Thursday, July 28, 2011

Getting Published

There's a concept we need to get a handle on,  "Publishing isn't a selection process . . . it is a survival process." 

Really?- Yes, I believe the biggest secret to publishing is the ability to get the RIGHT PRODUCT to the RIGHT PERSON at the RIGHT PLACE at exactly the RIGHT TIME.  There are bestseller quality manuscripts that will never be published because the only person who can write them never makes this elusive connection. They give up.

You see, the odds on all four of these ingredients being in place when we make a submission is not good, so even if we are pitching a wonderful project it is going to miss on one of these a lot of the time. That's when we hear the dreaded "Sorry, not a fit for us at the present time."

We all know some books that were printed that we wonder about.  The only reason for that is that it was the right subject and it hit the person, place and time.  Maybe we send a much better book on the same topic right after it has been purchased and is on its way to press.  Since ours is much better they'll stop the presses and do ours instead, right?

Wrong, hitting all four of these correctly is the whole game, miss any one of the four and it's NO SALE, no matter how good the manuscript is.  It's like a jigsaw puzzle that has several dozen pieces, and if one is missing the puzzle can't be finished - which means publishing doesn't happen.  MOST OF THE TIME these pieces are not all there.  We're hunting that elusive place where all the pieces fit.  

So, how do we improve the odds?  How do we rule out sending to the wrong places?  How do we give our manuscript a better shot when it gets there?  I believe it means being brutally honest about our work, and about how it is going to be looked at.  This is no place for rose-colored glasses or unrealistic optimism.  Sometimes we have trouble really hearing feedback we get on our project because we think we pretty well have it nailed, but do we?

Or does it need some work in order to be the "right product"? Have we really done the research necessary to insure we are sending to the "right person" at the "right place"? If we have, then telling them what we found out that makes us feel it to be true is very valuable in a pitch.

Then finally is our pitch itself helping or hurting us? Does it present us as a seasoned professional (even if we aren't we should look like one)? If you need a little help on your pitch or your proposal I do have a book on the topic entitled "A Writer's Survival Guide to Publication" that can walk you through the process a point at a time. You can find it at Amazon or in the bookstore at my website at  - or there are a number of other good books on the subject.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Bad Submissions

It happens every day.

I open my inbox and there they are, submissions that shouldn't even be there. There's really no excuse for it. Our submission guidelines are very clear on markets that we don't work in at present. Not that we have anything against them, just that we can't spread ourselves that thin and have to make some choices. It says at present we aren't working in sci-fi or fantasy, in markets for children (below middle reader), poetry, short fiction, screenplays, scripts or magazine articles. It says we are probably not the right place for your literary fiction nor for books with extraordinary violence, profanity or gratuitous  sexuality. It's all spelled out.

So why do people send them anyway? They wouldn't apply for a job without reading a want ad or something that would tell them what the job is so they would know whether it was worth their time to apply or not. The submission guidelines at our agency as well as other agencies or publishing houses are our 'want ads' as to what we are looking to see.

Maybe it is a genre we would consider but it is simply not ready to submit. Maybe the word count is way too large for any market we work in or perhaps too small. It could be the formatting is just not professional or that it has far too many typos, grammar problems, opens too slow or doesn't have good story flow.  Someone sent it before it was ready, and such a submission just can't compete with others that are coming in polished to a fine point needing little work from an overworked editor or agent.

It could also be that it is just not unique enough. It is unfortunate that we often see a large number of people choosing to write very similar books at exactly the same time. Something probably happened in the news that gave each of them a similar idea. It isn't their fault that they have spent a huge amount of time writing a book that a thousand other people were writing as well. No way to know. Not fair. But the reality is that the first books to get to the market get the contracts then the market is saturated. Any time we start opening submissions that are too much like a bunch of others we are receiving, it tells us the market is not going to be there because everybody else is also receiving the same type of submissions.

It's hard for a writer to have someone pass on taking their work, but guess what? It's hard on us too. It's depressing to have to spend the morning turning down submission after submission, knowing that it isn't just a letter but the actual hopes and dreams of the author. Even when it something that should not have been sent in the first place it takes time to work and it takes a toll on us having to do it as well.

I don't understand why people don't check submission guidelines and send what editors and agents want in the manner that they wish to receive them. Failing to do so can't help but make the recipient wonder if the person who doesn't look at, or even worse ignores the guidelines, would be a difficult author to try and work with. I wonder about that when my guidelines say I don't take hard copy submissions and people send them anyway. Why?

I hate proposals pasted into an email. They are hard to read and generally it destroys the formatting. Some people WANT to receive them that way, but that information is readily available in the submission guidelines as to who wants it which way. A proposal is a single, well-formatted document that looks professional, not a dozen files attached or a link to a place online where you can find the information. We can't pitch a project that way so those are useless to us.

I suppose it boils down to the fact that I turn very few projects down. A lot of what is coming in takes itself out of consideration. Some days we get more than others, such as today, which prompted this little epistle. But then there is the submission that is beautifully prepared and formatted, that tells me why the person submitting thinks I am the right choice for it, what it is and the word count. I'm interested. The 2-3 page synopsis tells me it might be a unique story idea. I'm intrigued. The first page pulls me in and and by page ten I am invested in the story. I'm hooked into asking for the full. The flow, the voice and the story do not let me down.

Those are the submissions we are digging through the pile looking for. And that's what the clients I represent used to make me a believer in their work.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Don't read this if you don't want to talk about politics

Here’s what I want,

I don’t support either party, I am a lifelong independent and I’m not all that happy with either party but I am diametrically opposed to liberals wanting to give us more and bigger government no matter which party they are in, and they are in both.

I don’t believe it is about raising the debt ceiling and defaulting on debt, the government has enough money coming in to take care of current bills. I believe it is about giving the government even more money to spend after they have already spent like drunken sailors. The amount the government has to spend should be cut, not expanded. Both sides are playing politics for the next election, not trying to fix the problem and treating us like idiots trying to manipulate us doesn't go over well with this country boy.

If we can identify a list of billions in duplicated services why didn’t Congress or the administration go to work eliminating the duplications THE SAME DAY IT CAME OUT. I want that done NOW.

Why do we keep giving money to people all over the world when most of them don’t like us. I think we ought to stop doing that TODAY. I particularly don’t understand giving foreign aid to China so they can turn around and loan it to us at loan shark interest rates. How insane is that?

I do think the rules should be changed so that Congress cannot exempt themselves from all the laws they pass and yes, I think that means they ought to have to be on social security and the same health care as the rest of us. They'd have more insights into the problems the ordinary citizens have if they had the same problems. Also I don’t believe serving one term in Congress should entitle them to a big pension the rest of their life, that is disgraceful. People in the real world have to work many years to earn a pension.

If nearly 10% of the people in this country are out of work why aren’t 10% of the bureaucrats laid off too? There’s some significant savings right there.

I support a balanced budget amendment. That forces politicians to toe the line here in Texas and it works very well. Families have to live within their budget, no choice, and government should as well.

I do not support raising taxes on anybody, but I would support tax reform to get rid of our jumbled tax code in favor of a flat tax that EVERYONE pays.

I do support repealing the health care law and starting over from scratch.

I know that “separation of church and state” means the government should not mandate religion, it doesn’t mean Christians should not have a say in the way they are represented and it DOES NOT MEAN EVERY VESTAGE OF FAITH SHOULD BE REMOVED  from our buildings, from our money, from the pledge of allegiance and from all of the other places we seem dead set on causing that to happen. This has always been a Christian nation and while we have always felt that freedom means everyone could worship who they wish and how they wish, I am very, very upset that the government seems to be setting itself up as an opponent of Christianity.

I believe in standing with Israel, philosophically and from a religious standpoint. I have no confidence that our current leadership will do that.

I believe in the constitution and resist any efforts to do so many things which are not in the spirit of that document. More and more I see actions being taken that in my mind are unconstitutional and nobody is standing up and challenging that.

I’m sorry, but I can’t trust a President who surrounds himself with advisors who are raving liberals instead of people who have down to earth experience in some of the problem areas we are trying to navigate.

They tell me the election will depend on where the independents choose to place their vote. I don’t know how other independents feel but I have no interest at all in campaign rhetoric, I care about what people are doing right now to cut our debt and DRASTICALLY reduce spending, to grow jobs, and who are working to get us off this radical liberal course we seem dead set on achieving.

I almost never blog on politics, too volatile, and gets in the way of other things I am involved in, but I believe now and then we just need to stand up and be counted. So, politicians on both sides, want my vote? Quit politicking and clean this mess up.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Let's talk about movies for writers.

Today I'm taking my agent hat (the really nice silver beaver stetson) off and I'm putting on my writing hat ( the battered sweat-stained Stetson). Yes, I'm thinking more as a writer. You see, I collect movies that I think have a particular lesson to teach to writers or that I think contain some good examples for writers. Today I'm going to give you a top ten list in my mind of such movies.

My personal favorite writer movie is "Sixth Sense" with Bruce Willis. It made the list when I was so thoroughly fooled by the plot resolution and had to immediately watch it again to see if I had been fooled all along or if they had simply lied to me. Going back the clues are all there, they simply push me gently to make false assumptions, which I did. This would be an important skill for a writer.

I guess I would give second place to "Deathtrap" with Michael Cain and Christopher Reeves. I got to see it off Broadway and a road show version as well as the movie. In it, an old experienced writer (Cain) is undergoing writers block and is attempting to steal the work of Reeves (and kill him) as he mentors him. The mentoring is great for writers watching, but the  amazing constant plot reversals is the real lesson. 

3. If we are studying plot reversals and gently misleading the reader or viewer I would submit that the next things to study are virtually any movie by Alfred Hitchcock. He was an absolute master at giving us a minimum of visual clues and engaging our own imaginations. He scared an entire generation to death with a shadow on a shower curtain and a little cake coloring in a bathtub drain in "Psycho"  with Janet Leigh.

4. Perhaps his best in my mind is "North by Northwest" with Cary Grant and Eve St Marie. This one has witty dialogue and maintains an absolute breakneck pace. A great study in how to keep the reader/viewer into the story without respite.

5. A close one to that would be "Vertico" with Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak. This one is the exact opposite of the above with slow, surreal scenes that nonetheless that shows how to keep the reader/viewer glued to the storyline

6. "Murder 101" with Pierce Brosnen. He was a college professor lecturing on how to write a murder mystery even as the steps he was lecturing on was happening to him in real life. It's an excellent writer's movie as it actually shows story structure plot point by plot point.

7. "Adaptation" with Nicholas Cage and Meryl Streep is a story of a writer hired to adapt a bestselling book to the screen only to find it is absolutely un-filmable. The insights of the writer in the movie is terrific for those struggling with the craft. [storyline]

8, "Delirious" with John Candy is a study in rewrites. It's kind of a goofy thing but it is a good study in plot development. 

9. "Stranger than Fiction" with Will Ferrell is a study in narration (that only he can hear) and really shows us what the text we write (as opposed to dialogue and action) really is to the reader. [narration] 

10. "Funny Farm" with Chevy Chase shows a writer dealing with writers block (a favorite topic for writers) and how easy he was to distract from his task [writers block]. 

There are a dozen other Hitchcock movies such as "Rear Window" or "The Birds" that could have just as easily made the list. Some other movies that make various top ten lists for movies for writers include "Finding Neverland," where Johnny Depp plays playwright J.M.Barrie and is a fascinating look how storylines are developed as he comes up with his play Peter Pan. [storyline] "All the Presidents Men," "Almost Famous," "Capote," "Factotum," "Frida," "The Hours," (Saundra and I hosted the author of that bestseller at a conference although we didn't really care for the book and haven't seen the movie) and "Stone Reader". Some of these I have seen (or read the book) and some I haven't.

I spend my day immersed in writing or writing-related tasks. To "turn it off" I have to watch something that can get my mind off it. If I can do that and still learn something about my craft, more the better. I do collect these DVD's and I'm always on the lookout for more. Is there anything you would recommend for the list?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Client Richard Brown's new title releases

Trusting God With the Rest of Your Life, a new book from author Richard Brown is set to release July 4th from Crossover Publications. Publisher Randall Mooney said, "I believe it is a really great book and can help a lot of "mature" folks mature in Christ even more. Of all the great moments in the book I still chuckle at 'Remember Lot's Wife's Husband.' I pray God opens the doors for this work in more ways than we can make happen on our own."

Richard has been a Youth Pastor/Christian Education Director (5 years), a Senior Pastor (19 years), college professor and Dean of the Simpson Graduate School of Ministry (12 years), then moved to Vice President of Spiritual Formation (1 year) which was ultimately joined to his present position as Vice President for Student Development at Simpson University, Redding, California. During those years of pastoring and teaching, he had an up-close look at the faith development (or lack of development) in many lives. This experience gave him plenty of illustrations to use of people who did or did not learn to trust God with the rest of their life.