Saturday, July 24, 2010

Open Thread

I keep seeing people on Twitter use this thing "Formspring." Which apparently allows anonymous people to ask whatever questions they want, and then you answer them. It seems to me there are lots of places on the internet for such things... but whatever.

Since I don't have room for another social media site in my brain, and answering questions is sort of the point of this blog, I decided to make this my Mini-Formspring section. So, anonymous or not, feel free to ASK QUESTIONS, and I will answer either in comments (if it is a short answer) or in a  post (if it is a long answer).  You may also feel free to just randomly make a comment, tell me a joke, put a picture of kitty cats, or whatever.  Comments are moderated for spam control, but anonymous comments are fine.

Andddd...  GO!


  1. Does the first question asker get a cookie??? ;o)


    *hands over delicious choco-chip cookie*

  3. So do cats really go nuts for Greenies and is that being a cat enabler?

  4. What are essential children's books (all ages and types) that a kids bookstore must carry?

    ~No reason for asking, other than the fact that my bookstore is opening on Friday and I have to order the ESSENTIALS before then. (We already have a hodgepodge of books but need to make sure the basics are covered.)

  5. WOO HOO!!! nom nom nom!! Thanks!!

    I'm making cookies for Maggie on Monday. To bad you're not coming to Borders Glendale... I'd give you some, too! :o)

  6. Serious question: ....when will Ender's Game be a movie?

  7. Julie: I don't know, I have never given my cat greenies. I read something about it making them ill, potentially. But maybe that is just SOME pets.

    Michelle: That's a great question that deserves its own blog post. :D

  8. I have a question... In the YA urban fantasy I am writing, my main character and his family are magic. I don't mean they are witches and wizards... they don't do spells, charms; they haven't made it into some kind of religion, the children go to public school (LOL)... they simply *are* magical, they have specific magical abilities -- for a reason, of course, since that is what the book is about. What would be the best way to describe that? "They are magical" seems like it would make anyone think Harry Potter, but it's not that at all.

  9. Aw, just a crumb? Well, then you'd best be writing that blog post soon. ;-)

    Actually, I've already ordered my favorite, must-have kids books, but I'm collecting titles from others to fill out the store's selection. And I'm finding amazing new books to read. My tbr pile is quivering at the thought.

  10. Bethany: As of Feb 2010, the Ender's Game movie appears to be, if not scrapped, at least semi off-the-table until a production company ponies up money.

    I am not sure why you asked me this question, as of course I have nothing to do with OSC, but it happens that I do love this book a lot and would love to see a movie of it, done right! I suspect, though, that it would be tough to produce.

    First of all, common wisdom is that really big movies need to have grownup stars, not just kids - while there are adults in the Enderverse of course, the really interesting things are what Ender, Peter, Valentine, and Bean and the other crew get up to. I don't know how they could give a grownup a meaty enough part without actually changing the tenor of the story.

    Also, it could be that the story, while riveting on the page, is less able to translate to a movie screen. After all, SO MUCH of it happens in the game-room or in front of screens, and how much bopping from wall to wall or people checking mail would really be compelling in a movie?

    Anyway, I will be waiting for it too. :-)

  11. Thanks for having this thread!

    In regards to obtaining feedback on your manuscript - What do you recommend for writers do once they've finished their ms and edited/revised/proofed till their brain hurts? Betas? Critique partners? Freelance editors?

    I have a YA paranormal romance that has been to six betas (with glowing reviews) and a critique partner (who shredded the same sections that the betas raved over). So I'm incredibly confused as to which opinions to take, which to scrap. The betas have given some fantastic constructive criticism.

  12. Michelle: Well, OK. A crumb. Leaving aside obvious classics, and brand-new frontlist titles, here are things that I handsell the hell out of, and I would never want to have a kids section without. In order of intended age group from Baby to 8:

    MRS. MUSTARD'S BABY FACES: Babies LOVE looking at pictures of other babies. This is a PERFECT first gift for the smallest child, great baby shower add-on. Wordless, accordian shaped, for gnawing.

    FUZZY YELLOW DUCKLINGS by Matthew Van Fleet: Colors, textures, shapes and animals!

    PEEK A MOO (series) by Cimarusti: Just so easy to sell.

    EVERYWHERE BABIES (board book) by Susan Meyers: So cute, perfect for 1.5-4 year olds, kids who like babies, kids w/ new siblings, alternative families, etc.

    LITTLE FUR FAMILY DELUXE EDITION by Margaret Wise Brown: This is the one made out of fur. Yayyy! Everyone knows Goodnight Moon - this Brown book is a bit more unusual and 5 times cuter.

    NUTSHELL LIBRARY by Maurice Sendak: I still have mine from childhood. Perfect size for small hands.

    SEVEN SILLY EATERS by Mary Anne Hoberman & Marla Frazee great readaloud for kids 4+ - A modern classic!

    JENNY & THE CAT CLUB by Esther Averill: A shy kitten gets a scarf that makes her brave. Sooo cute. And it is still illustrated and is actually short stories, so is OK for younger kids as a readaloud or older as a chapter book. 4-8

    MY FATHER'S DRAGON: I love this book. As above, great for readaloud or read alone. ages 4-8. I love the three-book hardback, but they are all available separately in paper too.

  13. More answers to come soon - keep up the questions! G'Night...

  14. Anonymous12:09 AM

    What do u think of the publishing business? Is it everything you expected it to be or more? What's your favorite part and what part do u dislike? Have u always wanted to be an agent? Why, if so?


  15. I have some questions... your name? your quest? the landspeed of a fully laden African swallow.

    (Couldn't help myself)

  16. Anonymous7:45 AM

    It seems like every time I go to the YA section of my local bookstore I am bombarded by the paranormal. That's certainly not a bad thing, but the thriller I have just completed (which takes place in D.C.)is painstakingly realistic. The book is very fast-paced, but there are no parallel universes or zombies...or vampires...or people with magic wands. I can't help wonder if even a good storyline can be doomed if it is not deemed a popular subject.

  17. Shelley, I think it all depends on how much you trust your betas/crit partners/crit group. Are any of them published authors? If they are new writers, do they have chops? Are they telling you to slash and burn the core parts of your story? Do they make sense?

    If multiple readers don't understand the point you are trying to make, there is a possibility that you didn't make it all that well.

    I would, no matter who is doing the critique, take time to let it sink in, and then see what really resonates with you. Honestly, is a certain piece of advice going to make the story you are trying to tell STRONGER, or take away from it? Could you try taking the advice as an experiment, as a writing exercise only, and see what happens?

    Ultimately, you should listen to criticism, and don't be too quick to dismiss it, but also take ALL criticism with a grain of salt and tell the story you need to tell.

  18. CL: I would probably say just what you said - it is an urban fantasy (if indeed that is what it is), and each member of the family has their own magical gift. And insert a couple of examples.

    "Each member of the Parker family has their own magical gift. Molly can make any guy fall in love with her. Cynthia can control the weather. Kimber can sense the presence of single pennies. Why do some sisters get all the luck?"

    It makes sense to me.

    And it would not make me think of witches and wizards.

  19. LL 12:08 - I have worked in the publishing industry, in some capacity, since I was basically a kid. I like it!

    I didn't always want to be an agent, because I didn't always really understand what an agent does. I started as a bookseller, and always wanted to be a buyer. Then I became a buyer, and it was great, but I missed doing events and working with authors. So I started doing more of that. Then I realized, HEY I COULD BE AN AGENT AND WORK WITH AUTHORS I LOVE ALL THE TIME!

    While it is a lot more complicated than that in reality, I still think that I am very lucky to have the job I have, as it is awesome.

  20. Christine: African or European?

  21. Anon 7:45 - Yep, it is a problem, particularly in the chains. But there is definitely room for more awesome thrillers. They have to be fast paced and very very tightly written, that's all. These kinds of books have definite appeal, especially for reluctant readers, and there are definitely people who want to publish them.

  22. Will an agent knowingly work with a visually impaired author? Is it better to let the agent now upfront? Some days I can't write due to my eye, and those when I do, I write in Verdana 14 so I can see it. I can convert to Courier, but sometimes formatting errors occur which I would be unable to see. Is there anyway to find out which agents are understanding?

  23. Anonymous10:45 AM

    I will start sending out query letters in August for said thriller in previous comment. My great-grandmother was a published author, but it's her unpublished works (sitting in a box at the bottom of my closet) that wake me up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night. I have no illusions of grandeur, but if I didn't care if anyone read my novel I wouldn't be querying to begin with. mass query or to not mass query? I hate the idea of sending out tons of generic letters. In fact, I have a terrifyingly small list of agents I'd love to work with. I want to send my top pick a letter first and if they decline go to the next and so sending out individual query letters a silly and delusional waste of time?

  24. How long should one wait to status query on a requested partial (not you, but your agency)?

  25. April: I would have no way of knowing if one of my authors had a visual impairment or any other sort of disability, unless they told me. And even if they told me, I would not be bothered, as long as it didn't affect the quality of the books they give me.

    I know blind authors, deaf authors, wheelchair-bound authors, authors who can't type but use voice-recognition software. They are all GOOD WRITERS, and nobody cares.

    And changing a font or size is really not a big problem, I promise.

  26. Anon 10:45 - If I were querying, I'd do my homework and come up with a list of appropriate agents, then query them in small batches.

    If I got success the first time out, then yay! If I got rejections, I'd be able to recalibrate my query or pages and try the next batch.

    If I'd mass queried and been rejected by all, I'd have no chance to go back and try again with a retooled query.

    What I 100% x million would NOT EVER do is send out one query at a time. First of all, agents take a long time. One query at a time means you might BE a great-grandma before you get through your list.

    Second, if what you have is a really hot property and you query multiple agents, you will likely get at least one if not multiple offers... and if that happens, you'll have the opportunity to choose between them. If you only queried one, you'd limit yourself to the first person who says yes - and they'd be able to take as long as they wanted doing it, because they wouldn't have any competition! BOO.

  27. Larissa: Well our policy is, no response means no on queries. But I'd usually suggest status querying after 12 weeks on a requested full.

    I've never requested a partial, I always go straight from sample to full! But if they didn't give you a timeline, I'd say a status query after 8 weeks would be fine.

  28. Thanks, Jenn. It's not exactly a normal query situation, so I wasn't sure what to do. I was second place in a blog query contest, and my prize was a 50-page submission. I know the other two winners have heard back, so I guess I'll email her.

  29. Anonymous2:32 PM

    Should a writer query with a pen name or a real name?

  30. Anonymous2:33 PM

    Hi, Lit. I have a question. If you could have any author, either dead or alive as a client, who would it be?

    Oh, also what makes your cat happy? A certain type of food? Or like my own parrot, just tons of attention?

    Kim Baccellia

  31. Anonymous3:03 PM

    What percentage of your submissions to editors are sales? And how often does it occur that a no or a maybe from an editor becomes a yes?

  32. I keep seeing posts in blogosphere on boy books: if they're selling, why they're not etc.

    My WIP isn't a boy book, but it is written from a male POV. It's a quirky romance.

    I know I'd love to see more books written from the male POV. I love getting into the head of a guy and trying to think like they do.
    Do you think it being written from the male POV makes it a tougher sell. Especially since it is a romance?

  33. Oh, one more question. How do you feel about sites such at Text Novel, Inkpop etc. where writers post their work to get opinions of readers and possibly getting it in front of an editor?

  34. Anonymous4:18 PM

    Is it wise to drink a latte at six o'clock at night in an establishment that receives bomb threats, overuses its air conditioning, and is filled with loud talkers? Something to consider as you form your answer. The lattes are good and the conversation is mind blowing.

  35. Anonymous5:04 PM

    I'm 28, so it's safe to say my college composition class wasn't yesterday. I basically carried around a Harbrace Handbook while writing my novel, but I know I still probably do not have the paragraph structure down pat. Obviously spelling and grammar will be important when sending in my first 10 pages in a query, but how important is paragraph structure?

  36. 1. How do you feel about manuscripts that use established characters, i.e. Robin Hood,King Midas (with the author's own spin, of course)?

    2. Do you agree with the widely held belief that the meaning of life is indeed 42?

  37. Anon 2:32 - You will have to tell us your real name if you want us to write you checks, so you might as well do it up front. It seems a bit creepy to not... what are you, trying to hide your identity?

    Just say So-and-so, writing as Such-and-such.

    And on your actual manuscript, in the corner where your contact info is, put your real name. Then the "byline" put your psuedonym.

  38. Kim:

    I don't know. I don't want to say alive people, because I don't want anyone to think I would try to steal them from their current agents! So I guess... EB White, James Thurber and Margaret Wise Brown. None of whom probably even had agents.

    And my cat is an enigma. I think that she is most pleased when she is hiding in the dark and tripping people.

  39. What percentage of your submissions to editors are sales? And how often does it occur that a no or a maybe from an editor becomes a yes?

    Anon 3:03 - I... have absolutely no idea how to do that math. I mean... do you mean how many books that I submit end up selling? Or how many ACTUAL SUBMISSIONS end up being ACTUAL SALES? Like, if I submit a manuscript to ten editors and it sells - are you counting that as 100%, or 10%?

    I am going to assume that you mean the former. I don't know - 70%? Maybe? I have never counted.

    And in MY experience, a no rarely turns into a yes. Though I know some examples of people for whom it has.

  40. Kelley V: I think that boy pov books that are really girl-appealing (like for example, oh, all John Green books) do fine.

    And I have no feelings about those websites, I have never looked at them. But I am leery about the usefulness - I'd think that energy would be better spent finding a great real life crit group or something. I am sure there are some few success stories out of those venues - but I don't know anyone who has time to troll around websites all day looking for talent.

  41. Anon 4:18 STOP FOLLOWING ME!!!

    Well, ok, you can follow me. :)

  42. Anon 5:04 - I don't even know what you are talking about.

    I care about how you tell the story. Like, cool characters, narrative arc, high stakes, tension, etc.

    Basic grammar and spelling is important so that people don't think you are a crazy person.

    As for "paragraph structure"?? Just make it like how a novel is. Nobody is grading you.

  43. Bradmouth:

    1. I think that is cool. Particularly if you are taking a lesser-known character from those stories and following them.

    Be aware that in some cases (King Arthur is a good example, as is Robin Hood), people might have sort of strongly held notions about what those characters are like, and know a lot about what they supposedly did and said, what kind of arrows they would have used, who they were schtupping, etc.

    So if you decide to go off on some wild tangent with somebody else's fictional character or a character from myth or legend, just know that there are people ready to pick it apart and call you out on "mistakes", so you better do it well and for a good reason.

    2. Yes.

  44. Anonymous8:42 AM

    I've been reading agent response times for quite a while now. Have seen authors sell with agents they were once excited to be with, then part ways. I can see this if the book isn't selling--but why part when things look like they're going well? It takes enough effort to get an agent the first time around. What do I need to find out beforehand or what do I need to do/not do as a client to avoid this problem?

  45. What are the current thoughts (from editors) regarding YA horror. What do you see in its future?

  46. anon 8:42 - I address some of that in this post:

  47. Brian: I am feeling bullish about Horror.

  48. I had to look up 'bullish', believe it or not. From what I read in Webster's, that's a sorta good thing. Thanks.

  49. Anonymous12:58 PM

    Hi Jennifer! Are you still taking questions? If so, I a longish one!

    1. Let's say a writer falls in love with an agent/agency, sends them a query and gets rejected. But that writer has Multiple Manuscript Syndrome and she thinks another of them might be a fit for her fave agent. Should she query with that script? Should she query right away? Or should she consider the fact beloved agency already rejected other manuscript and thus, even if they take 2nd manuscript, the 1st will now be lying in a slush pile until writer and fave agent part ways.

    Well, this sounded very coherent in my head... apologies if that didn't make sense.

    Thanks for having an open thread, it's so cool when someone who knows would take time to answer questions!

  50. Anon 12:58 - I would say of course you should query with the other manuscript - but if I were you I would take the time to make sure it really is as good as it can be.

    I have taken several clients based on the second manuscript they queried me with. Sometimes we go back and revisit those first ones and revise them, and send them out.

    Sometimes they are good, but don't have enough of a "hook" or whatever to make it as a first book.

    But sometimes they just really aren't good enough. Not everything you write will be good enough to sell, y'know? Specially not the first stuff. This is part of life. That might just be "the book that taught you how to write a book."


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