Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday Funnies

STATUS: It’s 78 degrees here. Must leave right now so Chutney and I can enjoy it.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? THE FAIRY QUEEN by Clannad

Next Tuesday is election day! Just a reminder to get out there and vote. So many Americans don’t take the time, which drives me crazy. Yes, it’s an inalienable right but there are so many other places in the world where this is not true; we should never take it for granted.

But I have a hilarious story to relate. My husband and I always vote by mail-in ballot so we voted last week.

Little did we know what would be the last initiative on the ballot. I busted out laughing as I hadn’t heard a peep about this one. It was completely unexpected. How could the media not be discussing this?

The last initiative on the ballot was the Extraterrestrial Affairs Commission.

“Shall the voters for the City and County of Denver adopt an Initiated Ordinance to require the creation of an extraterrestrial affairs commission to help ensure the health, safety, and cultural awareness of Denver residents and visitors in relation to potential encounters or interactions with extraterrestrial intelligent beings or their vehicles, and fund such commission from grants, gifts, and donations?”

Irresistible!

And if I hadn’t looked at the ballot and voted, I would never have had the pleasure of contemplating this last initiative…

Happy Friday Everyone!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

After 200 Webinar Pitches…Take 2

STATUS: Heading out early to meet with tax accountant.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? THE SWEETEST TABOO by Sade

Sara was in the office today so we put our heads together on a couple of other tidbits of feedback we gleaned from the all the pitch critiques we did.

Here are a couple of other culprits we discovered while critiquing that would have made us pass had we not being doing that editorial input.

1) Too much emphasis on the world building without giving equal weight or emphasis to the story and the characters in it.

2) Mechanics of the writing was unpolished—as in there were syntax and obvious grammar errors within the pitch itself.

3) Vague descriptions such as: “suddenly a new discovery threatens everything INSERT CHARACTER NAME holds dear.” The problem is that such grand but vague statements don’t tell the reader anything. It’s like saying “this restaurant serves food.”

4) We couldn’t understand the world because the description was unclear. (By the way, we debated whether this fits under “convoluted plot” of yesterday’s entry but we don’t think so it. It feels separate.) You have to choose the right details about your world in the pitch because you can’t explain everything. You can only highlight an element or two that will stand out as unique about the world.

5) Writers who made up a name for a creature or an element but didn’t include any explanation of what it was in the pitch so it didn’t have context. This leads to confusion.

That’s all she wrote folks.

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

After 200 Webinar Pitch Critiques...

STATUS: ! I think that exclamation point says it all.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? ISN’T IT ROMANTIC by Rod Stewart

I can unequivocally give my blog readers the #1 culprit of why pitch paragraphs in adult or children’s SF&F query letters miss.

Drumroll please….

Convoluted plot that can’t be followed in the pitch paragraph.

Interestingly enough, in the presentation itself, I gave the missing plot catalyst as the# 1 reason for why we pass. Convoluted description of the plot was #3. I might have to revise that!

Post webinar, most participants got the concept of “inciting incident” or main plot catalyst pretty clearly; it was building the rest of the pitch paragraph that proved tough. I think everyone who submitted a pitch to be critiqued got a sense of just how hard it is to create a good one.

A bit of advice? Your pitch is not something you want to go it alone on. You need feedback and from a variety of sources. If you learn nothing else from that session, take that tidbit away with you.

And because I’m a nice person, I’m going to share my Top 10 list for blog reading edification.

KRISTIN’S TOP 10 LIST OF WHY ADULT AND CHILDREN’S SF&F QUERY LETTERS GET A REJECTION

Reason 10: Generic descriptors of the story

Reason 9: Overkill on World Building details and not enough about the story itself.

Reason 8: Explaining that unlike already published SF&F novels, your work has character development

Reason 7: Popular trends (such as Vampires, Werewolves, or Zombies) with no unique take clearly spelled out in pitch

Reason 6: No mention of or insight into the characters who will be driving the story

Reason 5: The manuscript is 250,000 words (or more!) and this is unpublished, debut author

Reason 4: The work is called SF&F but it sounds more like a mystery or thriller or something else.

Reason 3: Convoluted Plot that I can’t follow in the pitch paragraph

Reason 2: SF&F stereotypical archetypes as the “hook”
--the mysterious object
--the unexpected birthright
--the quest
--the villain that has risen again
--exiled to another planet
--mayhem on spaceship to new planet
--Androids with heart of gold
--The main character as the key to saving the world or species
--the just discovered talisman

Reason 1: No hook—or mention of a plot catalyst that is new or original in this genre

Monday, October 25, 2010

Track Changes Coming Back To Bite You?

STATUS: Snowing in the high country. You know what that means. Ski season is upon us!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? PENCIL THIN MUSTACHE by Jimmy Buffet

Given the dominance of PCs in the world, most writers are probably using Microsoft Word as their main word processing program.

Lately we’ve received a slew of sample page submissions that have all the writer’s revisions clearly outlined in track changes.

Oops.

Although interesting, we really don’t want to see your writing process.

Just a friendly reminder to make sure you submit a “clean” version. The way to do that is to go to Review, then accept (or reject as the case may be) all the changes in your manuscript. When all are cleared, a little window will pop up to say that there are no more changes or comments in the manuscript. Then it’s clean.

Then there is no way for someone to open up “final with mark up.”

Happy Writing!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Taking It Public—An Update

STATUS: I’m working at home again tonight. Ah, the glamorous life….

What’s playing on the iPod right now? THE SOUND OF SUNSHINE by Michael Franti and Spearhead

Jana’s announcement from yesterday has produced a couple of positive results:

1. Kobo immediately removed Jana’s titles from their site and contacted Jana with the news. They also are willing to set up an agreement with her so she can directly sell her titles through their venue.

2. Dorchester informed me that they have submitted the requests to have the titles removed from the various ebook sites. Currently though, they are still available on some sites such as Amazon and BN.

3. RWA (Romance Writers of America) and SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America both sent out emails to members regarding this issue and asked that members contact them if they are facing similar from Dorchester. Both organizations are looking into it.

4. Many valuable discussions have unfolded on blogs and twitter regarding it.

In general, this avenue is not what would have been preferred, and I do think it could have been avoided altogether but one can’t deny the results.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Taking It Public

STATUS: Getting this entry in late as you can see.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? NOT THE GIRL YOU THINK YOU ARE by Crowded House

Well, if you were plugged into the publishing world via the internet, you might have a little sense of how my day unfolded.

For those of you who have no idea what I’m referring to, you might want to take a moment to click on this link. My author Jana DeLeon, fed up with Dorchester and the fact that they were illegally selling copies of her ebooks long after her rights had reverted back to her, decided to take that news public.

I only have one thing to add. Despite no response to my previous calls demanding they cease and desist what they were doing, I still called Dorchester to warn them. I did not receive a return call—that is until today after the news broke.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A New Change In The Children’s Realm

STATUS: It’s actually a gorgeous day in Colorado. 70 degrees and we are almost to the end of October! I want to pop out early and take a long walk with Chutney. I’ll work more tonight.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? DO YA by Neil Nathan

When I was out in New York, I was super pleased to hear this little tidbit of news from two editors at two different publishing houses. It used to be that in the children’s realm, an agent could only submit to one children’s imprint at a time under the larger corporate umbrella.

In the adult realm, we never did this. We’d submit to all imprints and just make sure the editors in the same house knew who else had it.

Well, it was considered a no-no in the children’s realm (Sidenote: I often did what I wanted anyway and submit simultaneously if I thought the project was right for more than one imprint. I did get reprimanded a couple of times, but what are they going to do? Not allow me future submissions?)

Anyway, to get back on topic, I’m super thrilled to hear the news because of course I’m not interested in deliberately annoying people. I just thought this rule was rather dumb.

What if I submit to one imprint at let’s say XYZ Children’s and the project moves fast (as in lots of editors interested) but that particular XYZ editor passes on it. Well, now there is no time for me to ping another XYZ editor at a different imprint. I’m already setting up the auction or what have you. Now that publisher is completely shut out of the action even though the project “might” have been a fit for a different imprint and editor.

It bugged me. I never want a publisher to not have the opportunity to participate and now that there is a shift in mindset on this particular topic, it won’t happen.

Monday, October 18, 2010

What 2 Lit Editors Bought Recently

STATUS: It’s already halfway through October…

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? LUKA by Suzanne Vega

When I’m in New York, the info I glean is obviously going to be skewed by which editors I see and what genres they represent. After all, it’s only 5 days. I can only see so many people in that short time frame.

For this trip, I focused on meeting some children’s editors I hadn’t had the pleasure of meeting in person and I also talked with quite a few editors in the adult literary fiction realm. I really really really want a another commercial/literary author for my list. looking for a really good

Part of that is in celebration. It’s official. Jamie Ford’s HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET has officially been on the regular and/or extended New York Times Bestseller list for 53 consecutive weeks.

One year and some change!



And not only that, this past week, Jamie cracked the top 10 again (currently at #9)—a year after publication of the trade paperback edition. I probably don’t need to tell y'all just how rare that is….

So join me in offering a HUGE CONGRATS to Jamie!

So as I said, I was in NYC at the beginning of October as I wanted to get a sense of what editors had bought recently in this field.

One editor is building a literary list at a house she just recently moved to. She’s only been there a month but in that time, she bought two books. The first a novel from an author whose work she started tracking when she read short pieces in the Paris Review. Interestingly enough, the book is literary but has a paranormal element and is set in the American West.

In a sense, not a surprise when looking at the success of THE PASSAGE. I think lit editors are looking for more of that genre blending for the literary realm. We haven’t seen a ton of that. Heck, I’d be game to see some of that! Her second buy was a narrative nonfiction work based on a true story.

Another literary editor I met up with had also just moved to a new house not exactly known for their literary bent. Obviously she was hired for a reason. (And yes, it was deliberate on my part to meet with two editors who had recently moved to new homes. After all, they are looking to build their new lists.)

For her, she had just recently bought a literary novel where the main story is driven by a murder but this is in no way a mystery. In fact, the contemporary story line alternates with a historical narrative that illuminates the contemporary unfolding of the murder and why it happened.

Kind of cool.

And all I can say is why aren’t I seeing those books? Wink.

Monday, October 11, 2010

2010 Comic Con Pics--Take 2

And It's not Comic Con without great costumes and terrific booth displays. Here are a couple more shots to give you a sense of the convention as a whole.











Some examples of the Booth displays!

Steampunk hat shop.

DC Comics booth



Lord of the Rings dolls. Couldn't resist taking this shot. Wow. As you can imagine, the dolls were not inexpensive.

2010 Comic Con Pics

STATUS: 589 emails in the inbox. Yep, that sums up my day. Thank goodness it's a holiday in New York.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? GET TOGETHER by YoungBloods

As promised, pictures from comic con. Friday wasn't even the "busy" day and it was packed.



Marianne Mancusi at entrance of the convention


Mari holds her Night School poster in the Penguin Booth. Four and half years after initial publication of the first book--Boys That Bite--the series is taking off. Last year, Penguin rebranded the covers and rereleased the first three books and then published book 4 in the series. Night School is book 5 in the series. It will release in January 2011.


Got to have the gratuitous agent/author shot in booth!


Orbit Publicist Jack Womack holding up SOULLESS paraphernalia at Orbit booth.



Nice shot of me with SOULLESS poster in background.





Close-up on the Poster.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Live From New York City

STATUS: Actually, I’m feeling half dead after almost a full week of all-day meetings from 8 in the morning to sometimes 11 o’clock at night.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? SUFFRAGETTE CITY by David Bowie

I’m back at the hotel early enough to blog. Every other night I’ve returned so late, I didn’t have the energy to fire up the old netbook and sneak in an entry. I do have LOTS to blog about so get ready for NYC recap next week when I’m back in the office.

Tomorrow I’m at Random House all morning and then I head to the Javits center for New York Comic con all afternoon. Orbit has galvanized the steampunk contingent here in the city (and I can’t believe I just wrote a sentence that has “steampunk contingent” in it…) to attend the con dressed up in their steampunk finery. They’ll be giving away Parasol Protectorate buttons and any fan that is dressed up and wearing the button will have their pic taken by Orbit to use in the Soulless cover art collage with the fan's pic included.



Now that’s pretty cool.

The Orbit party was held at The Cellar Bar at the Bryant Hotel on 40th street across from the park. I don’t know every attendee but there were a smattering of agents and editors clinking glasses.

I ran into my old buddy and agent extraordinaire—Janet Reid (Fineprint). She was there with the amazing Jeff Somers. Got to reconnect with a young but totally up and coming agent Suzy Townsend (also of Fineprint and hadn’t seen her since St. Louis!) Eddie Schneider (JABberwocky) was there as was Cameron McClure (Donald Maass Agency) (who I tried to talk into saying something really profound for my blog but alas, we were profoundless... I’m thinking the wine floweth. Saw Matt Bialer briefly (Sanford J. Greenberger)

My fab Orbit editor, Devi Pillai, was there looking totally wonderful in a sleek black dress. Tim Holman, so British, always startles me slightly with the European double cheek kiss greeting but by end of evening we were all into the swing of things. I did refrain from saying “Darling” at odd moments and felt rather proud of that.

Sharing in the fun were Anne Sowards from Ace and Liz Gorinsky from TOR. Bumped into Ron Hogan (formerly of Galley Cat and Houghton Mifflin).

The Orbit Anniversary party was like a mini reunion.

I have to say that earlier in the week on Monday, Tim, Devi, and I got together down at Pravda in Soho for a drink and I was really pleased to hear that they are actually quite open to adult science fiction right now. There wasn’t even a hint of pessimism to that statement. Considering I had just submitted an SF there, I was pleased. Other editors I talked to in adult publishing really only highlighted military SF or alternate history SF as what was working them. It was so nice to hear some optimism!

Friday, October 01, 2010

Webinar Debrief

STATUS: Even though it’s Friday, I’ll be working late. I’m headed to New York on Sunday. Heads up that blogging might be spotty.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? STUTTER by Maroon 5

As you blog readers know, I did my very first webinar on Wednesday for Writers Digest. I thought it might be interesting to debrief it. If you participated in the seminar, I would love feedback so feel free to leave some in the comments section (and also feel free to leave the comments anonymously).

So here’s my debrief of it:

Thumbs up:
1. It’s a great way to reach a variety of writers without having to travel (and vice versa for them).

2. It was fun. I thought the webinar format was professional. There was a tech person to help me for the entire 90 minutes and even before the session began. We even did a trial run on the Tuesday before to make sure I understood how the control panel worked and how to do the Powerpoint presentation so attendees could see it.

3. From having given this seminar live, I had a good idea of what questions get asked and when so I tried to interject them during the presentation so Qs were answered as I went.

4. The question chat box was very cool. I left about 20 minutes at the end of the session to start going through them and answering them. Any I didn’t get to were given to me after the fact. I’ll answer, shoot back to the webinar tech person and she’ll distribute them out to the asking party. Very professionally done.


Thumbs neutral:
1. Nothing compares to audience interaction and there wasn’t really a good way to allow that. Usually I can gauge if the audience is “with me” for what I’m trying to explain but there is no clear way to do that in the webinar.

2. Since we were working on the pitch paragraphs for SF&F novels, it would have been fun to get one or two volunteers to submit their revised pitch so I could talk about them right then and there. If I do something like this again, I think I’ll ask how we might be able to do that.

3. And I can’t believe I’m saying this but 90 minutes felt too short. I wish I had given myself more time to answer questions. But there was a lot of info to cram into 1 hour.


Thumbs down:
I’m not sure I have any but maybe some of the attendees do. If so, feel free to share.

For my part, I do want to ask this question. This is the first time I’ve given a workshop where participants paid to attend. Now of course I’ve given workshops at conferences where attendees paid to attend the conference but they didn’t pay a separate amount to attend my particular workshop.

What do you folks think about that? Should agents give workshops like that?

TGIF!

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