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Authors You "Know" and Etiquette

Got a question/comment about the business of writing or about the publishing industry? Here's your place to post it!
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DianeL
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Authors You "Know" and Etiquette

Post by DianeL » Mon October 8th, 2012, 11:40 pm

Now that the revision is FINALLY complete, I'm back to querying - hoorah! Over the course of time, here and in a couple other spots (but primarily here!), I've "gotten to know" some established authors, and *already* have run into a prospective agency I'd like to query, who represents an author I have some acquaintance with. Someone, in fact, whose work I have in the past anonymously compared my own with - and would like to do so again. Is it best to stick with anonymity, as opposed to "I know Joe Schmoe, and my work resembles his!"

It's VERY much not my thing to go glomming onto people, accosting professionals in a social milieu for free advice or (ugh!) assistance - BUT at the same time I want to be the best advocate for my work that I can be. You can read a LOT of advice online about how to build a platform, how to query and other things, but the advice on making connections does not tend to dig deeper than *making* them.

Sleeve-tugging and manuscript-waving with those whose reputations are made seems incredibly obnoxious. So is there some other way to say, "Joe Schmoe and Jane Doe are friendly with me at HFO or Twitter or whatever" without it being entirely irrelevant? And, perhaps more importantly, is there a way to solicit an author's opinion of a sample of your work politely?
"To be the queen, she agreed to be the widow!"

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The pre-modern world was willing to attribute charisma to women well before it was willing to attribute sustained rationality to them.
---Medieval Kingship, Henry A. Myers

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
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Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favourite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Tue October 9th, 2012, 3:17 am

I sympathize with your dilemma, Diane. And though I'm not one of those authors, but I can give you my opinion from the bottom.

Sometimes I swap manuscripts for a beta-read. I am in process with one of these right now, (not with a forum member) and I can tell you that reading, other than what you choose for your own personal enjoyment, is WORK. Commenting honestly on somebody's MS is more than work: it is personal risk. I am trying to give the current beta a stream-of-reading commentary, but before I send it to the writer, I will have to water it down.

I enjoy this person's friendship, I like her topic, and she does a good job putting words together. But the truth is, at this stage the storytelling is flawed to the point it's not enjoyable.

So the best way to think of it is, if you were asked to put your professional, public seal of approval on the work of somebody else in your field, would you do it without assuring yourself that it was up to your standards? What if doing so took 10 hours of your time and you had 30 requests a week?

Beyond that time cost, if a friend asked you to do something that would possibly end with them being mad at you, would you want to volunteer?

That's where the Golden Rule comes in.
Last edited by MLE (Emily Cotton) on Tue October 9th, 2012, 4:07 am, edited 3 times in total.

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parthianbow
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Post by parthianbow » Tue October 9th, 2012, 3:42 pm

Diane: I feel for you! IMO, the best way to get solid, unbiased advice is to pay a freelance editor for it. That's what I did before my first ms. went out on the market.

[quote=""DianeL""]And, perhaps more importantly, is there a way to solicit an author's opinion of a sample of your work politely?[/quote]

Not really. I've done it once, and as MLE says, I had to water it down so much that I don't know if it was as effective as it 'should' have been. Had I been an editor paid for for my work, I would have savaged it far more. I won't do it any more, for a number of reasons. 1. I'm far too busy. 2. I don't like doling out painful advice. 3. I don't like feeling I have to dilute the advice. 4. Often the work I'm asked to look at needs so much work that it would take a large check for me even to consider it. 5. I'm too busy!

Which still leaves you needing some good advice. :( Do think about paying a freelance high-quality editor (and I can ask one I know if you'd like).
Ben Kane
Bestselling author of Roman military fiction.
Spartacus - UK release 19 Jan. 2012. US release June 2012.

http://www.benkane.net
Twitter: @benkaneauthor

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 3564
Joined: August 2008
Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favourite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Tue October 9th, 2012, 8:48 pm

[quote=""parthianbow""] Do think about paying a freelance high-quality editor (and I can ask one I know if you'd like).[/quote]

Now there is something I WOULD like advice on, Ben. I have been on the lookout for a high-quality freelance editor. I expect to pay.

I do have a writing mentor who has dozens of published HF novels. (I didn't ask, SHE volunteered, at an HNS meeting where we were reading each others' first chapters.) But I would not presume upon her time to review my work. I have several friends who have served as beta readers for years, but they either like my stuff too much, or they have too much invested in friendship to be honest. Being naturally skeptical, I don't discount the latter possibility.

It seems like anybody who has a command of grammar now hangs out their shingle, and, being eager for work, they assure you that they are just the right pick. So far I have gone through 5 freelance editors (3 of them traditionally-published writers) and although most like what I write, I am not having much luck finding a good fit improving it.

One editor (who turned out to specialize in thesis papers for ESL doctoral candidates) corrected all the colloquial speech of my lower-class characters. :rolleyes: That was the end of that relationship.

Another published writer, hired through a professional service with a thorough questionnaire to determine what genre your work was, treated my (adult-labeled) novel as a children's book and marked all the references to sex and the difficult words. It was only the first chapter, but that little exercise was so egregious (and expensive) that I gave feedback to the editing service. They reviewed it, apologized, and assigned me another published writer who insisted that my opus should be first-person. And proceeded to do that for me.

I downloaded kindle samples of some of her books. They were all first-person. They also were not something I enjoyed, although plainly they had found an audience. This was followed by a painfully awkward phone consultation where she insisted that I should take her advice and I bent myself in verbal knots so I wouldn't have to say that I wasn't interested in continuing the relationship because I didn't like her work.

I put together a wide selection of well-known books that 'my' reader would have liked, and that is how I chose editor #5. This one might work. She's not a writer, she's a reader of HF, and a professional who actually has experience editing it. I'm not entirely finished with the test phase yet, but of course I am paying for the time.

How did you find yours?
Last edited by MLE (Emily Cotton) on Wed October 10th, 2012, 5:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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DianeL
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Post by DianeL » Tue October 9th, 2012, 11:12 pm

My apologies I have been unclear. The question wasn't meant to be limited to that last sentence in the post above.

It's not a question of wanting editorial assistance as it is the etiquette issue of querying an agent, one of whose clients is social-network-ially known to me, and making the comparison of my work to this person's. I'm not querying a MSS which is still in revision or in need of work; that has been done. While I would still take my AGENT'S editorial suggestions if they made any, The Ax and the Vase is to the best of my ability (and my readers') in the finest shape I can get it. I do know enough not to query an incomplete work.

The only context in which I meant sampling it to be relevant was if an author has enough interest to want to say anything themselves, obviously I'd make it available.

What I want to know is, if I were, say, to query Ben Kane's agent (heh - sorry, Ben, your misfortune for responding!), and I actually would say my work is pretty similar in context, how would I work in the "and I am acquainted with Ben via Historical Fiction Online" detail, which some agents find relevant as an example that I'm trying to participate in the histfic community. I'm asking about working in such a particular detail, as opposed to "I'm a member of such and such generic community" etc.

There's actually a wide spectrum of possibilities in what I am talking about; I know that when querying one size does not fit all, so I recalibrate ALL my letters to each and every agent based on what I know about them. Anything from "I'm acquainted with so-and-so" without in any way implying they've read my work - to, say I'd actually become friendly with someone, being able to say "so-and-so agrees my work is similar" without any value judgment attached.

I don't want to seek a blurb - not to be insufferable, but honestly I think the work speaks for itself and I don't expect help in getting it out there per se. But some agents do say they like to see that a new author is building a platform, so to speak - is participating in a community, is networking to one degree or another, is making a point of trying to create an identity or presence. THAT is what I want to figure out - how do I say I'm at the party with these people, I guess.
Last edited by DianeL on Tue October 9th, 2012, 11:18 pm, edited 2 times in total.
"To be the queen, she agreed to be the widow!"

***

The pre-modern world was willing to attribute charisma to women well before it was willing to attribute sustained rationality to them.
---Medieval Kingship, Henry A. Myers

***

http://dianelmajor.blogspot.com/
I'm a Twit: @DianeLMajor

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LoveHistory
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Post by LoveHistory » Tue October 9th, 2012, 11:46 pm

No experience in this Diane, but I have an idea. What if you ask the person or persons, through private messages, if they would mind your mentioning that you know or are acquainted with them? It wouldn't necessarily imply that they have read your work.

A general statement might not work well with sites like Twitter and Facebook, but HFO is a more select group. Not that that the publishing world is combing our forums for potential bestsellers, but it's more personal here than it is on the big sites. We have fewer members but far more civility and I think often better discussions. And you could mention that thus and such person is also a member at HFO without implying that you were in their wedding party or were asked to help pick names for their children.

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Elizabeth
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Post by Elizabeth » Wed October 10th, 2012, 12:58 pm

Here's my two cents, for what it may be worth. :)

It's quite common for query letters to include general wordage to the effect of, "My book will appeal to readers of This Big Name Author and That Big Name Author." I think you should use the names you genuinely believe fit with your work and let it go at that. The facts that you're slightly acquainted with one of the authors, or that the agent you're querying represents one of them, are both kind of irrelevant to the comparison you're making. All the agent really wants to know is where your book fits in and who he/she can sell it to.

If the agent follows up and comments on the fact that he/she represents one of your authors, then you can expand on your acquaintance via HFO, etc.

Best of luck with your querying! :)
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oldhousejunkie
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Post by oldhousejunkie » Wed October 10th, 2012, 5:15 pm

I have heard several big name authors and agents say that comparing yourself to other writers is a big no-no. They advise that your work should indeed stand on its own. However, to phrase it as Elizabeth suggests is definitely within the bounds of a good query letter as it shows that you know your market. I have done this in the past. I have also notified the agent that I am a big fan of one of their clients and think I would be a good fit for their list as well.

I think there was also the question of contacting authors to ask permission to cite their name. Even though I have a few big name authors following me on Twitter and rub elbows with them here, I still kind of consider them as celebrities and therefore would not dream of asking to ride their coattails to fame. But I have a tendency to be overly self-deprecating too.

Best of luck!
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MLE (Emily Cotton)
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 3564
Joined: August 2008
Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favourite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Wed October 10th, 2012, 9:26 pm

[quote=""DianeL""]My apologies I have been unclear.
What I want to know is, if I were, say, to query Ben Kane's agent (heh - sorry, Ben, your misfortune for responding!), and I actually would say my work is pretty similar in context, how would I work in the "and I am acquainted with Ben via Historical Fiction Online" detail,[/quote]

I think if you are comparing your novel to another writer's, it is far more important to know the work than the writer. Agents hate it when aspiring authors give a list of popular books and it is obvious that they have read none of them.

[quote=""DianeL""]how do I say I'm at the party with these people, I guess.[/quote]
I would say that being an active participant in this forum is relevant because of the readers, not the writers. Just tell them how long you have belonged, and maybe how active you have been (posts are listed after your name) and if that matters to the agent, they will take note.

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Justin Swanton
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Post by Justin Swanton » Thu October 11th, 2012, 5:48 am

[quote=""MLE""]Now there is something I WOULD like advice on, Ben. I have been on the lookout for a high-quality freelance editor. I expect to pay.

I do have a writing mentor who has dozens of published HF novels. (I didn't ask, SHE volunteered, at an HNS meeting where we were reading each others' first chapters.) But I would not presume upon her time to review my work. I have several friends who have served as beta readers for years, but they either like my stuff too much, or they have too much invested in friendship to be honest. Being naturally skeptical, I don't discount the latter possibility.

It seems like anybody who has a command of grammar now hangs out their shingle, and, being eager for work, they assure you that they are just the right pick. So far I have gone through 5 freelance editors (3 of them traditionally-published writers) and although most like what I write, I am not having much luck finding a good fit improving it.

One editor (who turned out to specialize in thesis papers for ESL doctoral candidates) corrected all the colloquial speech of my lower-class characters. :rolleyes: That was the end of that relationship.

Another published writer, hired through a professional service with a thorough questionnaire to determine what genre your work was, treated my (adult-labeled) novel as a children's book and marked all the references to sex and the difficult words. It was only the first chapter, but that little exercise was so egregious (and expensive) that I gave feedback to the editing service. They reviewed it, apologized, and assigned me another published writer who insisted that my opus should be first-person. And proceeded to do that for me.

I downloaded kindle samples of some of her books. They were all first-person. They also were not something I enjoyed, although plainly they had found an audience. This was followed by a painfully awkward phone consultation where she insisted that I should take her advice and I bent myself in verbal knots so I wouldn't have to say that I wasn't interested in continuing the relationship because I didn't like her work.

I put together a wide selection of well-known books that 'my' reader would have liked, and that is how I chose editor #5. This one might work. She's not a writer, she's a reader of HF, and a professional who actually has experience editing it. I'm not entirely finished with the test phase yet, but of course I am paying for the time.

How did you find yours?[/quote]

Just out of curiosity, what exactly are you looking for from an editor? I passed My MS past my wife who was completely honest in her critical appraisal (i.e. she tore large parts of it to bits). Besides typos and grammatical inaccuracies I was looking for:

- obscure passages, i.e. parts where the reader could not figure out what was going on because I had taken it for granted so much in my mind that I didn't see the need to tell it;

- difficult sentence construction, where the reader has to work to figure out what is being said;

- glaring inconsistencies in a character's personality or behaviour;

- contrived language (the most common being the artificial 'hiking up' that is so prevalent with new writers - 'she glared at him', 'he shrieked', etc.).

Someone who is reasonably intelligent can do a very good job of picking up most of this. I would avoid using a professional writer as he/she has his own particular notion of what constitutes good writing. An experienced reader on the other hand has the right first impression approach to an MS to spot the real errors. Just tell them to be ruthless - you want to know what's wrong with your work!
Last edited by Justin Swanton on Thu October 11th, 2012, 5:49 am, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: just doing the editing thing
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