Monday, April 30, 2012

what the querier meant to say: publishing euphemisms for all

A few days ago, the Guardian posted this handy guide to decoding publishers' euphemisms at the London Book Fair:
We don't have sales numbers yet – trust us, you don't want to know
I loved the opening – boy, the middle needs work
National publicity and marketing campaign – there's no budget, so you're on your own
I've read the book – I've had it read
To which INTERN would like to add:

Queriers' Euphemisms:

This is my first novel: 

I have nine other manuscripts in various stages of completeness sitting on my hard drive: three hilariously angsty ones I wrote in highschool, three hilariously pretentious ones I wrote in college, two post-college attempts at science fiction that ran into unsolvable plot snarls somewhere around the Xxordon Galaxy, and a NaNo about two old ladies who sneak around shooting people with poison darts.

This is my first novel that's really, actually ready to query. At least, I think it is. *deep breath*

NIGHTS OF SWEATY ENTANGLEMENT is complete at 95,000 words:

NIGHTS OF SWEATY ENTANGLEMENT is 95,000 words long. And it's complete in every way, if by "complete" you mean "spell-checked."

I am a long-time fan of your publishing blog, Irascible Agent:

I left one comment on your blog ten minutes ago.

Thank you for your time and consideration:

In the name of the father, and the son, and the holy ghost, amen. *kisses rabbit foot* *twirls sage bundle* *buries five dollar bill in the back yard* *commences checking in-box*

Authors' Euphemisms:

I bought these boots with money from my advance:

I used my advance to pay off my health insurance, car insurance, cell phone, electricity, gas, and internet bills and to purchase one hallucinatorily overpriced block of goat cheese at the food co-op. I found these boots in the alley next to the dumpster.

I'm working on my web presence:

I have spent approximately ten thousand hours looking at other authors' web presences and despairing of ever being as popular, friendly, good-looking or sociable as they are.

I'll have that Author Questionnaire back to you by Friday:

I will spend between now and Friday freaking out over the fact that no, I do not have any "friends, acquaintances, or professional contacts in the national media" and wondering it that LA Times reporter I met at a party one time and awkwardly Facebook friended counts as a professional contact.

Line edits are going great:

I have not changed out of my unwashed Goodwill bathrobe in six days and the neighbors are starting to worry.


But seriously, if anyone can help INTERN out with that "friends and acquaintances in the national media" thing, she will let you borrow her (extremely soft and fuzzy) Goodwill bathrobe. Oh, fine, you can borrow it anyway. Just don't wash it.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

in which INTERN and real, actual Hilary have a brawl...also, NEW TITLE REVEAL

real actual Hilary: *wanders in* *looks around*

INTERN: Whoa, whoa, whoa—what are you doing here? Get out before someone sees you!

real actual Hilary: Too late. Don't worry, this picture's nice and blurry, just the way you like it.

INTERN: Stop! Go away! Why are you doing this?

real actual Hilary: I thought it would be nice to stop by and introduce myself. You keep pretending this blog's still anonymous, and frankly, it's getting a little awkward.

INTERN: Introduce yourself? INTRODUCE YOURSELF? Who the heck do you think you are?

real actual Hilary: I'm, um, you.

INTERN: Pfffffffffffffft. INTERN has, like, eleventy followers. How many followers does real actual Hilary have? That's right—NONE.

real actual Hilary: Go staple a document.

INTERN: Go hunt a mushroom.

real actual Hilary: Get your hair out of your face.

INTERN: Get your face out of INTERN's blog!

real actual Hilary: Just let me post this link and I'll get out of here.

INTERN: Yeah, yeah, like INTERN is going to believe that. Next you'll be using this blog to post cat photos and exceeding boring updates on your personal life. INTERN knows how this works.

real actual Hilary: Did I mention I might possibly start using the first person on Twitter?

INTERN: *loads bazooka*

real actual Hilary: Wait, wait—can I at least tell our mutual internet-friends the new title for my book?

INTERN: You mean the new title of INTERN's book!

real actual Hilary: Whatever. If you would like to see the new title revealed in groovy stop-motion form, click here.

INTERN: Is that a Tumblr?

real actual Hilary: Yes.

INTERN: You started a real actual Hilary Tumblr?

real actual Hilary: Yes.

INTERN: Can you leave now?

real actual Hilary: I was thinking I'd—

INTERN: *hefts bazooka onto shoulder*

real actual Hilary: *scurries out back door*

Monday, April 9, 2012

Big 6 versus Indie Publishing part 2: of paddles and canoes

A few days ago, INTERN got an e-mail from her editor with the kind of bad news that drives authors everywhere into unhealthy relationships with cheap vodka: the title INTERN had come up with for her novel had been, quote, "roundly" rejected by the Sales Team, who were requesting that a new one be dreamed up, stat.

Roundly rejected! huffed INTERN. They could have at least AGONIZED a little. They could have at least sent INTERN a letter explaining how this decision to veto her beloved pet title had ripped at their very SOULS.

After a day or two of mourning, INTERN felt pretty over it. After all, there are plenty of title-fish in the sea—and although INTERN was reluctant to admit it at first, the reasoning behind the veto seemed pretty sound. Over the next few days, INTERN's agent, editor, and assorted other publishing people all pitched in with ideas and suggestions, and the hunt for a new title has started to feel exciting and worth-it, not Tragic and Senseless as it did at the height of INTERN's emotions.

Interestingly, the hardest thing to deal with was not the title-rejection itself, but the reactions of (non-publishing savvy) friends and relatives:

"They can't make you change the title of your book. It's your BOOK."
"What do they know about titles? That title was perfect!"
"You should refuse to change it."

Even worse were the looks INTERN got when she delicately explained that she had signed a teensy little thing called a legally-binding contract giving her publisher final say over the title of her novel—like she was some kind of abused animal, or at best a prize nincompoop.

"So they can just tell you what to call YOUR BOOK?'
"They don't control the cover art too, do they?"
"What if they want to call it something dumb?"

All of which leads INTERN to one of the key issues in the Big 6 versus Indie Publishing debate: who gets to paddle the canoe.


The canoe-paddling discussion goes something like this on polite days:

Team Legacy: "Hang with us, and you'll have a whole team of canoe-paddling experts to guide you through the Rapids of Publishing!"

Team Indie: "Here's your oar, kid. Sink or swim!"

And like this on rude days:

Team Legacy: "Look at those poor indies paddling their cheap, junky canoes into the rocks."

Team Indie: "Look at those poor legacies trying to paddle their bloated, inefficient canoes by committee."

Of course, there's no reason the two teams can't coexist, with people who insist on absolute control paddling their canoes alone, and people who are willing to give up some control in exchange for more support enlisting the skill and know-how of a publisher. If you insist on absolute control, you need to be certain you really have as much titling/covering/marketing chops as you think you do. If you give away some of that control, you need to be certain you're working with a publisher you trust.


A few years ago, INTERN was renting a rambling old house with a bunch of other twenty-somethings. We wanted to put in a vegetable garden, and our landlady agreed to pay for the rototiller, seeds, and truckloads of compost and mulch if and we put in the manual labor.

High fives! Grabbing of trowels! Buying of beer!

Planting a garden on Landlady's dime was awesome: there were so many resources, so much mulch. But it soon became apparent that Landlady was not going to sit idly by while a bunch of eager but fantastically overconfident kids made expensive mistakes with her investment. She wanted to see a planting schedule. She wanted sketches of the proposed garden's layout. She pointed out that blueberry bushes needed to be pollinated—you couldn't just stick 'em anywhere, as INTERN and the gang had been planning to do.

Basically, she imposed rigor and a certain degree of party-pooperism to what would otherwise have been a free-for-all. Was it aggravating? Sometimes. Was it worth it? Yes. Would the garden have been better off without Landlady's funding and her interference? At the time, no—although it's certainly possible that a more experienced (and, um, responsible) group would have done just fine without it.


Is it an outrage that most publishers retain control over a book's title and cover, or is it an effective way of saving authors from their own (sometimes cheesy and non-marketing savvy) selves? Published authors, have you ever had a title rejected? Seeking-to-be-published authors, have you ever felt conflicted about the potential surrender of control a traditional book deal would entail? Is it better to have a publisher chime in on your plans to plant avocado trees in Maine, or would you rather attempt it anyway, thank-you-very-much?

INTERN wants to know!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

why you will still be insane after the book deal

1. If your forthcoming novel has a scene in which the characters go skinny dipping in a hail storm, you will immediately stumble upon twenty already-published novels with a scene in which characters skinny dip in a hail storm.

2. You had no idea skinny dipping in a hail storm was such a cliché. Are you that unoriginal?

3. *picks up scourge* *self-flagellates*

4. You will start to fret that people will think you ripped off the skinny dipping hail storm idea from one of those other novels, despite the fact that those novels didn't even come out until your own novel was in galleys.

5. Will people think you're some kind of pathetic, scheming, copycat? Should you write a post on your newly-minted Author Blog explaining about how you didn't know about those other books and promising to change the scene in future print runs so the characters are waltzing under a volcano instead?

6. If your forthcoming novel has a title you're totally in love with, you will realize—far too late—that said title is ALSO the title of a notoriously cheesy soft-porn movie from the 1980's.

7. You did not think to Google movies when titling your book. Just other books.

8. It turns out there's a REASON no other authors have claimed the title NIGHTS OF SWEATY ENTANGLEMENT.

9. And you were sooooo pleased with yourself for coming up with it. You thought it sounded soooooo literary.

10. *picks up scourge* *self-flagellates*

11. Why did your publisher agree to this title? Aren't they supposed to catch that stuff?

12. Wait, is somebody there trying to sabotage your career? Wasn't NIGHTS OF SWEATY ENTANGLEMENT the intern's idea?

13. Your significant other will remind you that calling the book NIGHTS OF SWEATY ENTANGLEMENT was, indeed, your idea.

14. If you managed to avoid titling your book N.O.S.E, you will nevertheless discover that your book title lends itself to some kind of crude joke you can't believe you never spotted before and which will haunt you forever.

15. For example, if your forthcoming book is titled THE ORGAN DONOR, you can look forward to hearing those snarky kids at the bookstore referring to it as THE ORGAN BONER.

16. In fact, you are pretty sure that mean intern who is trying to sabotage your career is ALREADY calling it THE ORGAN BONER.

17. Your significant other will remind you, again, that this malevolent intern you keep referring to does not, in fact, exist.

18. Should you write a post on your newly-minted Author Blog explaining about the title and promising that in forthcoming print runs, your novel will be re-titled simply THE ORGAN?

19. No, wait. Shit. No. Just THE. You can't mess with THE.

20. If you somehow manage to avoid both titling your novel N.O.S.E or something that rhymes with a crude joke, you will nevertheless discover—far too late—that, when anagrammed, the title of your forthcoming novel spells HAIL SATAN.

21. You will start to fret that your novel will be banned from public schools and in libraries throughout the Bible Belt for its satanic undertones, even though you swear—SWEAR—you weren't trying to insert any subliminal messages into the title.

22. You realize that, in addition to HAIL SATAN, your book titles also anagrams to A NASAL HIT. Schools are going to think you're promoting drug use. Drug use and satanism.

23. Shit. Shitshitshit.

24. Should you write a post on...etc. etc...explaining to readers that you endorse neither drug use nor Beezlebub?

25. You realize your newly-minted Author Blog consists solely of apologies, disclaimers, and paranoid screeds.

26. Your agent and editor will start asking about your next novel.

27. You will try to play it cool, when in fact you are so freaked out from that skinny dipping in a hailstorm thing that you have resolved to write your next novel using only the letters K and U, because that's the only way you can ever be sure that it hasn't been "done" before.

28. Just try finding a scene like THIS in any other novel: KU. UUUUUUUK. KUUUUUUU. uKuKuK. "uuuUUUUUU!!!'

29. Your editor will gently suggest that the K and U thing isn't the best project to fulfill this particular book contract, but you should totally keep at it on the side.

30. You will drop the UUK thing and instead set out to write the most blockbustery, commercial, straight-to-movie-deal book that's humanly possible. You have recently developed a vague but pressing anxiety that your next novel will be invalid if it does not turn into a blockbuster starring Justin Bieber, despite the fact that the sort of novels you love most are the sort that never get turned into blockbusters starring Justin Bieber.

31. You will drop the Justin Bieber thing, and a week later, you will catch yourself starting a new novel that is neither an unreadable experiment nor a glorified screenplay to a mega-mega-blockbuster about, like, a highschool dance-off where every character is really, really, sexy but also a total underdog with Universally Relatable Issues.

32. You will kill your newly-minted Author Blog and dance on its grave, thanking Jah that nobody had actually discovered it yet.

33. You will send the malevolent intern eleven pounds of marijuana through the mail in an attempt to get her fired, in the slight chance that she actually exists.

34. You will pace up and down your apartment in a bathrobe you bought at Goodwill and never washed.

35. You will tell all your friends how faaaaabulous life has been since the book deal.