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Three Most Common Reasons For Manuscript Rejection

July 26, 2012 Leave a comment

So, I have been picking the brains of friends of mine who are authors or are/were in the publication field (literary agents, editors, etc). I have been doing this because I see a lot of people compiling lists about why manuscripts get rejected. I read these lists because I want to give myself the best shot I can at getting published.

But what I seem to be finding is that a lot of those lists are really bunk, or at least these lists are subjective and often contradict one another. Don’t start your story too fast. Don’t start your story too slow. Too much description. Not enough description. Too many characters. Too few characters. Too much dialogue. Not enough dialogue.

Read more…

Don’t Believe The Hype Part 2

July 1, 2012 Leave a comment

This is a follow-up to my post last week titled Don’t Believe The Hype, It Hurts Later.

A friend of mine recently received a plethora of not so kind reviews on his self-published novel. He complained to me that people were just being cruel and hateful and how he feared it would hurt sales of his book. After all, he reasoned, his wife read the story and thought it was excellent. When I asked him who else read the story he informed me, “no one else.” Oh boy.

Comments on his novel included lots of 2 and 3 start reviews. These reviews focused on the high number of misspellings and a lack of character development. Were they really being mean? He assured me that they were and that the complaints sere unfounded. Said friend gave me a free copy to read. I told him if I liked it I would give him a good review. Read more…

Jumping In – Second Chances Completed For Submission

June 29, 2012 7 comments

Ok, I’ve been rushing to complete my short story Second Chances for submission into a fantasy short story contest to see how things go.  Deadline is fast appraoching, like tomorrow fast, and I have been doing some polishing.

The story follows Kath’ri-sa, an elf, and the deuteragonist of my novel Under the Darkened Moon.  I just like saying the word deuteragonist.  Its sounds so quirky.

Final stats on the short story are 5,941 words, Flesch Reading Ease of 84.3, and Flesch-Kincade Grade Level of 4.1. Read more…

Interview Your Perspective Agents

June 17, 2012 Leave a comment

Many writers jump, head first, at the first offer for representation they receive from a literary agent. It is an understandable reaction. Most authors get beat down by many rejections before someone shows an interest in their work. Therefore, when someone tells them they think them can sell the author’s labor of love, the author is too happy to think about anything else once the good news arrives. Yet repeatedly, I hear horror stories from authors that did not look before they took the leap and signed a contract with a literary agent.

Just like with any other endeavor, it is very important that you, as a writer, interview your perspective agent just as the perspective agent is giving you scrutiny. I have mentioned this a couple of times to other writers I know and the general response has been shock that I would even suggest it. I don’t know why. I think it is only logical, especially considering the many horror stories I have heard from other authors about how bad either their current or former literary agent was.

I do not know about you, but I do not want to experience the following:

• Signing with an agent who does not return my phone calls for up to six months.
• Having an agent who repeatedly “looses” my manuscript.
• Landing an agent who insists on meeting with me face-to-face multiple times a year, and, worse, that I come to see her in New York, spending oodles of money on plane tickets when she has yet to sell my manuscript and secure at least an advance for it.
• Having an agent who repeatedly sends me emails intended for another client, discussing confidential contract and project information and then quickly having to send another saying, “OOPS! Ignore that!”
• Signing with an agent who constantly calls me “John” rather than my real name.
• Signing with an agent who feels the need to send me every humorous spam email he receives, which is upwards of twenty a day
• Landing an agent who argues with me over the clearly detailed commission she is supposed to receive based on our contract, complaining that it was a typo, and that she is really entitled to twice as much.
• Having an agent who does not send out commission checks until months after they are received or not at all until gently reminded to do so.
• Signing with an agent who pitches my novel to an imprint that has never published a Fantasy novel in its entire existence and has no interest in ever printing such things.
• Having an agent who tells me what my next novel “must” be about because XYZ publishing house is looking for yet another cheesy vampire tale to sell to teens and preteens and who then gets into a shouting match with me when I say no.
• An agent who insists on calling me at 2:00AM because he is a night owl, another author he represents is also a night owl and he just wants to see how things are going with me and when he can expect my next manuscript.

Yes, these are all real stories other authors have shared with me. And yes, most, if not all of them could have avoided these problems if they would have done some do diligence about who they were signing to represent them.

Update: Under the Darkened Moon (Novel)

June 16, 2012 Leave a comment

Just finished up what I consider to by my first polishing edit for Under the Darkened Moon, my first actually completed novel.  Things went well.

To say that I am 100% pleased with it would be saying too much.  I’m 98% pleased though and I think that is pretty good for someone that is as big a perfectionist as I am.

As one of my friends told me, no novel is ever 100% perfect so don’t fret the last few percents.

Next up is going to be a live read edit.  My wife is going to actually read aloud the words so I can hear them from someone else’s mouth rather than my own.  This will hopefully help catch any final awkward sentences, missed commas, etc that my brain is simply auto correcting for when I read aloud because I know what is supposed to be there even if it is not there.

Hopefully, this edit will commence in the next few weeks.  If we do one chapter a day it will take slightly more than a month to complete.

It was July 18th of last year that I embarked on the ambitious project to write a novel.  Looks like it will be a little more than a year from then that it will be ready to be submitted, and likely rejected many times, to publishers and literary agents.  Keeping my fingers crossed that it isn’t too painful.  My review groups have all given it high praise, sometimes too high of praise if you ask me, but high praise none-the-less.  I guess it is almost time to find out whether or not people with the power to get books published feel the same way.

Being Practical With My Showing

June 4, 2012 Leave a comment

You hear it all the time as an author.  They say, “show, don’t tell”.  The problem with that advice is that it is just too simplistic.  You can’t always show.  Everyone who has written anything knows it.  Prose becomes too unweildy and awkward if everything you do is “showing”.  A recent example of a book that I read which, I felt, suffered from bout after bout of over showing was The Scar by Sergey Dyachenko.

By about halfway through this story, I’ll be honest, I was burned out by the author trying to find new ways of “showing” the lead character’s fear.  Even when the showing was good, the constant showing still had ground me down.  As an author myself I would never do as much showing as Dyachenko did.  But, even though this is my opinion, there are people out there that love this sort of prose and over showing.

That makes it even more difficult as an author to determine how to balance the showing and telling in a story.  I’m still struggling with it.  All I know is that I have to pick my spots.  Every time I edit, I swap a show for a tell here and a tell for a show there.

Showing takes words.  It takes a lot more words than telling.  Telling can make prose move fast and has its places.  But short shows can have the same effect.  I

I’m trying to be more practical with my showing.  I’m not a flowery writer.  So I don’t try to write puffed up descriptions of what is goin on.  I try to make my shows short.  They almost seem like tells at times.  I’m trying to not speak outside my voice and so far, I have gotten no complaints from any of the reviewers that I did not “show” enough.  The problem is, what will publishers think? Will they agree?

Sad thing is, I won’t know for a while.  Here’s hoping that my trying to be practical with my shows versus tells is what publishers are looking for.

Today’s Good Advice As Given RE: Agents And Rejection

June 1, 2012 Leave a comment

My buddy Terence has the good advice of the day. So, what is a writer to do when a literary agent tells you your work isn’t a “good fit”?

“Query another agent. ‘Not a good fit’ is usually code for, I don’t rep this kind of story, or don’t know who to pitch it to, or that their roster of authors is already full.”

This was in response to me last night asking about various strategies and how to go about querying.

Thanks J.R.! Starting My Agent Query Spreadsheet

May 29, 2012 Leave a comment

Just giving a shout out my my buddy J.R. Fitch who has been giving me some great leads on literary agents to submit my novel to.  Ok, some of them don’t look like good fits but some of them do and I always appreciate the help.

I’ve started to construct an agent contact database to help track my submissions even though I am not quite there yet.  I like being organized though.

My database looks like this:

The categories are:

  • Agent Name
  • Agency
  • Interests
  • Recent Relevant Sales
  • Send (Y/N)
  • Date Sent
  • Heard Back (Y/N)
  • Interested (Y/N)
  • Followup

The list contains both loose and hard matches.  If an agent says generically that they accept “Fiction” they go on the list.  They might not be among the first few batches of queries to go out unless I see that they have recently sold something in the Fantasy genre however.  The category that agents through around that bugs me however is “YA Fantasy”.  This field is so poorly and broadly defined that I have come to realize that no one really knows what it means and every one seems to have different definitions they opt to go by.  But I will still target them as well as Under the Darkened Moon can easily fit into that category under many of the available definitions.

I think that this sort of a list will help me keep track of where my submissions have gone and see if there are any trends in terms of out right rejections versus interest.

I Feel Better After This Advice

May 27, 2012 Leave a comment

My friend Dan is a literary agent.  Unfortunately, he and his agency don’t deal with Fantasy novels so he cannot accept my manuscript.  But he has given me some names and suggestions about who I should submit my novel to and has given me great advice on my novel Under the Darkened Moon to help me out along the way.  But none of his advice has been as valuable or helpful as this:

“You hear about how 95% to 99% of all manuscripts are rejected right?  Well, I don’t know that you should have to worry about the odds being that high against you.  First of all, you have two things going for you that those 95% to 99% don’t have!  First is that you have written one heck of a manuscript for being a first time author.  I am very impressed with it.  Secondly is that you are going to make sure that you submit your manuscript to the right people!  I know you are because we have talked about this.

See, those there are the two reasons why so many books get rejected.  They are either not submitted to agents or publishers who deal with the material the author is writting about or what is submitted are horribly written first or rought drafts with zero thought put into them.  Plus, remember this please, that high rejection rate includes all the rejections of every manuscript sent to every potential agent or publisher.  You submit to 99 times and are rejected by all 99 then you are at 100% rejection rate.  But when you submit to the 100th and are accepted you are in that 1%.

I really hate how people in my industry try scaring off new authors with daunting figures that makes getting published look like an insurmountable moutain.  It is hard.  But when people put the time in they can be rewarded.  Now go and submit!  I am not saying you will get offers and ink a deal.  However I do deeply feel that anyone who rejects your manuscript is going to wish they hadn’t.”

This kind of encouragement makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Encouragement From My Friend Doug

May 26, 2012 Leave a comment

One of my reviewers, Douglas, has given me hope:

“I would say that your novel ranks in the same league with published works such as Flank Hawk or The Blade itself by Joe Abercrombie. If those works can be published then yours should too. It’s much better than a lot of what is published these days. You have definitely taken a lot of the critiques given to your rough draft and made this much better. I think that for your first novel it is a sparkling achievement.”

HA! Now time to get disapointed I suppose as the rejections roll in.