Archive for May, 2009
Thursday, May 14th, 2009 by Sasha White
The Urban Fantasy genre seems to have brought about a ton of Bad Girl heroines – but I’m here to tell you that the true bad girls aren’t limited to that genre. To any genre.
I want to talk about what I think makes a kick ass bad girl. It’s more than giving her magical powers, a sword or a gun, and some tattooes. For me, as an author and as a reader, talking the talk isn’t enough. The character needs to walk the walk. In other words, the character development must be there so that when the actions follow the talk, I believe it’s true to the character, and not just a scene put into make her look like a bad girl, or a bad ass.
I like to write Bad Girls occasionally, admittidly my bad girls tend to be more wild and wicked than kick ass shoot-em up…but there are some things I think that are needed no matter if you want a kick ass bad girl, or a shoot em up bad girl.
This next part of the post is pulled from a workshop author Vivi Anna and I did a couple years ago on Bad Girl Heroines Done Right. (and let me tell you, Vivi Anna’s HELL KAT is a bad girl heroine done right!)
It all starts at the beginning of the story. How the author introduces the heroine to the reader is a big deal. The readers don’t need to love her right away, but they do need to be intrigued – to be interested. So I say get their interest with action. Bad Girl action.
In my novella Sex As A Weapon the reader meets Vanessa (the BG heroine) in the first chapter, when she’s tying up a man, and robbing his safe. The scene itself is intriguing, and it shows how she does what she does. The very next scene explains why she does what she does. It has her speaking on the phone to her friend and, her thoughts show her true vulnerability. She does what she does because her friend asked it of her. Because she basically has no family, and her friend took her off the streets when she was a teenager, and gave her a solid career. So Vanessa feels loyalty, and obligation.
Readers don’t have to like what the BG does, but they need to understand why she does it. She doesn’t always have to be doing it for good reasons either. Money, stability, a tendency toward violence – those are reasons. Say your heroine is a CIA operative specializing in wet work. An assassin. Maybe she does it because she needs an outlet for the anger inside her. Killing bad guys gives her that outlet. But then you need to give her a history to explain why she has such killing anger.
A Bad Girl Heroine can be anyone from an assassin to a girl who loves to party and break all the rules. It’s up to the author to create her, and give her a reason for being the way she is. As long as there is a reason, and the author can covey it to the reader, the Bad Girl Heroine will kick ass.
My Formula for a bad girl. (Any genre)
1. Intelligence ~ Bag Girls are smart. There is no way around it. They might not be schooled, or book smart, but they are smart. You will not have a “too stupid to live” bad girl heroine. This heroine has brains and she uses them. You can show it in actions, or in witty and sharp dialogue, or a wicked combination. But your BG Heroine is always intelligent!
2. Attitude ~ She has to have attitude. It can be confidence, or cockiness that is used to cover up her own insecurities, but there has to be attitude. The Key to keeping her likeable, even with the attitude, is a friend, or family member, or even a pet who she talks to, where she loses the attitude. There has to be someone/something that sees and knows her as she is so the readers can do so.
3. Desire ~ She has to have a burning desire or goal. Something she goes after, and is willing to kick ass for. It could be a Home of her own, money, a job, or revenge of some sort. (And you need to give a valid reason for this desire)
4. Heart ~ She has her reasons for doing what she does and being who she is. The biggest thing to remember is you need to show the reader those reasons – and they have to be valid. She’s not a likable bad girl if she’s a car thief just because she enjoys it. Why does she steal? Why Cars? You need to give the reader a reason to cheer for her.
5. Skills ~ Bad Girls have skills. They are intelligent and inventive. The skills can be anything from fighting skills, to lock-picking or hotwiring cars. Believe it or not, lying successfully can be a skill, as can reading people. (Not supernaturally, but just reading faces and body language). She needs skills, and it’s second nature to use them to get what she wants
Now, to be clear, I’m not saying that any character who has these qualities is automatically a Bad Girl, but that in order to create a real Bad Girl, she has to have these qualities. Being smart or independent doesn’t make a bad girl, but real bad girl is smart and often independent.
Look at Sydney Bristow of ALIAS. She was kick ass, tough and smart, but IMO she wasn’t a Bad Girl Heroine. She didn’t have the attitude for a bad girl. She didn’t own it enough. Then there’s Mira Sorvino’s Meg Colburn in THE REPLACEMENT KILLERS. She’s a forger who just wants to be alone and do the job she’s paid to do, until trouble comes knocking on her door, and she can’t walk away. She shoots, fights, and swears, and despite her good heart shining though, she’s still a kick ass Bad Girl.
Mercy Thompson – Tattooed mechanic Tough, smart, and independent, this walker takes a beating, and keeps on going. The Mercy Thompson stories are paranormal/urban fantasy, but they’ve been around for a while, and I’ve yet to find a magical BG who matches this character.
Cat Dupree – Sharon Salas heroine from Nine Lives, CutThroat, and Bad Penny.
Eve Dallas – Sure she’s a cop, but that is a true Bad Girl heroine. She’s tough, smart, and she kicks ass!
Julie Collins – Lori G Armstrong has created a real Bad Girl with her secretary turned PI Julie Collins. She smokes, she drinks, she fucks, and she cares about people.
Zoe- Gina Torres in Firefly and Serenity is a true Bad Girl. An ex soldier who is now an outlaw with a heart of gold. She curses and shoots’em up. But she’s smart, and loyal to those she loves.
Who’s your favorite Bad Girl Heroine?
Wednesday, May 13th, 2009 by Carrie Vaughn
This discussion dovetails a bit with my post from last week about plot and action. My proposition is this: that plot and character might actually be the same thing. I started thinking this when I realized that I can’t talk about plot without talking about character.
If your ideas normally start with a character, then the plot grows (or it should grow) out of what your characters are like, what they would do, what problems they’d naturally get themselves into, and the unique ways that they (and no one else) would get out of those problems. The character’s goals mark the turning points in the plot: what does the character want? What stops her from getting it? What conflicts and obstacles affect her the most? The climax and resolution of the plot should also reflect the character arc, where she grows and changes and either realizes her goals or changes them.
If you normally start with a plot (or an idea, or an event, or an action scene), then the story grows when you find the right character to fit that idea or event. The character has to be the kind of person who would get into that situation, who would make those specific events happen, or be most affected by them.
Essentially, what I think one of the things that makes a story engaging is how this particular series of events couldn’t possibly happen to any other character but the one the story is happening to, and how no other character could possibly deal with this situation. This story is happening to this character because of who she is, and the story happens the way it does because it’s this particular character driving the events, making the decisions. Raiders of the Lost Ark works the way it does because the story is happening to Indiana Jones, and you get the feeling that things would have gone very differently if anyone else had been there.
Boring stories happen when you start to feel like the scenes and actions are happening in spite of the characters rather than because of them. When you could put any character, from Hamlet to James Bond, into that slot and the story would happen just the same. In my mind, that’s bad writing.
Also, the plot needs to stay true to the character you’ve established. The character needs to be the kind of person who would make the decisions and take the actions that make this particular plot work. The plot needs to rise out of the characters’ decisions and actions. If a character wouldn’t actually make the kind of decisions that you need her to make in order for the plot to move forward, maybe you need to change the character to make her that person. Or give a really, really good reason for her to behave out of character. See? Plot and characterization need to work together.
How many times have you watched a favorite TV show go down the tubes because a beloved character started acting just wrong, in order to make a plot twist work? (Mine was Callie on Battlestar Galactica. I couldn’t believe for a second that a woman who, in previous episodes 1) beat up her would-be rapist, 2) survived the ambush on Kobol, 3) pulled the Jack Ruby on Boomer, and 4) helped organize the resistance on New Caprica, would then take her baby into an airlock with the intention of killing them both. I don’t care how depressed she was, I simply don’t believe it.) If you have to contradict a character to make a plot point work, it may be time for a rewrite — change the character or change the plot. What would that character really do?
Plot is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to learn about writing. It’s the thing I’ve had to work the most on, and the thing I’ve thought the most about because it’s never come naturally to me. Characterization, however, has been my strong suit. I’ve never done those surveys where you write down your character’s favorite foods, I’ve never written out character sketches or biographies before I started. I don’t even need to know their names at first. (I’ve been known to search and replace the names of main characters after writing the book.) I just have a picture in my head. I just know my characters. So maybe it’s natural that I would think about plot in terms of character, and what my characters would or wouldn’t do.
Tuesday, May 12th, 2009 by Joe Nassise
(Originally published at the Xtremelife blog – Dec 2008)
Like many writers I know, I’m a pack rat when it comes to information. Anything I see or read or hear that I think might be useful for a story at some point or another gets clipped or bookmarked or jotted down for safekeeping.
The trouble with this is that until recently I didn’t have a useful way of storing this information for future use. My magazine or newspaper clippings went into one big file folder, making it near impossible to find anything quickly. My internet bookmarks were more organized, but there were so many of them that even that system became clunky after only a short time. And I won’t even mention what happened to all those notes jotted down on napkins or the nearest scrap of paper.
Clearly I needed a better system.
And I found one in Evernote.
Evernote bills itself as allowing you to “easily capture information in any environment using whatever device or platform you find most convenient, and makes this information accessible and searchable at anytime, from anywhere.”
So far it has lived up to its hype.
Evernote is now my way of capturing information that I might want to use at some point in one of my books. Maybe it is a web full page or a snippet of text from one. Maybe it is a photo, be it from my digital camera, my cell phone, or someplace like Flickr. Maybe it is an email or a portion of a chat log. Scanned information. To do lists. You name it and Evernote can capture it.
Evernote has a desktop application (for both Windows and Mac) and a web application. Anything you add to it can be synchronized across all your devices, from your desktop to your laptop to your mobile phone. I have it set up so it provides links from both my email application (Outlook) and my web browser (Firefox) so all I have to do is highlight and click on the link to capture the information I want to save.
Once the information is in Evernote, you can file it using a variety of methods and this is where the true versatility of the app comes into play for me. Multiple notebooks allow me to file information for different books projects together in one place regardless of the type of data I’m saving. Or I can choose to file similar data together – all my photos in one notebook, all my web clippings in another, etc. Either way, a robust tagging system lets me search for similar clippings across multiple notebooks.
The Search feature is particularly cool, as it searches not only the text in your notes, but also the text in any pictures you might have saved. I use Bloglines as my news reader and tend to save a lot of articles in their built in Clippings service, but the additional ability to search through images for text provided by Evernote has caused me to begin saving my latest clippings direct to Evernote instead. As time goes on I’ll probably move my older clippings there as well, since I can find things easier that way. There is nothing more annoying that knowing you’ve saved something and not being able to find it!
You can get your own account by simply going to Evernote and signing up. There’s even a cool little video to introduce you to all the things you can do with Evernote .
And if you’re a current Evernote user, I’d love to hear what you’re doing with it in the comments!
(All images taken from the Evernote homepage and Copyright 2008 Evernote.)
Monday, May 11th, 2009 by Alison Kent
originally posted at Blah Blog, July 17, 2006 (embedded links may no longer be available)
One of the daily thought type emails I received awhile back talked about discouragement based on obstacles standing in the way of our goals. One that I found most interesting was this:
It is amazing how often we can get in our own way without even being aware that we are doing so. Even though we truly want to succeed, there are many reasons why we may sometimes block our own efforts. It may be that we are afraid to succeed, so we subconsciously create circumstances to keep ourselves stuck. Or it may even be that we are afraid that we will succeed, so we block ourselves by making the achievement of our goals more difficult than they really are. We may even approach our goals in a way that keeps creating the same unsuccessful results.
We talk about fear of failure, but I don’t think we consider fear of success as often. Think about authors you know whose success has meant losing friends, suffering excessive professional jealousy, sacrificing long lazy hours of family time and spending the same touring, signing, pimping. *g* Many authors are private people, hermits of the worst sort. Success puts us into the limelight, but if you believe all the publicity blogs out there, we give up that privacy the minute we sell a book, and we become promotional machines.
From an older CNNMoney.com article on the fear of success: Shrinks have been studying the problem since 1915, when Freud wrote an essay called “Those Wrecked by Success.” He noted the “surprising and even bewildering” tendency of some people to fall apart “precisely when a deeply rooted and long-cherished wish has come to fulfillment…as though they were not able to tolerate happiness.” (…) Says Elissa Sklaroff, a therapist in Philadelphia who treats success-fearing executives: “Being on the brink of success brings a crisis, and all of our neuroses pop right up to the surface. On some level, success-fearing people are running from change–especially from having to change their secret self-image as an unsuccessful or undeserving person.”
The public face isn’t the only success fear factor. Coping.org defines fear of success as follows:
* Fear that you will accomplish all that you set out to, but that you still won’t be happy, content, or satisfied once you reach your goal.
* Belief that you are undeserving of all the good things and recognition that come your way as a result of your accomplishments and successes.
* Opposite of fear of failure, in that fear of failure is the fear of making mistakes and losing approval. Fear of success is the fear of accomplishment and being recognized and honored.
* Lack of belief in your own ability to sustain your progress, and the accomplishments you have achieved in your life.
* Fear that your accomplishments can self-destruct at anytime.
* Belief that no matter how much you are able to achieve or accomplish, it will never be enough to sustain success.
* Belief that there are others out there who are better than you, who will replace or displace you if you do not maintain your performance record.
* Belief that success is an end in itself; yet that end is not enough to sustain your interest and/or commitment.
* Fear that once you have achieved the goals you have worked diligently for, the motivation to continue will fade.
* Fear that you will find no happiness in your accomplishments; that you will be perpetually dissatisfied with life.
In a Psychology Today article, Ti Caine, a hypnotherapist and life coach based in Sherman Oaks, California says, “Our culture is focused on fixing the past. It’s as if we are driving through life staring in the rear-view mirror.” That really resonates with me. I tend to look back at what I would have done differently instead of looking ahead. Ti also says, “The fear of success is a very unique issue that arises when you are genuinely creating change and moving forward in your life. The fear of success is very real because the future is real-we’re all heading there-and what we imagine for our future has an enormous influence on us.”
I found an old quiz at Fortune.com to help determine if you have a fear of success. Though the quiz is no longer active, looking at the questions really opened my eyes . . .
1. I generally feel guilty about my own happiness if a friend tells me that (s)he’s depressed.
2. I frequently find myself not telling others about my good luck so they won’t have to feel envious.
3. I have trouble saying no to people.
4. Before getting down to work on a project, I suddenly find a whole bunch of other things to take care of first.
5. I tend to believe that people who look out for themselves first are selfish.
6. When someone I know well succeeds at something, I usually feel that I’ve lost out in comparison.
7. I rarely have trouble concentrating on something for a long period of time.
8. When I have to ask others for their help, I feel that I’m being bothersome.
9. I often compromise in situations to avoid conflict.
10. When I’ve made a decision, I usually stick to it.
11. I feel self-conscious when someone who “counts” compliments me.
12. When I’m involved in a competitive activity (sports, a game, work), I’m often so concerned with how well I’m doing that I don’t enjoy the activity as much as I could.
13. A sure-fire way to end up disappointed is to want something too much.
14. Instead of wanting to celebrate, I feel let down after completing an important task or project.
15. Mostly, I find that I measure up to the standards that I set for myself.
16. When things seem to be going really well for me, I get uneasy that I’ll do something to ruin it.
What about it? Anyone have tips for coping that have helped them get through? Such a fear is in no way limited to writing, so share any positive steps you have taken! We fearful sort would love to hear them. *g*
Saturday, May 9th, 2009 by Jason Pinter
I remember last summer reading Entertainment Weekly’s article
on the difficulties surrounding the release of the recent “Hulk” movie. Apparently notoriously difficult star Edward Norton had a pretty major, and pretty public, disagreement with the studio over the film’s runtime and direction. Marvel wanted the movie leaner and meaner. Norton wanted the movie longer and with more character development.The studio won (as I imagine it likely always does) Having lost the dispute, Nortonsupposedly refused to publicize the movie, except a few small things here or there. And he’s pretty much persona non grata on the DVD. For a star-driven summer action movie, this is essentially a death-knell (can you imagine if Harrison Ford refused to promote “Indiana Jones”?).
From most reports Norton is a terror behind the scenes–yet brilliant in front of it. He’s arguably one of the best–and most versatile–actors working today. So how is this possible? How can someone so talented also be such a well…bitch?
This got me thinking about difficult personalities, specifically in the world of book publishing. I’ve heard a lot of horror stories about difficult authors. Authors who demand outrageous amounts of time, money and effort from their editors and publishers. Authors who do everything but march down to the company themselves to ream people out (and some have done this). Authors who demand conference calls when their book drops off the New York Times bestseller list (after having spent 8 weeks on it). But one thing most of these difficult authors have in common is that an unusually large amount of them are massively successful. For some reason, their intense desire to succeed–even in spite of many social graces–often allows them to actually succeed. So what is it about difficulty that allows writers–and people in other mediums–to be so successful while everyone cowers when they enter a room?
I think a large part of it is that whatever a person demands from their publisher (or studio, etc…) they are putting a similar, if not greater effort into the work themselves. They’re not sitting in an easy chair barking out orders, they’re putting the kind of time into their work that Michael Jordan did into his jump shot. They’re authors who started small, and worked themselves to the top. They didn’t sit back passively, they demanded those in charge put effort behind them. And in return they showed the effort would be matched, and then some. Sometimes they’re right, sometimes they’re wrong, but more often then not they’re just asking for the same effort to be put into publishing their work that went into creating it.
Crime authors, at least those I’ve met, at among the nicest people in the world. They support each other. They mentor new writers, and give infinite tips on how to navigate the industry. I have been the beneficiaries of almost unfathomable kindness from my peers, and have tried to pay it forward the best I can. Sure there are egos–as in any profession–but for the most part crime authors are an absolute pleasure to be around.
Yet it’s well known within the industry that there is very little correlation between the respect a person gets from one’s peers, and success in their field. Some of the most beloved authors, the ones who never pay for a drink at a convention, who win the most awards and whose panels are constantly full, don’t sell all that well. And many authors who simply don’t go to conferences (unless they’re the Guest of Honor) and don’t schmooze are huge bestsellers. There is often a massive gulf between personal reputation and professional success. Fair? Probably not. True? Unfortunately so.
Yet nobody wants to be difficult, or at least I doubt people who are difficult consider themselves to be. I doubt if you asked authors with the worst reputations if they considered themselves difficult, the answer would be unequivocally “no.” Difficult? No. Passionate? Hardworking? Demanding? Hell yes.
Perhaps that’s a fine line, but the most difficult authors seem to be the ones who, first and foremost, expect the most from themselves. They work harder, and most importantly they see the forest from the trees. Yes, there are many examples of authors who are gracious and kind and have comparable success. They are examples what we aspire to be: people whose books are as beloved as their personalities. And there are also those authors who are simply assholes, who treat others like dirt without offering anything in return (chances are they won’t be published for long, as publishers rightfully tend to tolerate difficulty only when it is worth the effort).
So maybe nice guys don’t always finish last, but while most nice guys are buying everyone a round there’s a difficult–nay, passionate–author hunched over his desk, with his editor, agent and publicist on speed dial.
Writing is an art. Publishing is a business. And just like in business, it’s often better to be feared than loved.
Friday, May 8th, 2009 by LViehl
One definition of something that sucks: One in four American adults read no books in 2006. The average number of books read by those surveyed who did read was seven.
According to a report from Bowker, there were 276,649 new titles and editions published in the U.S. in 2007 (2008’s stats should be revealed any day now.) If you add in the 134,773 on-demand and short run titles, that brings the U.S. production total up to a whopping 411,422 books. If you were going to read all of them, you’d have to read 47+ books an hour twenty-four hours a day for a year.
In 2004, 950,000 titles out of the 1.2 million tracked by Nielsen Bookscan sold fewer than 99 copies. Another 200,000 sold fewer than 1,000 copies. Only 25,000 sold more than 5,000 copies. The average book in America sells about 500 copies (source: Publishers Weekly, July 17, 2006).
There are no available statistics on the average number of books an author publishes per year, and individual production and sales to publishers varies, but most writers agree that an author has to publish a minimum of two titles per year to build and maintain their readership.
Dan Poynter cites statistics from the Brenner Information Group in his .pdf Time to Write that claim it takes 475 hours to write fiction books and 725 hours to write nonfiction. I’ve written a 100K fiction book in less than 500 hours, and I think I could do it again, as long as I have proper prep time and don’t do anything else during that time but write, eat, sleep, and write. I’m not the fastest, though; I know a couple of authors who have written short novels (70K or less) in under 50 hours. If you really want to feel lazy, you should consider how you compare to Lester Dent, author of the Doc Savage series, for which he produced 165 full-length novels (of at least 55,000 words each), one each month for about 17 years.
We’ve all heard how dismal our chances for success in publishing are. “.03 percent (3 out of 10,000) of all submissions are accepted for publication. Of those, 9 out of every 10 published novels fails to pay back its own production costs.”
Why all the depressing numbers this week? I love publishing statistics. I especially love the squeaky sounds they make when something or someone stomps on them. Numbers are such cold, definite little things, while they strike terror into the hearts of the uncertain, they’re also defenseless against the unknown, the unexpected, and the unfathomable.
That last part? Hopefully that’s represented by you and me.
Let’s wrestle first with the depressing statistics on how few books the average American reads. SpeedReading.com claims the average reading speed of an adult is 250 – 300 words per minute. When motivated, I can read a 100K book in under two hours, which would make my reading speed about 833 words per minute. Although I’ve slowed down quite a bit, I still consider myself a voracious reader, and when I’m not in a reading depression (which doesn’t happen very often) I read between 10 – 15 books a week, which would be about 104 times the national average.
Even as much as I read, there’s no way I can read even a healthy fraction of the new titles out there every year. Fortunately I’m not like that guy in the Twilight Zone episode; I don’t constitute the only reader on Earth.
I operate off the conviction that people who don’t read can be turned into readers. I give away books I love as gifts to my family, friends and blog visitors. I put free e-books on the internet which are accessible to everyone on the planet. I encourage everyone I know to read more; if they say they don’t have time I recommend audio books to listen to in the car. If they haven’t got room in the budget to buy books, I nag them to visit the library. My favorite conversation starter is “Last week I read an incredible novel…”
Am I obnoxious about it? Borderline. But just imagine how healthy Publishing would be if everyone in the industry, published or working toward it, did the same.
It’s enough work to write books, but now authors are expected to help sell them, too. The traditional avenues of book selling are rapidly becoming obsolete, so writers really have to think outside the box now. I won’t lecture you all again on the marvels of the internet – at least, not this week – but I do believe this is the future of intelligent self-promotion, and I explore it and think about it and use it as much as possible. I also encourage other writers to do the same, and talk about ideas with them, and listen to what they think. As blog writers and readers, we are the internet think-tank of Publishing.
With the pressure of day jobs and family and social demands, writers are discovering that they have almost no time to write, and when they do sneak in an hour here and there, they’re often too exhausted to produce anything of value. Simply to finish two books per year, I think the average writer has to work at least twenty hours a week. If you give yourself weekends off, that’s four hours a day. When was the last time you had four hours off from your life?
I’ve harped on creating and defending writing time since I started this gig, and it’s one of the most important aspects of being a writer. If you want to do this professionally, you’re probably going to have to sacrifice some non-essential activity. A good place to start is to cut back on the amount of television you watch, and instead use that time to write. Get up an hour earlier and write before you go into work. Dedicate every other day you have off to include one decent writing session. If you genuinely want to write, you have to make the time to write.
Rejection is difficult to deal with, especially if all you’re getting in return for your efforts are rejections. I sympathize, I really do. Come to my house some time and I’ll show you the boxes of rejection letters I have – ten years’ worth. I think it’s safe to say that I’m a modestly sucessful writer, and I still get rejected. Does it bug me? Sure. Does it stop me? No.
I’ve always said this is an endurance game, and the writers who keep at it, look for ways to improve their work, and keep trying new things have the best chance of getting into and staying in print.
First, if you’ve only written one novel, and you’ve submitted everywhere and have an entire box of rejections for it, I want you to file it away for now. No, to be honest, I want you to take it out in the backyard and burn it, but just for now, put it away. Once you’ve done that, I want you to do the one thing that every successful pro writer does: Write. Something. Else. When you’re done, submit that. Then repeat.
Determination cannot be measured. Neither can creativity, innovation or sheer mule-headedness. Whenever someone says to you “You can’t . . .” or “You won’t . . .” or “You’ll never. . .”, pity them. They’re trapped in the fortress of number fear, and they’re too busy quivering and whimpering over what they’ve been told to ever figure out a way to defy it. But why accept defeat before you even try to do something about it? Why not see it as a personal challenge?
I’m out here every day, challenging those statistics. I’ve already stomped them, many times over. I defy them to define me, my career or my industry. Because when it comes down to it, they’re only numbers. They can’t think, or innovate, or improve themselves. They really can’t do anything but look scary. But you and me? We can do so much more than that.
Thursday, May 7th, 2009 by Sasha White
Sorry my post is late going up. I had internet troubles last night, but here it is.
You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you. ~Ray Bradbury
Agents are an important component to your career. Last summer I parted ways with my first agent. It was extremely hard to do because I truly liked and respected her. However, it had become obvious to us both that I needed something she wasn’t comfortable giving me. That meant she was no longer the right agent for me – and having the right agent is a key factor in building a lasting career.
Knowing this, I then proceeded to do a lot of thinking on what is right for me. Because I tend to do things in an all or nothing type of way, I took time off from most things writing to think. By most things I mean, I stopped writing, stopped trying to think of new story/project ideas, and didn’t bother to submit option materials to any of my publishers. I was still doing copy edits and galleys on my June 2009 release, but I wasn’t working on anything new. I deliberately let myself become ‘out of contract’ with my publishers so that I could think about what I really wanted for myself.
It might sound silly, but knowing what you want is important to getting it. So for any of you out there who are also going on an agent hunt, I thought I’d share MY thought process with you.
Here’s a list of things that are important to ME in an agent.
Respect, Good Communication, and similar Goals. These things may sound simple, but when you look closely, they’re not.
RESPECT: Of course you want an agent who is respected in the industry, but more importantly, I want one who respects me, and my opinions.
COMMUNICATION: I’m not the most patient person in the world, and I admit I’m not the most formal either, so I want an agent who I feel comfortable talking to. If most of our communication is going to be through an assistant, then I want to talk to the assistant before I agree to sign on with said agent.
GOALS: We both need to want to see me succeed.
Sounds simple, but it isn’t always. One common complaint I’ve heard among authors who have parted ways with their agent is that they felt their agent was more loyal to their publisher than to them.
This person is to be an advocate for me and my work, I want them to believe in that. Yes, I want them to think they can make money with me, I want that too – but above and beyond that I want them to believe that looking after my interests is more important than looking after the publishers.
I’ve done my thinking, and created a list of agents who I think have these qualities, and am now hunting for an agent. It’s been three months of solid searching, and I still don’t have an agent yet. I’ve spoken to a few, gotten offers from a couple, but I’m still searching for the right one. There’s promise, and then it feels like that promise disappears. It’s tough because I really want to be writing right now, and I feel unsure of what I should be writing. It’s a new feeling for me because everything went so fast the first time around. But I keep telling myself, everything went fast before, but if I want to get to the next level of my career, I need to take the right steps to make that happen.
I’m unsure of how much to push the agents I speak to – as in, how long do I give them to respond to a query or proposal before I figure, “Okay, No news is not Good news in this business.” My first agent always responded to me within 24 hours. Even when it came to reading a proposal. However, there are reasons I parted ways with that first agent, and maybe an agent who is slower and more methodical is what I need. So do I push? Or try to relax? Or assume that said agent has lost interest?
Normally I would assume that I just needed to be patient, but in the past months of searching I’ve learned that there are several agents out there who feel that no response is the same as a rejection. I’m not talking about ones who state in their submission guidelines that if you don’t hear from them in a month, then assume they’re not interested. I’m talking about agents who I’ve communicated with several times, and felt that things were moving in a positive direction, and that they might be the right one for me… only to suddenly never hear from them again. This has happened to me twice. I’m starting to wonder if it’s about to happen to me a third time. *sigh*
I’m not going to share my thoughts on that just yet because I don’t think I can be objective. Knowing yourself, your strengths and your weaknesses is also important when looking for an agent. With that in mind, I admit that I can be impatient and rash at times, so I need to calm down. Which means that right now I’m praying to God to give me patience…and to send it Fast!