Monday, September 17, 2007

Agency Contracts

Agent Kristin Nelson has explained the clauses in her agency's contract on her Pub Rants blog. You can read this interesting information at:

Anatomy Of An Agency Agreement--Part One
Anatomy Of An Agency Agreement--Part Two
Anatomy Of An Agency Agreement--Part Three
Anatomy Of An Agency Agreement--Part Four
Anatomy Of An Agency Agreement--Part Five
Anatomy Of An Agency Agreement--Part Six
Anatomy Of An Agency Agreement--Part Seven
Anatomy Of An Agency Agreement--Part Eight
Anatomy Of An Agency Agreement--Part Nine
Anatomy Of An Agency Agreement--Part Ten
Reading The Fine Print

Other agencies will have different author-agency contracts, but this is helpful for those who want to learn what type of things are generally in such a contract.

Jessica Faust at Bookends also mentions something you might want to consider in her blog post on At What Point Is a Work No Longer Under Submission.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

More on Advances and Royalties

Here is another important link to what agents have to say about advances and royalties, specifically about what happens after that contract is signed:

Agent Ethan Ellenberg:
All About Royalties

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Revising Your Manuscript

I thought I'd point out a few links on how to make your manuscript shine through revision.

Author David Louis Edelman on Deep Genre wrote about Line Editing in 10 Easy Steps.

Author Sherwood Smith on Deep Genre wrote about Craft (Revisions) and Revisions II--Muzzies.

Freelance editor Jerry Gross wrote about ER for Writers: Some of the Most Common Mistakes Writers Make and How to Avoid Them.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

What Agents Look For

Agent Kristin Nelson wrote an article on An Insider Look At How An Agent Reads and Evaluates The Requested Sample Pages For Your Novel.

Here's an excerpt on what she's looking for in a manuscript:

On average, about five percent of what my agency receives is very well written and either the story will engage me or not. Ninety percent of what is submitted is adequately done. The writing is solid but there is nothing special about the voice or the story line that will make it stand out. Five percent is so poorly written, it’s laughable. I’m actually pretty amazed and pleased that the number is that low.

The Evaluation Process
Here is another moment of truth. Agents decide whether or not a manuscript is right for them in literally 5 - 10 pages. I’m not kidding. It’s that fast. We know exactly what we are looking for and whether the manuscript can deliver. Every once in a while a submitted partial is intriguing enough that I’ll read the full 30 pages requested, set it aside for a day or two, and then go back and reread to see if I’m still intrigued enough to ask for a full.

What we look for:

Voice. Many writers can learn to write well at a writing program or through a critique group. I don’t know if you can teach Voice. A writer either discovers it or not. It’s an elusive concept but it’s the writer’s voice that makes the words stand out on the page. The best way I can describe this is to have you imagine that you are in a bookstore. A cover grabs your attention so you pick it up. You read the back cover copy and it entices you to flip the book over to read the opening pages. You start reading and either you are hooked (from page one) and you can’t put the book down and fifteen minutes later you look up and realize you’ve been blocking the aisle, or you shrug your shoulders and stop reading. You put the book back on the table or shelf. The author’s voice didn’t speak to you. It’s the same gut reaction for agents.

A fresh and original storyline. I see partials every day that are well executed but don’t have an original story to tell. Bookshelves are crowded. Editors are buying very little fiction. I need to take something on with an original story idea.

Editors who would love to see this. Off the top of my head, can I think of five editors who would enjoy this partial I’m reading? If so, I’m probably going to ask for a full.

What Agents and Editors Do

I thought that people would be interested in learning about some of the things that agents and editors do.

From Bookends blog, Jessica Faust explains:
The Anatomy of a Submission to Publishers
An Offer is Made

From Agent Nathan Bransford:
An Ex Publishing Insider Talks About What Editors Really Do

From Agent 007:
SPY VS. SPY: The Acquisition Process

Monday, September 3, 2007

On Agents Rejecting Manuscripts

I ran across an interesting article by Teresa Nielsen Hayden at Making Light. The most interesting part, in my opinion, is why she rejects manuscripts.

Herewith, the rough breakdown of manuscript characteristics, from most to least obvious rejections:

1. Author is functionally illiterate.
2. Author has submitted some variety of literature we don’t publish: poetry, religious revelation, political rant, illustrated fanfic, etc.
3. Author has a serious neurochemical disorder, puts all important words into capital letters, and would type out to the margins if MSWord would let him.
4. Author is on bad terms with the Muse of Language. Parts of speech are not what they should be. Confusion-of-motion problems inadvertently generate hideous images. Words are supplanted by their similar-sounding cousins: towed the line, deep-seeded, dire straights, nearly penultimate, incentiary, reeking havoc, hare’s breath escape, plaintiff melody, viscous/vicious, causal/casual, clamoured to her feet, a shutter went through her body, his body went ridged, empirical storm troopers, ex-patriot Englishmen, et cetera.
5. Author can write basic sentences, but not string them together in any way that adds up to paragraphs.
6. Author has a moderate neurochemical disorder and can’t tell when he or she has changed the subject. This greatly facilitates composition, but is hard on comprehension.
7. Author can write passable paragraphs, and has a sufficiently functional plot that readers would notice if you shuffled the chapters into a different order. However, the story and the manner of its telling are alike hackneyed, dull, and pointless.

(At this point, you have eliminated 60-75% of your submissions. Almost all the reading-and-thinking time will be spent on the remaining fraction.)

8. It’s nice that the author is working on his/her problems, but the process would be better served by seeing a shrink than by writing novels.
9. Nobody but the author is ever going to care about this dull, flaccid, underperforming book.
10. The book has an engaging plot. Trouble is, it’s not the author’s, and everybody’s already seen that movie/read that book/collected that comic.

(You have now eliminated 95-99% of the submissions.)

11. Someone could publish this book, but we don’t see why it should be us.
12. Author is talented, but has written the wrong book.
13. It’s a good book, but the house isn’t going to get behind it, so if you buy it, it’ll just get lost in the shuffle.

14. Buy this book.

Aspiring writers are forever asking what the odds are that they’ll wind up in category #14. That’s the wrong question. If you’ve written a book that surprises, amuses, and delights the readers, and gives them a strong incentive to read all the pages in order, your chances are very good indeed. If not, your chances are poor.

By the way, joining a good critique group, online or offline, will help an author eliminate most of items #1-10. Of course, the author also has to listen when several critique partners point out these problems. And someone in the group needs to be skilled enough as a writer to notice and point out these problems. Anyway.

Writing a Synopsis

It seems like all writers hate to write a synopsis for their novel, but most agents and editors want a synopsis.

Agent Nathan Bransford gives some advice on writing a synopsis:
How to Write a Synopsis

Agent Jessica Faust at Bookends talks about synopsis and what they are actually used for:
How I View a Synopsis

A synopsis is written in present tense and in third person. It should cover what happens in the story in the same order in which the events occur in your book. (Some people start a synopsis with a paragraph summary of the two or three major characters and what their motivations are, and then summarize what happens in the story. This is also fine.) You should include the major plot twists and must reveal the ending.

Short synopsis are generally up to three double-spaced pages. It is generally fine to single-space if the synopsis is only one page long. Stick to describing the major characters and events, and try to describe how one event naturally flows into the next. As in, Heroine does this, but Villain takes it as a personal insult and retaliates with that.

For a longer synopsis, you can summarize each chapter in a paragraph and include more of the minor characters.

The way I did my synopsis was to work on describing my novel in one sentence. It took several weeks, but I finally realized what the heart of the conflict in the story was and I put it in this one sentence. Once I understood what conflicting wants drove the story, I then knew what was important to put into my query letter. After that, I wrote a one page synopsis, then expanded to a three page (double-spaced) version.