Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Great List

Janet Reid posted a great list and a link to another list of questions to ask an agent prior to signing. I look forward to one day using this list.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Not as Inured as I Thought

I received a partial manuscript in the mail today. Funny thing, since I only gave her a standard SASE, which meant she had to go out of her way to return it to me. She did this I suppose because she wanted me to see her edits.

This is the agent who sent me my query back with edits from a few weeks ago. I found it rather rude. Insightful but rude.

Nevertheless, I was surprised by how few edits she made. I had expected far more. I was also surprised by how subjective her edits were. She changed, "spoke sharply" to just "ask." Isn't that my call? Still in all, not as bad as I thought considering her letter.

She did not like my idea of framing mysteries around other sports and exercise activities similar to the way that Dick Francis' mysteries nipped at horse racing. "You cannot just jump from one sport to another each time" she writes. I can't? Perhaps that is what the reading public is waiting for.

Secondly, she writes: "Bottom line: the writing is fairly good, have never read your work as a whole, not as it appears on the screen, nor as it comes in sections out of the printer, but as a whole." Really? I thought I did. I suppose she's telling me to do it again, with a sharper eye.

And what's with the extended ellipses? Later in the letter she whips out seven question marks "????????" I was somewhat surprised she didn't use the ole ALL CAPS to get her point across.

I found the tone of her letter a bit sanctimonious to say the least. I'm thinking of editing it and sending it back. I have no problem with rejection, but I thought this was just rude rejection.

No Longer Really Notice

A bit of mission creep seems to have set in. I've become completely inured to the process of getting rejections. I no longer go to the mailbox with a sense of trepidation, instead it's just another part of the day. Rejections come and I "ho-hum" them as if they were coupon mailers.

Not sure if this is because I'm on a bit of a hiatus with the manuscript at ICM and I can't send it anywhere else, or if it has to do with the impending loss of my full time job. The larger issues in my life overwhelming the tracking of what still is a hobby.

I suppose this type of malaise is better than the alternative. An alternative where I would get revved up only to feel crushed when the rejections came.

Nevertheless, got five more rejections yesterday, hardly seemed to notice.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

If I Ever Get a Positive Reponse

If I ever get a positive response, I'd like to impress them a bit with the amount of work I've already put into this project. Not just in terms of the writing, but also in terms of the marketing. One of those aspects is in the website marketing.

As I said, I registered for I'm developing a website to place there. As this will be a marketing site, I've started trying to design a cover for the book. Judge a book by the cover and all that.

I'm not completely pleased with this cover, but this is something I have envisioned for a long time. It's getting there. The lone runner trudging through the pacific northwest forest has some appeal. No color however.

I tried adding some color, I don't think I like it as much.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Workshop Notes

These are the notes and tips from the Workshop with David Liss. He also provided some titles that he felt demonstrated his writing techniques. Again, found it all quite insightful.

Plot vs Character
Don’t focus on plot. Character is what matters to readers. Readers only care about plot as it pertains to character.

What Makes Characters Interesting

Narrative energy, ABC – Always Be Conflicting, Characters must want something and have obstacles in their way preventing their getting it. Don’t make perfect characters.

Plot Twists

Plot twists are narrative gold. The more you can genuinely surprise the reader the better. Lead with plot twists as they are exciting.

Three Act Structure

Provides enough change to keep the story dynamic. Characters always need to be in movement.

Create Tension

Set up expectations then don’t fulfill them or deny them. Someone off doing something they shouldn’t be. The reader wants the action completed, delaying the expected action sets up tension.

Action at the Beginning of the Story

Action without character is boring. Action should always lead to character development. Openn with character. Once the reader cares about the character the action is more compelling.


Beat sheet major dramatic moments of the story. The more detailed your outline the less you’ll enjoy writing. Outline non-linearly. Plug in major parts then write to link them.


Paranoia by Joe Fender

Johnathon Strouper

Ghost Written by David Mitchell

For the Dogs by Ken Wignall

All is Vanity by Christina Schwartz

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Heard Back From Liss

I received an email reply from David Liss. I contacted him about his claim of 10% to 20% success rate on queries. I argued that the prevalence of email and webform submissions where in the agent asks for a partial manuscript with the query would skew his statistics. He was unconvinced by my arguments and stands by his range.

He did however admit that he has little to no experience with webform or email submissions.

This being the case, and knowing that I would guesstimate that I've sent over 50 partial manuscripts with my query, and am still hitting close to 10% with my query, I'm still feeling pretty comfortable.

Based on what I've found, one facet of marketing a book is to build a website to promote it. It has always been my intention to do this. As I am helping a client develop and design a new website and need a place to park it, I signed up for a website yesterday with the thought that I would kill two birds with one stone.

I am now the owner of At the moment I have parked Roger's site there. Need to work on that some more.

Soon I expect to put up a mockup of Toe the Line, some excerpts, as well as the ability to buy one online. I have no idea what I will do if someone actually orders a copy, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Another Interesting Answer

There was a second interesting answer during the panel discussion. Someone asked about the particulars of sending a manuscript to an agent; something I have just done. The panelist said not to ask for the manuscript back as it would save on postage. Plus he said that it would most likely be in pretty sad shape, coffee stains in such.

Seems to me that it cost me more to get the thing printed than it did to send it. It cost $30 to print and $11 to send, another $11 to get return postage. I don't see how it adds up. Now, I did outsource the printing, but I can't imagine that the cost of paper and ink if I did my own printing would be much less?

I found it a poor answer.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


Went to a writers workshop today. According to the panel of published authors I am going about my querying a bit too aggressively.

One statistic that stood out was something that the host, David Liss said. His opinion is that you should have a 10 - 20% success rate on your query letter; if not something is wrong with your query. My success rate is just under 10%.

Couple of thoughts on this. I think that they were unaware of how pervasive emailing queries has become. When I emailed queries it was common to have the synopsis and a partial manuscript in the email. He was the youngest author and had queried agents 10 years prior. I think his success rate was a bit dated.

Sadly, the other's seemed to think they had heard of email queries but weren't sure if it was a popular method. My research shows a 60-40 tilt toward email queries.

More on the workshop in later posts.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Full Manuscript

I just sent away my manuscript to Kate Lee of ICM on an exclusive basis. It wasn’t as painful as I thought. In fact I was fairly and pleasantly surprised. The worst part about it was the cost, and half of that will be lessened the next time I send a full manuscript by mail.

It cost me approximately $30 to print the manuscript. I had already formatted the manuscript according to the accepted conventions, so it was as easy as uploading it to the FedExKinko’s website, then picking it up once they were done. Came in a nice little box too. I took that to the post office and told them I needed it to go to New York and have enough postage so that it could be sent back. $23 later it was all done. Assuming that Kate Lee sends it back, the next full manuscript shipment will only cost that $23 bucks. Not bad I say.

I’m not sure what I was expecting, but from all of the worrying I’ve read about online and in other media, it seemed like it was going to be a huge ordeal. It wasn’t. I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


The problem of sending my manuscript to that agent on an exclusive basis has been solved. The agent I was hoping would accept my manuscript has passed on it.

Until she wrote back, I had no idea how much I was hoping she would accept it. It's funny how even when I try to detach myself from the selection process, I still get wrapped up in it. I just finished a book my brother loaned me, A Voyage for Madmen, about nine men who try to sail around the world alone without stopping.

One man, Donald Crowhurst, placed so many burdens and demands on himself that he found it impossible to quit. He was not a sailor, realized he was out of his league, and even thought about quitting, but never got to the point where he felt he could quit and not lose his family and his lifestyle. He faced a miserable end. He cheated on the trip, never circumnavigated the Earth, and on his return to England, just a few days shy of supposedly completing the trip, he killed himself out of shame for what he was about to do.

It's a good lesson for putting ones eggs in one basket. I hereby reaffirm not to "Crowhurst" myself during the process!