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?

No.

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.


If you’re gonna brag…

October 19, 2010

…have something to brag about. If your query lists your previously published book(s), you can be sure I’m going to look it up on Amazon. If it isn’t there, this tells me you probably self pubbed it. There’s nothing wrong with self publishing, but the idea of listing your published books is to brag about the fact that you’re, well, published. I know of numerous self pubbed books that kicked tushie and took names. However, if you didn’t even get so far as to have your book listed on the most basic of online stores, then I’m going to think you’re a lot like the beagle when she insists that she filed and answered phones while I was gone. In a word, we both know better, so why pretend?

Selling your book through your website or the trunk of your car will not flip up my Victoria Secrets, so it’s probably best to simply omit these books from your query. It’s not a publishing credit.


If the phone doesn’t ring, it’s me

November 23, 2009

Ok, I suppose I sounded impatient and a wee bit frustrated with the phone call but, geez, when someone calls me to find out what we accept and I point them to our submissions guidelines, I don’t expect a, “Well, ok, here’s the deal…it’s written for older teens and college age,” I want to scream, “WHAT PART OF ‘PLEASE READ THE DAMN SUBMISSIONS GUIDELINES’ DON’T YOU UNDERSTAND?”

Even the beagle looses her patience and growls, which interrupts her sunbath on my desk.

Instead of saying what I was thinking, I grit my teeth and replied in as unfriendly a tone as I could muster, “our submission guidelines are very concise so that we can avoid these types of phone calls.” She finally got the message and ended with a terse “goodbye,” and probably a few colorful metaphors dancing on her tongue.

I know agents and editors say it over and over again – please do not call. And yet, it happens all the time.

Ringy Ring. Hello? Overworked and Underpaid Editor speaking.

Author I’d Like to Kill: “Hey, I wrote this fabo book, and I want to pitch it to you. Now. Like, on the phone now.”

Head to desk. “Beagle, find me my box of Twinkies and fire up the blender.”

Gah. It’s always the ones just starting out and don’t know anything about the query process. And this takes me to a deeper level of the problem: research. I’m always yammering on about its importance. It’s the difference between “send me pages, please,” and “go play on the freeway onramp during rush hour.”

It’s hard to believe there are still people who believe that slamming down a few thousand words in a Word file constitutes readiness for a book deal followed by fame and fortune and adoring fans. Meanwhile, they ignore the most important facet of finding that fame and fortune; protocol. I guess my impatience derives from the fact that I wouldn’t have the walnuts to cold call an editor. Or an agent. My first instinct would be to research how this whole query thing is done so I don’t piss anyone off. Lord knows I can do that easily enough, and with very little effort.

I’ve thought about removing our phone number from our site, like a lot of my colleagues, but I just can’t bring myself to do it.

But I have to say this stuff leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Should those authors actually query me, I’m already cranky and have no desire to read their stuff. Yes, I know with the holidays just around the corner I should be more charitable. But when I’m five-feet deep editing a manuscript, as I am right now, a phone call about word count or genre is an unwelcome intrusion.

When is it ok to call an editor?

Tough question. I usually say never because we all work very hard to circumvent unnecessary questions by making extensive guidelines on our websites. I’ll admit that I’ve had some lovely conversations with authors who cold-called me in search of information – yes…I answer my own phone because the beagle can’t be bothered. However, would my life be worse for not having talked to them? No. So the safe answer is don’t call – unless that editor is YOUR editor.

Very few submission guidelines lack pertinent information, and most submission guidelines are fairly standard.

Query letter should include [all on one page]:

  • Word count
  • Genre
  • Title
  • One – two paragraph pitch
  • Very short bio [two, three lines] about what makes you the perfect person to have written the book
  • Why is your book marketable? [two lines]

I can’t think of a question that an author could ask me that isn’t already on our guidelines. Anything outside that realm isn’t pertinent. If I want pages, I’ll ask for them.

Gee, Lynn, kinda cranky pants for a Monday, aren’t you?


Sigh…it was Harley’s to lose…

November 20, 2009

While my stance hasn’t changed regarding Harley adding a vanity imprint, no matter how oily it is, I always believed this decision was theirs to screw up in a rather deliciously grand manner. And they seem to be trying – which surprises me because they’re a big conglomerate and they, ostensibly, know better, right? After all, they thought this all out with the precision of a NASA team readying the shuttle for outer space. They know the ins and the outs.

Or is this just an ill-conceived seat-of-the-pants plan that birthed itself on the corporate tables one dark and stormy night while corporate weenies’ faces streamed sweat while the Powers That Be screeched, “We need some freaking capital!”

Alas, the information coming from their spokesholes is fingernails-to-chalkboard stuff, and this makes me think they are either completely clueless to the vanity world, publishing in general, or just loosy with the truthy. They appear to have also underestimated the authorial reaction.

In order to attract the biggest amount of “booty” – meaning authors willing to fork over big money to help get Harley’s parent company, Torstar, out of their financial crisis – they’re saying some silly things.

A bound copy makes you more attractive to agents and editors

Ach, I’ve seen this reoccurring theme with many other authors who published via vanity, and it makes me want to scream. I can’t tell you how many iUniverse, AuthorHouse, Publish America books I’ve gotten as a form of submission.

[big flashy lights and sirens] NOTE: Do not EVER send a bound book to an agent or editor.

Do you know where they go? Right into the recycle bin. I don’t even crack the cover. Well, that’s not entirely true. I have a couple of times, and instantly regretted it. Some of these guys don’t even bother learning how to format the layout. If you were unwise enough to write your manuscript like an email [meaning you used an extra carriage return to denote a new paragraph instead of using indentations], then that is exactly how they will print it. And the worst part is the author paid a lot of money for it. If you want a bound galley, go to Kinko’s or Lulu.com.

I repeat; we will not read a bound book unless we ask for it. So Harley is lying to you – which is shameless.

HARLEQUIN HORIZONS ASSISTED SELF-PUBLISHING

Ach, et tu, Brute? This is not self publishing. It’s vanity. Oh, these pesky terms that people use to muddy the waters.

Self publishing is when you, the author, are the publisher and you pay and control every aspect of production. You buy and own the ISBN; it is your name on the copyright page.

Vanity is pay to play, and they control every aspect of production and its eventual disposition. For example, you can’t tell them to do a 1,000 unit print run unless you pay for it. Never ever forget who’s in charge with a vanity operation. Clue: it ain’t you.

This is an outright lie, and this makes me cranky. Yes, I realize that and a fiver will get you an overpriced Starbuck’s.

Payback

RWA has decided that Harlequin is no longer eligible for RWA-provided conference resources and SFWA has removed Harley from their list of approved venues as of 11/2009.

Now this is what I mean by allowing the free market to work. If Harley wants to take this route, they have the honor of experiencing the up and downside. Only when payback hurts enough does change happen, and it’ll be interesting to see how, or if, this hurts. They will be forced to weigh the consequences of being removed from two very influential groups against huge profits. They will most certainly suffer the wrath of their own mainstream authors. On the “upside” Harley is to romance what California is to tax hikes.

More than likely Torstar – Harley’s parent company – won’t care one bit. Harley has their chestnuts hovering over very hot fire. What to do? What are they allowed to do? It’s times like this that I adore being an indie trade press. We may have far fewer decimal points in our bottom line, but the only ones who tell me what to do are the beagle, the accountant, the sales teams, and the readers.

Mistaken Identity

If Harley wants – needs – to do this in order to keep Torstar’s lights on, that’s their business. I have no doubt they’ll make a pile of money. I think it’s sad that a lot of authors will take this route because the first thing they’ll think is, “Wow, Harley? They’re BIG, so how bad can it be? They wouldn’t screw us.”

Weelllll…if it keeps the heat on, yes they will. But this falls under “Author Beware.” We can’t outlaw stupid, as I said before, so the best thing anyone can do for themselves is to keep their ears close to the ground. Read the blogs, learn, consider all the ramifications.

It’ll be interesting to watch the reverberations throughout the industry and how this will affect other publishers who want to add a vanity imprint to help their own bottom lines. Long live the free marketplace. They are the ultimate boss.

Having said all that, I still believe this is still a non-event and Harley will remain untouched within the reading community [where it really counts!] because the vanity books won’t see the light of day. Readers will continue to buy their books in bookstores – as it should be. The world will continue to turn, the beagle will continue to imbibe. For the most part, all will stay right with the world.

Unless we have a law banning tequila…


Where may I reach you?

November 8, 2009

I just received this:

I use Boxbe to protect my email address. While I did receive your email about “RE: Query – Brilliant-est Book in the World”, you are not currently on my email Guest List. I’ll be more likely to see your email and future messages if you are on my priority Guest List.

Click here to be put directly on my Guest List

Thank you,
Unwise Author

Dude. Srsly? I feel some major league snark bubbling to the surface. Since it’s Sunday, I’m trying to swallow it with a Bourbon chaser in my morning cuppa. Just…don’t…do…this. Only noobs do this.

And you want to know the kicker? I was asking for more clarification on the synopsis because I’m intrigued with the story. This could have led to my asking for pages. But now? Fuhgeddaboudit. Even if he sent a Antonio Banderas to my door dressed in rugged jeans and a plaid shirt singing, “You Make Me Feel So Good,” this author would still see my literary backside because he’s a noob.

If you are in querying mode and don’t want to hand out your private email addy, then create a new for, for cryin’ out loud. It’s as tough as going to hotmail, or yahoo. But to tell me that I’m not listed as one of your posse and gee, doesn’t it suck to be you, my reply is no, it sucks to be you because that’s the last bit of time I’ll give you.

I’ll be more likely to see your email and future messages if you are on my priority Guest List.

You’ll be likely to see more of me if you grow up and act like a professional. Beagle, bring that bottle back here; I’m not done with it.


When clueless meets desperation

June 2, 2009

Hello,
My name is Hopeful Author and I live in Hopeful-ville. I was wondering if you could offer me any advice or information…
I am currently searching for a traditional publisher, who may be interested in publishing my book Fantabulous Book. I may have even contacted you previously, as I have searched before but halted my search as I took sometime to improve my novel. Are you a traditional publisher? If so are you interested? The book, is the first of three and at the risk of sounding egotistical; my friends and family have recommended it to be published. Any information you have would be deeply appreciated and I look forward to hearing from you.

My email address was one of twenty-something other editors – one which I recognized as a POD. Really. Avoid this.


“This is a winner story…”

March 21, 2009

“…but since I don’t have a writing background, can you help me organize it?”

WTF? Me? Does anyone see Ms. Benevolence tattooed anywhere on my forehead? I’m trying to think whether the beagle hired my services out as a freelance editor while I was in the throes of her Beagle-licious Killer Margaritas. Since she’s sacked out on the floor with an icebag on her head, moaning like a banshee after too much pepperoni pizza, instead of giggling at my expense, I’m thinking that [for once] she’s innocent.

So this leaves only one thought; authors believe we will actually do the Nurture vs. Nature thang. We won’t. We’re rabid, fang-dripping creatures of the night with slimy red pens from hell, waiting for the perfect victim author to fall into our trap query our company. We likeses the innocent authorsesss, yessss, we dooo…

Look at it this way; if we have an author who needs this much help just writing the story, that means they don’t know how to write. That means we’d be better off banging our head on the barroom floor hiring a ghostwriter. This will only happen if the story is utterly huge and the author’s platform is the stuff of gilded dreams. Since those folks are few and far between, do yourself a favor and hire a freelance editor, a ghostwriter, or the beagle. She can’t write to save her soul, but she’s a great bartender.


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