Friday, August 11, 2006

Friday 20

Just an FYI -- I finished up going through the comment threads from the Virtual Workshops and posted answers to all the questions I left hanging. I've also added permanent links to them on the sidebar (scroll down.) If I missed any questions, do yell at me.

Someone (you know who you are) sent me an interesting e-mail asking for advice on how to approach authors you don't know to ask for a cover quote. I'd like to flip that around for a minute and talk to you published authors out there about it.

Having someone you don't know ask you to consider their work for a quote is a big compliment. It also takes a huge amount of courage to approach someone you don't know and ask. You know from your own experiences how lousy it feels when someone you admire from afar turns you down, too.

How we respond to these requests can do anything from delight to devastate the recipient. One industry professional I asked to consider looking at something for me responded with "Okay, but it had better be good." I almost didn't send it, I was so intimidated, and then received no response after I did. I drove myself crazy wondering what I'd done wrong until I almost wished I'd gotten a "This Sucks!" response versus none at all.

Yes, it's work to read someone else's manuscript, and it's truly terrible when for whatever reason the ms. doesn't merit a quote. That's where we have to be the courageous ones. But now and then a great new writer does come along and produces something that deserves a great rec from an established author. The new writer doesn't have to be your con buddy to deserve it. Great writing always deserves it.

Popular published authors are insanely busy people. If you're like me, you want your quotes to have some weight, so you may be very choosy about how often you give quotes, and the quality of work you will give a quote. It's perfectly fine to be selective. You can get burned out on quoting, too. I took a hiatus a few months ago and I'm glad I did. Some folks were beginning to treat me like The Oracle of Paranormal Fiction and quite frankly, I'm not.

But when you say no, keep in mind that it doesn't take a whole lot of effort to do so politely. Treat that writer the way you would wish to be treated by someone you admire, and you've probably made a friend for life. Treat them offhand, impolitely or with any amount of contempt and congratulations, you've just made yourself a jerk.

Now onto this week's questions: you all got any for me?

26 comments:

  1. Yeah, asking for blurbs is pretty tough. I asked a bunch of authors I had admired for years, got a few who were gracious enough to say yes and a few who very graciously turned me down.

    It's tough on both sides.

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  2. I'm not at the stage where I have people asking me for blurbs yet, but one well-known UK writer did give me a blurb for my own book. I was nervous about approaching him, but luckily we once had short fiction published in the same edition of an SF magazine, so that was a bit of an ice-breaker. (And another reason why short fiction can be a useful in to the industry.)
    Of course, my overriding goal is to get a copy of Hal into PBW's hands, but that'll happen one day ;-)
    And I promise Stardoc is moving ever closer to the top of my TBR pile. Promise!
    That's the other thing - you shouldn't ask ANY author for a blurb unless you've purchased copies of all their books and read every one cover to cover. In the industrious PBW's case that means selling one of my kids to fund my bookstore addiction, but hey, we all have to make sacrifices.
    You should also promote other authors at every opportunity, blurb or no blurb. It costs nothing to join in a recommended books thread and mention a few of your faves. (I don't mean in a cynical way, just books you genuinely enjoyed.) Far better that than always pushing your own barrow.

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  3. Paying it forward. Good advice.
    My questions for you are:
    How are you doing? Is everything going ok in life? And, did Murphy's Law finally decide your house wasn't as comfortable as it thought it was?

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  4. Someone was asking for SF with strong female characters on a forum, so I suggested Stardoc. That's what I meant by not being cynical about it and recommending everything.

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  5. Rob wrote: It's tough on both sides.

    For authors giving quotes, you find yourself becoming like one of the characters from Pride & Prejudice. You have to resist the urge to be nice and approve of everyone's work (Bingley or Jane), but you don't want to nitpick and hate everything that crosses your desk (Darcy or Caroline.)

    I shoot for being Aunt Gardner, myself. :)

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  6. Simon wrote: That's the other thing - you shouldn't ask ANY author for a blurb unless you've purchased copies of all their books and read every one cover to cover. In the industrious PBW's case that means selling one of my kids to fund my bookstore addiction, but hey, we all have to make sacrifices.

    Good Lord, really? Lisa Jackson is going to kick my butt.

    Seriously, though, anyone who asks me doesn't have to invest in my backlist. I know authors who have asked me for quotes solely because their editors put them up to it.

    I do suggest that writers read something written by the author before asking for a quote -- if for no other reason than to determine if you even want that author's name on your books.

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  7. Mary wrote: How are you doing? Is everything going ok in life? And, did Murphy's Law finally decide your house wasn't as comfortable as it thought it was?

    I'm doing better. I had a tough month, but everything unsnarled while I was over in Europe. Sometimes getting away to visit the places you love best but for whatever reason can't live there resets your internal contentment meter.

    After a year of working on the house, I'm almost 75% happy with the furniture, rooms and wall colors. I tend to be a snail when it comes to feathering the nest, so I think I've got another six months to go before it's perfectly comfortable.

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  8. Simon wrote: Someone was asking for SF with strong female characters on a forum, so I suggested Stardoc. That's what I meant by not being cynical about it and recommending everything.

    Thank you, kind sir. :)

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  9. >>I do suggest that writers read something written by the author before asking for a quote

    Good advice all the way around--as usual you're a font of fabulous info!

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  10. I picked up Lover Eternal because of your quote. I knew you were selective and I wasn't disappointed. With other authors I was very disappointed. Sad, that.
    So, thanks for adding to my TBR pile!

    My question: Do you plot in key suspense points?

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  11. Seriously, though, anyone who asks me doesn't have to invest in my backlist.

    Well, you wouldn't know anyway ;-) I was just trying to sell a truckload of your books to driveby visitors of your blog before they all emailed to ask you for a cover blurb :->

    And what kind of word verification is cfsfsfbv? Whoever they're paying to make them up is getting bored.

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  12. Peggy Kurilla11:46 AM

    I'm sure you've answered this before, but I am not remembering and my search-fu seems to have failed.

    Do you ask/answer your three questions for every character, or just the main(s)? And if you do the questions for more than one, do you consciously look for ways that the answers can cross over between characters (create conflict)?

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  13. Duh, I meant Dark Lover. Time to make another pot of coffee.

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  14. I read Red Branch recently and LOVED it. Any chance of a standalone or series in the future?

    Also the worldbuilding took my breath away. You've probably answered this, but I'll ask anyway:
    do you do the same amount of worldbuilding for shorts as you do for novels?

    Thanks,
    Erin K.

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  15. Eva wrote: Do you plot in key suspense points?

    I first plot what I think of as the five main events of each novel. They can be twists, revelations, disasters, what romance writers call dark or black moments, or simply VIP moments in the story for my protagonist. The protagonist is always the center of my plots, the "hearth square" in my story patchwork, so I build everything around the protag.

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  16. Simon wrote: I was just trying to sell a truckload of your books to driveby visitors of your blog before they all emailed to ask you for a cover blurb

    Shhhh! Simon, you weren't supposed to tell anyone about our evil plan....

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  17. Peggy wrote: Do you ask/answer your three questions for every character, or just the main(s)?

    I always ask the big three for the protagonist(s), often for the strong secondary character(s) or antagonist (s), and rarely for support cast.

    And if you do the questions for more than one, do you consciously look for ways that the answers can cross over between characters (create conflict)?

    As long as they're logical to the character, and the relationship between the character and the protagonist or other characters, yes. The dangerous thing about setting up characters to be or act in conflict with your protag is that they can end up being very two-dimensional, or sound like Abbott to your protagonist's Costello. You can't develop every character to the nth degree (otherwise, you have a novel filled with nothing but protagonists) but I always look for ways to give the rest of the cast the same realism and individuality as the protagonist.

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  18. I had a question in the Series workshop which I managed to hide among the rest of my comment. Here it's again:

    I have a hybrid that's three books taking place in the same world, that is, historical time and place (Western Roman Empire from Britain to Gaul, Germany and Italy about 406-415 AD). They have different main characters and different story arcs, but the same historio-political background and thus an element of connecting story arcs, share some minor characters, and supblots - the latter is a mess I'm just trying to sort out (what goes into which book and thus which overall POV). It's not a trilogy like LOTR, it's not a series like Stardoc; the books may work as standalones but I see them as belonging together and forming one super-story.

    No idea what to call this 'parallel trilogy' and how to market it once I've finished the three books.

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  19. Erin wrote: I read Red Branch recently and LOVED it. Any chance of a standalone or series in the future?

    Thank you for the kind words, ma'am. I've done a couple of stories set on Ravelin, the fantasy world of Red Branch, but I don't think I've e-booked more than one (Throw was the title of the one I think that I did put out there for my readers on the old site.)

    ...do you do the same amount of worldbuilding for shorts as you do for novels?

    Sometimes, and in a few cases, even more than a novel. Each story is a little different -- Red Branch was one that I spent a lot of time with because the protagonist was such a joy (in the unreasonable, demanding bitch sense of the word.) I also deliberately set out to make Ravelin Not Your Standard Dragons, Magic, Orcs and Trolls world o' fantasy.

    Sometimes lack of personal knowledge demands it, too. When I came up with the idea for Dark Side, a very looooooong story about a future incarnation of SETI and the first radio telescope being built on the dark side of the moon, I knew absolutely nothing about electromagnetic transmissions, radio telescope arrays or astrobiology. I spent a couple of months researching the necessary info and world building off it before I committed a single word to paper.

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  20. Haven't got a question, just wanted to say I'm glad the trip to Europe hlped you feel better. And thanks for not deleting the blog! *Hugs*

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  21. Anonymous6:02 PM

    Hey PBW!

    It's Jess, who you helped with on that communications proj. a few months ago. I lacked the Internet for the summer, but rest assured I've managed to periodically read the blog. I'll return to commenting once school starts in a few weeks. :)

    I'm SO bummed I missed the Workshops!

    I had a question for you as I was reading... but I forgot it.

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  22. Gabriele wrote: It's not a trilogy like LOTR, it's not a series like Stardoc; the books may work as standalones but I see them as belonging together and forming one super-story.

    No idea what to call this 'parallel trilogy' and how to market it once I've finished the three books.


    I'm sorry I missed this one during the series VW thread, Gabriele. :)

    You've got an unusual trio here, too. If I was pitching it, I would simply call it a historical trilogy. All of the books are set in the same world and time period, and that to me is the connection I would emphasize.

    If you feel you need a secondary connection, I'd mention how the protagonists relate to each other or to each other's stories.

    As for marketing, you might consider focusing again on the strongest common connection between the books: the world and time period. Something along the lines of "Go back in time to the battlefields and intrigues of ancient Rome with author Gabriele Campbell's new historic trilogy, "Rome Rules!"

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  23. Dawn wrote: Haven't got a question, just wanted to say I'm glad the trip to Europe hlped you feel better. And thanks for not deleting the blog! *Hugs*

    Hugs back, and thanks. You guys are the best.

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  24. Jess wrote: I had a question for you as I was reading... but I forgot it.

    Hey, it's terrific to (virtually) see you again, Jess -- hope you had a great summer. And don't be depressed about missing the VWs, we'll be doing more of those in the near future. It's day two of going back to school here, so I'm still trying to get into the swing of things. I don't remember packing lunches taking this much time in the morning...

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  25. Amie wrote: ...as usual you're a font of fabulous info!

    Lol, thank you, ma'am. Reading that, I formed an immediate image of a me-shaped fountain spitting out little how-to books instead of water -- and kids trying to throw pennies in my always-open mouth. :)

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  26. You've got an unusual trio here, too.

    Blame it on my plotbunnies. They're friggin' mutants. :)

    Thank you. Using the historical background may be the best way indeed.

    The books are not so much about Rome Rules, lol, but about Endangered Frontiers, an increasing unstability in some provinces (Britannia, Gaul) that leads to a restructuring of the Western Empire; Burgundians and Visigoths developing foederati kingdoms, Britain leaving the Empire, Rome itself being besieged ... The whole mess is too complex for one book, but I never wanted to send one MC to all these places because that would have stressed plausibility a bit much since the parallel timeframe is so tight (and I have more than one interesting MC *grin*).

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