A Thousand Little Lies

Have you ever heard of Q. R Markham?  If you haven’t, you probably will.

You see, Mr. Markham (which is the pen name for the author Qunitan Rowan) is a plagiarizer.  And I’m not talking about the little borrowing of things here and there…no, if only…the truth is, it’s much deeper than that.  Quintan Rowan plagiarized an entire novel.  He took all the works that ever inspired him to begin with, mashed them up and served them up under the title “Assassin of Secrets”.  And no, he’s not some new Indie who simply didn’t know better..Rowan owns a bookstore in Brooklyn, NY (Spoonbill and Sugartown)…and the book, well, it was published by Little, Brown.

The story of this unfolds like Russian Nesting Dolls.  From the novel itself which, from the very first pages, copies nearly verbatim the works of others, dribbling down to the interviews he did where he passed off quotes of others as his own.  I’m not going to go into the gory details of this disgusting breech of trust and blunt dishonesty…but rather share my reaction to it.

When I came home this evening and told Mark what I’d learned about this–the whole story–he sort of shrugged like it was no big deal.  Then, he kind of laughed and referenced James Fry.

And it was in that moment I understood the difference in weight and balance. He couldn’t see what I saw in this. For me, what Quintan Rowan (and yes, I refuse to use his pen name…because really…what’s the point?  what did he pen?) did was take everything I did, everything we all do, and spit on it.  He’s not an author–he doesn’t deserve to be published.  While it may be funny–highlighting the gaps in traditional publishing, making a martyr of this “author”–for me, it’s just sad.

I don’t know why Rowan did what he did.  I can take my guesses, throw them at the wall, and wait to see what sticks. Maybe he was tired of the hoops and the jumping, maybe the rejections were piling up and he felt broken, maybe he wanted to see just how far this could go, maybe he has entitlement issue.  Who knows.  But what I do know for certain is that he was given an opportunity and he wasted it.  It wasn’t a rightfully earned placed on the book shelves, he piggy-backed off the work of others.  But still, he had a chance.  He could have done what we all do–he could have worked hard, taken the lumps of rejection, pushed passed it, found a way to make the literary world for him in his terms…but he didn’t.  What a shame.

Read more:

here

 

here

 

and

here

 

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Telling The Truth–What I’ve Learned To Be True

So, as I mentioned in my blog below, I received a request for a partial read.  The only catch is–my book is going to the editor tomorrow.

I was put in a place of having to tell the truth.  I had to write this agent and say–listen, this book isn’t perfect, I know that, so be prepared and I’m sorry in advance.  But, believe me, I’m also working on it.  In one month, the story will be better.  My voice will be clearer.  So what you’re going to read–while a solid effort on my part–isn’t perfect, not by a million and one mistakes.  (Okay, I didn’t phrase it like that…but I did say “this is going to a freelance editor”)

So…here is my truth…

If I could go back in time and do anything differently–the one thing I wished I known then–is that, what I sent out should have been edited by a professional.  I should have hired a professional editor prior to doing the querying thing.  I should have had an editor lined up, ready to go, chomping at the bit for my manuscript and cash.  That is what I should have done–it’s exactly what I didn’t do.

This is something I never thought of before.  The thing I didn’t consider.  The thing publishing books won’t tell you.  No where, not in all of my reading did I ever come across phrase hire someone before you query.  It was a regrettable oversight–one I’m openly talking about in hopes to save others from my undoing.

When I was walking blissfully into this whole publishing thing, I really thought: hey, I wrote the book, that’s my job–I did it.  It can be a “come as you are” manuscript because if I sell the book to a publisher they have an editor.  I’ll do content editing.  I’ll rewrite and rehash and edit for clarity…but my sloppy mistakes–someone bigger than me will read through them and find the nugget of potential…right?

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong!

The truth is…as a new writer…my first footfall needed to be perfection. If I was brazen enough to ask someone to take a chance on me–a first timer from the Midwest who has never published anything before–it needed to be amazing.

I sloughed the responsibility off on other people, when the whole time, the onus was always on me.  I failed to see that.  I made a big critical mistake–and sitting here right now, sure as God made little green apples–I believe that hurt my chances.   And as much I wouldn’t mind being an Indie…that doesn’t mean it’s an excuse for a lackluster performance.

The agents who have taken the time to entertain my query…they were patient, kind folk.  And I’m truly sorry I didn’t take that opportunity and shine.  I’m sorry I bothered them with novice mistakes–honest though they may be.

When I finished THE MILESTONE TAPES, I could not wait to query.  I wanted to be swooped up and adored…and, yes, I was really silly enough to believe that.  I didn’t think about my first impression as much as I thought about the light at the end of the tunnel.  Remember–in my first post–when I said I was new, green and fumbling?  This moment, right here, is exactly what I meant by that.

Ten years from now, when I kind of/sort of have this whole thing figured out, I’ll look back and laugh, probably blush a little, and shake my head in stunned disbelief.  This was a one time mistake.  Next time around, before the book is even finished, I’ll have an editor ready to go, I’ll sit on my freaking hands if need to be to stop myself from querying before I’m really ready.  I’ll take the paces and give the book the space and time it needs to be amazing.

The truth is…you get one shot.  That’s it.  One time, one moment, one read.  If you blow it–it’s blown.  And, if you’re going blow it…being unedited is really, really, really not worth it.  Blow it because your book is a crazy, genre-challange machine of epic proportions that some people don’t get.  Blow it because your better off Indie and that’s who you want to be, because you can’t see yourself handing off your book and crossing your fingers that the finished product will look like what you first wrote.  Blow it because you’re a risk–a beautiful risk.  Anything less, you’re just selling yourself short.

Sending Out An S.O.S

Just when I thought I was out of things to talk about…

I received an e-mail from an agent who would like to read my first 3 chapters…excellent, no problem.  AND…he’d like to read my synopsis.

My what?  Huh?  Come again?  I didn’t know I needed one of those–now I have to hack one together in the span of hours…(although, that’s for your eyes only…I’m really trying not to come off as a total incompetent moron to the professionals)

Just when I thought I’d figured out this whole “application for representation” process, a curve ball flies in from the left and gladly knocks me on my ass.  Amazing.

I have to do it.  I have no choice in the matter, I have to write a synopsis.  As of now I can look back at everything–all my misadventures and false starts and novelly green ideals–and say, at least I tried.  I’ve not let one opportunity slip through my fingers, and I’ve learned from everything.  I put in the time, energy and heart.  I made the most of it, albeit clumsy at best.

And now, I’m staring down something I literally have NO idea how to do.  I’ve written my fair share of synopsis’ in my day (but when I say “my day” I mean school…a place I have attended in over ten years!).  And this one isn’t for a grade…it’s for something way more sacred.  No pressure, though.

So…author friends…how do I do this?  I wrote the book, I know it–pretty gosh darn well–but to sum it up in 3-5 pages?  I’m lost.  Help a girl out.  Please & thank you!

Update:

I figured it out.  I locked myself in my home office for an hour and got down to the brass tacks of the story.  Whether it works or not, I certainly hope so, but only time will tell.

The Sort Of Rejection I Can Get Behind….

And no, this has nothing to do with yours truly…

Casey Anthony consumed my summer.  I watched very moment of the trial, and I followed the case for much longer than that.  Adorably sweet Caylee Anthony went missing on the coattails of Stacey Peterson–who lived the next town over from where I reside.  Naturally, I followed the coverage of one case into the next.  Praying the little girl would be found and harboring such disgust for the ‘mother’ who couldn’t be bothered to report her daughter missing for 30 days because her supposed La Bella Vita was just too precious.  I was touched and bothered on all levels.

Casey Anthony, while found not-guilty in a court of law, will always be guilty in the eyes and minds of the public opinion.  She’s a monster, a cold hearted, manipulative monster–the stuff nightmares are made of.  And man, how I wished things had worked out differently…

Casey Anthony, aside from being a real life villain, also is in critical debt.  She needs money and with no formal eduction to fall back on, she has decided to write a book.  Only, here’s the catch, like so many authors, she can’t seem to place it with a publisher.

Sucks to be her.

Here’s the story:

Casey has interest from NBC for an interview, which I’m sure would give her access to copious amounts of cash (shame on you, NBC).  Only, her demands aren’t Twizzlers or only blue M&M’s in the greenroom and a particular brand of bottle water served at room temp.  She wants something a bit more substantial … Casey wants the producer to find a home for her book.

Normally, that sort of clout (I can only imagine) would have serious weight when it comes to closing deals.  But, Casey is persona non grata…and the big 6 won’t touch her or her book with a 10 foot pole.

Hurray big 6, you’ve all earned my gold-star-sticker of the day!

The quotes only add to the simple pleasure of knowing she won’t be able to profit from the death of her child:

Simon and Schuster:  “We are 100% not interested.  We are NOT NOT NOT  interested. Simon & Schuster is not publishing, and has never intended to publish, any book by Casey Anthony, her family, or any member of her team.

Harper Collins: “We are planning on publishing the Prosecutor’s book who was involved in the Casey Anthony case, so we have no plans in releasing a Casey Anthony book.  We’re sticking with the prosecutor.”

Penguin Group:  “We have no plans on doing a book deal with Casey Anthony.”

Another publisher went so far as to say, “Hell no … it’s blood money.”

My thoughts:

Normally, rejections cause me moments of sadness…not this time!  I have to say…if anyone was ever deserving of being turned away from the gates based on the morality and vitriol of the book they’re peddling…it’s all Casey Anthony, for sure.

So, Authors…any thoughts on the matter?

 

 

 

 

So…My Balls Dropped

Okay, that is a fairly graphic title–but yes, I guess my balls have dropped–and there is simply no other way to say it.  I’m getting ballsy.

This morning I received a rejection letter.  The agent said…and I quote…”I hope you plan to write another novel, because I do think you have talent. However, both your query and your opening pages need some editing, and the story could use some revision.”

Normally, I’m a “no means no” sorta gal.  My mother raised me that way.  I don’t back talk, and I’d never ever go against an adult.  But hey…this is a grown up world, I’m an adult too and I’m trying (really hard) to find my place.

The fact is, I like this agent.  I like that not only did she take the time to tell me–point-blank–my manuscript needs work, but that she saw something in my work that could be a launch pad for bigger things–things that I want long-term.  It’s not the standard “I’m not right” or “thank you, but we’re not interested”…she communicated with me.  She told me where my problems lie and gave me some real solutions…she just didn’t know I already knew that, that I was already working towards coming correct.

So…back to my balls…

I read, reread and reread again the e-mail.  I thought it over, and in my mind I reasoned–nothing ventured, nothing gained.  My book is going to an editor in 8 days.  It will be revamped and polished and sorted out.  My clumsy first-timer mistakes will be corrected and what remains will be a better, rounder story.

I figured–let’s see how serious that “talent” comment was…I e-mailed back.  This is where I’m dropping the “no means no” pretense of my entire life.  I asked her for a second chance.  I said that yes, I know this MS needs work–but I’ll do it, and I’ll put everything I have into making it right.

Make no mistake about that, I’m as serious as a heart attack when it comes to this in general–this book means everything to me, and it will be perfect, whether I’m an Indie or Traditional, it makes no difference to me…my accountability will be to my readers and they deserve nothing less.

So, I took the gamble.  I rolled the second chance for that first impression dice.  She may say “no way, girl”…but she may not.  Had I not tried…done at least that much…I’d never know.  And that right there, that’s exactly what I can’t live with.  I can take rejection, I can take silence and unanswered queries because I know what they mean…but not trying, that’s not my personal style.  I’ll try and try and try until I run out of road.

I understand what I did was unconventional–I told her as much.  I understand what I’m trying for may be a total literary faux pas. And this is nothing I’d recommend someone doing–because it might be a really, really bad thing. But–what do I really, really have to lose?  She already rejected me once…twice can’t be much worse, right?

***I’ll be updating this post if or when I receive a reply…good, bad or ugly***

Edited For THE UPDATE

I heard back…she said the particular story didn’t interest her, but she’d be willing to entertain other books in the future.  I quickly added her to my address book–Dear Agent Lady, you’ll be hearing from me again someday, unless I get a believer from jump street.

So…I guess I stay true to the course–we’re off to the editor in 8 days (so thrilled) and then, if nothing else, self publishing (super thrilled)…and of course, book two which is already in the worlds (extremely thrilled about that one).

The lesson here is simple and one that, I suppose, we all have to learn by trial and error…

Rejections aren’t always as simple as they may seem.  I’ve, personally, been told so many different things on my journey with THE MILESTONE TAPES–but the base line is this…different agents really do want different things.  That’s not stock font, people.  That’s really, really true–it’s the grass-roots of reading at large.

I’ve always believed–even before I wrote, just when I was an average, everyday reader: One persons beautiful book is another’s wasted space.  And now that I’m on the other side of the coin, I’m realizing, this whole author/agent/query thing…it’s not that much different from being a reader–you turn a book over, you read the back and decide if this novel is right for you.  If it’s not–that doesn’t mean in five minutes another reader won’t come along, swoop it up and devour it in a solitary afternoon because it’s so them and it’s exactly what they needed.  You can be a great author with great talent, and if the book isn’t an agent’s cup of tea or personal flavor, they’ll pass…same thing with any reader, really.  But that’s not a reflection on you as the writer–it’s on them, as the reader.  And there is nothing wrong with that.  Nothing at all.  We’ve all done it, we’ll all do it for the rest of our lives in a million different ways.  It boils down to choice.

I love what I do…I want others to love it as well.  If you don’t, I’d rather skip the melodrama of trying too hard.  I’ve hated the query process and all its baggage.  But, what I can appreciate is the lessons I’ve learned…the growing I’ve done because I put myself through querying.  I’m not going to say querying is something everyone should do, many won’t for personal reasons, and that I can respect.  But for me, as someone green, new and fumbling I needed too–not because it’s fun, but because it’s simply educational.  It prepared me for everything else that will come my way in bucketful doses; rejection, adoration, the highs and lows.

My balls and I are happy we e-mailed back.

AMP, over and out!

The Query Fixer Upper (an exclusive invite continued)

Just over 10 days ago I received an exclusive invitation, from an agent I had reached out to on round one, to have my query revamped for salability.  Many folks told me “run”…but I opted against their advice and decided to proceed with what the agent was selling–the opportunity was something I just didn’t want to let slide.  My hope was that she would really tear me apart–word for word.  I wanted to learn from this.

I finally got the query back.

10 days…and she had four comments, okay well three verifiable comments, since one was answered for her in the line above–but, she apparently missed that.

It was my intention to come here and share a blog seeping with information.  And in the spirit of full disclosure and to be honest, there wasn’t anything enlightening or any really rare nuggets of agent wisdom she shared with me.  There’s really nothing to pass on and for that, I apologize.

You all were right…I was wrong.  Bummer.

Today Changes Everything or Nothing At All

I am hesitant to project this outwardly on you all…deeply nervous…but excited; so excited I could scream and dance and cry.

I received my first request, from an agent, for a full MS read.  It took the agent an entire 5 minutes to e-mail me back.  5 minutes and a full…pick me up off the floor, please.

But, this post isn’t about that pre say, because–I as I titled this–it could change nothing at all and I don’t want to get ahead of myself with ambition.  But the emotions…whoa…they deserve a post all of their own.

The first time an agent told me “thanks, but no thanks” that was hard–not bone crushing–but hard.  Hard to read, hard to understand, hard to figure out what I said or did or didn’t say or didn’t do wrong–I’d obviously done something, but what?  And instead of wallowing in the despair of rejection, I learned from it.  I tightened up my query–did my homework, read blog postings and articles and practiced, practiced, practiced.  So, to read now that I’ve somehow managed to be enough for a full MS read…it’s hopeful, and surprisingly, just has a hard.

When I queried, I sent out a lot.  I felt like the door to door sales woman peddling my wears to busy housewives–some ignored me, some slammed the door, others were kind enough to say “thank you, but I’ll pass”.  I was never discouraging.  I’d simply highlight their name of my ever-growing list and move forward.  Now…now I’ve been invited inside.  I have the chance, a real honest-to-God chance, to sell this book.  And there is so much fear and doubt and anxiety that hangs on this small, significant chance.

If this agent says no– she very well may say just that–it’s only about my book.  It won’t be about my lack luster sum-it-up skills.  It won’t be because I didn’t query the right agent.  All of those excuses will be dashed, tired and worn thing–the only thing that remains hinged together and halting the flow will be…my book.

Scary right?  Damn, scary.

Want to know what I did?  I sent out the full MS.  I did so with shaky fingers and so much doubt.  I let go and let God–cliché right?  But what choice did I have?  None.  She wanted it and this is what I do…I write, and I battle self uncertainty–one keystroke at a time.  But really…it was really, really hard.  As I turned the book into a Word.doc, I wished I’d done a hundred things differently.  Wished I’d had an earlier date with an editor.  Wished I had the time go over the book one last time.  Wish, wish, wish, send….

…Then…

I turned my mind off.  Totally and completely.  I grabbed my little white Chihuahua, turned on a rerun of Ghost Whisperer and took a nap.  A short nap, but it was luxury.  I rested and tuned out my inner monologue for a solid hour.

I don’t know if anything will come from this–maybe everything changes, or maybe nothing at all (I kept convincing myself of the latter, so if or when it comes to that I won’t be ruined for days).  Either way, it’s another place this journey was meant to go, and that…is definitely worth celebrating.

An Exclusive Invitiation

Since I’m pretty open on this blog–especially when it comes to my bygone attempts to be a “traditionally published author” I’m going to discuss an e-mail received this evening…

In the past few month, since I finished my book and started this blog, I’ve embraced my moniker of “Indie Author”…it’s sort of my thing…a thing I never really intended, but adore nonetheless.  I went into writing, when I decided to publish, wanting to be traditional, thinking that if I managed to push open to gates to the literary world, I’d feel legit.  Give me an advance, an agent, an editor, a thick hardcover, an e-file, a trade paper back and a contract that encouraged me to keep writing.  It would be success, I would be a success.  Let’s be frank, that’s the carrot I was chasing.

Those were my grass root wants.

The reality was something very, very different.  But, I like to believe I embraced it.  My new wants and needs are something different–maybe even more exciting.

So that brings us here….

This evening while I was checking my e-mail, I noticed an “exclusive invitation” from one of the agent’s I queried before.  She had said no to me and my book, and I moved that reply to the trash along with all the other rejections.  But today…that agent reached out again.  Only this time, it wasn’t about my book–but about my query.

What she is offering me is this…

For $50.00, she’ll edit my query, read the first 20 pages of my book, help me use my author-voice to make a salable agent-friendly finished, polished, mainstream product.  No, she’s not going to represent me…no, she doesn’t want too. It’s unethical according to the AAR. But, she does want to help.  She wants to give me industry relevant feedback.  That’s all.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.

Self published authors are saying…NO, NO, NO…RUN AWAY.

But I wonder…can it really be that bad?  What are the risks?  Do they outweigh the gain?  Can learning to be better–even at cost–be that bad?

The thing is, all of this (every little bit, in every little corner, in every little room) is new.  I’m not a seasoned professional, I’m hardly a paraprofessional, I’m hacking away at this whole “author” thing every single day.  And the truth of the matter is this: it’s not easy.  Every little bit of advice, kindness, help…it matters, it makes a whole world of difference.  It’s where I build confidence to keep going when doors and windows are closing.

I’m getting better at what I do because I’ve sought the people who are already good at those things.  I’m learning.  I’m growing.  I’m figuring out what my potential is by taking the chances required to discover that.

It’s true..what they say…nothing is free.  I pay for a book cover, an editor, press releases…why wouldn’t I pay for a working professional to look at my query with the eyes of an editor?  It’s just not an opportunity every author has…I just happened to query one agent who, although not willing to take me on as a client, is still willing to work with me to make me a better author.  $50.00 won’t break me…but missing the chance to learn…well, that might just be my undoing.

I’m curious.  I wrote this book, I think it’s good–this is my chance to find out why she didn’t agree.  What did I miss?  Where was I lacking?  If she can show me those things, then–although I don’t believe I’ll continue querying– I can jog the lesson to blurb crafting moving forward.

I’m going into this applying the motto that I’ve lived by since the start…nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Stay tuned as this trip takes a whole new turn…I’ll post a follow-up blog where I’ll share my before meets after.  Hopefully we can all learn from this.

The Kindness of “No”

I want to share a query response I received a few days ago…the one I touched briefly on in “My First Ben Franklin”…the query that kind of changed things for me…

Dear Ms. Mackler-Paternostro

Thank you for your e-mail query.  I appreciate the opportunity to consider THE MILESTONE TAPES for possible representation, but I’m afraid I’m not the right agent for it.  The concept just didn’t grab me, and you deserve an enthusiastic agent who can champion your work.  Of course this only one response, and tastes vary widely among agents.  I wish you the best of luck finding the right home for your work.

Sincerely

XX

When I started writing The Milestone Tapes, I thought “damn, this book is butter, who wouldn’t want to read this?”  Of course I felt this way, it was my story and I believed in it so hard it hurt.  I gave up a huge chunk of my every day life to tell the story of Jenna and Mia; I worried it and felt guilty over it, and I cried when I typed “The Beginning” which is my code word for “The End”– but not the end–you know what I mean?  Okay, maybe that wasn’t clear…read the book one day and you’ll understand better … promise :).

Anyway….The Milestone Tapes became so much a part of me and my life, that naturally I assumed it would inspire the same in others…similar to the way a mother views her child as the end all-be all-best thing to even happen-best child alive.  The way I felt was unshakable, I was certain.  I knew going in, there would rejection and that would either be what made me or what broke me.   

While that response was an affirmative “no”…it was also a cornerstone for me.  That place where I could say “the worst they can say no–and some are saying that…and the best I can do is keep going–so I will.”  She explained that to me, one “no” isn’t the end of life as I know it nor is it the close of my dream.  Tastes vary.  You don’t just give up or quit because that will get you nowhere.  So, with that in my back pocket, I’ll keep working.  Onward and up.

**I want to take a moment and thank the agent who, not only took the time to pull my query from the slush pile and read it, but took that moment to send me an e-mail and explain why it wasn’t for her.  I sincerely appreciate the kindness–and I do consider it kindness of the best sort.  Whatever the reasons she didn’t want to take the book on, she still took me seriously–and as a newcomer, that’s pretty freaking amazing.**

A New Twist To The Old Query

Today I was musing about art of the query.  Right now, the query letter kind of rules my life.  And I started to wonder if things could work different and maybe be more successful for everyone involved.

An unsolicited query goes into the slush pile.  This, right out the gate, is offensive.  Any author should be somewhat offended by the terminology considering the amount of TLC that goes into getting a book query ready, the least of which isn’t writing the darn thing to begin with.  Having someone’s work likened to dirty, melting snow doesn’t exactly start things out on the right foot.

Then, the fact that most agents, editors and the like are over approached to begin with.  This is another bad thing.  It means, I assume, as an author you’re getting considerably less attention than you’d hope. Agent’s can’t take everyone seriously.  It also means you’re responsible for querying the right agent at the exact right moment…that’s a lot of pressure on a newbie.  It’s sort of like dating with the hopes of getting married, you have to sort out all the bad boyfriends to meet from the right guy, and like dating, it can come with a lot of rejection.  I doubt agent’s enjoy being the barer of bad news and I know the writers don’t revel in receiving the bad news.

So, I started to think….

What if there was a place, a website, where new authors could submit their query, 30 pages of their work, and agents had to buy a membership to visit the site?  An author’s work would be private, unless of course, the agent with their membership decided to click on it and read.  And of course, every agent who visited the site was actually an agent searching for a new writer to represent.  There could be various genres, long stories and short, something for everyone to read and enjoy.  The queries would be kept private from other authors, naturally, to protect their books…but verified agents could graze for days.

Novel.

My greatest fear, as an author, is missing the one agent who will take a chance on me.  It’s the same reason girls get dolled up every weekend and truck it to the hottest club.  It’s the fear of missing the one.  That single person who will see the value in you and make it their own.  And, just like there is no possible way for every girl to meet every guy in the wide, wide world, there is no possible way for every author to query every agent.  But unlike with the publishing world, there are dating websites which increase the odds substantially.

Authors are hitting their target market with one submission, rather than spending countless hours submitting various forms of queries.

Agents are feeding from a generous pool of work when they have time or energy or need.

Everyone wins.

Right now, this doesn’t exist…at least not according to my searches.  But wouldn’t it be nice for those looking to be published and those looking to skip the slush pile and hone in on their next great writer?   Maybe I should go into business…