Doin’ What You Love

February 14, 2013

beagle love

I’m not normally a big Valentine’s Day junkie because, well, in truth, the hubs makes me feel like every day is Valentine’s Day. I know, collective awwwww. But I am a proponent of doing what you love. I talk to a lot of authors, and those with book deals are now thrown into the world of deadlines and serving another master. Their time isn’t their own anymore, and they have to shift gears. It’s easy to lose the love.

Others experience rejection letter after rejection letter. Hearing “No thank you” is soul-sucking stuff and you may feel like you’re going nowhere fast. Worse, you question your talent. That may be valid, or it may be hooey. But it’s easy to lose the love.

And then there’s that other group for whom the words simply aren’t coming. They’re stuck. It’s nearly impossible to put a single finger on the keyboard. You want to toss your computer out a second story window, drink heavily, clean (yeah, I’ve never experienced that particular affliction), or invert your belly button. It’s easy to lose the love.

If you’re in one of these groups, you’re probably ready to toss yourself under a garbage scow. Stop. Take a breath, let the rescue beagles fix you a margarita, so you can remember that you got into this silly thing because you love writing.Repeat after me. You. Love. Writing.

Since this Valentine’s Day, take the time to love you and your love of writing. It’s hard to be effective job at anything if you don’t love it, be it a relationship, a job, or writing. So today (and every day thereafter), remind yourself of your love for the ability to put fingies to keyboard and pour your soul out on cyber paper. Cherish the snippets of time you can steal away to lose yourself in your story. Nurture yourself and your talents the way you’d nurture your job or your relationships, because writing is food for the soul.

Happy Writing-tine’s Day!

Why most of us don’t recommend

November 16, 2011

Publishing is about relationships and networking. Everyone likes a stuffed Rolodex of people who can answer a question, pass along info, or exchange the latest gossip. And in the odd case, make a recommendation. We protect our relationships like the beagle protects a fresh bottle of tequila, which means we don’t use up a “friend chit” on a whim. In a word, there are reasons why we don’t offer blank recommendations to those nervy enough to ask.

The first case is those who write back, after being rejected, and ask if I can recommend someone else to them. First off, that’s not my job, so I find this a bit cheeky. I know, I know, what does the rejected author have to lose by asking. Well, their dignity, if anyone is keeping count, because it’s just a bonehead thing to do. The editor has sent you a form rejection letter on your query. This means that they haven’t even read your work, nor have they established a relationship with you. A rejection isn’t an opening to invite further correspondence; it’s a “thank you, but we’re not interested in your work at this time.” Given that fact, why would they drop what they’re doing to use up a “friend chit” on you? You’re probably a lovely person, but the whole idea defies logic.

Yet I get requests like this all the time…and not just from people I don’t know. I get the occasional friend of a friend request, as in, “Acquaintance A is a friend of mine, and they said you might be able to help me with (fill in the blank).” This is head-bangy stuff because I’m in a position I don’t want to be in. I don’t want to offend my acquaintance, but I also want to nip this in the bud so it doesn’t get out of hand, and this makes me doubly grumbly.

Here is a good standard to live by: Agents and editors will only recommend something to someone else if they’ve read the work in its entirety and loved it.

I do this with manuscripts that weren’t quite right for us, but I had a feeling a friend might be interested. I don’t do it because the author asked me to do it, but because I wanted to do it. I’ll pick up the phone and pitch it. If they’re interested, I’ll send it. If I just automatically sent stuff to friends without vetting the work, how valuable do you think my opinions would be? They’d see my name and run screaming from the room. I’m not about to risk my reputation or tarnish my friendships any more than they would do to me.

We understand how tough it is out there, but unless you’re a good friend, please refrain from asking an agent or editor to read your work. We might appear to be as brainless as a Bing cherry, but we do have a few firing synapses, and we’ll offer to read someone’s work if we’re truly inspired.

The one thing you always want to be mindful of is being an imposition. We already have day jobs that are long and busy. We squeeze favors in where we can, and we hate to say no. But we will do so as a matter of self-preservation.

And look at it from a different perspective; would you appreciate people requesting favors of you during the course of your day job?

Anger…fuel or mistake?

October 3, 2011

When I saw that the ship of fools publishing my book many years ago were less than incompetent, I got mad. Really mad. I’d put a year into research and writing that book only to have them screw it up. I channeled that anger and Behler Publications was the by-product. After that, my anger dissipated because had it not been for those bottom-feeding-ground-sniffing-disease-ridden-sons-of -yaks, I would have never had the lovely honor of publishing so many fabulous books and meeting so many wonderful people.

I’ve been asked why I’m still not angry with those toe-suckers after all the horrendous things they did to me, and I can honestly say that I made a conscious decision to rise above it. I’m in a far better place than I ever dreamed possible, so why hang on to the anger? It serves no purpose, it takes too much energy, and I have far better things to do. Sure, they enter my life just often enough to remind me what toolbags they are, but I also remember they have to look at their own reflection for the rest of their lives – and that’s punishment enough.

And this is why I find myself at odds with the DIY crowd who crow about the death of mainstream publishing and the rise of a new publishing option that gives power to the people – raised fists and all. I’ve talked about this anger herehere, and here.

I’m not absent my entire collection of firing synapses to know the genesis of their anger. It comes from the Big R…Rejection. Being told over and over again that your writing isn’t marketable is like a cup of warm fish. At some point people are going to get ticked off. And you know what? That’s not bad…provided that anger has a productive outlet and a positive result.

The outlet of a lot of anger has been DIY – Do It Yourself – via e-books through Amazon or other outlets. These writers have decided that, rejection or not, they’re going to put their books out there. And I’m good with that. At no time have writers had so many wonderful options in which to produce their books. Bravo, I say.

Yah. Me. A trade publisher is pumping a fist up for the DIY’ers. And why not? There’s plenty room for all. What I don’t understand is this protracted anger that almost makes me feel apologetic for my business, as if I’m the evil warlord who’s goal is to steal off the backs of our authors.

I’ve read their blogs and posts on writer’s sites, and one thing I’ve noticed is how they can’t stop discussing their hate of mainstream publishing. I was discussing this point with good buddy Lauren Roberts, who runs the fabulous BiblioBuffet. I lamented about this disturbing trend, remarking how “they hate us. Why?” Lauren, ever the sage one, reminded me that hate isn’t the opposite of love…indifference is.

Right! I understood my feelings about my ignorant baptism by fire with publishing. Those scam artists were simply the fuel toward something quite wonderful, and I’d become indifferent to them. A core of DIY’ers haven’t yet reached that evolutionary climate, and they take up scads of room hating on those who “kept them down.”

It’s a matter of perception, of course, but what they’re missing is how they project themselves to their potential readers. There were a number of DIY e-books that looked really interesting, but their vitriol was so potent that it altered my impression of them. I chose not to buy their books. Of course, my decision not to buy won’t hurt their sales, I’m sure, but there’s a bigger issue at hand.

At what point do writers allow themselves to wallow in the Angry Zone for too long and become embittered? So many of these DIY sites should be filled with posts about how they are happier, more successful writers because of their experiences. Instead, posts are filled with “I got dumped by my mainstream publisher, so screw them! All publishers suck stale Twinkie cream.”

I’m the last one to diminish the sting one feels over having a contract canceled or not having their series picked up. But if these authors have truly found more satisfaction without their publishers, why not focus more on that, rather than bringing out the same tired message of “mainstream publishing is filled with dinosaurs.”

For one thing, it’s not true. Secondly, that anger has ignited a lot of untruths about trade publishing, and new writers are obviously confused. I see that firsthand when I speak at writer’s conferences. Lots of questions center on misinformation they read on DIY blogs and writer sites. I’ve seen the same kind of whack advice on vanity sites…

  •  We’re giving you the chance you deserve.
  • Publishers will change your book without your approval.
  • All publishers use Print on Demand printing – don’t even get me started on that one.
  • You have complete control.
  • You get a much higher royalty than those dinosaurs.

There are always two sides to any story, and most people will only project the information that best supports their opinions – and it’s often conveyed in an acidic tone. This services no one. Why is it that in order to make oneself look better, the other option must be torn down? Can’t there be a number of options that have equal opportunity for success and happiness?

Time would be better spent concentrating on the reasons why DIY works for some and not for others. DIY isn’t for everyone, and it’s vital to discuss the benefits of both options in order to allow authors to make informed choices that will favorably impact their literary careers. Given that perspective, there really isn’t any need for anger to enter the equation.

If any of you are angry and bitter at mainstream publishing, or any of the publishing options, I urge you to channel that anger into a positive. Do the research, ask questions, figure out what kind of literary career you want for yourself, what kind of personality you have, and then take the steps that will give you the most bang.  Become indifferent to those who ultimately propelled you to take action, and bless the experience. Without them, you might not be who you are today.

And how you project yourself really does impact sales. I’m always a bit scared to buy a book from an angry author. Are you? And do you want to be perceived as an angry author…or simply a very talented one?


I’m amending this to add one very sad case of anger gone wild. I can’t begin to fathom the amount of energy it takes to maintain this level of animus.

Pity or pitiful?

September 28, 2011

I happened to read a post about an author whose publisher rescinded their contract when they found out she’d done a DIY after signing a contract with them. From what she says, her contract is being canceled and she has to pay back the advance.

She mentions being “coerced” to accept the terms of her contract and intimates that every author is being taken advantage of. However, since she was deeply in debt, she took the deal. And the advance.

I’m not going to debate the issues of who may or may not be right because none of us have the inside story from both sides. However, I would wager that something exists in her contract that spells out the legalities of what she can and can’t do independently from her publisher. Additionally, she made the conscious decision of earning her livelihood from writing – an insanely difficult thing to accomplish since most authors have other day jobs.

Given her reasoning, I’m nonplussed that she dissolved her relationship with her publisher and lost her $20,000 advance. For a debt-ridden author, this has to be a very tough choice, and it’s impossible for me to judge her for her decision. However, I do wonder whether it was a wise choice in the long run.

Sure, I’m a big believer in karma and that the decisions we make set into motion certain outcomes. But are they necessarily successful outcomes? And if I’m going to get into a philosophical debate with myself, then the beagle better add more tequila to the pitcher of margaritas.

More to the point, I read stories like this and think about all those lovely writers I meet at writer’s conferences whose sole purpose is to land a good book deal. Would they be so quick to walk away from that book deal if they were in the same position? Or would they make different choices in order to preserve the relationship in order to enhance their writing futures?

I could go on for days arguing the phycho-blabbery of those points, but we simply don’t have enough margarita mix to keep me going that long. Here’s what I do know: relationships take work and mutual respect.


Publishing goes both ways, and smart editors and authors share mutual gratitude to be working together toward a common goal. As such, each side works to maintain open channels of communication. But there are times when those channels break down, and gratitude on both sides melt like the ice in the beagle’s margaritas, leaving room for Attitude to move in.

The downhill slide usually begins with Assumption. One side may act in accordance with their assumptions instead of looking at the potential consequences of those actions.

The author assumed it wasn’t a big deal to DIY e-pub, and I’m sure she never thought it would put her book deal at risk. But for whatever reason, it did, and this is where her gratitude (remember, she was broke and grateful for that $20k advance) dissipated and attitude took over.

This was avoidable.

  • Why didn’t she consult her agent and editor before pubbing her DIY e-book? Case in point, one of my authors was asked to write an article for a magazine, and he asked if he could use a chapter from his upcoming book. Of course, I told him to go for it. Tra-la! It took him a fraction of a second to email me, and a fraction of a second to email him back. Had there been a problem, I would have cited the contract as to why this couldn’t be done.
  • When she saw how upset the editor was, did she weigh the financial and professional benefits of remaining with her Big 6 publisher against going it alone and all the uncertainty that goes with it? Hindsight can be a three-legged dog who’s rethinking the the intelligence of trying outrun a garbage truck. It’s easy to get caught up in the heat of battle, but when the dust settles, are you like the dog, wishing you had your fourth leg back? Once you cross over the line, it’s mighty hard to go back.
  • Did she allow emotion to cloud her judgement? Obviously, I have no idea. However, her post is extremely emotional – which I can understand – and it makes me wonder if that emotion ultimately served her to her highest and best outcome. She has an agent, who is probably less emotional and, therefore, more reliable in negotiating with the editor. Decisions made during emotional overload can be followed by regret that will follow you forever.

Case in point, I had an author many years ago who was verbally abusive to me. I put up with it for awhile until I had enough. I warned him that he’d crossed over the line, but that just encouraged him until he really went off the deep end. I cancelled his book contract within the hour.

When gratitude turns to attitude, you can’t help but reach a stalemate, an impasse. And when push comes to shove, are you in a position of strength, or have you relinquished everything in the heat of the moment? It’s hard to unburn a bridge because trust is the first thing that goes up in flames. The other side knows you have the potential to take things further than they need to go, so they’ll be wary of you.

It’s possible the editor was an idiot and entirely unreasonable, but it’s rare that editors are arbitrary to the point of cancelling a project. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, but it’s far from the norm. More importantly, this author comes off like she has a chip on her shoulder – that she was “coerced” into her contract.

Until someone sends me an updated memo, I have to go on the assumption this is still a somewhat free country, and we’re not forced to sign any book contract that we don’t believe in. She got $20k for her book, and were I in the financial straights she was/is, I’d find a way to make it work. As of now, she’s working without a net, so is she to be pitied or merely pitiful?

What would you do?

Gaining perspective – it’s not Us vs. You…really

September 6, 2011

I received a comment recently on my post that discussed authors who insist on keeping their e-book rights. My premise was that mainstream publishers want the physical book and e-book rights. If authors insist on keeping their e-book rights, it could result in a deal killer. The commenter wrote:

LOL! Self published author John Locke just sold his PRINT ONLY rights to Simon & Shulster (if he even gave them ‘those’ rights) to distribute his books to bookstores but he kept his digital rights! So, we self published authors have moved on from these worries already. But it was an interesting article and certainly something traditionally published authors might have to worry about. Hee hee.

For starters, good for him! I’m thrilled for the John Lockes of the world – and why wouldn’t I? He’s done something fantastic, and I celebrate his success. That he got a book deal from S&S is way cool.

What gives me pause is the commenter’s reaction – which is far from uncommon, sadly.  I don’t understand the anger. I think this comment to my post is a bit snide – not unlike a child sticking his tongue out and wagging it at me while screaming, “Nyah, nyah, looooser!”

Ok, let me backtrack. I do understand the anger, but only in a cerebral sense. Truly, this isn’t an Us vs. You business, as replies like the one above may indicate. We don’t sit in our batcaves, twisting our chinhairs while squealing about destroying the hopes and dreams of yet anther writer. Without writers, we’d all be doing something else – and really, we LOVE writers.

So I’d like to talk about perspective in hopes that we can change the dialog about those who self pub and how that fits into the publishing business.


It’s no secret that more authors are rejected than accepted for publication. It’s always been that way. However, at no time have there been as many writers as there are today. With the advent of computers and laptops, the act of writing is a whole lot easier to do. So now anyone with a story can write on the train, lunch breaks, Starbucks, etc.

Digital printing also opened up a whole new world for do-it-yourself’ers, and for a few bucks anyone can produce a book.

With the plethora of armchair writers coming out of the woodwork, this increases publishers’ influx of queries – but it doesn’t necessarily mean an increase of marketable stories because our society has adopted the “I want it now!” mentality. With a larger population writing (and not learning how to write), the natural result is a higher percentage of rejections.

The higher percentages create a community of those who feel displaced and are angry about it – regardless of whether it’s justified.


Sadly, this has generated a higher number of people who misplace their anger.

Ok, I know I’ll probably catch some heat for saying that, but the majority of queries that editors see are from those whose literary grapes are very green. And what’s more distressing is the increased number of writers who don’t realize how the publishing industry works. This lack of understanding has fueled a healthy populace who bite back in some unprofessional ways.

It’s times like this that I distress over this feeling of entitlement, so I’m going to just be blunt:  Just because you wrote something, do you believe you deserve a book deal?

The comment I have at the beginning of this post suggests that we publishers have been put on notice – that no one needs us anymore, we’re irrelevant, and we better start worrying.

For starters, publishers always worry, so no one needs to make the suggestion. Secondly, why are you angry at us? Yes, many of you have received rejections, and yes, sometimes it hasn’t always been fair. But whoever said life is fair? What good does it do me to lament some book getting a Library Journal review over ours? There are many “injustices” that we encounter, but rather than making me bitter and angry, I put my head down and take steps to overcome the problem.

It used to be that rejection was an indication that perhaps you didn’t have a marketable book and this would be a good time to hone your skills. Nowadays, rejection has become fuel for anger – not betterment – and authors are biting back with a “I’ll show you” mentality. The result is a lot of really bad books flooding the market.

I applaud anyone who decides to control their writing careers, and I truly hope they become successful. But the reality is that John Locke is a Cinderella story, and for every John Locke, there are thousands of nobodies who will never sell more than twenty-five books because they are either really bad, or they aren’t properly promoted and distributed.

Comments like the one above don’t authenticate our impending demise, but rather, it validates that there will always be success stories, no matter the uphill battle they face. And that’s the beauty of humanity – there will always be achievers for those who take the time to work very hard, learn their craft, and the business.


I’ve come to interpret this anger as jealousy. People are jealous because someone else got the book deal another’s expense. Publishing doesn’t work that way. A more accurate description is, “whoever writes the best manuscript and happens to query the right editor at the right time, wins.” Given that reality, it would be much more beneficial if angry authors considered why they continually receive rejections. Manuscripts are rejected for all kinds of reasons, but the main one is a lack of quality.

Just like any business, we have to have a quality product to sell in order to stay in business. If I continually put out crappy books, no one will buy them. This means I have to have a hand on the pulse of the marketplace and consider what types of subjects are selling, and then work very hard to publish those books.

Because the marketplace is such a fickle mistress, I’m constantly on my toes, and I’m always on the hunt for a great story. That means I wade through a lot that isn’t so great, which means I reject a lot.

How is this my fault? Yet, this is the attitude I’m shown – that publishers have some grand conspiracy that will prevent most authors “the chance that they deserve.”

Here’s some tough love:  No one deserves anything. They have to earn it, and this means knowing how to write, and writing a story that publishers believe will sell well in the marketplace.

Is the system perfect? Of course not. What in life is perfect? Yet those who vent their spleens don’t afford us that very consideration.

For example, I specialize in memoir and biography. This means that many people experience something in their lives and decide to write about it. Many of these stories are too personal and won’t appeal to a wide audience, or it’s a subject that’s been written about many times – like divorce, midlife crisis, addiction, bipolar, Alzheimer’s.

When I reject these manuscripts, it’s because they are poorly written, or they aren’t unique, or the author lacks a platform, which will help with promotion. It’s about this time when I get the nastygrams about how I’m an elitist gasbag who won’t “take a chance.”

Eh…I take chances every day, as does every agent and publisher. What’s more telling is I receive rude comments from those who are very new to writing – not the experienced ones. This indicates that these new writers want what I have to offer without the benefit of working toward excellence. Quite frankly, I resent this, and I have the vanity presses to thank for this shift in attitude.

Vanity presses have long squealed about “giving authors the chance they deserve,” and “the mainstream publishers only publish established authors,” blah, blah, blah. All they’ve done is appeal to the lowest common denominator and offer a sense of entitlement – for a price, mind you.

You deserve this!

Well, no you don’t. And because of this unfortunate preemptive declaration, many writers have learned the hard way that quality really does usurp mediocrity Every. Single. Time.

Options – Room For All

There’s no secret that, given the advances with technology, publishing is in a state of change. Rather than lament what was, or try to predict what will be, what’s wrong with dealing with what is.

At no other time in publishing have there been so many options open to authors. I think it’s wonderful because there’s room for all and more chances for success. But just because these options exist doesn’t mean that one is better than the other, or that one will be successful at the expense of another. Or that one will be successful at all.

And that’s what the comment above hints at. That just because John Locke got a book deal, that we publishers have been put on notice about wanting the e-book rights. Everything is open for negotiation, so I think this comment is premature at predicting what will befall mainstream publishing.

Not every author is a John Locke…and this is an important point to drive home. All anyone sees is John’s end result – the book deal. But how many have delved into his process, his journey? Writers rarely just pop out from under a rock and become overnight successes. They’ve worked long hours to advance their skills and learn the tools that will enhance their chances of triumph.

Too often, I hear writers see a John Locke story and say, “Well, if he can do it, so can I. So long, mainstream publishing, you dirtballs.” Thing is, the John Locke stories are few and far between, so it’s dicey to discount the viability of mainstream publishers. Until everyone is achieving wild success as a self pubbed e-book author, then it’s is going remain exactly what it is:  a hit or miss proposition.

It might be more helpful to alter your perspective and do what’s appropriate for you rather than putting publishing on notice. There’s room for all, and it shouldn’t be about Us vs. You. Really.

The Eleventh Commandment: Calleth not editors

June 28, 2011

And God did sayeth unto his flock: “Calleth an editor, and the skies will doth darken and thunder will striketh you deader than a doornail.”

I’d listen to God, He’s got game.

If you’re ever tempted to call an editor to see if you have a “good idea,” don’t. Just…don’t. We aren’t here to vet your ideas, and unless you’re an agent or one of my authors, calling to engage in a friendly chit chat is more irritating than running out of sacramental wine.

Just today, an author called and expected me to drop everything so he could run not one idea, not two ideas, but “several” book ideas past me to see which one I liked the most.

Blink Blink.

At first I thought it was one of my reprobate friends who love tweaking my last vestiges of sanity. But, alas, this was truly a lost soul.

I told the gent it wasn’t my job to help him determine which book idea is the best. It’s my job to read queries and see if the story looks interesting and fits in with our lineup. That’s how the game is played. Publishers aren’t review sites – that’s why God invented writer sites, where authors can vet their ideas and get crits on their writing.

I understand that it’s frustrating not to simply pick up the phone and talk to an editor, maybe ask her to hear out an idea or three, but we have submission guidelines in order to streamline our lives. If we had to sit on the phone all day, we wouldn’t get anything done, which consist of far more than reading query letters. And it makes me grind my molars to hear, “Yah, I read your submission guidelines, but I thought I’d preempt the process in order to move things along at a faster pace.” Um…faster for whom, exactly?

What makes some people think they’re so special that they can invade someone’s day, knowing full well that it’s not cool? What has engendered their sense of entitlement?

It seems that my incredulity knows no limits because my jaw hung slack while he told me that he expected the two of us to figure out which idea had the most promise, and then he’d go ahead and write that book. Man, I want what he’s smoking.

Rather than be well read in his genre and having a good idea about his competition, he thought it perfectly normal to let me do his work for him. Like we have nothing BETTER to do?

Some people really do believe they’re too cool to adhere to the rules. If you’re one of them, please remove your brain with a rusty spoon and demand a better model. The world doesn’t need another soul who believes his own press. That’s why God created Charlie Sheen. Be smart, follow the guidelines, ingratiate yourself by understanding the business of writing a great query or proposal, and knowing how to conduct yourself.

Ah, who am I kidding? I’m just ticked off I didn’t hang up on him. Next time, babe. Next time.

So, like, whatsa adverb?

August 31, 2010

The author looked at me with venom in her eyes. Sizing her up, I was fairly certain she could take me. Easily. “I have NEVER had anyone talk about my writing and my sentence structure the way you have! I don’t know anything about POV shifts, run-on sentences, or adverbs. Nor do I know what show vs. tell means. Furthermore, I don’t care! I am an artist and  ‘rules’ hinder the literary process. So piss off.”

While my jaw hung slack in my lap, she gathered her things. “Um, yes rules can hinder the literary process, ” I said, gathering up my chin. “However, there are some ‘rules’ that exist for a reason, and that’s to make the story easier for the reader to follow – effective communication. With all the POV shifts, it was hard for me to keep up. The severe case of adverbatosis created a ka-thunk cadence that cluttered the writing. And your run-on sentences made the message unclear…”

Her icy glare slid down her long nose and settled on me with a bad case of frostbite. “I think there is nothing wrong with my writing.”

“Yabut, I don’t believe it’s marketable as written.” How lame did I feel by this time?

“I’ll be happy to accept your apology when I get a five book deal,” she sniffed before storming out of the room.

That was a a one-on-one that took place five years ago at at a writer’s con, and I have yet to see her name in lights.

Here’s the long and short of it:  You’re a writer, so doesn’t it seem logical that learning how to use the tools of your trade is, like, IMPORTANT? It’s like a surgeon who isn’t concerned about learning how to use a scalpel. “Hey, no problemo, let’s just dig his tonsils out with a spoon.” Gah.

It flies in the face of logic that any writer would be unconcerned about learning any kind of writing rules, yet I see signs of this ignorance every day. Yes, you heard me – IGNORANCE, which means the condition of being uneducated, unaware, or uninformed.

Thankfully, this isn’t a fatal disease. One can go from being ignorant to being informed and aware in no time. The only way this is fatal is E-G-O, which has little place in this business. In fact, every literary tackle box is spring-loaded to launch an author’s ego right out of the zip code. It’s called a rejection letter.

But on the flip side, I’ve seen authors whose hands felt tied behind their backs because they were so concerned about “writing right” that it hogtied them into a literary coma. In this, I enthusiastically prescribe to my shoe-loving across-the-ponder Nicola Morgan, who screams from on high to just sit down, shut up, and write. Brava, Morgan – go buy yourself some wicked lavender colored boots.

It’s a case of balance. Write with abandon, but eventually waggle your eye on whether you’re meeting basic writing needs. Of course it’s all a matter of personal taste. For instance, I’m not a fan of excessive adverbs because I think they create a ka-thunk cadence, they’re lazy, and lean toward telling rather than showing.  Someone else may feel quite differently. Balance tends to cast a wider net. But in order to strike that balance, you gotta know da rules.

As for the haughty author? I had the last laugh since the event organizers sent me a check for the one-on-ones, which came out of the fee she paid. So in essence I got paid $60 to hear her blather about her extreme coolness.

Humility is a good thing

August 27, 2010

I don’t mind being corrected. No, really, it’s true. Well, unless it’s the beagle, and the only thing we ever snarl about is her lack of sobriety and refusal to do any meaningful work.

However, when I receive a query and the subject line is: Searching for an agent, my pea-sized brain thinks the author sent this to me by mistake. And yes, I’m a bit  annoyed because it shows me that the author didn’t stop to even consider who she was querying, or this is a form query letter that she didn’t tailor it  to those she queries. Either way, it’s noobish.

In this particular case, I wrote the author and told her that had she checked us out she’d notice we’re publishers – not a literary agency.

She wrote back and informed me that she’s the author of many books and that she knows full well how it works. Okaaay. So I decided to cut her some slack and read the synop. Errors. Big errors.

Because I was still sipping my morning cuppa and not in official work mode (after all, a girl needs to get her bike ride in first), I looked her up. Gah. Yes, she’d written numerous books. All by….Publish America.

‘Nuff said.

There’s being published – to where an author REALLY knows how it works – and then there’s being pubbed by a vanity press, where one needs to know absolutely nothing.

Getting back to my original statement – I don’t mind being corrected, but I do consider the source. Having a PA author tell me they “know how it works” is like the beagle telling me how to stay sober – like she’d know, right?

The purpose of this post isn’t to finger point at an unfortunate author who suffers from Inflated Egoitis, but to point out that humility is a life preserver. None of us knows everything, and we shouldn’t be above being corrected by those who might know more than we do. After all,shouldn’t we be grateful to those who take time out of their day to provide comment or critique?  ”Tis better to keep your mouth shut and your ears open, not come back with snark.

And for the record…it’s “pen name” – not “pin name.”

Are you difficult?

June 4, 2010

I just got off the phone with an editor friend of mine who wanted to vent. She has a difficult author. Oboy. Seems the author calls my friend twice a day and emails her six times a day, asking questions and voicing concerns. Mind you, the manuscript is still being written, so I was unsure what would take up so much of my friend’s time.

“Oh…” sez my friend in dramatic undertones, ” she calls to tell me she hates the cover. She calls to discuss adding some different content to the original idea. She emails to ask about promotion and marketing. She emails about movie rights. Have the damn beagle send me a Care package of margaritas, willya?”

I can hear the frustration in my friend’s voice all too easily because I’ve been there as well. We all have because we’ve all experienced the various flavors of The Difficult Author.

First-Timer Freak Out

Many writers are debut authors and have no idea what goes into publishing a book. There’s finishing the proposed manuscript, editing, cover design, page layout/ interior design, marketing/promotion…and on it goes. It’s a bit of a head spin for the debut author. And you know what? We’re good with that because we understand.

Many of us have Author Packages that we send out to our new authors the minute the ink dries on the contract. It helps us help you, the author, understand what to expect and when and how we do our magic. It also cuts down on the “holy conjugated verbs, Batman, what’s next?” emails. In a word, first timer freak out is expected. But that’s not what I’m talking about here.

The Worry Wart

The difficult I’m talking about are those who worry.

Cover design: “Ew! I hate, hate, hate it!” Yes, yes, that’s nice, but this is what the sales folks think works well. Most editors will do all they can to reach a happy medium on cover design because a happy, proud author is one who loves to show off their book at events. We genuinely want you to like your cover art.

And this is where experience and knowledge trump wishies and pretty colors. Certain colors print up horribly, and certain fonts can set the wrong emotive tone [for instance, you’ll never see a horror novel with a script font]. You may want a purple dragon with detailed artwork, but that intricate detail invariably gets lost on a book cover and blends into a mish mash. We know that, but you don’t.

You may want a lovely script font for your romance, but they’re achingly hard to read. Last thing you want is a buyer squinting to read the title of your book because chances are they’ll give up and move on.  We know that, but you don’t.

We all have stories where buyers hate a book cover so much they don’t put it out on the shelves. If our sales folks say a cover looks great, then we’re going to listen to them. Not you.

Editing: This is the biggest reason my grocery budget is sky high. I buy lots of Maalox, Twinkies, and tequila with the sole purpose of editing a book. Most editing is wonderful and  comes together like a greased zipper. Others are tough because the author questions every decision I make.

If I feel a manuscript is filled with miles of fluff and backstory, then the author needs to trust me and edit it out. Arguing with me solves little because I do have ultimate say on how a manuscript is edited. I paid for those rights. I love the books we publish, but don’t have the blind emotional tethers. I’m looking at it in terms of  “will this puppy sell?” The worry wart is thinking, “How dare you kill my darlings?” Well, pretty damned easy, as it turns out.

The author who emails me five times a day, questioning every single editing crit that I have is the one who’s ruining my liver. I don’t mind discussion – no editor minds this. But being challenged at every turn is exhausting.

The Cranky Pants

There is room for only one cranky pants in the author/editor relationship, and I’m it. And truly, I’m not at all cranky because I want what’s best for everyone. Most editors think this way. We don’t awaken from our crypts wondering whose life we can ruin this fine day. But believe me, if an author gets cranky, this shoves the relationship into perilous territory.

No one gets paid enough to shoulder someone else’s crappy mood. I’ve been told, “It’s because I’m so artistic.” Uh huh. I don’t care if you’re Hemingway, there is no defense or excuse for cranky behavior.

Are you the type who upsets easily or takes offense at every turn and fires off an email telling your editor [or agent] they’re a pile of petrified fish twaddle because you don’t like their edits? Are you the type who needs constant contact with your agent or editor to ask them a gajillion questions? Do you send emails that demand final say on cover design and editing changes? Umm…better check that ol’ contract before hitting the Send button.

Do you send emails telling your editor that she’s always hated you and you’re being unfairly treated?

Any of these things create a situation where the editor says, “This cannot go to printing fast enough!” Or…they may decide they’ve had enough of you and dump you.

A certain amount of hand-holding is expected in any publishing situation, and we’re more than happy to perform this function. You’ve trusted us with your book, so it’s perfectly natural to cast a careful eye over every aspect of production. But if you’re difficult, word will get around. Editors do call each other and ask questions. Take stock of your behavior. Are they calling to discuss you?

Of book parties and author behavior

June 1, 2010

Editorial Ass has two brilliant posts on planning your book launch party and author behavior during a party or reading. For once, I have nothing to add, since Assie sez it all. Go. Read. Learn.

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