Books & Such Literary Management http://www.booksandsuch.com Tue, 31 May 2016 07:29:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 What Makes Me Cringe? http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/what-makes-me-cringe/ http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/what-makes-me-cringe/#comments Tue, 31 May 2016 07:29:48 +0000 http://www.booksandsuch.com/?p=27165 Blogger: Wendy Lawton

I’m heading out on a working vacation for two weeks, so I dusted off a post from about seven years ago that, unfortunately, still rings true. It’s especially timely in light of my absence. For the next …

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Blogger: Wendy Lawton

I’m heading out on a working vacation for two weeks, so I dusted off a post from about seven years ago that, unfortunately, still rings true. It’s especially timely in light of my absence. For the next couple of weeks I may not be able to join in the comments but I will read them when I return.

Many an agent blog talks about what writers do that make an agent cringe—everything from crazy queries to attention-seeking ruses. Addressing some of these issues makes great cautionary tales. Today, however, I’m going to talk about what we agents do that make us cringe.dreamstime_xs_29681039

I’m guessing that all of us start out with the noblest intentions: I will answer emails within twenty-four hours. I will never let a query sit longer than two weeks. If I meet a person at a writer’s conference and request material, I will put that at the top of the pile.

And then we wake up.

The universal fact of publishing is that each cog in this mighty machine is working at top capacity and still not getting the kind of traction we’d like to see. You’ve heard the numbers of projects editors handle. Agents are in the same boat. We can’t control the amount of work coming in—take queries, for instance—and we can’t always control our day-to-day schedule because much of our job revolves around averting crises and meeting immediate needs.  It means that we do the best we can and blush when we come up against our inadequacies.

So let me make this personal. These are the things that me cringe:

  • I cringe when I look at my pile of requested manuscripts. I have a basket in my office with some I’ve printed out, others are on my Kindle, others in a file on my computer desktop marked “To read/non-clients.” How I wish I could get to these quickly. Having been a writer, I can never forget that wait.
  • I cringe when I come back from a trip or a writer’s conference to 400+ emails. I know I can’t catch up and handle the new emails in a timely manner. The deluge of communication seems to increase each year.
  • I cringe when I’m distracted around people. I used to try to keep up with email while I was on the road, but I found it impossible to be “present” with the people I was visiting. I stopped trying to multi-task. I get more done when I’m focused. Besides, flesh-and-blood people are important.
  • I cringe when I’m at one of those conferences and meet a person to whom I didn’t respond in a timely manner. It’s especially painful when, had I had time to read their submissions, I would have offered representation.  But someone else beat me to it.
  • I cringe when I get a new proposal from one of my clients and have to put it in the queue. Clients often hope for immediate feedback. In a perfect world. . .

Cringing aside, part of my job is to prioritize. Each thing that crosses my desk is intuitively categorized—drop everything and put out the fire, do immediately, put this in the file and create a tickler, get to this when you can.

One of my clients gave me this set of Post-It notes that I love:

Post it Note Picture Med

After reading my list of regrets, you may wonder if I ever get anything done. I do and, on the whole, I do it successfully. I’ve had to learn to set aside my perfectionist tendencies, offer frequent mea culpas and repeat my favorite sayings, “It is what it is,” and “You can only do what you can do.”

How about you? What things do you wish you could do better?

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A Memorial Day Reflection http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/memorial-day-reflection/ http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/memorial-day-reflection/#comments Mon, 30 May 2016 01:11:14 +0000 http://www.booksandsuch.com/?p=27117 Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant

On this Memorial Day, I want to pause to reflect on what happens to us–the essence of our being–when we die. That might seem morbid, but I think the Bible gives us a beautiful portrayal of …

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Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant

On this Memorial Day, I want to pause to reflect on what happens to us–the essence of our being–when we die. That might seem morbid, but I think the Bible gives us a beautiful portrayal of what we transition to when we “shuffle off [our] mortal coil,” as Shakespeare expressed it.

Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15:36-43, asks about that transition and answers his own question this way:

But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.  When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. Not all flesh is the same: People have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor.garden flowers

So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body” (NIV).

When I recently read this passage, I paused to think about the analogy of a seed that Paul uses. What if, I speculated, our physical bodies are like seeds, which are sown when we die, and when we rise from death, that seed has blossomed into our resurrection bodies?

Seeds bear no resemblance to the plant that grows from them. A watermelon seed looks nothing like a watermelon. Jesus mentions the mustard seed and how it grows into a tree. An acorn is of good size, but that’s nothing compared to an oak tree. A sunflower seed is a far cry from the glorious stature and color of a sunflower. And, of course, the transition from physical to spiritual is a transformation that these analogies don’t begin to touch on.

I find it glorious to think that the physical being I am contains within it the seed of whom I will be. Those I love who have gone on before me rest now, but they, too, will burst forth in a rich array of spiritual beauty that contains their essence in a more beautiful expression than we can imagine.

What a glorious day that will be!

As you think about your loved ones today, on this memorial day of remembrance, ponder the splendor and extravagant creativity God will display, recreating us into all he ever had in mind for us to be. Hallelujah!

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Author Insecurity http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/author-insecurity/ http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/author-insecurity/#comments Fri, 27 May 2016 07:01:43 +0000 http://www.booksandsuch.com/?p=27156 Blogger: Rachel Kent

Insecurity is a common ailment for authors and it seems to strike strongly when a contract is signed. It is common for a client to come to me once the contract is final and need a boost …

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Blogger: Rachel Kent

Insecurity is a common ailment for authors and it seems to strike strongly when a contract is signed. It is common for a client to come to me once the contract is final and need a boost of encouragement as he/she gets started on completing the book.

For novelists, especially first time novelists, it is normal for the first book of a contract to already be completed–but the anxiety usually hits when the author realizes that he/she only has 9 months to a year to write book 2…and the same for book 3. Sometimes the first book took years to write and revise.

Nonfiction writers are most often given a contract based on a proposal and sample chapters. After a contract is signed, it’s common for an author to second guess if he/she can actually complete the full book–and/or if the writing will be strong enough when the book is finished.

What should you do when you are faced with this author insecurity? Here are a few pointers.

  • Talk to your agent! Your agent can also help you set up a schedule so you feel better about reaching your goals.
  • Pray for peace and strength and ask some close friends to keep you in prayer and to check in with you throughout the writing process.
  • Realize that your publishing house wouldn’t have contracted you if they didn’t like your writing style and believe in your ability to write the book and meet the deadline.
  • Don’t procrastinate. Get started with the writing right away and keep up your writing so that you will meet that deadline.

Unpublished authors face insecurity too, especially if a book isn’t getting the interest it likely deserves. The insecurity might make an author feel like giving up, but you too can pray about this insecurity and talk with some accountability partners about what you should do.

Have you faced author insecurity?

How do you deal with it?

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Reading is Therapeutic http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/reading-is-therapeutic/ http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/reading-is-therapeutic/#comments Thu, 26 May 2016 07:01:45 +0000 http://www.booksandsuch.com/?p=27147 Blogger: Mary Keeley

I’ve always found May to be a killer month of merging the family’s spring sports schedules, end-of-school-year events, wedding showers, and graduations with my normal work calendar and church commitments. I’m naturally task-oriented, which translates to adding …

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Blogger: Mary Keeley

I’ve always found May to be a killer month of merging the family’s spring sports schedules, end-of-school-year events, wedding showers, and graduations with my normal work calendar and church commitments. I’m naturally task-oriented, which translates to adding more without taking anything away. I have a habit of working until late into the night to reduce the stress of keeping up with it all. Last week I did something counter-intuitive. I added more reading to my to-do list and experienced tangible ways that reading is therapeutic.

Most of us aren’t equipped to maintain a non-stop pace for long, and historically I hit the wall by the end of May. This year I could see it coming once again but stopped in my tracks and plotted a different approach.

In addition to the extra May items on last week’s schedule, I deliberately Pleasure reading1read two novels. It was a test. We all enjoy reading for its relaxing, quiet pleasure. I decided to take it a step further to identify if reading actually is therapeutic in practical, productive ways.

Yes, by adding the extra reading time I was up late into the night, but the distraction of being completely absorbed in a story was better stress relief than the sleep I missed. Each morning I found myself:

  • Physically more relaxed
  • Emotionally calmer, less overwhelmed by my day’s to-do list
  • Mentally sharper and recharged for work

Bible readingI also spent more than the usual time in the Bible this past week. In his sermon last Sunday my pastor encouraged us to read and meditate on Chapter 15 in John’s Gospel. There is depth in that chapter that is easy to overlook until I read it over and over each day. I won’t expound. What I found will be different than what you might discover through that exercise because the Holy Spirit is so wonderfully personal.

Replacing my late-night work habit with extra pleasure-reading time resulted in being more productive during the day. I accomplished the same amount of work in less time and had a more relaxing finish to each day.

Am I a slow learner? Have you already experienced positive results by increasing your reading time? If you are task-oriented like I am, how do you de-stress? What is your busiest month of the year? Will you try this experiment to see if you experience the same tangible results? Which kinds of books or genres are your favorites for pleasant distraction?

TWEETABLES:

Reading is not only a pleasant pastime; one experiment found it’s therapeutic for busy times. Click to Tweet.

Recharge mentally, physically, and emotionally by adding more reading to an already busy schedule. Click to Tweet.

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When the Book Isn’t Selling to a Publisher http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/book-isnt-selling/ http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/book-isnt-selling/#comments Wed, 25 May 2016 05:12:04 +0000 http://www.booksandsuch.com/?p=27137 Blogger: Rachelle Gardner

Like any worthwhile endeavor, the job of being an agent has its upsides and downsides. But one of the hardest parts is when I know I have a good book that people will like, but publishers aren’t …

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Blogger: Rachelle Gardner

Like any worthwhile endeavor, the job of being an agent has its upsides and downsides. But one of the hardest parts is when I know I have a good book that people will like, but publishers aren’t biting. This is when the agent job requires passion and persistence. Not to mention creativity.

When all the publishers I’ve targeted for a certain book have declined, it’s time to go back to the drawing board. First I talk with the author about why this might be happening. It could be any number of reasons, for example:

→ The author doesn’t have a big enough platform to impress the publishers

→ The book has a fatal flaw in form or content

→ The book has a strong premise but weak execution, or vice versa

→ The market isn’t open to that type of book

→ There are too many books of that type on the market so the bar is very high

tug of war ropeI’ve dealt with all of the above issues on books I’ve represented. The author and I try to determine which obstacles we can overcome, and which we can’t. If there are problems with the book itself, we first have to go in and try to fix the problems. Then I have to find more publishers to whom we can submit.

Sometimes it’s a timing issue. I have one book that we started submitting six months ago and we got nothing but rejections. But I’m seeing some changes on the horizon, whispers on the wind of the social landscape that tells me this book may have it’s time… in a few more months. So we’re doing a few things: improving the book, coming up with a better list of publishers, and keeping up with the news to try and determine when the right time will be to send this out again.

Sometimes, especially on fiction, editors aren’t impressed enough with the writing. That particular book might not end up being published. But I’m encouraging my client to work on that second (or third or fourth) book. If I represent them, it’s because I believe they can write publishable books, so we’ll keep going.

The point is that it’s challenging for both authors and agents when the book doesn’t seem to be selling to a publisher, and the real work begins. Trying to figure out why, and what to do about it. Keeping our spirits up and remaining persistent. I have a trite-sounding saying on the wall of my office: “NO = Next Opportunity.” Cheesy, but it’s true.

This is one of the reasons it’s so important that I only take on projects I truly believe in. When it comes to this part, the hard part, my belief in the author and the project will motivate me to keep going, keep pounding the pavement to sell that book… even when I feel like I’m pounding my head against a wall.

Some of you have been in this situation (or you currently are). If so, take heart: you’re not alone. It’s just one more challenge in this exciting world we call book publishing.

Have you had to deal with challenges like this in publishing? How did you deal with it?

 

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A Season of Writing http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/a-season-of-writing/ http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/a-season-of-writing/#comments Tue, 24 May 2016 07:09:58 +0000 http://www.booksandsuch.com/?p=27129 Blogger: Wendy Lawton

Summer officially begins in a little less than a month. Of course, we all know that with Memorial Day the season really begins, regardless of what the calendar says. We sense those things that mark the real …

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Blogger: Wendy Lawton

Summer officially begins in a little less than a month. Of course, we all know that with Memorial Day the season really begins, regardless of what the calendar says. We sense those things that mark the real seasonal shifts. Summer starts when prom dresses and corsages are carefully put away, when school lets out, when graduations take place and when the beach starts calling our name. Autumn is ushered in by school clothes shopping, fall foliage and the first day of school. Winter comes on the heels of Thanksgiving, as soon as we start hearing Christmas music, right? And spring? Well, spring is deferent for every climate zone. It happens when green begins to push from brown or through snow.dreamstime_xs_17872734

It’s funny that this summer caught me unprepared. I think I’ve been so busy, head down, nose to the grindstone that, until I began to see prom and graduation pictures on Facebook, I would have sworn we were still in April. But for those of us in the publishing industry, summer marks a whole different rhythm. It started last week for me. We had deadlines for having our material ready for ICRS (The Christian publishing industry trade show) and the stream of email slowed somewhat. It’s like everyone is making the season shift.

It started me thinking. What are the best seasons for writing? What are the hardest seasons? I found reasons for and against each season. For instance:

Winter is the perfect time to hole up in a cozy office and write. Traditionally storytellers seem to gravitate to long nights and a warm fire.

But on the other hand, in western culture Winter can be our busiest time with Christmas, New Years parties, endless church activities, school pageants, gift buying, card sending. . . need I go on?

Spring seems to mark a sense of rebirth, new ideas and the return of writing conferences. It’s a season of possibilities.

But conversely spring brings Easter and all that entails, spring break, spring cleaning, garden chores, science fair, dance recitals and any number of responsibilities, depending on what stage of life one is in.

Summer. Ahh, summer. We can move our writing out onto the deck or take ourselves to a hideaway by the lake. The days are so much longer that we can practically meet our writing word goals almost done before anyone else is awake.

Of course summer may mean the kids are home from school. Grade school children are usually bored by the third day of summer vacation. Teens seem to sleep forever, draping themselves over every piece of furniture in the house. And food! It feels like all we do is create meals. Add in vacation travel, VBS, family visitors from afar, slumber parties and barbecues and summer is gone before we know it.

Autumn may be the perfect time. I’ve always felt that the Tuesday following Labor Day is the real start of a new year. In the days when we had children starting school, Keith and I would always go out to breakfast that first day of school, after dropping the kids off. A new beginning. Quiet once more. Perfect weather, not too hot, not too cold. Glorious color.

That’s not to forget that autumn marks harvest and if we garden or preserve food or stock the freezer, it is a busy, busy time. And when we begin to think of relatives coming from far away, we look at the walls and decide we must get a coat of paint on them. Many of us have to start making meals ahead for the family we will abandon for November’s NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).

All that to say, I couldn’t settle on the perfect season. I decided to put it to you. Give me your own pros and cons. Is there a season better for writing than another? What is the worst season for you? Do deadlines render this moot? Please chime in. I’m curious.

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Ending Well http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/ending-well/ http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/ending-well/#comments Mon, 23 May 2016 01:37:54 +0000 http://www.booksandsuch.com/?p=27100 Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant

Over the last several months a number of long-running TV series have broadcast their finale, and a couple are about to broadcast their grand ending. Because the majority of them didn’t end well, this seems like …

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Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant

Over the last several months a number of long-running TV series have broadcast their finale, and a couple are about to broadcast their grand ending. Because the majority of them didn’t end well, this seems like a good opportunity to ask, What can you learn about ending your book–or series–well?

Let’s take a look at some popular series to examine their final episodes.

Downton Abbey

Based on what I’ve read on Facebook about Downton Abbey’s concluding episode, most fans thought it ended well. But I wonder if viewers weren’t more relieved that no beloved character was killed off rather than actually satisfied with the ending. Downton had been known to break many a heart when lead characters met with death; so viewers had good reason to be nervous. (e.g., Matthew Crawley *sniff*–I still haven’t recovered from that betrayal.)dead end sign

For me, I found the conclusion a yawner, laced with a few sweet moments. The cadence of the ending became clear early on–the viewers would be paraded past a line up of characters and learn what the future held for each. I was reminded of a general moving down a line of soldiers, pinning a medal on each one. Such an obvious structure had my eyes drooping shut. To me, the most fetching scene was when Daisy revealed her stylish haircut.

Ending well? Not in my book.

Possible solution? Start to close the series earlier than the last episode, allowing characters to drift off the show or move into their new roles in the household. The producers knew before the season even began that they were going to shut down the show; why wait until the last couple of hours to bring closure to each and every character? Give us the luxury of soaking in where each character is headed.

Lesson: If you write a series, enter into the plotting process for your last book realizing that tying bows on each plot point in the last chapter isn’t satisfying or even all that interesting to the reader. Allow some characters’ to exit stage left before the very end. If you’re writing a single title, you’re unlikely to have as much to wrap up, but give us a sense that the story is starting to wind down before the last few pages.

The Good Wife

For those of you who haven’t watched this fictitious series, The Good Wife recounted how Alicia Florrick, wife of the governor of Illinois, stood by her man when he was indicted for corrupt and illegal behavior. For the next six years, viewers watched Alicia move from being a “manikin,” who behaved in ways that others expected, to discovering who she really was. She went on to join a law firm and to gain confidence in her ability to think fast and creatively while dealing with office politics, her husband’s political machinations, or dramatic court moments, all the while maintaining ethical stands when faced with a choice. Alicia had well-defined behavioral boundaries, and all the other characters knew it.

But in the last year of the series, Alicia questioned why she kept on being so good when that behavior didn’t seem to serve her well. So she started to lie and connive, but all the while seemed to be sleepwalking, like she was just as lost as she had been in the first episode.

In the final episode, Alicia decides, whenever faced with a choice, to take the me-first road. As it turned out, that didn’t serve her well either.

The first time Alicia lied, I felt betrayed by the writers. Why did they take a basic characteristic of the lead character and make her behave in a way she never would have through five previous years? Alicia had plenty of character flaws to draw from; a new one didn’t need to be created. It seemed as if the producers had decided to dismantle the person everyone who watched the show admired.

Ending well? Not only not ending well but also ending with a confusing scene the viewer would be hard-pressed to know what to do with.

Possible solution (and the lesson): Let the character remain true to who she is. There were plenty of flaws and complex relationships to explore. Don’t stretch the viewer’s (or reader’s) credulity by causing the character to veer off a path that seemed inherent in how that person had responded to circumstances; it makes the character much less likeable. And readers hate being betrayed that way.

Wallander

This BBC production starred Kenneth Branagh, one of the finest actors today. Kurt Wallander is a Swedish detective in this gloomy mystery series based on books written by a Sweden novelist. The setting generally is bleak and dark, with lots of wintery scenes. Not much snow, just brown, windy landscapes. Once you envision that, you understand the tenor of the show.

Wallander is an unhappy man, whom Branagh describes as “an existenialist who is questioning what life is about and why he does what he does every day, and for whom acts of violence never become normal. There is a level of empathy with the victims of crime that is almost impossible to contain, and one of the prices he pays for that sort of empathy is a personal life that is a kind of wasteland.” The fourth season concludes May 22, and I’m writing this post before I have the chance to view it. But I certainly see where the series is going with the character.

Wallander has always been a fascinating character to watch, but not one I’ve felt a particular empathy for. He has a strong dark side, making him a person one watches from a distance.

Nonetheless, this final season has been difficult watch–although it’s also fascinating, akin to watching a train about to run off the tracks. Wallander is showing strong signs of having Alzheimer’s. His inability to stay focused on tracking down a murderer, paying attention to investigative detail, and forgetting clues until someone reminds him, are just plain sad. Viewers are spending the season watching the decline of an astute character.

Ending well? Not.

Lesson: It’s hard to choose which is worse, having a character die suddenly and traumatically or watching one slip away. While Downton Abbey did away with characters with aplomb, Wallander is doing so agonizingly. Neither is likely to leave the viewer (or reader) satisfied. Every time I watch the next episode on Wallander, I recall how Inspector Morris ended abruptly when Morris died of a heart attack while investigating a murder. Somehow that was okay, albeit unexpected. When it comes to doing away with a major character, it seems almost a kindness to let them slip away while on the job, but not killed by a murderous rogue or a violent car accident right after a joyous moment (my thoughts are drifting back to Matthew Crawley in Downton). “Let the reader down gently” might be the best advise. Unless, of course, you’re writing a gritty story. In terms of the bleak tone of Wallander, this might be the “right” way to close it out, but it certainly isn’t satisfying for the viewer.

Mr. Selfridge

Another BBC production, Mr. Selfridge follows the rise and fall of Mr. Harry Gordon Selfridge, an American who opened an eponymous department store in London. With flair, imagination and sometimes sense of creating a circus atmosphere with store events, the character is fun although sometimes frustrating in his life choices. But he is consistently up for taking a risk despite all the naysayers who remind him of what he could lose if his latest harebrained scheme goes awry.

Based on a real-life person, it’s fascinating to watch how the real Selfridge revamped our shopping experience even today in significant ways. He brought such innovations as having perfume and cosmetics at the store’s entry point to sweep the shopper away from the horse-dung odors of the street and into the fragrances of a grand shopping experience; he used elevators to transport shoppers from floor to floor (the series starts in the 1910s); he offered goods on sale for Christmas (and invented the phrase “only ____ shopping days left before Christmas”); he allowed customers to handle the goods rather than having the items kept behind counters with the salesperson showcasing what he or she thought the customer would want, etc.

After the first episode of Mr. Selfridge, I looked up online about the real Harry Selfridge and learned that, while he was incredibly innovative and successful, eventually he became a pauper who lost it all when he took up with twin showgirls, the Dolly sisters, and financed their love of exquisite jewelry and their exorbitant gambling habits–along with his own.

So, when we reached this season four, which will be the final season, I entered into it with reluctance. I like Harry, despite his infatuations with women and his devil-may-care approach to life. I wasn’t sure I was ready to see Jeremy Piven, who stars as Selfridge, standing across the street from his magnificent store, wearing a worn-out top-hat and looking longingly at what he had created and lost.

But I have hope that the show will deviate from real-life for its finale, broadcast on May 22. From what I can divine from my online snooping, Selfridge falls in love with a woman who once was his nemesis, an extremely wealthy but unhappy woman, Lady Mae Loxley. Despite her shrewd manipulations of others, I’ve always admired Lady Mae’s quick wit and wry observances of others’ quirks–and weaknesses. As the show has progressed she’s turned into a much nicer person after life taken her through considerable sadness and betrayals.

I’m hopeful (could it be!?) that Mr. Selfridge will have a satisfying ending. What would make it so? If Harry allowed himself to admit he loves Mae and lets the Dolly sisters drift on to take advantage of some other rich man who loves risk more than anything else in life. I want to see Mr. Selfridge find redemption from the demons that have haunted him from the beginning of his life. Not to find perfection, but to find a person, at last, he can allow himself to just be Harry with.

Lesson: Let the viewer or (reader) enjoy a believable but redemptive closing with a flawed character who manages to make a good choice because of the insight he or she has gained through all of the plot’s hills and valleys.

What TV show or film’s ending worked for you? Why?

What TV show or film didn’t end well for you? What would have made the conclusion more satisfying?

How can you apply those insights to your WIP?

TWEETABLES

What TV shows’ endings can teach you about writing well. Click to tweet.

What makes a book’s ending satisfying? Learn from TV shows. Click to tweet.

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Making Changes http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/making-changes/ http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/making-changes/#comments Fri, 20 May 2016 07:01:50 +0000 http://www.booksandsuch.com/?p=27096 Blogger: Rachel Kent

Sometimes authors are faced with the decision to keep a query letter or project as is or to revise. Most authors feel pretty confident about the direction of a project when the project is sent out. It …

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Blogger: Rachel Kent

Sometimes authors are faced with the decision to keep a query letter or project as is or to revise. Most authors feel pretty confident about the direction of a project when the project is sent out. It has gone through revisions and most of the time has received some sort of critique before submission. So how do you evaluate when you should do a revision? Here are a few tips.

Revise your query/project when:

  1. Your query letter isn’t getting any attention. Either your query is written poorly or your project doesn’t have a unique angle or hook. If both your query and idea are strong and unique, you’ll get some requests for proposals.
  2. You are getting proposal requests and your proposal gets detailed feedback from one or more agents/editors. Take what they have to say into account and revise and resubmit. Agents and editors are not going to take the time to give detailed feedback on every project they see. Something about your idea is special if they are taking the time to send revision advice.
  3. Your proposal is requested from your query letter, but then it is rejected over and over again without feedback. This means something in your query letter is sparking interest, but your proposal isn’t presenting it in the way the editors/agents were expecting. Take some time to explore where the disconnect is and revise the proposal accordingly.

Do not revise after a single rejection or even a few rejections. Not every editor/agent is looking for the same thing. Your project might be an excellent fit for one agent and isn’t interesting at all to another. Sometimes it is just a matter of finding the right person to champion your project. Be willing to revise, but not too eager to do so.

Have you ever experienced one of the examples in 1,2 or 3? Did you choose to revise? Why or why not?

Is there another scenario that would cause you to revise your project?

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Engagement http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/engagement/ http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/engagement/#comments Thu, 19 May 2016 07:36:43 +0000 http://www.booksandsuch.com/?p=27084 Blogger: Mary Keeley

When you read the title of today’s post, Engagement, did your thoughts turn immediately to your audience? No wonder if you did; we stress the importance of engaging your readers frequently on this blog. The topic of …

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Blogger: Mary Keeley

When you read the title of today’s post, Engagement, did your thoughts turn immediately to your audience? No wonder if you did; we stress the importance of engaging your readers frequently on this blog. The topic of one of the sessions at Book Expo America last week created a vision that engagement has as much to do with businesses and libraries as it does with readers. I want to pass it on to you for consideration.

Shop-Local Movement

On the first day of BEA Stacey Mitchell, co-director of the Institute for engagementLocal Self-Reliance, gave a plenary talk titled “Meeting the New Localism Challenge: Protecting and Promoting Communities and Local Economies.” Her topic, about which she is passionate, reminded me of a blog I posted over a year ago, “Adopt a Cause,” in which I suggested ways for authors to grow your author platform while also serving a worthwhile cause.

Stacey shared several noteworthy statistics to support her stance on the movement. I didn’t attend the session, but in Judith Rosen’s PW online article Stacey is quoted as saying that since 2009, 660 new independent bookstores opened, the number of local farmers markets has grown 21 percent, and the number of local independent coffee shops grew at one and a half times the rate of Starbucks. According to the article Stacey reported that people are not only buying locally but also investing locally, citing examples in Minneapolis, Cleveland, Phoenix, and San Francisco. Read the article to learn what’s happening in these cities.

So how can you, an author, appropriate this local movement idea for your author platform?

  • Research the shop-local movement so you can speak intelligently about the potential win-win benefits for everyone. You’ll need to be ready with answers to their questions in order to engage their interest. You know, knowledge is power.
  • Take what you’ve learned and think of creative, new events to propose, based on what is popular in your community, but with a fresh twist. Use the information you have to come up with creative, plausible ideas you can work on together to draw people to your events and purchase your books as well as products from their local store.
  • Next, contact chambers of commerce in your vicinity. Find out if they have launched a shop-local movement in their community, and tell them what you’ve learned in your research. Online shopping, from Amazon in particular, has taken a toll on small businesses. Showing them viable ways you and local business owners can work together to stimulate sales is the surest way to gain their support and engagement.
  • Work with local bookstores and libraries. They are striving to stay current with technology and provide goods and services their local patrons desire. Offer to work with them to arrange events that are both appealing to patrons and relevant to your next book. At the very least, your contact with them will be a step forward in building relationships with these important people in your area, people who could become your strongest influencers for your word-of-mouth campaign when the book releases.

Encouragement was in the air at BEA, and it’s been promising to learn about publishers launching creative partnerships and new imprints, because creativity is a must in this industry today. The shop-local cause may be a means for you to put creative ideas to good use for mutual benefit. Who knows, you may become a celebrity in your local area, which is a solid foundation on which to grow your platform.

Are you up for thinking creatively about how this idea could work for you in your community? Have you had past experience partnering on events in your local library or bookstore? Or another store? Tell us about it. What is your biggest obstacle keeping you from pursuing this idea?

TWEETABLES:

Authors, here is one way to engage local businesses and libraries to grow your platform. Click to Tweet.

How can authors get businesses and libraries on board to promote your book? Here is one idea. Click to Tweet.

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Pitching at a Conference http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/pitching-at-a-conference/ http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/pitching-at-a-conference/#comments Wed, 18 May 2016 05:00:51 +0000 http://www.booksandsuch.com/?p=27071 Blogger: Rachelle Gardner

Recently I was asked whether a “newbie” unpublished author should pitch during their one-on-one appointments at a writers’ conference, or simply use the time to get to know an agent/editor and learn more about the process.

In …

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Blogger: Rachelle Gardner

Recently I was asked whether a “newbie” unpublished author should pitch during their one-on-one appointments at a writers’ conference, or simply use the time to get to know an agent/editor and learn more about the process.

In the past I’ve advised newer writers that it’s okay to spend the one-on-one time telling about their project, and asking for feedback about story or marketability, rather than simply trying to sell it. In other words, use the meeting to learn more about how your own writing fits (or doesn’t fit) into the larger publishing arena. As an in-house editor, I never minded when writers used my appointment time to pick my brain and gather good feedback about their project. And of course, if it interested me enough, I asked them to send it to me.

But there are other opinions out there.

I was with several New York agents at a recent conference, all mainstream (not CBA) agents, and their stance was firm:

meeting“Do NOT take up my valuable appointment time if you don’t have something to pitch me that’s ready to sell. I am spending my time and money to be at this conference, I’m here to find new clients, and those one-on-one meetings are my only chance. Use other times—panel discussions, mealtimes—to get your questions answered. The appointments are for pitching only.”

That had never been my stance. And yet… as someone who really does spend my own money to go to a conference, and my own time away from my family since it’s usually on a weekend… I can see the point. If I don’t find a solid business prospect at a conference, then I have to question my decision to be there (unless I’m primarily there to support my clients who are present, which is sometimes the case).

So now I have to tell you, I’m not sure how to answer the question. There are bound to be editors and agents who don’t mind if you use the time to get more general feedback about your project. There are also going to be those who prefer to take appointments only with people who have something to pitch.

Here is the safe answer:

Editors: It’s probably okay to make an appointment with them even if you’re not quite ready to sell your project. You could still pitch it and get their feedback, and learn something about your market, your genre or your idea.

Agents: Probably safer to make an appointment only if you are ready for agent representation.
This is when you have a completed, polished manuscript (fiction), or a completed, polished book proposal and 3 sample chapters (nonfiction).

And about those incomplete novels: Be aware that an agent or editor can’t evaluate it until it’s complete. The best you can hope for is someone will say, “Send it to me when it’s finished.”

Someone else asked me about pitching at meals, saying they’d heard that you should only do it if the tables are each hosted by a faculty member. This is good advice. But in all cases at conferences (as in life) just try to use your best judgment. If an opportunity presents itself where it seems an agent or editor would be receptive to your pitch, go for it. Look around you, gauge the situation, figure out if you will have the time and the attention of the agent/editor, and make your decision.

And hey, don’t be so hard on yourself if somebody tells you that you “did it wrong” or “broke a rule.” If you are polite, smiling, and kind (never pushy or overbearing), that goes a long way toward smoothing over any perceived protocol breaches.

Sorry if all of this is confusing, but conflicting advice is everywhere and there is not always a single right answer to questions!

What are your comments or questions about those one-on-one meetings at conferences? Do you do them? Do you like them? What kind of results have you gotten?
 

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