Wednesday, November 30, 2011

One Very Good Reason To Let Go That Manuscript

STATUS: I'm working super late tonight. It's often the only good time to really check off items on the TO DO list.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS by Whitney Duncan


As you can guess, LEGEND released yesterday. And there is one simple fact I want all my blog readers to know. If Marie had not been willing to let go of a previous manuscript (that didn't sell), we would not be celebrating her release this week.

All too often, I hear about writers revising and revising the same manuscript--some even for years. Sometimes, the best decision you can make is to simply let it go. It's never a waste as you learned valuable things as a writer from the process of writing that novel.

It might stay tucked away on your computer forever. And you know what? That might be a good thing! Maybe you needed to grow in your craft and it will be your next novel where the stars will align, angels sing, and voila, publication.

Don't believe me? You only have to ask Marie Lu.

From Marie's face featured in Times Square after the book sold to stories in Entertainment Weekly, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, what a ride it has been, Marie!

5 Starred Reviews

“Lu’s debut is a stunner. Weaving the strands of SF dystopia, police procedural, and coming-of-age—with touches of superhero and wild frontier traditions—she fashions a narrative in which the action is kinetic and the emotional development is beautifully paced. First in a series, this story is utterly satisfying in its own right and raises hopes high for the sequels to come.”
—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

“A gripping thriller in dystopic future Los Angeles...This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes.”
—Kirkus, Starred Review

“. . . the delicious details keep pages turning to learn how it’s all going play out. Combine star-crossed lovers with the need to take down the Republic and you’ve got the makings for potent sequel.”
—Booklist, Starred Review

“Debut author Lu has managed a great feat—emulating a highly successful young adult series while staying true to her own voice. Legend will give Hunger Games fans something worthwhile to read while they await Katniss’ movie debut—and, most likely, Day and June’s.”
—VOYA, Starred Review

“Teens will love the page-turning suspense and emotional tension created by the dynamic characters. Following the success of Hunger Games, many dystopian books are filling the shelves, but this book stands out.”
—Library Media Connection, Starred Review

LEGEND, yesterday, in the promo stand as you walk into Barnes & Noble:

Marie on the PBS Late Night Show with Tavis Smiley:

And best of all, we heard that LEGEND was being featured in elevator news reels today. Wacky but a heck of a lot of fun!

So thank you, Marie, for being undaunted and forging ahead writing that next novel in the face of rejections.

Have a wonderful, wonderful release week.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Not The Right Question

STATUS: Do I dare 'fess up that we listened to the XM Holly holiday station all day? Is it too early? I know I've already dived into many an eggnog chai…

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? WINTER WONDERLAND by Jason Mraz

As I sit here contemplating the great mysteries of the universe… Okay, in reality I'm really just sitting here having a relaxing glass of wine. Still, even though it's not a great universal mystery, I puzzle over why journalists always ask this question during an agent interview:

What is the single most common mistake that turns you off of a query letter?

I puzzle over this Q because it strikes me that writers are looking for a magic silver bullet in the answer--as if it's only an errant comma or grammar mistake keeping the agent from falling in love with the query and asking for sample pages.

In truth, there isn't a single most common error that puts me off a query letter. Anything that I can list here (such as addressing the letter to the wrong agent, submitting a project in a genre we don't rep, writing the email without periods or capitalization) are all issues that immediately weed out the wheat from the chaff.

If you are serious about this biz, those query letters are not the ones you should worry about. It's the queries that are close but no cigar that are your competition. In other words, decent queries, well-written, and actually make us read the whole letter.

We still might pass on asking for sample pages but we gave the letter serious consideration. The rest are non-contenders.

So the real question is out of those queries, what is the single most common mistake that turns us off a query letter?

The answer is there is none. Because these queries are well written and unique enough, we read them. Why we still pass can't be summed up into a neat little list that writers can then checkmark off the "turn-offs" to make sure their queries will pass the muster.

It's never about one thing in the letter. It's about every facet of the query letter as a whole. And even then, if you put the same good query letter in front of 10 different agents, all 10 of them might have a different response. And some would ask for sample pages and the others wouldn't.

It's this unknown factor that drives writers crazy.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Who Says You Can't Get A Good Job With An English Degree?

STATUS: I have one more big task I need to tackle before I can leave the office.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? HAPPIER by Jeff Leblanc

Over lunch I took a moment to catch up on my PW reading. Even though it's a weekly magazine, it's pretty easy for me to fall behind and have to tackle a couple issues all at once.

Over tea and biscotti (lunch of champions!), I was reading an article about a survey conducted by the National Endowment of the Arts on writer salaries. The article mentioned that the median wage/salary for an average worker in the US was around $39,500. The median wage/salary for a writer was around $44,000.

Now granted, this survey wasn't limited to writers of book works but encompassed all professionals who make their living primarily by writing--be it for information industries, journalism, or for performing arts, etc.

I was a little bemused for I think the general assumption is that it's a lot harder for a person to make a living via the writing arts. And yet, the salaries are above the median.

Guess that English degree is good for something after all!

Now imagine a lot of fiction authors are wondering when their median wage/salary will reach that level…. *grin*

Monday, November 14, 2011

Disturbing YA Cover Trend?

STATUS: I am well and I'm very apologetic for not being able to blog regularly this fall. I have a feeling I'll know what my New Year's Resolution will be….

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? WHEN YOU'VE GOT TROUBLE by Liz Longley

As a sophomore in college back in 1987, I'll never forget the impact of seeing STILL KILLING US SOFTLY: ADVERTISING'S IMAGE OF WOMEN, a documentary by Jean Kilbourne.

I remember sitting there in my seat, stunned, mouth open, as Kilbourne analyzed example after example of ads that demeaned, sexualized, or minimized women by images used in advertising. She also pointed out the level of violence often depicted towards women in every day kinds of ads for fashion, perfume, food, you name it. Until that moment (despite thinking I had adequate critical analysis skills), I had never connected the dots. And after, I never saw an advertisement, a movie, or the world for that matter, in quite the same way.

And folks, this isn't limited to the 80s (as evident by Kilbourne's Killing Us Softly 4 which released in 2010). Today, models on Glamour and Vogue can easily have an inch or two airbrushed off their thighs so what everyday women are seeing in the cover picture is a level of body perfection that is literally not achievable naturally.

So last week when I was reading a blog article on YA cover trends by Rachel Stark on Trac Changes, it's no wonder I had a moment of deja vu. She explores the obsession with elegance and death in young adult covers. She posits that the popularity of such covers might reflect teenage girls' morbidity and that the images on the covers she spotlights, to paraphrase, present the idea that it is beautiful, dramatic and poetic to be dead. And the fact that these covers are popular with teen girls is a product of what she dubs "internalized misogyny."

This is definitely an article worth reading and discussing.

And I'm rather happy to report that NLA does not have any young adult titles with dead girls on the covers. A small triumph I'm sure…

Now we do have covers with girls looking pensive and beautiful, girls kissing a boy or holding hands with a boy, and a girl dancing in fire (to name a few). But they are all happily alive.