Nathan Bransford, Author


Friday, May 26, 2017

This week in books 5/26/17


This week! Books!

Somewhat of a slow news week but I found some shiny objects out there on the Internet.

Sometimes authors get so wrapped up in a long story arc they can't imagine their trilogy or seventeen book series happening any other way. They plow forward writing two or three books (or one REALLY long novel) before they try to publish, envisioning a publisher snatching up all three books at once. Here's why agent Jessica Faust thinks that's a bad business decision.

Also in agent news, Kristen Nelson has some tips on things prospective clients don't tend to ask when offered representation, but should!

In writing advice news, Padma Venkatraman has a great post at Cynsations on how to hone your voice.

Sure, automation and artificial intelligence has hit manufacturing and lots of other parts of the economy, but writing is a creative pursuit so we're safe right? Well... the robots are coming. (Don't worry, you're safe. For now.)

An Amazon bookstore is now open in New York City. CNET got an early look.

A new tool is coming that will help publishers and authors optimize their Amazon sales.

This week in the Forums:

Ask me anything!
Are you spending less time on social media?
How have politics affected your writing?
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 Caleb, who had some good points in pushing back against some of the anti-agent sentiment that was creeping into the comments section of agent Sarah LaPolla's interview:
As for diversity, I'm sure the publishing industry could do a number of things to bring people into the fold whose stories aren't being told because they're, frankly, too oppressed to create art, but let's not disregard the minority writers who right now today are publishing. I think the field is pretty diverse. Perhaps, what we need is better promotion, rather than search for some magical "diverse" writers. If you're willing to look for it, and not simply wait for things to be marketed to you, I think you can find whatever you want to find.  
Now, agents making a living wage, isn't that a good thing? These agents who were doing okay ten years ago with a midlist author clientele were not doing okay because they were bilking or robbing the authors. They were providing a useful service to enough people that they were able to live off the income. Authors with agents get better deals. That's why people hire agents. Now, how does an author make a living wage? Well, assuming you're not a blockbuster star, you do it by writing a lot. Not just your favorite kinds of fiction, either. We authors have chosen a creative field in which to work. With creative jobs, the income is not always great. You have to work really hard. Agents are in sales. Sales jobs are different. If you're a good salesman, your income will be pretty steady. This has nothing to do with cheating or an agent's immoral greed.
And finally, Ev Williams has helped transform the way the world communicates by co-founding Blogger, Twitter, and Medium. He's concerned about the direction the Internet is taking, and is pursuing a quixotic path with Medium, going against the grain with a platform for longform thought in a not-particularly-thoughtful cultural moment. This profile is worth a read.

Have a great weekend!

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

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






Thursday, May 25, 2017

Interview: Author and editor Rakesh Satyal on writing, the book business, and the importance of diversity


I've known Rakesh Satyal for most of my adult life, ever since we were young publishing pups coming up at Curtis Brown Ltd. and Random House, respectively. Rakesh has gone on to have a super interesting career. After moving over to a successful editing stint at HarperCollins, Rakesh left the industry to work in branding, before returning recently to work as an editor at Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster.

In addition to being a fabulously talented editor, Rakesh is also a fabulously talented writer... plus a fabulously talented singer, which you'll see at the end! Renaissance man! His debut, Blue Boy, won a Lambda Literary Award, and his follow-up, No One Can Pronounce My Name, was just published by Picador.

Away we go!


NATHAN: You had a lot of success with your debut Blue Boy, including winning a Lambda award. What was it like to return to the well after that and write a second novel? What does No One Can Pronounce My Name mean to you?

RAKESH: With Blue Boy, I had a pretty firm idea of who the protagonist would be and what his voice would be and what the trajectory of the story would be. With No One Can Pronounce My Name, the approach was quite different. I began writing one of the central characters, Harit, as if he were in a short story, and it wasn't until a bit farther into the writing process that I realized he would intersect with the other key character, Ranjana, and that their story would be a novel about this intersection, about friendship.

A fundamental theme of the book is how we process loneliness -- and how this kind of emotional processing can be constructive rather than destructive -- so the intent of the book is really to help people feel less alone and to show them that their journey to, through, and sometimes back to loneliness is important and often necessary for growth. I have personally found that discussion meaningful and hope that others do, too.

You have had a super interesting career, rising up to to become an editor at Random House and HarperCollins, then leaving publishing to work in branding, and now you're back as an editor at Atria. What was the biggest thing you noticed about the publishing industry when you returned?

I know that people invoke the topics of diversity and representation often, but that's because we have a long way to go on those fronts -- still. All the same, one of the reasons why I joined the team at Atria is because the imprint has a long history of hiring people of diverse backgrounds and publishing books across a wide spectrum, so I felt seen and heard.

The other big difference -- and this is a great one, of course -- is that the rise/resurgence of the indie bookstore is real. Having just completed a book tour, I can tell you that the booksellers at those stores are all the more dedicated and passionate, and that's a wonderful thing for everyone to see, from writers to agents to editors to, most of all, readers.

What's the biggest thing you learned outside of publishing that you're now applying to your job as an editor?

This may sound broad or overly general, but the importance of innovation cannot be overstated. In my branding roles, I often saw how a client or company that could truly take stock of what had come before and think of ways to add something new to the equation often garnered an audience far beyond that which they may have originally envisioned.

Similarly, as an editor, I think that you can assume that your readers, who are already so smart and eager for fresh writing, want innovation more than confirmation, that they want you to be taking the kind of creative risks that afford them something distinctive and eye-opening as they read.

What is one thing you learned about editing as a result of being a published author, and one thing you learned about writing as a result of being a professional editor?

I had the very good luck of having yet another amazing editor for this latest book (Anna deVries at Picador), so I learned a lot about what particular idiosyncrasies I have a writer that might be helpful or detrimental (I can't share the specifics of those with you or I'd have to make you sign a Faustian pact).

On the flip side, I think my editing life has allowed me to give myself permission to simply push forward and create instead of constantly questioning the legitimacy of my work. The best editors will encourage you to follow your instincts; in fact, as an editor, I often encounter situations in which an author already knows, deep-down, that something might not be working but wants to plow ahead anyway just for the sake of getting the project done. Being able to check in with myself and be honest with myself when I'm trying to ignore certain weak spots is definitely something that has helped me.

On a recent panel, you were quoted as saying "Publishing is all about trickle down enthusiasm." What do you mean by that?

The editor's job is very different from what people outside of publishing may think. The typical portrait of an editor in the larger culture is that of a copyeditor, in fact. That is, to be sure, vital work, but the editor within a publishing house is really a liaison among the author, the agent, the publishing house (including production, publicity, marketing, and sales), and the eventual readership. Since engaging those within the publishing house requires numerous meetings over the course of years, the editor really has to be the most passionate advocate for the book because that enthusiasm has to carry over to all of those people.

If you could wave a magic wand over the publishing industry, what would you change?

I would love to see more people of minority backgrounds represented in publicity, sales, and marketing. I obviously wish the same for editorial, but most people when they apply for entry-level positions in publishing tend to think of editorial alone. I think that having representation in those other areas is just as important, if not more so.

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

We're living in unprecedented times, to be sure, but No One Can Pronounce My Name is about a life-saving friendship between immigrants, so I hope you'll check it out. It's by engaging with personal stories -- not sweeping generalizations -- that we change the world and meaningfully engage with each other, and I hope that this is one of those stories that can make a difference. Oh, and on a much lighter note, check out this Hamilton-themed book trailer I made for it!



RAKESH SATYAL is the author of the novels No One Can Pronounce My Name (just out this month from Picador) and Blue Boy (Kensington Books), which won a 2010 Lambda Literary Award and the 2010 Prose/Poetry Award from the Association of Asian American Studies and which was a finalist for the Publishing Triangle's Edmund White Debut Fiction Award. Satyal was a recipient of a 2010 Fellowship in Fiction from the New York Foundation for the Arts and two fellowships from the Norman Mailer Writers' Colony. His writing has appeared in New York magazine, Vulture, Out magazine, and The Awl. A graduate of Princeton University, he has taught in the publishing program at New York University and has been on the advisory committee for the annual PEN World Voices Festival. He lives in Brooklyn.

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






Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Which program do you use to write?


A few months back, Gizmodo published an article asking why people are still using Microsoft Word.

There are tons of word processing programs out there now, everything from bare bones to feature rich.

So what program do you use to write, and why?

Microsoft Word? Google Docs? Apple Pages? Scrivener?

Oh, uh... Pen and paper?

Personally I use Apple Pages because it's easy to sync across devices, and works relatively well going both on and offline. But I've heard great things about Scrivener and have been considering taking it for a test drive.

What about you?

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

Art: A seated man sharpening a quill pen by C. Guttenberg after F. van Mieris






Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Query critique Tuesday: Just tell the story


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 prowriter6970, whose query is below:
Dear:  
Imagine being hunted by something you can not see. A specter who disguises itself in the winds which chill and tattoo your flesh with goose bumps. What you cannot see, but yet you can feel like guided faith. It is back. Why did it come back with a vengeance over the lacunae in time? This time it will not leave until it possesses what was taken from its very essence; it’s heart.  
The antagonist is a despicable avatar who covets the anger that savagely mutilated and brutally murdered a young man who appeared to be a woman. The only eye witness at the time was the victim’s eight years old younger sibling; now a married woman, Clarke Lattimore Capers. Decades have passed; Aaron Stone has been convicted and sentenced to death. A young trial attorney who seeks infamy through Aaron's cries of innocence has put the lethal injection on hold for one last time. Opening this case again was like opening Pandora's Box. The past clashes with the present and springs Harold Lang Esq. into a world he has never known when distinctions of reality become obfuscated by imposed surreal situations. Clarke’s assiduous task of attempting to permeate past reveries puts her in a delicate dilemma. Betraying her family by telling what she had always felt, or continuing to betray herself by what she thought she saw. There are two women whom emerge from her past with different remedies to what ails her. Dr Gretchen McQueen, a psychiatrist and Claudia Mobei, an omniscient who delves into the supernatural. These two attempt to separate the worlds that have clashed in comity. Is it all in Clarke’s head or is this her anathemic reality? Secrets unveiled will bring together comrades and adversaries. The scientific and the supernatural. But most of all unmask the miscreant who robbed Myair Lattimore of his heart. 
This haunting novel will intrigue the same audiences of Tananarive Due and Simon Clark. The agency listed above is one of three queried on this finished project. Excerpts of the completed manuscript and synopsis are available upon request. Thank you for considering my novel, "Twisted Tongue,” for future representation. I look forward to your timely response.
To be honest, it took me a while to unpack what was happening in this novel. At heart is an interesting plotline: are a woman's recollections of her brother's murder real? But it took me a while to understand some of the key events because it's not described straightforwardly.

I can tell what the author *wants* me to feel, that much is very clear from the opening, but it's a bit like someone saying, "You should be scared right now." Without knowing what I'm meant be scared of, it's hard for me to conjure the emotion.

I'm also afraid there are so many vague descriptions of events, such as "covets the anger," "like opening Pandora's Box," "when distinctions of reality become obfuscated by imposed surreal situations" that it made it very difficult for me to understand the plot. The second paragraph here feels like a jumble of moments and themes, rather than a coherent description of a plot.

Just tell the story. Start with the "what is." Then what happens to set the protagonist's world ajar. Then move to the things that complicate the story as the protagonist tries to get what they want, and establish the stakes. Then describe or at least hint at the climactic moment.

Because the structure here isn't in strong shape, I'm going to take a bit of an unorthodox approach to editing this query. In my redline, I'm going to leave everything where the author put it and just leave my comments, then I'm going to restructure everything into a new format, showing the key elements that need to be in place:
Dear:  
Imagine being hunted by something you can not see. A specter who disguises itself in the winds which chill and tattoo your flesh with goose bumps. What you cannot see, but yet you can feel like guided faith. It is back. Why did it come back with a vengeance over the lacunae in time? This time it will not leave until it possesses what was taken from its very essence; it’s heart.  [I'm not really sure what's happening here. Just telling the story is a vastly superior approach to trying to set a mood]
The antagonist is a despicable avatar [I don't know what this means] who covets the anger that savagely mutilated and brutally murdered a young man who appeared to be a woman [The avatar covets the emotion anger?]. The only eye witness at the time was the victim’s eight years old younger sibling; now a married woman, Clarke Lattimore Capers. Decades have passed; Aaron Stone has been convicted and sentenced to death. A young trial attorney who seeks infamy through Aaron's cries of innocence has put the lethal injection on hold for one last time. Opening this case again was like opening Pandora's Box. The past clashes with the present and springs Harold Lang Esq. [try to avoid switching perspectives within a query, even if your novel is told from multiple viewpoints] into a world he has never known when distinctions of reality become obfuscated by imposed surreal situations [I don't know what this means]. Clarke’s assiduous task of attempting to permeate past reveries [I don't know what this means] puts her in a delicate dilemma. Betraying her family by telling what she had always felt, or continuing to betray herself by what she thought she saw [I don't understand this choice]. There are two women whom emerge from her past with different remedies to what ails her. Dr Gretchen McQueen, a psychiatrist and Claudia Mobei, an omniscient who delves into the supernatural. These two attempt to separate the worlds that have clashed in comity [I don't know what you mean by "in comity."]. Is it all in Clarke’s head or is this her anathemic reality? Secrets unveiled [Be specific] will bring together comrades and adversaries [Describe what actually happens]. The scientific and the supernatural. But most of all unmask the miscreant who robbed Myair Lattimore of his heart. 
This haunting novel [Be specific about the genre and word count] will intrigue the same audiences of Tananarive Due and Simon Clark. The agency listed above is one of three queried on this finished project. [I highly recommend querying seven agents at a time] Excerpts of the completed manuscript and synopsis are available upon request. [Goes without saying] Thank you for considering my novel, "Twisted Tongue,” for future representation. I look forward to your timely response. ["timely response" feels passive aggressive to me.]
Here's an attempt at smoothing out the events here into a more structured query. This is a bit bare-bones, but you'll get the sense of the essential structure. Try to pinpoint where I put these essential elements: the "what is," the "world set ajar," complications, stakes, and climax:
Dear [agent], 
[Insert personalized tidbit about agent] 
Clarke Lattimore Capers was the only eyewitness to her older brother's brutal murder. Now decades have passed, and Aaron Stone, convicted and sentenced to death for the crime, has a new hotshot attorney who managed to have Stone's lethal injection put on hold for one last trial. Clarke is forced to delve into the trauma anew.  
As [describe what happens in the plot that makes Clarke doubt her recollection], Clarke must decide between being loyal to her family, who wants this chapter closed, and being true to her confusing memory. As [how Clarke's stress literally manifests itself], two women emerge from her past with differing remedies: Dr. Gretchen McQueen, a psychiatrist who believes science has the cure, and Claudia Mobei, an omniscient who wants to delve into the supernatural. Is it all in Clarke's head? The answer will unmask the miscreant who robbed her brother of his heart. 
TWISTED TOUNGE is a [word count] [genre] novel that will intrigue the readers of Tananarive Due and Simon Clark. Thank you for your consideration and I look forward to your response.
Thanks to prowriter6970 for sharing the query!

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: How They Met Themselves by Dante Gabriel Rossetti






Monday, May 22, 2017

How will you publish your work in progress? The results!


So. How are people planning to publish their work in progress? How does that compare to years past?

Let's get to it!

Our starting place was 2013, where the percentage going traditional-only was 22% and self-publishing die-hards were 10%.


That largely held in 2014...


The biggest change in 2015 was a rise in the number of people who were eschewing traditional, which rose to 15%:


So what happened this year?

The results largely held. About 16% of people are self-publishing only, whereas the traditional-then-self crowd is pretty stable at 43%.

With the obvious caveat that these results are unscientific, what do you make of this? Have we reached traditional/self-publishing stasis? Will we see a shift in the next year?

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: Um tipografia by Jost Amman






Saturday, May 20, 2017

This week in books 5/20/17


This week!

First up, apologies to email subscribers, who have received the 100 Books Challenge like 17 times now. I've been having trouble with my MailChimp RSS feed, which keeps bumping it up as I update the post with new participants. Sorry!

In the meantime, please don't miss my very interesting chat with agent Sarah LaPolla on things authors can do to stand out and the current state of the publishing business.

Now then! Lots of links this week, let's get to it.

If you're a restaurant fan you've either eaten at Grant Aschatz's Alinea or wanted to, and Nick Kokonos talks about why they're self-publishing their next cookbook. It's a good read, though it includes a few dubious (and common) publishing economics assumptions, especially that the cost of printing = the bulk of a publisher's costs and everything else is profit. Not even close. And I can tell from the offer he detailed that they didn't have an agent, which really could have helped.

Speaking of which, check out Chuck Wendig's assorted business advice for authors.

Amazon is starting a new bestseller list that includes both weekly top sales and "most read," which is based on data from Kindle and Audible.

Want to be more creative? Stop being so busy.

Freelancing is on my mind now that I'm, well, freelancing, and I came across this old-but-good Freelancers Union post about whether you should choose sole proprietorship, LLC, or S corp for your business. Oh, and Freelancers Union is holding a contest where you can share a picture of yourself and the new Freelancers Union app for a chance to win free legal advice! You may recognize the author of the post.

Electric Literature talked to author Meg Howry about her acclaimed new novel.

In books and politics news, someone created a, well, interesting Ivanka Trump bookstore display, and John Altman talks about the strangeness and challenges of writing novels in the Trump era.

FLYING CARS ARE COMING SOON LIKE MAYBE FOR REAL THIS TIME.

This week in the Forums:

Ask me anything!
Try your hand at a query critique
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 Anonymous, who had an interesting riposte to an interview I posted in the last link roundup with a professor on the use language in politics:
The Berkeleyside article made a lot of good points. I agree that emotion and irrationality play a far bigger role in decision making than people like to think. 
But there is one glaring hole in Lakoff's approach. If he he has really discovered a general principle for crafting persuasive messages, then why has he been unable to craft his own message to progressives in a language that will allow them to hear him? Or is he falling into the same trap that most of us fall into--speaking our own language instead of the audience's?
And finally, for the sports fans out there... a heartbreaking look back at the game that broke my beloved Sacramento Kings.

Have a great weekend!

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

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






Thursday, May 18, 2017

Interview: Agent Sarah LaPolla on how authors can stand out, negotiating offers, and the state of publishing


Sarah LaPolla is an agent at Bradford Literary Agency, where she represents a mix of middle grade, young adult, and adult books, with a focus on literary fiction, science fiction, magical realism, dark/psychological mystery, literary horror, and upmarket contemporary fiction. Prior to Bradford Lit, Sarah and I were colleagues at Curtis Brown Ltd. Follow her on Twitter!

NATHAN: Let's cut to the chase. What's the best way for an author to get your attention?

SARAH: The easy answer – by not trying. The bells and whistles are usually a turn off. When it comes to queries, the only thing that really gets my attention is a good story. That will always speak louder than gimmicks. And even if there is a particularly clever gimmick, or even if I know the author in some way, it doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll request a manuscript if I don’t love the story first. 

The other way authors get agent attention is via Twitter – and with the popularity of pitch contests, this is just as useful in connecting with agents as querying is. I’m as introverted online as I am in real life, so I don’t speak for all agents here, but the best way to get my attention on Twitter is just be yourself. 

I don’t follow or respond to everyone who replies to my tweets, but I’ve developed friendly relationships with authors over time. There are always names I recognize, and when I see those names in my query inbox they do get my attention a little more! 

But replying to every single tweet or pitching your book on social media usually gets my attention in a bad way. 

One of the most important element of an agent's job is negotiating offers. How do you go about this? Do you call editors up and yell "ONE MILLION OR GO HOME" and then hang up?

Oh man, I wish! It’s generally way more civil than that, and I’m among a very email-friendly generation of agents and editors, which I am grateful for. 

I might receive an initial offer on the phone, and go over basics (advance level, territory, royalties, subrights), but it all stays pretty non-committal until I can hang up and call my author. Then the bulk of negotiations are finalized via email (usually), and it’s a lot of “let’s see what I can do… OK can’t do that, but can definitely do this... and we’ll add in that, but… OK…. OK… cool cool cool” until there’s a deal! Haha. Isn’t it all so glamorous? 

It’s when there are multiple offers and there’s an auction where I break into a sweat and the more Hollywood-style bargaining comes into play. At that point it’s about maintaining composure, staying honest with everyone involved, and ultimately letting my author trust their gut after I give them all of the information they need to decide what’s right for their career.

It seems like we're in a moment in publishing where there are a handful megabestsellers and lots of other books are languishing. Have you experienced this, and has it changed how you approach your work?

This is an interesting question. I started in publishing during the “OMG what is digital?” panic and that was around the time the class divide (if you will) became more apparent in books. So by the time I started taking on my own clients, publishing had come out the other end of that. 

My own approach to agenting never needed to change. The agents I interned for and assisted largely had midlist authors, and they were excellent authors who provided their agents with a livable wage (even by NYC standards!). If I were in grad school, I’d attempt a thesis comparing the declining middle class with the declining midlist! 

I think what’s happening in publishing is true across all industries right now. There are A-list pop stars, and the ones finding their following on iTunes and YouTube. There are Hollywood blockbusters and reboots galore, and then there are screenwriters desperate to get their original material into festivals. 

So, as far as my approach to taking on new projects – I guess I decide which books will be Huge vs. Not So Huge, and go in knowing that. Some might require a wider submission list or strategizing with subrights agents first. Others might not. I don’t get swayed by either scenario, really. If I decide a project is still worth taking on, I prepare my authors for realistic expectations. I still take on books that will be deemed “smaller” because those tend to be the books I love. But I also don’t consider those books “languishing.” Not being a bestseller doesn’t mean the book isn’t valuable or well-reviewed or even selling well. It just means there are 10 spots available on the bestseller list, and a lot more than 10 authors.

What do you look for when you're considering an author who has previously self-published a book or forty?

New material, mostly. 

If an author is querying a book they already published, it raises questions – Why did you self-pub in the first place? What were your sales figures? What are you hoping an agent will do for you? I want all of those questions answered in the query. 

Sometimes authors only self-pub because they think it’s the path to a traditional deal (it isn’t). Other authors self-pub because they didn’t feel they needed a traditional deal for that particular project, but now money is coming in and they have this new book that might be more mainstream and they need help. 

I don’t begrudge anyone for self-publishing, but if they’re now approaching me for representation, I need to know the full scope of that decision and where they hope to go from there. Which comes back to “new material.” If you already self-pubbed 100 books and you’re approaching an agent, be prepared to send them a project that’s all-new, never-been-published that they will be able to send to traditional publishers while helping you manage your previously self-published backlist.

What do you wish all authors knew about working with agents?

So many things! Though, I guess mostly that getting an agent is Step One in a longer process to getting published. Given all the work authors put into their books before querying is even an option, it’s not hard to understand why authors think the goal is Getting An Agent. It is the goal if they want to go the traditional route, but it is nowhere near the finish line. 

Going along with that, the other major thing authors should know about agents is that we are not their boss. If anything, authors are our boss, but mostly it’s a partnership. An author’s job is to write books an agent can sell for them, and an agent’s job is to sell it. There’s a lot more to the relationship than just those two things, but that’s the core of it. It doesn’t work without mutual respect, trust, and patience.

How do you see the role of agenting changing as the industry evolves? Robo-agents?

If I’m ever replaced by a robot, I will be very upset. I enjoy what I do way too much. Maybe a robo-assistant could be cool though. I’d send it to all of my networking events for me! 

The question of “the changing role of the agent” comes up a lot. I mentioned the “core” of the author/agent relationship as simply writing and selling books for each other, and I think that’s been the core since the dawn of literary agents. That’s something I don’t see changing. What has changed is what comes with that. 

10-15 years ago, most agents weren’t especially editorial. Now it’s a job requirement. I wasn’t selling books 10 years ago, but from other agents I’ve spoken to, the norm seemed to be sending a book even if it wasn’t “polished” and an editor would be able to offer on it. That is not the case now. Most agents I know who started around the same time I did are heavily editorial. We’ll go through two or three rounds of edits sometimes before it ever goes on submission, and on the editorial side, requests for revision or simply passing because it “needs too much work” are not uncommon. Because there are industry changes on their end too.

5-10 years ago, “hybrid author” was a phrase only a few agents really understood, and others (myself included in my wee early days) thought authors needed to pick a side. Now authors can publish across platforms, use a pen name for certain markets and have multiple publishers for others. The agent’s job is now to strategize with the author’s goals in mind and make them happen in a way that was not a strong possibility not too long ago.

My role as an agent hasn’t changed too much yet, but I pay attention to what’s already happened. My guess is that we have another year or two before another major shift happens, and I’ll adapt in whatever way is best suited for my authors.

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

Oh, probably a lot of things will come to mind if I really let them, so for now I’ll just say thank you! It’s funny; I don’t really pause to truly think about the industry as a whole that often. I focus on client-by-client needs. It’s interesting to see patterns and how I’ve evolved with the industry without even really realizing it sometimes! So, I appreciate the chance to do that. Thanks, Nathan!

Thank you, Sarah! If you're interested in submitting to her, please check out this page.

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






Wednesday, May 17, 2017

How do you plan to publish your work in progress?


Is self-publishing still on the rise? Do publishers still have their cachet?

This is a question I've asked a few times over the years: How do you plan to publish your work in progress? Are you a die-hard traditional or self-publisher? Will you consider one or the other depending on circumstances?

Poll below. Please click here if you are reading via e-mail or a feed reader.

(And yes, I know -- unscientific poll)




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: Richard March Hoe's printing press by N. Orr






Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Page Critique Tuesday: Write for people on Earth, not for people in your novel's world


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

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

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

Random numbers were generated, and thanks to Torno, whose page is below:
Title: Prisoners of Laurasia: The Children of Thor
Genre: YA Fantasy  
Lawson had found a way to hide his burns.
He scratched the crimson scars along his forearm. Whenever he looked at them, he had the urge to tear his skin off, like he was just peeling from a really bad sunburn, and underneath would be fresh and smooth. But sunburn only burned the outsides, and Balstifir was in every inch of Lawson; a dormant fire. Every warlock doctor or scientist that had ever lived had agreed on that. Whether the scars could be removed was still debatable.  
Doctor Pox claimed she could wipe any scar or smear from the skin clear. But Lawson’s skin wasn’t covered in pimples or harmless blemishes – it was covered in burns, crusting over him, leaving him in a permanent state of monster. Balstifir with doctors was always promises and maybes, but he was weeks from prison, and promises would have to do. 
Dr Pox’s promises were laid out on Lawson’s bed in the form of a glyphook; a slated warlock projector. Before and after images floated in the air, painting hope for Lawson in the form of various scar removals. He swiped his hand across the glyphook. Above, the images changed to a silent 3-D videogram of burns receding as an odd black sludge spread over a woman’s arms. Repulsive scars were shed, beautiful skin folding over the top.  
“Pause,” said Lawson. 
The videogram froze mid-air on that image – the gorgeous unburnt skin. 
Hiding battle-scars is the act of a coward, said Zen.
When you read an author who has total mastery of their setting, a J.K. Rowling or George R.R. Martin or J.R.R. Tolkien or Anthony Burgess, it can feel effortless and authentic. You feel totally immersed in that world and it feels so real that the characters are living there.

But here's the thing -- all of these writers make things comprehensible to people living in present-day Earth. They're not writing for people living in Hogwarts, Westeros, Middle Earth, or near-future England. Anthony Burgess went the farthest in writing for people in his own world, with his unexplained otherwordly slang, but the genius of A Clockwork Orange is that there's just a learning curve. You quickly get the hang of the slang and there's enough context in any case that most everything is comprehensible.

There are some good elements in this opening page, and I like that you're forced to wonder where Lawson got his burns. You get the sense of a story in motion.

But I'm still not positive what Balstifir is (Is it a disease? A spell? Some body-inhabiting demon?), the clarifying description of what a glyphook is ("a slated warlock projector") isn't really clarifying, and there are other smaller moments where I came away confused. Someone who lives in the world of this novel would understand, but people on Earth do not.

All doesn't have to be explained right off the bat, but when too many of these unexplained moments add up, it starts to exhaust the reader and it feels like the author is holding out on them rather than inviting them into the story, especially as in this case where the physical details of the scene are not established.

Here's a redline, along with a clean version to make it easier to read:
Title: Prisoners of Laurasia: The Children of Thor
Genre: YA Fantasy  
Lawson had found a way to hide his burns. [I found this opening confusing because the next paragraph jumps off to him *having* the scars, not hiding them.]
He Lawson scratched the crimson scars along his forearm. Whenever he looked at them, He had the urge to tear imagined tearing his skin off, like he was just peeling from a really bad sunburn, and underneath it would be fresh and smooth. But sunburn only burned the outsides, and Balstifir was in every inch of Lawson's body;. A dormant fire. Every warlock doctor or scientist that had ever lived had agreed on that [I'm confused by this - Lawson has consulted with every warlock doctor or scientists that had ever lived? And what exactly are they agreeing on? That it's a dormant fire? That Lawson has Balstifir? And what is Balstifir?]. Whether the scars could be removed was still debatable. [Awkward use of passive voice]
Doctor Pox claimed she could wipe any scar or smear from the skin clear [I found the transition to Dr. Pox's... office? slightly awkward. Set the scene, more than just with the projector. Where are they?] But Lawson’s skin wasn’t covered in pimples or harmless blemishes – it was covered in his burns [we know this - either explain more of the why or take the fact that he's covered in burns as a given], crusting crusted over him, leaving him in a permanent state of monster. Balstifir with doctors was always promises and maybes, but he was weeks from prison [Is he going to prison or recently out of prison?], and promises would have to do. 
Dr Pox’s promises were laid out on Lawson’s bed in the form of a activated her glyphook;, a slated type of warlock projector [I still don't know what this is]. Before and after images floated in the air, painting hope for Lawson in the form of various scar removals. He swiped his hand across the glyphook. Above, The images changed to a silent 3-D videogram of burns receding as an odd black sludge spread over a woman’s arms. Her skin shed repulsive scars were shed ["were shed" is awkward passive phrasing] and beautiful skin folding folded over the top.  
“Pause,” said Lawson. 
The videogram froze mid-air on that image – the gorgeous unburnt skin. 
"Hiding battle-scars is the act of a coward," said Zen. [Where did Zen come from?]
Here's the clean edit:
Lawson scratched the crimson scars along his forearm. He imagined tearing his skin off, like he was just peeling from a really bad sunburn, and underneath it would be fresh and smooth. But sunburn only burned the outsides, and Balstifir was in every inch of Lawson's body. A dormant fire. 
Doctor Pox claimed she could wipe any scar or smear from the skin. But Lawson’s skin wasn’t covered in pimples or harmless blemishes – his burns crusted over him, leaving him in a permanent state of monster. Balstifir with doctors was always promises and maybes, but he was weeks from prison, and promises would have to do. 
Dr Pox activated her glyphook, a type of warlock projector. Before and after images floated in the air, painting hope for Lawson. He swiped his hand across the glyphook. The images changed to a silent 3-D videogram of burns receding as an odd black sludge spread over a woman’s arms. Her skin shed repulsive scars and beautiful skin folded over the top.  
“Pause,” said Lawson. 
The videogram froze mid-air on that image – gorgeous unburnt skin. 
"Hiding battle-scars is the act of a coward," said Zen. 
Thanks again to Torno!

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: Fire by Iacrim Arcimboldo






Monday, May 15, 2017

Looking for a few people to help me update my site


It's hard to believe, but it's been over seven years since my last redesign, and a lot's happened since then!

I need...

  • Branding. A new logo, etc.
  • Help with a transition from Blogger to WordPress (it's time).
  • Freelance photographer in the NYC area

Barter preferred but not required.

I'd prefer to work with someone who has some experience with my blog and will thus be in tune with making the best improvements. Hence why I'm posting here.

Please reach out to me at nathan@nathanbransford.com if you're interested or if you have any recommendations or ideas.

Thanks!

Art: John Ferneley Senior in his studio by Claude Lorraine Ferneley






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