Ask Daphne! Speed Round!

June 18th, 2009 • Kate

lighting_boltNot just a speed round, let’s call this a lightning round, shall we? (in honor of these cool shoes.) I asked for questions on Twitter, and here’s some of the gems I received. If you keep asking, I may keep answering, but let’s start with what we have, mmmkay?

@Brattyhack writes: “My question is about the biz itself. Why do book stores make 50% of the sale and agents and authors and pub’s so much less?” I’m not quite sure where that 50% figures comes from, actually. On a book which an author gets 10% of the price for every copy sold, the publisher actually gets 90%, covering costs of production, salaries, shipping, design, etc. So the bulk of the money on a book sale goes to the publisher, not a book store. Any bookstore owners able to answer more clearly than I?

@filamena asks: “How do you propose multi format books? (Novel with some comic elements, photography with short stories.)” By comic elements, I assume you mean graphic novel, yes? Not just that some parts of the plot are funny? I go with the easiest, most well-known way of describing a project, and let the unusual or unknown be the hook of my pitch. Now, novel with graphic elements isn’t all that unusual anymore, but for something like a collection of short stories with photographs, if short stories were doing well, I would try to pitch the quality of the writing, and let the photographs be an extra, almost.

@MsPinkSlip_Blog writes: “How should one approach the follow up process once a query is submitted to an agent?” First of all, make sure you know the agent’s usual timeframe for responses. On my site, for instance, I say that I’ll get back to query letters within two weeks. If you haven’t heard from me within that period, you can send a follow-up email — note: this is not THE SAME QUERY resent. This is an email just checking in to confirm I received the original. That being said, once you’ve submitted to an agent, I would think you might also be following their blog/twitter/etc. in which case you may hear they’re running behind, or suddenly caught up, as I posted earlier this week, and you can use that info as an opportunity to follow up. Key to a successful follow-up: be polite and provide all necessary information (your name, the book’s title, genre, and when you sent it — which you should have easily accessible, because OF COURSE you track all your submissions, rights?)

@kimchatel asks: “Do self publish credits or POD pub credits neg/positively affect a query to an agent?” For me, neither. Being self-published doesn’t tell me anything about your writing, even if you’ve sold thousands of copies. It may tell me you thought the traditional publishing route wasn’t for you (in which case, why are you querying me now?), but I look at self-published or POB queries with the same perspective as every other query.

@jjochwat writes: “Guy submits first 10 pp. Agent likes them, immediately asks for complete. Guy rereads mss, finds he could cut & improve. Now what?” Send what you have already. I’d rather you’d have waited to query in the first place until you’d done the rereading and the revising, but now that you’ve sent it out and someone wants to see more, you should send the rest, and let them make their decision. If they say no, then revise, and go out with a stronger manuscript elsewhere.

@sdficklin asks: “When querying a new project, should you mention if you already sold one to a small house w/o an agent?” Yes, absolutely! Any publishing credits are noteworthy, so long as they involve an actual paid acquisition and an editorial process.

@bethrevis and @driftsmoke ask about “unpublished writers and blogs? i.e. do’s/don’ts, mention in query?, what to post on, whether u check em out?” Speed round response: yes, you should have a blog/website. No, you should NOT be posting your entire manuscript, or writing about the details of your query process on said blog, and certainly not bad-mouthing or even excessively praising any of the specific agents you’re querying, because yes, we DO sometimes look at your sites, and do you want us to know we’re we fall on your wish list for an agent? Or (true story) that I requested a manuscript at the same time as another agent, and you decided to wait three months to respond to my request while waiting to hear from your more preferred choice? For answers from editors, check out my series of posts from last year here, here, and here. Use them to talk about yourself, particularly what you enjoy about writing and reading, and build a community around your site for the purpose of communication and camaraderie, not blatant marketing.

@anniekawaii asks: “My brother-in-law & fam are coming to visit us in Louisiana where the heat & humidity are oppressive. Are they crazy?” Yes, unless you live in New Orleans, which is an awesome vacation destination. And if you live somewhere else in Louisiana — are YOU crazy?

@LorelieBrown writes: “Just how many inches of snow did y’all get this year?” According to KKTV, recorded snowfall for the Colorado Springs area, about an hour south of me, was 17.9″, over 6 inches of which fell in March and April. Why? How much did YOU get?

@JulieWeathers writes: “Fashion and conferences. Tips on what not to wear.” Shoes you can walk in, and stand in for hours. (I’m allowed not to take my own advice — people expect certain things from my shoes!) Otherwise, business casual is usually the best way to go. Do not dress like a character from your unpublished novel.

@ktkm asks: “I am a Canuck but hoping to attract US agent. How do I deal with book rights when different for each countries?” If you’re looking for a US agent, I assume that’s because you want a US sale. If another sale is primarily your focus, you should seek out another agent. Most of the deals I do for US rights also include Canada — i.e., I do deals for North American English language rights. I also sell translation rights, as do most of my colleagues, in one way or another, so we would work with you on the rights in all countries. Very few authors have different agents for different territories, although as we use subagents, sometimes it may seem that they do, but in truth, all deals go through a central agent.

@bythebrooks writes: “How does a writer actually *find* an agent?” Step one through twenty: write a brilliant book and revise it until it’s even better. Step The Next: research, research, research.

I may answer more later, either on Twitter or here, so keep checking back!

Hey look, more answers!

@mp3mad asks: “What is the perspective in which you look at queries?” Mostly, some variation of “Does this interest me?”. Actually, no, I suppose first it’s “Do I represent this?” which I have to ask to get rid of the folks who clog my inbox with cozy mysteries, political thrillers, and self-help books, etc. Then “Does this interest me?”, followed by “Is it well-written?”, with “Is this unique enough?” tagging along, bringing up the rear. But sometimes, sometimes, all it takes is one good line. As I said to a writer the other day in my request for her manuscript, “You had me at ‘Cheer Boot Camp.'”

@tommymccormack writes: “How about this: considering a career change to get into publishing biz. How the hell do I get a job, and where do I look first?” The phrase “rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic” comes to mind, but would never actually be uttered by an optimist such as myself. So, first question back to you — do you live in or around NYC? Would you consider a move there? If not, how about San Francisco, Denver, or Austin? Publishing exists elsewhere, but the opportunities are fewer. If you’re the schooling sort, there’s publishing programs like the University of Denver’s Publishing Institute, as well as Columbia University’s Publishing Course. You may be able to find others by searching online. If that’s not a route you wish to choose, then I suggest finding a way in through tangential means — book publishing may be your ultimate goal, but maybe you can get a job at a newspaper or magazine, or work on your editing skills polishing company reports for big business. It’s not an easy industry to break into, and the monetary rewards for doing so aren’t much, but I have to say, I love what I’m doing, and don’t know many in this industry who would disagree.

@jimnduncan asks: “When looking at a ms you love, how do handle the decision between thinking it could sell versus thinking it will sell?” It’s a hard line to draw, and honestly, I think I err on the side of thinking it could sell, and should sell — there’s very little guarantee that something WILL sell, especially in this economy. But (see the “optimist” comment above) when I have a manuscript that I love, that I want other people to read and fall in love with, too, I have to believe it will sell. Otherwise, I’m going to do a lot of work for nothing. Remember, I don’t get paid unless my authors get paid, so it really is a labor of love for me.

Ok, I think that’s it for me today. I’m heading off to Date Night with my sweetie, and a movie at the local art theatre. Until tomorrow!

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6 Responses to “Ask Daphne! Speed Round!”

  1. Kiersten White Says:

    Ha! to your exchange with @anniekawaii. My husband is a native San Diegan, but we met at school in Utah. He used to glare at the snow and grumble, "Why does anyone live here?!?"

  2. Lorelie Says:

    Hahaha! I was actually referring to your bragging on faboo Colorado weather. I didn't even think about you using it for this post. 😀

    Oh, and we had about 2 inches.

  3. Adri Says:

    Heeeeey. There are some areas of Louisiana besides New Orleans that are habitable; take it from a born-and-bred N'awlins boy.

    …okay, I'm lying, New Orleans is about it. Although the Acadian villages near Avery Island are absolutely charming as a tourist spot, and the bird sanctuary on the island itself is lovely. Just watch out for the alligators.

    On a more serious note on the question of queries and follow-ups, though: a few days back you'd posted to Twitter and said that you'd cleared your query pile and if we didn't receive a response to a query, to resend with a note that we were resending per your instructions. Based on your answer here, though, I should've sent a polite follow-up note instead. Er. Oops?

  4. Kate Says:

    Nope, Adri, that's a different thing. In that case, I *specifically* said to requery, because I had gone through all my queries and answered them all. What I suggested in terms of following up refers to when I'm behind on my reading, and haven't responded within the two week timeframe I give in my submission guidelines.

    In any case, you did the right thing!

  5. Linda Says:

    Regarding why bookstores get the money they get from book sales.

    Most indies get a discount of about 42-48% off the cover price of a trade book. Out of that, they pay the electric, the heating, the cleaning people, for bags and bookmarks and telephone lines, and they pay those employees we expect to be smart, courteous, and well-read enough to make recommendations for every kind of reader that might walk in the shop. (Reading which is done on their own time, I might add. Do I sound like a former indie bookclerk? You betcha'.)

    Consider this: Books are one of the very few consumer products for which the price is printed right on the packaging. No matter whether they are in a low-rent district or a high-rent one, whether times are tough or the economy is flying, booksellers are stuck charging the cover price or less for their products — unlike most gift and clothing stores, where the mark-up can be anywhere between 100-300%.

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