Thursday, June 19, 2008
Baen's Universe is one of the pro-level markets and a while back they created an "introducing slot." The way I think of it is that these are writers who Baen's wants to claim saying "we're the ones that found him! We're the ones to thank for bringing you this amazing new talent!"
JP is one of Baen's Universe's introducing writers for June with his story, Spamdemonium. It's an amazing story. I thought it was an amazing story when he first wrote it years ago. And the story behind his sale is even more amazing. He wrote Spamdemonium a long time ago, back after we'd conceived of the 10 Year Plan. He submitted it to Baen's and got feedback which he used to revise before submitting it again. It was passed up the main editors out of the slush and there it sat. And sat. And sat. For over a year. For 480 days.
Mike Resnick spoke at ConCarolinas about being an editor for Baen's and the time the slush readers sent way too many stories up for review -- hundreds of them. And how it took almost a year to cull through them. He said that only those amazing few made it past his review-- and one of those was JP's. And I know this because after Mike's talk JP introduced himself and Mike told that to him-- that JP must have been one of the few really incredible ones. For those of you counting, his story came out 735 days after submission. Wow!!
I'm in constant awe of short story writing. I'm amazed at the economy of words, the ability to parse things down to their most important. I realized a long time ago that I would write novels because I don't have the skill for short stories -- I'm way too verbose.
But JP has that talent. He really is an inspiration. And I have learned a lot from him and his writing.
So I urge you to check out his first pro-level sale, Spamdemonium. It's worth it! Totally worth the wait!!
Plus they commissioned original art to go along with his story -- how cool is that?
JP: get up
JP: get up or I shall sick my minions on you
Carrie: please not the dogs
JP: don't think I won't do it
Carrie: I dreamt of zombies last night
JP: I'm so proud of you!
Carrie: twice. I dreamt of zombies twice.
And the thing is, the man wasn't being sarcastic! Welcome to our life.
Oh, and very oddly, the first time I dreamt of zombies, Gena Showalter was there. It was a zombie attack and I was running to get away from them and I see Gena coming out of a restaurant gripping her side. She was getting into a zippy black little sports car -- clearly a chauffeured car -- but no one would drive it cause they thought she was about to turn. Me, I wanted that car so I could get far far away. So I asked her "are you about to turn into a zombie?" her: "no, I know I look like it, but no." So I asked her where her hotel was and drove her there. I mean, I drove right inside the doors of the hotel and left her off at the elevator -- talk about door to door service! I hope she made it to her room without becoming a zombie!!
Saturday, June 14, 2008
It was an interesting day -- the air conditioning in the photography studio broke and it was ninety degrees inside when we showed up. Thankfully another photographer owed my photographer a favor and she let us use her studio. She even helped out! So we were our own little posse traipsing down the street taking pictures wherever seemed cool -- railroad tracks, fences, broken down sheds. Even with all the delays I think we timed it right because even I (not a photographer and knowing little about it) recognized how cool the light was at the end of the day. And my photographer seemed pretty excited about it too! he was really fantastic, made me feel like a supah-star! I knew watching ever season of America's Next Top Model would work out in my favor one day!!
For some reason, more than anything else since selling the book, getting the picture taken has been a stresser. I think I finally figured out that it's the permanence of it -- this is the picture that will go on the cover. This is the picture that readers will associate with me, that will say "This is Carrie Ryan, author of The Forest of Hands and Teeth." And while I doubt people really care about the author photo, it's still a matter of figuring out what you want to convey. My book is dark, I'm generally upbeat -- how do you reconcile that in a picture?
So I just took my dust jacket with me, showed the photographer where the picture would be going. He was very excited about the idea of post-apocalypse and zombies and he ran with it. He really got into it which I loved.
Fingers crossed the pictures turn out!
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Last week I was talking about a conference I went to and some of the writing myths that I kept hearing over and over again. This week, I want to talk about another myth: the agent as terrifying beast.
Someone at the con told the story of a friend of hers who was so stressed out every time her agent called -- so terrified and nervous -- that she had to get a phone with a mute button so that she could take the call in the bathroom. We're not talking about the first time they talked, we're talking years of this.
Yes, it's easy to get nervous when you're talking to agents, especially the first time. And yes, my heart was pounding when I first talked to my agent on the phone. But the thing to remember is that you and your agent are partners -- you're working together to get the best deal that you can get (for you personally and your book).
I think sometimes it's easy to feel like it's us versus them: the writers versus the agents who are the gatekeepers to our goals. But like I said last week, agents want to make a sale as much as writers do. Agents want to find that great book, that promising client to work with.
Sometimes I hear writers who are terrified to ask their agent questions and raise legitimate concerns even after they've signed a contract and been repped for a while. They're afraid of being "that client" that all agents dread -- needy, whiny, too much work to want to deal with. Sometimes it's hard to remember that not only are you in a partnership with your agent, you're also in a business relationship. And if you need information to handle your end of the business, you shouldn't hesitate to ask.
At the end of the day, I try to remember that agent and author are working towards the same goal. They're people just like us writers. They hate rejection, just like us writers. And they hope for that amazing sale, just like us.
Saturday, June 07, 2008
Anyways, right now, many of my friends are in that stage where they're having to figure out what their final titles will be -- they sold the book under one title but the publisher wants a different one. Aprilynne's book went from "Autumn's Wings" to "Wings." RJ's book is being published under it's original title "Knife" in the UK, but will be "Knife, The Hunter" in the U.S. And on top of that, other author friends who might be keeping their original titles have to come up with series titles (or maybe they have a series title and need to come up with individual book titles).
And all of this reminds me of two fantastic articles by Barry Eisler that I read a while back about titles and their significance. I think these two articles, more than anything else, totally changed the way I think about titles and titling books.
Part I - Automatic Resonance -- resonance that's present in the title of a book you know nothing else about
Part II - Acquired Resonance -- resonance that's acquired from reading the book
When I think about automatic resonance I think of books that are almost clear on their face -- John Grisham titles, for example. But it doesn't have to be something a clear as a John Grisham, I think a title can also be the way the words converge to evoke a mood (A Great and Terrible Beauty, for example).
Acquired resonance, on the other hand, takes reading the book for the meaning to become really clear. As Barry Eisler points out, a lot of books with place names have acquired resonance (he uses the example of Watership Down). Another example he mentions of acquired resonance is The Kite Runner. I just read this last weekend and I completely agree with him -- The Kite Runner is a title that doesn't mean much until you read the book and then - WOW - powerful title.
Barry goes on to talk about what type of resonance works best for what kind of books and concludes with, "Simply put: automatic resonance tends to help a book gain momentum; acquired resonance is what sustains it."
So here are a few titles that I've been mulling over as I ponder automatic and acquired resonance. What are your thoughts (on these titles or on the idea of resonance period?) Any other titles that spring to mind?
Shadowed Summer (Saundra Mitchell)
Flash Burnout (LK Madigan)
Fairy Lust (Cyn Balog)
The Demon's Lexicon (Sarah Rees Brennan)
Wings (Aprilynne Pike)
And of course, there's also my title - haha! And if you're interested in learning more about these books (which might help with figuring out acquired resonance) you can find them all here.
Friday, June 06, 2008
1. Books! I love books. This is kind of a duh statement, I recognize. But it's more than just reading books and talking about books, I love being surrounded by books. And, as I mentioned the other day, Amazon Prime is like a drug pusher. Every time I even think about a book, I'm usually hovering over the "order now" button on the Amazon website. In fact, even though JP bought me a new bookcase of our anniversary (that man knows how to give gifts), it's already full! But let me tell you, I got some awesome books this week and am so excited about reading them all!
2. ARCs. A friend of mine just got her ARCs which makes me so giddy for her! She's also Delacorte Spring 2009 which means that I am now obsessively checking my front porch when I get home from work (oddly, UPS delivers the Amazon packages to the side door that we regularly use -- very nice of them). I think I'm a while off yet and trust me, when they arrive you will hear the shouts of glee through your computer screens :)
3. WIPs. I'm in the middle of writing Book 2. Um.... and that's that I guess :)
4. Zombies. Not only did JP and I get some awesome zombie games as ConCarolinas last weekend, I also ordered Diary of the Dead and it arrived yesterday (thank you Amazon Prime!). So it's shaping up to be a very zombie weekend. I was at a summer associate event for JP's firm last night and we were talking to one of the associates about the Con (she's a HUGE Star Wars fan complete with tattoos) and some of the summer associates joined the conversation. I'm not quite sure they didn't think we were crazy what with the chatter about the costumes, etc. But the costumes there were really cool -- I'd never seen anything like it before!
5. Friends. Can I just say that I love my friends? It's just like this amazing warm fuzzy feeling to know that there are people you can go to with almost anything and they'll understand -- be it writing related, life related, day job related. And it's not just about having someone there when you need it, it's having someone there to gab with, to just share life. If I don't say it enough, thanks :)
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
The Magic Thief, by Sarah Prineas. You can get it here. And the sticker on the cover points to a special website just for the book!
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
This weekend I went to a local con - ConCarolinas (for a recap, see JP's post here). It was awesome -- totally tons of fun and my first SFF con! Of course, because I didn't even hear about the con until the Monday before and therefore couldn't pre-register, I went rather stealth :)
But here's the thing, over the course of the day I attended, I heard a few authors give advice that kinda made me squirm. And it made me want to blog about it because I felt like some of this advice was perpetuating some myths about agents and getting an agent. Of course, rule number one that I must highlight is that there are often no hard and fast rules. Everyone has their own approach and you have to figure out what works best for you. Even so... here are my thoughts on some oft perpetuated myths (spread out over a few posts...).
One thing that really stuck out to me: a few people (and some of them well published authors) said that the best was to get an agent was to go to cons. Now, while I agree that you can make some great connections at conventions, if you're *only* going so you can attend a pitch session and stalk some agents at the bar, you're wasting your money. Here's the thing, you can be the most fun person ever, you and the agent you meet can go get manis and pedis, you can spend all night sharing embarassing stories and margaritas, but if your book isn't any good, none of that matters. Sure, knowing the agent might get a little more attention, but you still have to deliver the goods.
Agents are generally on the lookout for books they can sell -- they want to fall in love when they open their slush. You don't have to go to cons and meet agents in person in order to have them fall in love with your work. Trust me, I've met plenty of agents at cons and none of them ended up offering me representation for my book (in fact, one of my queries didn't make it past the slush reader for an agent I'd met several times). All the offers I got were from the good old fashioned slush pile. Yes, agents do read queries and they request pages and they make offers without having ever met you!
Don't get me wrong, cons are great things. It's a super fun way to meet other like-minded people and to be surrounded with the buzz of it all. Meeting agents is part of that buzz and it's part of the business. But it shouldn't be the only reason you go. Save the money from plane tickets and hotels instead and invest them in stamps :)
More myths to come next week (unless, you know, I forget or get distracted :)
So tell me what you think -- is the best way to get an agent to go to a con?