Saturday, June 22, 2013

Hat etiquette

People may not remember me, but they tend to remember the hat. And it’s such a beautiful hat. I have a lot of them but it is the top of the line that I only wear at conferences and special events. It is part of my persona, part of how I present myself to perform the role of a literary agent.

Ladies love when I tip my hat to them and often comment on it. It was how I was raised and is a common act where I come from. This act of showing respect is handed down from the days of medieval knights who used to raise the visor hiding their face to show friendliness. That's also where the military salute came from.

I was at a conference in Canada and they were interested that I wore my hat at meals. I told them that came from the days when guys used to hang their hats on pegs by the front door, but when they started getting stolen a lot they started wearing them to eat. Also, good western hats are very expensive and since it harms them to set them brim down they have to be set upside down on the crown. The floor can be dirty in public eating places. If there is a nice safe place for it I will probably remove it. I told them it was part of a “hat etiquette” and that caused an impromptu workshop on just what was involved in “hat etiquette.”

Yes, we do tip our hats to ladies and remove it to talk to one. We don’t tip our hat to men as that would be akin to calling them a woman.

No, we do not wear our hats in church and remove it at any other time and clutch it to our chest if we pray. For some religions just the opposite is true and the head must be covered in a church. A woman may wear a hat in church.

Yes, we remove them in a theater for obvious reasons.

No, we don’t wear them in the house.

Yes, if we are in trouble we toss them in the front door. If it is not thrown back out it is safe to follow it in.

No, we don’t wear them in an elevator, unless it is very crowded.

Absolutely we remove it for the national anthem and when our flag is passing as well as when a hearse passes in a funeral possession.

Yes, in a church a woman may wear their hat as well as for the above occasions. Why the difference? Historically, men’s hats are easily removed but women’s hats have been not so easily removed. If a woman is wearing a baseball hat or a hat similar to what a male wears they are subject to the same rules as men except they don’t tip their hats to anyone.

No, we don’t toss them on a bed, that is considered bad luck. I don’t know the origin of that one.

Removed hats are held in such a way that only the top and the brim are visible, never the lining.

No, I mentioned we do not set them brim down. That can ruin the shape of the brim which is usually lower in front and back than on the sides. Also, there is a gentle curve to the hatband that causes it to conform more comfortably to the head and that can be damaged by setting it brim down.

Yes, we have to send it through a scanner at an airport.

No, we don’t like to, those things are dirty.

Yes, they keep off the sun and the rain but we don’t like to get our best hats wet. Who wants a speckled hat and if they get wet enough, well, they are felt after all and we sure don’t want a floppy hat.

No, it is not good etiquette to touch another person’s hat.

Yes, some of the ‘rules’ are regional in nature and vary in different parts of the country. And in parts of the country some of the rules don’t seem to apply to baseball hats.

No, we do not wear them at an outdoor wedding. We do occasionally have western weddings where the groom wears his hat and if that is the case the audience may follow suit.

Yes, we tip the hat as a response when a lady thanks us for rendering assistance or some courtesy.

And finally, yes, a good hat can last many years and is often passed down to children or grandchildren. The wearing of hats seems to be making a comeback but the younger generation has grown up without knowing this etiquette in many parts of the country. In our part of the country . . . not so much.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Is it permissible to contact more than one agent or editor at a time? Certainly . . . unless an agent/editor posts that he or she requires exclusive submissions. So read and follow each agent and editor’s submission guidelines.

To hear back from submissions can take anywhere from a few weeks to a year or more. The most common response time is around ninety days. I don’t follow up on any of my submissions until ninety days have passed.

If authors can submit to only one agent/editor at a time then have to wait a minimum of ninety days, it would take forever to find a place for our work. Editors and agents know that and understand simultaneous submissions are necessary. On those occasions when I am dealing with an exclusive read, I will wait a definite period of time, not to exceed six weeks.

We must observe some courtesy rules with simultaneous submissions. First, submissions should never be made to more than one person in the same agency or publishing house at a time. That can cause problems.
Survival Guide
Submissions should be personally addressed, regardless of how many agents/editors we submit to. Many agents and editors believe that if the author does not pay them the courtesy of personally addressing the submission, they don’t owe the author the courtesy of a personal response.

“Dear Sir or Madame” letters are generally regarded by editors and agents the equivalent to “Dear Occupant.” What do you do with your occupant mail? We do too.

Submissions with dozens of email addresses showing in the TO box tend to be regarded as spam. Recipients will look at the list and likely think, “Well, somebody will answer them.” Yet nobody does. Dozens of rejections by omission occur just because the author was too lazy to individually address them.

Back to the submission guidelines: I did a survey of agents and editors a while back for an “editor and agent pet peeves” course that Linda Glaz and I offer at conferences. The number one pet peeve was not following the submission guidelines. A number of things in submissions can be a problem, but most of them can be avoided by looking up and following those guidelines when making a submission.

Can more than one agent or editor be contacted at a time? Absolutely, as long as we are smart and courteous. And in looking at those guidelines, please note that some agents/editors want to be informed if it is a simultaneous submission. Most of us just assume that it is.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Old dogs CAN learn new tricks . . . but they have to be easy tricks.

I got a proposal that was aimed at a market I wasn't familiar with, new adult fiction.

I try to keep up, but that was a new term for me. Apparently it is for 18-25 year old readers.

Linda Glaz pointed me in the right direction to a couple of websites with more information. I do handle middle reader and young adult but this seems to be aimed at those who don't want to read young adult but more in tune with younger adult readers than the usual adult fare. The setting is likely to be a college campus or young people who haven't left their home town yet but who are stretching their wings. It seems to focus on young love but maybe in ways that I am not comfortable representing.

I do work in both the Christian market AND the mainstream market but I don't park my convictions at the door in order to reach to secular markets. Material I attach my name to doesn't have to contain Christian content but it has to at least be family friendly.

That begs the question, "Is there new adult fiction that meets that criteria?" And if there is, is there a market for it? A USA Today article quotes an author as saying "New Adult novels are appropriate for readers 17 and older because of the language, the mature themes, and there is more detail in the sex scenes." More detail? That means more graphic?

I've only gotten one submission that specifically defined itself as 'new adult fiction' but perhaps I have seen more that might have flown under that label. I haven't heard the editors that I'm working with asking for it, but maybe that is because I haven't asked them about it, or haven't tried them with a submission styled that way. Who knows?

In another post Kristin Hoffman says "New Adult fiction is, ‘…about transition. The transformation from child to adult doesn’t happen overnight—just ask anyone who is or has been (or is a parent to) a teenager. But the transition from teen to adult doesn’t happen overnight either. There’s a period of time where adulthood feels like a new pair of shoes. The expectations of independence and self-sufficiency are still new, still being broken in. New Adults are the people who have just begun to walk in those shoes; New Adult fiction is about their blisters and aches."

I didn't take the one I was presented with but I'm remaining open to it to see if this developing genre is for me. I do know old dog tricks for this dog don't include profanity or explicit sex scenes, but learning to walk in new shoes? I could get behind that.