG, A DEWEY MAC MAKER MYSTERY into children’s hands everywhere. 
Sincerely,
Michael Carrol
www.deweymac.com 
I always like a good detective novel, and it sounds like there's a pretty fun story at the heart of this query. I also like the idea that it comes with a manual that kids could perhaps use for gadgets for their own detective work.

My concern about this query is that there are a lot of sentences that are a mouthful. What's the best way to figure out when your'e writing a mouthful? Read your query out loud to let your words fill your mouth.

Okay that sounded weird. But you know what I mean.

If you can't read your query smoothly out loud, chances are someone's not going to be able to read it smoothly.

Secondly, as agents articulated in a recent survey, just about anything other than the story in your query is extraneous. An agent doesn't need to know every detail of your self-publishing journey or what led you to write the book. It's enough to know to know whether it's been self-published or not, what your credits are but no worries if you don't have them, and that's basically that.

In this case, I worry a bit that the story feels a little bit rushed in favor of other details of the query. Take the time to make sure you're getting your story through.

Here's my redline:
Dear [Agent Name], 
After discovering your passion for education, through your work as a teacher, literary agent, and [Company], I think you would be the perfect fit to represent my manuscript. DOG GONE DOG is a humorous middle grade detective adventure about a 12-year-old inventor
Twelve-year-old Dewey “Mac” McClain is a desk-drumming [I'm not sure I know what this means], creative goofball. Through his love of science, and how cheap his mom is [Awkward phrasing - essentially this reads "Through how cheap his mom is he has learned to make inventions"], he has learned to make inventions out of common items. After a former friend’s dog goes missing [Who's the former friend? Be specific], Dewey decides to find the dog to repair the friendship. When partnered with loudmouth and overconfident Ched and Betty Bacon and feel like they have it solved until Betty’s dad is framed for the job [Mouthful - not really sure what this means]. Now the three need to hurry and find the real thief, free Betty’s dad, and complete their school projects [Which school projects? This paragraph feels a little rushed through]
The manuscript contains two parts: a narrative section (30,000 words) and THE HAM DETECTIVE MANUAL (5,500 words). The Detective Manual contains simple step-by-step directions to build STEM gadgets [What is a STEM gadget?] from common or inexpensive items. No project is too hard or too expensive, so all children can enjoy, experiment, and learn.  
I self-published a limited run of DOG GONE DOG in late 2015, 2,000 copies were printed through a partner publishing contract with Mascot Books. These were used to fulfill a Kickstarter campaign that was over 300% funded. The book was launched at World Maker Faire, where it was honored with an Editor’s Choice Award and an Educator’s Choice Award. Only a few hundred copies remain unsold. I have retained the rights to all content, characters, and artwork. 
As I am a third grade teacher, I see many students who are currently disenchanted with reading because of a lack of initially appealing books. I also see many students who don’t realize how interesting STEM can be. I would love to team with you to help put DOG GONE DOG, A DEWEY MAC MAKER MYSTERY into children’s hands everywhere. 
Sincerely,
Michael Carroll
www.deweymac.com 
 Thanks again to Michael Carroll!

I’m available for manuscript edits, query critiques, and consultations! And if you like this post, check out my guide to writing a novel.

Art: The Coal Black Hound by Sidney Paget






Related Posts with Thumbnails