Publishing 101: Acquisitions

I meant to get this out last Friday, but, alas, it didn’t happen. For those of you waiting with bated breath, here it is….(drum roll, please).

Adding on to my last post From Query to Shelf ,today I’m writing about acquisitions.

Once you’ve landed your rock-start agent, that agent will work with you to make your WIP into an amazing MS and then send your baby out into the world.

First off, in order for your MS to be bought, it must first be loved by multiple people. Not just you, your mother, your sister, your brother, and your agent, but others…namely the acquisitions editor. That’s the second hurdle. The first hurdle was landing your rock-star agent.

If the house already has a number of titles similar to yours, then no matter how awesome your MS is and no matter how much they love it, they still won’t buy it. Why? Because, they’re in the business to make money. They don’t want to compete against themselves. There is an exception to this rule, though. If you’re a heavy-hitter with a large platform (celebrity, successful author), then they’ll make an exception for you. This is why you want to make sure your work is fresh and new. Don’t follow the trend. Remember, the trend was bought 18-24 months ago. Make your own trend.

So what happens next after your agent sends your baby to different publishing houses and an editor falls in love with it?

The senior editor has to approve of the concept. Can you say, crap? Unless, of course, the publishing house is one like Bantam which, last I knew, didn’t have to go through that whole board meeting thing but an editor who liked your MS could buy it on the spot. But seeing as how most publishing houses aren’t like that, we’ll go back to the senior editor being sold on your MS’s concept.

If the senior editor says it’s a go, then there’s a board meeting where the editor who really wants the house to buy your MS has maybe two minutes to pitch your story. This is where the high concept, market placement, and word count come in. If you’re unsure of any of those things, go back to my previous post From Query to Shelf where I describe them.

During this meeting, the finance/marketing director will create a profit and loss statement. If you have a super agent who asks for a high advance, then more books will need to be sold to make up for the advance. A couple things the finance director will ask are whether or not the house already has books like this one, if the market placement is strong enough for your book, how high of an advance your agent is asking for, how much marketing is going to cost, etc. If the profit and loss statement shows a profit, then things are a go and your book is sold! If it shows a loss, then things are a no. Unfortunately this happens, a lot. I heard of one writer whose MS got to this point three times at three different houses, and each time it was a no. Sucks, doesn’t it? Again, this is why you need to make your own trend.

Next week (hopefully I’ll get the post done on time), sales conferences! This is what the houses attend to get your book in the stores.

Publishing 101: From Query To Shelf

At the Chicago Writer’s Conference, Liz Pelletier of Entangled Publishing put on a wonderful workshop about the publishing process from the publisher’s POV. Not only was it enlightening, but kinda scary too. It’s amazing that any publishers make money in the business considering how much it costs to publish books!

When Liz talked about the query, a lightbulb went off in my head. I’d been approaching the query completely wrong and was doing it in a way that a lot of people do. Most people who do write a successful query that lands the coveted agent or editor has figured out what I’m about to tell you.

The purpose of the query is not to tell the story. Strange, right? All this time, I thought that was the purpose–to let the prospective agent or editor know what my story was about, all the plot threads, etc. I agonized over how the hell I was supposed to cut down a 300-some-page book into 250 words.

Well, guess what guys and gals. You’re not supposed to use the query to tell the story. Instead, the query is supposed to be a marketing tool to sell the story.

Oh. My. God. My world righted and things came into focus. You’re supposed to sell the story, not tell the story! So it doesn’t matter that all 10 plotlines aren’t in the query! You only need one! Now, it might be hard to determine what the main plot is, especially if you’re writing a series. One thing you must do when writing a series is make the first book a standalone. You have the overall series arc, but the main plot must have an ending in that first book. If your publisher contracts series in two or more books, then you have more leeway, but as a rule, make the query about the main plot, not the series arc. I’ve found something that helps narrow down the plot is if you write a pitch that fits on the back of a business card–no more than 35 words. Or even better, write an elevator pitch between 15-20 words. This forces you to focus on the main plot, and then you can use that as an outline for your query.

Now for a high concept. What’s a high concept? I didn’t have a clue either. Basically, it’s one attention-grabbing sentence that states what the book is about, so a hook, logline, whatever you call it should go at the top. Now, I say should, not always. Some agents don’t really care about a hook or logline. Most agents have blogs or websites and they state what they want to see in a query.

The dreaded word count. This varies from publisher to publisher and genre to genre. I won’t go into specifics here because once you’re to the point of writing a query, you should’ve already researched your genre and expected word count, but make sure you include it in your query.

Salability. Is your book salable? Meaning, is it something fresh and new? One thing we have to consider is that by the time books come out, they were bought 2-3 years ago. What does that mean for us lowly writers? It means that after something fresh and new comes out, a ton of writers start writing about it to ride the wave, so soon after the fresh and new is out, it’s not fresh and new anymore. For example, the dystopian teenage drama is out. Paranormal romance is out. Magical realism is in. Urban fantasy is in. Vampires are out. Again, read agents blogs/websites to see what it is they’re looking for. Does this mean you shouldn’t write that great vampire novel or the paranormal romance of the century? No. Write it. Because even though it’s out right now doesn’t mean it’ll be out forever. One thing you can do is make the story you’re working on now that might be considered “out” and turn it “in.” How? Turn your paranormal romance into magical realism or urban fantasy. Give your dystopian teenage drama a magical bent. Make it “in.”

Finally, the author platform. That final paragraph where you talk about you. There are differing opinions about this. Some agents say to write something, anything about yourself. Others say only put it down if it’s relevant. This publisher said only put it down if it’s relevant, such as, if you’re already successfully published and have won awards or made the NYT Bestseller’s list or if your background is actually in the area you’re writing about or if you’re a major celebrity. Otherwise, if you’re a debut author with no publishing credits and you’re job only somewhat resembles writing (like mine, I’m a medical transcriptionist), then don’t include it. But again, it’s up to the individual agent/editor you’re querying. Do your research and find out what the agent/editor expects to see.

Okay, so we went over the query part of the process. Next week: Acquisitions! Now doesn’t that sound exciting?

Chicago Spring Fling

Whew!

I didn’t realize I’ve been away for so long! Tons has happened, but more recently I attended the Chicago Spring Fling Writer’s Conference. I think I’m finally catching up on my sleep!

More importantly, I met so many new people, connected with those I’d met the last time I went, and learned so much. I know there are debates on whether or not you should attend a writer’s conference. As long as you go to one that’s well run and well-organized, then go for it! You won’t be sorry!

Each Friday I’ll post something about the conference, whether it’s something I learned, someone I met, a writer I got to rub elbows with… This Friday I’ll post about the traditional publishing biz, from query to getting the book on the shelf.

Stay tuned for that post! I guarantee you won’t want to miss it!

Shorts Update… And No, I’m Not Using Any Body Parts

For those of you in the know, I’m working on a short story about a witch who doesn’t heed the Rule of Three and learns too late–never do a curse when extremely pissed.

I’ve never written a short before. Sure, I’ve done essays in school and college, but an actual short story? Nope.

For the past two weeks, I’ve had a lot of family stuff going on and haven’t really had a chance to get going with it. I’d thought it about it here and there but hadn’t planned anything out nor even wrote anything down. But tonight? I actually started planning and researching…then I got immersed in my research for a few hours. I was looking for a revenge curse and finally came to the realization I’m going to have to write my own.

That’s a little scary, ya know? Even though it’s a fiction story, I’ve decided not to use any chicken hearts or eye of newt or toe of frog or left big toe of a magician, just in case someone, somewhere, actually tries to use my curse. Gah.

On the other hand, it’s got to be real. Even though I write fiction, I want a sense of realism in my writing. Fun fact: I actually am a witch (found out last summer after weird shit started happening), so the curse will be an actual curse…not that I would ever curse someone (though I won’t say never), mainly because the Rule of Three scares the hell out of me. Apparently it doesn’t scare my character though, or she just doesn’t give a rat’s ass at the time, but in the end she regrets doing the curse to begin with.

Hmm…a rat’s ass…now there’s a thought. :)

Shorts, Anyone?

No, no. I’m not talking about the shorts you wear, but the shorts you read. Since my WIP is off with betas and I have some free time, I’m going to try my hand at writing a few short stories and submit to anthologies to see if they get accepted. If they do, great! If not, oh well. I’ll hold onto them for some other time.

What am I going to write about? One story will have to do with a young witch learning too late about the Rule of Three, another will be a nonsparkling vampire story, and maybe one more. I find I’m leaning more toward the horror side of writing though I’m not sure why because I don’t care to watch horror movies. Strange, I know.

I’ve never written a short story before, but I’ve heard they’re harder to write than novels. I’m hoping to get one done before the end of this month since the submission date is the last day of this month.

To help get me started, does anyone have advice on writing shorts?

Last Call for Beta Readers!

All right, guys.
I’ve got a few betas lined up but would like to get one or two more. My WIP is 379 pages and a little over 117,00 words, so not a fast read, unless you have loads of time and are a very fast reader.

My story is New Adult urban fantasy and includes supernatural creatures, some horror (violence/gore), a few fight scenes, a few sex scenes, some serious aspects, and a lot of fun.

I’m looking for people who can give constructive feedback, can see plot holes and inconsistencies, strengths/weaknesses, and what they like/don’t like.

I will need people who can commit to reading the entire WIP and giving feedback no later than Feb 1. Any beta readers will be acknowledged in the book. I am looking to go the traditional publishing route, so it could be a while before it’s actually published.

A short synopsis:
Not even death can break a blood promise.

Tora Hayden finds out her deceased great-grandmother of close to seventy years wasn’t human and now Tora is to take great-grandma’s place. During the extremely painful transformation of taking on great-grandma’s powers, it’s discovered great-grandma made a blood promise to a daimon. Unbeknownst to Tora, that debt has now been transferred to her.

Tora’s guardian from birth, Ryk, takes on the task of teaching Tora how to fight in the event the daimon comes looking for her.

Unfortunately for Tora, the daimon not only comes looking, but finds her.

Why Does It Look Like Blood Mixed With Barf?

I sent Thing 1 to the store for a few things–milk, hamburger, V8, crackers…so he bought some “flavored” milk. One was chocolate mint (yuck–grainy and too minty), and the other was red velvet milk (again, yuck).

Of course, Thing 3 wanted to try them. She agreed with me that the chocolate mint was gross, though Thing 1 disagreed. She then wanted to try the red velvet milk.

Have you ever seen red velvet milk? It’s thick like blood and the color of a sickly, muddy red. When I handed it to Thing 3, she looked in the cup and asked, “WHY DOES IT LOOK LIKE BLOOD MIXED WITH BARF?!” She then proceeded to drink it, and guess what?

She liked it!

I, however, am staying away from it.

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