Posts Tagged ‘publishing’

The Publishing Process

(as previously noted, I’ve written about this before, so it may seem familiar to some readers)…

First of all, there’s no one path. Successful publishing takes a village. If you have the time, energy and personality for it, you may want to be that village (or hire it). If so, you may choose self-publishing. If you want someone else to do the work of a publisher while you focus on writing, you’ll pursue traditional publishing, which is what I’m going to talk about here, because that’s been my path, both as an agent and as an author.

It all starts with sending out queries, and probably to agents, since most major houses and many mid-sized houses won’t accept unsolicited submissions, which means that manuscripts must be submitted via agents.

You’ve spent all the time honing and perfecting your novel. Don’t do any less for your query letter. It’s not an e-mail to a friend, it’s a professional, business letter, like the cover letter for a resume.

The query letter should be one page, just like any cover letter, and about four paragraphs long:

Opening: For example, I’ve written an epic fantasy novel of approximately 100,000 words entitled XXX.

Summary of the work: Think back cover copy.  This would be a teaser that hits the high points of the plot and the main characters.  Remember that this should intrigue us, so you don’t want to boil it down to the point that it sounds generic.  Let us know how it’s original—not by telling us that its original, but by bringing those unique elements to the fore.

Bio: Tell us a bit about yourself.  Do you have previous publications and/or award nominations? Did you major in or work in a field relevant to your work in any way?  If not, is there something intriguing in your background that might pique our interest?

Close: I look forward to hearing from you.  Many thanks in advance for your time.  (Or something to this effect.)

Note: If you’ve enjoyed the work of any of their authors or benefitted from any interviews or articles they’ve done, you might want to mention this as well—not because they’ll be swayed by flattery, but because they’ll know you’ve really done your research.  If you’ve met an agent or editor and he or she has invited you to submit, this is definitely something you’d want to mention right up front.  Also in that case, you’d write “Requested Material” in the subject line of your submission.

While you’re honing –

#1) Do your research. Here are some great places to go when compiling a list of appropriate agents to query:

The Association of Authors’ Representatives

SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) Author Beware site

Preditors and Editors

If you’re a member of a writers organization like SFWA, MWA, HWA or RWA chances are they have a list of publishers and agents they’ve vetted within their fields.

You might also look in the acknowledgements of authors to whom you would compare yourself.

#2) Continue your research by checking out the publisher or agency’s submission guidelines and then FOLLOW THEM. This is very important. It says that you do your research, you’re willing to put in the work and you’ll behave professionally. Also, it keeps your submission from being caught in someone’s Junk folder and never viewed.

#3) Persevere.  Don’t give up, don’t get discouraged and don’t put all your eggs in one basket.  Get this submission out, then get your mind off it by starting work on something else.  It’s a rare author who sells right out of the gate.

What happens on our end?

Usually the first person to read your work is an intern, an assistant or a submissions coordinator, who will pass the work on to the appropriate person if they think it shows merit. Remember that the business is subjective, so a “no” is really a “not for us” not a “not worthy”. Most often you’ll receive form rejections, since we don’t have time to respond to every submission personally. If we did, we’d never have time to do anything else! So, you may not know exactly why your work was turned down. Here are some frequent reasons for rejection:

  • The material doesn’t fit in with what we represent.
  • The material really isn’t ready yet. Either it’s several drafts away or the person hasn’t yet mastered their craft.
  • It’s got the craft but it’s not firing an agent or editor to champion it (the craft but not the spark).
  • The idea is too a) off-the-wall, b) un-categorizable, c) like something we already represent, or d) commonplace.

-Something about the query leads us to believe that the author will be difficult to work with.  This can manifest in overwhelming ego, negativism, virtriol, condescension or any number of other red flags.

If you do receive a personal rejection, take this as a sign that you’re on the right track. If the comments are especially complimentary and the critique resonates, it’s acceptable to recontact the agent once rewrites are done to find out if he or she would like to reconsider. Unless a project has been pretty significantly revised, however, it’s not advisable to query the same agent with the same work. Although some guidelines will say otherwise (thus it’s always important to check), it’s also not generally acceptable to query multiple agents within the same company. Ditto for editors, although most publishers insist that queries come through an agent, so there’s a good chance that you won’t be submitting directly to editors (at least at major houses).

So, we’ve talked about rejections, but what about acceptance? If the agent likes what he or she has read so far, s/he will request more material, either a partial or full manuscript. Now is your time to shine! It’s fine, perhaps even advisable, to look it over once again, but don’t let too much time pass before sending it out. Now comes the waiting game – the agent’s letter or the guidelines on their website should say how long they take to respond. Feel free to follow up on your submission if that time passes, but always be professional in your correspondence.

And now, the moment you’ve been waiting for – acceptance!

Once an agent offers representation, there are all kinds of questions you can ask to find out if you’ll be a good fit, everything from where they see your work fitting into the market to what revisions they’d suggest.

If you’ve got your work out with others, you can feel free to ask the agent to hold that thought and give the others a chance to read and respond (something like a week), unless, of course, you already know that this first agent is the agent of your dreams, in which case you’d be putting the others through a rush read for nothing. If an editor makes you an offer while your work is on submission to agents, you tell him or her to hold that thought, that you’re talking to a few agents.

Then give those agents a call before you agree to anything. You should be sure the representative you pick is enthusiastic about your work and not just the fact that you come with an offer on the table, but you really don’t want to go about negotiating your first contract on your own.  Among other things, like getting you more advantageous terms, an agent will also help you avoid certain pitfalls, like strict non-compete and broad option clauses.

So, what exactly does an agent do?

  • Know the market. We keep on top of who’s selling what to who, what editors’ tastes are, who’s responsive and who’s not, what the strengths and weaknesses are of the various publishing houses.
  • Keep on top of submissions and responses and keep you in the loop.
  • Negotiate terms: beyond the financial, what territories and what rights are being granted or reserved, like film and television, merchandising, audio, translation… We also go beyond the big picture to haggle out nitty-gritty contract language that could make a big difference down the line.
  • Exploit the reserved rights with the help of film/television and other agents around the world.
  • Advise you on marketing and social media and help you liaise with publicity/marketing people at your publisher.
  • Chase contracts and payments, check over royalty statements, and argue when something doesn’t look right.
  • Play bad cop in general. We deal with conflicts so that you can work smoothly and editorially with your editor.

So remember that village I told you it takes to publish a successful book?

I’ve told you what an agent does. Here are just a few people at a publishing house who will have a hand in your publishing process.

Editor: Editors are indispensable.  They make you look good, catch things that you can’t see, call you on things you’re hoping no one will notice and make suggestions for improvement.  They’re also your point people for dealing with the rest of the company and most of the others on this list, though you will have some direct contact, especially with publicity and a few other peeps.  At some houses, you might have more than one editor.  A different person might do the line edit or continuity edit. Good editors help you achieve your vision rather than impose their own.

Contracts Department: After the editor makes an offer and the author and agent accept, the deal memo is off to the contracts department to draw up the agreement between all parties.  It’s now down to the agent and contracts department to iron out any additional bumps in the road and come up with a mutually acceptable document to be signed and abided by.

Copy Editor: Copyeditors are your last line of defense against typos, misplaced commas, run-on and nonsensical sentences, etc.

Copywriter: You know the teaser copy on the back of paperbacks and inside the cover flap of hardcovers?  You know who writes it?  Well, in some cases it’s the author or editor, but more often, it’s a copywriter.  It’s a special skill.  If you’ve ever tried to sum up your own work in a paragraph or two, you’ll appreciate exactly what I mean.

Art director: The art director hires artists and works with cover designers to  develop the look of your book.

Artist: Artists are commissioned by publishers to create an original piece for a book cover, though often these days, covers are developed from stock photography manipulated for your enjoyment.

Production Department: Estimates the cost of printing and deals directly with the printers and the nitty-gritty details of actually getting books produced.

Publicity: The publicity department at the publisher sends your work out for reviews, does press releases, sets up tours, pitches you for interviews, and various other things that go into publicizing your work.

Marketing: The marketing department arranges and designs ads and other promotion, which comes out of their budget.

Subrights Department: The subsidiary rights department submits work and negotiates deals for any rights external to print publication rights that are granted to the publisher and not exploited in-house.  For example, publishers often hold onto book club rights, and any arrangement for book club publication will be made via the subrights department.

Sales: Sales is in charge of marketing the books to retailers and the ID markets.

Bookstore reps: Individuals who liaise with booksellers within their territories.

So what’s your job as an author?

  • Keep your agent & editor apprised of anything that might be relevant to submissions: new short-fiction sales, contest wins, networking that you’ve done (particularly with editors who’ve expressed interest in your work).
  • Promote your work and be available for promotions, keep your website and other social media up-to-date.
  • Stay professional and don’t argue back with reviewers, bloggers, etc.
  • Write the best damn books you can and hit those deadline!

Without you, we wouldn’t have any business at all.

Conflict

The shape of your conflict will vary depending on your genre, but all novels need both internal and external conflict.

Internal: I’ve already talked a bit about this (see Part I). What makes things personal for your protagonist? Whatever drives the character and invests him or her in the outcome will invest the reader as well. Maybe there’s a killer after your hero or heroine. Maybe the killer is after someone they love. Maybe they’ve been accused of a crime they didn’t commit. Maybe there’s a new drug on the market and they know what addiction is like, because it’s struck them close to home. Whatever it is, something has to make the hero or heroine cares very deeply about events so that when we experience the story through their lens, we care as well.

External conflict: What is the broader conflict? What’s at stake? Every chapter/scene should have conflict of some kind. No chapter or scene should simply be informative or something that moves the characters from one place to another. Take every chance you can to up the tension, but remember there also need to be quiet moments for the readers and characters to catch a breath.

So, what internal and external conflicts are driving your plot? What’s keeping those pages turning? Where’s your sense of urgency?

Whether you’re writing a romance and the primary tension is whether the hero and heroine will get together or a science fiction epic about the overthrow of an evil empire, a good novel needs three things. The reader must:

  1. fear that the protagonists might fail
  2. understand the very real danger of that failure
  3. care deeply about the outcome

In order for the reader to do any of these things, of course, the author must plot out:

  1. what’s at stake
  2. what form their adversity will take
  3. what face evil will wear

There’s rarely a one-word answer for what’s at stake, since there will need to be tension throughout the book, and a single note will start falling on deaf ears. Let’s take a pretty straightforward plot for example—a hostage story. The main goal will be to get the hostages out alive. The consequences of that failure are obvious, and if the author makes the readers care about the characters, they’re emotional invested in the outcome. However, things need to happen during the story to make us believe in this danger—not just “If not this, then that,” as in “If we don’t get the money, we start killing.” Obstacles need to be thrown in the way of the this which threaten to precipitate the that. For example, legalities will prohibit actually giving the hostage-takers what they want. So people will try to go about things another way. They’ll call a negotiator. Maybe that negotiator is having a bad day, and personal issues threaten the negotiation. Maybe he or she doesn’t make it to the scene or the baddies refuse to communicate or they’re all really just playing for time. Maybe the negotiation is going well, but one of the hostage takers is less stable than the others. Or maybe one of the hostages is a hotshot and wants to play hero (or maybe =is= the hero). The important thing is that things go wrong.

If everything goes well, according to plan, there’s not much tension, there’s no suspense and the ending is a foregone conclusion.   And what about the victims? Is one in need of medication? In danger of doing something stupid that might get the others killed? In league with the baddies? Any of these wrinkles will add character to the face of adversity. You don’t want to end up with a featureless, forgettable face, but one with character, stamped with tragedy and triumphs.

Because you must also have triumphs. Just as things have to go wrong, sometimes things have to go right. A piece of the puzzle falls into place or a battle is won on the way to winning the war. Things have to go more and more wrong, tensions have to rise, but not so continuously that there’s no relief. Just as we have to believe that the good guys could fail, we need to have hope that they will win. They must have the means to fight back, otherwise the inequality of power will make any end triumph unconvincing.

Okay, so you’ve got your characters and conflicts and you’ve written the most amazing novel. Now you’re ready for the publishing process, which I’ll post tomorrow as Part III.

2017-06-15 WW Lucienne Diver Last night I gave a talk at the Hart Memorial Central Library in Kissimmee, FL on Characters, Conflict and Publishing, which put a smile on my face, because my fifth grade teacher, Mr. Hart, was the one I credit with sparking my love of writing and with teaching me about butt in chair and other lessons I apply to this day. The attendees were a lovely bunch of people with great questions. As always, the ad-libbing and elaboration that comes from an in-person talk goes missing from the formal, on-paper speech, but since I promised, I’ll be recreating it here on the blog in parts. (Note: if you’ve followed along on my other posts and articles, some of what’s said here will already be familiar to you.)

Part I

For some, novels begin with a concept. For others with a character or characters talking in their heads. Either way, the best thing an author can be is as contrary as possible.

If your concept starts with a conflict, think “Who would be most thrown for a loop in a situation like this? Who would be most discombobulated and out of their element?”

If it starts with a character, think “What would really challenge this person? What’s his/her own personal version of hell?”

Then, I kid you not, put them through it. Characters and conflict are at the heart of every story, inextricably intertwined.

Characters

Let’s begin with characters. Who is your protagonist? What is his or her background? What does he care about and what’s at stake for him or her in the story? This is always ALL important. There must be stakes — something the character wants or needs but that obstacles may prevent or something the protagonist desperately fears that might come to pass if events aren’t thwarted. In the best of all possible worlds, both of these things are true. We’re all bundles of hopes and fears. Your characters should be no less. The difference is that for us, hopefully, there is no opposing force (a villain or a killer, say) battling against us.

When creating characters, be unique and be creative. Do not create stereotypes, but living and breathing characters. How do you do this? Here are a few things to think about:

Background: characters should be products of their cultural and personal experiences. There should be elements of both nature and nurture. For example, in fantasy werewolves (or vampires or even humans) will likely have certain behaviors in common because of their biology and biochemistry. People need to eat and drink, sleep, etc. Werewolves might have a need to change, particularly at certain times, or for red meat. Vampires aren’t really vampires without the need for blood (or energy in the case of pranic vampires). How your particular character deals with these urges and with others inside or outside their group will largely be informed by their personal, familial and societal history.

Uniqueness: while your main character or characters should be identifiable and sympathetic to the reader and may fit an archetype (hero, villain, caregiver, visionary) he or she should also be unique. Remember that even villains have a story. They may be doing the wrong things for the right reasons or responding to pains in their past or viewing everything through a lens of sociopathy, but in their minds they are likely doing what’s right or necessary. They probably don’t see themselves as evil. The same goes for your hero or heroine – most don’t see themselves that way. They’re not good or noble all the time. Think of Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games, who is heroic in standing up for her sister, but doesn’t set out to lead anything for the greater good, and when she takes on that role, realizes that it’s not black or white, but gray. People will die for believing in her and the symbolic role she plays.

Strength and Weaknesses: what are your protagonist’s strengths and weaknesses and how does the conflict challenge them to be better. Characters should not remain stagnant from the beginning of a book to the end, they should grow and change, the conflicts the wringer they must go through to achieve their final shape.

Relatable: No matter how unusual a main character you choose, the reader should find him or her relatable and sympathetic. You may lose some readers if you choose a main character with whom they have nothing in common or who they feel is too immoral. Give us something with which to identify.

I’ve started with character, because that’s how stories often start for me. With the Vamped series, I first had my fashionista character talking in my head, and I absolutely had to get her out. I thought to myself, “How can I torture this girl?” (Authors have to have a little of the sadist about them and then write it out in their fiction so that they can be perfectly lovely people in real life.) The answer was to make her a vampire – take away her reflection so that she’d have no way to fix her hair and make-up, take away her tanning options and make her dig her own way out of the grave, totally ruining her manicure. Have her discover that the parents buried her in that dress she literally wouldn’t be caught dead in. And then, give her a bigger, badder, even more fashionable foe to fight against.

Which brings us to conflict, which will be Part II.

David B. Coe won the William L. Crawford Memorial Award for best new fantasy author for his The LonTobyn Chronicles back in 1999. Since then he’s gone on to publish the Winds of the Forelands and Blood of the Southlands fantasy series with Tor Books, the Case Files of Justis Fearsson (SPELL BLIND, HIS FATHER’S EYES and SHADOW’S BLADE) with Baen Books and his Thieftaker historical fantasy series described as “Sam Adams meets the Dresden Files” under the pseudonym D.B. Jackson (also Tor). Kirkus Reviews calls his work “innovative and engaging” as well as “thoroughly engrossing”. His work has also been called “amazing” (Kat Richardson), “evocative and captivating” (AuthorLink) and “a tour de force” (Faith Hunter). I could, of course, go on and on.

David and I have worked together for lo these many years, and he’s recently come full circle with his very first novel, CHILDREN OF AMARID, just reissued and the sequels, THE OUTLANDERS and EAGLE-SAGE also in the works. Thus, I asked him, as a veteran of the industry, what he’s learned between then and now, and he’s here to share his insight!

__________

children-of-amerid I have recently edited and reissued my very first novel, Children of Amarid, the opening volume in my LonTobyn Chronicle. I call this reissue the Author’s Edit (like the Director’s Cut of a movie) because I took the opportunity to fix many of the first-novel flaws I saw in the book and have wanted to edit out since its publication. It’s not that the book as originally written was bad. Children of Amarid established me commercially and critically, and the series won me the Crawford Fantasy Award. But still, those rookie mistakes bugged me; fixing them has been great fun, not to mention satisfying. The Author’s Edits of the second and third books, The Outlanders and Eagle-Sage, will be released in October and December.

Children of Amarid was first published in 1997, which is a really, really long time ago. The person who wrote that book must be, you know, old. Not “Rime-of-the-Ancient-Mariner” old, but at least venerable. Perhaps even vintage. Certainly grizzled.

I’m not sure I was ever the Hot New Thing in Fantasy, but if I was, I’m definitely not anymore, and haven’t been for a while. On the other hand, at this point I’m a Survivor, someone who’s Been Around Forever and Seen It All. And I suppose that’s kind of cool.

The fact is, I have seen a lot. The publishing industry isn’t known for being particularly quick to change, and yet over the course of my career I’ve seen remarkable transformations touching on everything from stylistic norms of writing, to genre and subgenre categories, to the way books are sold and read.

I started writing Children of Amarid in 1993 and sold the novel to Tor Books in the spring of 1994, based on five chapters and an outline. (Because the book wasn’t finished, needed a good deal of editing, and then had to be slotted into Tor’s publication schedule, it took another three years for it to be published.) I bring up these dates because 1993 and 1994 were significant years in publishing in general and speculative fiction in particular.

But let me back up just a bit. When I first published my LonTobyn books, I did what every writer would do automatically today: I created a website. The thing is, when I did it websites were a big deal. I would tell people I was a writer and would get in response the 1990s version of “Meh.” But when I then added that I had my own website, people would be, like, “Oooohhhh! You have a website?!” As if I’d said, “I have a unicorn.” But already the world was changing. In 1994, as I was signing my contract with Tor and finishing my book, some guy out in Seattle was starting an online bookstore unlike any we’d seen before. The guy’s name was Jeff Bezos, and he called his store Amazon.

The LonTobyn Chronicle is alternate world epic fantasy, because back in 1993 when I started it, that’s what I loved to read and that’s what I assumed people meant when they talked about “fantasy.” But that same year a book came out that would change “fantasy” forever, and would influence profoundly the course of my writing career. Laurell K. Hamilton’s Guilty Pleasures, the first of her Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter novels, ushered in a new trend in speculative fiction, introducing readers to what we now think of as urban fantasy. Hamilton’s books combined horror, noir detective stories, and romance in a way that made possible the novels of Kim Harrison, Jim Butcher, Faith Hunter, Patricia Briggs, and so many others, including my Thieftaker Chronicles, a historical urban fantasy series that I write as D.B. Jackson, and my Case Files of Justis Fearsson, a contemporary urban fantasy that I write under my own name.

What about those stylistic changes I mentioned? When I got into the business, editors and writers were just moving away from two things that authors used a ton in the 70s and 80s and use very little now: omniscient point of view and said bookisms. The former is a narrative voice in which the author gives readers access to the thoughts and emotions of several characters at a time, something we now refer to, and not kindly, as head-hopping. Said bookisms are those words we use in dialog attribution instead of “said” or “asked.” “He opined,” “she growled,” “he hissed,” “she inquired,” etc. Again, in today’s market, these are considered a sign of poor writing, of “telling” rather than “showing.” Looking through books published in the 80s and 90s, you’ll also find far more adverbs than you would in a book published today. Literary style, like car design and clothes fashion, changes over time.

In the early 2000s, bookstores decided that they wanted to fit more books on their shelves and keep book price points at a certain level, and so they told publishers that they preferred shorter novels. My first five novels — the three LonTobyn books and the first two volumes of my Winds of the Forelands series — each came in at over 200,000 words. Now my publisher wanted to know if I could cut the remaining two Forelands books in half. I couldn’t, but I was able to find a way to turn the two remaining novels in the series into three somewhat shorter books. My Blood of the Southlands books came in at 140,000 words. My Thieftaker and Fearsson novels are all between 100,000 and 110,000.

Of course, with the advent of ebooks, book length has become less of an issue. Big books are back in style — ask George R.R. Martin, or Patrick Rothfuss, or any number of others who are writing novels to rival the length of the epic fantasies I remember reading in my twenties. In many respects, digital books have brought on a publishing revolution that goes far beyond book length — widespread self-publishing, e-readers that can hold entire libraries and fit in a pocket, a resurgence in short fiction markets. And yet, in other ways, digital books have had less impact than one might have expected. According to some forecasts made a decade ago, paper books were supposed to be extinct by now. Just like vinyl records . . . Yeah, just like. Instead, they continue to make up more than half of all book sales in the United States. People, it turns out, like to read traditional books. Most readers are hybrids, using ebook readers for convenience, but maintaining a paper library for those books they truly love.

Charting the changes that have overtaken the publishing world in the past twenty years could fill a book of its own — a big one. And this post is already long enough. But I would leave you with a couple of thoughts. Despite the evolution of — and revolution in — publishing that we hear so much about, notwithstanding predictions of doom and gloom for the written word, several essential truths persist: Good stories continue to sell; compelling, well-conceived characters continue to drive every good story; and previously unpublished writers continue to fascinate us with new, exciting characters.

Books can take us everywhere, and with ereaders, we can do the same with them. But the written word isn’t going anywhere. It’s here to stay.

*****
 GIVEAWAY!

David is giving away a $25 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card (winner’s choice), or one of two copies of CHILDREN OF THE AMARID. Open to US residents only. Click here for the Rafflecopter giveaway!

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I really love this new How I Met My Client/Agent series on the blog and hope you do too! One of my favorite things about it is that it illustrates the many paths to finding representation.

I first met Carol Berg at a pitch appointment at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference in 1999. Now, I’m going to tell you a secret—I met a lot of people at that conference. As I remember, they worked their guests pretty hard, with hours upon hours of back to back appointments day after day, so that by the time it was over I’d have been lucky to put any face to any name or pitch. However, I very cleverly asked Carol to send me her material. Full disclosure—as long as a pitch is in a genre I represent and doesn’t sound too off the wall or done to death or glaring with logic gaps, I will ask to see a portion, because some people are amazing writers and poor pitchers or vice versa. It’s the material that truly tells you what you need to know.

song of the beast And Carol’s material was incredible! As you might guess, I was swamped with submissions after the conference and also in general, because this was back when I was the first reader for everything at the office, not just my own submissions. So, I read always and everywhere. In bed, in the bathtub, on trains, planes and…well, not in automobiles. I get car sick when I read in the car. Except…well, my husband and I had to take a road trip and he was driving and I had so much to read that I thought maybe I could knock out a few submission reads on the way. I got to exactly one. Carol Berg had sent me synopses for four books and sample chapters for two of them.

Those chapters absolutely blew me away. In fact, I was so impressed that I read pages out loud to my husband, interjecting with pithy commentary like “Wow” and “She’s incredible!” He agreed, of course, because he is a man of perspicacity and taste. So, I read and read until I was stopped by the state of my stomach. It was worth every second.

As soon as I was back in the office, I requested fulls and was thrilled when they lived up to the promise of the partials I’d already seen.

As Carol says in her piece (up next), it wasn’t long before we had offers and a deal. Not too long thereafter, we had covers and release dates and amazing reviews pouring in.   I’m so thrilled the world has gotten to see what Pete and I knew right off the bat—that Carol Berg is a force for fantasy. We’ve been together now through her Rai-Kirah series (TRANSFORMATION, REVELATION, RESTORATION), her stand-along SONG OF THE BEAST (winner of the Colorado Book Award for Science Fiction/Fantasy), her Bridge of D’Arnath series (SON OF AVONAR, GUARDIANS OF THE KEEP, THE SOUL WEAVER and DAUGHTER OF ANCIENTS), the Lighthouse Duet (FLESH AND SPIRIT and BREATH AND BONE, Mythopoeic Award winners), the Collegica Magica series (THE SPIRIT LENS, THE SOUL MIRROR and THE DAEMON PRISM) and, most recently, the Sanctuary duology (DUST AND LIGHT and ASH AND SILVER).

She’s written some of the most memorable characters in fantasy (the tortured Seyonne from the Rai-Kirah series arguably my favorite, but there’s some very stiff competition here!). I’m so thrilled that every time a new Carol Berg novel comes in, I get to read it first!

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How I Met My Agent by Carol Berg

I was a latecomer to professional fiction writing—a software engineer with three mostly grown sons, an exceptional spouse who bleeds hardware, and an omnivorous reading habit. But a friend had seduced me into writing letters “in character” to feed her own writing hobby, and I fell in love with writing fantasy novels for fun. I call it the hobby that ate my life. In 1998, I started a new story which felt different from those that had come before. It was as if I got itit being a notion that I was sitting inside the head of my hero, knowing exactly what he was feeling and experiencing. Either I had stepped to another level of writing, or I was going slightly crazy – or maybe those are really something the same.

My friend and I decided to try out the Pikes Peak Writers Conference to see what we could learn about the publishing industry. And wow, did we get an earful. Besides craft workshops, we listened to actual agents and editors talk about what they were looking for and how the publishing process works. We also met our first Real Published Author, who sat and talked to us about her career, all the good, bad, and elsewise. This generous person was Christie Golden – who, as it happens, appeared in this very column not so long ago!

That conference also introduced me to the Friday afternoon Read-and-Critique session. The R&C, aka the “split your chest open in front of the whole world session,” is where eight or ten writers read the first few pages of their work for a pro and get a critique on the spot. I tried it, and truly thought I was going to bleed out before I’d ever read a word. But the reception was positive, so I came back a year later and tried it again. By this time, my breakthrough story had won the first novel contest at Pikes Peak, and I had started a new story to read for a fantasy/science fiction editor from Roc Books.

The editor hardly said anything. I didn’t think she liked it. But when my friend shoved me into a ten-minute pitch session with her, in which I babbled incoherently for eight minutes, the editor said she wanted to see that book when I was finished with it.

Amid stunned incoherence, my ever trusty friend and I retreated to our computer and started researching agents. And what did we find out? One of the guest agents at Pikes Peak that year was Lucienne Diver, who not only had a stellar reputation, but represented Christie Golden, who had been so kind and open the previous year! So I squeezed in an appointment with Lucienne, and immediately decided that this was the person I wanted to help me through this new adventure. Calm, professional, exuding smarts and common sense, she agreed to read some chapters of my completed book, the contest winner. A few weeks later she offered representation, and when I finished the book Roc had requested, I sent it straight to her. Six days later we had an offer, and was I ever delighted that I had Lucienne in my corner.

On that day, and many days since, I have appreciated her knowledge of the market and the industry, and her support for my writing. Despite my initial, let us call it incoherent exuberance, I was a grown-up, and she has never treated me otherwise, providing the necessary information and context for me to make my own decisions. I love that, and Lucienne!

___________

Other Installments of How I Met My Client/Agent:

Christie Golden

Amy Christine Parker

This is technically the third installment of How I Met My Client, since these posts were inspired by one of our Knight Agency newsletters where I talked about the story of meeting Lynn Flewelling for the first time and had her share the story from her perspective as well.  Not long ago, Christie Golden kicked off the theme here on my blog.  Today I’m very excited to talk about How I Met My Client Amy Christine Parker and to have her talk about how she met her agent (spoiler alert: me)!

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How I Met My Client Amy Christine Parker

I met Amy when I came out to talk with her writers group and subsequently when I attended a meeting of her critique group out here in Florida (where you may or may not know I work from a home office after spending 15 years in Manhattan). Her critique group shared work, and I was impressed with Amy’s writing, particularly her ability to make an impact with her sentences. She had a natural sense of when to use one word sentences or a one sentence paragraph, a natural way with flow and immediacy that really impressed me. But her first idea wasn’t one that I thought would fly.

As Amy mentions in her blog post below, we kept in touch. One day, as I remember it, I asked what she was working on currently. When she told me, I got goosebumps. The story she laid out was about a girl who’d grown up in a cult. The End Times were coming, according to their prophet, and Lyla can’t bring herself to do some of the things he says must be done, like killing others who would threaten their way of life. And as Lyla starts to discover pieces that don’t fit with what the prophet tells them is true, she has reason to fear for her own survival. If Lyla is wrong about the prophet, she might doom herself and everyone she loves, but if she’s right…

You see, chills. I asked her to send it to me when she finished, already dying to read it.

My e-mail archive doesn’t go back far enough for me to check and be sure, but I believe I began reading the complete on a Wednesday night and that by mid-day Thursday I e-mailed Amy asking whether she wanted to meet Friday for coffee to discuss. See, I was halfway through and already knew I had something special here. I strongly suspected that I would take this on, but I had to finish first, just in case things fell apart at the end. I was so enamored, though, that I knew that even if we hit that worst-case scenario, we could discuss revisions and brainstorm fixes and I’d ask for a revise and resubmit. Well, I’m happy to say that things did not fall apart and I absolutely fell in love with the novel. (Although I did, of course, have some thoughts on how to make it even stronger.)

We met for coffee that Friday and discussed the book, at the time called THE SILO, and by the time the ice was melting in our drinks (latte for me, black tea lemonade for Amy), I had a new client and Amy had an agent.

Next came the revision and the submissions and the waiting, which is always the worst part of the job. However, in this case my enthusiasm for the book was so contagious we received some really quick reads and almost instant interest. One auction later, we’d sold the book and a sequel to Random House Children’s Books, where they came to be called GATED and ASTRAY. Plus, Amy’s got a third suspenseful YA novel, SMASH & GRAB coming July 19th.

I’m so pleased at the way it’s all worked out!

And now, here’s our story from Amy’s perspective:

How I Met My Agent

By Amy Christine Parker

Have you ever met someone and just known that you were meant to meet them? I am a pretty pragmatic person, but the moment I was introduced to Lucienne that’s exactly how I felt. In my gut I knew she would play some part in my writer’s journey. I had no premonition that she would one day be my agent—that seemed like way too much to hope for at the time given where I was in terms of skill—but I did feel like our paths crossing was not accidental.

I was fairly new to writing and was attending a local writers group. All I knew about publishing I had literally Googled. Green doesn’t even begin to describe me! But, I had an overwhelming desire to write and to one day see my work on book shelves. Getting the chance to meet a real live agent—in Florida no less—was a dream come true!

Lucienne had been invited to my writers group by one of the other members. I was so nervous I could barely think straight, but Lucienne was warm and engaging. It was easy to feel comfortable around her. She read some of our work, made comments then shared some of her own writing. I was blown away by what she brought to read and by the advice she gave. That night I left feeling inspired to work harder than ever to hone my craft.

Afterwards, I began following Lucienne on social media and regularly read this blog, commenting when I enjoyed something she said or wrote. Because we live relatively close to each other, she visited my writers group several more times. Gradually, we became friends. What impressed me most was how passionate she is about agenting, her clients, and books. She loves what she does and it shows. The more I got to know her, the more I became convinced that I would be very, very fortunate to have her one day offer me representation.

When it came time to query my first novel, she was at the top of my list. That first novel wasn’t ready for publication and was rejected by every agent I queried including Lucienne, but she took the time to let me know that she thought I had potential. She even offered to look at my next novel when it was ready. Seven months later it was and I queried her first, exclusively. I knew I’d benefit from waiting to query anyone else until she weighed in. Luckily for me, she made an offer! I’ve never said yes to someone so fast in my entire life (not even my husband, but don’t tell him that).

We’ve worked together for about four years now and she’s closed deals for the book she offered on and three more since. I couldn’t be happier. I am keenly aware of how blessed I am to have met her the way I did. Most writers never have the opportunity to get to know their prospective agents so thoroughly before they agree to representation. I am thankful to work with her and to be able to call her my friend.

Inspired by The Knight Agency’s April newsletter and the Agents of the Roundtable prompt, I decided to start a regular thing on my blog: “How I Met My Client”. Something like “How I Met Your Mother” only a lot briefer and, sadly, without the benefit of Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris). To that end, I wrote to Christie Golden, the first author I ever sold (nearly right away and to two different publishers in the same week or very nearly!) to do a post on how we met and promised that I’d do the same. Well, she finished hers first and, as she has the tendency to do, she just blew me away.  My piece will in no way live up, so I’ll keep it short and sweet. Or, at least, I think I will.  We’ll see how it goes.

I started working for Spectrum Literary Agency practically right out of college.  When I went for the interview, I happened to be reading (and loving) a book represented by the agency written by Ken Goddard, who runs the National Fish and Wildlife Forensic Lab out in Ashland, Oregon. There were people interviewing who had more work experience, but Eleanor Wood and I just clicked, and I was lucky enough that she gave me a shot.

Less than a year later, I was learning a ton and critiquing manuscripts and attending conventions and ready to take on my first clients.  Christie talks about how we met below—through the amazing Roger MacBride Allen, who I met in turn because he was a Spectrum client and because we were able to talk forensics and freak people out at SFWA Receptions—so I’ll mix things up by telling you how I came to love and represent her work.

Step one: She set it to me.  I know, crazy how that works. Christie followed up on our meeting and sent me one or two of her Ravenloft Books to read and I was hooked.  I believe the first one I read was VAMPIRE OF THE MISTS.  I absolutely fell in love with Jander Sunstar.  I mean, an elven vampire—do you get more conflicted or tortured or awesome than that?  I think not. Plus it had everything. The writing, the pacing, the tension…

instrument of fate She also sent me her original novel, INSTRUMENT OF FATE, which I fell for absolutely. A novel of Gillian Songespynner, a young bard on the run with a magical lute and a relentless enemy licking at her heels. There’s magic, romance, suspense…and again I was hooked.

st spirit walk Step two: Networking for the win. Not only did Christie and I network at that World Fantasy Convention, but I’d spent the year networking, meeting people in publishing—on the phone, in person, at the infamous Malibu lunches (the diner, not the beach), which I miss to this day.  One of the very first people I met was John Ordover, who was editing media tie-in books, particularly Star Trek, for Simon & Schuster. (Wait, I know John, and he’s going to give me a hard time if I leave out a superlative or six for him, so hmm…. Let’s say the gregarious, voluble, unique and, okay, okay, wonderful John Ordover.) He was looking for authors for the various Star Trek series.  Christie wrote awesome tie-ins.  It seemed a match made in heaven.  I was also, of course, sending out INSTRUMENT OF FATE to other fantastically amazing editors like Laura Anne Gilman, who was then at Ace/Berkley and who made us an offer for INSTRUMENT OF FATE and its sequel, KING’S MAN AND THIEF.  We were elated!  I’m pretty certain that it was that same week (or very closely thereafter) that we sold Christie’s first Star Trek novel to John at Simon & Schuster as well.

It was an incredible start.

Step three: Lather, rinse, repeat. Christie has an amazing talent for diving into other worlds, grabbing hold of the feel and the voice and the characters and building something wonderful out of them.  Plus, she’s fast, timely, personable and all good things.  Thus she’s been continuously under contract and under deadline ever since.  Christie has now written many more Star Trek novels as well as tie-ins for Star Wars, Warcraft, Starcraft, Assassin’s Creed and others.  She’s been on the New York Times bestseller list numerous times and won the Colorado Author’s League Award for Best Genre Novel of 1999 for A.D. 999 written under the pen name of Jadrien Bell, and again under her own name for IN STONE’S CLASP in 2005.

It’s been a wild ride, and it’s not over yet!  As Christie says below, ” Here’s to the next 23 years and 47 books!”

 

And now, the woman of the hour—Christie herself!

 

Lucienne and I first met as precocious childhood playmates. She agreed to represent me at the tender age of six, which is the only possible way to explain our incredibly youthful appearances.  That, or those portraits in our attics. Which you didn’t hear from me, no sir.

On an actual (and factual) note, we met at World Fantasy Con 1993, which was super awesome not just because it was “the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” but because WFC was held in New Orleans over Halloween.  She came highly recommended by science fiction author Roger MacBride Allen, who had kind of adopted me and was diligently steering me toward doing Smart Things with my career (like introducing me to Lucienne) and thus greatly reducing my learning curve. I had recently had my first highly disillusioning publishing experience (buy me a lemondrop martini and I’ll spill more details) followed by my first highly disillusioning agent near-experience, so I was a small, suspicious, feral kitten who grilled Lucienne about pretty much everything.  Which is funny, because I generally err on the side of being super-nice.

She took it in good stride, answering and asking questions, and I had a good feeling about her.  I sent her a copy of my first novel, Vampire of the Mists, and she “got” it at once. We were a good match when it came to my writing style, and we agreed to take each other on.

The rest, as they say, is history. She’s represented me on 47 of my 50 novels, and has gotten to greet me on the phone with insanely stupid and wonderful questions like “Do you like Star Trek?”and “How would you like to write for Star Wars?” Of course I want some Cheezy Poofs. She’s advised me when to walk away, encouraged my patience, and fought hard for my fees and my rights.

She’s also just an amazing person, and someone I’m proud to call a friend.  We’ve been “together” for 23 years, and I’ve never once felt the need to look elsewhere for representation. Here’s to the next 23 years and 47 books!

BTW, the Lemondrop Martini is the secret key to successful writing everyone is always hankering to know about.  It’s the preferred beverage of the Muse. I have it on excellent authority and, hey, you’re welcome.