Nathan Bransford, Author


Friday, July 14, 2017

This week in books 7/14/17


This week! Books!

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This week in the Forums...

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

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

Have a great weekend!

Art: Photo by me. Follow me on Instagram!






Tuesday, July 11, 2017

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Art: The Baker by Job Berckheyde






Monday, July 10, 2017

Superstar editor Krista Marino on championing books and the publishing climate


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are a few ways to answer this question.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That we would publish less books.

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

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

Thanks, Krista!!






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