Sunday, May 11, 2008

Questions and Answers

When we do classes at writer conferences, we always save some time at the end for questions, and every time it seems we run out of time before all the questions are answered. Many times we don’t post because it seems that we are saying the same things over and over again, so Sharene, Ann, and I have decided seeing that is your blog, too, that instead of us telling you what we think you want to hear, maybe we should asking the writer community what information you would like from us. We’ve always been open to answering questions and have noted that on this blog; however, perhaps it needs to be said again. If you have any questions, please feel free to send them along. We will try to respond as soon as possible.

Happy Mother’s Day!

38 comments:

Scott Jensen said...

This is a minor question.

Why don't you give a link to your agency's website on this blog?

You give links to your clients or other people's sites but not your own agency's. Personally, if I was you, that would be the top link listed. As I said, it is a minor question. It just seems odd that you don't.

Wylie Merrick Literary said...

Good point, Scott. Thanks for bringing it up. We have a link from our site to the blog because we found that searching for our agency produced hits on the main site and so usually traffic would originate from there to here. Our Web stats backed this up. So, in short, traffic usually comes from the main site to the blog, not the opposite. However, that was before we had much posted, and now we do get traffic from other places, though not many. Also, we realize now that it is a good idea to explore adding a link back so that once people get here, they can get back to the main site. Thanks again for noting it.

Scott Jensen said...

First, don't forget to put in the link to your website. ;-)

Second, why dear God can you not be interested in what I want to get published? Mysteries, sf, and non-fiction.

*laugh* No, that wasn't a real question. Just joking. I like your blog here so naturally I'd like you to represent me. Just too bad your genres and mine are not the same. Now for a real question.

Third, I wrote a white paper in 2003. Here's a link to a review of it and it has a link to the paper in it. http://tinyurl.com/6syqah It is almost five years since it was released and I would like to do an update and expansion of it. Book form this time. There's been a lot of developments. RIAA has run its course and just this March, they suffered a huge loss in court. Most commentators say RIAA is now effectively dead. Some of my predictions need changing and naturally I will love to point out what I predicted right. I would like to go and do a lot of interviewing with industry leaders so I can insert that in the book. New technology developments that have improved p2p technology have been taking place. Some advancing p2p and others I predicted. In other words, I think can really flesh out the white paper into a good size book. My question is how best would you recommend I do that? My tentative thoughts are to approach O'Reilly since they gave a good review of the white paper and are very technology oriented. What I am hoping is to get enough from the book advance to do the necessary traveling to write it. I'd appreciate any words of advise, wisdom, reality checks, and such.

Bethany said...

I have been doing lengthy research on the steps to take once I'm ready to publish my book. I understand first and foremost that I need to complete it first obviously. Then I should triple check it for errors and make sure it's perfect. Before I send it to an agent though, should I pay to have someone look it over?

I guess all this research can be very intimidating and I worry if I even have what it takes to get published. One things for sure, I wouldn't want to waste any agents time on a manuscript that isn't going to work out. How do I know if its worth it? You all seem very busy and to me are awe inspiring.

Is it normal for an unpublished writer to have these doubts? I've been writing for years for my own entertainment and got the idea one day to just try to get publisehed. Reading your blog has given me a lot of insight but I still have so many questions.

Wylie Merrick Literary said...

Hi Scott,

It's not that we're ignoring your post about your white paper, we're just reading it and digesting before answering.

Robert and Sharene

Kelly said...

My question concerns query letters. I read the example you have provided and I know writing a good letter is an important part of the process. With that in mind and so many variations and "rules" of how to form a good letter, as a first time author should I specify that my novel has a sequel that I am currently working on or is that taboo?

Scott Jensen said...

Just a couple add-on comments about the white-paper-to-book...

What I didn't address in the white paper was porn. I didn't because when one tends to raise that topic, it attracts all attention and I didn't want all the attention to just go to it. However, back when the email address on that white paper was still functional (it isn't now since I don't subscribe to Charter anymore), it was the most common question I got from readers. "What do you have to say about porn?" If the paper was done into a book, I would need to address this question and would do so in its own separate chapter.

The proposed business model for the book industry was only partial. There's another element of the model I didn't include. I didn't include it because I hadn't fully vetted it out in my head by the time I released the white paper. In fact, ideally, I would like to use that new model to put out the book version with. It is rather radical but once you step back, it is logical and almost amazing it hasn't been done before.

I do though wonder how much of a book advance I could get. To do the book justice, it will require a good deal of travel to interview industry leaders and some of those are overseas. What kind of advance is realistic?

On the bright side, I'm about to become the Chief Marketing Officer for an entertainment company that will be producing TV shows and releasing them free over peer-to-peer networks and free video-sharing websites (like YouTube.com). My boss (the CEO) has approved this experiment and in a big way. What I think might be a good idea is to work on the book version but have it released after my company starts releasing the TV shows. Then I'm not trying to predict the future in only a theoretical way but am an active force in bringing it about. From "This is what I think will happen." to "This is what is happening and I'm one of the ones making it happen." I think it would also majorly help give me credentials to writing the book version. Wouldn't you agree?

Anonymous said...

I recently signed a contract with another agency and have since learned that they may not be legit.I have the option to cancel with them in a few months. I only tonight learned of your agency and I live in Indiana. I would like to submit my work to your agency. Do I have to wait until the contract with them in cancelled or can I go ahead and submit to see if you would be interested in it when I cancel with them?

Wylie Merrick Literary said...

Anonymous--
The main concern you should have right now is whether or not the agency you signed with is legitimate or not. From your post, it doesn’t sound like you are too sure. Make sure you get as many facts as you can, then decide whether or not you want to cancel your agreement with them. Many times writers land one agent, then decide they could probably get a “better” one (better meaning a variety of things based on a number of factors) and start shopping their work while still represented. If it’s a legit agency, this is not fair to them. If they are not a legit agency and you discover this, then you need to make your decision to terminate based on that, not on whether someone else wants to represent your work.

If you know you are going to terminate with the other agency, you can query us. However, the first question we would need to ask is how much was your book shopped by the other agency? If it wasn’t shopped at all, please query us using the query instructions posted on this blog. If your novel was shopped, we need to know how extensively—how many editors was it sent to and to which houses?

Wylie Merrick Literary said...

Bethany—

Sorry for our delayed response. Every writer doubts…everything. At one point or another, even the giants doubt they are good enough, so it’s natural. However, you can’t let it paralyze you. That sometimes happens when people first start investigating getting published. It IS overwhelming and depressing and frightening and…

Wonderful.

It’s also addictive, which is why so many people keep trying for months and years. The key is knowing what you want to get out of being published. It’s odd, but some people actually get published and go, “Oh, that was nice.” Then they move on to climbing Mt. Rushmore to pick Washington’s nose or something.

When you first start, you will have many questions, the main one being, “Am I good enough?” No matter what anyone says, there is only one person who can answer that, and that is you.

Whether you should pay someone to look over you manuscript is a hard question. If you can find an accomplished professional editor, it may be worth it. However, really good and legitimate professional editors are hard to find and can be expensive. A critique group or beta reader—in all cases people whose judgment you trust—can be helpful, and we have many clients who rely on their beta readers for feedback. However, they’ve developed these relationships over many years and trust the input implicitly.

How do you know if it’s worth it? Worth what and to whom? If you mean if your work is good enough to send to an agent, then that’s another hard question to answer. If you can look at your work with a truly objective eye, accepting it for all it’s flaws and gifts, then it’s good enough. Whether it’s publishable or not is another question that only sending it out will answer. Also, don’t worry about perfection so much as readability. No manuscript is perfect, but if you polish it to the best of your ability so that nothing detracts from the story, then it’s as perfect as it’s going to get.

Hope this helps. Good luck out there!

Scott Jensen said...

Just a couple observations (mine and those made by others) and questions about whether those observations are correct.

1) I'm reading "How to write killer fiction" by Carolyn Wheat. Just started the book. In it, she makes a distinction between mysteries and thrillers. To her, mysteries are about the puzzles and the detective seeing through the lies and confusion to the truth. Thrillers is about a roller coaster ride from one breath-taking event to the next and the main character learning about themselves and developing from the experience.

What I have been pondering is if another way to look at the differences between mysteries and thrillers is that mysteries are Act One and thrillers are Act Two. Act One being about introductions and discovery. Act Two about action and going up against an antagonist. Mystery's antagonist is trying not to be viewed as an antagonist. He is trying to get away with the murder. The murder has taken place. The story is mainly (but not entirely) a post-event. The sleuth is trying to figure out what happened. Whereas the antagonist of a thriller is actively working against the main character. He is trying to destroy the main character. In fact, I think thrillers can do completely away with Act One and jump right into Act Two ... and probably should.

Robert and Sharene, what do you think of the above? Would you agree with Wheat? Would you agree with me? I'm not saying Wheat and I disagree. I am just trying to get a handle on the differences between these two genres.

A follow-up question is how do you make a thriller series? If the main character in a thriller is to mature and develop (go from wet clay to a fired vase), how can a thriller series keep the same main character? Wouldn't eventually this main character be so developed as to make him harder and harder to find any room for further growth? For example, there is the "24" TV thriller series. Even the lead actor says it takes great effort to do the series each year. Every step forward the main character makes, he has to pay a huge price at the end of each season so as to reset him for the next season. Is this pretty much the way to develop a thriller series around a character? If so, how long can you keep yo-yo-ing the main character before readers just won't accept it anymore?

2) I read in "The Successful Novelist" by David Morrell that what sells a novel is its non-fiction topic. Not that it is a mystery with great prose, plot and characters, but, to use the example he did, that it is about the world of NASCAR. It is this that the marketing department at the publisher can use to sell the novel. They targeting the book to NASCAR fans, having the author do his book-signing at NASCAR race events, and such.

What Mr. Morrell recommends is to be sure to pitch your novel's non-fiction topic to agents and publishers. In a way saying (and not quoting Mr. Morrell), "Here's the marketing hook for this novel." That you think in these terms when creating your novel. From the business standpoint of publishing, it is how popular that world is that will largely determine if your novel will be picked up by that publisher.

But then I wonder if it is to be a novel series, do you agents and publishers then expect the main character to forever remain in that world? Your first novel is about the world of NASCAR and so should all the subsequent novels in that series also be in the world of NASCAR? Or can you jump from one world to the next? Say your private detective solved a mystery in the world of NASCAR and then, in the next in the novel series, he solves a mystery in the world of dog shows. You, as the author (as well as your agent and publisher), hoping to entice fans of these different worlds to read that novel and then hooking them on your main character to get them to go into unfamiliar worlds so you can rope in the fans from those new worlds into your novel series. Which does the publishing world think is the best route? Which one actually works best?

Even if the above is true, how deep into these worlds does the novel have to go? For example, what if the main character has a hobby that isn't central to the story but routinely makes an appearance in the novel series. Can the mystery's sleuth be a fan of NASCAR but not have the story be about the world of NASCAR and yet have a good chance of hooking NASCAR fans into the novel series? Can the main character have a Poodle that accompanies her wherever she goes, but Poodles not be crucial to the story and yet have a good chance of hooking Poodle lovers into the novel series? If so, how minor can such things be to still be something about which a publisher would say, "Yeah, we can market this novel to that target group."?

Wylie Merrick Literary said...

Scott--
1) The very general difference, from our perspective, between a thriller and a mystery is that in the thriller you know who the antagonist is and in a mystery you don’t. In fact, in many thrillers anymore the antagonist is the hero (oh, the rise of the anti-hero). If you know the killer early in the story, can it be a mystery? Isn’t solving the mystery finding the killer? Here’s a question for you: Using that definition, would Silence of the Lambs be a mystery or a thriller? The answer is elusive, but makes you realize why the book was so darn good (well done complexity sells).

Just as the lines between suspense and thriller have become distorted so badly that thrillers are now suspense/thrillers, the lines between mystery and suspense/thriller have also been blurred and no one knows anymore where the lines actually are so that no definition actually exists and what they’ve now become is the suspense/thriller/mystery. Suffice it to say, fiction has its growing pains, and this is the result.

A follow-up question: You’re absolutely correct and this can be a problem for any series where the same main character appears over and over again. If you want to create a “thriller” series, you must decide if you want it to be one in which the main character never grows and changes (plot driven) or one where that is integral to the survival of the series (character driven). This is where having solid, never-changing definitions of the genres would help. : ) The paths are equally difficult because your main character may want to grow and change, but if you choose the static path, he/she can’t or fans will be upset. Examples of these types of characters include Sherlock Holmes (whose own creator tried to off him), Alex Cross, and Nancy Drew (perpetual girl detective—Poor Ned!). If you choose to use a dynamic main character, you might not get too many books out of him/her and then fans will still be upset. How long it takes for readers to tire of the author trying to throw obstacles in the way of the protagonist’s development depends on the skill, talent, and, ultimately, patience and determination of the author. In other words, there’s no perfect way to do this, and the author really has to be the one--on the counsel of his/her main character, of course—to make that decision.


2) This is a hard question to answer because it really depends on the publisher and editor and readers, and this also points out how much writers have to invest in something that may go nowhere. Writers, again, need to make that decision and present it to the publisher, who may buy it as is or ask for something a little different. One publisher might want the series to stay in NASCAR while another wants the character to move around in popular culture. It will depend on the publisher, and you really just have to pick a path and go with it. There’s no way to tell which works best, because the journey to publication is different for each book, and many end up marketed differently than they were originally intended. I would offer that if you do focus on a pop culture premise like NASCAR, make sure it is one that isn’t just a passing trend or you limit yourself.

I believe what Mr. Morrell is saying is the non-fiction tie-in is always in the background—it’s the setting for the story and everything revolves around what goes on at the event, which might only last a few days or a week. The same with the Poodle. If a Poodle is part of the story, then the setting might be a dog show specializing in Poodles or the owner is a dog breeder or has a kennel or boards Poodles or grooms them or a Poodle is her constant companion or she dog walks a Poodle in NYC, etc.
PS Dave Morrell is really sharp and very on when it comes to writing. We do recommend reading him to anyone who hasn't had the chance yet.

Scott Jensen said...

Thanks for giving your thoughts on my and others' observations on the mystery/thriller debate and the marketing of novels.

Oh, and not be a harpy, but I would really appreciate your thoughts on my white-paper-to-book question. That and if it would (might?) qualify for the "selected commercial non-fiction projects" that Robert is looking for.

Scott Jensen said...

So Columbo would be considered a thriller and not a mystery to you? In the opening scene, we see who did it, how, and even why. We then see if Columbo can figure it all out. I think most would laugh if you told them that Columbo was a thriller. Columbo's pace would put Miss Marple to sleep. Now I suppose you might consider it suspence but even that seems a stretch. We know that Columbo will get the murderer in the end. It is all about how he figures it out. "Just one more question, ma'am." after, of course, saying, "Can I have your autograph for my wife? She's a big fan of yours."

Scott Jensen said...

First, I really like this post. I view it as "Got a question? Ask it here!" place. I think ever so often you should post a "Anymore questions?" post since this post here will eventually get so buried in the archives that people will probably hestitate to post a question to it. And that's saying they dig deep enough to find it. Anyway...

What's the best way to pitch non-fiction? Complete the book or book proposal? What I find surprising is books that say to always propose. They say non-fiction isn't like fiction. It is fact based and far less open to prose. In your non-fiction book proposal, you are laying out what you plan to accomplish in the non-fiction book, major facts you will be presenting, your credentials, and so forth. As a non-fiction writer, you are more a mechanic than an artist. [Now watch all the non-fiction writers flame me for calling them non-artists. :-P ] The books also said that then the agent/publisher can help shape it to make it more salable. Not write it with you but point you in a "more marketable" direction for the book. That and because you haven't invested as much of your heart and soul into the book, you're more open to such suggestions. What is your take on this? Do you prefer complete manuscripts or proposals?

Lastly, what's your take on political books in general? More specifically, what about non-partisan political books? Say a book about bringing about a feel-good political change that both liberals and conservatives should favor.

Scott Jensen said...

Hmmm. No replies to my questions. Hmmm. Well, I'll risk another one. Maybe you just need several before you lit a fire. :-)

How are auctions handled? Say you have something that a number of publisher want or will want once they hear what it is. You contact them and solicite bids from them. Aside from a bigger advance, what else do auction normally focus on? A higher royalty? Bigger marketing budget? Publicity tour? Anything else?

And what are the downsides of such auctions? Is there a downside?

Lastly, what has your experience been with auctions?

Wylie Merrick Literary said...

Scott;

This might not have been true at the time of this post, but this blog is now an integral part of our Web site.

Wylie Merrick Literary said...

An auction is put together by an agent when there is interest from more than one publisher wanting to offer on a book. Just like any auction, the highest bidder wins the book. As is obvious, auctions are great for the author and his/her agent and are much desired. Auctions usually focus on money--size of the offer and royalties. Marketing, publicity tours and all that is covered in the contract, which comes later and is negotiated separately.

There are always downsides to everything, of course. One that I can think of is that the author falls flat on his or her face after the book in question fails to bring in the money and/or success it was predicted to produce. One of the main reasons for an auction is to get the buzz going on a property. If it appears that it’s worth a lot of money, other companies will get on the bandwagon. The perception of value is sometimes mistaken as actual value. Also, the seeds have been planted in the publishing community that this is a book to be reckoned with. If it flops…well, let’s just say I wouldn’t want to be the author if it does. Books that warrant an auction are those that have other value beside the book alone--movies, foreign English language sales, translations, video games, merchandise, etc.

Only certain types of highly commercial offerings might garner the interest needed to get an auction going. As we deal with many new names in the business, we haven't had the pleasure of being a part of one. However, we wouldn’t rule out that it could be in the future for one or two of our clients.

Wylie Merrick Literary said...

Kelly,

I don't think we answered this--sorry for the delay. I wouldn't necessarily mention you're working on a sequel unless you get interest from an agent. The best tactic is to focus on the project at hand; otherwise, the person queried might get overwhelmed with info they don't need right up front. As with everything, the rules are general guidelines. Worry more about getting the idea of your book across than anything else.

Scott Jensen said...

As for auctions, first, thanks for the reply.

Second, I'm a little confused. Are you saying that as an agent you automatically submit a book to more than one publisher and then see who's interested? Thus if more than one expresses an interest, an auction naturally develops. As an author submitting his own work to publishers, I have read I'm to submit it one publisher at a time. However, I can see where you agents can operate by different rules. Then again, am I mistaken that self-submitting authors should submit to only one publisher at a time?

Also, I'd still appreciate answers for my questions about non-fiction and political books? :-)

Wylie Merrick Literary said...

I can't speak for all agents but we usually contact more than one editor at a time on a project because there's usually more than one editor looking for women's fiction, for example. We have specific editors we deal with who have specific needs, but we also have some who are very general in what they like to see.

Auctions don't naturally develop. They come about when more than one editor is interested in the same project, is reasonably sure the project might be hot, and is willing to try to outbid someone else in hopes of securing it for their publisher. As an agent, I'm aware of the types of books that can garner such attention and am always looking for those possibilities in the "slush pile" as well as in our own clients' books.

Considering the many thousands of books published in this country auctions are actually rare and only very commercial properties warrant them.

As for submitting to one publisher at a time, you should only do this if the publisher you are sending to says that they don't accept simultaneous submissions. Most publishers we deal with assume that more than one editor is looking at a project unless they are taking an exclusive look. You should assume the same of the ones you deal with. On top of that, I won't deal with a publisher who only accepts exclusive submissions.

As for other questions, try to keep them short as we only have limited time to answer so you might have to await awhile for the long and complicated ones. We try to get to them as soon as we can. Sorry for the delays.

Scott Jensen said...

Thanks for answering the follow-up questions about auctions.

As for the other questions, here they are in short-form. :-)

What is the best way to pitch a non-fiction book to an agent or publisher? Book proposal or completed manuscript? Do agents and/or publishers like book proposals so they are able to give more input in the future direction of the book? Which do you prefer?

What's your take on political books? Hot or not? What about non-partisan political books advocating a change?

Wylie Merrick Literary said...

Initially nonfiction is pitched much the same way as fiction--with a great query letter. In the query, you mention that you have a complete proposal including three chapters. Everyone wants to see a book proposal, so that's what you offer. The book proposal is a must because it contains essentials like a chapter by chapter outline, competing books, the author's bio, and finished chapters--among other things. Books can be sold by proposal alone, but to be successful with non-fiction, one must be known nationally and be an expert in the field in which he or she is writing, which makes non-fiction a hard gig.

Political books are hot from political experts but not for the common Joe off the street who has an opinion or a political ax to grind. Those are best saved for blog posts. Search bookstore shelves to see whose getting published, what sells and what doesn't.

Scott Jensen said...

First, I think you should give this post the label of "Questions & Answers" or "Q&A" to make it appear on the main page's label sidebar. That and "Misc" would be good. Anyway...

What's your take on non-fiction by an author that keeps her/his real identity a secret? Let us say hypothetically that you're part of an industry where if you were honest about the industry it would hurt your career in it. That and if you could keep your identity a secret, you could talk more honestly and openly about your industry. Would having a judge or such publicly trusted person verify that you have the credentials you say you have help in such a situation?

Scott Jensen said...

What about non-fiction books that could benefit from an upcoming movie? Not a novel adaptation but covering essentially the same topic. How is that best done?

For example, I have an idea for a book about boarding schools and in July 2009, the next Harry Potter movie will be released. If that's too soon, in winter 2010 and summer 2011, the last book will be made into two movies.

Wouldn't publishers want books that might benefit from such an alignment of the stars?

Wylie Merrick Literary said...

Scott, that would depend on how close readers would relate boarding schools to Harry Potter. If the marketing people at publishing houses think that book buyers might pick up on the correlation, then it might work. Possibly your marketing efforts in that direction would make that happen, but it's basically up to readers and whether they would be interested in reading a book with this sort of tie-in.

Scott Jensen said...

So incorporating something significant from that fictional world into the non-fiction book's title or subtitle would go a long way towards what you're suggesting would need to be done to help it connect to the fans of a movie. Especially something from that fictional world that is related to your non-fiction book's topic.

For example, the working title I have for my book is "Special Worlds: From Hogwarts to reality, the unique self-contained societies of boarding schools". Hogwarts being the name of Harry Potter's boarding school.

And what do you think of these tie-in books? Good move for book sales? I know from a marketing standpoint, the author could ride the coattails of the movie. The non-fiction author would have no problem getting on talk shows. I could even see the movie's marketing department being very eager to help the author succeed since it would further spark interest in their movie.

But do they almost have to be published by the same publisher of the novel the movie is based on or can another publisher do so without problem?

Scott Jensen said...

What's the best thing that can be done with a short player's guide to a popular computer/console game? Especially after the game has been publicly released.

For example, I have worked up one for Fallout 3 and it is currently 14,750 words. Very likely it will longer when I get done, but I don't see it ever cracking 20,000 words. What is the best thing I can do with it?

My take is that it is too short to be made into a book and too late. Most guidebooks for computer games come out when the games are released. That and they are sterlized by the game companies to say only what they want said about their game. My idea is to contact websites that are devoted to computer games and see if they'd like to pay to have my player's guide on their website.

What do you recommend?

Scott Jensen said...

If an author thinks some in-chapter illustrations would really help their novel (not a children's book), should they seek out an illustrator and get them made before pitching agents and editors to help with their pitch? If so, would it be best for the author to pay a set fee for artwork done or offer a cut of the royalties? If a cut, how much of a cut? Or is this a realm that publishers don't like authors to step into as they have their own illustrators for such jobs? Or editors view this as their decision to make and not the author's? Lastly, where does an author's agent come into all of this?

Wylie Merrick Literary said...

Scott,

Illustrated adult novels are a rarity these days mainly because of the extra cost of printing and the fact that book prices are pretty much set, so return on a book of this sort would not justify the extra expense. I would imagine in those that are illustrated, it would be up to the author to get the releases or do the artwork him our herself. I doubt that a publisher would want to illustrate an adult book on their own for the reasons stated above. I have never dealt illustrations in an adult book, but have dealt with them in children's picture books and it that case, publishers prefer to hire their own illustrator. The author and illustrator split royalties on a split defined by the publisher. The agent usually only represents the author, so his or her commission would be based on author's royalties. There are cases in the picture book realm where an illustrator and author team up and sell a complete picture book package to a publisher, however, this is a rarity.

Scott Jensen said...

I'm not talking about a heavily illustrated book but just one choice illustration per chapter. A scene setter. Like what Sidney Paget did for Sherlock Holmes stories. http://www.arthes.com/holmes/

Given the above, would what you just said go for the above as well?

Scott Jensen said...

I'm finishing "Three Witnesses" by Rex Stout and am wondering how novella compilations are viewed these days by publishers. In "Three Witnesses", Mr. Stout presented three Nero Wolfe novellas that all had the same theme. He's done this before. Other times there's a light thread (something that at times wouldn't even be classified as a sub-plot) connecting the three novellas together.

I really enjoy when authors do this. Many full-length novels feel like the author is needlessly stretching the story ... or adding pointless sub-plots ... or delving into an unimportant minor character ... or just adding to add. Unfortunately, mysteries are notorious for this. I know of one mystery author that adds recipes just to pump up her word count. These novels feel like movies that would be much better if they were edited down.

Now I am not working on something like this but I am wondering if it is a viable option. There are simply some stories best told in less than a novel length. In fact, some of the best movies ever made were based on short stories and not full-length novels. Many famous film-makers have said short stories are an ideal length for a movie. That only the long-departed TV mini-series (such as Shogun) could do any full-length novel justice.

What do the two of you think?

Wylie Merrick Literary said...

Robert says: First of all, Rex Stout is a multi-published author and it would be natural to package some of his shorter works into something similar to an anthology. Also, some publishers do prefer to do anthologies of works in some genres. With that said, yes, it is possible for a new writer to break into something like this, but the area would have to be hot. This cannot be repeated often enough and is a common mistake writers make when they write into very slow or dead area. Thinking that I’ll just write what I want to write and publishing will eventually catch up will not get you published—until publishing catches up—if publishing ever does.

Scott Jensen said...

In addition to your occasional "needs list", how about an occasional "hot list"? A list of what you two think is hot and what's not in publishing. Not just what you are interested in representing but with all genres and non-fiction subject areas. Also, what you see as getting hotter (but cannot yet be classified as "hot") and what you see as starting to cool off. As a regular of your blog, I would enjoy that ... especially if you two tell why you think such is such. Let your sarcastic wits run wild. LOL

And then the next time you two do a "hot list", it would be great if you looked back at your old hot list(s) and tell where you were spot on and where you were off. Explaining why you think your crystal ball on that time was clear or cloudy.

Scott Jensen said...

In general...

Let us say that an agent is willing to represent you. How often should you bother them to see how things are going? Or, to put it another way, how long before you should bother them?

And is the answer different if they're willing to just test balloon a book or book proposal for you than if they have signed a contract with you to be your agent?

Or do agents usually regularly call their authors or fire them an email to let them know the status of things? If so, how regular?

I know not all the agents are the same. I'm just wondering about general guidelines and expectations that would be good for authors to keep in mind when dealing with agents.

Wylie Merrick Literary said...

Scott,
This is a very complex and difficult question to answer because the variables depend on too many factors. Things like how busy the agent is, how experienced the client is, how long he’s been with the agency—client and agent--who the agent is, the agent’s personality, the client’s personality, where the client sits, power-wise, in the agencies list of clients—and the list could go on and on.

Scott Jensen said...

Question: When will new blog posts start up again?

Scott Jensen said...

How about a post that talks about ebooks? I'd enjoy your thoughts on this trend. Might be good to start off with a little background story on ebook's shaky starts and stops and starts. Do you think this time ebooks are finally getting off the ground? Or will they peter out again? Is the key to their success being readable on cellphones? Do you think ebooks will ever overtake paper books? Will ebooks spell the death of the physical bookstore? How much do authors typically make off of ebooks? Do you think a good strategy for ebooks is to make them cheaper to increase their downloads? Is any website becoming the most popular one to get one's ebooks? What do ebooks mean for publishers? What do ebooks mean for self-publishers? What do ebooks mean for agents? Is there something yet missing that you think could make ebooks even more popular? What are their biggest downsides?

There. I hope that gets your post juices flowing again. :-)