Nathan Bransford, Author


Thursday, December 31, 2009

Holiday Repeat: Digging for Mushrooms

Watch out, because I'm about to get all metaphorical on you.

I recently read a New Yorker article on mushroom pickers (bear with me here). There are these people who go into the forests in Oregon to pick matsutake mushrooms, which are very popular but difficult to find. You see, the matsutake doesn't grow above ground, so the mushroom pickers have to look for small mounds in the ground in certain places near certain trees and dig to see if there's a matsutake there. So there are these people who will see an almost imperceptible mound of dirt and yell out, "MATSUTAKE!"

(I especially like to imagine the part where they yell out "Matsutake!", which I completely made up. In fact I just like saying, "matsutake." I think I'm going to use that when I finish a book or find a good manuscript. The end MATSUTAKE!!)

Anyway, the whole matsutake search is just like being an agent. Mostly. Kind of.

As anyone who has worked in publishing knows, there's a huge psychological difference between reading something as a finished book and reading it in manuscript form. With a book, not only is the reading experience completely different, but when the book is published by real publisher you are absorbing the implicit endorsement through the binding -- someone out there believed in the book and invested in it and thinks the book is good and will sell. Sure, not everyone will like the book, but it still carries that implicit weight of endorsement, particularly one that has already been branded a "classic." It's a mushroom that has already been dug up and cleaned off.

But when the book is just a manuscript, especially one by an unknown author, it is really, really difficult to read something and decide if it is good or will resonate with readers. Really difficult. Finding a mushroom in a small mound of dirt difficult.

Which is why I cringed when I saw the recent New York Times article that highlighted Knopf's old rejection files and readers reports, including the rejection letters for classics like THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK and THE GOOD EARTH and LOLITA.

Let's be honest, people love playing the schadenfreude game with rejected books that went on to be mega-successes (to be fair, the Times article is very balanced). It's extremely tempting to laugh at publishers and agents who missed the big ones, and similarly tempting for publishers and agents to kick themselves when they miss said big ones. But there's a good reason this happens: it's really, really hard. It's subjective. It's slippery. Heck, sometimes an agent or publisher just wasn't the right fit, and even if they had repped/bought the book it might not have caught on like it did because they didn't see what someone else saw in it. The right fit can be everything.

So sure, everyone who has spent much time in publishing has missed one, but it doesn't mean we're stupid. At least I hope not. No one said digging for mushrooms is easy.

MATSUTAKE!!






98 comments:

Heidi Willis said...

Well said (even a second time!).

I certainly hope my book will take off like wildfire, but I won't shake it in the faces of all the agents that rejected it. If it wasn't a good fit for them, they probably wouldn't have been a good fit for me.

I love the idea of yelling Matsutake!! I may steal that! :)

Amy Lundebrek said...

MATSUTAKE!!!

Mira said...

Lol. This is a funny post. I really like the Matsutake! Funny.

I also think it's a good point. It's very challenging to be an agent.

So, obviously, not being an agent, I have no idea what I'm talking about, but that never stops me from giving my advice. So, here's my take.

First, if I were an agent, I would look to fill my client list with a combination of literary and commercial works. Literary won't sell as well, but it would fill a higher purpose, maybe even win awards, and then commercial will pay the bills.

Now, excellent literary work is easier to assess - I think, maybe I'm wrong there. But I think the greater challenge is how to find commerical books that will sell?

I believe that all best-selling novels have one thing in common. You can't put them down. They are page-turners. (This is for fiction.)

So, this may sound sort of silly, but I swear, this is what I'd do.

I'd find at least 5 friends who love commercial fiction. I'd stick them in a room. I'd give them the book. I'd clock how long they sat and read it. If they read it for 10 minutes, no go. 4 hours without a bathroom break, I'd move heaven and earth to get that book published.

That's my extremely scientific method of determining salability. Again, it may sound silly, but I'm actually being rather serious. I would bet the length of time a beta-reader read a book is directly correlated to how well that book would sell.

Of course, this is complicated by the diamond in the rough factor, which does lead back to the initial point - this is hard.

Yat-Yee said...

That's my new word for exclaiming over an excellent book, a tasty bite, and a perfectly-timed joke.

Ciara said...

ever passed on a big book nathan?

Sean Patrick Reardon said...

Another passed on George Orwell’s “Animal Farm,” explaining it was “impossible to sell animal stories in the U.S.A.”

Holy Matsutake!!

London said...

I LOVE this post! I'm so glad you re-posted it or I would have missed it. D:

Matsutake!!

Travener said...

I used to go mushroom hunting in the forests of Lithuania when I lived there in the mid-90s. It was a hell of a lot more fun than looking for an agent, let me tell you. Only there, instead of "Matsutake!" the cry was "Baravykas!"

Tina Lynn said...

This is why your job is sooooo important! Happy New Year, Nathan! May you find your "big hit" next year...you know, if it isn't, in fact, you:) Matsutake!

Lynn Viehl said...

But when the book is just a manuscript, especially one by an unknown author, it is really, really difficult to read something and decide if it is good or will resonate with readers.

Or even after it's published. I sent out a partial for my first published novel in 1996, waited for a response, politely queried as to the status, and after 18 months with no response informed the editor that I was pulling the submission and sending it elsewhere (I never did simulatanous subs.) Six months after that particular novel and its sequel were sold, and the first one published in 2000, I finally received a rejection letter from that editor. He apparently never read anything I sent him except the four-year-old partial, which he passed on and wished me luck getting it published elsewhere.

I was tempted to send him a print copy of the book in return, but I thought it would be too mean.

GK said...

@Mira:
Oh, you have no idea how I would love to do that. Whenever I find a manuscript I think is good, I want to push it on everyone I know to get their opinion. I'm new to the business, but I think that the "am I right that this is really good or have I finally gone insane?" feeling doesn't ever fully fade.

The problem is that in sending us their work, the author also trusts us with it. They sent it to us, our agency, and we can share it within the agency, but it doesn't go beyond there because the author might not like it. I know I've seen more than one query worrying about us stealing their ideas for our authors, so passing their work to people I know (most either involved in publishing or writing in some fashion) would add flame to the paranoia fire.

lora96 said...

*matsutake*

hey that is fun

and while i enjoy the urban legends about how many times John Grisham got rejected or, in this case, how Knopf didn't want several future classics, I am not typing from beneath the refrigerator-weight of a delusion that I am writing the next classic.

The rejection of legendary books before their eventual success does not vindicate me nor justify my rejections. Wish it did.

So, take heart, Nathan. We do not all believe that we are the next Pearl S. Buck just bc we got a rejection postcard in the mail.

Christy Pinheiro, EA ABA said...

What really sucks is when you are digging for this great mushroom and you find one, take it to your boss and realize it's a petrified dog turd.

Happy New Year!

May you stumble upon the next Harry Potter.

catwoods said...

I'll shout matsutake from the rooftops if it means an agent will dig under the huge slush pile mound to find my little mushroom!

I imagine the job of the agent and editor is tiring, frustrating and filled with unexpected joy.

Thanks for all you do. I only wish it were repping kid's books!

Luc2 said...

Matsutake and Happy New Year everyone!

Again, the comparison with basketball comes to mind. Tyreke Evans was a big mound, but Casspi smaller and Brockamn almost imperceptible.

2010, the year that the Sacramento Kings return to postseason play?

Terry said...

Funny analogy. I can picture agents digging in the dirt, trying to find the prize mushrooms.

All we writers can hope for is that our manuscripts turn out to be Matsutake!

D. G. Hudson said...

First, I'd like to wish Nathan and all the readers of this blog a Happy New Year! There's always something interesting going on at this blog, whether it's conversation, humor, contests or publishing information.

Most of us understand the difficulty in an agent or editor trying to determine if a story will catch the interest of the masses. If this was the only qualifier, that would even out the playing field; but there's the added variables of the author's contacts in the industry, the fact that said author is a celebrity, or has had a book published before, even if mid-list. That is something debut authors must compete against, without even considering the agent or editor's preferences in style, etc.

Just wanted to add that it may be tough to pick a winner, but it's even more difficult to have adequate consideration given to debut books. It may be more difficult today, as there is more competition for such a career, and less funds to be distributed.

That said, I'm not daunted. There's a lot to be said for tenacity.

Mira said...

GK - that's a really good point.

Well, again, this is all fantasy for me, since I'm not an agent, but I might handle that this way: I'd wait to beta-test with the full.

So, when requesting a full, I might inform the writer that I might be sharing their work with colleagues (beta-readers) who have signed confidentiality agreements.

Maybe some authors would opt out, but I'd guess most authors would be so thrilled to have a full requested that they'd be okay with it....?

Well, either way, I wish you the best in your new profession! Congratulations. :)

r louis scott said...

Someday they will look at my rejections in exactly the same way- under small mounds beside certain types of trees.

Marla Taviano said...

Great point.

Kristi Faith said...

Aw, I love it when you get all metaphorical. Seriously a great analogy for the struggling, feeling defeated author to understand. :0) Personally, I look at the stories of Jane Austen and other fabulous authors that were rejected a gazillion times to show that only perseverance pays off...not the 'mistake' of agents and publishers.

maine character said...

I read an article on this about ten years ago and jotted down something one of the mushroom hunters said, which went along with the whole Taoist thing I had going at the time:

"Picking mushrooms is the most meditative activity I’ve ever found. It’s only when you stop worrying about finding them that you do. You have to let mushrooms come to you."

Not sure how that would translate to being an agent (unless you represent Yoda), but at least you have no shortage of material coming to you.

Susan Kelley said...

I'm not sure I want my manuscript to be a mushroom. Mushrooms feed on dead things. I can't eat mushroom because they're carrion feeders.
Happy New Year.

Richard Mabry said...

Nice post, Nathan. I'm surprised that you or one of the commenters didn't pick up on the medium in which most mushrooms are cultivated (although perhaps not the matsutake). Could there be an analogy there with the slush pile from which a manuscript is snatched?

Robena Grant said...

I have this sinking feeling all my mushrooms are toadstools, but WTH Matsutake! And a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year to all!

ryan field said...

"I'm surprised that you or one of the commenters didn't pick up on the medium in which most mushrooms are cultivated..."

I did, Richard. I've been to Mushroom Country in Lancaster, PA. But I wasn't going to mention it...lol.

Lucy said...

Um, mushrooms feed best on dead wood and cow pies, so I'm not sure I want to pursue the analogy in the direction of what goes into a good novel. But anyway....

Actually I loved the Knopf article, not to crow about how perceptive publishers aren't, but because it suggests quite a lot of hope. These authors went through rejection after rejection after rejection, but: they were published. In a massively subjective business, persistence and talent paid off. Finally. It does happen.

So, no, I don't see this as a reason to smirk and question the publisher's intelligence. I do see it as a lot of encouragement to writers who are still hauling in the rejection slips.

Livia said...

Maybe when you call to offer representation instead of introducing yourself you should just yell Matsutake as loud as you can into the receiver.

Anonymous said...

I like your discussion of the difficulty of the job, Nathan--especially trying to see the merits of a manuscript without the validation (or editing) that goes into the finished book. A member of my critique group has been trying to find a publisher for his YA crossover for two years. He had an agent who sent it to a half dozen publishers, and after half a dozen rejections they parted ways. Now he's trying to find a new agent and has gotten requests for fulls but no bites yet.

I would have given up long ago--maybe given the thing away on my web site if I really thought it was that good--figuring that manuscripts already rejected a few times stay rejected. But I could actually be wrong.

Linda Godfrey said...

I agree with Lucy that the column is ultimately a hopeful one for queriers. It is tremendously inspiring to know that even the great writers were not recognized as such by everyone who saw them. And we needn't feel even a frisson of nanny-nanny-boo-boo at those agents who declined them. It's simply useful to know that not everyone will dig your work, but if your work is worthy of publication, eventually someone will.

Good hunting in 2010, everyone!

JTShea said...

Subjective!? You mean you're NOT infallible!? Next you'll be telling us you're just a mortal like the rest of us! Forget Nathan Bransford! Put on the costume and cape of Superagent El Chiquito and lead us forth to conquer publishing and then the rest of the Universe! Matsutake! Matsutake!

LCS249 said...

Hey Nathan,

I've got an even better one than any of the rejection letters you mentioned.

We moved to New Mexico in 2004 and learned shortly after that Bill Gates came from Albuquerque. When he got this idea to start a company (the one called ... Microsoft) he went to the local banks for loans. They all turned him down, so he moved to Seattle. And the rest is gnashing of teeth.

Happy New Year!

Mira said...

Livia, that was pretty funny.

I forgot to wish everyone a Happy New Year! Happy New Year everyone!

I'm sure 2010 will be great. All savory and scrumptuous books will find the right homes eventually, and all agents will find the delectable and delicious books that are right for them.

And I'll even learn how to make a metaphor work. :)

Everyone drive safely tonight, too.

Happy 2010!

Sarah Laurenson said...

Happy Matsutake New Year!

(I don't think you're stupid at all. Really, really nice, but nowhere near stupid. And this is not to butter you up for my next rejection either.)

J.J. Bennett said...

I don't know which is harder finding those darn mushrooms or trying to manipulate the elements to grow them.

AM Riley said...

A book's sales and a book's quality are often unrelated. And when you add in subjective tastes, I don't know how any agent can always make the best choice for his publishing house.

Demosthenes said...

"Even a blind pig finds a truffle once in a while."

Steve said...

I think part of why people love to crow over "failed rejections" is that, historically, there has been a certain element from within the community of "gatekeepers" that has *enjoyed* the role of gatekeeper, and basked in the sense of superiority and entitlement it engenders.

The rise of the Internet, and particularly the growth of agent blogs (and yours premier among them) is doing much to break down the gatekeeper mentality. But old attitudes die hard. There are still many out there who maintain the sense that they are the defenders of "standards" and "quality" - the last bastions against the vast unwashed hordes of untalented wannabees seeking to storm the gates of heaven.

And old resentments die hard. There are still many writers and aspiring writers who will look for any provocation to engage in "class warfare" based on imagined or real mistreatment at the hands of the gatekeepers.

But venues such as this are forcing both sides, kicking and screaming, into confronting the other side as humans. All of us "tied to the wheel". All of us companions on life's journey.

The root cause of rejection of competent work rests, IMO, not so much in attitude but in economics (which does, however, drive and engender certain attitudes). Stated simplemindedly, there is a minimum size of paying audience necessary to support production, distribution and profit from a literary work. As economic conditions worsen, costs of traditional production and distribution rise, while the appitite for profit increases. These factors combine to make publishers increasingly risk-averse. That pressure is transmitted to the community of agents, who, incidently, serve as a very convenient "buffer" to insulate the large publishers and their corporate masters from the fury of rejected writers.

In the long run, low cost production and delivery of text will change all this, although exactly how is not yet clear.

We live in interesting times.

-Steve

Jil said...

Forget all the struggle and fret to be published - this New Year's Eve I feel complete gratitude that I am able to become lost in the joy of writing, painting and music. Life is beautiful and may it be so for all of you! Happy New Year!

Lorelei Armstrong said...

Excellent post! And true. So important to realize that not every book will suit every reader. I couldn't get through the first paragraph of Twilight, but far more people can't get through Ulysses. So long as both are published, can't we all get along?

GhostFolk.com said...

GK :

I'm new to the business, but I think that the "am I right that this is really good or have I finally gone insane?"

There's a point (or two) in the publication process where authors feel exactly the same way about their own work. I promise.

Polenth said...

I'm a mushroom. Pick me! Pick me!

(Well, when I have a novel... then people can pick me).

Sophie said...

Great post Nathan. Happy New Year to all. Love the phrase Matsutake! Like everyone else. Made me chuckle. I don't think agents are stupid. But the more I hear the phrase--highly objective market--the more I understand that it really is a highly objective market.

Claude Lambert said...

This is funny: in France, where mushrooms are between a religion and a business, people do not shout when they find a rare mushroom, they pretend to be birdwatching until you are out of sight! But we do not do that with books..
I remember that Andre Gide did not like Proust at first reading: it is not surprising, they had opposite literary temperaments. I am still bemused by the success of Harry Potter. So, how do you define a good agent?

AchingHope said...

Ahahahaha... I have to say I laughed at the whole yelling "MATSUTAKE!" It's so something I would do.

But I totally agree with you, and I enjoyed the post.

TheUndertaker said...

Well MATSUTAKE to you too. It can be your battle cry from now on, you know, with sword (pen) drawn, ready to go into the battle of the words... : )
Happy mushrooms to you.

Shannon said...

Seems like an apt metaphor. Happy New Year!

Swifty said...

This post was hilarious, scary and exciting all in the same breath...

But even as the writer of my book, when I go back through my numerous revisions, I feel like I digging for those hidden mushrooms trying to figure out if the words I scrambled together will be a reader's eye candy, and even before then, an agent's eye treat, or a publishers eye sore...

PICKLES...

Swifty said...

... I also feel like I forgot an "am" in my previous post...

hahahaha

Anne Lyken-Garner said...

I like this. It gave me an idea for a short story. Thanks.

fatcaster said...

Well damn, Steve. Who are these gatekeepers? Where's the conspiracy?

If the "root cause of rejection of competent(?) work is economics," then gatekeepers save everyone a lot of trouble. Are agents obligated to pump every project? How exactly does anyone get around, "It won't sell" or "I can't sell this'? Do you buy every book you see? Haven't you ever paged through a book and said, "How the hell did this get between covers?" We all make choices, economic and otherwise, and it looks like some people take, "I won't buy your book" as a slap in the face.

Sure, you can self-publish (or declare yourself to be an indie publisher and act as your own gatekeeper). Then what happens? No matter what platform you publish to, the market will still decide if you've got a hit or a miss. Maybe you were right: you've got the next new thing. Maybe the agents who rejected your work were right: you don't. Maybe what you've written doesn't work on too many levels and you just don't want to hear that.

Literary agents are wrong sometimes. We're all wrong sometimes. So what?

Anonymous said...

An apt metaphor in more ways than one. Mushrooms erupt seemingly overnight. The actual fruiting body is fleeting, however;

"Though mushroom fruiting bodies are short-lived, the underlying mycelium can itself be long-lived and massive. A colony of Armillaria ostoyae in Malheur National Forest in the United States is estimated to be 2,400 years old, possibly older, and spans an estimated 2,200 acres. Most of the fungus is underground and in decaying wood or dying tree roots in the form of white mycelia combined with black shoelace-like rhizomorphs that bridge colonized separated woody substrates." Wikepedia: Mushrooms. Seems like an apt metaphor for the publishing industry and the opus of literature. Aristotle was kicking around about 2,400 years ago, wasn't he.

Word verificate: trusions, the ribbons of legacy from the past carrying on into the future.

Lia Mack said...

loved your post. reminds me of my grandfather who hunted mushrooms in Italy ;)

Happy New year!

Anonymous said...

I found this interesting:

http://www.genreality.net/the-reality-of-a-times-bestseller

Marta said...

I love this analogy and the word Matsutake :)
Happy New Year full of interesting books!

Wilhem Spihntingle said...

Of course, when we speak of mushrooms, let's not forget the "Mad Season", and I'm not referring to the band ;)

thoughtful1 said...

Happy New Year to you, Nathan, and everyone else! I remember my grandmother, my Oma, hunting for mushrooms just about anywhere and making great sauces with her findings. I asked how she knew which ones were not poisonous. Wonder, do you know which books are poisonous? Can you pick a book and really lose your investment? Another thing that struck me was your comment on the potential mismatch between agent and writer. Makes me wonder how to choose an agent: I mean, obviously finding the agents of books which you like, but also so much seems like it would be chemistry. And with the market as tight as it is now, won't writers be less careful in choosing who to send queries to?

Cam Snow said...

Given stuff that I've beta-read for people here lately, I can see how you feel like you are searching for something that is very well hidden.

I can see how it would be very, very easy to miss a classic. People talk about how so and so got rejected 15 times, but they never mention if the queries were any good.

I also don't think it is possible to determine if something is a classic from a query? Can literary greatness really come through in a query?

Rachel Hamm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rachel Hamm said...

I posted a comment and noticed a ton of typos, so here's a second try:

Matsutake is great, but I prefer "Oy, with the poodles already." Thank you Lorelai Gilmore.

Your post is a particularly relevant one to the careers of both writers and agents. EVERY book is a diamond in the rough until someone takes a chance on it. Some books have more shine to them than others, but even the dirty, dusty ones have a shot if there's someone out there willing to polish it up.

Now that I'm done with that horrible metaphor, I will just say: Thank you, Nathan! Your blog always has something valuable to say and this post was encouraging (albeit a bit depressing) as I begin my next round of querying. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

DrawnToArt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DrawnToArt said...

Hi Mr. Bransford! :)

I really enjoy your blog, and it's helped my writing more than you can imagine! I know you're very busy, but if you have the time, I have a few questions that I'd love to have answered...

1. If I'm 16, writing an adult novel, and plan to query agents that handle such material, should I mention my age in the query? I've read so many conflicting articles that I don't know if my age would help or hinder. I certainly don't want them to offer representation, and then as soon as they find out my age, turn me down! (Is that even possible?)


2. Are there disadvantages to seeking publication as a teen? Again, I've read conflicting articles. Would it prove more fruitful for me to wait a few years?


3. Do you know of any agents or agencies whom I might query? I've established quite the list, but am always open to more.

Thanks so much, sir. Have a great day. :)

Lucy said...

@ Drawn

I don't know if Nathan is going to be monitoring comments until Monday--even he needs a break once in a while--but most of us who are regular readers can answer your questions based on what's appeared on this and other blogs before.

1) You do not need to mention your age when you query. Your manuscript should speak for itself. If an agent offers you representation, that is the time to mention your age. If you are not old enough to legally sign contracts, you may have to have a parent or guardian who can enter into legal agreements on your behalf.

2) If your manuscript is truly good enough, your age won't hurt you. However, the odds are somewhat against a teen writer being able to produce a high quality, publishable manuscript. It has been done. It will undoubtedly be done again. But don't bang your head on the wall in despair if you end up being twenty or thirty or forty years old before you get a manuscript accepted.

3) Writer's Market publishes a new volume every year, and maintains a listing of agents. You can also check the Association of Authors' Representatives at http://www.aaronline.org. The site is not as easy to read as it used to be (at least not on my browser), but if you click Search for an Agent, and then View All, it will bring up a comprehensive list of their members. Also, you can check out the blogs of other agents that are linked from this blog. See the sidebars for lists of links.

Good luck, and if you haven't a) Checked out the forums here, and b) wandered over to the AbsoluteWrite forums, I'd highly recommend both.

Lucy

Nathan Bransford said...

Thanks, Lucy!

DrawnToArt said...

@Lucy Thanks! Very much appreciated!

Literary Cowgirl said...

On Salt Spring Island in BC, there are only two types of people- hippies and rich people. I had an elderly relative who was caretaking for one of these wealthy people. She was a Scottish war bride and lived most of her life on the open, but sheltered rural prairies of Alberta. When she moved to the island she commented that everyone was always complaining about the hippies, but she found them to be so resourceful. Every morning they came and picked the mushrooms off of the lawn for her.

Anonymous said...

?

Anonymous said...

This isn't a flame.

But I'd like you to take more responsibility for your role. I'd like you -- agents and editors alike -- to be more forthright about the degree to which you're guessing about whether there's a market for the manuscript you're passing on. I'd like you to be more forthright about the fact that you are merely offering an opinion, and that opinions -- including opinions about the marketability of a book -- are often completely wrong. Publishers, editors, and agents are wrong about this far more often than they're right -- this is what explains the fact that the mid-list is subsidized by the front-list (and even then not always). All those mid-list titles that go nowhere, don't earn out, and cost the house money: they are wrong guesses, errors of judgment, mistaken opinions made by editors, agents, and publishers who convinced themselves otherwise.

A Wrinkle in Time was rejected 26 times. Can you imagine if the gatekeepers had had their way? If Madeline L'Engle had given any weight at all to those opinions? A treasure would have been lost to humanity. People always admire L'Engle for persevering, but the gatekeepers did real damage, and the question is, what other masterpieces did they deprive the world of? Why is authorial persistence the quality that turns the key in the lock? Why are agents, editors, and publishers not held to a higher standard? The low profitability of most publisher's lists is taken as a given, but why? Those disastrous decisions look much more like a lack of skill to me. Where are the blog posts about how agents and editors can learn to be better at what they do -- more discerning, less fearful, more broad-based in their skill-set, less impatient, better able to fix what's under the hood and less inclined to drive the car over the cliff.

You have a responsibility here: although you are about to lose the gatekeeping power that you have had up to this point, you nonetheless block the door and remain able to deprive the market of great art. Although things are changing, the public still must take what you give them to a great degree.

I'd like to see you -- agents, for the most part, but also editors -- take a long view of rejection letters, and stop thinking of them as a bill of no-sale. Instead, imagine your role as one of ensuring that the author get published in due time. Think of the letter as a kind of instruction manual in an endeavor that must be nurtured over time, and in which you are a lifetime partner. Writers are not car salesman. Stop saying to them, "I don't like green: show me this in blue." Treat them like what they actually are: apprentices learning a skill that comes only through practice.

Your own instruction manual here is Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers: stop writing blog posts about the proper way to format a query letter, and instead close your practice to any writer with less than 10,000 hours of practice. Demand to see the fruit of those 10,000 hours, so you can put it aside and look at what they wrote in the 10,001st hour. Those are where you'll find writers producing publishable work.

Nathan Bransford said...

anon-

I don't agree that agents and editors are more wrong than they're right. Of course agents and editors miss stuff, but for every WRINKLE IN TIME there are a whole lot of TWILIGHTs and LAST LECTUREs and THE HELPs and STORY OF EDGAR SAWTELLEs where a publisher saw something ahead of time, paid a lot, and made out like gangbusters. It's not easy to capture lightning in a bottle and there will always be Black Swans, but I think you exaggerate the extent to which it's a true crapshoot.

It's not my job to polish 10,000 diamonds in the rough and it's not remotely practical. We're not impatient, we're overwhelmed. I give advice about query letters so that the good ones can shine through amid the deluge. The system isn't perfect, but it's better than any realistic alternative.

Ink said...

Anon 9:34,

I think there are some flaws in your argument. The basic fact is that The Wrinkle in Time was published. The system worked. She was rejected a few times, yes, but there are many reasons for rejection. An agent might have enough clients, or not rep that kind of story, or not know the right editors to sell it, or simply not like the story. Finding a good match is important.

And all it took was a little perseverence. Sending out 26 letters is not exactly climbing Everest. I don't really think true masterpieces are going to be lost unless the writer is completely lacking in perseverence. And you can't put that at the door of agents and editors.

Yes, a few good books will be missed. There are no perfect systems. But it's not the agents or editors job to defend literature, but to find the right projects for them, as individuals, to work with. Just because something is good does not mean that a particular agent should necessarily represent it. There are other factors.

Nor do I agree with your assertion that the books that don't earn out are mistakes, bad guesses by the industry people. And, since you've quoted Gladwell's Outliers (and I assume you've read it), you should know that. The 10,000 hours of practice to gain mastery of a particular craft is hugely important, yes. But the other half of the equation is luck and happenstance, the good fortune of being in the right place at the right time. It is about opportunity and application. You need both. First, you need opportunities, and then you need to capitalize on those opportunities.

This is what the industry can never completely control, the opportunities and workings of chance that help propel one book and hinder another. Yes, some books are better than others and so give themselves a better chance. But a lot of it is still luck, the weird workings of word of mouth. And if you look at Gladwell's Tipping Point you'll see how random that can be, that it's not always about how many people initially read a book, but rather who reads it.

Let us say you have two books, both very good. One has five thousand people buy it in the first month and one has only five hundred. Which is more successful? But, let us say that the five thousand people who bought the first book liked it and stuck it up on their shelf. And 499 of the other book's 500 buyers did the same thing. But let's say that the last reader of the second book is Neil Gaiman. And the next month he blogs about it, saying it's one of the best books he's ever read.

What do you think will happen now? Who do you think will be more successful? And do you think it is solely on account of the "good" or "bad" decisions of the gatekeepers?

There is no way to eliminate chance from the process. All the industry can really do is invest in good books and back those books as well as they can. Some are going to take off and some aren't. And some of those that don't will be just as deserving as those that do.

Anonymous said...

Nathan --

I agree that you’re overwhelmed. I think it’s a major problem: it creates “judgment fatigue.” Drug-sniffing dogs which are overworked become less able to detect drugs. There are a lot of conclusions to be drawn about the 26 editors who passed on A WRINKLE IN TIME, but at the very least it’s likely that they were so worn out by reading slush that they didn’t know a good thing when it was right in front of them. But that’s a thinking error, and there are solutions to thinking errors. Asking bad writers to write better query letters isn’t one of them.

The problem is exactly that submitting to editors is a crapshoot. Twenty-six editors guessed wrong, one guessed right: that’s the very definition of a crapshoot, Nathan. Go to the dog track and listen to the afficianados explain their system to you: everyone thinks they can pick a winner, and takes their occasional success as proof of their ability. The success of the lead title doesn’t make the mid-list sell any better.

I don’t think writers should have to put their persistence at the service of an agent’s judgment; I think they should put their persistence at the service of their work. Everyone’s time – yours, theirs – would be better spent if they did so. I’m suggesting a different business model for you, one which puts your good taste and discerning eye to work nurturing writing rather than wearing your eyes out trying to spot shiny objects in a river bed of silt.

There are two problems here, one you have no control over and one you have complete control over. The problem you have no control over is the Oprah problem: a well-written book that will tank on its own can become a bestseller with Oprah’s blessing (Bret Lott’s contract with his publisher had been terminated before Oprah made him rich). That’s a marketing problem: as an agent, it’s out of your hands. Asking yourself, “is this a book Oprah would endorse?” is not a valid filter; it’s just another kind of guess.

The problem you have complete control over is whether you’re bringing the very best writing to the crapshoot that is the market. One way to accomplish this is the way you’re doing it now: filter out everything “bad”, leaving what’s “good.” (Using the quality of a query letter as a proxy for a writer’s ability to write a book that will sell to an editor is one kind of filter, although it strikes me as one that is both inadequate and desperate.) One of the many problems with this approach, though, is the 26-Editor problem: if the filtering method degrades your ability to judge quality well, you’re merely filling in the hole you’re digging.

Another approach is to insert yourself into the process of creating good writers and to support them in that process. Not a conduit, not a gatekeeper, not a professional-guesser, not a paper-grader. You’re not doing anyone a service by telling 10,000 writers “no;” your value is in helping 100 dedicated writers reach a level of competence that enables them to confront the marketplace with the skill set that the market requires. This is a lot more like repairing a carburetor than it is like picking a horse at Belmont.

Do you ever wonder what the twelve editors who passed on Harry Potter were thinking? I’m not asking this rhetorically. When an eight-year-old girl proves a better judge of quality than twelve professional editors, I’d suggest a very fundamental re-thinking of how you approach your work.

Larry Flynt said...

I don't like the artsy fartsy stuff, I like action movies like Dirty Harry.

Werner Herzog -
Jullien Donkey Boy.

Nathan Bransford said...

anon-

The twelve editors who passed on HARRY POTTER were probably thinking "this isn't for me," and if one of them had decided they would take a chance on it but weren't fully enthusiastic it might not have ended up becoming HARRY POTTER. The whole point of this post is that everything looks perfectly clear and obvious in retrospect, but when you're considering something on blank pages without knowing it's going to sell a bazillion copies and that other people are going to love it it's not so easy. And, if you change a couple of key things in the chain of events it's not certain that the phenomenon would still end up becoming a phenomenon.

Essentially, your post is confusing the subjective with the objective. On the one hand, you're saying that it's a pure crapshoot, on the other hand you're saying that if everyone had more time they'd obviously pick the books that are going to sell. The problem isn't simply time, the problem is subjectivity. If I or anyone else in the business had endless time to consider stuff we'd still miss certain things. It doesn't mean we're bad at our jobs or that the system is broken, it's just inherent that in a subjective system there's going to be a certain amount of uncertainty involved.

As Ink says, books like HARRY POTTER and A WRINKLE IN TIME did end up getting published even if some people passed on them. My basic feeling about the system is that it's subjective on an individual level but more or less objective on a system-wide level. Individual editors and agents are going to miss certain books, but someone else will see something in them and that combination usually results in the most saleable rising to the top. The system still misses things, but overall it does a pretty decent job of shoehorning a subjective process into something that's as objective as possible.

And your career option for me is to basically become a manuscript consultant. Um. Already do that for my clients plus a whole lot more (including marketing, which you falsely assume is Oprah or nothing). I too get frustrated that I'm beholden to editors seeing what I see in a manuscript, and maybe down the line there won't be that filter process. But that's a discussion for another day.

Anonymous said...

Ink:

This is a bit long, so I have to submit it in two parts.

My original point was this: if you’re merely making a guess, then just say so. Don’t pretend to special abilities.

Using the publication of A WRINKLE IN TIME – or any bestseller – as proof that the system works is exactly the problem that Nassim Taleb points out in THE BLACK SWAN and elsewhere: failed decisions erase themselves from history. The Newbury-quality novel that was rejected 26 times and didn’t ever get published is not ours to consider in this discussion. The marketplace of readers didn’t make that decision, fickle as they are: the marketplace of agents and editors made that decision on your behalf. That’s a much smaller group. Am I confident of their abilities? It depends: what other masterpieces did they deprive me of? Show me that body of work and I’ll let you know whether I’m happy with the performance of the gatekeepers.

I work in this business and I know what the slush pile looks like. I’m under no illusions about this. But there’s a vast difference between reading slush and acting as a gatekeeper. When you’ve just read 100 pieces of crap, A WRINKLE IN TIME doesn’t necessarily come as a relief; it comes as merely the 101st manuscript. There’s a better way than this.

I’m willing to allow the marketplace its whimsy. But I’m not so willing to allow gatekeepers their whimsy. I’d prefer to pick my own filters. For some people, Oprah is a good filter. For others, Neil Gaiman. But none of us are choosing from the pool that Neil has selected: we’re choosing from the pool Nathan has selected and passed on to Neil. That’s a different proposition, and one that I’m much less happy about. Does Nathan share my taste? Who knows? He’s in a rather privileged position right now: he gets to pre-filter (some) of what I get to read and I don’t get to fire him for choosing poorly on my behalf. On the other hand, he protects me from most of the crap out there: that’s not of zero value to me. It’s an unsatisfying relationship at the moment. But I can tell you that the last time I had this conversation was when I turned in my Blockbuster rental card and signed up with Netflix. I was surprised to learn what Blockbuster had been protecting me from. If only I’d known.

Writers have been taught to believe that a “good fit” between agent and author is necessary, that luck and happenstance have equal weight in deciding success as skill, practice, and perseverance. But it’s only been necessary because it’s been the only option. That’s about to change. The gatekeeper’s role is about to be passed from Nathan to your Kindle. The gate’s about to get a whole lot bigger. A few implications, one of which is that the market is about to learn just what the gatekeepers have been saving us the trouble of reading. Some of us will start begging for the gate to get small again. But that’s not the way forward. The way forward is to develop new filters – better, smarter, more specialized filters. That will be where agents and editors begin to add value – not in deciding what the market gets to look at, but in offering insight to the market – shining a light on content they like, gestating talent, helping to differentiate products in a positive way, not simply swinging the ax.

Anonymous said...

Ink --

Part II:

I’m suggesting a different business model for agents and editors: nurture ability instead of rejecting crap. There is no shortage of crap to reject, and there’s truly no profit in it: it’s simply a cost item on the balance sheet, not a revenue generator. When the tools you bring to bear all involve detecting crap, you don’t develop the tools to nurture greatness – great ability, great experiences for readers, great sales, great profit. The 12 editors that rejected Harry Potter avoided making a $3,000 mistake – that was the amount of Rowling’s advance. A few billion dollars of lost revenue later, I wonder if they wonder what I wonder: are our subjective criteria and a rubber stamp that says “NO” really the only tools we should bring to this job? Happenstance and a well-written query letter – is that what you’re offering? Where’s my Kindle: I’m ready to make a $9.99 wager.

The problem with the 26 Editors is that they exercised two skills: making a guess, then barring the door to Madeline L’Engle; fortunately for us, they failed, but they undoubtedly succeeded with someone else, and for that we’re worse off. That’s not a system that “works” in any real sense. If Microsoft succeeded in crushing Apple, would the system have “worked?” There’s an entirely different skill set that results in better outcomes.

Nathan Bransford said...

anon-

You act like I'm the only filter. I'm not. If you don't like my taste there are several hundred other agents out there. Again, you're confusing the individually subjective with the collectively not-fully-but-more objective.

I agree that new filters will develop, but every funnel ends up looking the same. A few key tastemakers develop, some good things get left out, certain things make it through and catch on. Sure, the tastemakers may change, but when it comes to books there's no such thing as a perfect funnel.

Nathan Bransford said...

anon (part 2)-

Uh..... Publishers should focus on, again, being manuscript consultants instead of................ publishing books?

Anonymous said...

Nathan --

Two parts again.

I think you’re confusing the job of gatekeeper with that of filter. They’re not the same, although up until recently, in publishing, they have been combined – in my opinion to the detriment of readers. The collective of gatekeepers doesn’t produce something that’s objectively “good” or “bad,” it simply produces the stuff that the gatekeepers have allowed through the gate. If there were 26 gatekeepers in 1961 instead of 27, we wouldn’t have gotten A WRINKLE IN TIME. That’s not the best outcome, it’s simply an outcome; there was a better outcome, and fortunately we got it.

I don’t mind filters. What I mind is that the filtering job has been controlled by the gatekeepers, and that that relationship has been legitimized by default. “It’s not for me” is a perfectly okay filter, as long as it doesn’t deprive me of something I value. My neighborhood Blockbuster was a gatekeeper; Netflix is a filter – a basket of filters, I suppose. Social networks are filters. In a world of choice, filters were always important (albeit sometimes exasperating); now they’re essential.

As an agent who controls access, you’re more than and different from a filter, though. Of course, that’s changing, and in ways that bear heavily on you, because losing the ability to control access means that your value will rest entirely on your ability to filter content in ways that create value for readers. That’s a different skill set than the one you’ve been encouraged to cultivate up to this point. Up until now, your value has depended solely on your ability to contribute to a profitable list for a publisher. That’s different from creating value for readers. (It’s also different from protecting readers and publishers from crap. Now that it costs virtually nothing to produce and distribute crap writing, there is little monetary value in closing the gate on crap, which is part of what gatekeepers do.)

To be perfectly honest, Nathan, I no longer know what a publisher’s job is. They have lost control of printing, trucking, marketing, and access to the distribution chain – those old-technology barriers to entry. What they have left is control over putting a physical object into the hands of readers, and the Kindle is about to take that away from them. I’m afraid that they will see their job merely as one of getting my attention (although they’ve always been lazy about that – it’s been about the last thing on their minds.) What I want from publishers, I suppose, is what I’ve come to expect from Google, Apple, Chagal, Jim Harrison, the Rolling Stones: to provide me with content I didn’t know I wanted or would love; to solve a problem that was so much a part of the fabric of living that I took it for granted as simply a part of everyday life. Don’t guess at what I want: put the content out there, tell me about it, and let me decide. Is Knopf -- or Curtis Brown -- the right outfit for this job? The answer to that question used to matter a lot more than it does now or is about to, because control over access to the market is about to be completely democratized.

Anonymous said...

Is your role in this that of a manuscript consultant? I don’t think so. Your job doesn't quite exist yet, but it would pay to start thinking about it now. Move away from the idea of turning “bad” writing into “good” writing, of trying to discern a market for the book you’re getting pitched, of thinking of ways to convince -- through the force of your reputation and your enthusiasm -- someone else to bring a book to market. That’s what you do now. You’re absolutely right: it’s hard, maybe impossible, to guess these things correctly. Stop guessing what the market wants; the market doesn’t even know what the market wants. Start cultivating content. For the most part, cultivation is an objective process, not a subjective one – I’m not confusing them, I’m asking you and publishers to separate them and to stop placing yourselves in the role of the arbiter of my taste. There was no market for Twitter; there was just a bunch of people with cell phones. There’s just a bunch of readers out there. Their relationship is with J.K. Rowling and what she does, not you.

Right now, this isn’t the world you live in. There’s still a living to be made working as a gatekeeper, making guesses. The price of guessing wrong is still low -- which of those 12 editors were fired for passing on Harry Potter? The title wave of on-demand content will change that though. You think it’s hard guessing right now? Right now you belong to a group of a few hundred gatekeepers. Soon you’re going to belong to a group of a few million.

Nathan Bransford said...

anon-

I object not so much to what you're saying but to the fact that I'm already doing exactly what you would prescribe for me. I work with authors to improve their manuscripts before they go on submission. I started the blog to both allow me to have a role in promoting the books as well as to familiarize readers with my taste. You act like it's never iccured to us that the publishing world is changing. Believe me, we get it. But it doesn't do me any good to start behaving as if it's 2025 instead of 2010. Ebooks are still tiny. The world is changing but it hasn't changed yet.

You also make the common mistake of assuming that serving as a gatekeeper/filter/whatever is our mist important or even only function. It's not. If it were authors would ditch their agents the minute they got a deal. Agents are much more important as negotiators and subrights managers and career managers. Marketing will probably be a part of that as well. We'll negotiate with whomever is around. Right now if you don't have an agent Amazon will pay you 30% for you ebook. If you think that's a good deal...... Well, then you definitely need an agent.

Ink said...

Anon,

I'm struggling with your argument, as it seems kind of circular. We should get rid of gatekeepers so that we can put in some gatekeepers. You want the gatekeepers to stop selecting good books for you to choose from and instead put everything out there, at which point they then select good books for you to choose from...

You say there is no value in the selection process (as it's so cheap to put out crap now), but that selection process is the value, perhaps more than ever. What you're talking about is a vast slushpile, which is horrible for the reader. There will be a few gems in there, but they'll be almost impossible for readers to find. Am I going to wade through Lulu looking for them? No.

The selection of books, right now, is greater than at any time in human history. But apparently that's not enough. Great published books are being crowded out of a readership right now... and somehow adding a million more books, most of them terrible, will be better for readers and writers? Will make good books easier to find?

You make an assumption that there's a huge list of great books that haven't found a publisher and that you're being deprived from seeing. Except there's no real evidence such a body of work exists. You mentioned that if there were only 26 gatekeepers, instead of 27, then A Wrinkle in Time would have been lost. But this is faulty logic, too. There weren't 26. And there weren't 27, either. There were hundreds. And many, many, many of them might have loved that book and taken it on. We don't really know. All we know is what did happen: a great book was written, was taken on, and found a readership. You keep suggesting "But it might not have..." But the simple fact is that it was. So have all the other great books out on the shelves. They found believers, found markets, found readers.

I don't see how you can suggest agents should stop selecting and investing in writers and instead... select and invest in writers. But instead of five a year they should select 100. And apparently have three days each year to invest in each writer. Whose careers will surely blossom. And how is an agent supposed to select that hundred? Wave a magic wand and say "Please, will the hundred most talented writers step forward?"

You're back at selection again. Thousands and thousands and thousands want in. They won't all fit, whether you're selective for five or five hundred. There is only so much time and manpower available, and so the selection process has to be fast. This is the consequence of minutes, hours and days.

It seems strange to pull down a somewhat imperfect (but functioning) system just to replace it with one that is wholly implausible.

You either engage in selection or accept the vastness of a literary tower of babel, where voices will endlessly be lost in the clamor as they claw at the gates of readerdom.

Claude Lambert said...

@ anon:
What you say is interesting, but not realistic. Suppose you are the next Shakespeare and you post your whole book on Google books for free and for anybody to read, who is going to discover it? The masses? You would get as much chances to be read as you get to win the lottery. There are millions of books out there: there is competition.
I used to listen to piano contests. It is not always the best pianist who wins, it is the most reliable, efficient, the one showing up on time, polite, well organized, the one who makes friends easily and does not have a strange body odor, and it does not hurt if he/she has beauty and charm. Piano is just a small part of the deal. Plus of course there are trends, even in classical music: the winner today does not play like the winner fifty years ago.
Same with literature: it is not enough to be a good writer, you got to find your public (sometimes even your voice) and sell. Some writers find that they are lucky to have an agent because they do not have all the qualifications required: they are just writers.

Anonymous said...

" Suppose you are the next Shakespeare and you post your whole book on Google books for free and for anybody to read, who is going to discover it? The masses? You would get as much chances to be read as you get to win the lottery. There are millions of books out there: there is competition."

I put my totally unknown (new author) book on Kindle store only. Then I mentioned it on a few reader boards. That's all I did.

And that's all it took. I'm on track to sell thousands of copies on Kindle in 2010. Turns out the "masses" you speak of happen to include hundreds of thousands of educated, literate readers, who don't work as literary agents -- but they do spread the word about good books they've read.

I've learned that if you build it they will come. They will read it. And they'll tell their friends about it if they liked it. The friends will twitter more friends. In the internet age, word about a worthy book spreads at the speed of light.

Shakespeare would be foaming at the mouth at such an opportunity.

With all the promotion and networking tools available (for free) it's easy to get readers to read and review a book. It's not a lottery.

Rachel Hamm said...

I thought I'd throw this in the mix, just to point out that Kindle isn't the answer to everything. I "published" my blog on Amazon for Kindle at the beginning of December, just as an experiment to see whether Kindle readers were really out there looking for unpublished writers to read on a daily/weekly basis. Now, I may be the exception and it's only been a month, but I haven't had a single subscription to my blog on Amazon. And why would they? they can go to the website and access it for free. My point is, if there are readers out there looking for great writers who the "gatekeepers" are keeping out (and I don't presume that I'm a great writer, but you understand what I'm saying, I think), then finding them isn't as easy as having having a Kindle.

fatcaster said...

Come on, Anon@6:49, spill it. What's the title? You're missing a golden sales op. Lots of readers here.

Mira said...

Well, this is the type of discussion I usually jump into feet first, but at this point, I sort of feel like.......

Well, the industry is changing, so why bother critiquing it?

I do think there is value in discussion about the future - to share ideals and try to manifest them. But the old system is becoming obsolete, so why spend time there?

People who don't like the current system can now choose to opt out and publish to the Kindle. Those who function well within it can continue to do so. It's sort of an in-between time.

For me, I feel like what's the rush? Let's see how things play out. In the meantime, I can work on my writing, enjoy the community created by blogs like this, and be a part of the new changes. It's sort of exciting and very interesting.

Speaking of exciting and interesting - are we having a contest this week? That would be very exciting. :)

Freddie said...

And that's all it took. I'm on track to sell thousands of copies on Kindle in 2010. Turns out the "masses" you speak of happen to include hundreds of thousands of educated, literate readers, who don't work as literary agents -- but they do spread the word about good books they've read.

Huh? What do you mean you're "on track"? Does this mean you haven't actually sold many/any Kindle e-books? If you've not actually sold those thousands of e-books to which you're referring, you're basing your argument (or at least this portion of it) on an assumption.

The truth is, you have no idea what's going to happen. And you've chosen a very long-winded way of saying that you advocate self-publishing - which, if you're publishing without an agent, is what you're doing.

Anonymous said...

My book sold 40 copies yesterday on Kindle. I sold nearly 200 copies in the last week.

I don't expect to sell 200 every week (this is probably peak season, and sales slow in summer?), but 5-6K sold in 2010 is a given. Beyond that depends on adoption of the platforms, and what Apple puts out (some kind of tablet device) in the spring. 10,000 or more is possible, but at this point I'm being very conservative in my own estimates.

I'll let you all find my book yourselves. I don't want to burn my bridges with any agents, so I won't identify myself (a couple of agents got snarky when I wrote them queries that mentioned my sales on Kindle -- one of them wrote back and told me to learn how to write a query). Once bitten makes me a bit shy.

Good luck to authors. I love all the wonderful voices that post here, and I hope I get to read your books.

Josin L. McQuein said...

"I'll let you find my book yourselves."

Since you won't own it, no one's going to find it. Even if they passed it, they wouldn't know it.

Sounds like a "Everyone agrees with me in e-mail." troll defense to me. Lots of bluster, lots of claims, no verifiable data.

For someone who depends on word of mouth to sell your "book", you don't do a very good job of presenting yourself to potential readers. "Anon" isn't the way to garner specific attention.

"MATSUTAKE!"

(everyone else got to use it, I want to, too!)

Moses said...

Maybe I'll make Nathan the first agent I submit to. If he accepts, then perhaps I'll be able to say one day that I never got a rejection slip from an agent :P

Steve said...

Fatcaster,

I have absolutely no idea how you arrived at what you responded to based on what I actually said.

I guess non sequiturs are.

-Steve

Steve said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve said...

The thread's getting old, so I might post this again elsewhere. But for whoever's still following. Here's a statistic.

Warning - I make unrealistic assumptions here to artificially simplify a complex issue. But the result is still interesting.

Suppose the chances of getting an offer of representation from a single query are purely statistically random (obviously false). Suppose they are .001 (one out of one thousand) - and who knows if that is close to the true figure.

Then the number of queries that must be sent to have approx 50% chance of an offer is about 700.

For the math-inclined, the formula I used was [probability of offer] = 1-[probability of rejection]**[number of agents queried]

Feel free to explore using other numerical assumptions.

-Steve

Janny said...

Since I'm at least half Lithuanian, I LOVE the idea of yelling "Baravykas!" as well. And I, too, thought of the mushroom-growing medium when the analogy was first posed...

Matsutake, indeed!
You never disappoint, Nathan. Have a great New Year!

JB

Kelly Bryson said...

When we bought our first house- a ninety five year old with a lot of charm (read previously pink cat hair imbued carpet), my allergic-to-cats husband went along. The walk-up attic with its dormer windows had potential, but he couldn't SEE it. He trusted me and we bought the house. When we finally got the attic renovated just in time to sell it (sniff), he saw what I had envisioned. Isn't that what agents do? See past the open beams and loose wiring? Not everybody can do that.

Anybody who has scanned a list of subissions on an online crit group knows how difficult it is to find something that you really like. Honestly, I'm surprised so many books get published.

AM said...

t

Watery Tart said...

My Oregon heart loves being featured--It is quite like Oregonians to prefer the gems they had to dig in the dirt for, you know.

Love the analogy though. Hopefully VERY soon, I will be able to yell MATSUTAKE! also...

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