Natural Disasters and How They Affect Your Writing

Writer’s are basically selfish people (and I’m speaking from experience here). We want the world handed to us. Right now. This is doubly true in the querying process. We send out letters or emails and want the reply instantly. Positive of course. Then when it comes back negative, or not at all, we start to doubt, picking at the scabbed over flaws we’ve built into our writing lives: the query wasn’t good enough; they hated my story; I’m not a good writer.

Whoa there fellas, lets step back and take a look at the world for a moment. If you’re querying right now, think about who you’re shooting all these emails of to? Agents or editors who live or do business with New York. Normally that’s the city that doesn’t sleep, but when Sandy came along, it threw the whole town for a loop. I’ve heard of editors and agent’s email servers down for two weeks.

Yes, that means they’re up by now. But don’t leap to query. Consider the lack of progress for two weeks. Whatever projects these literary types were working on, they’re now two weeks behind. Never mind if the agent you query lives outside of New York. I guarantee that he or she has at least one project with a New York editor.

What does this mean for aspiring authors? Well, you could submit your query now and have it fight for attention with paying projects that are behind deadline, along with Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Agents will either scoot your query to a back burner, or they’ll rush to judgement simply to clear out the email queue.

The best solution is to wait. I know that’s a four letter word with us writers. We don’t like waiting. But the truth is your manuscript will fare a better chance in 2013 when things have settled back to their typical frantic pace.

In the words of the great Inigo Montoya, “I hate waiting.”

Tim Kane

Why Authors Still Need Agents

Recently, I was lucky enough to witness a keynote speech by Mark Coker, the founder of Smashwords. He talked about a day when writers supersede agents and publishers. He even made a joke of it:

One day, an author will tell some friends, “I just got a book deal.”
And they reply, “I’m sorry.”

This elicited groans from the audience (mostly writers with a handful of agents and editors). I agree in principle with Mr. Coker. Publishers have dropped the ball. They need to cut their own costs to become competitive and offer authors a greater piece of the revenue stream. Amazon’s 70% is far better than the 12% you get from publishers.

I still see a place for agents. Next time you’re on Amazon, or Barnes and Noble, troll through the lists of available ebooks. You’ll see plenty of indie authors. That’s a good thing. The ebook has become the great equalizer. Yet, try purchasing one of these indie books.

I did.

I tried quite a few. None were worth the $0.99. Typos were rife. Even when they weren’t the story sagged or had horrific info dumps, or just bad writing. What all these books had in common was a lack of agents and proper editing.

Agents serve as gatekeepers. They champion good books and turn the rest to the door. It’s true, that agents take less and less clients these days, but this is an issue based on the poor state of the publishers. If those corporate guys can get things turned around, I think you’d see many more author’s picked up.

The truth is, as a reader, I want someone to vouch my books. I don’t have a lot of time to read, and wasting it on poor prose is infuriating. That’s not to say that lousy books can’t make it through the agent and publisher system. They can and do. But usually I sour on these as a matter of style. Agents, at the very least, make sure the writing is free of errors and has a decent story.

Tim Kane

SDSU Writer’s Conference: Agentpalooza

Okay, it really needs to be agent and editorpalooza. This conference is crazy cool. If you’ve never attended, you can sign up for a speed dating session where you get ten-minutes to meet agents and editors to pitch your manuscript. The first time I did this, in 2008, I was nervous as all get out. I felt that if they said no, then I would be crushed and they didn’t like me.

Well, I’ve grown a bit as a writer. After plenty of critiques and hundreds of thrown out pages, I’m coming from a different place. My goal was still to pitch my manuscript, but I also wanted information and to feel the vibe of each agent and editor. I’ve known too many writers who got hooked up with the wrong agent.

Fortunately, all of the professionals I met today were stupendous. Here’s the breakdown (with links in case you want to check them out).

Kat Brzozowski Assistant Editor at St. Martin’s Press
She was my very first conference (as in run from the keynote to the Catalina room). She was great and gave me very specific feedback.

Michelle Wolfson from Wolfson Literary Agency
I’ve followed her on Twitter for a while now. She always offers excellent advice. I sat with her today at lunch and she broke down the simultaneous versus exclusive submission (I’ll blog about it next week).

Dawn Michelle Frederick from Red Sofa Literary
Dawn and I clicked early on our love of all things Goth and Darren Shan books. We met up later at the wine and cheese where the conversation at the table quickly disintegrated to throwbacks to the 80s and antique typewriters.

Melissa Frain Associate Editor at Tor Books
It was awesome to meet with Melissa. I was under the impression (probably with others) that Tor was only about SciFi. So wrong. They have a thriving YA section. We chatted about how some YA books can be bogged down in the dreary and depressing.

Taylor Martindale from Full Circle Literary
Taylor was impressive with the level of her critique, quoting specific pages and offering great advice at line tightening. Bonus, I also found her on Literary Rambles (my go to site for agents).

My most favorite workshop of the day had to be Genius Plotting by Louella Nelson. In the fifty minutes I was there, I was able to plot out my recent novel. Amazing workshop.

I’ll meet another agent tomorrow as well as attend more workshops.

Tim Kane