Archive for 'publishing'

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What Stace had to say on Wednesday, June 12th, 2013
Who Takes the Chance?

Quite a few years ago I did a blog series about choosing a publisher, specifically an epublisher: what to look for, what to be wary of, that sort of thing. It’s a topic I’ve revisited now and again, though not recently (thanks to my long moratorium on discussing writing-related subjects).

But you know…I just, I’m tried of seeing something. I’ve been tired of seeing it for, oh, eight years or so now, and I grow more tired of seeing it every day, and it pisses me off, so I’m going to talk about it anyway, because there seems to be a new wave of it out there.

I am sick to fucking death of seeing bad publishers, or writers associated with them, justify their lousy treatment of writers and their unprofessionalism and their crappy business decisions and their lack of ability to perform a publisher’s number one job (which is to SELL BOOKS TO READERS) with the following phrase:

“We/they took a chance on you, so you should be grateful!”

You guys, publishers do not “take chances” on your work, at least, not in the way these people imply they do. Sure, every book is a chance they take. In the most basic sense I must concede that publishing is about taking chances, and your book could lose money.

But those publishers who stand to lose money? They’re buying the rights to publish your book because they’re pretty sure it will actually make them money*, and they’re basing that decision on quite a bit of experience and knowledge and work**. They’re buying your book because in their professional opinions it is well-written enough and interesting enough to appeal to a large audience of readers, and they want to sell it to those readers. It’s “taking a chance,” yes, but not in the sense these snippy little writer-nannies seem to mean it, whereby the author who’s getting fucked over is apparently supposed to spread wider and beg for more because hey, somebody agreed to publish their book! That means they have license to treat the author any way they want and make whatever shitty business decisions they want and the author should just shut the hell up, right?

(*They SHOULD be buying the rights because they think it will make them money, anyway; and **They SHOULD have quite a bit of experience and knowledge and work before they start acquiring books. More on that in a bit.)

The thing is, when you tell another writer that they should be grateful somebody took a chance on their book, you might as well scratch out “book” and insert “piece of shit.” Isn’t that what you’re really implying? That they should be glad somebody actually agreed to publish that crap they wrote? That it’s not really a good book or anything, so they’ve been done a huge favor and beggers can’t be choosers? That they don’t really deserve a decent, professional publisher, so they should be glad somebody agreed to “give them a chance?”

Quite frankly, if the book isn’t good enough, then doesn’t that almost by definition mean that a publisher who “takes a chance on it” isn’t a very good publisher? Because they’re publishing books that, well, aren’t good enough to be published? (It’s like a big “chicken or the egg” loop, isn’t it?) There’s no benefit to anyone in “taking a chance” in publishing a lousy book; it doesn’t benefit the writer, it doesn’t benefit the publisher, and it certainly doesn’t benefit the people the industry exists to serve: those people we call “readers,” who spend their hard-earned money on those books.

Either you think your publisher publishes good and worthy books (like yours, right?) and therefore should be providing the authors of those books with all of the benefits professional publishers provide, or you think your publisher tends to publish crappy books (except yours, I guess?) which deserve only the bare bones and everyone should just be glad they got a “chance.”

Except–and here’s the big thing–throwing a book out into the ether without promotion or decent cover art or good editing is NOT giving it a chance. It’s sort of stacking the deck against it, actually, and ensuring that most people either won’t have the “chance” to hear about it, won’t look beyond the cover, won’t look beyond the excerpt, or won’t find it to be of high enough quality to “take a chance” on other books from that publisher or by that author. Or, of course, they’ll see a review that mentions poor cover art and/or editing, and write both publisher and author off in their minds.

Being a writer means you make, and take, your OWN chances. You’re taking a chance every time you open a new Word doc and start writing. You’re taking a chance every time you submit. You’re the one who controls the quality of your book and what happens in it–don’t forget, editors are not supposed to change your book, just make suggestions. It’s your name on the cover, and what’s inside should be 100% yours. Publishers do not–should not–be the ones deigning to give your book a “chance,” the way you may agree to a date with that guy who doesn’t really appeal but seems nice enough, or the way you might give someone who’s been rude and nasty to you one more chance to make it up to you, or whatever other serious power imbalances and ambivalence are inherently implied in the phrase “give it a chance.” A publisher shouldn’t be publishing your book reluctantly. They should be snatching it up. A publisher who buys your book is not–should not be–doing you a fucking favor.

You know what you owe the people who publish your book? You owe them the text of that book, turned in on time, edited on time. That’s it. That is ALL.

Now, in the standard nature of the professional author-publisher relationship, it also behooves you to do things like not scream and yell at editors, and not turn to the internet to scream about your publisher because you found out X got a higher advance, and generally not make yourself horrendously unpleasant to work with. It behooves you to work with your editor, whose sole interest is and should be making your book the best it can possibly be. It may also behoove you–it’s not a requirement, usually, but it’s often nice–to do things like have a website or make appearances or do guest blogs or interviews or whatever at the publisher’s request, in order to help make you and your book more visible in hopes of selling more copies.

Nowhere on that list, or on any of the similar things I left off the list because of length considerations, are things like, “It’s necessary to let your editor call you an idiot and imply that you’re lucky she agreed to take on that piece of shit you think is a book,” or “You can’t forget to let various publishing staffers call you names,” or “You must sit quietly while a pack of illiterates overshare about their ladyparts in emails to you,” or “It’s important to remember that paying you is something we do out of the kindness of our hearts,” or “Never think you deserve things like distribution or for our website to work properly or for us not to behave like twats online.” Nowhere on that list are things like “Of course, by submitting your work you agree that only entitled jerks expect to be able to negotiate contracts,” or “If you think you have a right to an opinion about your work, you’re dead wrong,” or really any variation of “Be grateful we published your talentless ass, loser.”

Here’s the thing. As I said, yeah, it’s sort of true that any publisher who offers you a contract is “taking a chance,” on you. But the thing to remember is that A) You are also taking a chance, on them, and believe me, there are plenty of stories out there–a really sadly large number of stories–of authors for whom that chance didn’t work out; and B) Everything is a “chance,” if you want to look at it that way.

For example. Are you married? If you are, that means your spouse “took a chance” on you. Does that mean, in turn, that you are required to allow him/her to be abusive? That you get no say in the finances, or where you live, or how you spend your evenings? Does that mean every argument is your fault, or that s/he is entitled to cheat on you and you should shut up, sit down, and be grateful? (Yeah, I know that last one with the cheating is stretching the analogy a little. Tough.)

It doesn’t. Because the “chance” isn’t all on one side in your marriage, and it isn’t all on one side with your publisher. If your spouse tells you it is, s/he is abusive and you need to get the fuck out. Same with your publisher.

You were offered a contract–you should have been offered a contract–because your publisher thinks your work is good enough to sell. Your publisher thinks that not only will the publisher make money, but you will, too. That’s how partnership works, see, and really, to a large extent publishing is a partnership.

All that editing and cover design and stuff that amateurish publishers keep insisting they provided free of charge so you should be grateful? Yeah. Books get cover art because cover art attracts readers: you know, paying customers. Books gets editing because publishers who want repeat business don’t expect to get it by selling a substandard product–at least, publishers with half a damn brain don’t.

Another example: Say you walk into a restaurant, and the food is bad. Next time you’re considering where to eat, is that place going to be at the top of your list? Unless you’re a culinary masochist, I’m guessing no. Personally, I go to look at the websites of new publishers and look at the excerpts, and if I see more than one full of grammar/spelling/punctuation errors or clunky writing? Not only do I not buy those books, I don’t look at the others, and I write that publisher off in my head. Sure, I might check again one day, but the odds are against it. I’m sorry for the good writers (and, sadly, good writers sign with bad publishers every day, and I in no way mean to imply anything different) who are caught up with that substandard house, but my time is limited and there are too many good books out there for me to spend hours hunting through published slush piles to try to find the one or two good books in there. I’m sorry about that; sorry for the writers watching their good books sink in a heap of not-so-good ones, and sorry for me because I miss out on a story I might have loved.

I’m digressing. My point is: Quit telling writers they should be grateful that publishers “took a chance” on them and provided them–however expertly or ineptly–with the things that are the fucking job of a goddamn publisher, like editing and cover art, and provided it in the way that a publisher is supposed to, which is without charge. Oh, good, they’ve done the bare-bones minimum, so writers are supposed to be tearfully grateful for the crumbs from their table. Whoopee.

You guys, let me be blunt. You are better than that. You deserve more than that. You deserve a publisher who will provide you with the things a publisher is supposed to provide, professionally executed, and in a professional fashion. You do not need to be “grateful” that someone published you; a real, professional house is just as grateful that they are getting the opportunity to work with you. An editor doesn’t wake up one morning, grab any old manuscript from the slush pile, and decide to send a contract because, gee, they just feel like giving somebody a chance that morning (at least, a good editor doesn’t). You didn’t win some sort of lottery. You worked hard and made your book the best it can possibly be, and if a publisher contracts that book it should be because they think they can make money on it and want to work with you, not because they’re granting favors and your name was in the hat.

I repeat: They are not doing you a favor.

And if they say they are or imply they are…they’re wrong, and you deserve better.

I may discuss this more tomorrow.

What Stace had to say on Friday, February 11th, 2011
Expert Advice

Ah, the internet. It’s such a big place, isn’t it? (Yes, I realize the internet isn’t actually a physical place. Just go with it.) So full of people from all walks of life, all levels of intelligence, all sorts of different opinions and thoughts and advice and knowledge and jobs and…well, all that stuff.

It’s funny how the internet has really become such a go-to place for information. I mean, it’s not funny ha-ha, but funny in that as little as fifteen years ago, nobody really even knew what an internet was. I remember my ex telling me about how somebody showed him this really cool site online called Ebay, where you could actually buy all sorts of stuff from all over the world, and you might get it really cheap!

Anyway. The things that make the internet so great–accessibility,* information, multiple viewpoints, etc. etc.–are the things that make it so dangerous. We all know the stories about women or young girls who’ve gone to meet an internet boyfriend and ended up murdered or raped. We all know about internet stalkers and all of that stuff.

But there’s another danger on the internet, one that’s a bit more…sly. And granted, it’s a lot less dangerous, in that you won’t be raped or murdered. You’ll be robbed, sure, but it’s kind of willingly, so there you go.

Here’s the problem. Anybody can be an expert online. Anybody. All you have to do is call yourself an expert, and people will believe that you’re an expert. This is how writers fall for PublishAmerica’s scam all the time; PA claims it’s a big publisher, look at our happy authors, we publish lots of books, we don’t want your money! So they submit their books (and PA will famously accept anything) and then discover that no, actually, PA does want their money very badly, and will do just about anything to get it (and treat the writers like shit along the way; they don’t even get a reach-around). Why do PA authors fall for it? Because PA has a big website, and pats themselves on the back, and because these writers don’t think to do the single most important thing they could do for research: Go to the bookstore and see if any of that publisher’s books are on the shelves.

This is something I see a lot. I’m sure it’s prevalent in all industries, but of course I see it in the writing community because that’s the one I’m part of and the one I pay attention to. I see all kinds of people shilling their “How to Get Published” guidebooks and classes, their conferences and workshops, their critiques and edits. All for a fee, of course. Often for a pretty high fee. Read the rest of this entry »

What Stace had to say on Wednesday, February 9th, 2011
Edits 2: Proofs Suck

You’d think I’d like proofs, since I love copyedits so much. You’d be wrong. I hate proofs.

I’m not sure why, really. They’re just…lame. And rather dull. And I don’t like ’em.

Proofs are standard sheets of paper, on which the pages of the book are laid out side-by-side, full-size (that is, mmp [mass market paperback] size, or trade size, or hardover size if you have a hardcover, or whatever). So really, when you very first see your very first proof, it’s exciting. I was all kinds of thrilled when I got my UNHOLY GHOSTS proofs and saw the awesome font Del Rey used for my chapter heads (Chapter One, etc.) and the brackets around the epigrams. It was exciting to see the book as a real book, real book pages and all.

But after that initial excitement…sigh.

This is a page proof from UNHOLY MAGIC. (Again, you have to click it, then click again to view it full-size, sorry. It’s too big for the blog.)

And here’s a close-up of some proof edits from that same set of proofs:

The photocopy sent to me for UM was cut off just a bit at the top, so here’s the upper left corner of the CITY OF GHOSTS proofs:

So. Copyedits were originally done on the printed manuscript. I go through them, and two editors–the CE and my own–go through them.

Then the ms is laid out as a book–I believe those Keebler-elf-type folks in the Production Dept. handle that, presumably sneaking out of their hidey-holes under cover of darkness, dancing and waving around little elf-sized flagons of mead, singing happy little work songs as they sprinkle Magic Book Dust on the ms, and leaving the finished product there on a spotlessly clean table for the other employees to discover in the morning. I believe two copies are printed, and one goes to me and another to another copyeditor. But it may be that the proof goes to another CE, his or her changes are implemented, and another proof is made which comes to me. But I’m pretty sure we get proofs at the same time.

Now. Many of you probably already know this, but just in case you don’t, I’ll mention it. Major changes are not supposed to be made in proofs. The deletion of a sentence here and there, removing or adding punctuation, fixing typos or other errors, fine. Deciding you want to add a new section of dialogue? Not so fine.

It’s not happened to me, but it’s my understanding that if an author makes over a certain amount of changes to their page proofs–major changes–they have to pay for the additional typesetting/conversion/whatever it is (those elves require a LOT of mead to keep them happy and productive). I don’t believe that’s a canard along the lines of “If you don’t earn out your advance you have to give part of it back,” which people who have no idea what they’re talking about like to trot out and parade in front of aspiring writers, usually in order to sell them on a vanity press. I believe that making major changes at this stage is actually something we have to pay for.

So we need to be damn sure everything is the way we want it before we mail those copyedits back.

Changes are made much like in CEs, though:


and here’s one where the editor who went over the proofs or the data entry/whatever made an error (or we all missed it in CEs, which does happen. It’s harder than you think to catch every single mistake, because you tend to see what it’s supposed to say rather than what it does):

So. I make my changes, and send the proofs back. I have now “signed off” on the book, which means no further text changes should be made at all.

There is at least one additional proof, however, which is done in-house. I believe another CE goes over it, and I know my editor goes over it, but I don’t see it. That’s the proof during which they make sure that all of the necessary changes have been implemented, that the book is ready to be printed, because that final proof is exactly how it will be printed.

Why do I hate page proofs so much? I don’t really know, honestly. After that initial excitement fades, really, they’re just…tedious. Which sounds bad, because it is after all my own book(s), which I love and worked hard on and believe in and am so proud of. But actually physically reading them in book form enthralls me (at least once; I don’t read them repeatedly, no, but going through and reading them as actual books is pretty exciting), so I don’t believe that’s the problem.

I think the issue is what I said above: you have to make sure you see what’s there, now what you think should be there. So you’re not just reading for pleasure, enjoying the story and the sense of accomplishment and all of that. You’re inspecting every word and every line. You’re paying very close attention. You’re seeing a bit here and there you should have worded differently, now that it’s too late to change it (this is always a problem in reading my own finished books). And you’re–at least I am–afraid you’re going to miss something, and your book will have–gasp!–a typo.

Seriously. I mock, but I loathe typos. I hate them. Just like I make it a point of pride to turn in my mss as typo/error-free as possible, so I am with the finished product; even more so, for obvious reasons. I seriously live in fear of getting one of those “There’s a mistake in your book” emails a certain type of person apparently likes to send out. I get annoyed when I see them in other books, and would have a fit to find one in mine.

Because the book is it, you know? It’s all people have to judge me by. And I hate the idea that it’s going out into the world as one of those “But I see typos in books from the Big 5 all the time” type of novels that some people seem to think justifies their own lack of care and attention to spelling/grammar etc.

A typo in my finished book is a big piece of literary spinach between my front teeth. It’s embarrassing.

So I really go over those proofs; I mean, I read them slowly and focus hard on every word to make sure it really is spelled right and punctuated correctly and reads correctly and all of that. This is the last chance I’ll have to correct any errors, at least unless and until the book goes into a second printing. Errors can be fixed for the new print run, but generally only if they’re deemed important enough (which a single typo is not) or, I guess, if the error was with an editor or data person or whatever who made changes after I signed off on the book. And the books with the mistake are still out there, of course; they can’t be recalled or something. (Books do get pulled and pulped, but generally only if a significant error was made, it’s plagiarized, or somebody sues/someone important threatens to sue.) So my typo is obviously not cause to do such a thing.

So I find proofs tedious, and unnerving, because I’m always worried that I might have missed something, I probably did miss something, damn it what if I miss something? It’s just me, some paper, and a pencil; I could very well miss something. And then the typos or other errors would be my fault.

It’s possible not everyone gets this many proofs, and a lot of people get digital proofs, which I hate. My PERSONAL DEMONS proofs were digital. PDFs, actually, which meant I had to make a separate list of errors (I did that for DEMON INSIDE, too, but that’s because the paper proofs came during RT and I didn’t have time to get them back, so just emailed the document).

So. Those are page proofs, and they’re the last I see of my book until I get ARCs in the mail–if I get them–and my author copies, which come around release time.

Once again, any questions? And does anyone have something else about the editing process they’d like to know?

What Stace had to say on Thursday, February 3rd, 2011
Edits are up to you

I hadn’t actually planned to start my little series on editing today, but this topic came up last night in email with a good friend of mine, and it annoyed me, so here we go, and we’ll do more next week (including copyedits, which will be fun, I think, and of course I’m going to use pages from the original mss of UNHOLY MAGIC and CITY OF GHOSTS to illustrate, which, again, will hopefully be fun).

Anyway. My friend and I were discussing edits, and the fact that someone she knew got a set of edits where the editor actually wrote in new dialogue.

Editors are not supposed to do this.

It is not their job.

They can tell you that conversation/line doesn’t work for them. They can maybe suggest new lines, by saying “Maybe you could try having Character A say he hates that, and Character B can say he knows, and that might make the joke clearer?” But anything beyond that is them trying to write your book for you, and you shouldn’t let them do it.

It seems to me that, especially when you get into the micropress/epress area, the favorite excuse of lame publishers for why an author might be upset with them is “S/he refused to accept editing.” “Oh, Author A is only saying we’re a total high-school clique house because she refused to accept editing so we dropped her.” “All those authors are mad because they’re prima donnas who refused to accept editing.” That sort of thing.

And I think that atmosphere, that sort of Red Pen of Damocles hanging over every writers’ head, permeates the world of writers’ forums etc., and leads many to the belief that they have to accept all suggested edits, no questions asked. If the editor says “Change this,” it better be changed.

Sadly, I also have no doubt that at some little crappy places, that is indeed the case. I know I was required to fight tooth and nail about factual accuracy, against an editor who believed people in the medieval period used hieroglyphs to communicate in writing. I’ve heard similar horror stories from small- and micro-press friends; maybe not quite as bad as that, but lots of tales about style and voice being removed and replaced with plodding paint-by-numbers writing.

Then there’s the matter of “house style,” which in a lot of cases can be downright lousy, and sometimes doesn’t make sense at all. “House style,” though, is unfortunately the one thing you’re probably not going to be able to fight with. You may be able to keep a comma here or a semicolon there if you can make a good enough case for it, but beyond that you’re going to need to let it go.

“House style,” though, isn’t generally messing about with your actual writing. It may be ridiculous things, sure, like completely interrupting the flow of a sex scene by inserting a hard break to indicate a POV switch (because we’re all so paranoid about “head-hopping” that we refuse to accept that readers are not in fact stupid, and are perfectly capable of dealing with one POV switch), or being forced to change every “start” in your book to “begin,” or whatever, because someone thinks “start” sounds “common.” But usually it’s just a few little bits here and there.

Editing is different, and editing is up to you.

It’s your book. You wrote it, and it belongs to you, and your name is on it. Yes, there is a line. An editor can refuse to accept the book, thereby requiring you to give back your advance and lose the contract, if you won’t make any changes at all. I’ve never heard of it happening, but then, most writers I know believe–as I do–that editors are generally awesome, and that it’s fun to work with them, and that they’re right most of the time with their suggestions.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t a line, and it’s a line you do NOT have to cross. It certainly doesn’t mean they’re right all the time. You do NOT have to accept every edit, every suggestion, every wording change. You certainly do NOT have to allow anyone to re-write part of your book for you, absolutely not.

Working with an editor is just that–working with an editor. It’s the two of you–and maybe your agent, or maybe the editor’s assistant might have an idea, or a friend of yours who’s read the mss might come up with something you like–working together to make the book as good as it can be. It’s not you handing your work over to someone else to change it and turn it into something that isn’t yours.

There’s a difference between edits, as in your editorial letter, and edits, as in line edits, too. When I get edits from my editor at Del Rey, it’s in the form of an email or Word doc with all of her thoughts, good and bad (I firmly believe a good editor tells you what they love about the book, too; they don’t simply assume that you know they like it since they bought it. A good editor wants to talk to you about your book and the things they love about it).

I go through and implement her suggestions, basically. I may disagree with one, and discuss it with her, but so far I can think of only one editorial suggestion I dug my heels in over, and that ended up working out just fine–a quick change of something else, and it became a moot point. Really? There shouldn’t even be many issues if any, because you should agree with most of your editor’s thoughts. If s/he’s a good editor, and you’re not a Speshul Golden-Words Snowflake, most if not all of the suggestions should fall into the “Oh, riiiiight!” category.

Then come line edits. (My last few books, my ms has been sent back to me with an editorial letter and some notes made on the ms, so it’s like a combination of the two.) Line edits are “This line makes no sense,” basically. I often get “What the hell is Bump saying here, because I can’t understand him at all,” but of course, that’s me. Line edits might also be “This paragraph is overkill,” or whatever. This is where “kill your darlings”–advice with which I disagree, frankly–comes in. Lots of those overkill lines? Yeah…those are probably the “Stacia knows this is probably too much but look how good that sentence is!” lines. So those have to go. (I often stick them into a special Word doc in case I have the chance to use them later. Of course, then I never open it and re-use them, but whatever. I still have them, my poor deleted darlings, and I can go frolic in the midst of them whenever I choose.)

There may be some typos tossed in throughout there, too. There usually are. No matter how hard I try to make the ms perfect, there’s always going to be something I miss before I send it to my editor, mainly because I’ve read the damn thing so many times I see what should be there, not what is.

There will also probably be some story inconsistencies or whatever to clean up, from my own edits. If I decide to switch from having two ghosts to one, for example, I need to make sure I’ve done what is called “Following through on the cut,” and removed every reference to “they/them,” “the two ghosts,” whatever. I often miss this stuff too, again, because I’ve been going through it so much/so many times.

My editor also catches the occasional repeated word, as in “Slowly the ghost moved toward her. It raised its arm slowly, the knife in its spectral hand catching the moonlight and sending it right into her eyes, blinding her.” I don’t always notice these when I’m actually writing, and while I catch most of them when I’m editing before I turn the book in, again, I can’t find everything. I hate repeated words, actually. They bug me almost as much as sentences that begin with participial phrases (dangling or not), which I loathe with a fiery and all-devouring passion, and will never, ever use, because they’re so awful I can’t even find a way to describe how awful they are. (Let me just say, though, that ninety-nine times out of a hundred, you find them in the mss of newbie writers, because they think that sentence construction is “writery” or professional, thus making them look very smooth and clever. It’s not, and it doesn’t.)

Anyway, enough of that rant. The point is, edits are something you do with your editor, not for or in spite of. You get to make the choice, and there is nothing wrong with doing so. I’d say when it comes to “regular” edits–as in editorial letter/line edits–I probably accept pretty much all of my editor’s suggestions, because I trust her, and because in most cases I agree with her. With copyedits it’s probably more like 50-75%, depending on how good the CE is, of course.

An editor is there to help you, and to help make the book as good as it can be. They are not there to rewrite your book themselves, and they are not there to remove your voice and turn it into something a third-grader would have written.

I can’t remember who said it, but I read an awesome quote a little while back. It basically said, “The only rule of grammar a writer needs to follow is to make himself understood. Everything else is style.”

It may not be true all of the time–well, it isn’t, not ALL of the time–but it is most of the time. You don’t have to let yourself be treated badly, you don’t have to let control of your work be taken from you, and you don’t have to agree to every edit.

What Stace had to say on Tuesday, August 31st, 2010
How Babies are Made Part III: Delivery

Heh, see how neatly that little analogy comes together? I’m just so clever.

(Part one of this little series can be found here. Part two is here.)

When last we left little FOUR on its journey to the bookshelves, I was forcing myself to look at my stupid galleys, the Sales people were tallying the number of orders they managed to coerce and blackmail out of the poor bookstore buyers, my publicist was, well, probably dealing with far more important people than me. But she’s also probably getting together a list of review magazines/sites/blogs/whatevers to send ARCs to, if the publisher is doing ARCs, which they don’t always.

In dramatic time, it’s around June, or five months prior to release date.

16. Using the copyedited ms that was sent to me as a galley, the file is sent to the printer for ARCs if they’re being done. The timing on this bit is a tad sketchy, and really depends on how close we are to release date. But generally, if I’m not mistaken, ARCs are printed from that same ms that was sent to me, either with my corrections or before my corrections are added. They aren’t printed immediately, but they’re sent to enter a queue at the printer. This is why ARCs say “UNCORRECTED PROOF” in big letters, and it’s why you may get an ARC that is essentially pristine but another with more errors; some mss don’t get as many editing passes before it goes to ARC, because of the lead-time required.

17. I send my galleys back. I have now Officially Signed Off–so to speak–on the book. Nothing should be changed now that I have not approved.

Not that the galley process is done, oh no. My changes are input, and another galley is printed. That galley is reviewed in-house, for typos or errors that may have been missed the first umpteen times everyone looked at the ms. (By now we all hate my book, and wish it would just go away so we wouldn’t have to look at the damned thing ever again.) If there are any changes made, those are inputted again.

18. Cover art is finalized. This actually happened a while ago but I forgot to put it in. But it’s all done now. Sometimes, if the bookstores don’t seem too enthusiastic about a particular cover when the Sales teams visit them, a new one is quickly put together. That happens more often than you might think, but not as often as it might seem. (Hee.) Anyway. So you might have a new cover being finalized now, so it’s not totally out of place here.

19. ARCs are printed in August, and sent out shortly after to those reviewers etc. If I’m lucky, I’ll get a few; my agent will get a buttload (that’s about twenty, for books) of them as well to send to the foreign market to try to convince them how great I am and that they should totally buy foreign rights for my books or they’ll be sorry because who could resist such a bundle of fabulosity? Nobody, that’s who.

ARCs must be sent out at least three months in advance of the deadline dates for the November issues of whatever magazines or whatever the book is being sent to. At LEAST. If we want reviews in those magazines the month of release, we have to meet their deadlines.

20. Everything is sent off to the printers now. Whoo! That galley that dozens of people have looked at, and that all those people in the Production department lovingly entered and checked and checked and entered, and those nifty covers, are put together into a special file and sent off.

21. Books are printed. It’s probably, let’s say…the middle of October. Or rather, for a November 1st on-sale date, the printing will need to be finished by the middle of October. Why? Because now we have shipping & distribution, which is a whole big thing I only know a very little bit about. But I will share that little bit of knowledge with you, dearies.

22. All of those books are printed, boxed, and shipped to the distributer and/or warehouser. I used to be better able to explain the difference, but it’s not particularly important at the moment. All you need to know is, they divide the books into the amounts of boxes that go to, say, B&N, Borders, and Amazon. There are about fifty books in a box. For smaller indie stores or other online venues they may break up some of those boxes, so Murder by the Book in Houston might get twenty copies of FOUR and ten copies each of UG, UM, and CoG, because of course everyone wants to buy lots and lots of my books, right? Why would a bookstore stock any others?

23. Anyway. The books for B&N et al go to their big divisional warehouses, according to what sells in that area. Like, if UF sells big in the Northwest, the Northwest will get 5000 copies, whereas an area like the upper Midwest may only get 2000 because that genre doesn’t sell so much there. From those regional warehouses they get distributed and shipped to the individual stores.

24. It is now probably a week or so before release date. If all goes well, and according to the way it should, those boxes should sit in the storerooms of the individual stores until release day, when they are unboxed and placed lovingly on the shelves or towers or front tables by happy, smiling booksellers, all of whom love me and want to force their customers to buy my books even if said customer is a ten-year-old boy (hey, these are sales numbers we’re talking about. I’m ruthless).

What often happens is the poor, overworked booksellers, who just want to fill the shelves, or who have plans next Tuesday (books are released on Tuesdays, just like DVDs, unless they’re superspecial Event releases like Harry Potter books or something) and so want to get the hell out of that store that day, or whatever, will open boxes early and put the books on the shelves. It happens. And I still say that unless and until someone learns they lost out on hitting the NYT because fifty copies sold the week prior, it’s something writers should just suck up. Yes, it’s better when they wait. We all love it when they wait. It reminds us that there is order in the universe, and that sometimes that order is Good and Just, and makes us feel that sweet “all is right with the world,” sort of feeling as we tuck into our little beds at night.

But there is also Chaos in the world, and books getting shelved on Saturday because Melinda’s manager told her to stop standing around like that and just fucking do something are part of that Chaos. Yin and Yang, people, Yin and Yang.

25. Books are on the shelves! Oh, happy day! Now is the best part. All of you wonderful reader people can lie up outside the bookstore at eight a.m., wearing your Downside t-shirts and stuff (hey, this is my damn fantasy here so shut up), singing songs and drinking beer or whatever until the bookstore opens, the cops show up, an impromptu musical number breaks out, or all of the above, and you buy your copies of FOUR, which you then rush home to shower with love in a purely non-sexual sort of way (or maybe not; what you do in the privacy of your own home is your business, chickies). Meanwhile I sit at home, cowering, terrified that not only will there be no dance routines, there will be no sales at all, and at the end of the week my agent will call me to say not a single copy sold and there’s a cadre of angry bookstore managers about to rush the Del Rey offices and burn them down for wasting their valuable shelf space with my drivel.

And that is it. How a mss becomes a book. Isn’t that a sweet story?

I’m sure I messed up some timelines a bit and/or left some steps out. I’m not an actual employee at a publishing house, and some houses do things a bit differently. But this is based on my experience. my observations, and that of people I know, including a few very helpful answers/bits of info from Jessie at Random House. Thanks, Jessie.

Any questions?

What Stace had to say on Thursday, August 26th, 2010
How Babies are Made* Part II

*books. It’s just a joke.

(Part One of this little series can be found here.)

So, where last we left our manuscript, sweet little FOUR, it was making its dark and lonely descent into the hands of a copyeditor, where it was placed on the bottom of a stack of perhaps five or ten other manuscripts just like it, to be gone over with the dreaded green pencil, and it was early February at the very earliest (but more likely at least March).

While I’ve been piddling about with words, a few other things have been happening. Shauna will come up with a few thoughts or ideas about what she might like to see on my cover; what the concept is. She presents those to the cover people, and the Publisher in a big meeting that takes place three or four times a year (this is the way it’s done at Random House, anyway; it may be different at other houses). What sort of model, background, pose, etc? One person or two? That sort of thing. They decide on a concept, or maybe a couple, and the whole thing is sent on to a cover artist person.

That person finds and hires the necessary model(s) and takes numerous pictures in various poses and outfits. They show those to Shauna and/or someone else, but I do know for a fact Shauna sees the poses and selects the one she likes best. If the meeting took place immediately after FOUR was turned in, or right after the contracts were signed, it may be only January or so, but chances are it’s closer to March or April.

Then the cover artist starts, well, being artistic. They draw or digitally create backgrounds, or manipulate existing art or backgrounds. They do whatever else it is that artists do; I have no idea, frankly. All I know is, a cover generally takes at least a couple of months, and the cover art usually starts being discussed almost immediately. Yes, writers are asked for input, and yes, if it comes down to what we like vs. what Marketing likes, we’re going to lose. We’re asked for input, but “input” is all it is. And honestly, well, Marketing’s being doing this a lot longer than we have.

And really, they want us to be happy. No editor or publisher has ever cheered and high-fived when an authors bursts into tears at the sight of their cover. They want to please us. It’s just sometimes we can’t be pleased. And sometimes Marketing is totally right, and the cover we don’t particularly care for is a cover that readers seem to adore. That happens a lot.

So. Cover art may take anywhere from 2-6 months. Which means that cover art may come in for FOUR anywhere from January-March. Because the sales people are going to need a finished cover when they start soliciting orders, it will pretty much have to be in by May at the very, very latest, but April is a much better deadline.
Read the rest of this entry »

What Stace had to say on Tuesday, August 24th, 2010
How Babies Are Made*

*by which I mean “books.”

No, books are not babies, but the title was too much fun to resist.

Okay, we’re going to discuss where books come from. See, sometimes when a mommy and a daddy love each other very–oh, I just slay myself, seriously. And I can see you laughing hysterically too, right? That rolling your eyes and checking your watch that you’re doing, that’s laughter, right? That’s what my parents always told me.


No, seriously, we are. Occasionally I do like to go all publishing wonk (I love publishing, I can’t help it) and write long detailed posts about things no one except other publishing wonks really care about. It’s my little way of driving people away, like all emotionally healthy people are known to do. But no, I do hope the wonk stuff is fun anyway, and that it might actually be interesting to other people.

So. How does a book go from manuscript to finished book, in stores, on shelves? (The process is different for epublishing; a lot of the steps are the same, but this post is specifically about printed books with NY houses [although printed books with small presses are made exactly the same and have the same steps, they just might possibly occur a little faster], and more specifically about mass market paperbacks. I imagine it’s the same, basically, for trade paperbacks and hardcovers, but mmps are what I have experience with.)

I’m going to use my books as an example, of course, and we’re going to start with the fourth Downside book, so we can really get an idea of time frames (UNHOLY GHOSTS, for example, was sold to Del Rey in June or July 2008, set for publication in October 2009, but of course was delayed so they could do the consecutive releases. So it’s not as good for demonstrative purposes).

FOUR–I have a tentative title, of course, but until I see if it actually fits the book and it’s all approved I don’t want to mention it, so we’ll call it FOUR here–is not yet written. I wrote about a page of it last night, that first page that’s so terrifying and awful and looks so lonely. But that’s it; it’s not even a thousand words yet. I have submitted a short synopsis of it to my editor(s), so they have a general idea what to expect, but that could change quite a bit. I don’t plan my books in advance; this makes for more work in editing but if I plan it ahead of time the book feels written and I lose enthusiasm. So all FOUR is at the moment is a paragraph or two of plot details, a single page of writing, and a few scenes in my head, only one of which I know where it goes (Chapter Two).

I have to finish FOUR and hand it over to Shauna, my editor at Del Rey (fabulous woman she is), by November 15th. Read the rest of this entry »

What Stace had to say on Thursday, April 2nd, 2009
I think about stuff

Okay, lots of stuff to cover and get through and all of that.

First, the other day I cam across this cool blog/site called Best Fantasy Another site had a link to this post about ARCs and reviews that I thought was really interesting.

Most of my thoughts on the subject are covered in my comment, which is the fifth comment down:

I think the disconnect comes from something I’ve seen a lot, which is the idea that reviews are written for the gratification of authors, or solely in order to provide them with pretty shiny quotes they can put on their websites and blogs. But they’re not. Reviews are for readers, plain and simple.

And more than that, reviews don’t sell books if the books aren’t readily avilable either. I might see an enthusiastic review somewhere. I might then jot down the title of the book and look for it on Amazon or next time I go to the bookstore. But when I do those things, I’m looking for something to read THEN. If the bookstore doesn’t have it I’ll grab something else. If Amazon or B& or Borders or whatever is going to have to order it for me and I’ll have to wait three weeks or six weeks for it, I might very well not buy it then either, especially if I have the money in hand and don’t know if I will when the book ships and I’m charged for it. Or heck, I don’t know I’ll get the book at all.

A really, really stellar review for a book that speaks to a very specific interest of mine might inspire me to go the extra mile. But in general, if the book isn’t readily available, I’ll buy something else. Reviews are for readers, to help them choose books at the store. While it’s always fun to get a shiny quote, and it’s always nice to see small-press books get some attention and reviews, the fact remains that if the book isn’t available there’s little point.

See, here’s the thing. I’m pretty sure that the good reviews Personal Demons got contributed directly to the nice level of sales the book had; certainly it sold more than I’d expected it would. But that’s also because those reviews were backed up by the book being available in stores. The book had a professional (if small) publisher, with professional distribution that got it on the shelves. So when people read one of those nice reviews, they could go to the store and buy the book. In that sense the reviews were extremely helpful.

But they were also legitimate reviews. Well-written reviews, which stated what the reviewer liked or did not like. Those ego-stroke reviews you see vanity press authors giving each other in a big, sloppy, “This book is the most wonderful thing ever, it totally swept me away and I couldn’t put it down” circle-jerk? Useless. You think readers don’t see through those things? Of course they do. Readers by definition are not stupid; they read.

But I do seem to see more and more the attitude the Best Fantasy Books gentleman describes: entitlement. I sent you a free book, so you owe me a review. More than that, you owe me a good review. If you read any of the review blogs or websites you’ll see this more and more; reviewers being harrassed by authors, called names, yelled at, argued with, all because they either did not review or did not like the book in question.

This is an unprofessional attitude, frankly. Nobody owes you shit.

Which brings me to Agentfail.

Here’s what bugs me about things like Agentfail. It’s a great idea. It could be a really useful and informative discussion. Instead, it ends up becoming much like the last discussion the lovely BookEnds ladies (I really like them, and their blog; I had occasion to deal with Ms. Faust back when I was querying Personal Demons and was left with nothing but positive impressions); a gang of unagented writers complaining–raging–about the query process, with such viciousness it makes the stomach churn.

And in doing so they obscure the legitimate points that have been or might be made. The “No response=no” policy, for example. I don’t have a problem with it. I never have. I certainly don’t understand why it inspires such fury in people, or why they feel entitled to a response from people they don’t know. If I send JK Rowling a fan letter, I don’t expect that she’s going to respond to me. Just like if I send the guy who lives two streets over a letter asking if he’d like to meet for a drink, I don’t expect him to respond to me. Because neither of them owe me shit. Why would you not only expect that a total stranger go out of his or her way to speak to you, but then get angry because they don’t use your name and include a few lines about how special you are?

Yes, I know the agent/querier situation is different. It’s a potential business relationship. Okay, then. Here’s an example. When we were planning our wedding I bought a box of chocolates. The company who made the chocolates was a small company that apparently does custom work as well. I emailed them and asked if they would be interested in making chocolates for my wedding. They never replied.

Oh, well.

I didn’t feel the need to burn them at the stake. I didn’t feel the need to start spreading their name all over the internet because how dare they IGNORE me when I sent them an unsolicited email for a job which did not interest them.

Here’s the thing, guys, and I know it might be hard to believe but it’s true. When your project is sellable, agents will respond. It really is that simple, and I knew that two or three years ago, long before I started seriously querying. If you’re not getting replies, it’s because nobody’s interested, and while that’s tough to deal with it is the simple truth.

That isn’t to say I approve of “no reply=no” as a policy, or rather, I don’t have a problem with it but do think agents who have that policy should set up an auto-responder for their email so the querier knows the thing was received. It’s not hard and it saves everyone a lot of trouble.

But again, that reasonable request–have an auto-responder–gets lost under piles and piles of “You’re not giving me feedback/you’re not using my name/you’re not calling me up to say hello/how dare you ask me to write your name on the query and then send me a form reply,” comments, couched in combative and abusive language.

I realize I look at this from a different perspective now. Quite frankly, I want my agent reading the stuff I send him and working on deals for me, rather than spending extra time giving feedback to people he doesn’t represent. Every minute he spends on that is a minute during which he could be doing something for me. Sorry, but it’s true. I (and all his other clients) pay him 15% to work for me, to read my submissions and work on them, to vet my contracts, to use his connections on my behalf.

You, on the other hand, do not pay him a dime to query him. Which means, to put it bluntly, I’m paying his salary during the time in which he’s reading and responding to your queries.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind this. I don’t even think of it this way; I’m just using this as an example of how my view of it is different now, and why agents handle queries the way they do (because it’s first and foremost in their mind, as well, or at least it should be; clients should be the priority). I don’t begrudge the time it takes for him to handle his queries–or do things for his other clients–and I don’t know a single writer who does. But again, I never thought I was entitled to anything from an agent. I never thought I deserved feedback (although again, I agree that a personalized response on requested materials–at least on fulls requested after partials–would be nice).

My point isn’t that writers don’t have the right to complain or be upset or hate the way things work or be irritated or have opinions. My point is that when the opportunity comes up to discuss issues in which agents could handle things differently or better, the anger doesn’t do anyone any good. The sheer hatred permeating that thread, leaking from my laptop screen in a choking mist…does nothing to make the points expressed look better or more valid. It just makes it easier to dismiss all of the comments and complaints as the frustrated rantings of a mob of wannabes.

And it’s depressing.

Okay. Moving on. Yes, we leave here next week; the movers are coming on Monday. My Monday post will be a short one; I’m going to open the blog to book recommendations from all of you, and I’m hoping that you’ll all have a great discussion while I’m away, so please, link to the post, tell your pals, whatever you want to do. (Or don’t, in which case I’ll just feel unpopular and unloved because nobody’s commenting on my thread.)

I’m not sure what my internet access will be. I will try. Later today or tomorrow I’m going to try and download Twitberry (or Tweetberry, whichever it is; I have it written down somewhere) so I can Tweet from my phone. So if that works, you’ll still be able to follow me on Twitter.

I am able to update my Facebook page from the phone already, so if I don’t manage to stop in here, and you’re not on Twitter or whatever, you can check in there if you like.

(BTW, yes, I am fully aware that your lives will move on exactly as before while I’m away from the internet, and that it’s not like my absence–or at the very least, very sporadic presence–for the next month or so is going to cause a huge gaping hole in the internet from which no one will recover until I return. :-) But A) it makes me feel better to list this stuff, as I then feel as if I have some control over the move and all the Big Scary Changes; and B) some of those who follow me or keep up with me in various places online are real-life friends or family members who might reasonably be expected to want to keep tabs on me and make sure I’m safe and sound.)

Turned in the final draft–or rather, my final draft–of the third Downside book yesterday. Final word count: 105,761. New title (yes, another one): GHOST BOUND.

We’re currently looking for a new title for the second book; we want to change the title structure up a bit with the second book rather than doing it suddenly with the third. Still want the word GHOST in there if possible. I know you guys don’t know much about the story or characters, and I’m not going to tell you because that would be a big old spoiler, but make some suggestions anyway, huh? Maybe it will spark something, who knows.

Goodness this is a long post! And I could have sworn I had something else to talk about too, but I don’t remember it.

What Stace had to say on Thursday, March 5th, 2009
The Books are Out There!

Sigh. Sigh, sigh, sigh.

So, lately I’ve been seeing a lot of posts and comments and discussions online relating to the idea that ALL urban fantasy has become samey and dull. That it’s all circling the were-vamp drain, full of designer labels, with the same worlds and characters and plot devices.

And it puts me in a little bit of an awkward position, in a way. Because I totally, totally, TOTALLY disagree, but saying so makes me feel a little…weird. Like I’m putting readers down–which I never, ever want to do, ever, because readers are awesome–or jumping up and down in front of them screaming, “But, ME!! And ME! Look at ME!!” Which I also do not really want to do.

But, um, look at me. :-)

No, no. I’m going to talk about my books a little bit, yes. But really I want to talk about other writers’ books. And I want to talk about how my opinion and image of urban fantasy is exactly the opposite: I believe the genre is about to make a huge, expansive leap, that the days of urban fantasy automatically equalling hot chicks in leather weilding guns and fucking vampires or weres are done with.

And here’s where it might sound like I’m scolding or yelling at readers, but that is not the case at ALL. Not one bit, never. But guys…the stuff is out there. The books are OUT THERE. They are. They’re coming. They’re in stores now. They’re in pre-release. They’re being signed by agents and they’re being bought by editors and they are in the works, and this genre is about to explode and I honestly believe that’s the case.

But you have to look for them, and you have to know where to look.

It’s not your fault, darling reader. It isn’t. You buy books based on a recommendation, or you see a cool-looking cover or read a review or whatever. And that’s the way it’s supposed to work. You don’t have time to play book detective and spend hours running around the internet looking for unfamiliar authors. And nobody expects you to, least of all me.

But here’s where I think the problem lies. You, as a reader, know what sorts of things you like, and I think in a way the system itself is geared to make sure you stay in your little reader box, if you know what I mean. Say you buy Caitlin Kittredge’s excellent Second Skin, which was just released and you totally should be buying immediately because we all know Caitlin is the awesomest. Anyway, you make this very sensible purchase. Say you make it from Amazon. Now, what does Amazon do? Amazon shows you more books about weres, because Amazon assumes you like books about weres.

This would be the case with any book you buy. But given that, yes, there are a lot of were & vamp books out there, and given that they sell well if they’re good (like Caitlin’s are)…it can seem as though that’s ALL that’s out there. Because it’s all you’re being shown.

I think the crossover between urban fantasy and paranormal romance is an issue as well. There are people out there who dislike UF because it doesn’t have that HEA (Happily Ever After, for the uninitiated) ending which is so necessary to genre romance. And you know, if genre romance is what you’re after then I totally understand that. You want a HEA ending. If that’s what you want it’s what you should get; it’s what you as a reader deserve. Why should you have to read something that isn’t what you want or are looking for? You shouldn’t.

But I can’t help thinking…maybe if you tried a non-HEA UF or two…you might find you don’t mind the missing HEA so much. You might be happy to wait for it, to get involved in a long and complex emotional relationship (not that genre romances don’t have complex emotional relationships, that’s not what I’m saying) that spans several books. Why not give it a try? Because if you’re looking for paranormal books outside the vamp/were area, UF has them in spades, and you might be surprised by the emotional depth of the stories.

And that goes for the fantasy fans who are unhappy that UF has too much emphasis on romance, that they are somehow a “girl’s genre” because the heroines have sex and look for love. Well, you know what? UFs have romance in them because whether you personally feel that way or not, the vast majority of people want romance in their lives. They want to find someone to share their lives with. They want to find love. Hell, they want to get laid. I’m always stunned when I see or hear people comment that they don’t like romance in books; to me it’s like saying you don’t want romance in life either (and by romance I simply mean love and passion, not flowers and soft music, neither of which I particularly like). These are basic human needs, people; why should UF heroines be any different? Most books, in any genre, have some sort of romantic subplot. What’s wrong with that?

And, why is it that books written by women are judged by the amount of romance or sex in them, but books by men aren’t? Harry Dresden’s looking for love; I don’t see anyone putting those books down. In fact, it sometimes seems as though UF written by men doesn’t even figure into the equation when people talk about samey UFs. The Dresden books are nothing like Mark Henry’s fantastic zombies; Mark del Franco’s Connor Grey books aren’t like Anton Strout’s Simon Canderous books; Charles de Lint isn’t John Levitt. And none of those books are like my UNHOLY GHOSTS, or Jackie Kessler’s HELL’S BELLES, or Richelle Mead’s SUCCUBUS BLUES. They’re just not. At all.

It just frustrates me a little, I admit, to see the genre I love so much reduced to “They’re all alike; they’re all just rich vampires who own nightclubs and sleep on designer sheets,” or whatever. While I don’t deny those books do exist, they’re not the only books that do. There are so many stories and world and characters out there, and so many more coming. When I personally feel like we’re on the cusp of something so much bigger. In June Caitlin’s STREET MAGIC comes out; a fantastic, fantastic urban fantasy about mages and magic and a hidden London. In May 2010 (yes, we get to me now) my UNHOLY GHOSTS will be released, and I’m sure you can all recite with me what the book is about: punk rock, greasers, ghosts, black magic, blood rituals, witchcraft, drug dealers, ghettos…and not a were or vamp in either of them. My cast is all-human, baby, with a few ghosts thrown in for spooky good measure. So is Caitlin’s. And don’t forget Richard Kadrey’s SANDMAN SLIM, or Kari Stewart’s A DEVIL IN THE DETAILS.

And I know there are more. Tons more that I’m just not thinking of at the moment.

Remember my “Heroes” series? The simple fact is, books about dull people doing nothing out of the ordinary don’t sell. They just don’t. Do you want to read a book wherein your neighbor sits around watching TV all day? Do you want to read a novel about a complicated tax question? No, probably not.

And I firmly believe there is not another genre out there where the characters are as unique and exciting, the world as intricate, and the stakes as high as urban fantasy. And I firmly believe that in the next year or so we’re going to see the fruits of all those books that came before; they way they fired our imaginations and made us think of possibilities. Sure, there will always be a place for vampires and weres, because there are readers to buy them. I love vampires.

But weres and vampires are not the only characters in UF. Not at all. You just have to look for others. Visit the League of Reluctant Adults. Check out the Fangs Fur & Fey community on livejournal. Visit the fantasy section at the bookstore if you usually just buy romances, or pick up an urban fantasy if you usually read only trad fantasy or science fiction, and vice versa. Branch out. Ask people. Ask booksellers. Tell them what you want, like, for example, that they should order twenty or thirty copies each of STREET MAGIC and UNHOLY GHOSTS for all of their stores, because you’re going to get all your friends to rush in and buy them the day they’re released.

The books are out there. They *are* out there. You just have to look for them.

What Stace had to say on Friday, January 2nd, 2009
A few bits before I “officially” return

Yes, I know. You’re all waiting with bated breath, right? Ha.

Okay. First, yes, I am messing about with the template. I attempted to download the new CSS template I’m using for my shiny! new! website!, but Blogger kept insisting something was wrong with that code. Nothing was wrong with the code; I’ve run it through three different programs to make sure. The problem, I guess, is that it’s a webpage code and not a blogpage code. I dunno. Anyway, it blows, because I love my shiny! new! website! template. (Above is a sneak preview of the header.)

Anyway. Feedback is appreciated. I can already see the sidebar fonts are too light; I will fix them over the weekend.


I hope the person in question doesn’t mind me posting this, but a friend said something to me earlier–and I said something in return–that I felt the need to repeat here publicly.

In a nutshell, my friend is getting ready to begin the query process. I sent her a list of names of fantasy agents I esteem–Jim McCarthy, Rachel Vater, Miriam Kriss, Kim Whalen at Trident, Katie Menick at Howard Morhaim, to name a few–to add to her list.

Of course, at the top of the list I put my own agent. :-)

My friend thanked me for the suggestions but mentioned she probably wouldn’t query my agent because she didn’t think she had a chance at interesting an agent with such a prestigious agency (Look, this is what SHE said, okay. I’m not trying to brag or anything here, I’m really not, so I hope I don’t sound like one of these people who’s constantly running around talking about their agent and how their agent is the greatest agent who ever lived and how other writers would kill, yes, kill, to be repped by my agent because my agent gets a billion queries a minute and is clearly The Most Important Person In Publishing and the business would stop dead if this person were ever to leave it because they are so, so, so important and amazing and thus by extension so am I. So please don’t think I’m doing that.)(Although I do obviously think my agent is pretty fucking cool.)


She told me she didn’t have a chance with him, because she didn’t have any prior publication credits and she’s not writing in a “hot” subgenre, and this is what I said in return:

Don’t be ridiculous. Prior credits have nothing to do with it and you should know that. Chris signed {another cool writer} and I don’t think {writer} has any prior credits. I know my prior credits didn’t matter one bit to him.

Query him. Query him, unless you just don’t think you’re good enough to get a really good agent; in which case, why query anybody at all? Believe me, if I’m good enough for him–me, of all people–so is anybody else.

What’s the worst that can happen? You’ll waste under a minute cutting and pasting a query letter? You’ll get a polite rejection? Oooh, scary. :rolleyes

Yes, I’m being deliberately harsh here in an attempt to show you that you’re being silly. Query EVERYONE who can give you proper representation. EVERYONE. So they say no, so what? Chris isn’t some sort of beast; he’s not going to come to your house and throw poop at you if your query isn’t for him, or send out an email to every other agent in NY making fun of you for having the effrontery to think *he* might be interested in your work.

Either you believe you’re publishable or you don’t. (Yes, I use boldface a lot; so? You got a problem with that?) And if you do, you query everyone. Period.

Hugs, dear. I’m trusting that you know I’m really not trying to be a bitch here; I just don’t want you to limit yourself like that. Where would I be right now if I hadn’t decided to go ahead and query him? Maybe I’d be repped by somebody else, sure; I had five or six other fulls out when he offered. But you know, maybe not. Who knows?

Just send the fucking query. At worst you’ll get a form rejection. At best you’ll get a great agent.

And that goes for you too, readers. Don’t give me that shit about how The Big Guys aren’t going to be interested in you. Either you’re ready or you’re not. Either you think your work is publishable or you don’t. Why limit yourself at the query stage? If they say no, they say no; big damn deal. What if Bigtime Agent is the one, and you never find out because you’re too chicken?

There are LOTS of great agents out there. Try them all.

Thus ends your new year inspiration for the day.

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