There’s a sunrise and a sunset every single day, and they’re absolutely free. Don’t miss so many of them.—Jo Walton
Happy New Year. Let’s make the best of it, shall we?
On the morning of Dec. 31st, there was quite a bit of hoarfrost. I grabbed my camera and went north of the river to take some photos.Continue reading “Hoarfrost around town”
It’s December 21st, so that means that, here in the northern hemisphere, every day from here on out will be a little longer than the one before. I for one am happy to get more and more daylight.
I came across this well-worn but still valid piece of writing advice on Twitter yesterday:
If you plan on subverting [expectations], you need to subvert with the goal of something BETTER.
And now today, on CBC’s Sunday Edition, they’re talking about Robert Munsch’s game-changing book The Paper Bag Princess, which came out in that long-ago era of 1980 and subverted all the expectations about what a fairy tale should be.
I remember discovering (or perhaps re-discovering) The Paper Bag Princess in my twenties. As a young man who had heard a million fairy tales with the “and then they got married” happily-ever-after ending, it was a very different ending than I was expecting: the princess doesn’t marry the prince, not even after rescuing him from the dragon.
It was a different kind of ending, but still a happy ending. Maybe not so happy for the prince, but then he did nothing to earn a happy ending. It subverted the trope and made a new, better thing from it.
So go: subvert the expectations. Subvert all the expectations. Make it better.
Header image: Maman, across the street from Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica, in Ottawa.
To whoever left this on the sidewalk in front of Hairistocracy, thank you for brightening my morning.
Over on Twitter, Rosemary Mosco asked about books read and loved in the past year. I took a look at my list, and here are some of the highlights of the year so far, in no discernible order:
- This is How You Lose the Time War by Amar el-Mohtar and Max Gladstone (reviewed here)
- Peace by Gene Wolfe (Quite a novel, and slated for a re-read sometime in the next few years)
- The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders (a first-contact novel unlike anything I’ve read before)
- The Iron Dragon’s Mother by Michael Swanwick (a fitting capstone to a frequently astonishing fantasy trilogy)
- Son of a Trickster and Trickster Drift by Eden Robinson (reviewed here; I cannot wait for volume 3 or the CBC series)
- The Infinite Blacktop by Sara Gran (the 3rd book in the Claire Dewitt series; absolutely worth it)
- Get in Trouble, by Kelly Link (re-read; reviewed here)
How was your year in reading?
Jo Walton said: “There’s a sunrise and a sunset every single day, and they’re absolutely free. Don’t miss so many of them.”
I took this photo just outside Headingley on my way home from Winnipeg. I’m not sure if the ones lying down were felled in the Thanksgiving storm, or if they’re meant to replace weakened pylons (though I lean toward the former).
[Update, 8 Jan. 2020] They’re replacing the pylons, or supplementing them. The last time we went into Winnipeg, on Boxing Day, the pylons were now standing, though not yet strung with wires.
Yesterday I went to a session put on by Diaspora Dialogue on the topic of pitching your work to agents and publishers.
I had assumed that the format would be a presentation style, but when I arrived I discovered it was more a round table format, with the four agents and publishers answering questions from the room.
I didn’t have any specific questions ready, but that was okay, because the others in the room asked about several topics of interest to me.
Transcribed below are my notes from the event.
General notes on pitching
- Your manuscript (MS) should be as polished as possible
- It’s okay to change from your 1st draft [note: I assume it’s generally necessary to change from your 1st draft]
- It’s better to have an agent when trying to sell a book-length piece
Benefits of having an agent
- First and foremost: their contact lists
- Agents will work closely with the author, providing another set of (expert) eyes on a MS
- the Big 5 publishers (Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, and Simon and Schuster) generally require agented submissions
- Agents will know what the editors at the various publishers are looking for; those editors trust the agents
- Some publishers (usually small presses) will accept unagented submissions
- Agents are also good at reading contracts for the author [the current brouhaha surrounding ChiZine Press was mentioned]
- Agents can be “author’s therapists” and will go to bat for their authors
- Agents are also able to broker international sales
What will help with pitching & proposals?
- Most important: the contents of the MS
- Also important: MS comps (ie, comparative titles; titles you hope to be compared to)
- Publications in the short story markets can help, because they offer a track record
- Know your book
- Know the publishers or agents you’re pitching to (do your research; have names; or at the very least don’t use “Dear Sirs” in your correspondence)
- Bio: the more your work has been published, the better
- Book description: think in terms of jacket copy (ie, one page at most)
- Don’t be afraid to name-drop your friends in the industry, especially if they’re willing to blurb for you
- Don’t oversell your book (it’s not, eg, “more controversial than the Bible”)
- Ensure that you address the correct person in your pitch
- Aim for 85,000−90,000 words for a 1st MS [note: it wasn’t clear if this was a general rule or a lit-fic guideline; I’ve heard 90,000−120,000 for spec fic]
How important is an author’s “platform”?
- By “platform” we mean social media presence and website
- Consensus: if it’s not something you’re good at, or not something you’re interested in, then don’t do it
- Goodreads: meh (no agent or publisher present felt that an author’s Goodreads presence would sway them one way or the other)
What are agents looking for?
- You don’t need to be previously published to get an agent
- Agents look for unique voice: energetic and enticing
How long does the process take?
- Generally it’s at least 1½ years from pitch to books on shelves, but can be longer