Gaye Mack’s Blog

THE LONG ROAD FROM IDEA TO MAKING A PUBLISHER’S LIST-THIS GRAPHIC SAYS IT ALL

Posted on by Gaye Mack in Writer's Work Leave a comment

Although  I’ll be blogging in the next few days on Sunday’s  forthcoming solar eclipse, I just couldn’t help myself from posting this wonderful info- graphic, “How a Book is Born, which appeared on my Facebook page yesterday courtesy of publishing house Weldon Owen.  For those of you in the ‘writing to be published boat’ with me, you’ll smile and nod in agreement,  I’m sure.  For those who wonder what’s taking so long for your aunt’s, sibling’s, friend’s, et al, book to find its way to the shelves at Barnes & Noble(e-books not included here), this graphic says it all and should clear up any confusion! While I note that those hard working literary agent/managers somehow were excluded from the flow(another major step), nevertheless,  I’d love to use it as my Christmas card for those not following this blog and yet wonder, ‘what’s the problem?”  Enjoy and laugh–no doubt this graphic has already gone viral in certain circles!!

 

 


GETTING THE DUCKS IN ORDER ON THE BUMPY ROAD TO ‘PUBLISHED’ STATUS

Posted on by Gaye Mack in Karmic and Self-Discovery Astrology, Writer's Work Leave a comment

In my last post I wrote about the effect of Mars turning retrograde and how that signals a slow down and re-evaluation in our charts.  Currently I’m experiencing this Mars effect  in the ‘circumstances of life areas ‘(the houses) of my own chart which have to do with my ‘work in the world’ and ‘creativity’.

A couple of years ago I made the decision to shift my writing from non-fiction, academic material and return to the arena of historical fiction, specifically in the ‘thriller/mystery’ genre, which I’d explored in the early 1990’s.  While fiction offers endless creative paths to explore, the reality of going from idea to the printed page(hopefully by someone else other than your new best friend at Kinko’s),  is not for the faint of heart.  Anyone who has been or is on this road knows what I’m talking about.

After working for a year on  a major reconstitution of a manuscript  I wrote 20 years ago, year #2 saw an e-file accumulation of  literary agent rejections.  I stopped counting at 55 with the realization that two years of hard work was going nowhere.  While the rejections continued to come in, I decided to write book #2.  As this book neared completion the fires around E-Publishing and Publishing On Demand ratcheted up frenetically in the literary press.  I wondered if I should trash the whole idea of going the traditional route with a literary agent and try my hand at self-publishing.  A huge dilemma because self publishing no matter which route you take, requires enormous marketing demands on your part if you want to be successful.  Amanda Hocking and her explosive success is legendary but the reality is that the ratios of self published authors to actual success levels such as hers, are staggeringly depressive.

While mired in this personal dilemma, I ‘accidentally’ came across an announcement for a mystery writer’s conference to be held in Chicago. While  I hadn’t been to a writer’s conference in 20 years,  the program offered the opportunity to ‘pitch live’ to attending literary agents.  When I looked at the list of top level agents, I didn’t think twice.  It was an ‘either sink or swim’ decision on my part, particularly because I’d never pitched any of my manuscripts ‘live’ before.  Once I’d signed up, the reality of the preparation made me wonder what planet I was on when I made this decision!  A slick pitch is approximately 5 sentences…the first sentence should be no more than 25 words which informs the agent the title, genre, audience and general overview of the book…orally from memory in no more than 4(yes four!) minutes.  Your heart pounds, your palms sweat and you wish you hadn’t eaten lunch and could ask Scotty to beam you up.  Was all of this worth it?  Yes.

A week ago I signed a contract with one of the agents to whom I pitched,  Peter Miller, President of Global Lion Intellectual Property Management.  I’m still in shock because Peter represents an  impressive client list and possesses a huge reputation in the industry.  This said, seeing my manuscripts on store shelves is no guarantee even with his help, guidance and expertise.   The publishing industry is in flux and ultra selective, particularly for fiction.   I have much ‘clean up’ work to do.  Even though these manuscripts have been edited endlessly, they need  final, perfected polishing so that Peter can pitch them to major publishers and editors in the next few weeks in New York and then the London Book Fair in April.

Despite the excitement of clearing this first  hurdle, Mars continues to have his way with me, the work is hard and the agenda is chop wood, carry water…I won’t be holding my breath any time soon for that call from Good Morning America!


OH WHERE OR WHERE HAS MY ELECTRONIC QUERY GONE?

Posted on by Gaye Mack in Writer's Work Leave a comment

In my last post under writer’s work, I talked about the daunting business of finding literary agent representation…an undertaking not for the faint of heart.  While this search can be overwhelming and at times discouraging, one of the things that has changed in the last 20 years is that a majority of agents now accept ‘electronic queries’.  

There are several reasons for this, most of which are a combination of agencies taking a ‘green’ stance on the environment combined with efficiency.  While the electronic query is beneficial for agents and can be for the writer, this  process does come with some baggage; one misstep and your query is destined to the query abyss.  From my own experience, I have found the following check list helpful when  submitting an electronic query:

1.  Similar to when we write emails, we can get carried away with an electronic query.  Looks are deceiving…what appears to be one page, may in fact be way too long.  A good way to check yourself is to cut/paste your query into a word doc…see if it fits into one page that has 1″ margins at 12 point Times New Roman.  If not, it’s too long…go back to the drawing board.  Also, some agents are specific as to whether they want the query letter to be single or double spaced.

2.  Check and double check the ‘submission guidelines’ on the agent’s website for query email address.  As a rule, agencies will list a generic address for queries that’s different from the individual agent email addresses.

3.  In the subject line, most agencies ask that you put the word ‘Query’ with the title of your work after it.  This instruction can vary slightly from agency to agency…again check their submission guidelines for specifics.

4.  Whether you get a response or not(even if its a rejection) again, varies from agency to agency.  Amazingly, despite the massive volume that these agents are currently receiving, I have found the majority of agents to respond one way or another.  Where it becomes tricky is those agents who say in their submission guidelines that you will hear from them and then you don’t.  This leaves you to wonder if your query ended up in their spam filter or they just no longer reply in the case of rejections.   In this case I have waited about 8 weeks and then have sent a polite email inquiry…sometimes this works, sometimes I hear nothing…time to move on.

5.  Rule of thumb written in stone:  Do not send any more than the guidelines ask for when submitting a query.  If the agent wants to see more, you’ll hear from him or her with specific instructions.

6.  Today the competition  for representation, much less a publisher, is more than fierce.  I applaud the agents who take time to explain the reasons why they reject a project even though the writing is exceptional.  It may be that they are looking for a specific project to fill their list, they may have knowledge of a ‘soon to be released project’ that is similar to your own or it may be a matter of  the market pulse…what is going to sell, what is the next ‘hot’ thing.  And finally, agents will tell you that they personally have to be passionate about your work; ‘passionate’ being the operative word.  If they aren’t it isn’t necessarily that there is something wrong with it, it just isn’t for them.  This is a subjective business and where one agent may take a pass, another one is waiting to snap it up.  

 7.  Bottom line:  “Keep on keeping on.”

 

 

 


WRITING THE BOOK, FINDING THE AGENT

Posted on by Gaye Mack in Writer's Work Leave a comment

Seems everyone wants to write a book…and a lot of people do…and they do it well.  But this is only half of the story…the rest falls into the nebulous world of having your work published by someone other than you…although this is always an option.

 Years ago an author friend of mine whose several books have found their way to bookstore shelves, thanks to various publishers, quipped something like, “Well if you want to have a garage full of your books for 10 years that you have to schlep and market on your own, by all means self-publish.” Need I say more? The advent of E-Publishing has changed some of this, and there are some incredible success stories like Amanda Hocking up in Minnesota…nevertheless, self-publishing even E-Publishing still is a lot of work and can cost plenty.

 These options have never appealed to me (although I can change my mind!) which is why I have preferred to endure the slog of finding literary representation over the years.  A lot has changed in 20 years in this regard and the joy of seeing  the longest pregnancy in history come to fruition on the shelves of Barnes and Nobel can easily spiral into the feeling of hopelessness. 

My past  experience has been that the tough competition fell to nailing a publishing contract…now the competition has filtered down to nailing a contract or an agreement for agent representation, never mind the publisher.  This brings me to the nitty- gritty of this process.  I have discovered over time that unless you are involved in writing for publication, generally people have no clue about the ‘business side’ which is as critical as producing the work itself. 

 First there are the hours of trolling hundreds (thousands?) of agents listed in the current edition of the Writer’s Digest Guide of Literary Agents (or some other reputable resource), whittling your survey down to  some 40 or so ‘A’ list agents to target(with the knowledge that if you get 40 rejections, you’d better have a ‘B’ list ready).  For my current project I finally had to resort to a spread sheet.  Fortunately unlike 20 years ago, most reputable agents now have websites which profile the agency’s principal agents, their individual areas of focus and submission guidelines—this is a HUGE help.  Nevertheless, you most likely will need to start with a resource guide first.

 Then comes the dreaded Agent Query Letter’—the interview of your life in one page, three paragraphs in which, (a.) you must ‘hook’ the agent in one line, two at the most into your book, (b.) paragraph two tells a little more about the book in maybe 150 words and (c.) paragraph three describes why you are the person to write the particular book you have, your qualifications for doing so and a brief appreciation statement of the agent’s time.  You’re done-one page.    Some agents get hundreds, sometimes thousands of queries in a month. You get one shot and if you don’t hit the agent dead bang, you and the manuscript are toast as far as that agent is concerned.

 Personally I think writing the query letter is worse than writing the book!  Next post…the abyss of the electronic query.