The Art of Patience

July 24, 2016

All too often I see authors who want to bang out their manuscript, get it published, and buy Hawaii on their advances and royalties. The one thing these authors AREN’T willing to do is do things right, and it all begins with patience.

Case in point is an author who sent me her manuscript. Oh, how I loved the idea of it. The marketing and promo practically wrote themselves – except for one thing; the author had a great story to tell, but didn’t have the experience to properly tell it. After two tries at editing, I had to turn it down.

I’m not sure who was more frustrated; me or the author. I knew she had an amazing story, and I knew I could sell the snot out of it. She, on the other hand, was extremely frustrated at my turning it down twice, and offered to take my editiorial suggestions to “fix it.” The problem is, she was so inexperienced that she didn’t really know what needed fixing unless I specifically pointed them out. This kind of hand-holding is time consuming and soul-sucking for me.

Rarely does one pick up a keyboard and bang out an amazing manuscript. It takes patience to learn the elements of writing, how to know the difference between fluff and brilliance, and write with brevity and style.

Anything worth doing requires patience. Before I got my driver’s license a million years ago, I never thought I’d learn to parallel park. I kept screwing it up. I knew they wouldn’t have me parallel park on the driver’s test, but my dad insisted I know how to do it. I grumbled that I was missing viable beach days, to the point where my dad finally tossed up his arms and said, “Anyone can give up and go to the beach. Is that who you are? Or are you better than that? Stronger than that? Parallel parking requires patience because you’re manipulating a large box on four wheels to do something funky, and you have to move the steering wheel counter to what your brain is telling you to do. Now go do it.”

Yah, he totally called me out. I wanted stuff right then and there. The idea of having to be patient enough to dedicate hours to learning something new was appalling to my nearly 16-year-old brain.But I reeeeeally wanted my license, so I worked my butterks off.

And this is what writers need to do as well. If you’re just starting out and you have aspirations larger than just plinking away on your keyboard, then give yourself the gift of patience to do it right. Don’t be the author with an amazing story and the inability to properly tell it. In the words of my dad, “Go out and do it!”

If you want to see the art of patience in action, please watch this short vid of Konsta Punkka, who spends four hours every day photographing animals in their habitat. Because of his patience, he’s captured some incredible photos.


Authors Who Need a Binky

July 22, 2016

There are authors who believe their writing comes from the hand of God. Hey, maybe it does and I’m too dumb to realize it. But I do know what works for us and what doesn’t. For instance, when Kristin Adams pitched her manuscript about the amazing friendship between her son and his chicken, Frightful, to me at the PNWA in Seattle last July, I knew I had to have her on board.

But not everyone rocks my boat, and they receive a rejection letter…which affronts some the point of striking back. Instead of doing what you should do: M.O.V.E. O.N. the aggrieved author writes me back in a fit of pique, accusing me of everything from global warming to acne.

Let me invite you into my world for a second:

I read a manuscript and sent this rejection letter:

Thank you for writing. There are some problems with this that prevents me from considering this further. First, I can’t find anything about XXX on the internet. If there’s no proof this place existed, and thereby impossible to verify, then I don’t see where the compelling components for this manuscript exist. Lastly, your query letter lacks editorial finesse. If I’m forced to re-read sentences two and three times, then I have to assume the manuscript would be of the same quality. This makes things quite untenable for us. Best of luck to you in your endeavors.

I received this back from the author today:

I had my proposal letter edited and found out that even though it needed improvement it was not any where near as bad as you claim it is. My manuscript was reviewed by a professor when I took a course with her and she has found it to have what a creative fiction that is auto-ethnographic needs which is clarity and believability. I do not accept your feedback as valid in fact it was very insensitive. I now believe  your or or publishing company just wanted to discourage me because of being scared. I talk about powerful women and that can scare some people. I also think that even though y’all claim to focus on such things as conflict and resolution in truth y’all are just wanting to stop social progress and keep socialization as it is now so you have to discourage people who think and act outside of that oppressive box, take good care

Oh dear.

This is never a good idea. EVER. I can’t say it enough. Conduct yourself as you would at a job interview, because basically, a query letter is a job interview. All I could think was that this poor author is in for the shock of her life when she has to experience the editing process. And reviews? Oh, the horror.

Publishing is a tough, competitive business, where only the best are chosen. If you need a safe place to suck your binky over what you perceive as “insensitive,” then I posit that you ain’t ready for the Big Leagues, yet. There is a huge difference between making professional critiques and telling someone their writing sucks stale Twinkie cream (which I would never do).

So why do I bring this up? Because I see so much of this idea of “I deserve this, and screw you if you reject me!” And you know what? You don’t “deserve this.” You earn it…and you do that by acting like a professional and having an amazing story that is clearly outlined in your query letter. The characters and plot should be so real that they leap off the page. This is exactly what Kristin Adams did when she pitched to me during breakfast in Seattle last year. By the time I’d slathered the butter on my roll, I knew I had to see more. Kristin earned it. And so have all of our authors.

Over the years, I’ve seen more and more bad behavior, and I don’t understand this. Is this the general coming of things, or is there something in the water that’s making everyone put on their Crabby Pants? Regardless of why it’s taking place, there is one constant, and that is that editors and agents won’t put up with rude behavior. You want to throw a hissy? Fine. Go do it in your safe space. And don’t forget your binky.


House Remodel

July 21, 2016

I always swore that my next house would have no kitchen since I appear to lacking in the culinary arts. However, I do support this kind of a remodel.

library


Copyediting Marks

July 16, 2016

editing marks

Lest any of our authors be confused over my editing marks, I have a cheat sheet…


The Great Oversell-Don’t Be a Toothpaste Commercial

July 11, 2016

Is there anything more irritating than toothpaste commercials that cheerfully tell you their product will brighten your teeth, give you fresh breath, and make you a chick/dude magnet, only to find out that the product didn’t brighten your teeth, your breath was only mildly enhanced, and that hot dude you’d been oogling threatened to blast you with pepper spray?

Welcome to my world of book proposals. Agents and authors are obviously eager to sell their manuscripts, so the proposals are normally filled with glowy, cheery stuff about how amazing the author is, how HUGE their platform is, and all the wonderful people they have on board to enhance marketing and promotion.

Many times the proposal lives up to the hype, and sales slide out the door, and everyone jumps for joy…and even The Rescue Beagles dance a jig.

But just as many times, the proposal is more like the toothpaste commercial, and all those glowy things that made my sales teams and me slobber like bassethounds end up not going anywhere…be it the PR team that was hired (but I never heard from them), or the established speech tour that was planned (but never happened). As a result, I’ve learned to take proposals with a grain of salt, because I’m the one left holding the financial bag.

If you’re writing a book proposal, be honest. If your promo plan looks lean, that means you need to work on your preparation. Don’t make stuff up. Remember, you’re looking to be a benefit to your publisher, not a risk. When you’re a benefit to your publisher, there is nothing they won’t reasonably do for you. When you’re a risk, editors want to cry and eat way too much chocolate.

Don’t oversell yourself. Don’t be a toothpaste commercial.

 


Public Service Notice About Pages vs. Word Count

July 7, 2016

I’ll keep this short and sweet. No one gives a good hot raspberry about how many pages your manuscript contains. We need the word count. This is industry wide. You can find your word count at the bottom of your Word document. Use it.

You’re welcome.


Gollum Speaketh the Truth…

July 6, 2016


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