I'm really sorry Myspace friends, but after receiving my 1,578,278,323th Myspace error message while trying to post this blog I've finally had enough. Judging from the dwindling number of comments on the Myspace blog, I know I'm not alone in my frustration. Until further notice I will no longer be posting the blog at Myspace -- I hope you all will continue to read the blog over at http://blog.nathanbransford.com
For those of you who have subscribed to the blog and are accustomed to receiving e-mails when I've posted, you can subscribe to the blog via e-mail on the Blogger page -- there's a link on the left side of the page.
I hope you'll continue to read the blog and participate in the comments section over on Blogger, and sorry for the inconvenience.
When one is having an extremely busy day in which the e-mails are just pouring in, one does not generally expect that a telephone pole outside one's building will catch on fire, shutting down power for the day. Well, that happened to one ME today. I'm now working from home for the rest of the afternoon, which, trust me, sounds way more awesome than it is.
(Actually it's kind of awesome. I have a laptop and it's 65 degrees outside. You do the math.)
Anyway, this post is going to be brief because of the aforementioned busy day, but I'm getting a bazillion queries lately and I've noticed something kind of interesting about the way different people characterize their accomplishments in query letters.
Put on your agent hat for a moment. Which of these two authors would you be more interested in signing:
Author A has published six books, published numerous articles, and is a an award winning author.... only after some digging you find out the six books were published by a very small press with a sketchy website, the articles were published on the author's blogs, and the award was Citizen of the Year from Nowheresville, Indiana.
Author B has published several works from small presses, has a killer idea for a new novel, and is ready to make the leap to a major publisher. After some digging, this is all turns out to be true.
So who would you choose? Author B, right? Trick question: THEY'RE THE SAME AUTHOR. Also I made them both up. This blog gets trickier and trickier.
Anyway, the moral of this bizarro example is that it is much better to be completely honest about your accomplishments but pitch yourself as being on the rise than it is to try and blow up your accomplishments into something they're not. Agents do not like it when authors try and fool them, and we can smell a turkey sale a mile away.
On the flipside, though, don't undersell yourself either. Don't apologize for a lack of writing credits -- don't fake them, but just make sure you have a great story and you're confident about it. If you do, an agent will come calling. Assuming their telephone pole isn't on fire.
Jessica Faust from BookEnds has a seriously awesome post up about how to choose the best agent. Once you know an agent is reputable, how do you know they're the right agent for you? This is a really difficult question to answer, and she does (I think) a great job of breaking it down.
Digression. A few years back, the Boston Celtics were really bad. Their star trio Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish had retired, former Kentucky coach Rick Pitino had taken over as coach/GM, and... they were really really bad. But people in Boston still had all these high expectations for the team, and Pitino was fed up with people thinking the Celtics were going to be as good as the old glory days. So at a press conference he blew up on the media and gave a famous rant about how "Larry Bird is not walking through that door, fans. Kevin McHale is not walking through that door and Robert Parish is not walking through that door. And if you expect them to walk through the door they're going to be gray and old." (clip below in all its awesomeness)
Well, I have something to say to aspiring authors out there: Harry Potter is not walking through that door.
I've been getting SO many queries lately talking about the "void" left by the end of the HARRY POTTER series. Inevitably these are queries from children's fantasy writers with varying degrees of similarity to Harry Potter, who feel that people who are no longer buying HARRY POTTER books are pooling their money to spend on the next children's fantasy book featuring wizards.
Yes, to be sure, in the publishing industry we're all wondering and placing bets on what the next "next big thing" is going to be. But when has the "next big thing" ever been like the last big thing?
Aspiring authors do themselves such a disservice by trying to follow the publishing trends or trying to model their book on the ones that have been successful in the past. Trust me -- Harry Potter is not walking through that door, THE DA VINCI CODE is not walking through that door and THE LOVELY BONES is not walking through that door. The next huge hit is not going to resemble the hits of the past.
The best thing to do is what J.K. Rowling did: she wrote a great book that was fresh and original and not at all trying to mimic what was popular at the time.