Thursday, May 28, 2009
Way back (okay, showing my age), there were comic books. They were mainly about superheroes or funny kids and teenagers, and the audience market was children and male teens. Oh, and all those adult men hung up on comics as collectibles. Then graphic novels joined the "stories in pictures" world. Followed by the evolved Japanese version, manga. But basically the subject matter and intended market were pretty much still the same.
However, graphic novels aimed at the adult audience, and at romance readers, have been around longer than many people realize. Kafka's books were available as graphic novels by the early 90s. Harlequin was putting out romances as manga in Japanese by 1999, labeling it "Harlequin Comics". (I've got Anne Stuart's Heart's Ease and Housebound, Deborah Simmons' Taming the Wolf. Too bad I can't read Japanese.)
There has been a recent surge in "real" novels presented in graphics. Books by best-selling romance/paranormal/urban fantasy (whatever you label them) authors Sherrilyn Kenyon and Laurell K. Hamilton. Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice graphic novel is, according to the publisher, aimed at pre-teen and teen girls.
I'm not sure how I feel about all this. Even as a kid with comic books, I read the balloons and barely noticed the drawing. I lifted the Hamilton and Kenyon graphic novels off the shelf in the bookstore, glanced through them, and put them back--I realized they would not be an enjoyable or satisfactory reading experience for me. I'm very definitely a word person, not a picture person. So a graphic novel, which contains a fraction of the text of the original book, just doesn't do it for me. I want the beauty of language, the flow of sentences, the descriptions and musings and nuances.
I hear the argument that our children aren't interested in reading, that comics are a way to tempt them to the classics, to interest them in books and ideas. And isn't it better that they be reading something, rather than just staring at a video or a video game?
I don't know. I wonder if we aren't, instead, teaching our children that the written word doesn't matter. That any idea can be reduced to a line drawing, that spelling and grammar are unimportant, that communication via words isn't important. I don't believe any of that, and I don't want to raise a generation who believes it.
But that's just me. Maybe graphic novels are indeed where "books" are going in future, and maybe that won't signal the fall of civilization. What do you think? What graphic novels have you read? Did you enjoy the story presented that way? Had you read the original novel first? I'd really like to know how adult authors and readers feel about this trend.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
This is a follow-on to the previous post, Do It Right. Specifically, the issue of having an editor or agent ask you as author to make revisions to a story before they will consider buying it—and with no commitment they will buy it even if revised. One of the things I listed is that "Penny" got such a revision request on her path to successfully selling her book.
So how did Penny handle the revision letter? To start, she understood that there was no guarantee that making the requested changes would get the book sold. He might still not like it enough to accept it. But it was another opportunity. So she evaluated the suggestions and responded to each one.
- Make the story darker. “I can do that. Here are my ideas for how…”
- Change a specific element, with a suggestion on how to alter it. “Yes, no problem.”
- Rewrite the story in first person POV (it was in third). Wow, both of them realized that’s a major effort and would take a lot of time, plus could significantly alter the tone and style of the story. “I hadn’t thought of this and am not sure it will work for my story, but upon consideration I understand why you feel it might make the story stronger. I will rewrite the first three chapters into first person and send that to you for review. If you like it and are then willing to accept the book, I will revise the whole thing into first person.”
Discussing suggested changes or negotiating how to do revisions is perfectly fine. You as author need to understand the editor's or agent's reasons, what they are looking for, why they think these changes will make your story stronger and more marketable. Of course, the editor's or agent's willingness to go through discussions and reviews will depend on how much they really want this story, how much they love it. If they think it has "potential" but is borderline or iffy, they are less likely to want to put additional time into it.
And do be sensible about how you word that discussion. Never, ever react with the "you're destroying my writing style, you're killing my baby!" attitude. You should have some faith in this person's understanding of the business and their advice, or else why did you submit to them? So seriously consider their advice as a way for you to learn and improve. Have a professional and calm discussion based on your mutual goal of making this story the best it can be. State up front that you want to be sure you understand so you can do it right. If you seriously object to any of the suggested changes, explain why and then listen to the other side.
If you find yourself dealing with an editor or agent who refuses to discuss or explain, who takes a "my way or the highway" attitude (I've never run into one, but a few authors state such experiences), then you may want to rethink trying to sell your book to this person. Do you really want to deal with that attitude for the whole editing process of this book and any future books? Perhaps you'd do better to just politely state that you don't think you and the editor/agent have a shared vision for this book and so it might be better if you don't work together on it, and perhaps you'll have some future submission that meets their needs.This revision process displayed Penny as a smart and business-like author who could communicate and cooperate. That's the type of author an editor or agent wants to work with.
Monday, May 18, 2009
This success story was related at a writing organization to which I belong. (The story has been altered slightly to protect the author’s privacy and make it more generally applicable.) Let’s call our successful aspiring author Penny Professional.
It’s gonna take time
A whole lot of precious time
It’s gonna take patience and time
To do it, to do it, to do it, to do it,
To do it right child
And this time I know it’s for real
The feelings that I feel
I know if I put my mind to it
I know that I really can do it.
- “Got My Mind Set On You”, George Harrison
- written by Rudy Clark; lyrics © Carlin America Inc.
As an aspiring-to-be-published author, Penny did the two things absolutely necessary:
1. She wrote a great book.
2. She grasped that becoming a published author is a “job” and she approached “job hunting” in a business-like manner.
You can’t be successful unless you put your full effort into BOTH aspects. I’m continually flummoxed by the attitude of some writers that being creative should somehow exempt them from the need to be professional and deal with the business aspects of publishing. It doesn’t matter what great cakes you bake, no one will ever eat them if you don’t open a bakery. Or are you waiting for a knight in shining armor to come rescue you and your manuscript from your little cottage and carry you away to fame and fortune in Publishing Land? Honey, you gotta get out in front of your cottage and flag down that knight as he gallops by.
So I was impressed by the professional and dedicated way Penny approached her job goal. Here’s what she did, what every aspiring author needs to do if they are serious about becoming published.
1. Penny went about becoming a professional in this career. She joined writer organizations, read lots of top-selling books in her genre of choice, networked with others in the publishing industry, among other things.
2. Penny researched where and to whom to submit. Most of that research was online, but she also talked to other authors. She studied publishers and their recent releases and best sellers, reviewed submission guidelines, searched for information on agents, editors and publishers. She created a spreadsheet listing those she pinpointed as appropriate for her and her manuscript—it included things like what genres the person dealt with, what books they had handled that were similar to her book, things she’d learned about them online. There were more than fifty names in her list.
3. She wrote a professional and informative query letter, the style and tone of which reflected that of her book. (And she’d thoroughly researched how to write a query letter—use a search engine to find the gazillion available online examples and advice.)
4, She sent query letters to her choices and tracked responses. She promptly followed up on all replies.
5. Penny’s query letters resulted in several requests for partials, followed by requests for fulls! She sent those in the format and length requested by each person, even when it meant reformatting the document or sending different numbers of chapters to each requestor. (And she did not get discouraged or waste time being angry about the many people who failed to respond to her at all.)
6. The person at the top of Penny’s list not only requested the full, he then sent her a letter saying he could not accept the story as it was, but was very interested and wanted to see it again if she made some suggested revisions. Penny mentioned that he was “just coincidentally” at the top of her list. I don’t consider that a coincidence at all! She did her research and pinpointed him as someone who would be appropriate for her story and whom she’d like to work with—that’s how she got a positive response from him.
7. Penny discussed the requested revisions with him so she understood the why and what before starting work. She explained up front her ideas for the changes, so they were both “on the same page”. She then quickly got to work and sent in the revised manuscript. She also understood that there was no guarantee that making the changes would get the book accepted.
8. When Penny got “the call”, she made it clear she was delighted but stated that she would like two weeks to consider the offer. (She said this was the hardest step of all, when what she really wanted to do was scream, “YES! Take me, I’m yours!”) She waited for the initial euphoria to pass before calmly reviewing the terms of the offer and deciding if it was acceptable to her—which it was.
9. She immediately contacted the other people who had requested partials or fulls and let them know she had received an offer, and that if they might be interested, she would need to hear back from them within two weeks. Smart move—this gave her the opportunity to see if a better offer might be forthcoming.
10. Two weeks later, she accepted the initial offer. She is working now on quickly finishing the full revised book.
I hope Penny becomes a very successful author. She deserves it, not just for the excellent story but for her professionalism and good work.
Oh, and by the way—all of the above took many elapsed months and massive amounts of work and time from Penny. And yes, she has a full-time day job in an unrelated field, so had to give first priority to that. But she is committed enough to adding “published author” to her career that she did what it took to make it happen.
Monday, May 11, 2009
An open letter of longing…
Hello, lover. It’s been a long time. It’s me…Dictionary. I know we haven’t seen each other in a while. Well, you haven’t seen me, anyway. But I’ve been watching you from afar. Sitting atop that shelf above your computer where you left me all those years ago, flanked by a Chia pet and a coffee cup full of chewed pencils. (The latter say “hello”; they haven’t felt your touch in a while either.) I occasionally converse with Thesaurus. But, as his body now lies beneath your heavy monitor, his voice is muffled, hushed, stifled.
I saw Spellcheck’s post.
Ha! Spellcheck! That pretty-boy application with his expansive database and flashy underlining. I know his sophisticated skills are too hard to resist. Why suffer my limited capabilities, my shortcomings, when his never-ending memory swells at your whim? Though, if I may be so bold, it saddens me that you would succumb to the lure of such a pseudointellectual—n., one exhibiting intellectual pretensions that have no basis in sound scholarship; adj., of, pertaining to, or characterized by fraudulent intellectuality; unscholarly. (Can Spellcheck offer that clarification? No! He has no concept of meanings, roots, pronunciations. He can spell love…but only I can define it.)
Still, I have only myself to blame for my loneliness, I realize. I’ve let myself go—my jacket threadbare and battered, my once-stiff spine cracked and busting a stitch or two (the humidity causes the bloating, I swear!). My pages, once crisp as new linen, can no longer be skimmed swiftly, soft and wrinkled and dog-eared as they are. Ahh! The exquisite pleasure/pain of use!
I remember happier days, my covers lovingly cupped between your soft hands as you gazed upon me with inquisitive intelligence. The silky feel of your fingers tickling as they ran lightly down my columns. Such sweet shivers! Sigh…
Word has reached me of my comrades’ struggles—their fight to remain relevant in this digital age. Their painful updates, colorful new jackets and expensive reprints come at a high cost, too high for most to bear. They sit, ever-hopeful and eternally heartbroken, as potential mates pass them by. And so, like me, they collect dust, each microscopic particle silently marking the passage of time and the coming of death. (Our smallest brothers suffer most—horrific fates of ripped-off faces and discarded bodies!)
At least I have known the rapturous joy of belonging to another.
I’m not asking for a second chance or reconciliatory gesture. I understand the appeal of a younger model with more stamina, truly. But should you ever find your hands idle…ever wish for the warm, comforting scent of the finest aged paper…I’ll be waiting, friend. Ready and willing to share memories of a simpler time, when deadlines didn’t press so urgently upon you and words were a world of discovery we traveled together.
Until then, I’ll be watching, waiting…and longing. Ever your slave…
Friday, May 8, 2009
Once upon a time, if an author wanted to woo me, he or she could merely utter one magical word to get me all excited…
(Okay, so maybe it’s two words, depending on which dictionary you check. Don’t get me started on that particular paradox).
These days, being the cynical bitch that I am, I need more stimulation. I mean, let’s face it—everyone uses spellcheck. Right?
Crazy, isn’t it? As shocking as it sounds, though it’s been drummed into their heads by every editor in the land, despite its place of honor on every Writing 101 list, scads and scads of authors still don’t use spellcheck. I’m at the end of my rope, people. That’s right. I said it. I’m dangling like the proverbial participle, one sweaty palm-length away from falling into the abyss of misspelled hell. I’m thisclose to blaming text speak…but that’s another blog.
Sure, authors swear they’re taking the two extra minutes required to check. Then why am I still finding errors? Let me guess—your evil Vista has it out for you. Or it’s some magical tech phenomenon occurring as your manuscript careens through cable and DSL lines. Or tiny Novel Gnomes, sneaking onto your computer at night and inserting errors as fast as their little fingers can fly.
Yes, I know spellcheck won’t catch “typos” that result in actual words, those errors that can honestly occur when typing too fast or whatever. (From/form being the most frequent example.) But then, that’s what proofreaders are for. You do have an experienced proofreader (with references!!) at your disposal, right? And for the severely dyslexic authors out there, I’ll correct your minor errors all day long. I’m not that heartless.
But barring a learning disability or an honest mistake that spellcheck won’t catch, you won’t get a break from this particular editor. I’ve turned down submissions based on synopsis alone, leaving the story unread, upon finding oodles of egregious spelling errors. Let me break my opinion down for you: If you’re a writer with sincere publishing aspirations, writing is not a “hobby”, it’s not a “creative pursuit”. It. Is. A. Job. And, like any job, it requires you arm yourself with the necessary tools and skills to be successful. You think that guy digging ditches hasn’t bought some kickass gloves? Think that UPS employee hasn’t learned to lift with her knees?
For writers, proper tools can be expensive—I get it, I really do—but spellcheck isn’t. Comes with every version of Word known to man, in fact. And a simple press of a button could mean the difference between a manuscript getting read…and getting tossed in the slush pile.
For your amusement/amazement, misspelled words found in synopses in one week:
Note: Because my grammar/spellcheck is on at all times, the above words were lovingly underlined in red, making them even harder to miss. For shame.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
Harlequin's just-reported first quarter sales were up 13.5% from a year ago. In specific areas:
Decline in North American direct-to-consumer sales.
Increased retail sales for single titles and series lines.
Increased digital sales!
Overseas: small decrease in print sales, but increase in digital sales, especially in Japan.
As much as some people may sneer at Harlequin's "formula", this company knows its market, knows what its readers want and how to sell to them. As is proven by their sales.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
I got an email from one of our editors:
[Author] pitched a book to me at the [Conference]. She said she had met you about two years ago and pitched to you then and you said to submit the full but she was too insecure to do that.
This actually is not unusual. Which got us discussing why an author, after working so hard to finish a book and then bravely pitching it to an editor/agent at a conference or sending a query letter about it, would fail to respond to a request to send the manuscript for review. Honestly, if we ask to see it, we want to see it. We're not just doing it to be "nice"—we've got massive piles of submissions to read, we wouldn't encourage ones we didn't think might be good.
So here's what we came up with as possible explanations. If you've encountered this situation and have some other ideas, please contribute.
● You sold the story elsewhere. Great, we're glad you are being successful. But please email and let us know, so we can take it off our "expecting to see" list (or pull it from the reading queue, if you'd already sent it).
● "Life happened"—There was a major personal or family change that has severely impacted your writing time. Of course, you should already have had this story finished and polished and ready to send before you pitched it. But maybe you realistically see that if it were accepted now or if you were asked to make revisions and resubmit, you wouldn't have time to deal with it until you've had the baby or divorced the husband or moved back from Antarctica or dealt with some lengthy crisis.
If this occurs, let the editor know. Don't have her form a bad opinion of you due to your lack of response. Just email and briefly explain the issue and that you hope it will be all right to send the requested manuscript in future.
● You died. Maybe you should have left a note for your estate executor, so that person can notify us. (Okay, probably not so important in your scheme of things if you are no longer amongst the living.)
● You are living out a cliche from a novel: you've been kidnapped by terrorists, developed amnesia, been swept off your feet and to the Middle East by a billionaire sheik, or been offered your dream job at an incredible salary as long as you go live on a completely isolated island with your anonymous employer's young children. In this case, we forgive you for not getting back to us. But do contact us, because we're dying to hear all about this!
Notice the repeated refrain? Communicate! If an editor/agent asks to see your manuscript and then never hears from you, this is going to leave a negative impression. Don't burn bridges, even if you have moved on or become successful elsewhere—the publishing world is not that big, you may need this person someday.
Monday, May 4, 2009
Here's Bill's story, built from spam Subject lines and senders.
Alfred Miner, feeling healthy and vibrant with acai berry, murmured to Belle Elease, "You can get great sex for free. I know the 3 biggest female orgasm secrets every man must know."
She turned away from him and said, "Size is really important."
"I tried vacuum pumps and other advertised methods without success! When you have a small instrument you feel like it's not even working."
"Don't pay a cent for Viagra."
"I'm broke anyway," he said. "I tried to check my account with the Central Bank of Nigeria, but the response I got was, 'Mail delivery failed: returning message to sender.'"
Лена burst through the door and exclaimed, "Love from Russia! 100% ~FREE~ TRIAL No Strings Attached!"
"You look like you have just walked out of the trendy store." Belle said. "Thank you," Лена said, "A prestige watch is a part of my image."
"Screw that," Alfred said while dropping his pants. "This is what she REALLY wants."
"Get over it, kid," Лена said. "Life with a small tool is pathetic and miserable."
Belle took Лена's arm and as they walked out the door together, Alfred heard Belle ask Лена, "Hey, I heard about unique Riviera Nayarit vacations. You interested?"
Sunday, May 3, 2009
CLEVELAND ROCKS ROMANCE Contest
We’re now paperless—entries and responses all electronic.
Deadline to enter is June 1st, 2009
All entrants receive first-round judges’ scores and comments. Finalists receive a 1-page critique from the judging editor/agent. Winners receive refund of entry fee and winner logo graphic.
See our website for detailed rules and contest entry form. http://www.neorwa.com/
2009 Categories and Editor/Agent Judges
Contemporary Series/Category Romance Brenda Chin, Harlequin
Single Title Romance Susan Yates, The Wild Rose Press
Erotic Romance Kelli Kwiatkowski, Ellora’s Cave
First Declaration of Love Raelene Gorlinsky, Ellora’s Cave/Cerridwen Press
Historical Romance Rose Hilliard, St. Martin’s Press
Mainstream with Romantic Elements Diane Parkinson, The Wild Rose Press
Paranormal Romance Ethan Ellenberg, Ellenberg Literary Agency
Romantic Suspense Christine Witthohn, Book Cents Literary Agency
Young Adult Danielle Poisz, Pocket Books
Due to the publishing market, editors are subject to change without notice.
Entrants must be unpublished in book-length fiction (minimum 40,000 words) in the last five years.
Submit the first 6000 to maximum 7000 words, to a clear story break (such as a chapter break). A synopsis is optional; if you choose to include one, it may be no longer than 750 words, is not counted as part of the entry, and is unjudged.
“First Declaration of Love” category: Scene where the main protagonists first declare their love to each other. Maximum 500 words.
Entry must be in DOC or RTF format, and emailed as an attachment to ClevelandRocksRomance@gmail.com. Each entry must be accompanied by a completed Entry Form/Contestant's Agreement.
Fee: $25.00 ($15.00 for NEORWA Chapter members or contest judges)
“First Declaration of Love” category: If scene is from same manuscript entered in another category, there is an additional fee of only $8. If entering in this category only, regular fee is applicable.
Saturday, May 2, 2009
Help Brenda make a difference in the lives of her son and millions of others like him who live with diabetes by shopping at her Fifth Annual Online Auction to Benefit Diabetes Research.
Thanks to the donors and shoppers who support her year after year, Brenda has raised over $500,000 for diabetes research so far. Last year the auction raised $252,300.
The auction runs May 1 through May 31. Some items stay up for bid all month, others are special "one day" auctions. This auction is heavily supported by all aspects of the publishing industry. There are great items for authors, and many donated by authors, editors, agents: critiques, evaluations, books and classes. And for readers (and aren't we all readers?), lots of books and special gifts from favorite authors.
Ellora's Cave Publishing has several items up for bid:
~ Critique of a proposal (cover letter and three chapters) by our editors - bidding ends May 5.
~ Professional copy/line edit of a full manuscript
~ Set of 20 erotic romance anthologies