A Potpourri of Questions & Answers
Today I’m going to give my thoughts on several questions I’ve been asked the last couple of weeks.
Kathleen Elizabeth asked: Should you be basically finished writing your novel before you begin the search for an agent?
→ If you’re previously unpublished: Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. The novel should be finished, edited, polished and ready to go. Published authors usually only need an outline and a few sample chapters. Nonfiction: you need a proposal and three sample chapters.
Janet asked: Is it reasonable to expect an agent to put together the book proposal?
→ Nope. You should have your proposal ready before you query an agent, especially with nonfiction. There are books and downloads available to help you write a book proposal. I’ve got some tips here.
Terri Tiffany said: I have worked on craft, but lack ideas for a great plot. How do I get there?
→ Most prolific authors come up with story ideas everyday, just from living life. They pay close attention to current events, conversations, what their friends are talking about. They look at situations and ask “what if…?” When you ask them, “How do you get story ideas?” they usually say that ideas are the easiest part. The question is, which ideas are interesting enough to develop. I’m not sure this helps you, Terri. Maybe you can get some books on plotting (try Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell) and I think there are even books and websites on how to come up with ideas.
Ilana asked: If you’ve been blogging, how do you include this in your fiction query?
→ In your query write, “I’ve already begun building an audience for my writing through my blog (include blog name and URL) which I’ve been writing for ___ months/years.”
But then Ilana added: Particularly if, like myself, you’ve been blogging under a pseudonym to keep your fiction career separate from your current (and much different) day job?
→ Well, Ilana, let’s be logical. If a blog is written by one person, and a novel is written by another person, exactly how can one be considered marketing support for the other? You’re right, it can’t. Begin blogging under your fiction pseudonym immediately. Or better yet, just write your fiction under your own name. (I’ll discuss pen names another day. In my opinion, they’re rarely warranted.) The point of a platform is to build an audience for yourself — people who will buy your book. You can’t build an audience for Ilana and expect it to help sell books written by Jane.
T-Anne asked: Is it okay legally speaking to have sample chapters of my unpublished novels on my blog?
→ Yes. Even once you’re published, this is a typical marketing practice. To be safe, I’d say don’t include more than 10% of the book, unless you’re pretty sure you’re not going to get a publisher.
Kat Harris asked: Would you ever considering looking at the revision of a project you previously rejected?
→ Yes, but usually only if I said in the original rejection, “I’d be happy to look at this again if you decide to do some revisions…” If I didn’t say anything like that, then go ahead and re-query, making sure to explain in your letter that you’ve done revisions and would like me to look at it again. The worst I can do is say no. (I’m not going to block your email address!)
Sharon A Lavy said: My character has partial lyrics running through her head. What do I have to do about it?
→ Every song lyric requires permission, and it often costs money to get that permission, so use song lyrics with caution! You should get your permissions prior to querying so your ducks will be in a row. An alternative is to make up lyrics to your own songs.
CRT wrote: I want to know what determines the value of a word? You know, the twenty dollar words, and ten dollar words…
→ Hmm. Well I guess it depends on who’s writing or saying the words. If Stephen King sells a 150,000 word novel for $2 million, then each of his words is worth $13.30 (including “and” and “the.”) If you have a lot to say, but nobody will actually pay you for your words, then I guess they are worth…. well, you get the point.
Anonymous asked: Why, oh, why do you accept “pretty much everything,” but exclude sci-fi and fantasy? Is that just personal preference? Is it harder to sell sci-fi ideas? Please enlighten me!!
*Sigh* (Wondering how many times I have to say this.)
→ Because I don’t enjoy reading it.
That’s all for today! If you have anything to add to my answers, feel free to pitch in. And keep the questions coming!