Nathan Bransford, Author

Monday, June 30, 2008

Jonathan Karp on a Book A Year

In case you have any doubt who controls the content of the Washington Post book page, look no further than Sunday's article by Jonathan Karp, who was the subject of Thursday's blog post, talking about Wednesday's blog post about whether authors should come out with a book a year.


(ok, fine, it was definitely a coincidence)

As much as Jonathan Karp loved working with the likes of Clay Aiken and Manuel Noriega (he preferred Noriega), count him down in favor of letting the books marinate and stew. He cites a bunch of books from which we have all benefited because they took longer than a year to write. He counts them as a nice antidote to books that are mass produced and/or involve substanceless subject matter.

However you come down on the book a year debate, it's definitely an article worth checking out.

Friday, June 27, 2008

This Week in Publishing 6/27/08

Busy week in publishing!

The Wall Street Journal profiled another literary success story, this time for Andrew Davidson, who opted for an out-of-the-box query to Eric Simonoff that outlined why Eric shouldn't represent him. (Kids, don't try this at home. These stunts were performed by professionals). Doubleday snatched it up for quite the load of cash, and THE GARGOYLE comes out in August.

And in a completely opposite success story, via Publishers Lunch, the New York Times profiles THE SHACK, a book that is storming the bestseller lists based entirely on word of mouth and a blockbuster marketing budget of $300. And by storming the bestseller list, I mean STORMING -- it's #1 on the NY Times paperback list a year after it was published. THE SHACK is about a guy who meets God in the form of "a jolly African American woman."

The lesson in all of this? There is no lesson, people. This business is nuts I mean unpredictable.

That rascally Google is at it again! Now Google Book Search has put all the copyright information available anywhere into one xml document that you can download and search. Although Google notes that "there are undoubtedly errors in these records," so... uh... copyright searcher beware I guess.

In other rascally news, Dennis Cass is also at it again. This time he has penned a meta query which is quite hilarious and also meta. Now I'm going to get all meta on you and insert a joke here, maybe about a reality show ha ha Spencer's funny.

Watch out, Kindle, tech companies are gunning for you! Yes, the miBook is the latest e-reader aiming to compete with the Kindle. This one has a color screen, it retails for only $130 (Kindle: $350) and you can also can play multimedia content (such as cooking instructional videos) and music. Also it doesn't look like it was invented in the '80s, although, strangely, the miBook website does.

And finally, hope everyone had a Happy Draft Day! I went "um" along with everyone else when the Kings took Jason Thompson at #12 (I liked him... but maybe more at #25), but the last few times I was surprised by a Kings pick were when Kevin Martin and Peja Stojakovic were drafted, so.... I'm just going to go ahead and trust Geoff Petrie on this one.

Have a good weekend!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

12: Imprint...... of the Future

I don't know if you knew this, but today is a holiday for me -- NBA Draft day!! Happy NBA Draft day everyone!!

Anyone who has not seen the NBA Draft is truly missing out. The poor fashion choices! The awkward interviews! Moms losing their minds and bursting into tears when their sons are chosen! NBA commissioner David Stern getting booed by the crowd at Madison Square Garden! Oh, and teams make their draft picks too. It's really one of the most compelling nights of television. For me, the NBA Draft is kind of like Christmas and the 4th of July and Halloween combined ONLY BETTER.

Meanwhile, I'm having a very busy day and will make this a short post.

I'm a little late to this party, but a few weeks back Moonrat had a great post about Jonathan Karp's imprint 12, which everyone should definitely check out.

Essentially, Karp's imprint is built around a simple concept: they publish one book a month and try and make them all bestsellers.

Moonrat really does a great job breaking down what this means, and if I may add my own interpretation, Karp is nailing one crucial fact about the publishing industry: when a publisher is really focused and really committed to a book, they can work wonders. When they don't? Uh. They always do! Nothing to see here NBA Draft tonight.

As publishers move in the direction of smaller lists and bigger books, to some degree or another they're probably going to emulate Karp's model. So familiarize yourself with that imprint, because it's one of several imprints that are redefining how publishers will operate in the 21st century.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A Book a Year?

Many published authors, especially those writing in genre fiction, keep up an incredible pace with their books, sometimes publishing one or more books a year. And it can really be a struggle to keep up with such a breakneck pace.

I'm curious about how you feel about this as both a writer and a reader.

As a reader, do you want a new book from your favorite author every year, or perhaps even more often? What about with a series? Do you expect that you'll be able to read the next book soon?

As a writer, do you think you could keep up that pace for a decade? Would you like the steady income or would you prefer to let the creative juices marinate a while?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Character and Plot: Inseparable!

As promised, today is when I'm going to talk about how character and plot are inseparable. Truthfully, yesterday was going to be the day I talked about how character and plot are inseparable, but yesterday I totally chickened out (the pressure! Don't want to sound like an idiot -- too late). My personal courage serum is an excess dosage of coffee, and let's just say I'm now personally keeping Guatemala's economy afloat.

Ok. So. Writers sometimes say they start with a compelling character and go from there. Often it's just a sketch of someone who intrigues them, and they build a world around that character. Plot? An afterthought!

But what, dare I ask (and I dare), makes for a compelling character?

Let me tell you what a compelling character is not: a compelling character is not someone who is just like everyone else, pretty much gets along with everyone, and goes about their business unaffected by whatever happens. Can you imagine? "Once upon a time there was an average girl who ate her vegetables and brushed her teeth. She grew up, paid her taxes on time, and then she died. The end."

Here's what does make for a compelling character: 1) a character who starts off seemingly normal, only ensuing events reveal abilities and/or personality traits they never knew they had (e.g. Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter, Jeff Abbott's protagonists, et al). 2) a character battling internal demons (Holden Caulfield, Hamlet, Quentin Compson et al). 3) a relatively normal person observing a crazy world (Ishmael, Nick Carraway, Arthur Dent, et al).

There are tons more, and sometimes these archetypes are mixed up and combined. But the point is, at the heart of every compelling character who has ever walked the pages of a story is one thing: conflict. Or, rather, three things: conflict, more conflict, and still more conflict.

And how is that character's conflict revealed? Through the plot! What good is an interesting character if they aren't doing anything?

When an author says they start a story with an interesting character in mind, it's just a different side of the same coin as an author who starts with a basic plot. It's all conflict. To go back to the door metaphor from Thursday's post, the conflict at the heart of an interesting character is what is opening the door and it's why the character is trying to close the door. A character's conflict forms the basis of the plot.

The plot tests a character and forces them to make choices. It reveals the, uh, compellingness of the character. Plot is what makes the character interesting (because the character is tested) and character is what makes the plot interesting (because we're learning about the character).

And most importantly, the plot changes the character along the way. Every compelling character starts in one place and ends up in a different place, and how they get from point A and point B is the plot. (Think of Michael Corleone starting as a good guy and then ending up the don.) If the character isn't a different person at the end of the story than the beginning, well, that's not very interesting. Or compelling.

Now, some plots are better than others, and that's another post for the future. Until then, coffee growers of the world, please keep up your good work.

Friday, June 20, 2008

This Week In Publishing 6/20/08

Week This Publishing In

Over in the domain of Moonrat I offered my own contribution to her celebrating reading series. I dissected the appeal of THE CAT IN THE HAT. Things One and Two still freak me out.

Kristin Nelson relayed the results of a Publishers Weekly poll on the preferences and habits of book buyers, and solicits a poll of her readers, which made for a very interesting comments section.

Ulysses pointed me to a Toronto Star article about Canada's contemplation of a revision of copyright laws, and interestingly enough, the primary concern among Canadian booksellers isn't piracy, but rather the territorial integrity of e-book sales. There those darn e-books go again, breaking into countries and stealing stuff. E-books, what are we ever going to do with you!

Two articles of note came via Publishers Lunch. First, Smart Bitches Trashy Books interviewed AP book reporter Hillel Italie, in which he makes a hilarious analogy about dire predictions being to book conventions what balloons are to political conventions.

Second via Publishers Lunch, in case you had any doubt that bestsellers don't just drop from the sky, the Wall Street Journal breaks down the early success of THE STORY OF EDGAR SAWTELLE, which was championed by Amazon, which subsequently drove demand at the other chains. The lesson as always: get Amazon to pick your book out of all the books published and you shall do well. A glowing review from Janet Maslin never hurt anyone either.

And finally, some people have pointed out in response to yesterday's post that characters should come before plot. Personally I don't think plot and character can be separated from each other, and I'm hoping to post more about that next week.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Do You Have a Plot?

It's really difficult to start a novel. Where do you begin? How many pages should be in a chapter? Should you outline? Should you just go for it? What about chapter titles? Chapter titles or numbers, which should it be?

Eventually these questions turn into extreme procrastinatory measures (if procrastinatory is not a word, consider it invented), such as a search for the perfect quote to put on its own page at the start of the novel, endless adjustment of margins and formatting, and "research" in the form of checking one's e-mail.

Having worked with many authors in the past, it's fascinating to see how many different styles there are. You have the planners, who outline every last detail ahead of time and churn out an almost-perfect first draft, and then you have the revisers, who write their way to what the novel is about, figure it out around page 150, and then go back and scrap the first 150 pages and rewrite them.

But in my opinion, there is absolutely one thing every writer should start with before they begin writing. And that's a plot.

And do you have a plot? No really, do you?

Multiple choice quiz! Hope you did your homework.

Which one of these is a plot:
a) Four women find redemption and love on a trip to Italy
b) A young man comes of age in an unpronounceable kingdom
c) A man and his video game collection discover the true meaning of love
d) Four friends realize they hate each other

The answer: none of the above!

These are not plots. They are themes. (Or at least what I call themes.) So many times when I ask people what's the plot they tell me what the novel is about. "It's about a young man who comes of age and discovers the meaning of life!" (note: also not a plot) All of these themes are descriptions of what is happening beneath the surface of the novel. It's what the novel is about. When I ask for the plot I don't want to know what the novel is about. I want to know what happens.

So let's try that again. Spot the plot in these:

a) Snakes get loose on a plane
b) A cat with a hat arrives to entertain children
c) A crazy general is hiding out in the jungle
d) The world is going to end when the Mayan calendar runs out in 2012 (because the Mayans were right about EVERYTHING)

Which is the plot?

Also none of the above. (I'm so predictable.)

These are not plots -- they are hooks! Or premises! Whichever label you prefer! They are a starting place. Also not a plot. A premise is just that -- a starting point. But where does the novel go from there?

Ok. So. Enough quizzes. What makes a plot?

Think of a book like a really big door, preferably one of those Parisian ones that are thick and heavy and last hundreds of years. Here's how it breaks down. Bullet point time!

- The premise is what happens to knock the door ajar. Something sets the protagonist's life out of balance. Preferably something really intriguing or like totally deep man.
- The climax is when the door closes. Maybe the protagonist made it through the door, maybe they didn't make it through the door but learned a really great lesson about door closing, maybe the door chopped them in half.
- The theme is how the person opening the door changes along the way.

What's the plot? The plot is what keeps the door open!! Why can't that person close the door?

So basically, plot is a premise plus a major complication that tests the protagonist. It's what opens the door plus what's keeping the door from being closed.

Check out these examples:

GILEAD: An aging man writes a letter to his young son (premise) because he doesn't think he'll live long enough for his son to really know him (complication -- also don't you want to cry already?)

THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET: A young orphan in Paris wants to repair an automaton because he thinks it will give him a letter from his deceased father (premise -- also tears), but in order to do so he must avoid the Station Inspector and enlist the help of a mysterious toy store owner (complication).

A good plot starts with an interesting premise and an interesting door-block. A great plot also implies a quest and a resolution, which is what makes the reader want to read more. We don't like chaos, we want to see order restored, we want an interesting journey along the way, and we want to see the ways a character changes after facing these obstacles.

So when you're starting a novel, don't just think of a theme and leave it at that. The complications are everything.

Wow, that turned into a long post.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Has the Internet Changed the Way You Read?

Assuming you've read this far, some people out there in that vast pile of electronic haystacks otherwise known as the Internet are distressed to find that their reading habits have become scattered I wonder what Spencer and Heidi are up to.

Still with me?

Anyway, writing in a paper product people in the 20th century called a "magazine," Nicholas Carr finds that his reading habits have gone the way of a hyperactive teenager on stimulants and that he has trouble reading actual books and longer articles. And in Slate, Michael Agger talks about some studies that show that your (lazy) brain skips large chunks of text, which means chances are you didn't read this paragraph. That's ok, it wasn't a great paragraph anyway.

So what do you think? Has the Internet made it harder to read an actual book? Do you find your attention span maybe I should go check Gawker again?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Can I Get a Ruling on Pitch Sessions?

Friend of the blog Linda C. McCabe is soliciting input on what people like to see at writer's conferences, and this got me to thinking about the mainstay of writers conferences: the pitch session.

I'm sure many of you have sweat through one or more of these events, in which authors speak for a couple of minutes about their project as the agent tries to follow along.

Personally I find pitch sessions extremely challenging, and not just because I'm often listening to pitches for hours on end. Just about everything sounds good to me when someone is pitching it in person, but ultimately I don't find them terribly insightful because, of course, everything depends on the writing. I always wonder if we'd be better off spending that time discussing questions the author might have about the publishing process and their work.

On the other hand, maybe it's a valuable exercise for people to be forced to summarize their work in a compelling fashion, and maybe it helps to make that personal connection with an agent. Perhaps there are some benefits that I'm not seeing on my side of the table.

So what do you think about pitch sessions? Yes? No?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Thanks, Gawker. I Think.

Vote for the Hottest Guy of Book Publishing 2008

It's Not You, It's the Odds (and the Resonance Factor)

Here's an analogy sure to brighten the mood of the unpublished: writing a book is kind of like spending a year creating a lottery ticket. Sunny days, people! Sunny days!

Basically, what I'm trying to emphasize in this post is that the odds are against you. Wait. That also sounds depressing. Um...

A week and a half ago I posted the query points system, in which one needs to score 10 points out of a 30 points system (Professionalism/Book Idea/Credentials) in order to get a manuscript requested. But what Conduit pointed out in the comments section is that the whole "resonance with agent" factor is extremely important and that there's an undefinable X Factor at play in queries.

This is completely true. And I think people need to take it into account when querying and reacting to rejections.

We agents give tons of advice on how to write a query letter, and you authors spend hours and hours crafting the perfect query letter. But because of that resonance factor, which is hugely important... I might just not get your project. It's not my fault, it's not your fault, we can't control it, it's just part of the process. I think it kind of drives people nuts to think that there's so much they can't control when it comes to queries. So I have a recommendation: try not to think about it.

This is the entire driving force behind the idea that one should query widely. You just never know who your idea is going to resonate with. It might be me, it might be someone else. You just never know (don't forget to query me first though).

But I did want to end this post on a happy note, which is that you shouldn't take rejections too hard. Like I say in the blog title, it's not you, it's the odds. I can't take on very many people at all, and when I do take someone on I have to both really love their work (so I can be the right advocate) and think I can sell it (so I can have a job). That translates to a mere handful out the 10,000 people who query me a year become clients. Um. Wait. That wasn't very reassuring.


There. That's better!

Friday, June 13, 2008

This Week In Publishing 6/13/08

tHiS wEeK iN pUbLiShInG

First off this Friday, a public service announcement from Curtis Brown agent Ginger Clark: "Hi, everyone. This piece of advice is probably obvious to 99% of the people reading this blog, but I wanted to get it on record, out there on the Interwebs—please, do not send agents or editors statues/ornaments/bobbleheads/dream-catchers/spirit wheels in the mail. It is a waste of your time and money; a waste of packaging; and it makes your work less likely to be taken seriously. Just send the agent whatever they have specified in terms of what they want from a submission (for instance, I want a query letter and an SASE). Sending some kind of toy or doll is unprofessional."

And I would like to add some etiquette refreshers of my own since people out there seem to be slipping a little. First off, please remember that one should not call a prospective agent. And also, think of the children and do not begin your queries with rhetorical questions. Every time someone begins their query with a rhetorical questions a baby cries.

Moonrat is doing a cool series of posts celebrating reading, in which people talk about books that influenced them along the way. I shall be contributing as well. In fact I'm overdue contributing. Soon, Moonrat! Soon!

And finally, in actual publishing news, get ready to rumble, Hachette UK and Amazon are throwing down! Amazon was all, "We want a bigger slice of the pie," and Hachette was like, "This bakery is all out of pie," and Amazon was all, "Fine, we're deactivating your buy buttons and making your promos disappear." So Hachette sent a letter to its authors explaining that they weren't even tripping, and guess what, UK agents have Hachette's back. An explanation in English can be found here.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Can I Get a Ruling: Will The Coming E-Book Era Be a Good Thing?

As we wrap up this unofficial e-book week on the blog, I continue to remember that I have a blog feature called Can I Get A Ruling, in which we all vote on a basically yes or no question. (Publishing Myths 101 on the other hand: forgotten and neglected)

So here's what I'd like a ruling on. Will the coming e-book revolution be a Good Thing for authors?

In other words, I don't know that the music industry would necessarily, on the whole, think that mp3s have been, overall, a Good Thing, given the losses to piracy. Sure, there were some forced errors along the way, some artists may have taken advantage of the Internet and others think things are jolly, but there's been quite a lot of angst along the way.

So as we enter an era where e-books become more and more popular (and e-book sales are up 35.7% on the year), is the coming era going to be good for authors?

Pros: lots of choice, cheaper prices=more books bought?, portability, opening up of marketplace, ease of access

Cons: piracy, downward pressure on prices, possible consolidation of marketplace, choice confusion.

So Can I Get a Ruling? E-books are coming, whether we like them are not. On the whole... Good thing? Bad Thing?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

How Will the Authors of Tomorrow Make Money?

Yesterday I suggested that authors probably won't be charging admission to readings and selling t-shirts, to which people (correctly) wrote back: "Why not??" I should have said "most" authors won't be charging admission, but I definitely take their point.

So this got me to thinking. We've been talking about how e-books are going to affect the economics of publishing and the bottom line for authors, but let's take that one step further.

How are authors in the near future going to be making their money? Do you think books are still going to be the main thing? Or is the "other" category, such as subrights, appearances, and yes, t-shirts going to be more important? How should authors utilize the new technology to earn more money?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

More on E-books

Thanks to everyone who chimed in for what has been a really fascinating discussion on yesterday's post. I wanted to follow up a bit on some of the issues your coming e-book overlords pose.

It's interesting, first, to compare yesterday's discussion to one we had just in November about the Kindle... seems like people are coming around to the idea that e-books are here to stay. For real this time. As pjd pointed out, resistance to the idea of e-books is somewhat similar to people in 1995 saying they would never switch to e-mail because it's so much more impersonal than a handwritten note.

There are still quite a few people who are swayed by the benefits of the paper book (portability, cost, permanence), which are not easily matched by e-readers, and which will slow whatever change is coming. Clearly we'll have a climate in the foreseeable future where there is both e-books and physical books. I still believe that if there's a tipping point it will be when people are able to read e-books easily on their smart phones or whatever device people already own, rather than having to buy a dedicated device.

So where does the author (and agent) fit into this?

We'll see. But don't write an obituary for anyone just yet.

In terms of how authors will make money in this new environment -- as some have pointed out, the margins of e-books have the potential to maintain a basic level of revenue for authors, whether they're used as promotional devices or as a primary source of income. But whatever the model, it does seem like there will be constant downward pressure on prices, and as Krugman points out, ancillary income is going to become increasingly important.

Now, I don't think authors are going to be selling t-shirts and charging admission to readings. But subrights are more important than ever, and having an agent who can sell film rights, foriegn rights, audio, serial, etc. etc. is going to become even more essential. There are more avenues than ever, and it takes a great deal of expertise to manage that process. And that's what a good agent is for.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Paul Krugman on E-books and the Publishing Industry

In the wake of BEA there have been a series of articles on the coming (or rather ongoing) e-book wave. This morning's Publishers Lunch details the strong sales of Kindles and Sony Readers, the Times assesses e-books and bookseller unease, and synching all this together with some analysis is Paul Krugman, who wonders whether authors of the future will find that "the ancillary market is the market."

In other words, because of the ease of transmission of electronic media there is constant downward pressure on prices, which cuts into industry (and author) profits, and just as mp3s have forced bands to turn to merchandise and shows in order to make money, could it be that authors of the future will earn money from website ad revenue, appearances, and.... um, something?

We've discussed the implication of the proliferation of titles in the future, but what about downward pressure on prices and shrinking profits?

So after you take a look at Krugman's article, what do you think? Is this the future? And how do we all feel about it?

Thursday, June 5, 2008

This Week in Publishing 6/5/08

This Week, Publishing In

Lots of news this week in publishing. As reported yesterday, the very smart Brian Murray is taking over HarperCollins, and he laid out some of his plans in an interview with Publishers Lunch. Murray states that while he thinks HarperCollins "is performing financially at the top of what this industry can produce," he is hoping to find new ways to expand margins through investment in new initiatives and experiments.

Amid a series of layoffs, Borders has launched its own non-Amazon-linked website, which is interesting because it actively faces out bestsellers in a more bookstore like fashion.

Sir Thomas de Kay from 101 Reasons to Stop Writing wrote quite the takedown of a Forbes article that asserted authors would all be better off if they'd just accept 35% of revenue from Amazon and have them be the publisher, thereby phasing out publishers and agents (also competition). Short version of 101 Reasons' rebuttal: um, no.

My client Jennifer Hubbard followed up with a second post about dialogue, which is just as indispensible as the first. In short: lose the small talk. Unless the small talk is important and interesting. Also avoid monologuists.

The Wall Street Journal numbers guy addressed the question of whether Americans are really reading less. (Thanks to reader Eric Laing for the tip.)

Lisa McMann wants to spread the word about a conference in San Francisco, the Ypulse National Mashup, which will be held July 14-15, and she'll be on a panel.

And finally, ladies and gentlemen, I have some terribly grave news -- after the taping for this season of The Bachelorette, the world's supply of candles has been exhausted. Candles are now extinct. The world will just have to find another prop for its fantasy suite dates and awkward conversations about being on a reality television show for the right reasons.

Have a great weekend!

The Query Points System and Rulebreaking

First off, more big news in publishing -- Jane Friedman is stepping down as CEO of HarperCollins, and Brian Murray is stepping up. And Gawker broke the story. Really big news!


So during the contest two weeks back there was quite a bit of angst about rules and the breaking thereof. And one of the things that was pointed out in the comments section by our friend Patricia Wood (LOTTERY out in paperback!!!) was that she broke all sorts of rules when she queried her agent and it worked out swimmingly.

Needless to say, for people who spend months combing the interweb for information about how to write the most perfect, proper, and impeccable query letter known to publishing and then spend weeks drafting a squeaky clean query, such news about successful rulebreaking makes heads explode aplenty.

If there are plenty of stories about people who successfully cast the rules out the window and yet we agents still blog obsessively about things we do and don't want to see in query letters, why should anyone listen to the rules? Allow me to try and explain why all this is so (and it be so).

I think when someone's query is rejected they want to know why, and when people want to know why something happens, they tend to look for that one reason to explain why. It's human nature, I think, to want to find one thing to explain everything. Such as: Oh, I spelled his name wrong. That's why my query was rejected. Or: it was that joke about monkeys, wasn't it?

There is No. Such. Thing. as an automatic rejection. Well, one such thing: if it's screenplays or poetry. Otherwise I'm looking carefully and weighing a host of complex factors, and yes, you can spell my name wrong, write an entire query out of rhetorical questions and/or insult the Sacramento Kings, and I still might request a partial.

Does this mean you should cast all rules out the window? NO!

Once you've set aside the idea that there's only one reason for a rejection, the query points system begins to make sense. Now, just FYI, I'm not sitting at my computer with a pen and scoresheet, but here's what's happening in the back of my mind as I'm reading a query.

Let's say you have to get to 10 points in order to for me to request a manuscript. Here are the categories, which I'm scoring 0-10:

- Professionalism (appearance of query, spelling of name, personalization, absence of strange pictures)
- Book Idea (presentation of hook, marketability, writing style/quality, resonance with me)
- Qualifications (writing credits, celebrity status)

So let's just say someone writes a query letter entirely out of rhetorical questions in purple typeface (0 points for professionalism), the book is one day in the life of a literary agent, told in second-person stream of consciousness (0 points for book idea), but the qualifications section of the query is "I am Michael Chabon." 10 points!! I'm requesting the manuscript!!

Or, let's say the person has no writing credits, wrote an unprofessional letter, but the book idea is incredibly awesome and even involves a jelliquarium. 10 points! Manuscript requested!

But most importantly for the average querier out there, you want to earn points however you can. Sure, you can break the rules if you want, and if your idea and writing makes a perfect 10 you may find success. But your odds are so much better if you earn as many points on the "professionalism" scale as you possibly can. I have requested a large number of partials where the idea did not immediately strike me (let's say 3 or 4 points), but the query letter was so impeccable (8 or 9 points!) I wanted to check it out.

I still say your chances are better if you try and stick to the rules, but I'm also not going to miss out on a perfect 10 book idea just because someone misspelled my name.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

What Is Your Favorite Series?

While I was away I was able to read a whole bunch of books for fun, including THE NIGHT GARDNER by George Pelecanos, WHAT THE DEAD KNOW by Laura Lippman, EAT PRAY LOVE by Elizabeth Gilbert, and HIS MAJESTY'S DRAGON by Naomi Novik, all of which I enjoyed.

That last one was especially interesting for me because while I really liked reading series when I was younger, these days I find myself spreading out and picking a book by an author I haven't previously read to expand my familiarity with different styles and success stories. So I really want to know what's going to happen in the next book of the Termeraire series, but I'm just so curious to read THEN WE CAME TO THE END and THE LAST LECTURE and and and...

But now I'm wondering: what's your favorite series?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

I'm Back! Mostly!

Hello everyone, and thanks for returning after the blog went dark this past week. We will be back to our usual programming soon.

In the meantime, if you are among the 250+ people who queried me in the past week and are awaiting a response... soon. Swear.

So what did I miss??

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