On Twitter this morning, an author I follow retweeted another author that he follows, who spake thusly:
Still looking for the right publisher for my newest # . If anyone knows of a good publisher or agent, please let me know. No selfpub plz
And I thought, he’s kidding, right? There is no way anyone can answer this because the author in search of a publisher gave no info about the book he’s hoping to publish. Nada. This person has apparently already self-published one book, but didn’t specify if the new book is a sequel, in the same genre, or something completely different. Maybe some of his followers know more about the book, but retweeting it to people who don’t is pretty pointless. Frankly I wasn’t interested enough to even ask. Nor do I have any info on agents, but it’s not that hard to find.
Here’s the thing: Agents and publishers are very specialized. Writers need to do their own research and find an agent that handles the kind of material they write. An agent who reps (represents) Young Adult books may or may not also rep erotica (very likely not). Some will handle a variety of genres (mystery, historical fiction, women’s fiction), whereas some may have a much narrower focus. A poetry publisher will not be interested in a memoir of a struggle with Alzheimer’s disease.
Newbies to the writing and publishing business have to understand that it IS a business, and they need to become as informed and in-touch as any business professional who hopes to succeed in their chosen career. And here’s the biggest thing: It is no one’s responsibility to do it for you. Even if someone does have a working relationship with an agent, that doesn’t mean it would be the right agent for this particular book. I thought we were past the time when writers thought all they needed to do was sit in a coffee shop typing out their masterpiece and then turn it over to a publisher who would instantly recognize their genius and deliver it to the world. Apparently not.
Agents are like anyone else, they have their likes and dislikes. This is why it’s so important to do research, see who else the agent has published, if they seem to be interested in what you’re offering. Just because that agent likes one writer doesn’t mean they’ll like what the next writer sends along. To use a dated analogy, they’re not like phone booths – “Oh look, there’s one.” Just wastes everyone’s time.
This kind of plea makes me wonder if this author also thinks signing a contract is the end of the work for the writer. Whether self-publishing or getting a contract with a publishing house, the bulk of marketing and advertising will still fall to the writer. Unless you’re Stephen King or J. K. Rowling, your publisher is not going to be taking out full page ads in the New York Times to advertise your book. To quote Westley in The Princess Bride, “Anyone who tells you differently is selling something.” Do your homework. Read up on publishers and agents. They’re all online now so it’s much easier than it used to be. Back in the dim time writers had to head down to the library to read the mastheads of magazines for editors’ names and addresses, most of which would be out-of-date by the time you read it. I honestly don’t know how people found agents in those days. Probably going through the phone book.
Nowadays agents and publishers are all online. Try a quick Google search for “literary agents on Twitter” and follow the ones who rep what you write. Read their bios on their sites. They will spell out in glorious technicolor detail what they handle, and what they’re looking for. If you’re pitching a military steampunk novel to an agent who only reps childrens’ books, don’t be shocked when they don’t even respond to your query.
Follow the hashtag #MSWL (My Secret Wish List) on Twitter to see what agents are really looking for right now.
Pick up the Writer’s Digest “Writer’s Market” or “Fiction Market” or “Poet’s Market.” They even publish a separate “Guide to Literary Agents.” Writer’s Digest site is a great place for any writer to begin. There’s a wealth of information there no matter what you write. Check here. I’m not shilling for them, but I would have been lost without their magazine when I first started writing.
Read Writer Beware, which will steer you clear of scams and shady publishers and agents.
That tweet this morning reminded me why I don’t hang out in writing chat groups online. They’re full of newbie, aspiring writers (which is fine in and of itself) who spend half the time begging other people for ideas. “I don’t know what my main character should do, can someone give me an idea?” Hand to god, I am not making this up. I feel a little bit like I’m channeling Harlan Ellison here, but if you have no ideas you should probably do something else. It’s the writer’s job to write the book, unless you plan to credit the person who supplies all your ideas as your co-author on the book.
I have no way of knowing how much info the tweeter this morning expected other people to provide since I didn’t respond, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he was expecting other people to research agents for him and get back to him with the details. That could be a full time job. But I bet the pay is lousy.
UPDATE March 24: Here is a searchable database of agents http://agentquery.com/
End rant. Here, have a pretty picture for reading all that.
Last weekend I was sick with a cold, and because I was sick I turned on the tv and thereby caught this program about books, WellREAD, on OPB (Oregon Public Broadcasting). I’m always excited to find a show about books, and it was doubly exciting to come in on a show discussing books on witches with the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Stacy Schiff. She was talking about her latest, The Witches: Salem, 1692, which is another exploration of the witch trials.
Schiff clearly has a real passion for her subject. I also liked that she said she can’t seem to write a book in less than four or five years when authors now are pressured to crank out a book every few months to keep up momentum (although this likely applies solely to fiction. I can’t see any sort of respectably researched historical book being done well in less than a couple of years). As much as I’ve read over the years on the witch trials I will consider adding Ms. Schiff’s book to my TBR pile. The reviews on Amazon are split pretty evenly between those who loved it and those who thought it was a ‘tedious slog’ so my expectations are tempered.
Be that as it may, the show itself was going great until about the last five minutes when Mary Ann Gwinn, who gives further reading suggestions, excitedly talked about Alex Mar’s “Witches of America.” Mar’s book has been roundly criticized by the pagan/witchcraft community, and you can read one take on that here. It’s obvious Gwinn knows absolutely nothing about modern witchcraft, or was even aware of its existence. I got the impression neither of the show’s hosts has ever met anyone who didn’t believe exactly what they do; they both seemed amazed that there are people today who call themselves witches. Gwinn went on to mockingly describe modern witches saying, “In one way you want to make fun of these subjects: the weird tattoos, the costumes, blue hair, the free-form sex, the witches’ convention at a Doubletree Inn. Really?” Nice. She openly wants to make fun of them. Ok, I admit the Doubletree Inn is a little weird seeing as how my coven always meets in Lucifer’s penthouse. But what the hell.
Maybe she thinks we should all look as bland and asexual as she does. Finally, the show’s host Terry Tazioli gives a shudder and says “I’m done with witches.” Good for you, buddy. Very disappointing to see such a derisive dismissal of alternative spirituality in this day and age. Their way or the highway, it would seem. They might be interested to know witchcraft practitioners and practices are as varied as any segment of the population, and many hold advanced degrees, including PhDs, and careers in the sciences and academia. I, for one, look more like a Sunday school teacher. My hair is not blue (although I really like the look) because I need to fit in in Corporate America. But not everyone does, and this is not the 1950s. You can watch the show here.
I shudder to think of the judgment the two of them sit in towards other marginalized population groups.
And for your edification and enlightenment, here are some reading suggestions if you really want to learn about paganism and/or Witchcraft in the modern world:
Margot Adler, “Drawing Down the Moon”
Scott Cunningham, “The Truth About Witchcraft Today”
Scott Cunningham, “Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner”
Pauline Campanelli, “The Wheel of the Year”
Starhawk, “The Spiral Dance”
For real basics, The Witches’ Voice website has “Witchcraft 101: So You Wanna Be a Witch?”
If nothing else, Mar’s book introduced people at The New York Times to the idea that there are practicing witches today. We may not fly on brooms (the old joke is we ride Hoovers now) but we have been known to dance under a full moon.
Having an insomniac night, and find reading to be of no help in settling my mind, I switched on the tv at 4 o’clock in the morning. After flipping through the handful of channels I get on the antenna (I don’t have tv cable) I ran across this on OPB (Oregon Public Broadcasting). It’s a 2-year-old documentary hosted by the actor Stephen Fry about a handful of contemporary Russian authors. Russia kind of fascinates me after being closed off to the West for so long. It makes me wonder what we in the West have missed. The documentary website is here. I do have a couple of books by Russian contemporary writers, one fantasy (Nightwatch, by Sergei Lukyanenko, and The Stranger, by Max Frei) but haven’t gotten to them in the TBR pile.
If it makes you curious for more, and aren’t the type to read the comments, I found this guy’s blog which has much more on Russian writing and writers.
Too good not to share. Check out WTFBadRomanceCovers
Even if you have never/will never read a romance novel, some of these are just hilarious. Also a study in “what not to do” with a book cover.
Going into our third straight week of temps in the upper 90s. This is crazy, this is Oregon. It shouldn’t be allowed. Wonder if the crazy old coot down the street feels silly about his “Stop Global Cooling” bumper sticker yet?
I think I gave myself heat exhaustion yesterday. Went out kind of midday, which I thought would have been ok, and mowed the yard, washed the car, and watered the veggie garden. Apparently it was already too hot because I felt really ill later. I brought water out with me, but forgot to stop and drink it often enough, I guess. Be careful out there.
In writing news, I’m making slow progress on the Revenants Abroad sequel, and also working on a couple other things. I probably shouldn’t split my focus, but when you get an idea you need to write it down. Or at least I do.
I can’t help thinking of this every time I see balloons up.
Never thought I’d see the day, but I approved the proof on CreateSpace moments ago, which means Revenants Abroad is officially available in paper through the CreateSpace store! It said it’ll be 2-3 days before it’s up on the main Amazon.com site, I have no idea why. It is still, and will remain, available for Kindle and for KindleUnlimited. I’m going to order a few copies for giveaways and for those who’ve requested signed copies. I have to say wanting a signed copy strikes me as surreal in the extreme. All I can say is I have the best friends who think more of me than I deserve. Thanks you guys, love you all.
Links updated 3 June 2015
The good news is: paper copies of Revenants Abroad are back on! I finally caved and contacted my cover artist, Jason Juta, and he graciously said he’d provide me a lighter version of the cover at no charge. I love this guy so hard. I felt bad going back to ask him for yet another change (of course I intended to pay him, but still) because I know he’s busy. He graciously said he’d do it gratis, since it’ll only take him about 30 seconds to lighten the image up. If the book ever really takes off, I’ll be throwing a few extra dollars his way, believe you me.
If all goes according to plan, the paper copies should be available in a couple of weeks. Once I get the file from Jason, I need to upload it to CS, and get another proof copy to make sure they don’t hose it up again. Those of you holding out hope for a paper copy shouldn’t have long to wait now.
The advantage to publishing paper books via CreateSpace is that it’s no charge, unless you hire them for design, edit, and marketing. It’s not cheap. “Custom covers” from them are $399 (starting with a stock image), a custom cover ‘Premier’ is $599, and still starts with a stock image. After the customer support I’ve experienced (essentially, none), I don’t think I’d trust them with something this important. So the disadvantage to going through them rather than another self-publishing route that would charge hundreds or thousands of dollars is lack of support. Also, while some bookstores will now stock self-published books, those same bookstores are often not happy about stocking books pubbed through CS, as Amazon takes a bigger cut of sales.
So, if you’re going to self-publish hard/paper copies of your book, do your homework. There are so many options it makes my head spin. That’s one reason I decided to use CreateSpace. I basically had everything (electronic files, cover art) and not a lot of cash up front.
And here are some of my latest shots, just for fun.
Through April 4, Revenants Abroad is on sale for $0.99 at Smashwords. Use coupon code QN94E (it’s not case-sensitive). It’s available in all formats: MOBI (Kindle), Epub (just about everything else), pdf, lrf, pdb, or read it online.
So my latest thing is I’m thinking about doing a newsletter focusing on my book and the upcoming sequel as well as other writing, and offering some exclusive content (backstory on characters, new stuff related to the Revenants series and other projects), contests and giveaways. Yeah I know, like I don’t have enough to do already, right?
If you’d like to sign up you can do so here. Unfortunately with WordPress.com sites you can’t embed the forms so I have to have an off-site page for it. I’ll be moving the blog to a self-hosted site soon, though. I’m not sure when I’ll start sending out the newsletter, and it will be monthly if I can keep up. Otherwise maybe every other month, so you won’t be inundated with stuff every week.
The white flowers below are Oregon’s state flower, the trillium. It’s protected, so don’t pick them if you see them.
We’re still getting a lot of fog in the mornings, as you can see.