Cleaning Out My File
March 17, 2009 | Written by admin
I'm looking through my files and realizing it's time I clean out some stuff…
The Big Event: The first-ever Christian Book Expo (CBE) is coming up this weekend at the Dallas Convention Center. I'll be there, along with a bunch of other agents, publishers, and authors. If you're anywhere close, drop by. It's about $20 for the day (you can get a $5 discount by typing in the coupon code cbe5off ), and there are dozens of events featuring hundreds of authors. (I can't wait to see Christian apologist Douglas Wilson take on devoted atheist Christophy Hitchens.) All the big names will be there. I'm hoping this new model for religious publishers takes off. (I'm also hoping Susan Meissner wins the Novel of the Year Award for her fabulous book The Shape of Mercy.)
More on E-Books: I had several people say the new Kindle II is much better than the original version. Doesn't feel plasticky or toy-like, according to them. (Some felt I was dissing the Kindle, but I just call 'em like I see 'em.) Here's the funny thing: For all the talk about e-books, there were reports from both Penguin and Lagardere that sales revenues for e-books jumped five-fold for each company… and total sales still accounted for less than one per cent of all book sales within each company. So I wouldn't get too worked up about electronic book sales just yet.
Someone to Visit: Stop by www.101ReasonsToStopWriting.com for some great wisdom, including this recent tip: Slushpile: Looking for a needle in a field of haystacks, and having to tell each stalk that it's not the needle you were looking for. (My thanks to fellow agent and wiseguy Steve Laube for this tip.)
Someone Else to Visit: You'll enjoy the reviews and interviews at www.GalleyCat.com. The recent article on the Publishing Panel is great, and Jeff Rivera says he is looking for a few good books to review.
The Death of CLEAR: I've received a number of email asking why I didn't support CLEAR, the Christian literary association. If you haven't heard, there was a movement afoot to create an organization that would offer official "approval" of literary agents who work in the CBA market. The concept is noble — they'd ask each agent if they agree with a basic statement of faith, have them sign something that promises they'll do business ethically, etc. But the devil is in the details, and I didn't think the details worked. An agent's organization (like the Association of Author Representatives) needs to be agent-run, so that it can vet agents, approach publishers, deal with problems. I didn't see this organization (which was not going to be run by agents) being able to do any of those things. It didn't seem to offer any valid approval, and I didn't think it would be able to vet or discipline agents. I just failed to see much benefit in it. And, noble though the cause may be, the whole thing got cancelled. That's the story.
Worst Proposal of the Week: I received a query regarding a "fiction novel" that is 180,000 words long and tells the story of "a girl with sad eyes." And yes, that's nearly the entire description. The author told me four times in 14 lines of text about her sad eyes, but he didn't tell me anything else about her (except that she doesn't have a name; she's just "the girl"). So what's the story? Beats me. She wanders around and has adventures, I guess. Looks at people sadly. Maybe they look back. Hey, authors, here's a hint: If you're going to send a query to a prospective agent, consider taking a few minutes to create a good, coherent query. I mean, if you took a year to write the book, you might want to take a couple days to shape the sales pitch.
Bad First Lines: These words actually started a recent proposal… "For almost 175 years, a group of Gay Mormon men have been protecting the Mormon Church at the request of Prophet Joseph Smith." Who knew?
Bad First Lines II: "I have written a book on sexual abuse, but my book is different…it's written from the point of view of the cat." Um… the cat? I don't even WANT to know why a cat would tell me about this stuff.
Things I Hate: Pitch letters that start with four lines telling me everything the author has ever done, but never hinting at the book. I just got in a query from a guy who begins by telling me he is a pastor, the author of some "church resources" (whatever that means), a former Marine, a counselor, a guy with a Bachelor's in Music and a Master's in Biblical Studies from some school in the midwest I'd never heard of, and that he has worked at camps, been a manager for a cleaning company, and sold bibles door-to-door. It went on to tell me about his marriage, his kids, the fact that he's completed five manuscripts, and that he recently published an article in a boating magazine. Do you see any coherence in all that info? Me neither. So when he finally gets around to telling me about his book (line 12 of his email), it turns out to be a novel about the Turkish Civil War. Shouldn't that early information be a set-up to the actual book?
Deep Thoughts: Novelist Ginger Garrett discovered a close friend, who claims to be a vegan, munching on a Big Mac. She wants to know, "Is it fair to call a vegan a 'weenie'?" (And she notes that her SPAM filter ate her vegan newsletter.)
So You Want To Do Something Good: Christian Library International collects books and Bibles, then distributes them to more than 900 prisons and jails in 49 states. If you or a bookstore near you is looking for a place to get rid of extra inventory, check them out at www.ChristianLibraryInternational.org.
Happy St Patrick's Day to all. Off to visit with the Guinness family in celebration, then head off to CBE!