The wheat from the chaff

I still haven’t figured out how to link articles, sorry, but here is the url (is that right?) to a nice overview on why great books get missed and why editors’ rejection letters are so nonspecific:

The morning after (no spoilers)

You wake up the next morning, roll over, and there, on the pillow beside you rests what seemed like such a wonderful idea the night before.  Your hand reaches out, tentatively, then withdraws, unsure what to do next.  There’s no going back.  The thrill of initial discovery is gone forever, but that doesn’t mean the love affair has to end.

Ok, so like millions of others, I woke up with my Harry Potter hangover after having stayed up late to read the book from start to finish on Saturday.  I always do this (I’m blessed/cursed to be a fast reader) and always wonder if I would have enjoyed it more if I had found a way to slow down and inhabit the world a little longer.  Still, it was a beautiful way to spend the day and I’ll cherish it always…until the next one.  There is going to be another one, right? 

Going to sea with a parachute

It’s dawning on me that this is my first novel, and all my years as an editor in the business mean more or less nada, and more on the less.  No one is going to pick up the book because they know I’m an editor, unless they are indulging a morbid curiosity to see if an editor can actually write.  Considering all the manuscripts I’ve rejected over the years I suppose there’s the faint hope all those spurned writers will buy copies to burn in protest, but that’s maybe a few thousand at most.  Sure, add in all the failed relationships and the number spikes, but alas, I don’t think I can build a career solely on the antipathy of others.  It’s going to come down to the story, as it should.   I’ll live and die by the story I write, and nothing else.  All the contacts and insider knowledge is a whole lot of sound and fury that in the end signifies nothing.  Sounds about right.

Ahhh, controver$y

Publishing, at times, is like going to the zoo and poking a stick through the bars at a sleeping lion.  You want to wake the lion up, get it to roar a bit and put on a show.  You don’t want the lion to jump the bars and make you its mid-morning snack.  A balancing act.  So too when courting controversy with your publicity.  Choosing a title like Band of Sisters was more than simply creating a sympathetic harmonic with Stephen Ambrose’s best seller, it was also a shot across the bow of chauvinists everywhere; women are in combat, deal with it.  Unsurprisingly, some can’t, or won’t.  If you’re curious, you can read some of what’s going on at  Scroll down to Book Buzz, click, and see what the buzz (the elixir of life in publishing) is all about.   You’ll notice, he says affecting an air of practiced innocence, that of all the books they could be talking about, they’re talking about this one.  Gratis.  And for every sling and arrow sent its way, there are that many shields springing up to defend it.  The end result will be increased awareness followed by increased sales. 

Detractors almost never buy the book, they save their money and rail against what they perceive to be wrong with it.  The great thing about that is that all the gnashing and chest-thumping acts like a beacon for those interested in the book, and they are far more likely to buy it, especially after their blood gets hot reading what the naysayers have to bray.  Hmmm, I wonder if this would work when on a date…

Original vs. derivative vs. inspired by vs. fresh approach vs. knock off vs…

Whilst I putter away at the day job and work on the second novel in the Iron Elves series I am also developing a YA/middle school series.  My agent looked at it and wondered if it was at all similar to another series already published.  Whenever anyone says ‘gee, that sounds just like ______’ your first reaction is probably a short flight off a tall bridge or green-tinged anger that someone would dare take your idea.  A few deep breathes later you read the offending book and grow increasingly more relieved when you discover it’s nothing like yours.  You’re cloning labradoodles while that other guy cloned dinosaurs.  Whew, right?  Not quite.  When my agent shops my series, it won’t be enough to simply say this isn’t like that.  I get submissions daily that sound an awful lot like the submissions I got the day before, and the week before, and just like any number of books already published.  Editors are always eye-deep in manuscripts and looking for the quickest way to reject something.  A ms that arrives sounding similar to something else and not taking the time to explain how and why it’s different and oh so much better is likely destined for the shredder.  You, or your agent, will need to be armed with detail and substance to show how your ms is so much more, and not at all similar…except that it will still tap into that same market and make as much or more money for everyone concerned.  Original, but not so original that it can’t be categorized with fifty other equally original books all about say, hot and sexy vampires (maybe yours are different because your vampires are descendant from fruit bats and are devastating Florida’s citrus crops.)  Write your story, make it the best it can be, but also be aware of what else is out there, and be able to show, with a good-natured chuckle, how unique your story is…while still slotting nicely among all those other unique books on exactly the same thing.