Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Agent Reads The Slush Pile Tomorrow - Wednesday, July 25

STATUS: Have to leave a tad early today. My plan is to read a good portion of a client manuscript this evening.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now?  LAID by James

At conferences, the biggest complaint I hear from aspiring writers is this: there is never any feedback given when an agent or an editor sends a rejection letter.

Or, if there is a response, it tends to be generic--something along the lines of "I just didn't fall in love with the story."

Writers don't have a good sense of what is really causing an agent to stop reading.

Well, this webinar is designed to answer that question. It's a no holds barred (and a tough workshop so be warned) but if you want an honest, straightforward, and helpful response as to why your sample pages might be getting rejected, then this is it.

This is a "fly on the wall" glimpse of an agent reading her slush pile.

I read the first opening 2-pages submitted by the participants of the workshop. If I would have stopped reading, I stop and clearly say why. In general, we tackle about 20 entries selected at random. 

The I crush the writer's fragile ego under my critique hammer… Just kidding. This is not American Idol style.

I don't pull the punch but I do try and be sensitive and helpful. This webinar is not about denigrating the writer but it's also not for the faint of heart.

If you think you are ready, then you might want to consider it. Register here. And I'll see you tomorrow.

A Pitch Is A Pitch Is A Pitch - A Query Is A Query Is A Query

STATUS: Working though 245 emails in the inbox. You can't hide from me!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now?  DON'T STOP by Foster The People

An yet, writers always have some confusion on what is the difference between a pitch and a query. Seems like a good topic to tackle (as I can already see a myriad list of sub-questions within this topic).

Let's start with the basics.

A query is a professional business letter that introduces your work to an agent or editor. These days, this letter is sent by email rather than snail mail. In the query letter, you will have something called a pitch paragraph. The query letter will also contain an introduction and the author's bio or credentials. It will be one-page long.

A pitch is the verbal delivery of the main pitch paragraph from your query letter. In other words, you need to have a quick way to sum up the opening plot catalyst of your novel in a sentence or two while talking to someone. That way your audience gets a clear and immediate gist of what your novel is about.

Here's a great example from a novel I just sold by David Ramirez called MINCEMEAT. It's a good example because in this instance, I actually did something unique. I pulled out the pitch from the main pitch paragraph. I don't always do that but I did so in this instance. Also, when I was in New York in May, I verbally PITCHED this work to editors using the one sentence pitch highlighted in pink.

Here's my submit letter to editors--which in essence is the agent's QUERY letter to editors (to draw a comparison to what writers are doing when they approach agents):

Hello XXX,
It's pretty rare that I send an email about a manuscript submission that I can sum up in a one sentence pitch. Trust me, I tend to be wordier than that!

But here it is:
All that is left of humanity is on a thousand-year journey to a new home aboard one ship, The Noah, and this ship is carrying a dangerous serial killer.

Intrigued? I hope so. At its heart, the concept for this SF novel MINCEMEAT by David Ramirez is quite simple but what unfolds is layer after layer of complexity.

Since most editors prefer I don't leave it at one sentence, here's a little bit more about the manuscript:

Priss Dempsey is a City Planning Administrator on the Noah, a vessel carrying the last survivors of Earth on a thousand-year journey to a new home.  She is equal parts psychic, economist, hacker and bureaucrat, a vital part of the mission, but her life seems to lose purpose after she experiences Breeding Duty.  Kept asleep through the impregnation and birthing that all women are obligated to undergo, she still feels a lost connection to the child she will never be permitted to know.

Policeman Leonard Barrens approaches her with a request for hacking support in the unofficial investigation of his mentor's violent death. Only Barrens knows that a crime has been committed because he came across the mutilated remains before Information Security could cover it up. To everyone else, the missing man was merely "Retired," nothing unusual.

Their investigation takes them through the lost dataspaces in the Nth Web and deep into the uninhabited regions of the ship, where they discover that the answer may not be as simple as a Mincemeat Killer after all. And what they do with that answer will determine the fate of all humanity.

May I send this novel your way?

All Best,
Kristin

Next up, I'll tackle the log line versus the pitch.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Blogging Authors Beware! You Can Get Sued. Roni Loren Guest Blogs

Re-posted with permission from original blog post here.

Sara, our lawyer,and I all helped Roni through the situation but here is the whole story below.  You can no longer say that you haven't been warned!

Guest Blogger: RONI LOREN

So today I'm forgoing the usual Fill-Me-In Friday post to talk about something that I've been wanting to blog about for a while but couldn't until the situation was wrapped up.

For those of you who are super observant, you may have noticed some changes on my blog over the last few months. Tumblr posts went away. Fiction Groupie disappeared. I deleted most of my Pinterest boards. The Boyfriend of the Week has changed format. And all my previous posts from the past three years--all 700 of them--now have new photos on them.

Why is that? What happened?


Well, you've probably figured it out from the title, but it's because I've been involved in a case regarding a photo I used on my blog. Like most of you, I'm a casual blogger and learned my way into blogging by watching others. And one of the things I learned early on was that a post with a photo always looked nicer than one with just text. So I looked at what other people were doing for pictures. And mostly it seemed that everyone was grabbing pics from Google Images and pasting them on their sites. Sometimes with attribution, most of the time without. And when I asked others (or looked at disclaimers on websites and Tumblrs), it seemed that everyone agreed using pics that way was okay under Fair Use standards.

Here is an example of a disclaimer I found on a bigger site (name of blog removed):

THIS BLOG claims no credit for any images posted on this site unless otherwise noted. Images on this blog are copyright to its respectful owners. If there is an image appearing on this blog that belongs to you and do not wish for it appear on this site, please E-mail with a link to said image and it will be promptly removed.

And site after site had the same kind of thing. Just look on Tumblr, that same type of disclaimer is on a ton of them. And I'm thinking--well, that must mean it's okay because if that weren't true, sites like Tumblr and Pinterest couldn't even exist because reposting pics is the whole POINT of those sites. So off I went doing what everyone else does--using pics from Google Images, putting a disclaimer on my site, etc.

Well on one random post, I grabbed one random picture off of google and then a few weeks later I got contacted by the photographer who owned that photo. He sent me a takedown notice, which I responded to immediately because I felt awful that I had unknowingly used a copyrighted pic. The pic was down within minutes. But that wasn't going to cut it. He wanted compensation for the pic. A significant chunk of money that I couldn't afford. I'm not going to go into the details but know that it was a lot of stress, lawyers had to get involved, and I had to pay money that I didn't have for a use of a photo I didn't need.

It wasn't fun. But the fact of the matter is, I was in the wrong. Unknowingly. But that doesn't matter. And my guess is that many, many of you are doing the same thing I was doing without realizing it's a copyright violation. So I wanted to share my experience so that you can learn from my mistake.

Here's what I learned about Fair Use:


It DOESN'T MATTER...

if you link back to the source and list the photographer's name
if the picture is not full-sized (only thumbnail size is okay)
if you did it innocently
if your site is non-commercial and you made no money from the use of the photo
if you didn't claim the photo was yours
if you've added commentary in addition to having the pic in the post
if the picture is embedded and not saved on your server
if you have a disclaimer on your site.
if you immediately take down a pic if someone sends you a DMCA notice (you do have to take it down, but it doesn't absolve you.)

NONE OF THAT releases you from liability. You are violating copyright if you have not gotten express PERMISSION from the copyright holder OR are using pics that are public domain, creative commons, etc. (more on that below.)

I didn't know better and I had to learn the hard way. So I want to let you all know now so that you don't have to be a cautionary tale as well.

Plus, beyond not wanting to be sued, most of you who are reading this are writers. Our livelihood depends on the rights to our work. I've already had to send my own DMCAs to sites that have pirated my books. So I definitely don't want to be someone who infringes on someone else's copyright. A photo is someone else's art and unless they tell me it's okay, I don't have the right to use it.

So what can you do?

1. If you've been using images without approval from the internet on your blogs, know that you are probably violating copyright and could be sued for it.

Is the chance high? Probably not. Is it possible? I'm proof that it is. So you may want to consider going through your posts and delete pics that aren't yours.

2. Search for photos that are approved for use.

  • Creative Commons licensed pics -- You can search for photos that are free to use (with some restrictions) through Creative Commons. Usually this means you have to attribute the photo to the owner and link back to their site. (All of my posts now have pics that are under Creative Commons license. And there are actually really great photos available.) Meghan Ward did a fantastic post on the breakdown of creative commons licenses plus listed some other photo sources.)
  • Wikimedia Commons offers free media files anyone can use.
  • Buy a subscription to a stock photo site -- This can be pricey up front but then you have access all year. There are also sites that you can pay per pic. (Here is one example of a subscription service. Thanks to Janice Hardy for that suggestion.)
  • Use photos that are in the public domain.

3. Take your own photos and share the love.

Almost all of us have camera phones these days. Instead of just taking photos of our family, think of images you could use on posts. See a stop sign. Snap a picture and save it. Whatever. And if you want to give back and not just take--open up a Flickr account (here's mine) and list your own images as creative commons so that you can share the love. (You can set it up to where whatever pic you load from you camera is under that license.)

4. Use sites like Pinterest and Tumblr with caution.

I have read way too many terms of service over the last two months. And I'm not a lawyer, so the legalspeak can be confusing and I am NOT giving legal advice. BUT both Pinterest and Tumblr (and most other social sites) say that if you load something into their site (i.e. Pin It or Tumble it) YOU are claiming that YOU have a legal right to that picture. And if the owner of that photo comes after the company, you will be the responsible party. And Pinterest goes so far as to say if you REpin something, you're saying you have the right to that photo. Yes, if that's enforced, it would mean that 99% of people on Pinterest are doing something illegal. Will that ever come up? Maybe. Maybe not. But I'm leaning on the paranoid side now. I don't want to be the test case. And I don't want to pin something the owner of the photo wouldn't want pinned.

So pin your own photos, pin things from sites that have a Pin It button (see discussion in comments about the Pin It button, it's not always a safe bet either.) I pin book covers and movie posters because I figure that it's advertisement for said movies or books. But other stuff? All those pretty mancandy photos? I'm going to look but not touch.

5. Assume that something is copyrighted until proven otherwise.

That's your safest bet. If you're not 100% sure it's okay to use, don't. This includes things like celebrity photos. Someone owns those. There are enough free pics out there that you don't need to risk violating someone's copyright.

6. Spread the word to your fellow bloggers.

It was KILLING me not to be able to go tell everyone about all of this because I didn't want anyone else to get into this kind of mess. So if you know someone who is using photos in the wrong way, let them know. I wish someone had told me.

So I know many of you are probably thinking--she's being paranoid or that the likelihood of this ever happening to you is slim. Well, maybe. But it happened to me. And now that I know better, I'm going to do better (yes, I'm busting out an Oprah quote, forgive me.) And yes, it does kill me a little bit that I can't go on posting boyfriends of the week and mancandy, but instead I'll just post links to it so you can see it elsewhere. :)

So lesson learned: protect yourself and respect the rights of other artists.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

San Diego Comic Con - The Latest Shiny Promotional Venue

STATUS: The problem with summer is that I'd rather not work long hours. Too much sunshine and lovely outdoor weather.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now?  TONGUE TIED by GroupLove

There is no doubt in my mind that Comic Con in San Diego is the shiny new conference that all writers want to attend. I get it. It's a blast. Geek Chic. Fandom over great shows like True Blood and Game of Thrones. Honest to goodness movie stars. Fabulous parties (I'm still lamenting that I didn't get to go to the Entertainment Weekly one.)

What's not to like? You can even buy some funny, cool, and geek insider T-Shirts.

But is it necessarily the best promotional venue for a writer?

Jury might still be out on that but here's my thinking. If your book has an obvious connection to the fan base that attends, I'd say yes, it's a worthwhile promotional venue for an author.

Gail Carriger is a great example. She writes steampunk fantasy and also has a graphic novel equivalent of her popular The Parasol Protectorate series.

Her publisher, Orbit, had a full-size paper cut-out of graphic novel Alexia Tarabotti in their booth. Here I am standing with it. 



And fans even come dressed up as Gail's characters for her autograph signings.



I can safely say that her fan base is present at this Con in full force.

Same would hold true for Marie Lu and her Legend Trilogy. Since there is a video game in the works below is a sneak peek), she had lots of fans at this event.



As an author, ask yourself. Do fans who love my books love all things geek that can be found at San Diego Comic Con? If the answer is yes, then this shiny venue is a good fit. If it's not, I wouldn't recommend it even though it's the latest "hot" thing.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

2012 San Diego Comic Con - Part III


STATUS: Loved seeing so many NLA clients represented there!

Kristen Callihan's sequel to FIRELIGHT!



The hilarious moment when we realized that Emily from the Penguin group looked exactly like the model on Sara's client Michael Underwood's Geekomancy cover!





And Friends Don't Let Friends date vampires!! Lots of buzz in the HarperCollins booth for Sarah Rees Brennan!




2012 San Diego Comic Con - Part III


STATUS: The best part of comic con!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? nothing as I'm heading out. 

Getting into the Firefly panel!
And standing under the 50 foot Hall banner for Marie Lu's Legend! (Yes, I'm the tiny figure under it.)






2012 San Diego Comic Con - Part II


STATUS: Heading out the door in 15 minutes. I'm doing the interview for Spotlight on Gail Carriger!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? SOMEONE LIKE YOU by Adele

Gail Carriger and I --washed in color at the Hilton Bayfront. 


Sara's client Jason Hough and his Del Rey Editor Michael Braff



Gail right after her Witty Women in Steampunk panel. 


2012 San Diego Comic con

STATUS: Love reliable internet access! It's been a little spotty from the floor.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? VERTIGO by U2

Finally getting a chance to upload some pics!

Shot of show floor from above and the Walking Dead booth!