Monday, August 21, 2006

More Q and A

Here is another group of Q and A type questions that a writer asked us to respond to. Thanks, Shelly.

Q: I don't understand why the issue (rejections posted online without their permission on blogs, writer sites or forums) is a problem.

A: You cannot publish someone else’s writing without their permission. Everything you write, even letters, belongs to the writer and is copyrighted according to copyright law. The person receiving your letter can only show it to others in its original form as it came to him/her, in other words, in the letter form. This does not give the person receiving the letter permission to publish it without the author’s consent, however.

Q: Why don't you want your correspondence posted?

A: We don’t really care if those who write us post our form rejection letter, although, technically, it is also copyrighted. It is, after all, just a form letter and contains nothing that would be embarrassing to us or its recipient. However, there are times when we do give advice or criticism to writers, and this information should be treated as confidential copyrighted information that is being shared between two business people. Writing of this nature should always have a disclaimer attached to it stating this fact. However, even if correspondence of this type does not contain the attached disclaimer, it should always be treated as confidential and should not be shared or posted. What kind of world would it be if EVERYTHING everyone said or wrote was posted everywhere? Oh, wait a minute…*SMILE*

Q: Have the "harsh responses" increased disproportionately?

A: Yes, they have, and there is an explanation for this. More and more people are writing and there are only so many clients each agent can represent and only so many open slots on each agent’s list. Unfortunately, this means that agents have the unsavory duty of rejecting writers—the more rejection, the more frustration that builds up in the writer community.

Most writers understand that rejection is part of trying to get published and do not take rejection as a personal insult. Some, however, take it personally and lash out at anyone who dares reject their work. Many feel that to get even they must comment on my responses, and some of these comments are very insulting and very nasty. One such writer even posted my advice on his blog and added an insulting remark about me for the world to see. Things like this do nothing to help the situation many writers find themselves in. It only makes it more difficult for all concerned. I’m sure, because of this, that individual will never find an agent. Why? Because he has demonstrated that he would be very difficult to work with, something that’s a must in any relationship. Your first response to rejection should not be lashing out or getting even. That simply isn’t considered professional in any business.

We have eliminated most of these comments by using a simple form rejection letter. However, every once in awhile, even though we know that anything but a canned response will generate a blast of frustration back at us, we give a personal comment. For instance, the weakness overcame me recently when I merely asked a gentleman to please reduce his verbiage so I could understand what he was trying to promote. For this I was told that I was the rudest, most unprofessional nincompoop that ever existed (not the exact wording used, by the way).

Q: Did the number of "harsh responses" coincide with your posting of "bad" query letters?

A: No, our receipt of “harsh” responses has not increased since we posted the “bad” query letter. Most of the time we only receive harsh comments if we offer advice on someone’s query or his/her writing. However, there have been times when we did receive a not-so-nice comment even though we only sent a standard reject. This, however, is a rare occurrence.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

A Mini Q&A

Q: I've been reading your blog and I've found it very eye opening. It's made me realize I truly do need to get more involved in the writing world beyond my computer.I have a couple of questions for you. One, how does an author who writes in a couple of different genres find an agent? I have a small non-fiction book published that has a highly specific market and am considering turning it into a series. For that I need an interested publisher to back me up. I also have a large quantity of (quality) short erotic stories, one full length erotic novel that's almost complete and two adult fiction - women's fiction - novels in the works. (they're two of a trilogy)

A: My advice is to find an area in which you feel comfortable and perfect that area. Too much switching around makes you versatile but adds no strength to any one area. Write non-fiction, for instance, and become an expert in one area of non-fiction. If you have a radio voice or a television persona, promote your expertise by building a platform and an audience there. If you have neither a voice nor a television presence, write articles for newspapers and/or magazines in you area of expertise and build an audience using these media. The idea here is to become known and thus gain some celebrity as an expert. Then, when you approach a publisher, you can bring your audience with you. Publishers LOVE established audiences. Mathematically speaking, established audiences=book sales.

The reason I chose non-fiction is that audience can be built in other ways besides publication. Conversely, the only way to build a fiction audience is through publication and, as you know, just getting published, the very foundation of audience-building in this arena, can be a long and arduous process.

You do have an advantage because you write erotica. This area, at present, is more open to new writers. Also, it is a good time in this area for those who write it well to establish a career. If, however, you wrote mysteries, for example, I would advise you to stick with non-fiction and follow the course laid out above, as mysteries are not selling as well right now. Because you write in two areas that have possibilities, I would choose one—not both—and write there until successful. The secret to writing success is in writing better than others and in knowing the marketability of your product. If you concentrate on these, the rest is easy.

Q: Two, I am 'shopping' agents now and I want to know if having these novels, or at least one of them, is a must before approaching. So far it seems that writers approach agents only after they've had their novels completed.

A: Having a novel completed is almost always a must when trying to find an agent. The reason is that you are new and untried and, because of this, we want to make sure you can complete your novel. Many cannot, consequently, most agents want a completed project (both fiction and non-fiction) before investing time to read and evaluate work from prospective clients. Some agents do take non-fiction proposals as opposed to completed projects, depending on the project—although we only review completed works—so it is imperative, as we have stressed before, to do your research and check submission guidelines before sending anything.

Q: And finally, I'm a Canuck and so far it seems like no Canadian agents deal in adult fiction. Are American agents willing to work with Canadians?

A: Certainly!

Thanks to the writer who sent these questions. If there are anymore "Q's" out there, please feel free to send them along and we will "A" them as time permits.