One More Look at Basic Basic Questions
July 6, 2009 | Written by admin
One last whack at some basic basic questions people have sent in recently…
Gwenyth asked, "In a proposal, are editors and agents looking for proposed subsequent books to be in the same genre as the proposed debut novel?"
Normally, yes. That's exactly what they're looking for. It's hard enough to get a new novelist started, so publishers are always hoping the writer will have more than one book, generally in the same genre so that they can market and sell to the same readers.
Terry said, "I've heard a bunch of different advice as to how I can create a good proposal. What is the ONE THING you would most recommend to an author who wanted to catch your eye?"
Develop a great writing voice. Ideas come and go, but a great voice will last a long time. I see hundreds of average ideas in a typical month. I see very little great voice. Nothing catches my eye like a strong voice.
Andrea wants to know, "Who enters a published book into a contest or awards ceremony? Does the author do so? Does the publisher do it automatically? Does the agent make a recommendation?"
With most contests or awards, it's the publisher who decides which books merit consideration. They turn in the book to the committee in charge (often paying a fee to do so). After that, it's all in the hands of the judges.
Peggy asked, "Is there one source to find out everything about contests and awards for unpublished writers?"
Sure — check out the "contests and awards" section of WRITER'S MARKET, the annual tome created by the editors at Writer's Digest. They've got an entire section dedicated to that topic.
Mike wants to know, "Can you help me define Christian fiction? I just read a novel from a CBA house, and while it was good, I didn't find anything particularly religious about it. It was no different from an ABA novel except it didn't have gratuitous sex and violence."
I'm one of those people who would prefer his Christianity be defined by something other than "what I don't do." So the fact that a novel DOESN'T do something does not, in my view, make it a Christian novel. From my perspective, a Christian novel is one that is written from a Christian worldview. It may or may not present biblical truth, but it will reflect the author's outlook on the world. It will probably be redemptive in some way, and express a hope that God is, in fact, alive and at work. I suppose I'm less interested in finding "Christian novels" than I am in finding "great novels that are written by Christians."
Margaret wrote this: "My agent has had my proposal out with publishers for more than a year. Shouldn't I be getting some sort of a status report?"
Yeah, I think it's fair to get an update. But… if your project has really been at a publishing house for more than a year, chances are there's not a lot of enthusiasm for it.
Peter asked, "In your view, what's the best way for a writer to find an agent?"
The best way? First, figure out who you are — what are strengths are, what you write, and where you might best use some help. Second, do some research on agents. Try to find someone who offers the strengths you need. Third, if at all possible, try to get face-to-face with the agents who interest you. Sometimes an agent will seem a perfect fit on screen, but be a perfect disaster in person. Fourth, create a fabulous piece of writing and have it ready to show the agent(s) you've decided to target. Make it so strong that there's no reason for the agent to say no. There you go — the MacGregor Plan.
Janice wrote to ask, "Do you know if Kindle and other e-book sales count toward an author's royalty earnings? Are they counted separately from printed book sales?"
Yes, all e-book sales earn the author royalties, and that money counts against the advance. And yes, the publisher will keep a separate account for e-book sales from printed book sales — however, in the end they'll add them all together to say, "This book sold more than 100,000 copies."
Peter wrote to say, "I have a business question. A recent article in Writers Digest encouraged writers to get one phone number that rings through to all your phones. One famous author suggests getting a separate phone line for your writing business, another says to run it all from your cell phone. Do you think a busy writer should consider getting a toll-free number — would that prove helpful at all to agents and editors?
I think it would be a waste of money, Peter. These days all agents have cell phones, and we're not really paying extra for long distance calls. Besides, I used to make my living as a freelance writer, and I don't recall every being so busy I would need a toll-free number to handle all the calls.
Taryn asked, "Are writers' magazines worth it? It seems like there's a bunch of them, and that most of what they say we could discover ourselves with a little digging."
Sure, writing magazines offer advice you could find elsewhere if you did some searching… but I think that's true of anything. Magazines are a great vehicle for doing your research, and sometimes offer very helpful advice. (I still remember being greatly influenced by a couple articles I read in Writer's Digest and the old Saturday Review.) It's all about what you want to get out of them, Taryn. Many writers find writing magazines informative and helpful.
Steve asked, "What writing blogs do you enjoy most?"
A short list of blogs I think are really helpful to writer would include…
-Randy Ingermanson's www.advancedfictionwriting.com
-Michael Hyatt's www.michaelhyatt.com
-Writers Digest has several good blogs, including www.blog.writersdigest.com/norules/
-Janet Reid's www.queryshark.blogspot.com
-Sally Stuart's www.stuartmarket.blogspot.com
-Fellow agent Rachelle Gardner's www.cba-ramblings.blogspot.com
-Gina Holmes' www.noveljourney.blogspot.com
-Maria Schneider's www.editorunleashed.com
And, just for fun, I think Jenny B Jones' blog, www.jennybjones.com, is one of the most consistently funny things I read.
By the way, if you haven't caught it on TV yet, keep your eye out for Life After Film School
which you can catch on the Fox Movie Channel or as a streaming video online at www.sidereel.com. A great insider's look at screenwriting and the creative process in the real world. (My friend Ginger Garrett turned me on to this — make sure to check out the interview with the writers from "Night at the Museum" a
nd TV's "Reno 911." Great interviews.)
nd TV's "Reno 911." Great interviews.)
Okay, on to other topics. Got a writing or publishing question? Send it to me and I'll get you an answer.