Well HELLO Broken Monsters! What are you doing on the Today Show? Oh, you’re being recommended as this weekend’s must-have? Carry on!
At every writer's conference I am invited to, I participate in a few panels, take pitches, and do critiques. As for the panels, it is usually made up of editors and agents, but occassionally just editors. Regardless, we get some commonly asked questions. I am going to tackle a few here.
Why do I need an agent?
If you are hoping to be published by the big New York houses, you need an agent to get in the door. And for me, I no longer accept unagented submissions unless I have requested your manuscript after meeting you at a conference.
As an editor, I expect submissions from agents to be polished. Sure, I am going to ask for some revisions, but a good agent will have tightened and tweaked your manuscript. You agent should be shaping that manuscript/series and managing your writing career.
Finally, the agent deals with all the business crap that comes with publishing. He or she will negotiate the contract, which means better terms for you. And if something comes up, I can work with agent on the problem, rather than muddying my creative relationship with the author. There is much more to the author/agent/editor relationship, but to me, these are the biggest points.
Will you publish a book I have already self published? Will you pick up book three in my series (first two were self published or traditionally published)?
There is no absolute yes or no answer here. But it definitely leans toward probably not. If a book is published in print form, there will be sales numbers attached to the book. If those numbers are low, it's a risk to pick up that series. If it's only pubbed in ebook, there is no central reporting place, so the publisher may ask you to supply statements showing sales, otherwise we are blindly trusting the author. Publishers are far more comfortable with new work. BUT, this is an ever evolving situation. The answer to this might be completely different in six months from now.
Do I need a platform?
In non-fiction, yes. In fiction, no. But about six months before publication date, I want the author to at least have a clean website and a facebook page. You don't need to be hyper active online - you have to find the balance between social media, writing, and living the rest of your life which probably invovles a day job, kids, pets, family. So figure out what you are comfortable with and go from there.
What trends do you see?
Don't write to a trend, write the story that is inside you. Paranormal is waning. It will never go away though. So if your story is about Valkyries and vampires, write it!
What is your day like? How many submissions do you get? What makes you reject manuscripts?
see my previous posts for that
How do you feel about indie publishing vs traditional publishing?
I think the smartest authors are ones that are following the hybrid model. There are advantages to both indie and traditional publishing. As an indie author, it's difficult to get media exposure (Publisher's Weekly, Kirkus, Library Journal, Booklist, etc.) As a traditional author, you don't get to control the process and your royalties are significantly less. So do both, and let the two paths build on each other. And if you are traditionally published, it also gives you greater security to publish with two different publishers. Putting all your eggs in one basket is risky, no matter who holds the basket.
And one last note -
If you are going to self publish, please hire an editor to make sure your manuscript is solid and clean. Pubbing a book filled with errors will do you no favors. Consider this your business - everything you put out needs to look professional and polished. This also goes for submitting to agents and editors. My time is valuable, and if you send me a manuscript filled with typos and errors, you will not get the benefit of the doubt. Your manuscript will be automatically rejected. And I will remember that if you submit again.
What other questions do you have? I would be happy to answer them in the comments section or in a future blog post. Have a happy Thursday!
Andrew Pyper, the ITW Award–winning author of six bestselling novels, has read a lot of horror stories. Here he writes about one novel that truly got under his skin.
The other night, drinking in my backyard with some other writers, some of whom write thrillers and horror as I do, the question came up as to when was the last time we read something that really and truly terrified us. Not a piece of writing we admired for the way it constructed its scares, not something we found unsettling or offputting or creepy, but the real gut-level deal. Bona fide horror in book form.
It took me a while to come up with my answer. Partly because there are so many horror novels I’ve read over the years that I have admired and found unsettling or creepy, but not to the point of slapping the covers closed with a scream. Partly because I think I’ve always read thrillers for the ideas or mythologies they can uniquely explore, as much as the thrills themselves.
While we all cited different titles in the end, what my writer friends and I had in common was that the last books that truly scared the bejesus out of us were ones we read as young people. Why? We worked up some theories. They all seemed to boil down to immersion. Back then, we could dive all the way into the worlds we read. There was no EXIT sign at the end of the dark hallway, no call of “Time out!” that had the power to return our disbelief from wherever it had been suspended. These were books that possessed us. Ones we believed in.
For me, that book was Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot. Which is kind of funny, as I’m not much of a vampire guy when it comes to favorite horror sub-genres. I like pondering whether I’d drink the blood of innocents in exchange for immortality as much as the next goth, but to me vampire stories too often present their monsters as pompous dandies, suave seducers, poor man’s Hamlets. Vampires invite the campy in ways many writers have found irresistible.
But when the 12-year-old me read King’s story of a small town besieged by the ravenous undead, I was all in. It was his particular version of vampires that did it: savage and single-minded, relentless and recognizable. But it was also, I think, the way the town of the novel reminded me of my own small town where I grew up. The monsters of the fiction lined up with my own neighbors, the tree-shaded streets were my streets, my imagination seeing the darkest possibilities in the everyday just as the world of the book did. It wasn’t just a good vampire story. It was personal.
Reading ‘Salem’s Lot was the last time I could check off each of the points in the unholy trinity of horror reading: I was young, the fictional setting and circumstances directly matched up with my own, and the monsters were presented not as fantastical, but possible.
The thing is, while I treasure the experience of reading that book, I’m not sure I’d like to return to it. What I mean is that I’d be happy to read it again today, but not transported to my reading of it then. It’s simply too dangerous. Who knows how close I came to being lost in it for good? How real could I have made it? What would have happened if a vampire had come scratching at my window and instead of pulling the covers over my head I got up and let it in?
Andrew Pyper is the author of six bestselling novels, most recently The Demonologist, which won the International Thriller Writers Award for Best Hardcover Novel. His new book, The Damned, is to be published in February 2015.
Snapshots from Broken Monsters - Lauren Beukes’s research photographs
‘It’s all right,’ he said, kneeling down, putting his hand on the animal’s warm neck. He could feel the life and strength of it under his palm. It panicked at his touch, kicking out, trying to get to its feet. But there was too much wreckage inside.
He felt like he was falling into its eyes. There were doors opening in the trees all around him, a door swinging open in his head.
Not yours, he thought. Nothing’s yours.
‘It’s all right,’ he said again, stroking the animal’s neck. It shivered at his touch, but it didn’t try to kick again.
‘I know how to do this.’
- Broken Monsters
#doors #doors #doorseverywhere
But there were a few shows that bore watching for me: THE AVENGERS, THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW, THE M,A.N FROM U.N.C.L.E, THE SAINT, THE FUGITIVE, and perhaps PEYTON PLACE as the first try at a multi-night soap.
Middling show for me included MY THREE SONS and BEN CASEY. And a couple good westerns still saddled up: BONANZA and GUNSMOKE.
Was it the death of a President that made us so sensitive to anything more demanding? Did we need foolishness to get past it?
U.S. TV attempted to produce a version of the satirical British show THIS WAS THE WEEK THAT WAS in 1964, but Americans were in no mood to watch political satire. In a few years, the war in Vietnam probably changed that.
The Top Ten for the year were: BONANZA, BEWITCHED, GOMER PYLE, THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW, THE FUGITIVE, THE RED SKELTON SHOW, THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW, THE LUCY SHOW, PEYTON PLACE, COMBAT.
Any of these resonate for you guys?
by Marv Lachman
SUE GRAFTON – “B” Is for Burglar. Holt Rinehart and Winston, hardcover, 1985. Bantam, paperback, 1986. Reprinted many times since.
Sue Grafton has been praised, with justification, for carrying on the traditions of the private eye novel, and I’m glad that her second book, “B” Is for Burglar, is now available in paperback from Bantam at $3.50.
Grafton breaks no new ground, but her books and her heroine, Kinsey Millhone, are so reminiscent of Ross Macdonald and Lew Archer at their best that I strongly recommend this book, The setting is California’s Santa Teresa, a thinly disguised Santa Barbara, the city in which Kenneth Millar lived, and one to which he frequently brought Archer.
Millhone, like Archer, is a decent person, and she clocks as many miles on guilt trips as he did. Both of their creators provide excellent prose, even if they did go overboard on similes. Grafton has a wonderful career in front of her, and a little more discipline as to that tendency should permit her to consolidate her considerable talent and provide us with some of the best hardboiled mysteries of the next few decades.
Editorial Comment: It is now 28 years since Marv wrote this review, and Sue Grafton’s latest is “W” Is for Wasted, published last month in paperback. Question: What is “X” for?