Friday, May 27, 2011

Some things just don't bother us that much

RIDICULOUS question I know! I was wondering, when I send sample chapters, given that they are random chapters from amongst the novel, do I leave the actual page numbers that they are in the book (like 65-72) or is that too confusing for the poor person trying to read them?
Does it even matter!? There is nothing in the submission guidelines that I've been reading about page numbering.

If there's nothing about it in the submission guidelines, then clearly it doesn't matter enough to the agents/publishers who composed those guidelines. Therefore, don't worry about it. Of course, if you're really worrying about it and it will put your mind at rest, make the numbers sequential. But whoever is reading it is unlikely to notice. We only notice on full manuscripts. And only then usually if there are no page numbers at all.

This earlier post may also help:

What to give away for free, what to keep etc

Just a simple question: is there any reason why I should not post a chapter except of my novel onto my blog? I'm printing out copies of the complete manuscript for my friends to evaluate, and I want to give them an idea of what to expect before they sign up for the read. I've heard of publishers/agents getting quite touchy about manuscripts that have had an online existence, whether in forums or blogs, in excerpt or complete format. Indeed, is it wise to simply keep all of my work offline for the sake of future publication consideration?

I'll start my answer to this question by referring you to an earlier post in which I expound, in a mildly bossy fashion, about what I think authors should give away for free and what they should retain for Potential Future Book Publication.

Actually, most of my answer to your question is in that post, so please go and read it. I'll also say this: I can say 'do this, do that', a published novelist may say something else, a publisher may say something completely different. Ultimately the decision rests with you. You should do what you want to do. I'm also a big fan of working from instinct. If you *feel* you want to publish a chapter of your novel online, who am I to say that that feeling is wrong? We're all just guessing about what's going to happen - about what is happening. It's your novel and your intellectual property.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Voucher winner

There were several good entries to win the $100 voucher for courses at the Sydney Writers' Centre and the winner is ...

Lynda Young.

Her entry was:

'As an unpublished writer I deserved to be published because I pour all my energy into my writing. I don’t have time to do the dishes, vacuum the floors, or cook. If I don’t get published soon, I’ll need to find a new excuse for avoiding housework.'

I found this appealing mainly because I could, ahem, relate.

Congratulations, Lynda! I'll be in touch by email to tell you how to claim your voucher. And thanks to the Sydney Writers' Centre for offering the voucher in the first place.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Why do so many good novels get rejected by agents?

The title of this post was the search term someone used to find their way to this blog - yes, occasionally I check the traffic sources - and it struck me as a good topic for a post.

The first answer that struck me was: Because so many good novels get rejected by readers.

Agents are readers too. Readers first and foremost, hopefully - usually people who work in the publishing industry start out as passionate readers. Quite often we're rejecting good novels because they're just not novels that we want to read. It doesn't mean they're not good. It means they're not good for us. The person who used this search term has no doubt gone to a bookshop more than once and ignored the hundreds - thousands - of very good novels because he or she only wanted one good novel. Only had time to read one good novel right then.

I reject good novels. I have to: I simply can't take on all the good novel manuscripts I read because (a) I can't physically manage that many authors and (b) I can't place that many good novels with Australian publishers, who are also limited in how many good novels they can publish.

And that's as much as I've come up with on this particular matter. Now I have to get back to cramming things in to make up for the amount of time the Sydney Writers' Festival will consume next week ...

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

$100 Sydney Writers' Centre voucher to give away

The nice folks at the Sydney Writers' Centre have sent me a $100 voucher, as this blog was a finalist in their Best Blogs 2011 competition.

The voucher can be used on any of their 30 courses - details are available on their website.

I'm going to offer this voucher to one of you*. And here's how you can win it.

Unpublished writers: in 100 words or less, tell me why you deserve to be published. You don't have to be too earnest about it.

Published writers: in 100 words or less, tell me why you deserve to get the voucher more than an unpublished writer does.

Email your entry to call [dot] sydney [at] gmail [dot] com by 1700 hours AEST on Friday 13 May . I will pick one winning entry only (I've made the unpublished/published distinction above because asking published writers to tell me why they deserve to be published didn't seem like a good idea).

*You don't have to live in Sydney - they offer online courses.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Fantasy, submitting overseas, 'US agents are superior' etc

I have written a fantasy (i think?) novel which is complete at 165,000 words and is also the beginning of an intended trilogy. I sent it to agents about 3 weeks ago and i only have two left to reply to me. There aren't an enormous amount of agencies who are looking for new clients in the fantasy genre, and i was wondering whether it would be a good idea to start trying to submit to international agents? I feel like there might be a better chance of an international agent - say, from America - picking up my manuscript because many seem to have far fewer clients and therefore potentially more time. I have also noticed that many agencies in America state that they offer editorial help, and most Australian agents say they do not offer any. It gives the impression that a manuscript will be rejected if the grammar isn't always perfect or there are sections which need to be cut out, but the novel itself could be very marketable. Does that make the chances higher for an American agent to accept a manuscript?

Lastly, can you give any advice on how to make sure your cover letter is good enough to not be rejected before they hit the "thank you"?

Here's some information about why American agents can offer those services and Australian agents can't:

Here's me giving a whole lot of feedback on query letters that may help you craft your own:

Here's a post about submitting fantasy overseas:

Happy reading.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Yes, non-fiction is popular - next!

I notice another politician has come out with another book. One of the premises is that politics isn't interesting to mainstream Australia. If that is so how, do so many politicians get books published and how do so many other mildly interesting non-fiction ideas get up? Looking at some of the agents' websites and seeing the non-fiction titles they're boasting I can't believe enough people would read them. Is the market for fiction tiny and the market for non-fiction endless?

Politics aren't interesting to mainstream Australia but politicians are, because they've made themselves into celebrities. You may wish to read the book Things Bogans Like - or the website of the same name - to fully understand this rationale.

As for the other 'mildly interesting non-fiction ideas' - well, they're mildly interesting to you, but how do you not they're not very interesting to others? Non-fiction books can appeal to almost anyone, whereas fiction, sadly, cannot. Fiction reading is a habit, usually acquired in childhood; it requires patience and dedication to, first, become acquainted with a story and, second, stick with it, especially when there's a lot competing for your cultural attention. Non-fiction reading is often performed for the gleaning of information, and one doesn't need to have developed a habit for it - one just needs to want to know the information. Thus publishers are more prepared to take a risk that their non-fiction books will hit enough information-gleaning targets for the book to make its money back and, every once in a while, make a profit.

So to answer your last question more concisely: the fiction market is relatively tiny compared to the non-fiction market. And just because you wouldn't buy any of the non-fiction books you can't believe agents are displaying on their websites, it doesn't mean other people wouldn't. Books are for everyone, not just you.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

What's hip and groovy for young adults

In my opinion, the wave of YA vampires is collapsing into seafoam and air (boy wizards are LONG gone), but the wave of YA steampunk is building. I also think it's higher in America than anywhere else - which means Australia will love it more and more over the coming months and years. 

Although it's never wise to follow a current trend (because you'll finish that book when the trend has just been tapped out), what trends are you seeing and/or liking lately?

While I'm quite fond of highly imaginative (i.e. speculative) fiction for adults, I actually like more realistic YA, so that's usually what I'm looking for - and no doubt that's just because it's what I was used to growing up, so I'm constantly trying to recapture the days of rapture of my reading youth.

I try to stay away from trends for YA because once the trend is identified it's usually on the way out - although this may change as publishing time frames become shorter with more digital publishing (although children's/YA publishing probably won't move as quickly to digital as genre fiction for adults). So it's just the boring old finding-identity-in-a-small-town-or-bit-city kind of thing for me. I also love it when there's a dark edge to a story - genuine darkness, not a showy attempt at juvenile delinquency to suggest 'bad boy' behaviour - but it's often very hard to get those stories published. Adults, you see, don't like to be reminded that teenagers have a fully functioning awareness of the crappy things in life and, more specifically, the crappy things adults do.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Whither horror?

Where is the demand for the horror genre market on a scale of 1 to 10 today, and why hasn't there been another horror author to even come close to achieving the staggering heights of Stephen King in the 1980s?

I'd say horror is about 1 or 2 and likely to stay there. And it was there when Stephen King was at his horror peak too. Stephen King is Stephen King - he's an extraordinary storyteller with an equally extraordinary work ethic. Regardless of the genre he chose, he was probably going to be wildly successful. He wrote horror stories because they were the stories that came to him, and some of them become movies that were 'scary' more than pure 'horror', and thus he entered the mainstream in a massive way. This is a wildly generalised summary of a long, rich career.

My own theory about why horror isn't more popular is this: chicks don't dig it. And when chicks* don't dig a book genre - either to read themselves or to buy as a gift - it's very, very hard to get it consistently on any bestseller lists. Most women I know - including me - would not voluntarily read a horror novel or watch a horror film. Alien is probably as horrific as they'll go, and even then it's a 'space film' so we can convince ourselves that it could never happen on earth, ergo, it's not as horrific as it could be. We'll watch/read crime stories that come close to being horror, but we're mainly not interested in horrific - really nightmare-creating - stories. The women I know who read voraciously (and some of the men) will not go anywhere near a horror story. Of course there are exceptions to this. There are lots of women who've read Stephen King. But he's Stephen King. He's a genre unto himself.

The comments section is there for anyone who wants to seriously go to town on my theory.

*Culturally ironic use only.