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“Good writers are those who keep the language efficient.
That is to say, keep it accurate, keep it clear.”
– Ezra Pound

Today’s post is a distillation of news I’ve seen around the blogosphere.

First of all, I’m about 60% done editing the WIP. Maybe not a great bit of news for the writing world at large, but something worth noting anyway. As I’m editing by paper and pencil, I can’t tell you how many pages I’ve cut, but this is one substantial tummy-tuck of which everyone will approve.

J.A.Konrath collected over 300 of his A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing essays into a free E-book this week. It’s 750 pages bookmarked by topics such as writing, breaking into the publishing world, promotion, reviews, motivation, and more. The no-nonsense style of writing is appealing, and Konrath’s got a pretty good sense of humor, so at least give it a try. It’s not every day a published writer hands out a free book about how they got published in the first place.

Bernita at An Innocent A-Blog reminded us to check out Absolute Write’s Bewares and Background Checks forum for those of us looking for an agent, small press publisher, print-on-demand company, or traditional publisher. The forum is beyond huge, so I wouldn’t try browsing. But if you have a specific company in mind, this is the place to look them up and see the experiences other writers went through. (For some reason the search is at the bottom of the page… annoying.)

Sidenote: Notice how there’s an entire conversation put aside for PublishAmerica? Summary for that conversation: Don’t publish with PublishAmerica. I looked up Aventine Press, the company that manufactured my first book, Catching the Rose, and found the comments there to be accurate. (As for my own opinion, I’m thinking of working with them again because yes, I liked them that much.)

And in that vein, I hope all of you are keeping up with the Writer Beware! blog. In this technology-driven age, there is no excuse if you sign up with a bad editor/agent/publisher. Do your research before you commit to anything. The professionals will understand if you take a couple of days to decide. The scam artists will tell you, just like those infomercials, that you better decide in the next ten minutes or you’ve lost the deal.

Rather than going to the annual Romance Writer’s of America convention, Lynn Viehl is hosting a substitution Left Behind & Loving It week of online workshops (July 28 – August 3). This is where Viehl organizes fellow authors to host workshops on their own blogs, much like Eliza’s Villain Month. Published and aspiring authors alike can host the workshops as we all can stand to learn something new.

I updated my Affiliates and Links page to include the new websites. Leave a comment here or on the affiliates page if I’ve left out a resource you consider valuable. Also, tell me how your work-in-progress is coming along!

31 Questions when Choosing an Agent

Agents, it seems, are the way to break into the traditional publishing field for authors. But how do you find an agent? More importantly, once you find an agent, how do you know they are a good one? This is not a decision for the faint of heart, as Susan Kearney points out at Plot Monkeys.

The biggest thing to keep in mind when looking for an agent, and once you get that agent, is that your agent is NOT your friend. You have a business relationship and it is their duty to do their best to sell your book.

Also remember that the agent is your voice to big name publishers. If you have a bad agent, this might damage your ability to break into the market. So don’t be afraid to terminate the contract if you and your agent can’t conduct business in a professional manner.

For more information on disreputable agents, add Writer Beware! to your RSS feeds, as well as look up your potential agents in their archives.

If you want an inside look to the life of an agent, agent blogs are the way to go. See BookEnds, Nathan Bransford, Jennifer Jackson from the Donald Maass Agency, Rachel Vater from Folio Literary Management, Nephele Tempest from the Knight Agency, and the snarkives of Miss Snark. At least…these are the ones I read.

Here are Susan Kearney’s list of questions that should be answered to help determine whether your potential agent will make a good business partner for your writing goals.

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Agents, Agents, and more Agents

Now that you have that first half of the novel under your belt, maybe from NaNoWriMo, maybe from working on your own, it’s time to start looking for that agent if you aren’t going the self-publishing route. Here’s a pretty extensive article that I found:

How to Play the Agent Game
by Chris Gaveler

Picture an actual playing board with plastic pieces and a spinner in the middle. The spinner is important because it will remind you how much is left to chance. The best writer with the best novel still has to submit to the luck of random numbers.

You obviously begin at Square One. For a realistic effect, place you playing piece (your manuscript) with several hundred thousand others. That’s a rough estimate of how many aspiring authors are playing the game alongside of you.

The game board, which is circular and therefore never ending, has three kinds of squares for you to land on. The majority are blank. That means you sit and continue to wait like you were before. Most of the game involves this activity. That’s why it’s a good idea also to have a life while playing.

Another kind of square has a question mark on it. That stands for Dumb Luck, those things that you have no control over but influence your fate. Pick a card from the Dumb Luck stack. Looking back at some of my previous draws (agent rejection letters), you might read something like: “This is very much the sort of novel that I enjoy and ordinarily I’d have been eager to read the rest but the end of summer turned out to be particularly busy and with a new child on the way in early November now is not the best time for me to be taking on new commitments, as promising as they seem.”

Return the card to the bottom of the stack and continue playing.

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Spotting Disreputable Agents <– read, learn, explore.

Tips for Spotting Questionable Agents listed the following and more:

  1. Requiring a reading fee with a submission. In the past, some reputable agents did charge reading fees–but this practice has been so extensively abused that the Association of Authors’ Representatives now prohibits it for members.
  2. Requiring an evaluation fee with submission, with the promise of a detailed critique. Also easy to abuse, and also prohibited by the AAR. Often the critiques are little more than form letters full of generic how-to advice.
  3. Requiring an upfront “submission” or “handling” fee. Such upfront charges aren’t standard practice among reputable agents, who let submission expenses accrue and deduct them from the client’s advance. Fees of this kind range from a few hundred dollars up into the thousands; the highest I’ve run across is $5,000 for just one year of representation.
  4. Offering writers a choice of providing a large number of manuscript copies at their own expense, or paying an upfront “marketing” fee. The idea here is that copying is so expensive that the fee looks like a bargain. Agents don’t usually need large numbers of ms. copies anyway–most agents ask for just one or two.
  5. Presenting a sliding scale of fees–the more the writer pays, the more service the agent claims to provide. Good agents do as much work as is needed to sell a book, all for the same 15% commission.
  6. Running a writing contest that’s a scheme for referring writers to a fee-charging agency.
  7. Selling “adjunct” services–website design, slots in a catalog supposedly brought to major book fairs, pre-publication publicity (you don’t need publicity till you have a published book to publicize), book cover mockups (publishers create their own book covers), illustrations for children’s books (publishers prefer to match writers and illustrators themselves). It’s a conflict of interest for an agent to offer paid services–the more money she can make this way, the less motivated she will be to sell your book.
  8. Frequent referrals to a freelance editor or editorial service. A kickback scheme may be involved, in which the agent receives a percentage of what you pay the editor.
  9. Offering or requiring the agent’s own paid editing services. This is a conflict of interest: if the agent can profit from the recommendation to edit, how can you trust that the recommendation is in your best interest?
  10. Offering pay-to-publish contracts. Good agents only deal with publishers that pay you. Again, kickbacks may be involved–or the agent himself may own the publisher (sometimes under another name, to disguise the connection).