Apr

19

2012

The Mystery of the Slush Pile

by Tamela Hancock Murray

When you submit a manuscript or query to an agent, you may wonder what happens to it, and what our thought processes are regarding the properties we offer to represent versus those we must respectfully decline. Every agent is different, but you may find learning about my process helpful.

I have a very smart assistant. When she reviews my slush pile submissions, she goes through a winnowing process.

The first submissions she rejects are those that are obviously not a fit for me. These include:

1.) Stream of consciousness submissions. If she can’t figure out what you are talking about, she sends it back. By this we don’t mean that we don’t understand systematic theology. It means that the query letter is incoherent.

2.) Error-ridden letters. Even the best of us can type “here” when we meant to type “hear” but more than one error in a final letter is a red flag that either the author is not well-versed in basic grammar or will turn in careless, sloppy work.

3.) We rarely acknowledge queries sent as an email blast in the cc line to the entire industry. It is a form of spam. Target a select few and then personalize your proposal to each.

4.) Books that aren’t in categories we represent.

Submissions that bypass these four problems, among others, and otherwise show promise are passed on to a reader. The reader looks for factors such as:

1.) Excellent writing.

2.) For fiction, coherent plot.

3.) For nonfiction, whether the intended audience is likely to connect with the topic.

4.) Overall message of book, whether fiction or nonfiction.

Our reviewer’s opinion carries weight. If the manuscript doesn’t pass muster, the reviewer reports as to why it doesn’t. Based on the evaluation, unless my assistant has an extremely good reason to disagree, a rejection is sent. But if it survives that initial read, then the submission is sent to me for final evaluation. At that time, I must consider many factors as I make my final decision. The factors differ, depending on the author’s publishing history, type of manuscript in question, and my belief in its marketability. The main point to remember is that rejections from my office are never a reflection of a writer as a person, and I think most agents would make the same statement. I wrote books and articles for many years, so I know what receiving a rejection letter feels like. Since so much of yourself is put into your work, rejection does feel personal. One of the most difficult parts of my job is sending a rejection notice to an author I know and like. But if I waste her time, mine, and the editor’s, then attempts to market out of a sense of friendship won’t help any of us.

On the flip side, when I do offer representation, you can be confident that in my representation, you will have the full support of The Steve Laube Agency.

Your Turn:

What is the longest you’ve had to wait for an agent to reject or accept your work?

Did you earn an offer of representation for your first manuscript, or did you write several books before finding success?

Apr

18

2012

Three Steps to Freedom!

by Karen Ball

It’s The Most Wonderful/Terrible Time of the Year

It comes every year, and every year we wait for it with a mixture of excitement and dread. No, I’m not talking about taxes.

I’m talking about the award season.

From the ECPA Book of the Year awards to the Christy’s, the Genesis to the RITA, the Golden Heart to the Carol, and all the gazillion contests and awards in-between, online groups, Facebook, Twitter, and more are buzzing with the news of who finaled and who didn’t, who was nominated and who wasn’t. It’s a heady time for those chosen; a difficult and even painful time for those not so blessed.

This year has been especially interesting to me as a number of the books I acquired and edited over the last year or so have garnered several nominations for prestigious awards. I’m delighted for these writers, because I know how hard they’ve worked, and how talented they are. But I know, too, that those not getting happy news have also worked hard, are also talented. And I know that so many of us find ourselves smiling through the ache inside, congratulating our friends, knowing we should be happy for them, but all-too-aware of that nagging “Why not me??” in our gut.

So what’s a writer to do?

[ Read More → ]

Apr

17

2012

News You Can Use – April 17, 2012

Getting by on a Writer’s Income – Lawrence Block reflects on the challenges of the writing life. An excellent article from someone with a half a century of experience.

Microsoft Word is Dead – Tom Scocca in “Slate” makes a bold claim. I would vehemently disagree from the point-of-view of writers and editors and publishers. But he may be right when it comes to office collaborations and the like.

Mary Poppins Author Regrets Selling Movie Rights to Disney – A story behind the story. What we may have seen as a delight the author saw as a violation. Our family happens to have enjoyed both the movie and the original books.

—– Articles about the Department of Justice Lawsuit —–

One Bad Apple Don’t Spoil…on Second Thought – Bufo Calvin weighs in on the DOJ lawsuit

Agency is Dead, Long Live the New Agency – No, the article is not talking about literary agents despite some of your wishes. Instead Philip Hughes looks carefully at the DOJ lawsuit and asks some great questions.

Amazon E-book Pricing a Thorn in the Flesh – Fascinating look at a publisher that has willfully removed all their books from Amazon’s web site despite the risk of lost sales.

The DOJ Lawsuit Won’t Solve the Big Problem – Emily Bell in the UK sees the issue a little differently.

[ Read More → ]

Apr

16

2012

Christy Award Finalists 2012

We are quite excited to announce that our agency has a number of finalists in this year’s Christy Awards. (Click here for the list of this year’s finalists.) Congratulations to all finalists. Below are our clients who have been honored and a link to their publisher’s site for more information on the book.

Susan May Warren – My Foolish Heart (Tyndale) – Contemporary Romance

Ronie Kendig – Wolfsbane (Barbour) – Contemporary Romance

Ginny Yttrup – Words (B&H Publishing) – NOMINATED TWICE – Contemporary Standalone & First Novel

Ted Dekker & Tosca Lee – Forbidden (Center Street) – Visionary – (we represent Tosca)

Lisa Bergren – Waterfall (David C. Cook) – Young Adult

[ Read More → ]

Apr

16

2012

Implications of the Department of Justice Lawsuit Against Five Major Publishers

by Steve Laube

As you have heard by now the Department of Justice (DOJ) has leveled a lawsuit against Apple and five major publishers accusing them of conspiring to fix prices. There has been a lot written on the topic with varying degrees of understanding and a wide disparity of conclusions.

Authors are asking what this all means to them. And many are confused about the math involved. A great, and lengthy summary has been brilliantly composed at Shelf-Awareness. Read that article if you do not understand the details of the situation. It is important that every writer grasp the implications because it could affect how books are sold moving forward.

Already, three of the five publisher have agreed to settle without admitting guilt (HarperCollins, Hachette, and Simon and Schuster). And that settlement will take at least 60 days to finalize. This leave MacMillan and Penguin who have vowed to fight the suit. Such a fight could last years.

By the way, Random House was not named in the suit because they did not change their pricing policies until much later and thus cannot be accused of colluding.

[ Read More → ]

Apr

13

2012

Fun Fridays – April 13, 2012

The Rejection Letter Generator Become used to receiving rejection letters from agents and editors. Test your own mettle. Develop immunity to snarky comments! Go to this site and fill one of the seven forms. The Rejection Generator Project I guarantee you will be rejected within seconds. So much better than waiting weeks for our agency’s evaluation. Here is a sample…

[ Read More → ]

Apr

12

2012

Finding the Right Critique Partner

by Tamela Hancock Murray

Recently I talked with a supervisor in a field unrelated to the publishing industry, who mentioned an employee. “I shudder to think of the advice he’s giving out. He has a general understanding of the subject matter, but not the skill set.” It struck me how applicable this statement can be regarding people who offer to critique manuscripts. In a previous post, I addressed the number of critique partners to consider. In this article, I’ll discuss quality, because not all critique partners will help you in the same manner.

A friend offering to critique your work is a gift because she is expressing interest intense enough to offer her time to read and comment upon it. But what if it is someone who is only an acquaintance? Some writers may think, “But what if the person actually wants to steal it and pass off my work as her own and sell it to a publisher?” Of course that is a risk, so be wise and make sure you know that the person is a legitimate writer and/or reader. Some organizations such as American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) offer critique groups to their members, so those writers are screened by virtue of membership. Consider sending an email to a mutual writer friend, go on Facebook and Twitter, or take any number of steps to make sure the person is a proven or at least an aspiring peer in the business.

[ Read More → ]

Apr

11

2012

Are You a Storybird?

by Karen Ball

I’m always hearing about authors who get stuck. Whose creativity has hit a wall. Who have hit a point in the story that they’ve lost interest.

Or there are the down times. When emotions have them hogtied. They’re too sad or depressed or frustrated or overwhelmed to write.

Well, I don’t have a cure for all of those things, but I do have something that can help. It’s called Storybird, and it’s wonderful.

On Storybird, you can choose the most wonderful art, and then write a story. Short or long, funny or serious, it doesn’t matter. Just write what’s on your mind, what the art inspires.

I just wrote a Storybird because I was upset with myself for letting a friend down. In fact, that friend was Steve Laube. I forgot to send him my blog post for the agency site. And I knew he was disappointed in me. Thing is, I’ve forgotten to send the blog post before, too many times. Fibro has shot my short-term memory full of holes. So when I get stressed or overwhelmed, I tend to forget things. Even important things. I don’t like it. In fact, I hate it. But I can’t change it. So I’ve learned to work around it, using notes and alarms on my computer, and enlisting the help of friends and family. But when it affects something important, like making sure I do what I’m supposed to for Steve, I feel terrible.

So when that happened, I went to Storybird. And I wrote a story. For me. For Steve. For all of us who struggle with changes we don’t like. And it helped. A lot.

[ Read More → ]

Apr

10

2012

News You Can Use – April 10, 2012

Pew Research Findings on E-Reading – If you want a sense of what’s happening, read this article. Then once you’ve digested it, read Mike Shatzkin’s evaluation of the data. Together the articles may take an hour to absorb.

The Perfect Elevator Pitch for a New Job – Interesting article with applications for a writer creating the perfect pitch for their book idea

Five Best Bluetooth Headsets – A link for you techies out there. If you have a favorite vote in the comment section.

Judging a Book by its Cover – A 17 minute lecture from the TED conference by a book cover designer (Chip Kidd has been a designer at Alfred A. Knopf since 1986). At turns amusing and enlightening. If you are an author and want to get inside the head of a designer in an entertaining way, consider watching.

Five Great Movies about Writing – Have to admit never seeing any of these. Am I an uncultured sloth? Don’t answer that question. Instead add your two cents in the comments below.

Infographic on how the Internet is ruining our brain:

[ Read More → ]

Apr

9

2012

21 Influential Books

by Steve Laube

There is a shelf in our living room where I have placed the books that had the most influence on my spiritual growth. I call them my “Punctuation Marks” because in a metaphoric way some books were a comma, some an exclamation point, and some a period or full stop.

The beauty of having them all in one place is the visual reminder of those moments where God reached out through the pages of creative people who listened to the call to write and thereby touched me. It is a large part of why I have been involved in the book business for over thirty years.

Here are the books in no particular order:

[ Read More → ]