Monday, December 11, 2017

A Busy Time Of The Season

I know it has been a while since I have posted so my apologies. This is one of those things that I really kick myself over, considering I am always screaming to authors to not do what I did.

I am sure, like all of you, life has been busy with Thanksgiving Breaks, the upcoming holidays and so forth. For those of you with kids, add in those days when the schools decided to give them back to you and now your writing time has been a bit limited. As I have said, over an over again, even with the business of the time, it is crucial that you are always taking time out for YOUR writing career. This is something you have worked hard for and you need to continue to give yourself that time.

Have I been away and not doing anything. No, I have been hard at work with my authors (as well as all of those holiday things, kids, a trip to New York to watch my son swim and so forth). It is this that I want to bring up for all of you getting ready to send out submissions. 

It is always important to remember that at this time of the year, editors and agents too will want to take breaks from reading manuscripts and submissions. They are madly plowing through piles of projects of their current authors in an attempt to have as many things cleared up BEFORE they take off to drown themselves in eggnog. I know one of my authors said her editor even asked if it was ok to bump a deadline back for a project that was due just to get through the holiday time. (I have to say, the author was very pleased with a few more days to work on the story).

Please note, there is nothing wrong with getting projects sent in during the holidays. Just remember that the response time might be a bit longer so don't panic. Of course, with that said, waiting until January 2nd to fire off the email isn't going to make much more of a difference. The editors and agents will still have a lot to get though.

We all do our best to get responses to you. We will get there. I promise. But also remember that the editors and agents have very similar busy schedules that you are dealing with as a writer. 

Sunday, November 26, 2017

More Rejections? Thoughts on why?

I have really been thinking about this a lot lately. I find that I am rejecting so many authors lately, it seems ridiculous. Now, I know what some people might say. Agents like myself are only looking for the book that will immediately land the author and the agency on the NY Times Best Seller List in the first week. While this might sound like a great reason, this is far from the truth. Although we would love to have a book do this, for most of us, we are looking for authors to be around for the long haul. So, with that said, why am I rejecting so many people?

I honestly have to say, it is coming down to the quality of the writing that I see being submitted. The writing is just not good. Sure, there might be moments of brilliance, but for the most part, I am finding stories that feel hastily rushed, full of cliché, and reads very elementary. Sure, these authors have been fully committed to their stories and their writing, but it is not there yet.

So why is this happening?

I have my theories about this one. I am not sure I can prove these ideas, but I do believe the hypothesis for each is pretty accurate.

THE SELF-PUBLISHING INDUSTRY IS NOT PROMOTING QUALITY OK, before I go any further, this is not me just throwing the self-publishing industry under the bus. What I am saying is that the self-publishing companies out there promote that EVERYONE can write and EVERYONE can be published. All you have to do is write that story, send it in and "bada-bing, bada-boom" you are published. Any quality control is completely based on what the author did before submitting the book. What I hear, over and over again is, "my beta-readers loved it." Well isn't that great! But has there been any real thought about insuring the quality of the product is worthy of being published? Probably not.

Writing takes time to learn and people are just not doing that. The goal is about getting that product finished and off to the market as fast as possible.

EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES ARE NOT THERE I do believe writers want to learn, but when we attend conferences, the focus is entirely on marketing and self-publishing. We are again, not focusing on teaching the work of writing BEFORE the book goes to market.

I would also add that many of the workshops we see are not being taught by people who have figured it out for themselves. These are those people who have self-published and are now proclaiming their ideas are the end-all, be-all of solutions. I remember seeing one author promoting a series of plotting books, and yet this person has not done anything for 10 years. Probably not the professional who should be teaching this.

So, what are authors stuck with? Blog posts like this one that might give an author a nugget of information, or reading books that have been around for 10+ years even though the market has moved on.

An extension of this is also the writing chapters and organizations out there who bring in guest speakers for the weekend who again, might not be the strongest person to teach the lesson, or someone who is presenting a workshop that has been recycled for the last 10 years.

We are also stuck with writing groups who are simply finding the cheap way (although I should say inexpensive way) of bringing in speakers. Look, bringing someone in does cost money. You have to fly them out and put them up in a hotel. But think of what you get??

Think of it this way... you get what you pay for.

These are just two ideas, but it should get you thinking. Until this industry decides to start teaching writing, the rejections will continue to keep flying out over the Internet.

Let me just also add one more element. K-12 education is not teaching writing anymore. Even many of the English 101 classes are just promoting the 5 paragraph essay and opinion writing. If people are not learning the basics here, how can we expect to see a quality novel??

Friday, November 17, 2017

Why Changing Genres Is Tough

A lot of authors try it. Far too many fail at the attempt.

What I am talking about here are authors who have been writing in one genre, or have a talent for one genre, and then, for some reason, they feel it is time to "make a shift" and try something new. For some authors, they make the shift at the suggestion of a critique partner. For others, they simply see a new line and think it would be a great career move. Unfortunately, talking about the move is one thing. Executing the move is something else.

So, why is it so difficult.

This is something I have written about here on the blog in the past, and it all stems from the concept of "write what you know." Each of us has one genre we can connect with better than others. It might be because this is what we read. It might simply be the style of the structure connects with certain neurons in the brain. Regardless of the reason, that connection gives you an inherent insight to that style of writing that just flows naturally.

I often talk about these connection when I talk about the specific nuances of a writing style. For example, writing historical novels set in Regency England is more than simply a lot of dancing, house parties and characters saying "La." The same for Scottish Historicals. These are not about a bunch of hunky guys in kilts saying "Doona." If you read a story from someone new to this genre, you will fully understand what I am talking about. The language is stilted and forced. Things don't flow. Sure, the components are there, but the execution is not.

This also goes to another level, especially for those of you who are published. While you might be able to "write on proposal" with your current editor of your current genre, that shift to a new line will require you to write a full manuscript. You might have the sales numbers in your current genre, and that proposal might sound great, but again, it comes down to a full execution of the story.

I do recommend for any author, before you make that shift, THINK!!!! Consider what you know, what you will need to know, and if that execution is really going to be there. It might not be worth the effort, unless you have the time and the patience. 

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Why 100% Digital Does Not Work

I started thinking about this yesterday after my wife came home from work. Let me give you the background here.

She is a department chair for her college and she was in doing an observation for one of her instructors. This guy was using a gaming app called Kahoot for a review activity. This is a great app but here is where the problem lies. If people don't have the technology, they are now locked out of the activity.

Here is another example. I fully understand the music industry is advancing quickly in terms of their technology. We have really come a long way from those 8-Track tapes! But when we have gone 100% digital, if people do not have the technology to listen to the music, (or to watch the shows such as Hulu, Netflix and the like), you have cut off part of the population that may have contributed to your income.

But how does this relate to publishing? The answer is simple. When you limit your readership to only those with the digital capabilities, you have lost a huge section of your population. Not everyone has the technology to read your books digitally. Not everyone has a large tablet, Kindle or something to read your books. Not everyone enjoys reading books on technology. There are still a lot of people out there who love the smell and feel of a book.

The large publishers did figure this out quickly when the digital book movement began. When they released books, they did so both in print and in e-book format. This is actually one of the big reasons why we saw such a spike in e-books at the beginning. It was not that authors who were going 100% digital were out-pacing the print sales. It was that the print people were doing BOTH and that contributed to the sales.

For you new authors out there, I fully understand the allure of grabbing those self-publishing opportunities that are primarily digital. You are now published! But remember there are a lot of people out there who might really enjoy your writing but will never see it if they are not using the digital outlets.

I am not someone who is going to say digital is bad, but I have to remind a lot of people, that, although the technology may be out there, not everyone has access to it, or enjoys using it. If you want to increase your sales, you have to create those multiple platforms for your readers.