Thursday, April 28, 2011

Query Tips 6

1. Before you mail a manuscript, rub it with butter to make the pages turn more easily. 

2. Everyone loves to root for an underdog. You should try to seem downtrodden when you communicate with agents. 

3. When you send your manuscript, be sure to explain that the stains on it are your tears.

4.  To interest the largest subset of agents, describe your book as a cross among at least four genres.

5.  The truest story is one that springs from your own experience. Write a book about cats and loneliness.

6. Agents love an author with an online platform. Tell them about how you are Facebook friends with people from your high school.

7.  If you spend a few thousand dollars on a professionally-designed author website, you can send agents the link instead of a query letter.

8.  If you don't like writing queries, some agents will accept nude photographs instead of the conventional pitch letter.

9.  Adjectives like "voluptuous," "pouty" and "moist" can get agents really excited about your query.

10.  If you want more manuscript requests, you should write a better query. If you want an agent, you should write a better novel.

11.  To sell a novel, you need a high-concept hook or excellent writing. So I hope you can come up with a high-concept hook.

12. If your book includes a sex scene, when people read it, they'll flip to your author photo and imagine you having sex.

13.  A query is marketing copy, and you're advertising yourself. Talk about your strongest qualities. Like your gym-sculpted thighs.

14. Shortcut to a great pitch-letter: take your "about me" essay from your profile, and replace "casual sex" with "literary representation."

15. No time to write? Disconnect your Internet, turn off the TV, ask your husband for a separation and drown your kid in a bathtub!

16.  Why is everyone rejecting you when your writing is so amazing? There must be some arcane query rule you don't know about.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Query Tips 5: Conference Etiquitte

1. When people ask you where you get your story ideas, tell the truth: you think most of them up while you're sitting on the toilet.

2. Tell agents how many rejections you've gotten. Challenge them to be see the potential their idiot colleagues missed.

3. Agents reading your query want to know who you are. Tell them about your failed marriage and your struggle with mental illness.

4. Demonstrate social-network prowess by posting your query on a Facebook fan page about yourself. E-mail agents a link to it.

5. Never assume readers are stupid, even though readers are stupid.

6. If you soak your query in blood and bury it by a crossroads at midnight, the devil will send you a form rejection in 4 to 6 weeks.

7.  The only way you can fail is if you stop trying. Or if you are a bad writer and your book is shitty.

8.  When you pitch at a conference, bring a jar of your own urine. Hand it to the agent and tell her it's proof you're drug free.

9. When you pitch at a conference, be sure to bring dental floss. Use it during the pitch. It shows you are conscientious.

10. You can foster an intimate, conversational tone during your conference pitch by lighting a joint and offering the agent a hit.

11. Cutting lines of blow with a Platinum AmEx card during your pitch makes you look rich and glam. Always offer the agent a bump.

12.  Good grooming is necessary because first impressions are crucial. Before you go to a conference, wax off all your pubic hair.

13. The best method for approaching an agent is from behind, with a rag soaked in chloroform.

14.  When calling to schedule a meeting about your fiction novel, talk only to the agent; you're too important to deal with assistants.

15. Not getting an agent doesn't mean you are a failure. It just means your writing sucks.

16.  Sometimes an agent rejects a manuscript because the author is not quite ready. Other times, the author is not quite sane.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Query Tips 4: Just The Tips

1. Nothing inspires readers like a memoir by an author who struggled to overcome a serious illness. Maybe you should get a disease.

2. Buttering the agent up with a little bit of praise can't hurt your chances. Tell her she has a sensuous mouth and beautiful kids.

3. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have an agent? Then be sure to start your query with a rhetorical question

4. Sick of waiting weeks for responses? Send your query as a mass e-mail blast to fifty agents, so they know there's competition.

5. A query should be no more than 300 words, and at least 180 of them should be adjectives.

6. Self-publishing is a great way to become obscure.

7. Hand-write your queries to give them a personal touch. To really impress agents, send handwritten full manuscripts. Unsolicited.

8. Try to write a novel that has a built-in audience, such as a sequel to another author's popular series.

9. Send your query to "Dear Agent" or "Dear Sir/Madam" to avoid the embarrassment of accidentally misspelling someone's name.

10. When pitching at a conference, remember that a professional handshake should last at least 45 seconds. Hang on to that agent!

11.  Everyone drinks at conferences. If you're sober, you'll look like a narc. Pound three J├Ąger shots twenty minutes before your pitch.

12.  It is easier to publish if you write in a hot genre. Most agents are looking for Amish technothrillers and YA erotica right now.

13.  Idioms and folk-sayings form a bond of familiarity between your characters and readers. They're as useful as can be! 

14.  Once you have an agent, call her twice a day, just to check in.

15.  Don't compromise your artistic vision just because some PC liberals say your book is "racist." You're just telling it like it is!

16.  Friend your favorite author on Facebook. Once you are friends, he'll be delighted when you show up at his house to hang out.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Query Tips 3: The Revenge

1. If you get a lot of rejections, it's probably because you didn't spend enough time networking on Facebook

2. If you write fantasy, be sure to use lots of made-up words and names in your query. Agents love that.

3. Publishers are interested in any well-told story, as long as it's about a teenage girl who has to choose between two hot boys.

4. People want to read about realistic, identifiable characters, such as sexually non-threatening teenage boys with six-pack abs.

5. Write realistic dialog. For example, when a man tells his male friends about a woman he's met, he should describe her eyes a lot.

6. When writing for the Young Adult audience, authenticity is important. You must know what is cool. Drugs and premarital sex are never cool. 

7. Your protagonist must always be likable.  This means she should avoid conflict at all times.

8. Don't be naive about how the publishing business works. Always send headshots with your query. Follow-up with sexts. Let them know you're willing to do ANYTHING to make your dream come true.

9. Publishing a book isn't a way to get famous. Getting famous is a way to publish a book.

10. Every kind of monster is sexy now. When you think of werewolves, think "doggystyle." When you think of zombies, think "priapism."

11. You can still get rich writing monster mashups. "Ethan Frome The Black Lagoon," and "A Tale Of Two Cities Destroyed By Godzilla."

12. If you have trouble getting a literary agent on the phone, remember most people can be reached at home between one and five a.m.

13. Send your fan-fiction to the producers of the TV shows you write about. Then sue them all for stealing your ideas

14. Talent isn't what sells books. But you already know that, or you wouldn't be doing this.

15. Nobody has written a paranormal romance about sexy dragons yet. Consider the possibilities of a prehensile, reptilian tongue.

16. Look up agents' previous sales before you query, so you can tell them how your book is better than all the shit they represent

Thursday, April 14, 2011

More Query Tips for Aspiring Authors

1. Everybody who gets published knows somebody on the inside. So be sure, in your query, to lie about knowing someone famous.

2. Before you pour a lot of time into writing a book, call some editors on the phone to ask if they think your idea is a bestseller.

3. Just because you're too busy to write a book doesn't mean you can't be an author. Hire an unpaid intern to write one for you.

4. Successful authors always write what they know. That's why most books are about alcoholism and depression.

5. Publishers like authors to be kind of ethnic, but not too ethnic. Try to work that angle, if you can.

6. Only submit to literary magazines with names that evoke wide-open, sun-dappled places where nobody wants to live.

7. You drink because you're lonely and life disappoints you. You write for the same reasons, and also because you're a narcissist.

8. No matter what your book is about, describe it as "dystopian" and "steampunk" in your query.

9. Your query should include at least three references to "social media."

10. Tell agents that your main love-interest would be a great movie role for Robert Pattinson. That's a big selling point.

11. The bestselling "Dexter" features a serial killer who only kills other serial killers. But what if there was series about a serial killer who only kills children? Edgy!

12. Why has there never been a book about a girl who has to choose between the affections of a straight-laced hunk and some kind of bad-boy?

13. There's no such thing as oversharing on the Internet. Tweet about your relationships, what you are having for lunch and, especially, all your form rejections.

14. Manuscripts should be interesting to look at. Use fun fonts like Comic Sans and italicize as much as possible.

15. Show you believe in your manuscript by assuring agents that it is a guaranteed bestseller which they'd be stupid to reject.

16. Agents love getting unsolicited full manuscripts. It saves them the trouble of requesting. Ship your unsolicited manuscripts by FedEx overnight, to show you are serious.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Who Wants To Be A Kindle Millionaire?

Self-publishing for e-readers has been very lucrative for a small a small group of authors in the last few months. However, for the vast majority of authors trying to sell books, self-publishing won't bring much exposure and it won't earn them much money.

The case-studies for self-publishing success are  J.A. Konrath and Amanda Hocking.  These two authors have been very good at self-promotion and their books are better than virtually all their self-published competition.  These authors distinguish themselves from commercially-published authors on the basis of price; their books cost $3 or less.

Amazon pays a 70% royalty to authors who self-publish on Kindle and sell their books for between $2.99 and $9.99.  By contrast, a hardcover royalty is usually 10-15% of the cover price and a mass-market royalty is usually 6-8% of the cover price.  That means a royalty on a $3 e-book is close to the same as an author earns selling a $15 hardcover (which has a $25 cover price).

$2.99 was a great opportunity when very few people were selling books in that price range.  This high royalty made it very easy for self-published authors to undercut the price of commercially-published books, because these authors were able to keep a much larger percentage of their readers' money.  This arrangement was also very beneficial for Amazon and BN because it attracted a huge cadre of value-conscious consumers to e-reader platforms.  However, Amanda Hocking's success story is now common knowledge, and everyone with an unpublished novel believes they can replicate that success.

These authors don't have the imprimatur of New York publishers.  They don't have authoritative praise from critics or famous authors.  They don't even have professionally-designed book covers.  So they use price to compete.

That means it's very hard for an unknown self-published author to price a book at $2.99 right now; most other self-published books that are ranked high in Kindle sales are priced at $0.99.  But if you sell a book at $0.99, you get only a 30% royalty, or 33 cents per copy.  It's very difficult to earn a substantial amount of money at that price, with that royalty, and the 70% royalty is no longer the game changer it seemed to be six months ago because most authors can't earn it.

E-book growth has been huge in the past few years, but we shouldn't overstate its market-share.  For a published author, bookstores are still roughly 70% of the market, and e-books are only about half of online sales.

That means that, while a $.99 cent self-published John Locke title may be selling as many e-books as the new Michael Connelly, the Connelly book is selling the same number in hardcover as it is in e-books on Amazon.  And brick and mortar bookstores represent nearly triple the total online sales.

Meanwhile, the attractive 70% royalty rate doesn't benefit Locke, because that rate only applies to books priced between $2.99 and $9.99.  An author of a bestselling hardcover like Connelly makes ten times Locke's per-copy royalty, and sells five times as many copies.

Locke claims he sells an e-book every ten seconds.  If that's true, he'll sell about three million copies in a year and he'll earn a million dollars.  That's ten times as many copies as a commercially published author has to sell to make the same money.

Self-publishing on Kindle, for most authors of fiction, is likely to become a stepping-stone to real publication rather than a viable business in its own right. The model going forward will most likely force authors to price at $0.99, in hopes of garnering significant sales that will attract an agent and publishers, and then a real book deal.
Nearly everyone who can publish with a commercial publisher goes that route, especially in fiction.  And there are good reasons why this is the case.