Friday, May 05, 2006

Friday 20

Ask and ye shall be answered -- and do ye want fries with that?

28 comments:

  1. How come, no matter how hard I try, my French fries never come out as good as the ones they sell at Benita's Frites in Santa Monica? I've given up. And "baked fries"? Don't get me started.

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  2. I think you have to freeze them before you throw them in the fryer. And wash the starch off, too ;-)

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  3. I rather like the curly fries, with Thai sweet chilli sauce... Hmm, questions, questions... Getting out the crystal ball (and wiping the grease off the fingers from those fries), do you think publishers will become more genre-driven than acquiring manuscripts from 'known' authors? For example, we all know about Harlequin and Baen for romance and sci-fi/fantasy, but will the really big publishing houses split up their groups? Or (yeah, yeah, it's two questions, but they're related) will they narrow their focus to 'names' only, regardless of genre to cut costs?

    Or am I not looking in the right place for information and have just come off as a putz? (That's a rhetorical question, by the way.)

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  4. How did you feel when you finished your first novel, PBW?

    I just finished mine, and I'm like, Blah. Isn't supposed to be Squeeeeeeeee? Or Wheeeeeeeeeee? I'm working on my next 2 projects already though.

    Also, the starch on your fries is what cooks into that crisp shell. What you want are potatoes with low water content but high starch content.

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  5. A friend once told me, "Just do what you love to do; the rest of the world will catch up to you." Well, I'm doing what I love; getting ready to release my 7th book in 4 genres and I'm still waiting for the world to catch me.

    At this point my writing has become more like a very expensive hobby rather than a career, as my expenses far outweigh my sales. I've self-published each of my books, because everything I've read or heard about the industry turns my stomach and I felt it was more important to get my work out there, into the hands of readers, than it was to spend endless hours trying to find an agent and a traditional publisher. But I'm wondering now if I haven't gone about this all wrong.

    I've received rave reviews for each of my books, done the interviews all over the web, as well as some print mags. I have the website, blog and done local signings, which were a complete waste of time, because let's face it, unless your a household name sitting in the front of B&N, the public could give a shit less, plus I'm not much of a people person and signings just aren't my gig! I even have a contest at my site where I give away one book a month, and although I get people signing up every day, it still isn't making a difference to my sales.

    What's wrong with this picture?! I didn't wake up one day and think to myself that I'd like to be a writer, it's just what I do, and quite frankly I can't imagine doing anything that brings me so much personal satisfaction, but when will I reap some rewards other than personal satisfaction, because that's not paying the bills!

    I guess I had this naïve notion that if I persisted and continued to produce one quality book after another, on a regular basis that eventually someone would take notice and it would all happen and fall into place on its own, but it really doesn’t work that way, does it?

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  6. I self published too but things worked out for me. (A sales rep for Australia's biggest independant publisher saw my efforts in a local store, then offered me a three book contract for them.)
    Knowing what I do now, I'd have tried harder to get an agent instead of approaching publishers direct. Agents are the filters - they know what they can sell, and so they're the ones to go to first. Dozens of them, if necessary. And while you're pitching one book, write another.

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  7. PBW - how long did it take you to start earning enough to "actually" pay the bills?

    What I mean by that is how many novels did you have published before your first royalty cheque?

    If I recall correctly Orson Scott Card didn't get one penny in royalties until after he had 7 books published - most people would be living in a cardboard box on the street corner by that point without "other" full time work.

    And did you ever work at a fast food chain?

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  8. I'm not sure if this a good question to ask here, or if I should venture to another location (so please shoo me away if that is so). I keep seeing conflicting suggestions on this, and it's driving me crazy: in a query letter, should you give the ending of the novel? I know you do in synopses, but what about the query? Do they need to see the end before they consider asking for the full manuscript? I'm trying to polish my query, and I have to shift what I say to incluce/exclude the ending, and I'm trying to figure out which is best.

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  9. Doug wrote: How come, no matter how hard I try, my French fries never come out as good as the ones they sell at Benita's Frites in Santa Monica?

    Most restaurants use frozen french fries, believe it or not, and there are food service brands that the public can't buy that are very good. I think the best fries are made fresh, though.

    Chefs slice fresh potatoes and soak them in water for 12 to 24 hours. When they're ready to cook, they dry them and fry them in pure oil (not recycled from something else.) People argue over the type of potato to use (I like red creamers; my Dad likes Yukon golds.) Some chefs blanche and sideline their fries in big batches so they can be cooked to order.

    Baking, eh. It's like recipes that call for baking fried chicken -- why call it fried?

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  10. Simon wrote: I think you have to freeze them before you throw them in the fryer. And wash the starch off, too.

    Freezing seems to prevent the potatoes from drying out too much during the cooking process, but I can always taste the difference between a fresh and a formerly frozen fry. Spoiled by too many years of fresh, I guess.

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  12. Jaye wrote: ...do you think publishers will become more genre-driven than acquiring manuscripts from 'known' authors?

    I'm not sure what you mean, Jaye. Publishers want to put out what sells, and regardless of who writes it, genre sells.

    For example, we all know about Harlequin and Baen for romance and sci-fi/fantasy, but will the really big publishing houses split up their groups?

    If you mean will publishers stay genre-specific, or consolidate their lines? I think genre will always be preserved, but there will be less rigid categorization in the future. We can see it happening now as writers' books are shelved in more than one section of the store, and are marketed to more than just a single genre audience.

    Or (yeah, yeah, it's two questions, but they're related) will they narrow their focus to 'names' only, regardless of genre to cut costs?

    I think preferential publishing of big name authors will always take precedence; financially speaking it has to. Publishers need whatever profit guarantees they can get, and there's no better bet than a name. However, no one writers forever, and publishers are always interested in discovering and breaking out the next big name. As with taxes and the economy, the ones who will suffer most are the middle-income writers. That's where we're seeing the most shrinkage now. You can't make it in the midlist anymore. Even the old three strikes and you're out rule isn't holding true; sometimes it only takes one strike.

    I hope I interpreted you correctly, but if I didn't, yell at me.

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  13. Milday wrote: How did you feel when you finished your first novel, PBW?

    Elated. Exhausted. Scared. The hugeness of that pile of paper made me wonder how I'd done it. But then I had to go and do my homework for my 7th grade Algebra class, so I didn't dwell on it. :)

    I just finished mine, and I'm like, Blah. Isn't supposed to be Squeeeeeeeee? Or Wheeeeeeeeeee? I'm working on my next 2 projects already though.

    I save the squeeees and wheeees for contract signing. I know what you mean, though. After I managed to separate myself from the manuscript, I used to get physically ill (cold, flu, semi-narcoleptic.) My nutritionist suggested I stop living on nuked food and coffee during my deadline weeks, and drink orange juice twice a day. It might be the placebo effect, but that got rid of the colds and flus. I still fall into the occasional post-book temporary coma.

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  14. Jill wrote: What's wrong with this picture?! I didn't wake up one day and think to myself that I'd like to be a writer, it's just what I do, and quite frankly I can't imagine doing anything that brings me so much personal satisfaction, but when will I reap some rewards other than personal satisfaction, because that's not paying the bills!

    I sympathize with your frustration. Writing as a profession is an endurance race, which we run often at great cost to ourselves and our bank accounts. In this industry persistance doesn't always pay, however, so you can spend years giving it everything you have and find you're still running in place.

    I guess I had this naïve notion that if I persisted and continued to produce one quality book after another, on a regular basis that eventually someone would take notice and it would all happen and fall into place on its own, but it really doesn’t work that way, does it?

    I wish I knew how it worked, Jill. I can guess and offer opinions and point out things I've seen that seem to work, but it all seems to come down to luck, timing, endless self-improvement, and abiding faith in yourself.

    What you can do is try a new strategy. If self-publishing isn't working for you, try submitting to publishers and agents. Keep writing new books and exploring new territory with your work. Enter contests. Get your work out in front of as many people as you can.

    You might consider writing for other areas of the industry, too. For example, you're probably an expert on self-publishing by now. Why not write some articles about what you've learned, and what other writers considering self-publishing should avoid? I know Writer's Digest magazine is one market for articles like that, and I'm betting there are plenty more out there looking for experienced voices like yours.

    Know that you're not alone, too. We all wrestle with disappointments during our careers, and they don't end at publication. Keep connected with other writers and don't give up.

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  15. Simon wrote: Knowing what I do now, I'd have tried harder to get an agent instead of approaching publishers direct. Agents are the filters - they know what they can sell, and so they're the ones to go to first. Dozens of them, if necessary. And while you're pitching one book, write another.

    I'll chime in and push doing both. There's no reason you can't sub to both agents and publishers.

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  16. Paul wrote: PBW - how long did it take you to start earning enough to "actually" pay the bills?

    Two years.

    What I mean by that is how many novels did you have published before your first royalty cheque?

    That's different. My first royalty check arrived about a year after my first book came out. We get advance royalties on signing, though, so I had a small amount upfront before the book ever hit the shelf.

    If I recall correctly Orson Scott Card didn't get one penny in royalties until after he had 7 books published - most people would be living in a cardboard box on the street corner by that point without "other" full time work.

    Most writers can't depend on writing as a full-time job; it just doesn't pay well enough. I'm one of the rare exceptions, but only because I publish a large number of books every year.

    And did you ever work at a fast food chain?

    I once ran a chili and hot dog stand on an Air Force base. :)

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  17. Andi wrote: I keep seeing conflicting suggestions on this, and it's driving me crazy: in a query letter, should you give the ending of the novel?

    I don't. I always put the ending in the synopsis, but I take the "teaser" approach to a query letter. You don't want to include every detail of the novel in your query; I'd pick the ones that clearly define the novel and have the best chance of stirring the editor's curiosity. I'm of the "less is more" school of thought, though, and am allergic to novel TMI in queries. :)

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  18. Would you ever put an outline for one of your books online, or as an ebook? I'm curious as to what your outlines look like.

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  19. I know what you mean, though. After I managed to separate myself from the manuscript, I used to get physically ill (cold, flu, semi-narcoleptic.)

    Thanks PBW! You don't need orange juice if you've got chocolate with orange in it though. Mmmmmm Green & Black's Maya Gold (dark chocolate with orange, cinnamon and other spices).

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  20. When you submit a manuscript written under one of your pseudonyms, do you put the pseudonym in every place where the 'name' goes? So, for example, if you have writer's last name/TITLE at the top of each page, and you were submitting a 'Jessican Hall' novel, would it read 'Hall/TITLE'?

    Obviously as an established writer, your agent and publishers know who you are. But if a writer is unpublished and submitting new manuscripts, how does a publisher (agent) match the pseudonym with the real person? I understand that the query letter would have your own name, but after that, what is the protocol?

    Have I ever told you that you are a goddess for helping out all us sad little plebes?

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  21. Um, that was 'Jessica', not 'Jessican'. Although there is something kind of catchy about that. Maybe the name of the next break out tweenie TV show on Disney Channel. "Yes, Jessi-Can!"

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  22. Actually, I have a question. Somewhat recently, I was in a discussion about pen names and using multiple names for books in different genres, or for different world settings, etc. A published author mentioned that if you decide to use a pseudonym, the publisher will automatically give you a first novel advance, even if you've sold several novels.

    Now, I'm assuming that's probably the case if you go the pseudonym route because of being computered into oblivion, but I have trouble believing that would be true for anyone using a pseudonym. Could you shine some light on this?

    Thanks. :)

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  23. Eliza wrote: Would you ever put an outline for one of your books online, or as an ebook? I'm curious as to what your outlines look like.

    I used to, but the copyright violations and related problems I've had made me decide to stop posting my work online.

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  24. Milady wrote: You don't need orange juice if you've got chocolate with orange in it though. Mmmmmm Green & Black's Maya Gold (dark chocolate with orange, cinnamon and other spices).

    Thanks, Milady. While I was reading that, my thighs just grew two inches wider (I am on a new, chocolate-free diet. I think my doctor hates me.)

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  25. Lynn wrote: When you submit a manuscript written under one of your pseudonyms, do you put the pseudonym in every place where the 'name' goes? So, for example, if you have writer's last name/TITLE at the top of each page, and you were submitting a 'Jessican Hall' novel, would it read 'Hall/TITLE'?

    I use NAME/Title at the top left of each page, and I always use the appropriate pseudonym as the name. Thus HALL/Into the Fire or VIEHL/Dark Need. So far no one has complained or asked me to do it differently.

    Obviously as an established writer, your agent and publishers know who you are. But if a writer is unpublished and submitting new manuscripts, how does a publisher (agent) match the pseudonym with the real person? I understand that the query letter would have your own name, but after that, what is the protocol?

    I use pseudonyms on manuscripts and my legal name on correspondence, even with new publishers I haven't worked with in the past. To prevent confusion, my letterhead has a header line at the top with my legal name, and then a second, subheader line with all my pseudonyms in alphabetical order. If you're only working with a single pseudonym, you might add something to your signature block, i.e.:

    Sincerely,

    Sheila Kelly
    (writing as Jessica Hall)

    Have I ever told you that you are a goddess for helping out all us sad little plebes?

    Goddess, ack, no. Can I be a minor cherub instead? That way I can be fat and no one can complain. :)

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  26. Nonny wrote: A published author mentioned that if you decide to use a pseudonym, the publisher will automatically give you a first novel advance, even if you've sold several novels.

    Not in my experience (other authors, please feel free to chime in.) My advances are generally based on my sell-through, not which name I'm using or if it's a first novel under that name. If I've got an especially hot idea, my agent negotiates performance bonuses in addition to the advance (the only time this changes is when I do WFH work, which are all negotiated based on how much I want for the job, and how much the client is willing to pay.)

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  27. The disadvantage of a new pseudonym is that you lose whatever name recognition and branding you might have accumulated under other names. The advantage of being an established author is that you have shown you can write books that sell. I would imagine that the advance for a new pseudonym depends on the extent to which you (or your agent) can convince the publisher that your personal track record is more important than the pseudonym's lack of history.

    Obviously, the better your personal track record is, the stronger your side of the argument will be.

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  28. For example, you're probably an expert on self-publishing by now. Why not write some articles about what you've learned, and what other writers considering self-publishing should avoid?

    I did exactly that

    Cheers
    Simon

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