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Archive for the ‘Agents’ Category

Is that a door opening or are you just pleased to see me?

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on January 7, 2012

Lyn and Lee Battersby, Photo Courtesy Cat Sparks

Back in March 2011, Angry Robot Books, a UK-based publisher that generally only accepts agented submissions, held their first Open Submission Month, an experiment to see whether there were any unrepresented gems floating around the submitosphere that might be of interest.

In one month, they received 994 submissions. Mine was amongst them.

I’d had a somewhat frustrating time when it came to novels. I’d established a pretty solid reputation as a short story writer, at least on an Australian level: I’d sold a bunch of stories in Australia, the US and Europe, won a handful of local awards, and even had a collection published through an American small press. My reputation had been parlayed into teaching and mentoring stints at various industry associations, and I was pretty confident that, when it came to short stories, I knew what I was doing more often than not.

But therein lay the rub. Increasingly, I was confronted by the feeling that my career, such as it was, had reached a cross roads. I could continue to do what I was doing, and do it well enough, and accept that I had reached a natural level I was incapable of exceeding. But I’ve had a bee in my bonnet for a long time, one that demands I at least move towards a full time career in writing, if not actually achieve one. To do that, I needed to sell novels.

I’d come close with my first attempt, which I’d sent to 68 agents the previous year. One had picked it up, but we parted ways after she was unable to place it and didn’t like my second novel. No blood, no foul, and we separated on good terms. That second novel, an anti-fantasy romp entitled The Corpse-Rat King, was the one I sent to Angry Robot.

The deal was simple. Supplicants were invited to submit the first 5 chapters, or 10 000 words, of their novel, along with a synopses. A team of readers would plough through them, and ask to see the full manuscript of anything they believed merited further examination. Should that full manuscript be considered suitable, it would be passed upwards to editing bwana Lee A Harris. If it rocked Lee’s socks, he would take it to the editorial board and make a case for its purchase. Should the editorial board be persuaded then, and only then, would a contract be prepared and Angry Robot Shangri-La be achieved.

No guarantees, but then, only death and taxes and all that (and thanks to superhero comics and Christopher Skase, even they’re not absolutes).

So I submitted my synopses and five, and got on with other things. One of those other things was to continue my pursuit of an agent. I’ve always felt I needed an agent as part of my long-term strategy: whilst I want to write and conduct business to my own benefit, I’m aware of my weaknesses, and time-management is amongst them. An agent could take up much of the slack and apply much greater knowledge than I possess in terms of publishing law, contract negotiations and the like. Not only would I not have to do these things myself, I wouldn’t have to devote the time necessary towards gaining an intimate knowledge of them. I can take care of the creative stuff myself, but a business partner was always going to be a necessary component of building “Battersby, Inc.”

So, while I waited, the novel went out to 58 unsuspecting literary agents. And I got on with other things. Thankfully, I’ve got a lot of good friends who are experienced novelists. I’d been well informed: the novel game is a waiting game. Keep busy, keep working. I was tutoring an online course, and my day job is in the arts, and if you’ve met my family, well… occasionally I slept, and I could just about recite the Monarch Song from Horrible Histories off by heart. Most importantly, I started work on a new novel: Father Muerte & The Divine, a lengthier exploration of the character I’d created in several short stories, and a chance to finally answer many of the mysteries I’d raised in them. I kept busy, and tried not to watch the calendar.

Then word came from Angry Robot. The first reading round was complete. I’d passed. Now they wanted the whole manuscript. I sent it off. Word started filtering back from agents: rejection after dismissal after non-interest. Line after line on my spreadsheet was coloured in appropriately gloomy shades of grey.

I got on with other things.

Four months after submitting, I received a positive response from an agent. Then another. And a third. All liked the book. All were interested in representing it. I hadn’t mentioned Angry Robot. This was all about the book itself. Things looked positive.

Five months after submitting, word from Angry Robot: ‘my’ reader loved the full manuscript, and had passed it on to Bwana Lee. If he liked it, it would go to the publishing board. I’d passed again.

I compared agents, and came to a decision. And got on with other things

Father Muerte & The Divine hit 50 000 words. I joined The Angry Robot Waiting Club, a social forum on the Absolute Write forum boards devoted to the 22 authors who had gone right the way up to editorial and were now just waiting to find out if we were going to take the short, final hop from ‘aspiring’ to published novelist. We waited, together. I could recite all the way up to George IV.

October 26. Almost seven months to the day since I submitted my little package, and Bwana Lee sent me an email.

I’d made it. All the way through. A contract offer was, well, offered. As soon as I signed it and returned it to them, I would officially be an Angry Robot author.

Just one final thing to do: I forwarded the offer to my new agent, Richard Henshaw of the Henshaw Group. And got on with other things.  I was right the way up to Victoria, now.

The contract went back. It went forth. It went back again. For six weeks, Richard and Lee negotiated. Angry Robot announced the first two Open Door month authors. One as even called Lee, damn it! Negotiations continued. I waited. My wife and kids began to comment openly about my crankiness.

They say most people drown in sight of shore.

And then it was all over, so quickly it took me two days after I was announced before I got myself together enough to make my own proclamation. The final contract arrived in my inbox, I signed and emailed it back, and my mug was up on the Angry Robot website in less than 18 hours. The Corpse-Rat King will be published in 2012. A sequel, Marching Dead, will follow in 2013.

All of a sudden, after nine months, I was an author with an agent, a two-book deal, and a deadline.

Nine months after submitting my package on the last day of the Open Door month, the landscape of my career has changed completely. Far from hoping for an opportunity, I’m in the position of making the most of one. For the first time in a decade, I’m heading into uncharted career territory. I have a sequel to write, and I need to make sure I’ve got novels to follow after it, so that my second book isn’t my last. I need to build a relationship with my agent, and provide him with materiel with which to approach publishers. The door may be open, but the next few years will determine whether it’s at the front or just the workman’s entrance in the alleyway round the side.

Father Muerte and the Divine, 55 000 words old, has been put aside. 25 000 words of Marching Dead have already been written, as of penning this post.  Still, at least I know what I’ll be doing most evenings for the next three years…

(Departs, singing): William, William, Henry, Stephen, Henry, Richard, John, oi! Henry, Ed, Ed, Ed, Rich two, then three more Henrys join our song….

BIO: Lee is the author of over 70 stories in Australia, the US and Europe, with appearances in markets as “Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror”, “Year’s Best Australian SF & F”, and “Writers of the Future”. A collection of his work, entitled “Through Soft Air” from Prime Books. He’s taught at Clarion South and developed and delivered a six-week “Writing the SF Short Story” course for the Australian Writers Marketplace. His work has been praised for its consistent attention to voice and narrative muscle, and has resulted in a number of awards including the Aurealis, Australia Shadows and Australia SF ‘Ditmar’ gongs. He lives in Mandurah, Western Australia, with his wife, writer Lyn Battersby and an increasingly weird mob of kids. He is sadly obsessed with Lego, Nottingham Forest football club, dinosaurs and Daleks. He’s been a stand-up comic, tennis coach, cartoonist, poet, and tax officer in previous times, and he currently works as Arts Officer for a local council, where he gets to play with artists all day. All in all, life is pretty good. More information, and infinitely more lies, can be found at his website or his long-running blog The Battersblog.



Posted in Agents, Australian Spec Fic Scene, Contracts, Creativity, Editing and Revision, Editors, Nourish the Writer, Pitching, Plotting, Publishers, Publishing Industry, Query Letter and Synopsis, Writing Opportunities | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

How to handle contracts …

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on August 28, 2011

Unless you have a background in dealing with contracts, they can be  pretty daunting for writers. When my contract came through for my first trilogy it was 75 pages long, (25 pages for each book). Gaah. I was swamped. Luckily I had an agent and handed it over to him. Before this I’d been published with my children’s books and short stories and the contracts had been pretty straight forward.

I did have one experience where I signed a contract to deliver 6 children’s books, then the editor left the publishing house and the publisher reneged on the contract. In this case I contacted the Australian Society of Authors for advice. (This is where it pays to be a member of a professional body such as the ASA or your State Writers Centre. I’m a member of the Queensland Writers Centre. Here’s a list of their resources for writers).

The ASA was able to get me a ‘kill fee’ on the contract. Of course I would much rather have had the books to add to my CV, but the kill fee was certainly better than nothing.

As a member of the ASA you can take a look at their standard contracts. Non members can purchase these. There are also free how-to-guides for members, which can be purchased by non members. And while I’m talking about writers getting ahead the ASA offers several mentorships each year. This year’s mentorships are closed, but watch out for the program, when it opens. Working with a published author as you develop your book is a wonderful opportunity.

While we’re talking about opportunities there’s the QWC Allen & Unwin Development Program and the Hachette Manuscript Development Program. Both are closed for this year, but watch out for them next year. All of these are great ways to get your manuscript noticed by an editor, develop contacts and polish your writing.

Back to contracts, over on The Pitch University Blog  lawyer, Jeffrey V Mhalic, analyses a contract and shows you what to beware of. This is where having an agent is great because they have experience in this field. I have one multi-published author friend who uses Alex Adsett’s services. Alex has experience in publishing and contracts. She will go over the contract for you.

So, if you get a contract, don’t feel overwhelmed, you have options.

Posted in Agents, Contracts, Mentorships, Nourish the Writer, Publishers, Publishing Industry, Writing Opportunities | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

That dreaded Query Letter and Synopsis

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on July 23, 2011

We all have to write them, and I don’t know many authors who enjoy doing it. The query letter isn’t so bad, for me it is the synopsis that I dread. How do you write a synopsis for a 100,000 to 150,000 word fantasy novel without making it sound generic? When you reduce even the most inventive fantasy books to its bare bones, it sounds derivative.

Over on Donna Hanson’s blog, she talks about the good and the bad she’s seen in query letters and synopsis while reading for Angry Robot. On the topic of query letters, she says:

‘What made me lift an eyebrow and wonder was the A4 page of oversharing, unamusing attempts at humour, which make the writer sound wankerish, (just personal taste), saying that you have submitted 500,000 words, or 300,000 words or even 275,000 word manuscripts. These word counts are well in excess of the guidelines and did not give me a good impression at all.’

Donna says When writing a synopsis …

‘It helps not to clutter it up with sub-plots and minor characters. In my opinion, you need the central narrative of the story and those bits that impact on it and not every single detail. Angry Robot asked for character lists. I remember rolling my eyes when someone would say there are hundreds of characters but here is the first twenty or so. Yep I’d head straight to the MS tail between my legs.’

As a writing tool/exercise for myself I like to write a one page character bio for my main characters (usually the PoV characters). It covers their back-story, strengths and weaknesses and I also include a description of their character arc. I know what they want when the story starts, and what they need to achieve to reach their potential during the course of the book.  I’ve found, not only does this help me when I write the book, but I can use an updated version of these character bios when I come to story background for the series on my blog (see Outcast Chronicles).

For a few tips on writing  synopsis see this ROR post, based on what I’ve gleaned over the years. In some ways I find it easier to write a synopsis of a book I haven’t written, because before I start I have a general idea of where I want to go, the characters and the theme I want to explore. As it isn’t written yet, I don’t get bogged down in details. The synopsis helps me get my thoughts in order to write the book. Invariably, the book varies from the synopsis, because the characters come to life and insist on their time centre stage. But this isn’t a problem as publishers understand the final book will vary from the synopsis.

I tend to write a variety of synopsis:

There’s the one paragraph synopsis, which appears in the query letter and can be tweaked to create the back cover blurb.

There’s the one page synopsis which gives a brief overview of the book.

And there’s the 5-10 page synopsis which covers the major plot points of the book. Since I write fantasy novels which contain convoluted plots several narrative threads, I find it useful to keep a second document open beside me while I write. Into this document I put the scene length and page numbers, whose PoV it is in, and a brief description of what happens. I’ve found this really helpful when writing the long synopsis.

Don’t get a synopsis mixed up with a chapter outline. That’s what I was working from. Because I’m obsessive, I colour code the PoVs, so I can see at a glance if one of the character’s is getting forgotten.

If you are looking for an agent, then you can’t go past this site: Agent Query.  How does it work and what does it do? See here. This site includes How to Write a Query Letter. I read it to make sure I hadn’t been steering people wrong all these years. Whew!

Here is a ROR post on The Getting of an Agent. The business model of publishing is changing, but there are still times when it is a relief to know that you can call/email your agent for advice.

And, if you’d like feedback on your Query Letter there’s the Query Shark.

Do your research, send the kind of synopsis the publisher is looking for, be professional. Is there anything to do with writing craft and the publihsing industry that people would like the ROR team to cover in these posts?

Posted in Agents, Editors, Publishers, Publishing Industry, Query Letter and Synopsis, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , , | 5 Comments »

How writers can create their own luck

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on March 19, 2011

Professor Richard Wiseman (no I did not make up his name) is a psychologist who writes about luck, deception, the paranormal, humour and the science of self help. I came across the principles behind his book The Luck Factor several years ago.

In this book, he analyses why some people seem to have better luck than others and discovers it comes down to four principles, which I’m going to relate to us as writers.

Authors  often feel a sense of helplessness. We slave over a keyboard, pour our hearts and souls into books only to send them out into the cold cruel world of editor’s desks. And even if our book does appeal to an editor it has to get past marketing at an acquisitions meeting. Then, if it makes it that far, all sorts of things can happen to it. It can get a terrible cover and never make the sales it deserves. So we tend to feel fatalistic about our books.

We can promote our books. We can do guest posts and send off copies to review sites and arrange give-aways. But there is always this element of luck. Luck to sell in the first place, hitting that Right Editor at the Right Time with the Right Book. And then, once the book is out in the shops, it has to be in the Right Place at the Right Time to appeal to the Right People, who will pick it up and champion it.

It helps if your books are lucky enough to get brilliant covers!

The publisher of Twilight did not expect it to be a smash hit, same with the publisher of the first Harry Potter book.  It is easy to look back and say, Oh Twilight appeals to the Tween market offering an adoring male (the leashed beast), or Oh Harry Potter offered the familiarity of boarding school with the fun of fantasy and an updated version of Enid Blyton’s Fantastic Five mysteries.

But we can’t anticipate what the next big thing will be. It is fair to say that publishers really don’t know why one book makes record sales and not another, otherwise they would only be publishing best sellers.

So what can you do to maximise your chance to get published in the first place. There is a point you reach where you have done the hard yards and you can write a good book. Then you have to get it in front of an editor. Let’s look at Wiseman’s four principles.

1. Maximise Opportunities

I’m always telling aspiring writers to enter competitions, go to festivals listen to editors and agents and find out what they are looking for. Your books will not sell on your hard drive. Only recently we’ve seen  self published author Michael J Sullivan get picked up by Orbit and Angry Robot signed Adam Christopher who had developed a following via Twitter. Then there’s Amanda Hocking the Kindle Millionaire who bypassed traditional publishers all together. So do your research, be ready with the book of your heart to place it in front of the public/editor/agent.

2. Listen to Lucky Hunches

At first I didn’t see how this applied directly to aspiring writers. Then I remembered how I sold to Dreaming DownUnder, the anthology which won World Best Fantasy. It was being edited by Jack Dann and Janean Webb and it was submission by invitation only. But I had a hunch that if I approached them and asked to submit a story, they’d say yes. They did and my story was accepted. The worst that could have happened was they might have said no. So follow your hunches.

3. Expect Good Fortune

This one basically means even when things go bad (as they did for me with a lean patch of nearly 10 years between my trilogies) lucky people don’t stop trying. I kept writing, kept polishing my craft, kept my eyes open, ready to take advantage of the first sign of positive feedback. So don’t let knock-backs stop you, after all, you’re not a writer, if you’ve never had a rejection. (See here for 14 Best Selling books that were repeatedly rejected).

4. Turn Bad Luck into Good

Sounds a bit Pollyanna, doesn’t it? Wiseman says: ‘Lucky people employ various psychological techniques to cope with, and often even thrive upon, the ill fortune that comes their way.’ Or if you are a fan of Julie Andrews – when one door closes a window opens. Who knows it could be a window of opportunity. <grin>

So there you have it, advice from Professor Wiseman that applies to writers. And if this is all a bit serious, see here for Wiseman’s LaughLab, where he set out to discover the world’s funniest joke.

(I posted this blog last night and totally forgot to give it a title. Blame my husband. He was hovering over me saying. Is it done yet? I want to put the movie on. LOL).

Posted in Agents, Creativity, Nourish the Writer, Pitching, Promoting your Book, Publishers, Publishing Industry, Sales, Writing Opportunities | Tagged: , , , , | 5 Comments »

The Holy Grail … Movie/TV Series options on Books

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on January 22, 2011

Who hasn’t been watching Alan Ball’s brilliant adaption of the Sookie Stackhouse books by Charlaine Harris?

It must be such thrill for a writer to see their characters and story realised in an excellent TV series. Kudos to Alan Ball and the team.

And we have the HBO George RR Martin Fire and Ice series to look forward to. Trailers here and here if you can’t wait for a taste.

But all is not plain sailing for authors whose intellectual property gets optioned for film and/or television. Firstly only a very small percentage that are optioned. My agent, John Jarrold, is associated with the Gotham Group in Los Angeles, a management production company. John says:

‘One in 1,000 books are actually optioned for medium to large amounts of money.  One in 100 of those actually have a film made from them.  Those are rough figures, obviously!  The agency has had film interest in a number of titles, but NONE have actually had a serious option payment made on them.’

Here, Ally Carter, author of the Gallagher Girls series and Heist Society talks about her experiences with three different production companies on three different film options.

She starts with a disclaimer. eg.  if you say authors never have a say in what happens to their books when they get made into movies, then someone will point to JK Rowling. Then she covers the different types of options and the other things such as the script, timing and talent (actors).

Here is a list of books that have been made into movies. And Here is a list of 20 good books that were made into not-so-good movies. Many of these are spec fic.

And here we have a look at what makes a good book to movie adaptation. They say:

‘a good bookish movie is more than a sum of the total of the book’s parts — the Watchmen proved that beyond any doubt. Watchmen stayed true to the book’s plot with slavish devotion, portrayed the characters with flawless accuracy, and even duplicated the look of the original illustrations. Yet, despite all of that, the magic Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons managed to work with pen and paper didn’t translate to the big screen. It was a good movie, but it certainly wasn’t great.’

They go on to say achieving a great adaptation is not about slavishly following the book, it ‘ lies in the film’s success at concentrating and magnifying the feelings readers have when they read the book.’ And they go on to analyze five examples. I would have to agree with Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings. When Jackson adapted the book to the movie, he did what I did while reading the book to my children. He cut out the boring parts and condensed the action, sticking to the strongly emotive moments.

Unless we are JK Rowling, we authors usually have very little to do with the adaptation of our book into a movie or TV series. Books and film are completely different mediums and what works in one, will not work in the others. I teach script writing, storyboard and animatics and I am constantly saying to my students how are you going to show what your character is thinking? You’ll need a flashback. How are you going to convey the character’s realisation? You’ll need a visual metaphor. Don’t try to cover a story that takes 20 years, compress, set a time limit if possible.

When you do get someone who is able to crystalise the essence of the book and even improve on it, then it is a joy as with True Blood and Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings.

Not every author’s experiences are so uplifting.  Here Ursula Le Guin talks about how the Sci Fi Chanel whitewashed Earthsea. She says:

‘A Wizard of Earthsea and The Tombs of Atuan, which were published more than 30 years ago, are about two young people finding out what their power, their freedom, and their responsibilities are. I don’t know what the film is about. It’s full of scenes from the story, arranged differently, in an entirely different plot, so that they make no sense.’

One of the main disappointments for her was the use of white actors to play coloured characters. Here on her own web site, Le Guin talks about her experience and how she felt the director was putting words in her mouth. She ends with:

‘I wonder if the people who made the film of The Lord of the Rings had ended it with Frodo putting on the Ring and ruling happily ever after, and then claimed that that was what Tolkien “intended…” would people think they’d been “very, very honest to the books”?’

The message seems to be for authors to go into movie/TV adaptations with their eyes open . You can be incredibly lucky and have a director/script writer who takes the best from you book and makes it more accessible to the general public, or you can be left wondering if they read the book at all.

What adaptations have you seen that impressed you?



Posted in Agents, Collaborating, Creativity, Editing and Revision, Genre TV Shows, Movie/TV Adaptations | Tagged: , , , , , | 6 Comments »

What will you do when you get the call?

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on December 18, 2010

They say writers serve a 10 year apprenticeship to learn the craft. I know I’d written 10 books before I sold my first one. In Tansy’s interview she said the one thing she would tell herself if she could go back to her first book sale is – don’t sign anything until you have an agent.

(This post is a starting off point. You need to do your own research).

Maybe you’re lucky enough to get an offer after submitting to a competition or a manuscript development program. Should you approach an agent now? Well, yes, if you have a concrete offer from a publisher.

Editors like to ring up authors when they make the offer because they get a buzz when normally sane people start babbling and doing cartwheels. If an editor rings you with an offer of $X for your book/trilogy, you don’t need to agree to anything right away. In fact, you can say ‘That’s great. I’ll just call my agent.’

An agent will be happy to take you on, if you already have a concrete offer from a publisher. Once you have that offer you need to approach an agent, but which agent? Have you been doing your homework? Do you know the top agents for your genre in Australia? Would you prefer an agent based in the US or the UK? What are the pros and cons?

A good Australian agent will have intimate knowledge of the Australian publishing scene. They will have contacts in literary agencies in the US and the UK, who can try to on-sell your work over there. (Your Australian publisher will probably want limited world rights so that they have the option of on-selling for 12 months). Now it begins to get complicated and you see why it is worthwhile having an agent who knows their stuff.

If you do get an Australian agent who has contacts in agencies in the US and the UK and one of those over seas agents sells some of your work, they will take a percentage, then your Aussie agent will take a percentage and you will get what is left.

If you opt for a US or UK agent they will not have the same intimate knowledge of the Australian publishing scene, but they should have  in-depth knowledge of the UK/US scene. There is lots of consider when ‘shopping’ for an agent.

Australian Literary Agents Association.

Association of Authors Representatives US.

Association of Authors and Agents UK.

Note – the money flows to the author. If an agent asks you for money to read your manuscript, or do photocopies (no one uses photocopies any more) or make international calls (what about email?), then they are feeding off aspiring writers.  If an agent says your book is good but it needs work, and then recommends a manuscript appraiser, be very wary. The agent should take an agreed upon percentage of the advance that the publisher pays you, that is all.

Then there is the larger question of your writing career. So you’ve sold one book and maybe the publishers want a three book deal because they want to grow you as an author. So suddenly you have to produce two more books, while editing the first one and deliver them all to deadlines. Here is  Zoe Archer’s post about what happened when her first book was accepted.

If you’re anything like me you have a backlog of books you’ve written, but they could be from different series and the publisher wants three books in series X. Maybe you are lucky and you’ve written three books in series X, but they’ll be at different levels of readiness because you’ve been growing as an author, while you’ve been working on them.

You need to work out how long it will take you to either tidy up the three books already written, or write two new books. Be realistic in your estimates. Publishers like you to deliver on time, but they do understand that life happens. If it looks like you are not going to meet your deadline, don’t panic and stew about it. Plan ahead, contact your agent to let them know and they will go to your publisher to negotiate a new deadline.

So, have you done your home work on agents? Do you have a career plan?


Posted in Agents, Editing and Revision, Editors, Publishers, Publishing Industry, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , | 12 Comments »

Off to World Con and ROR

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on August 28, 2010

Before I jump in to talk about World Con, Trent, Kylie Chan, Louise Cusack, and the authors of the Johnny Marsh books were at Logan North Library today doing a talk and we had a couple of queries which I directed to this blog.

Here are some useful posts leading on from what we talked about.

Waving madly. You know who you are, the girl up the back with the list of questions. LOL

Book Structure 101 (You didn’t actually ask about this, but I’m sure you would have, if we’d had more time).

Some Useful Links for Spec Fic Writers

The Getting of an Agent

The Aspiring Writer’s Checklist

Industry Insight (This one talks about the different edits that a book goes through before publication)

And now now to WORLDCON and ROR.

See how I’ve used a crucible for today’s post illustration? That’s because getting away with other writers, critiquing books, attending panels, being on panels, buying way to many books, catching up with old friends and making new ones will help me to restore my creative crucible!

I’ll be flying out around lunch time Sunday and then nearly all the ROR will team will be in Melbourne so the blog is going to be quiet until we get back. Then we will be bursting with news!

First we will have our annual ROR. This time 4 out of the 8 RORees will be putting work through for critiquing. For info on how we run ROR see here. And for a quick insight into how to critique see here.

Trent, Richard, Maxine and I will be critiquing our books. Marianne, who is official ROR Oracle, will be coming along because she didn’t want to miss out. Imagine five writers in a room talking the instricacies of Writing Craft for 3 days solid. It would bore anyone else to tears but we get so excited by technique and passionate about obscure points of cratft.

Then it is off to World Con, where there will be panels, parties and tantrums. No. No tantrums, although there could be tears of laughter!

So until I get back, good bye for now.

Posted in Agents, Australian Spec Fic Scene, Creativity, Editors, Genre Writing, Nourish the Writer, Publishers, Publishing Industry, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »


Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on May 29, 2010

I don’t have an excuse for using this picture, I just liked it.

Okay. Agents. This post came about because I was running a workshop where someone brought up the topic of agents.

How do you get an agent?

Take a look through the Australian Writers Market Place, which is available through your library, or you can subscribe to the up to date online version here. This will give you an idea of who is out there and what genres they represent.

You can send them a proposal. (Synopsis and three chapters). Or can can attend a conference or festival sign on for a pitching opportunity and pitch to them. See here for a list of pitching opportunities.

Say you do get a nibble from an agent, but something strikes you as a bit odd.

Things to beware.

The money flows from the publisher (via the agent if you have one) to the author.

The money should not flow to an agent before they have sold anything of yours. ( Agents’ percentage is 12.5 to 15%).

So there should be no reading fee to look at your work.

If an agent says that your work is nearly ready, but it needs polishing and they happen to know a manuscript appraiser you should use, and they hint that they will be much more favourable about representing you after you’ve used this appraiser, they are probably getting a kickback from the manuscript appraiser. Don’t trust them.

Your agent should not charge you for photocopies or phone calls. My agent accepts my book as an email attachment, he sends it to the publisher the same way. Their editor goes through the book using track changes and they send me the edited book for approval via email. Nothing gets photocopied or printed.

Is the agent a member of the Australian Literary Agents Association? Here is their code of practice. And here are their tips on finding an agent.

What does a Literary Agent agreement look like? Thanks to the Australian Society of Authors for their support. Skim down this page to find the Literary Agent & Author Agreement.

Hope you find this useful. Any questions feel free to ask.

Meanwhile check out Predators & Editors — a really useful site.

Posted in Agents, Publishers, Publishing Industry | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »

Pitch your Book

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on May 8, 2010

So you’ve written a book and now you want to get it published. You’ve heard of  ‘pitching opportunities’ but just what does this mean?

Some pitching is done on-line such as the Allen and Unwin Friday Pitch or the  Random House Children’s Pitch. If you are aiming at a specific pitching opportunity download their instructions and stick to them. For more pitching opportunities see my post here.

What follows is a generic outline for pitching.

This is a pitch outline for works of fiction.

Step one: Genre

Fiction — Define your genre. It it a YA fantasy, a time travel detective, steampunk or space opera? You should know your genre because you should be reading in your genre.

Step two: Short Pitch

Now you need to come up with a 25 word pitch. What is your story in a nutshell? This is where the four questions are a big help.

WHO is the story about?

WHAT do they want?

WHY can’t they achieve it?

HOW do they overcome this?

Step three: Long Pitch

This sums up your story line and includes the ending. Concentrate on CHARACTERS, CONFLICT  and the CONTEXT. Don’t get lost in the world building back story or sub plots.

If the book is part of series, is it a stand alone book linked with others by a theme? Mention this briefly.

Step four: Market Strengths

What is unique about your book? Where will it fit on the shelves? What other books is it like? (There are two schools of thought on this. I have had one editor tell me it was handy to be able to say to their marketing people, this book will appeal to readers of X. I’ve heard other people say it is bad to compare your book to other books. So you will have to make a decision on this).

Step five: Research your Pitching opportunity

Start by researching the kind of publisher who publishes your books. This is why you need to be reading in your genre so you know which publishers are buying these kind of books.

If a publisher or agent announces that they are willing to take on-line pitches, then download their guidelines and make sure your pitch adheres to what they have asked for. If it says a one page synopsis don’t annoy them by sending them ten pages, or even two.

Step six: Prepare for the Pitch

Research the editor/agent. Find the editor or agent’s blog, if they have one. If you enjoyed their posts, say so. It shows that you have been doing your industry research.

Finish the book. Editors don’t buy first time authors on a partial. (Synopsis and 3 chapters).

Stick to the time limit. If the pitching opportunity happens at a convention or festival and they say you will have 5 minutes to pitch your book, then don’t go over time. You wouldn’t like your time to be cut short, so don’t do it to someone else.

Practice your initial pitch and time yourself with a friend (ideally someone who has done a pitch to an editor so they know what to ask). They can pretend to be the editor/agent. Remember the industry professional will want to ask questions, so leave time for this.

It is amazing what you can forget under stress – What did I call my book? – so prepare some prompt cards. You may not have to glance at them, but it will give you confidence to know they are there. Of course it is much better not to need them And what ever you do, don’t read from them. Remember to include your writing credits. Have you been short listed in a competition or had short stories published? Has the book been through a manuscript appraiser?

Have back up plans for other books/series in case this one isn’t what the editor/agent is looking for. Be frank about whether the other project is completed. Eg. The book isn’t ready yet. I can send you a partial and have the book finished in 6 months.

Prepare a business card for the editor/agent to take away with them. (They won’t be taking your manuscript. They will probably have flown in from interstate or overseas and won’t want to carry twenty 100,000 word manuscripts on the ‘plane!). Make sure you have your name and contact details on one side of the business card, and a teaser for the book on the other to prompt their memory.

Now, come up with the 25 word (approx) pitch and put it to us for feedback.

Posted in Agents, Editors, Pitching, Publishing Industry | Tagged: , | 23 Comments »

The getting of an Agent

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on December 30, 2009

Love’ em of hate ’em, a good agent can do a lot for your writing career. Many publishers say they only accept agented submissions. But how do attract an agent’s attention and what can they do for you?

Over at the Mad Genius Club — Writers Division, there’s been a couple of posts about agents. Click here for Amanda Green’s post, full of useful links to agents and sites about agents. And click here for Dave Freer’s post on agents on why we need them.

Over at here Writer Beware Blogs Victoria Strauss is talking about dodgy agents.

Agent inBox is something a bit different.

‘How does it work for agents? According to AgentInbox’s FAQ for agents, agents create a profile listing their interests and submission preferences. They can then check their submissions online, sort them by various categories including genre, and “[r]eject unsuitable submissions with a single click, and contact the gems directly.” ‘ Victoria Strauss comments on this idea here.

With evolving technology the publishing industry is going to change. Just how is anyone’s guess. Here Victoria Strauss does a post about the perils of searching for a publisher using the internet.

And here is her post on ‘Learning the Ropes’.

With the internet, you can do your research while sitting at home.

Here’s my agent story. I applied for a grant to go to the World SF Con in Glasgow in 2005. My Australian agent had just retired and left me orphaned. Thanks to Arts Qld, I got the grant, flew to the UK.

Before I left I approached John Jarrold, offering to meet him at the World Con. (I thought I made me sound committed, coming all the way from Australia). I sent him the first 3 chapters of the trilogy he has since sold to Solaris. (King Rolen’s Kin, due out in July 2010).

The day before I was due to meet him, I slipped into a panel where he was speaking. (Later he told me he recognised me, because he’d been to my web page to research me). At that panel he said he had been approached by over 500 hopeful writers and had taken on 13. My heart sank when I heard that. The next day when we had our meeting I was convinced he wouldn’t offer to represent me. When he said he would, I felt like I’d been mentally derailed, in a very nice way. For the rest of the convention I was bobbing on air!

My story makes it sound easy, but I did approach a dozen or more agents before I went to the World Con and John Jarrold was the only one who offered to read my work. So there is an element of timing involved. Your work has to be good, it has to be marketable and the agent has to be looking to acquire authors.

So put yourself out there. The worst people can say is No. Does anyone else have an inspiring story to share?

Posted in Agents, Editors, Publishers | Tagged: , , | 6 Comments »