Why Can't Agents Just Say What They Mean?

Friday, October 28, 2011

5 Chiming In
If you've ever gotten back a form response to a query with politely worded "not for me" kinds of answers, you may have wondered this yourself. It's a common complaint - How is someone supposed to improve if no one tells them what is and isn't working?

Well, if this sounds like you, or if you're simply in the mood for some honest query feedback, then let me point you in the right direction.

My agent, Super-Suzie, is having a contest to celebrate settling in at Nancy Coffey.

Here are the details:

Can you handle the truth?

Many writers want to know what an agent is really thinking when they pass on a query, right? You want the truth...but can you handle the truth? Well next week I will respond to the queries I receive in complete honesty. You may see something as simple as "Not bad, but just not for me." or "I don't represent legal thrillers." OR you may see something like "I stopped reading when you mentioned that the mailman was a vampire space zombie who has come to deliver a message of PAIN. Because come on...seriously?"

So, if you want the truth, query me next Tuesday morning, between 9-10 am EST. Read on for the rules.

The rules and whatnot are on Suzie's Confessions blog, so if you want to participate, pop on over there and find out what you need to do.

This is only valid for one short hour on Tuesday, so make sure you've got everything ready to go when the window opens.

Good luck!

What Books Can Do

Monday, October 24, 2011

3 Chiming In
There's really no reason for this post, other than I wanted to share.

At the school where my mom works, they have themed doors throughout the year, meaning that each teacher/class decorates a door to go along with whatever the semester's focus happens to be. I wanted to share a picture of the door I helped her put together for the "reading" semester. (It won 1st place...)

Mom wanted something that illustrated how much of an impact books could have on a kid, so I immediately thought of this (you've likely seen it before):

It couldn't be used as-is because a - the graffiti isn't elementary school appropriate and b - doors are big and we don't have a printer big enough to make this thing door-sized. So, after doing a bit of brainstorming, this was the result:

It took the pile of books from the original and turned them into stepping stones the kids (the girl is a total copy of Mary Englebright's little painter, btw. The boy is the same thing, flipped, with a haircut and dye job ;-) ) I like the change, because it makes the kids proactive. Where the boy in the original is using books as an escape to dream (as many kids do), the painters are creating their own world from what they've read - and that's the true magic of reading. (I also love that, when assembled, it was the girl "painting" Star Wars instead of a princess fantasy.)

If you're interested, the books used are:

The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg
The Indian in the Cupboard, by Lynne Reid Banks
Transformers, (I think this is a "read with me" book).
The Bridge to Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson
Captain Underpants, by Dav Pilkey
The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkein
Hank, the Cowdog, by John R. Ericson
Faery Rebels, by R. J. Anderson
Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak
The Oxford English Dictionary
Peter Pan, by James M. Barrie (despite the Disney-fied cover)
Miss Nelson is Missing, by Harry Allard

The boy is standing on:

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, by JK Rowling and Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson

The girl is standing on:

Wings, by Aprilynne Pike, and one of the Star Wars: Jedi Apprentice books.

New Adult

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

7 Chiming In
I'm starting this by saying I hate that title. I hate it as a post header and I hate it as a category descriptor. (Transitional or some such would be a lot less insulting to those in that age group. If they've already been "young" adults, then how are they suddenly "new" adults?)

I've read and commented on a couple of blog posts about this subject recently, so rather than continuing to repeat myself, I'm going to do my own post.

It's no secret that NA's a tough sell - just like it's no secret that those who write college age protags are stuck in a sort of limbo where they feel they have to either age their characters up or down to fit the market. However, there are some stories that ONLY fit a young person who is tasting the first freedom (and fear) that comes with college-life, or the disappointment that comes with missing out on it.

The main problem, from a marketing standpoint, seems to be that post-high school life is so diverse that there's no real common ground that stretches across all of it. (FYI, life is always diverse. If you think going to HS in Texas is like going to a school in NYC, maybe I should explain that there's a greater difference between states than simple geography. Never mind the changes that come when you leave the country and get into 6th form schools and the like.)

So for those of you who write in this age group (I've done it myself.) let me offer what I think is a bit of logical hope: Think digital.

This goes for publishers, too.

Your core audience for "new adult" are those in college. This year's incoming freshman mark the first generation of kids born completely after the rise of the Internet; they've never lived without it. They're more comfortable with the technology required for reading e-books than any others before them. Between smart phones and e-readers (and Kindle apps for their laptops) e-books provide them the kind of convenience and portability that's necessary for college life.

Many universities are already going to e-books for their courses, so downloading a few extra titles of interest isn't a stretch.

I truly believe that, while it's an age group and not a genre, "new adult" will be the first group of books where the successes are solidly e-book (commercially published or otherwise). Sure, there will be some print ones, but given the core audience and the hectic pace of life in university, it's more likely that they'll latch onto something meant to compliment what they're already carrying and not add another ounce to their bags. (iPhone for the win - a library in your back pocket!)

College kids talk. They share. They're web-savvy and they pass on the things they like. If what they like is a well written series that stars someone they could either know, or be, then so be it. I know I'd love to have them talking up something I wrote, paper or not. I'd sure love to have them Tweeting links to an Amazon purchase page with my name on it.

Wherein I am Annoyed by Rude People

Monday, October 17, 2011

7 Chiming In
I live in a tiny town. Tiny. Search for it on a map, and if it's not Google, you won't find it. (However if you do put it into Google images, one of the first that pops up is a sad, yet beautiful photo of my Aunt's late-father-in-law's home as an "abandoned" farmhouse.)

This town is so tiny we have no bookstore. We "technically" have a library, but it's in the public school. (Not near, IN. As in, you have to go in, let the principal scan your ID and then browse while kids are doing schoolwork "in". I've never done this, but as it's the "public" library for this town, I imagine others have. It honestly gives me the creeps.)

Thankfully, this year, a Half-Price Books was built in one of the closest cities to where I live, but for a "real" bookstore, with new books still wearing their shiny dustjackets, I have to go many, many miles. It just so happens that recently I was in a mall with a Barnes & Noble... YAY! There's a very particular book I've been wanting to buy for someone who wants it, but also can't get to a place with shiny dustjackets, so I skipped (not literally, stop looking at me funny) over to the YA section and was happy to see three copies.

I picked one up, but there were wrinkles in it, so I figured it had been thumbed through and put it back.

The second copy was also wrinkled. Wrinkled and creased - with dogeared pages.

All three "new" copies of this book were in the sort of condition you usually find at a rummage sale.

Someone, or many someones, had completely disrespected the store, the books, and the people who might have purchased them. (And I'm not naive enough to assume it was a child who did it. There are a lot of adults out there with less manners than their children.)

Please don't do things like this. Books are ideas taken out of the Aether and put on paper (or into electrons, for those of you with e-readers). They're not something to abuse or manhandle. They're precious things, and should be treated accordingly.