Tuesday, March 27, 2012

I represent Cinderella

This is just too cool not to pass on.

Yes, it is true, I do represent Cinderella. Intrigued? There's more.

I also represent Sleeping Beauty, Ariel the Little Mermaid, and Alice in Wonderland. Is that a celebrity lineup or what? How many agents can say they represent such an amazing group?

How could this be?

A new client, Jenny Hammerle, used to work at Walt Disney World-Orlando while she was in college and had the pleasure of being each of these famous ladies. Her time in the 'magic kingdom' may have played a role in the way she writes for young people. Her young adult series "Redneck Debutante" is already under serious consideration by a publisher.

Jenny will be a delightful addition to my client group and as to the other ladies mentioned above? I believe that does give me bragging rights on them.

But if you have always been holding out for Prince Charming? Give it up. She married him . . . literally.

The actual picture of the two is above.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Writing an exceptional book

I have been leading an online workshop for the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) on "Writing to Reach the Unbeliever", and I have been very pleased with the way people have been able to take from each post  what they need whether that is the type of book they are interested in writing or not. I will continue to try to address the subject I’ve been tasked with presenting, but hopefully it will continue to address a broader need if that is what is required.

In the course we’ve talked about the fact that the story is what is important, that we can’t give any message to anybody if we can’t keep them invested in the story so if down the road if they do encounter some faith content they will simply have to stay with the story. This is a subject that is important to all stories, however, not just to reaching nonbelievers. At the conference I just left I made the point to the group that I get several hundred submissions a month and obviously can’t take that many. I know a lot of writers feel that most of what is being submitted is not really that good,  so they are not really up against  that much competition, but I’m afraid that is just not true. Much of what I am seeing are good books, many worthy of being published. But I can’t take on that many. Other agents and editors are seeing the same thing, large numbers, much more than they can handle.

This means a good book is not good enough. It has to be exceptional. That’s what we are looking for, that book that stands out from the other submissions the way a llama would stand out in a flock of sheep. (An illustration I used at the last conference) At another conference I told all the attendees that a good book was just not good enough and of the hundreds that heard me say that one young lady came to her appointment the next day and said, “I don’t want to pitch my book, instead, could you tell me how to make it exceptional?”

How indeed? The obvious things, good writing, good editing, good story, but it takes more than that in my opinion. Those are things that make a good book, not an exceptional one. So what then?

We’ve worn our writer’s hat and have written a good story. We put on our editor’s visor and edited it (or had it edited) until it sparkles. But there is another step that many writers do not do. Filming a movie, all of the scenes that are going to be shot at a particular location are all shot at once, no matter where they will fall in the film. The director ends up with a lot of miscellaneous scenes and it doesn’t become a movie until he goes into the cutting room to cut them, assemble them and make them into the movie. 

To me, that’s what writers are missing, we have written a whole book worth of scenes, but have we assembled them into the final book? The material is all there but are the scenes in the right order? Do they need to be cut? Do they wrap up nice and neat like little short stories, or do they need to be broken so that some of the scene is continued further in the story to keep pushing the reader forward? If we need a glaring example of how this concept works all we need to do is watch a soap opera or two, they have this concept down to a science.

What we are talking about is not the story or the writing, that is all there. We’re talking about the flow of the story, how does it move and breathe and push the reader forward? If there are convenient places to put the book down to go do something else that is a problem and we ought to fix it. Nice neat little endings on scenes can be just such places.

Do we FORCE the reader off the first page? I don’t mean interest them, I mean leave them no choice but to turn the page. Judging first pages to see if they left us no choice whether to go on or not. I told them the big key was unfinished. Start something that doesn’t finish, an action that does not complete, curiosity unsatisfied, a question unanswered, anything that requires turning the page to complete it.

Do chapter endings hook to reader to go to the next chapter? Are there any dead spots in the story where the book can easily be put down? Are there passages of text or description large enough that they are slowing the story down too much at that point? Then there are those scene endings, do we tie them up with a nice little bow or use them to push the reader deeper in the story?

To me the difference between a good story and an exceptional story is the way it flows, how we are controlling the pace of the reader to decide how fast they read, the rise and fall of the story. 

This is not the mark of a writer, it is the mark of a master storyteller.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

POD vs Self-Publishing

I've talked about this before, but one of my clients who is getting started with a small press says people are telling her that she is self-published because the book is printed by print on demand. Not true.

Yes, there are a lot in the publishing world who confuse the terms POD and self publishing – it’s something I talk about and blog about all of the time. Print on demand is a method of printing a book and has nothing to do with what type publisher they are. We see a lot of larger presses using pod technology to extend the life of book runs after an initial large press run. We see small publishers who have the capability of getting web press runs if the book demand becomes enough that it is cost efficient to do so but starting with the POD until they can see what the demand is. Most small presses do have the capability of doing the larger runs through the same people that produce the POD books if it is appropriate. These are simply methods of producing a book.

In the business world warehousing product is rapidly being replaced by ‘just-in-time’ technology where parts and products are produced and shipped in a manner to keep up with production without having a big stock of parts sitting around. The big auto manufacturers among others do a lot of this. POD technology is the ‘just-in-time’ technology for the book industry. If a book is self published the author pays for putting the book out there, does the marketing, and in a lot of situations takes a press run of books and has to store them. They CAN be self published and be done print on demand as well but not necessarily.

To find out whether a book is self-published or a small press you don’t look to the printing process but to the publisher. If the publisher is acting as a printer, taking the book and putting it out at the author’s expense and then they are through, it is indeed a self published book. If the publisher is ACTING as a publisher, assuming the financial risk of putting the book out and offering what assistance and support that they can, they are a small publisher.

Larger presses don’t serve niche markets. Particularly for authors that have books are aimed at small markets, that is what brought small presses into existence, to serve those niche markets the larger presses don’t want. A debut writer has a greater chance of getting started in a small press. They are very valuable to the industry, but the author has to be careful to insure that they are indeed with a small traditional press rather than simply having books printed by a printer. Unless they indeed desire to self publish, and there is nothing wrong with that either as long as they make a conscious decision to do it and not do it by accident.

That’s my 2 cents on it, I'm trying to talk about it enough that people will quit confusing the term POD with the term self-published. The two terms are NOT  synonymous.  

Thursday, March 8, 2012

This is a numbers day

This is a numbers kind of day. I had a client want some numbers to use in making a presentation to a group. Over on the Hartline blog at http://hartlineliteraryagency.blogspot.com/ I did a blog on what some of the stats are in my little corner of the publishing business.

But I'm not through with numbers. I got another post that really put into perspective what is going on in Washington these days. The premise is simple, we take the numbers from the federal government and we remove EIGHT ZEROS FROM THEM! Eight zero's that's mind blowing.

Anyway, if we take these zeros off we end up with a number that we can relate to as a family budget.
Annual Family income:      $21,700
Money the family spent:     $38,200
New debt on the credit card  $16,500
Balance on credit card           $142, 710 (higher since these numbers were compiled)
Total budget cuts the family has taken to address the problem:   $385

Any questions?

I'm a lifelong independent, I don't back any political party, but whether they are an elephant or a mule we need to send people to congress and to the white house that have one agenda, quit spending money we don't have, and pay off this credit card. We couldn't get away with this in our family budget and we shouldn't be trying to get away with it as a nation either.