Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What’s In Our Full Manuscript Queue

STATUS: This is a first for me. CBS films has a dedicated FB page for LEGEND the Movie. And you get first peek at the just released cover. Sweet.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? MISSIONARY MAN by Eurythmics

This is actually a good question. A quick look shows that we have 8 full manuscripts in the queue to be read. And here’s where they fall:

6 titles are Young Adult (breakdown by genre, 3 fantasies, 2 paranormals, 1 contemporary)

1 title is adult literary fiction

1 title is adult women’s fiction

We just sent responses to an adult fantasy that we passed on as well as a middle grade title that had several agents interested but ended up not being quite right for us.

Of the 3 clients Sara just signed: adult SF novel, adult Historical Romance, and Paranormal YA.

And as a bonus, here is Kristin as a talking head yet again. This time I’m reading a short excerpt from the Philip K Dick nominee SF novel SONG OF SCARABAEUS for the awards ceremony last Friday. The sound is not the best so you’ll probably have to turn up your volume all the way up to remotely hear me. Warning, this scene will probably hook you in!

The author Sara Creasy thought I looked quite spiffy!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Query While The Querying Is Hot!

Status: Chutney is enjoying our new couch—as am I. What a nice chaise section on the left side of the couch! Perfect for reading.

What’s Playing on the XM or iPod right now? SUPERSTITION by Stevie Wonder

And this is definitely good for authors. Last year I have to admit, Sara and I didn’t take on that many new clients.

This week, Sara signed 3 new authors with terrific projects.

On top of that, the queries are just rocking right now. In the last 2 weeks, we’ve requested 9 full manuscripts. Yep, you read that right. 9!

I guess query while the querying is hot!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Live From Seattle!

STATUS: A beautiful sunny day here in Seattle. I feel very lucky because what a lovely city.

What’s playing on the iPod or the XM radio right now? A crackling fire at the Doubletree is all the music I have at the moment

As I mentioned yesterday, I flew to Seattle for the Philip K. Dick Awards on behalf of my author Sara Creasy who currently lives in Melbourne, Australia and couldn’t make the trip.

The awards are part of Norwescon and opening ceremonies began last night. If you are here at the convention, by all means, come an introduce yourself. I’d love to say hello.

But I’m posting this entry today to let you all know that Norwescon is live podcasting the awards ceremony.

If you want to tune in here is the url. Fingers crossed that Sara wins and you’ll see yours truly on the stage accepting the award on her behalf!

Live video by Ustream

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Power Of Story

STATUS: Heading to Seattle today.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? PERRY’S PLACE by Richard Underhill

When I was in St. Louis two weeks ago visiting family, my mom asked me if I wanted to go and catch a matinee movie. If you know my mom, you’ll know that she loves shoot ‘em up action films, mysteries, and thrillers. The more blood and guts, the better.

In general, not my cup of tea. But the point was to hang with Mom so I said, sure, and let her pick the film. For a matinee price, I can live with just about anything.

So off we went but she had gotten the movie start time wrong so as we sat down, the movie had already begun by a few minutes.

About 10 minutes later, I had a rather puzzled expression on my face and Mom asked what was up. The theater was almost empty so I leaned over and whispered, “I recognize this. This movie is based off of a short story.”

She shrugged as she didn’t know.

But I was right. It WAS based off of a short story—and one I hadn’t read in probably over 20 years.

The movie was The Adjustment Bureau starring Matt Damon and Emily Blunt--based on the short story by Philip K. Dick.

And that, folks, is the power of story. That after 20+ years, I still recognized it even though I hadn’t thought about it in years.

That’s what you want to achieve with your own writing. And speaking of Philip K. Dick, my author Sara Creasy has been nominated for the Philip K Dick Award for her debut SF novel SONG OF SCARABAEUS.

Why not check out the list and if you haven’t picked up one of these titles to read, why not? Editors are reluctant to acquire new SF authors because the sales numbers can’t compare to fantasy, so selling a debut SF writer is a tough biz (but I'm happy to report I just sold another debut SF author 3 months ago and gasp, a guy to boot!).

So if you love SF, do your part. Pick up one of these nominees.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Because It’s Cool!

STATUS: Enjoyed a quiet day because of the Passover holiday. I caught up on a lot of emails.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? CUTS LIKE A KNIFE by Bryan Adams

If you have read HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET, you’ll know that in the front matter of the book, there is a picture of a Japanese girl circa 1942. She’s wearing a tag on her jacket and it’s implied that she is leaving for the internment camps.

It’s a powerful picture.

The week before last, Jamie was doing a reading/signing at Woodland Reads. He discovered that the young girl in the photo is still alive and lived nearby. So he invited Mae Yanagi to come and be his special secret guest.

And she did! Okay, I got a shiver just looking at the pics so here they are.

She stuck around and signed books with Jamie for the whole evening. How cool is that?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Where “In Perpetuity” Might Come Back…

STATUS: It’s Friday! This would be more exciting if I didn’t have plans to work all weekend. Need to catch up from being away the week prior.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? JEALOUS OF THE MOON by Nickel Creek

And bite you in the a**.

Not to be a downer on the Friday but a lot of authors are super excited about getting their rights reverted and then being able to digitally publish those titles themselves.

By all means, I’m certainly not opposed but you might want to check that agency agreement you signed before you run out and do that.

For the record, Nelson Literary Agency does not hold author rights into perpetuity but I know of a lot of agencies that do.

At NLA, our client agreement clearly states that if we sell the author’s book, it’s for the full term of the publishing agreement. When the book is out of print, publishing contract ends, all rights revert to the author with no further obligation to us.

But we are the minority. I know a lot of agencies that have “in perpetuity” language that they will be the agency of record for life of the property—regardless of whether that title is currently under a publication contract or not.

In short, what this means is that even if all rights to a title has reverted to you from the publisher, and even if you are no longer with that agent or agency, if you signed an agency agreement separate from the publication contract that has an “in perpetuity” clause and that agreement is still in force, you owe the agency of record monies for your self-pubbed digital sales.

Yep, that would suck. So, review any and all agency agreements you signed and if necessary, consult an attorney if it is in question before posting to digital distribution sites.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

What The Heck Do I Say To Help?

Status: Reading right now. Chutney is curled up in a blanket that she spent 10 minutes fluffing.

What’s Playing on the XM or iPod right now? DON’T DREAM IT’S OVER by Paul Young

For the last two nights, I’ve been reading a full manuscript that I requested. I really like the writing and the concept is super cool but for over 100 pages, the story hasn’t gone anywhere (or I should amend that—it’s going somewhere but moving slowly).

So definitely a pacing issue.

Yet, I’m still reading. I know I’m probably going to have to pass but I so want to be able to tell the writer why and how they might revise. But pacing is THE hardest writing mechanic to explain when it’s not working. If I point to an individual scene, there’s nothing inherently wrong with the writing except the scene is not doing enough in terms of building the tension or revealing another hint to the over-arching story that is unfolding.

In other words, there is no easy fix where I can say “do xyz” and you’ll transform the story.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

What Not To Bring To A Pitch Session?

Status: Have glass in wine in hand, am good.

What’s Playing on the XM or iPod right now? LONELY NO MORE by Rob Thomas (acoustic version)

This might qualify as my oddest blog entry yet but I had something happen on Saturday that I’ve never run into before.

A writer sat down for her pitch session and not a minute later, I started sneezing.

From what I can gather, I must have been having a reaction to her perfume (which by the way was not overly strong or anything).

But during the whole session, my eyes started watering and I got the sniffles. Luckily I had a break right after and was able to pop outside to clear my head. When I returned, I was just fine for the rest of the afternoon.

So this probably wasn’t something you had thought of but you might want to forgo the perfume or strong fragrance on the day of your pitch!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Culprit: Writing Mechanics

STATUS: Was out of the office last week. Although I worked, it’s not quite the same as getting stuff done while there.

What’s playing on the iPod or the XM radio right now? CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’ by The Mamas & The Papas

This past weekend I attended the Missouri Writers Guild Conference in St. Louis and did my infamous “Agent Reads The Slush Pile” workshop.

For those of you who don’t know, this is the workshop where I pretend that I’m sitting in my office reading the opening two pages of a submission. In reality, this would all be done electronically and there would be no volunteer reading the entry aloud but you get the picture. In the workshops, as the volunteer reads, I’ll say “stop” if I wouldn’t have continued reading and state why. If I would have read on, we’ll hear the first 2 pages in its entirety.

I personally think this is probably the toughest workshop a writer can participate in but it’s always wildly popular. I do my best to be encouraging but brutally honest—a tough balancing act.

As I’ve given this workshop before, I can tell you several things about it:

1. I always begin with a dire warning and remind writers that they might not be ready for this. I’ve yet to have a participant withdraw an entry (and that always surprises me).
2. 99.9% of what I’ll see in the workshop is not ready for an agent to read.
3. For this workshop, only one entry made it past page 1. The majority of the others, I said stop within the first 2 paragraphs.

Like I said, brutal.

One participant asked a great question. He asked whether all agents would agree with my assessment on when to stop or would those opinions differ given the agent.

I replied that yes, of course opinions would differ but in the case of Saturday’s seminar, I don’t think they would have. Why? The biggest culprit that made me stop reading was a lack of mastery of writing as a craft. The entries had classic beginning writer mistakes we agents often see. And this isn’t to say that the writers in this workshop couldn’t master writing as a craft—just that they hadn’t mastered it yet. I’m confident everyone in my workshop will grow and mature as a writer as they learn.

A list of the culprits? Here they are.

1. Telling instead of showing.
2. Including unnecessary back story.
3. Loose sentence structure that could easily be tightened
4. The use of passive sentence construction.
5. Awkward introduction of character appearance.
6. Awkward descriptions/overly flowery language to depict.
7. Starting the story in the wrong place.
8. Not quite nailing voice in the opening.
9. Dialog that didn’t quite work as hard as it should.
10. A lack of scene tension even if the opening was suppose to be dramatic.

The great news is all of the above are mechanics that a beginning writer can learn.

But you have to be fearless. And the only way you’ll learn it is through a strong critique that points out the issue.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Kristin As A Talking Head

STATUS: I work way too late.

What’s playing on the iPod or the XM radio right now? PYRO by Kings of Leon

When I was at the San Miguel de Allende conference in Mexico, Publishing strategist Janet Goldstein grabbed me and ask if I would do a 2 minute video for her flipcam on 2 quick tips for writing query letters.

It was such a lovely day, I couldn't resist. If you can keep up with the fact that I seem to be talking a mile a minute (hey, TV personality I am not), there might be a nugget of good info embedded in this talking head video. Enjoy!