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Archive for June, 2010

House keeping

While I’m pounding away at the query letter, I’ve made a small change to the website, adding a new image that I think shifts the overall tone in a positive way.

Other than that, all’s quiet.

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Query chaos

Well, after my eyes fell out from researching The Perfect Query Letter, I came up with what I thought was my PQL and I wrote it down. It had all the ingredients of a PQL – the hook, the meat, the bio.

Then I passed it by some folks who, after reading their feedback on others’ queries, seemed to know what they were talking about. They ripped my PQL to pieces. Called it boring! And…I agreed. All those query letter samples I’d read left me wondering, “how did this get the attention of anyone?” and I tried to follow their example which led me to boringville. Ugh.

So I’m now starting from scratch. Apparently I’ve got some pretty good text on my website to work with, at least as a guide. We’ll see.

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I once queried an agent who rejected me but said, “You need to build your platform. Go on a national lecture tour. And if you can get on Oprah, that would help.” No kidding? No kidding.

I continue to read. And read. And read more and more about the query process, and it’s becoming very unfocused. My eyes are fine (well, not really, but they’re not the problem – it’s the information itself).

I have to go to Maui? Rub elbows with famous authors and have them endorse my work for representation? Win all kinds of awards? Sounds very expensive.

The good news is that most agents I’ve come across insist they consider all work that’s up their alley, and they suggest that a long list of impressive credentials is not critical to success. I can live with that.

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Writing a book is easy. Writing a query letter – that’s hard.

Since my memoir is complete and I haven’t found any further tweaks to make, I decided to start marketing my work. My first target was a specific agent recommended to me by Norman Ollestad. Well, the agent’s submission guidelines were vague, to say the least, so I sent off what I thought sufficient to explain what I was up to. My first submission yielded nothing (though I spotted a spelling error on the subject line which is what probably caused my request to be DOA). I tried again and got a single, brief visit to my website, and then nothing.

I did some more research and was pointed to another agent, Nathan Bransford. I was so impressed with all the information on his site (http://nathanbransford.com/) that I decided to contact him directly in a less than formal way and asked for help. I was hoping at the least he’d help me with sharpen my approach or, at best, accept my work. Unfortunately, he did neither, and I wondered if I might have offended him in some way (of course the reality is that he’s extremely busy; I’m just not accustomed to it yet).

From his page I found Betsy Lerner’s blog, and she has an “Ask Me” link. So I contacted her and, well, asked some questions. Again I got a visit to my website and then…nothing. Hmm…is this a pattern I see emerging? This time it’s been less than 24 hours so who knows – I’m probably just being impatient.

On the plus side, the lack of an immediate, positive response has caused me to devote many brain cells to honing the all-important query. I went back to Nathan’s page and studied the query letter information there. I then searched online for comparative notes and discovered there is no single silver bullet in terms of order, but they all seem to agree on the content.

So, after all those millions of brain cells valiantly gave their all, I now have the two most important paragraphs of my query letter. The third (the one where one is supposed to list their prior achievements) – well, as a first time author (prior magazine articles and such don’t count unless they are specifically pertinent to the book) this section is currently blank. That just means I have more research to do. Yeah, that’ll work, at least for the time being!

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As some of you may know, my primary system drive stopped working suddenly last week. Unfortunately, I thought I’d backed up the most critical files but it turns out I didn’t. That’s bad, especially for me. However, the good news is that there is hope of resurrection. I ordered the appropriate cable Friday and, if all goes well, I should have the drive back in operation this coming week. I’ve got a WD drive standing by for the transplant so I’m basically set once the cable arrives. Keeping fingers crossed.

P.S. this crash has only affected my video projects. My writing work is safe. 😉

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Tweaking

I received some excellent advice from an established author yesterday – just the thing I needed to kick-start the gray matter into overdrive to find ways to improve my prospects by learning more about the business I’m “in”. Though much of what I read I already knew (by reading previously during my own search for answers which is good as it means I am on reasonably firm ground and have a reasonably good sense of direction), there were some excellent tips that made me reflect on how to get to where I want to be, and that’s just what I need right now.

Thanks, James.

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Waiting for word from an agent is a nail-biting experience, especially when you know you may never hear from them at all. The agents are extremely busy, and unless they see something they like, they are not going to tell you “sorry.” Most, if not all, agents say so up front.

In this digital age we live in, queries have become a little more complicated. Most agents want to be queried via email, but in some cases their “submission guidelines” are very sparse and leave one guessing. There is no specific contact person so you can’t address it properly. Contact is via email, so putting your actual address on the query doesn’t make a lot of sense. You’re asked about aspirations – how does one answer that? “I want to rule the world”? One has to be really very careful. What do you put as the subject line when you know there are thousands of emails arriving at the same address every day?

Alas, I suspect my opportunity has come and gone. I sent my query and saw the agent’s visit to my website. That was nine days ago, and since then? Nothing. What does that mean?

Well, it might not mean anything. Through researching online, this agents response time could be anywhere from immediate to three weeks. Thus it is possible I might get a bigger bite in the coming days or even weeks. But how realistic is that? I don’t really know, but the impression I get from that same research is that because of the volume they have to deal with, agents are either hooked or they aren’t. The question then asked is should I move on to the next?

That’s a hard decision – there’s a reason I chose a specific agent to go for first. I’ve followed one of their clients whose work is similar to mine, and I like how they’ve handled his career. I’d like a similar experience.

The hardest part of all this is the nail-biting anxiety – it makes it difficult to concentrate on other projects, and I really should be concentrating on them since there is no guarantee, regardless of my confidence level, that OTHAFA will ever see the light of day. It’s entirely possible that I’ve made a mistake along the way – I know the pseudo cover art is unlikely to last into publication, but the descriptive words that also appear – are they just wrong? They seem to convey a story of boarding school, but that aspect is the background. My relationship with my brother and family – that’s the real thrust of the story.

Could it be I screwed up? I dunno. I hope not. Of course my anxiety might be because the wife is away all next week leaving me with the three kids by myself. Hmm…

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Went to the Phoenix Comicon 2010 over this past weekend and had a blast. Bought the full-access tickets and were there Friday-Sunday (could not go Thursday – oh well). Met some very informative people, some who are relatively new to the business and some who have been in it quite a while, and yes there were folks dressed up in costumes and having a lot of fun with that, but what I was most impressed with is how relaxed and open everyone was whether they were famous or not (or maybe not famous in my very small sphere of interest).

The whole experience was exciting and fun and encouraging.

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