Quick Question*
Should I Hire an Editor Before I Submit to Agents?

publishing questionsFive years ago I rarely encountered anyone who paid to get his work edited before submitting to agents and publishers. Now just about every writer I run into at conferences talks about “my writing coach” or “my editor.”

At the 2014 San Francisco Writers Conference last month I heard a very jarring question. The New York editors panel was asked: “Will traditional publishers insist on editing my book?” There’s so much wrong with that question, and this whole situation, it’s kind of hard to know where to start.

What bothers me is what’s behind these questions: a deep [Read more…]

What Is a Quick Question?

At Author Planet®, we offer free answers to your straightforward publishing-related questions. Send us a question we can answer in around 50 words. (We often write more than 50 words, but it’s a place to start.) When you send us your question, you’re giving us permission to run it on our website and blog, and in other promotional materials if we feel the exchange may be of interest to others (we’ll remove your identifying information). Some examples of quick questions:

  • “Hi! What do you think of the first line of my query letter?”
  • “Two agents asked to see my manuscript on the SAME DAY! What should I do?”
  • “Do you know any great book cover designers personally?”
  • “Hi there! What’s the difference between ‘counsel’ and ‘council’?
  • “Dear Author Planet, should I submit to agents who aren’t in the AAR?”

Ask away!

Do I Need an Agent?

publishing questionsQ: Do I need an agent to get published by a traditional publishing house?

A: Depends on how you define “traditional publishing house.”

If you want to be published by a major publisher (the “Big Five” in New York: The Penguin/Random Group, Hachette, Simon and Schuster, HarperCollins & Macmillan; or other large independent houses such as WW Norton, Perseus, Chronicle Books and more) yes, you must have an agent. A way to judge: go to your local bookstore (a real one, not a virtual one.) Most publishers with many books sold through bookstores required agented submissions. (Don’t look on the spines, by the way—look on the copyright page. Each of the publishers I mention above is a conglomeration of many “imprints” that each once were independently owned publishing companies. So you’ll see “Crown” or Knopf or Doubleday or Bantam or Viking on a spine—they’re all now Penguin/Random.)

But “traditional houses” include any company that is selective in its output and doesn’t expect money from you to publish your book (or doesn’t expect you to fund the publication in some other sneaky way, like contracting to purchase 500 copies.)

University presses, small literary presses, specialty publishers all would be considered “traditional,” but may be willing to review your unagented submission. How to tell? Don’t query blindly, check them out one-by-one on their websites. Submission policies are always listed at reputable places.

What a Sentence Can Do: James Altucher

Sidetracked by a perfect paragraph. Doesn’t happen often.

I run into lots of people dying to know how to get famous and sell books. Lots of other people, including me, earn a living by advising said people. The truth: you can’t get famous through a formula. Social media fame comes from writing really engaging stuff in an authentic voice. Words that surprise, ideas that contradict and twist and grab.

Today, killing time before the Broncos game (known to some as the Superbowl), I jumped on Quora to find an answer to a software question. They made me click on categories & read an article to join the club (a hook I found both admirable and annoying). I read this article by James Altucher because it had a cartoon at the top that reminded me of one my son drew for me.

Skimmed it just to fulfill my “I read it” obligation. Woah…put on the brakes at “have sex more [Read more…]

2014 San Francisco Writers Conference

SFWC logoI’m gearing up for this year’s San Francisco Writers Conference Feb. 13th-17th at the Mark Hopkins Hotel—and getting psyched! It’s the only writers conference I attend each year (besides BEA). It’s classy and conscientious. SFWC  includes esoteric stuff like poetry jams and panels on using writing to make the world a better place—along with great practical panels and big name presenters. I love that about it!

Here’s a PDF of the official conference flier: 2014 SFWC Flyer

The conference provides insight and guidance for traditional, self-published, and aspiring writers.

You can attend the conference as a whole (learn more here), or purchase one or more of the pre- and post-conference workshops separately, or both.

I’m teaching: [Read more…]

Top Ten Places to Discover Books Online

Too many bookstores are closing their doors.  How will we find our books?

That’s the rub.

bookstore closedNot a massage kinda rub, but an OUCH! bruising kinda rub.

Plenty of studies show most bookbuyers find books in bookstores or libraries, through word of mouth, regardless of where they ultimately buy them.

Not online. Online is confusing and overwhelming.

A bunch of companies are trying to make online book “discovery” more user-friendly.

Will they replicate the bookstore experience? Never. But if they help readers find worthy books online, and keep the business of publishing good books alive, everyone benefits, even booksellers.

What do you think? Do these spots work for you?

Newest “Recommendation Engines”

1. Bookish was years in the making; it’s the result of a major collaboration between some of the largest publishers in the world. The look and concept is cool: type in a book you love and through miraculous algorithmic juggling, others you will love pop up. Plenty of bells and whistles; plenty of early praise and complaints.  Compared to Amazon: easier and cleaner; both less suspect and less powerful. Good people behind it; good luck to them. [Read more…]

Apple to Highlight Self-Published Books

Self-Published Books Pushed by Apple

Apple recently announced its new program of “Breakout Books” as reported in The New York Times.

According to the piece, “popular” self-published books will be featured under a banner on the iBookstore for the first few weeks, and then will become a regular feature.  Not mentioned in the article: exactly where these books come from. The piece interviewed Smashwords founder Mark Coker, who said the books “were nominated to Apple’s editorial team.”  Given the happy Smashwords/Apple relationship,  “were nominated” probably means “nominated by Smashwords.”

Smashwoods’ Reach Extends

Smashwords’ importance as a sales and discovery channel for self-published works is ever-growing. Mr. Coker recently also allied with many public libraries to make thousands of self-published ebooks available to the library market.

Can We Trust the Books?

The titles Apple will  highlight are selected based on: “criteria including sales performance and reader reviews” although the Apple “editorial team” has “final say” on the selections.

The world needs [Read more…]

Publishers, Band and Brand!

U.S. ConstitutionA plea for the formation of a far more perfect publishing body; one that protects literature and may contribute to the bottom line, even if not signed by Benjamin Franklin.

Book Publishers, Collude!

We, the readers, in order to “discover” the most perfect books, establish the value of editorial, design and production skills, provide for the common defense of the critical mind, promote the general intellect, and secure the Blessings of  Quality Literature (known as “Content”) for ourselves and our Posterity, do suggest the establishment of an industry label for books published by the Professional Publishers of the World. [Read more…]

I’m Very Unique. Hopefully.

Grammar PoliceVery, Exceedingly, Exceptionally Unique

Now, I’m not the world’s leading grammarian, and I’ve been known to mal a few apropisms myself. But the proper usage of some key words must have been beaten into my brain at very impressionable times, because every time I hear them misused, my blood pressure rises. Unfortunately it seems every few years, like an eclipse or volcanic eruption, the words I most hate to see used incorrectly also happen to be the ones most publicly mangled.

Hopefully, Hopefully

A decade or so ago, “hopefully” was the one that drove me to the hypertensives. HOPEFULLY DOES NOT MEAN “I HOPE!” Actually, I guess it does, now, as it’s been misused into common usage. So I’m getting past it, but NOOOOOO!  Enter, stage left: “very unique.” [Read more…]

Authors Hard Times Ahead…and Behind

penguin all12 Random Penguin Merger Predictions

Sorry, I mean the Penguin Random merger.  I so like random penguin…

Of course the future may hold surprises regarding the Random House/Penguin Group blending…  (See:  Christie/Obama..)

But some writing is pretty visibly on the wall, saltwater wash notwithstanding.

1.)  Authors and agents will worry (justifiably) and object (fruitlessly).

As Scott Turow, president of the Author’s Guild, notes:  “Penguin Random House, our first mega-publisher, would have additional negotiating leverage with the bookselling giants, but that leverage would come at a high cost for the literary market and therefore for readers. There are already far too few publishers willing to invest in nonfiction authors, who may require years to research and write histories, biographies, and other works, and in novelists, who may need the help of a substantial publisher to effectively market their books to readers.”

2.)  Nothing visible will happen for a while.  Behind the scenes, the accountants and lawyers will get very busy. [Read more…]