The Coffee Shop - JULY

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LizV
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Re: The Coffee Shop - JULY

Post by LizV » July 24th, 2012, 3:07 pm

Margo wrote:I provided 8 writers of varying experience with very specific guidelines. Only two were able to follow those guidelines. One of the others left me hanging by waiting until he was supposed to submit a finished product before telling me he had gone in a DIFFERENT direction.
I think that's somewhat of a different situation -- and a thoroughly aggravating one, yes! Obviously, if you have an agreement in place to provide a certain thing, whether it's length or content or format or whatever, then that's what you provide. If you find you can't do it, you either suck it up and do it anyway, or you tell the person you promised it to, as soon as humanly possible, that you're not going to be able to deliver, so they can make other arrangements.

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Re: The Coffee Shop - JULY

Post by Margo » July 24th, 2012, 5:12 pm

LizV wrote:
Margo wrote:I provided 8 writers of varying experience with very specific guidelines. Only two were able to follow those guidelines. One of the others left me hanging by waiting until he was supposed to submit a finished product before telling me he had gone in a DIFFERENT direction.
I think that's somewhat of a different situation -- and a thoroughly aggravating one, yes! Obviously, if you have an agreement in place to provide a certain thing, whether it's length or content or format or whatever, then that's what you provide. If you find you can't do it, you either suck it up and do it anyway, or you tell the person you promised it to, as soon as humanly possible, that you're not going to be able to deliver, so they can make other arrangements.
It's not a different situation at all. If a writer cannot demonstrate they can follow clearly stated guidelines, how can they be trusted when they are given more latitude with future books--which is the natural progression, producing both the Wheel of Time and the Song Of Fire and Ice series, both of which differed from the original proposal. Remember, both of those writers EARNED that latitude by writing to spec for years. It's not that different in real life. If an intern cannot follow directions, they are not going to be offered a position with less supervision, more pay, and greater possibility to harm the company if they go off the track.

I'm always tempted to ask...what do writers think the guidelines are intended for?

I come back to the main point of my previous post... Part of the reason for the guidelines is the fact that the publisher has a market for what they're asking for. They may or may not have a market for something else. if the other market was of great interest to them...they'd include it in their guidelines. If a writer wants to deal with the Big 6, there is NO getting around the fact that they are dealing with a business, one for whom your artistic fullfilment is NOT primary.

That dovetails nicely with what I've always said to writers who are oversensitive about agent rejections. They're not your mommy or your therapist. Be a professional, and you're more likely to be treated as an equal.

Examples from the music industry...Pink and Christian Aguilera. Both had to prove their professionalism and pay their dues by putting out records that didn't speak to them artistically but did serve to sharpen their skills and establish an audience. THEN they had the pull to take their second albums in the directions they wanted.
Urban fantasy, epic fantasy, and hot Norse elves. http://margolerwill.blogspot.com/

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Hillsy
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Re: The Coffee Shop - JULY

Post by Hillsy » July 24th, 2012, 7:23 pm

Margo wrote: I also don't think the 1 in a 1000 chance is accurate.
If only I had 100% accurate data and a powerpoint presentation....hehe.....and yeah thinking about it there's a couple more degrees of complexity within the publishing houses (imprints and whatnot) that I don't know anything about and was over simplifying...Ok I'll cede that's ill informed and retract that part.

OK then - analyst to analyst, we both know it's about ratios.
X amount of books get written and submitted, Y amount get published, giving us ratio 'Z'.

The entire point I'm trying to make is: what is the probability of a certain type of book in relation to 'Z'? (now I know why they always use greek letters, you immediately know you're talking about algrebra!) That's the kicker. My argument is that because X is already so large in comparison to Y, that in order to achieve Y=1, X has to be a pretty vast number. That's fine, but what it means is, when comparing varying values of Z for individual genres, to get any significant change - say a factor of 10-20, the value of X then escalates quickly into really big numbers.

So the next question is: Of the total books written by unpublished authors (X) what is the split between the genres? Then of the total books published written by previously unpublished authors (Y) what is the genre split there? Then comparing the ratios between each genre (Z) how vast would the difference between the various values of Z be? My argument is that for 1 specific type of book, to have such a fatal probablilty of publication BUT STILL return 1 success, it would have to take up a massive proportion of X, thereby reducing all the other values of Z well below the average....

Gahh.....I just can't explain the theory behind it without a flipping blackboard!!
Margo wrote: But what responsibility do we carry when we advise other writers to reduce their chances. Can we meaningfully lessen their pain when they take our advice and fail? Or do we post a sympathetic message and go back to our lives, pretty much unscathed by the fallout of our own counsel?
A-ha...well this is a completely different argument altogether. Personally, I stopped writing for two years after reading that blog post - THAT's how badly I took the "You ain't getting 200K published straight off the bat" advice. It wasn't until Brandon Sanderson just said "I got my 12th book published rather than my 3rd because I was writing 200K books" that I thawed a bit on the whole thing....
....I suppose the stock advice statement should read: Getting 120K+ books published is hard, either write something shorter, or get better...
Margo wrote: Am I suggesting a writer should never write a long novel? No, bestsellers do it all the time. But was Jordan's FIRST book 800 pages? Was Martin's? Or were they allowed that latitude AFTER they proved their skill and had established a loyal audience?
Brent weeks, Joe Abercombie, Scott Lynch, Brandon Sanderson, Patrick Rothfuss, Adrain Tchaikovsky, Gail Z Martin.....I'm sorry, I know they don't really mean anything really, I just keep turning round at my book shelf and seeing various doors propped open by big ol' book......I'm just being mischevious...hehe
Margo wrote:And in this economy, are the Big 6 more or LESS likely to take a risk on a new author whose production costs are going to be twice that of another author (or more)?
Now that is a really valid point I can totally agre with: were the debut books I noted above the last of their kind? Yeah that's entirely possible.
Margo wrote:You have drawn from assumptions made with a certain amount of data, though I think you have too little data for the assumptions you have made. I'm drawing from personal, face-to-face conversations in which I actually asked agents and editors these questions, and in an atmosphere where they were more candid than they would have been on a blog or after meeting someone briefly once at a con.
I'm defintely not belittling that - but there's also the fact that agents/editors/aquisitors who don't want long books are more prevalent than those that do...It's like scientology. You can ask around religious places and see their reaction to Xenu, it wont be great. But it doesn't mean there arn't scientology churches, and probably enough scientologists to fill them...they're just harder to find because all the others keep banging on about this "God" bloke....


Disclaimer: I do not believe in Scientology

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Re: The Coffee Shop - JULY

Post by Margo » July 24th, 2012, 8:15 pm

Hillsy wrote:It wasn't until Brandon Sanderson just said "I got my 12th book published rather than my 3rd because I was writing 200K books" that I thawed a bit on the whole thing....
This makes a huge difference. I do wonder how many writers have that level of commitment, almost two and a half million words, never giving up. Some might think it might have been worthwhile to write a few 100k-word books that actually got published and started building his audience, then hit the 200k books once he had a trilogy or two under his belt. It obviously worked for him. But, again, how many writers would have had the will to keep going after 2 million words of rejection?

You mentioned a few doorstopper debuts, including Rothfuss, who is the poster child I always expect people to bring up (and I don't mean that disrespectfully). Have you (because I have not) looked at the year those books were released? Keep in mind, they would have been contracted 1-2 years before release. So did they all come out at once? Over a few years? How many per year? I suspect (again, without looking) that we're talking 1-2 a year, maybe 3. That seems like a very small number when agents are receiving 1000 spec fic queries a month. In those same years, how many shorter debuts were published?

In the end, I don't have an issue with someone like Sanderson, who made the conscious decision to write long even at the cost of publication. I personally think he could have gotten published sooner and improved his craft faster by imposing restrictions on himself. Limits, like all pains in life, have lessons to teach. What would his writing look like now were he filling those 200k-word books with lessons he'd learned while hard-pressed by obstacles he never imposed upon himself? No, my issue is the fact that we writers tend to dole out chipper platitudes about following our hearts, listening to our muses, writing what characters tell us to, without also adding BUT be aware you do so at your own peril.

All this assuming we're talking about writers pursuing traditional publication.

Disclaimer: I don't believe in traditional publication anymore. :)
Urban fantasy, epic fantasy, and hot Norse elves. http://margolerwill.blogspot.com/

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LurkingVirologist
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Re: The Coffee Shop - JULY

Post by LurkingVirologist » July 24th, 2012, 11:07 pm

Hillsy wrote: Firstly - I'm an analyst by day and have always been enamoured by the quirks of numbers. I remember finding out that it's actually more likely (in fact bordering on and inevitability) for someone to win the lottery twice than for no one to win more than once. Or that it only takes 11 people for it to be more likely to have a birthday in the same week. They seem counter intuitive, but they're true, and I love all that. So I'm really not approaching this from a Dorothy-clicking-her-ruby-slipper-heels-together place. It's is all about ratios and probability...and yes accepting that you've got a smaller chance. But it's nowhere near as disatrous as claimed.

I’ll shut up now…….
Ack. I keep forgetting to watch out for the Prosecutor's Fallacy when I think about odds. OK, not exactly the same thing, but it makes sense when I bastardize what (I think) you just said into False Positive/False Negative ratios and population prevalence. Moar dataz :geek: . It really would be fascinating to know what the percentage of 'atypical' first novels (doorstoppers, multi-POV, etc.) is relative to the number that are queried at or above a basic quality cut-off (i.e. they really did need to be that long). I'm not blind to the economics of it, as Margo has laid out rather clearly, but I would so love to see the breakdowns. Pesky unknown denominator...

Also, I do find writing under slowly tightening limits to be helpful.
"Books break the shackles of time, proof that humans can work magic." -Carl Sagan

LizV
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Re: The Coffee Shop - JULY

Post by LizV » July 25th, 2012, 11:36 am

Margo wrote: No, my issue is the fact that we writers tend to dole out chipper platitudes about following our hearts, listening to our muses, writing what characters tell us to, without also adding BUT be aware you do so at your own peril.

All this assuming we're talking about writers pursuing traditional publication.

Disclaimer: I don't believe in traditional publication anymore. :)
Margo, I think you're reading something into my statements that I didn't intend. (Or else you're arguing with someone who isn't here, in which case, I'll step out.) I'm definitely not advocating the "follow my muse" camp. (Bleah.) I'm just not a fan of handing down One True Way writing advice. I'd rather hand out objective facts, and let the aspiring writer make their own choices. If those choices don't get them what they want, well, learning to make good choices is an integral part of navigating this, or any, business successfully.

I'm saying that the question our aspiring writer (let's call him Ted, for convenience) needs to ask is, if he cuts 30K words to get published, will he still be proud of that book when he sees it on the shelves? If the answer's yes, great, do it. But if -- with serious, fact-based, objective-as-possible consideration, not being a special-snowflake prima-donna -- the answer's no, then Ted should stick to his mega-MS, with the clear understanding that it's going to reduce his chances, that it limits the agents he can pitch to, that he may have to get something else published first, etc. It's a question of cost-benefit analysis, and some of those costs and benefits are personal -- Ted has to evaluate them for himself, not you or me.
Margo wrote:If a writer cannot demonstrate they can follow clearly stated guidelines
Therein lies the rub. If you're looking at a specific agent (or editor), and if they clearly state that their upper limit is 120K, then obviously Ted shouldn't waste their time and his sending a 150K MS. Submission guidelines trump all. In the absence of that clear statement (and in my entirely unscientific survey of agents, that absence is more common than not), as our esteemed host would say, send it. The worst they can do is say no.

(I'm not sure we're really disagreeing here, so much as arguing unstated assumptions. And I find it ironic that I'm arguing this side of the case, given that I don't generally like doorstop-books myself, and I tend to write short rather than long. :? )

LizV
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Re: The Coffee Shop - JULY

Post by LizV » July 25th, 2012, 11:50 am

LurkingVirologist wrote:It really would be fascinating to know what the percentage of 'atypical' first novels (doorstoppers, multi-POV, etc.) is relative to the number that are queried at or above a basic quality cut-off (i.e. they really did need to be that long). I'm not blind to the economics of it, as Margo has laid out rather clearly, but I would so love to see the breakdowns.
I agree, LurkingVirologist, it would be fascinating to see the numbers with a "quality" factor taken into account, both for atypicals and in general.

Have you seen this: http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/ar ... 04641.html (scroll down to "The context of rejection" for stats) ? It's a few years old, and it's looking at short-fiction venues as well as novels, but I'm willing to bet the numbers are still similar. It's rather comforting, when you see that Agent X only requests pages on 1 of 100 queries, to consider that as many as 75 of those books should never have been allowed to escape the writer's desk. If you think of it as you're only competing with the good books, the odds look a lot better.
Last edited by LizV on July 26th, 2012, 3:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The Coffee Shop - JULY

Post by Sommer Leigh » July 25th, 2012, 1:01 pm

LizV wrote: If you think of it as you're only competing with the good books, the odds look a lot better.
That's when you need threads like this one: How do you know if your writing is any good?
viewtopic.php?f=2&t=4895
May the word counts be ever in your favor. http://www.sommerleigh.com
Be nice, or I get out the Tesla cannon.

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Re: The Coffee Shop - JULY

Post by Sommer Leigh » July 25th, 2012, 1:51 pm

As if reading our minds, YA Highway posted this week about trimming down long manuscripts:

http://www.yahighway.com/2012/07/trimmi ... cript.html
May the word counts be ever in your favor. http://www.sommerleigh.com
Be nice, or I get out the Tesla cannon.

LizV
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Re: The Coffee Shop - JULY

Post by LizV » July 25th, 2012, 1:58 pm

Sommer Leigh wrote: How do you know if your writing is any good?
Yep. And even the long-time pros struggle with that one.

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Re: The Coffee Shop - JULY

Post by MattLarkin » July 26th, 2012, 1:23 pm

Don't get me wrong, I love the Wheel of Time. But even Jordan could have made his story even better by trimming the word count. Or at least better from my perspective, since I want fast pacing and great story more than a detailed description of everything any character ever wears.
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Re: The Coffee Shop - JULY

Post by Sommer Leigh » July 26th, 2012, 4:50 pm

So excited! I'm going to a sci-fi con this weekend. The con is usually a ton of fun, but the authors don't usually deliver in the way of great panels. Most of the authors are pretty nice (they are general midwest and local and not well known). They all tend to be pretty dated though. Like, a couple of years ago I was at a panel on the future of book marketing on the web. This was around when I was starting my blog so I was super excited. Unfortunately, none of the panelists had blogs or Twitter accounts, one of them argued that ebooks were a fad and that (I swear I'm not making this up) he was sure there were medical studies being done that would prove it was impossible to retain what one read from an eReader. That the brain didn't work that way. That same panelist (who ran a small publishing house) also refused to work with Amazon because he believed they were out to get him and that his authors were better off without the sales through them anyway.

Last year I attended a panel on writing technology. I expected to hear about things like Dropbox and Scrivener. The author guest of honor talked about how to use Wordperfect. One of the authors mentioned that there was this one product called Scrivener that some writers used. He inferred it was just trendy.

So to say that I don't go to this con to listen to good writing advice is an understatement. I'm intrigued this year, though, because there are some panels on self publishing, so maybe they've got some people to talk who've joined us from the 1980s? I'll peek in, maybe, depending on who is on the panel.

Here are some of the panels I am looking forward to though. Not all of them are writing related:

The Science of Steampunk
What the heck is a Higgs Boson?
Marketing for Writers
Theories behind first contact
Self publishing 101
Clouds and production of anti-matter
Zombie 101
eBook creation and pitfalls
Genre journalism
Strong women in speculative fiction
Infectious disease*
Zombie self-defense
Character building
Apocalyptic Survial for Women**
Multicultural steampunk
Surviving the apocalypse
Comic book Physics Part I and II

*I wish Claudie were going with me. They've brought in a professor from...I want to say the University of Michigan but I'll correct myself when I find out for sure...who specializes in viruses. WOOT.
**So excited about this one. The description says men are welcome, but things are going to get gross. No one ever talks about the gross aspects of apocalyptic survival.
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Re: The Coffee Shop - JULY

Post by CharleeVale » July 26th, 2012, 5:02 pm

I expect a full report, Sommer. :D

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Re: The Coffee Shop - JULY

Post by Claudie » July 26th, 2012, 5:13 pm

AH Sommer I wish I was going with you too! I'd love to attend the post-apo ones too. They might help me reboot and finish my only french project.
"I do not think there is any thrill [...] like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success... Such emotions make a man forget food, sleep, friends, love, everything." -- Nikola Tesla

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Re: The Coffee Shop - JULY

Post by LurkingVirologist » July 27th, 2012, 3:30 am

Sommer Leigh wrote: Infectious disease*

*I wish Claudie were going with me. They've brought in a professor from...I want to say the University of Michigan but I'll correct myself when I find out for sure...who specializes in viruses. WOOT.
:twisted:
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