Saturday, June 20, 2015

finding writing time

When I get out of school I'll have time to write.

When I get settled in this job I'll have spare time to write.

When the kids get older . . .

When the kids don't have all these extracurricular activities . . .

When the kids leave home . . .

When I retire . . .

When . . .when . . . when

We have to face it, there is no such thing as time to write. Why? Because life expands to fill the time available. There will always be something competing for our available time.

Writing time has to be carved out and jealously protected. Ideally, loved ones understand what we are trying to do and help us in this process. My wife, my kids, my parents, the people in my life played a big role in what I have been able to write over the years. When I went into the study and closed the door they knew what that meant.

These days I don't get to write much, not what I would like to write, and I miss it. Pretty much all of my available time is dedicated to working for my clients. I made that conscious decision some time ago, that I could serve the Lord better by helping get a number of Christian books out than I could by doing one or two myself. I haven't regretted that decision.

But I still miss it. Maybe I haven't been taking my own advice. I'm going to carve out some time and do a little writing again.

How about you? Are you one of those forever complaining that you can't find the time to write? One of those waiting for some point in your life when you feel like the time will suddenly appear? Or are you carving it out, setting it aside and jealously protecting it.

Writing time simply does not exist . . . it has to be made.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

It's just a proposal

Giving a workshop on making submissions a number of the writers there admitted to just "throwing stuff into proposal" to flesh out what it called for. I mean, it's just a proposal, right? The main thing is for the writing to be really good.

Actually no, better than 80% of all submissions are rejected without a word of the writing being read. WHAT? That can't be, you say?

You see whether they admit it to themselves or not, most agents and editors know that any submission they are looking at will not work for them. They aren't being negative, the numbers tell them that. They are looking at dozens, for many even hundreds of submissions for a painfully few available slots. The time pressure is great so they just read until they find the 'no fit' point where they can respond that it won't work for them and move on.

That 'no fit' point probably comes in reading the proposal. Something in it tells them that the project won't work for them and chances are that is the point where they quit reading. It may come as early as the subject line of the email or the cover letter.

A successful submission does depend on the quality of the writing, but to get to that point we have to survive our way through the reading of the proposal and be one of the few manuscripts left on the desktop at the end set aside for reading. The 80% number sounds very discouraging, but what that means is we are only up against the 15-20% of the writers that are doing it right. Pretty good odds.

So the writing does have to be stellar,  but every piece of the proposal tells whoever is reviewing the submission something important. The cover letter grabs their attention and lures them into reading the proposal. The author bio shows we are serious about writing. The comparables serve to identify our reader base in terms an agent or editor can identify with. The marketing information tells them we have a plan to sell books and that can be vital. The writing same includes the most critical part of the whole manuscript. Does the first page have a hook that forces the reader to turn the page? Is the reader invested in the story by page ten? Does each chapter push the reader on to the following one? Most acquisition people can accurately determine if the whole project will work for them or not just on the strength of this sample.

Just a proposal? If the proposal isn't crafted so it will do it's job, the actual writing may not get a chance to show its worth. I know there are some exceptional projects that slip through just because the author did not present it properly to get it the full consideration. It's just how it works.

You can add to that the fact that the proposal is the tool we use to sell the project if we decide to take it on. That means we are looking at every one of them and asking "Can I use this to sell this project?" Initially the proposal is more important that the manuscript itself.

I don't mind losing out, either on a submission of my own or on one for a client if the submission makes to to the stack on the desk to be read. If I do that means somebody just wrote a better book, and I'm good with that. But I don't want to lose out because I failed to present a proposal that got the job done to get that manuscript considered.

None of us want that.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Agents are crooks?

The man was giving a program to a writer’s conference. He was making the case that literary agents were a bunch of crooks who seize ownership of a manuscript and do nothing of value with it that the author couldn’t do themselves. Each to their own opinion, but had I been there I would have felt obliged to clear up a couple of points.

First, at no time does an agent EVER have ownership of an author’s project. We negotiate a deal on the client’s behalf but the final decision as to whether they sign a contract with a publisher to grant certain rights to them is strictly up to the author. The agent never has ownership of the rights.

Second, at each of the conferences I’ve attended this year there were plenty of authors very much wanting to sign with an agent who could get them in the door of a larger house most of which are ‘agent only’ these days. If they plan to publish it themselves I would agree, no reason for them to need an agent.

Third, as he was suggesting that we charge them for basically nothing I would need to point out that we do not charge clients for what we do for them. We only make money after we have first made the client money, then we get a percentage of what we got them.

One agent said he felt like the fifteen percent commission was five percent for making a successful submission for a client, and ten percent for knowing where to make that submission. I guess you could make a case for that.

The guy has obviously not had an agent giving him career advice, holding his hand through working projects up, negotiating contracts, being an intermediary with publishers, keeping them constantly up to speed on submissions and responses, a variety of tasks we perform for clients. All done for free unless we are successful an making a sale for them.

. I don’t have a problem with someone feeling this way, it’s a free country and I never want a client who doesn’t value my services anyway. I do have a problem with him making his case to groups of writers using erroneous information however. Using such information to try and poison the minds of writers against agents . . . well, let me temper my statement and say that is not a nice thing to do.

To him I would say don’t use an agent if you don’t like them but don’t be using false information to convert other people over to your way of thinking.