Why I will never stop imbibing in the drink

February 8, 2012

"Rahhrrrr...I'm an angry beagle"

Jim, our PO guy alerted me that I had a package to pick up. Since I don’t accept mailed queries, I knew it had to be something else. A gift from an admiring author? First class tickets to the Bahamas? Those adorable Toms I’ve been lusting over for the past couple months?


It was a book. Now before you get all soft and chuffle out an “aww, how sweet,” let me just say that it was a query. Of a book. If this had been a bumbly type of thing, I’d possibly conjure up a smidge of sympathy. But no, this person knew exactly what he was doing because in very large font, he wrote, “WAIT! Don’t feed this to the beagle!”…which makes me sorta laugh considering my own beagle was the first photo on “angry beagle” google images. Sounds like it sound be a game, right? Angry Beagle? Ah, I digress.

He goes on to say two pages worth of nothing – no synopsis, just description that tells me nothing about the plot of this book – and ends with a plea that I take the time to READ HIS BOOK. In a word, no. In two words, HELL no.

Does this person believe I sit on my lower forty while the beagle peels me grapes, and my entire raison d’etre is to await his tomes of brilliance? Okay, I exaggerate – I do that when I’m irritated.

Words fail to do justice to my frustration over idiocy of this nature. He knew he shouldn’t send me a published book (from Xlibris with ISBN and all), yet he felt himself above it all and did it anyway, and then expected absolution. No, no, no, a thousand billion times, no. This is worse than being plain clueless. And you know where this book ended up? Straight into the trash right outside the PO, along with his business card and bookmark. I didn’t even crack the cover. It never even made it back to the batcave.

So what this person did was waste good money. He may as well have flushed that money down the toilet. And, okay, I admit that I’m peeved because I wasted my time picking it up. This is normally the beagle’s job, but she has a suspended license for failing to pass a breathalizer test. I really hate to waste my time on dumb things. And this was dumb. Dumber than dumb. It was dumb times a million.

Folks, don’t do this. Just…don’t. I have repeated this plea so many times I’ve lost count. I see the same plea on other editors’ and agents’ blogs all the time. And still, the willfully stupid try it anyway. “I know I’m being bad, but I’m so cute and I write sooo well that you won’t mind that I’m bad. In fact, you’ll thank me because I’ll make you a millionaire.” Makes me want to mainline bad gin.

Submission guidelines aren’t there for the tourists. You ARE the tourist. And yes, I will allow the beagle to rip it up and make dootie on books that wend their way to my mailbox.

It’s the little things – #color-me-annoyed

August 27, 2011

#color-me-annoyed:  When I see three different fonts in your query letter, I know you’ve cut and pasted – which is no big deal – but boy, is it ever annoying and unprofessional looking. It’s the literary equivalent of your bra strap sloughing down your arm.

#color-me-annoyed:  When you write your pitch, you don’t need to litter Wikipedia links throughout. Truly, I know what a Japanese woman is, I know where Belfast is, and I do know what happened at Dunkirk in WW II. Not only do these ridiculous links make your pitch hard to read, but I begin to wonder if you’re trying to sell a story or give a history lesson. Avoid this. Really.

#color-me-annoyed:  “My book compares to Eat, Pray, Love…” Shoot me now and blind me with eye bleach. In the past week, I’ve had no fewer than fifteen manuscripts use this as a title comp.

Note to authors:  Avoid comparing your books to  JKR’s Harry Potter series, Dan Brown and his DaVinci Code, or Elizabeth Gilbert’s E,P,L. They did it. In fact, they own it. You do not compare. Really.

#color-me-annoyed:  You put this in your query – “I would like it printed in standard memoir size (6” x 9”).” Guess what? The trim size isn’t your call – nor is 6 x 9 “standard” memoir size.

#color-me-scared:  “I plan on querying you the minute I finish writing my book.” Noooo…please, Oh Holy and Wise Cosmic Muffin, let this not be the case. Please intervene and let the book marinate for a spell, and then let the author go back and revise. The only fresh thing I want is a margarita…


Great expectations: of titles and pitches

December 8, 2010

There is nothing cooler than getting reader feedback. Too often, we sit in our gilded batcaves and go about our jobs as if we were the ruler of all things wonderful. Then you get the opinions of those who shelled out money for your little beauties and get a bitter taste of reality.

While in my own gilded batcave, I happened to be roaming around Amazon.com, looking at books that I’d stashed in my Wish List – a list so vast, I’ll be 190 y/o before I finish reading them all. While I was perusing one particular book because I liked the author, I stopped to read the reviews – and got an interesting education regarding expectations.

In amongst the mostly good reviews were a number of reviews that took the author to task because they didn’t feel they got what they were expecting. The chief complaint was that the title, subtitle, and synopsis didn’t deliver the goods as advertised, and the reviews concentrated on what they felt the book did NOT do. Gah! This is a marketing brain fart. It’s literary bait and switch.

How you brand a book is what lets readers feel satisfied that you delivered the goods. So it goes to reason that your title, subtitle (yah, cover art, too), and synopsis all give the proper face to the inside of your book. If your book carries the title Training Errant Beagles: This Side of Crazy, then the content better speak to that subject. If, however, the book goes into great detail about the author’s personal relationship with the beagle with only a tidbit about the actual training part, then I guaran-dang-tee you there will be a percentage of readers who will be snarling at you because they bought the book to learn how to train a beagle.

* Just a quick aside – beagles can’t be trained. I don’t care what the literature and other beagle owners say, they’re all lying.

Here is an example of what I’m talking about. This was pulled off the reviews of a book listed on Amazon:

Overall, this book was very disappointing. Yes, the author’s story is quite poignant, as she recants her struggles in very good detail. It even has its funny parts. The problem is what the book does not do. Honestly, as a person who has had trouble with eating from time to time, I was hoping this book would give me some insight about why people become addicted to food, and some tips on how to overcome it. Unfortunately, I am now much more aware of the author’s early sex life than I am of the nature of food addictions.

I suppose that one could, after reading this book, come away feeling better about themselves, knowing that they are not alone or others may have it worse, but most readers of this book would probably know that already.

You don’t ever want to absent-mindedly misrepresent your book. If you give yourself a title (or your editor does) and you write your pitch – or the editor writes the back cover copy – then it jolly well better deliver as advertised, or you’ll get comments like this.

Expectations don’t happen just in published books

This happens in queries all the time. Actual pages have little in common with the query. It’s like the author took the smallest element out of his story because it made the query sound good, but in reality had little impact on the actual story. Kinda makes me cranky because we wasted each other’s time.

The upside is that a consumer didn’t shell out money to buy something they will end up not getting, and my time is only worth a pitcher of margaritas.

How many of you have read a book that ticked you off because what was on the outside was far different than the inside?

Behler and the giant authors

October 22, 2010

Lynn – feeling like a munchkin with her tall authors – and the beautiful Kim Petersen – author of the brilliant lausob (laugh + sob) memoir Charting the Unknown


What fun to walk into a conference bookstore and see two FABULOUS books…

…and having said authors ask where Tackle Box is.

Answer: I freaking forgot to order my own damn book. Geez, the beagle is right – I need a keeper.


October 21, 2010

Made it to Orlando in one piece. Having fun meeting new faces and old friends. Looks to be a great conference at the FWA. The only latent panic so far…I forgot this was a three day conference, and I only brought clothes for two days. Priceless…

Breaking cerebral wind

August 13, 2009

I admit to making at least one 0r three brain farts a day. It keeps me humble and on my toes. I usually try to limit my cerebral wind breakage to things that won’t prevent the earth from turning or the sun from rising.

For the most part, I do ok. Well, there was that one time I inadvertently insulted a very respected agent, thinking she was a scammer. She handled my blunder with amazing grace, and I think she enjoyed watching my size 7’s fill every crevice of my mouth. We went on to laugh about it, even though the experience still makes me blush.

Authors, however, don’t have the luxury of breaking cerebral wind when they query because they only get one bite at the apple. Sadly those cranial wind tunnels usually afflict the noob writer because all you savvy folks know better. This is what the ensuing kerfluffle looks like:

My name is Jane Author and I have currently written a fiction novel entitled The Bestest Book Evah.

I would like to invite you to review my work and consider representing me.

I’m speaking to the author who writes stuff like this to me. She has a whole list of agents and editors to e-blast and doesn’t stop to remember thar be a world ‘o difference between “representin'” and “publishin’.”

I do the publishin’ part, so she shouldn’t be asking me to be doin’ the representin’ part. We aren’t interchangeable. I’m sure the ever-talented shark bait, Janet Reid, would rather eat a rusty nail than do my job, and it’s a certainty that I’d be happier joining a motorcycle gang of pygmy aliens than trying to do hers.

The other problem is that the author doesn’t realize that novels are fiction, ergo la redundancy. The final indignity is that the entire email is stuffed inside the body of a text table – a dead giveaway to the drop ‘n drag query.

Learn from others’ mistakes so you don’t suffer brain fart rejection-itis because you can’t figure out which is your mouth and which is your foot. It’s just plain wrong.

And thanks to a very understanding agent, I know the difference. As for the gale-force winds that run rampant through the caverns of my cerebral cortex, I just blame the beagle these days.

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