Friday, April 29, 2011

What up with that?

A horrible, horrible skit on SNL called What up with that? inspired me to come up with a list of stuff in the publishing world that made me go, “What up with that?”

No email submissions…what up with that?

Come on, are we still stuck in the 90s or something?  It’s 2011 for crying out loud!  We have cars that can parallel park themselves, a robot playing Jeopardy, and I’m pretty sure there are some cyborgs wandering around out there (see Larry King).  And yet you can’t accept email submissions?

Okay, I get it.  You only accept snail-mail queries because you think by doing so that it shows you’re the best of the best—that making authors go through an unnecessary process which involves fees and wasted time is the least us underprivileged peons can do.

Instead, why don’t you just put a digi metal from Special Agent Oso (a cartoon character who gives metals to kids for doing simple tasks) stating, “We’re better than everyone, even you,” right on your homepage. 

And if that’s not enough, along with our email queries, you can demean authors by making us include a cover letter stating why we’ll never be on your level.

Or you could simply keep up with technology and start accepting email queries!

Extremely long query response wait times…what up with that?

Your current wait time is 490. 

490 hours?  Not bad.

Days.  490 days. I shouldn’t query any other publication/agent until 2013?  I mean I’m expected to be kind and courteous and all that good stuff, right?

Yes—it’s the least you can do.

Okay, that sounds fair.

Am I exaggerating just a bit?  No.  One publication actually gave me a 490 day wait estimation.  And I’m finding it more and more common for bigger agencies/publications to tell you beforehand that the wait could be six months or longer.

Let me tell you something—if I worked with that mentality, I wouldn’t have a job.  HIRE SOME MORE PEOPLE!

Ghostwriters…what up with that?

Imagine, you walk into the book store, and right there, front and center, on some huge shelf, are 500 copies of James Patterson’s new book.  You look to the left and there’s another shelf, but this one has 500 copies of Tom Clancy’s new book.  Then you look to the right and see five different cooking books.

Curious because you could’ve sworn you saw both a new Patterson and Clancy book just last month, and the month before, and the month before that, you ask the store clerk, “Are those Patterson and Clancy books new?”

“Nope.”  The clerk bobs a finger over her shoulder at a wall of boxes and says, “Those are.”

Patterson and Clancy and many other “highly marketable” authors do not write their own books.  Ghostwriters do the hard work for them so they can milk readers for every last penny.

What up with that?  Why do people buy ghost-written books?  It’s kind of like gas—people know they’re getting jobbed, but in this case, they don’t have to purchase the product.

If there were a list of commandments for writers, not supporting fake books would probably be in the top two.

By the way, Patterson wants everyone to know that he doesn’t write his own books because of the chaos in Libya.

No response to queries…what up with that?

Look—if I take the time to submit something, the least you can do is shoot me an email saying, “Got it,” or, “Nah.”  Especially if I took the time to snail-mail it.

I’m not kidding when I say I don’t receive any sort of response from at least half of the agents I query.  HALF!

People in the publishing world stress following guidelines and being professional and extending courteousness, yet how can they be taken seriously when they don’t practice what they preach?


This is.  You know, how some novels start out.
What up with that?

Contests which charge fees…what up with that?

What’s that, you say?  You want me to enter a story into your contest?  Oh, as many stories as I want?  Oh?  The more the better?  Sounds awesome!

Okay, so some random people are going to judge it.  What’s that?  They’ll pick the winner based on what they fancy?  So it doesn’t matter if I’ve written the best story ever, because it boils down to opinion?  Well, I guess that’s fine.  As long as my entry is in tip-top shape, I don’t mind entering your lottery.

Whoa, hold on!  You want me to pay a fee for each submission?  Yeah, #$%! that.  I can submit to magazines and anthologies and agents and publishers all for free.  Imagine that.

Erotica covers with barely-clothed lovers/cheaters sensually gazing at each other or sniffing necks…what up with that?

Enough said.

Custom-made book trailers…what up with that?

No.  No.  No.  No. NO!  Maybe my disdain comes from years of experience as a video editor, but regardless, stop making trailers for your novels! 

If you think stock photos with those faint copyright Xs are spreading your work in a positive light, well, I’d hate to break it to you, but it’s probably giving potential customers the message, “I throw crap together.”

And the music I hear in these things… 

Stock photo of a skateboard.  The text, “He was once awesome at skating,” scrolls by.  Cut to splattered blood on the concrete street.  Smash viewer with the text, “Until a bomb inside his liver exploded and he died!”  All the while the jingle from Two and a Half Men is playing at full blast in the background.

And then come the celebrity photos.  Oh, look, it’s Marky Mark starring as Tad Treebranchclawmaster in The Great Outdoor Trip to Vancouver from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Love Tad and His Backpack.  Regardless of the shabby video editing job by the author, I’m confident that their editing of the actual book will be much better.  Besides, Marky Mark is in this novel—he wouldn’t just go from The Fighter to anything…would he?

Look, I’m not saying authors shouldn’t make book trailers—but most shouldn’t.  Especially those who try and do it themselves. 

Let me put it this way—would you sit down at a computer with no prior writing experience and churn out a novel and rush it into pub…oh, waitJ

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

An Autoschediastical Query Letter!


\ aw-toh-SKEE-dee-az-tik-uhl \  , adjective;

1. Something improvised or extemporized.

Come, that's all I have to say, for if people don't take an interest in things, I shall not eliminate sesquipedilianisms in an autoschediastical  fashion to amuse them.
-- Mark Lemon, Henry Mayhew, Punch, Volumes 62-63, 1872

Oh, and Happy Belated Easter!

...Lately I’ve been poking around trying to get a glimpse at some successful query letters.  I’ve always been curious to see what certain authors said to get their foot in the door.  The only problem is, most example queries are from unnamed or unknown authors.   

I’m looking and looking and looking, and Stephanie Meyer’s query is nowhere to be found.  Dan Brown’s?  Nada.  Stephen King’s?  Negatory.  This one guy who works at a local bakery?  Nope, but he did bully me into buying an overpriced loaf of bread.

I asked some published acquaintances of mine to show me the goods, and believe it or not, they avoided the topic or said they were “missing”.

This begs the question, can a query letter be embarrassing, especially the more famous you are?  The answer, or lack of, gives you an indication of how awesome writing queries actually is.

But anyway, the main problem I have with query letters is there’s not a correct way to write them.  Some agents say, “No, don’t do that!”  Other agents say, “You have to do that, don’t do this!”  And some other agents say, “They’re wrong—the answer is 5.”

Truth is, it gets confusing.

Sure, there are certain things that look more aesthetically pleasing, {LikE-ThiS}, but when it comes to content, who knows what agents are looking for on any given day.

One thing is certain though—if you’re sending out query after query and constantly getting rejected, then it’s probably time to try a new approach.

I tried something different with one of my novels.  Thought of the process as an experiment.  If I got 100 rejections, oh well.

I ended up writing about six different versions of my query ranging from completely serious to completely outrageous.  The serious queries were tailored toward each specific agent.  They also painted an easy-to-follow outline of the plot and included my full list of writing credentials. 

If anything, I had the most faith in the serious queries.  Besides, I molded most of them using the advice given by specific agents, like the famous Query Shark.

And then for the last one—the only query that nabbed me some agents (two to be exact)—I said             this              you           little                        butt.  People who dish out advice about query writing would’ve said, “LOL, you did everything wrong.”  Others would’ve said, “LOL, they’re right.” 

I said that comment which ended with “butt” and came up with this:

Dear Mr.                ,

I really like your yellow box on the                   website, and I highly enjoy all the information within…(Sorry about this upcoming transition, but it’s too hard to add a personal note into a form query letter without sounding awkward.)

What if an author wrote a story about vampires?  And then they added werewolves?  And zombies?  And aliens?  Demons?  Pirates?  Underwear models?  Elves?  Clams?  A snuggling warf?  A seven-year-old boy?  And one Shoe of Unstoppable Force?

Could this story potentially rock the world’s socks off?  Would you disagree if I labeled it satire YA with a splash of black humor?  If I gave you two numbers, 48,983 and 50,000, which one would you think was the length of my story?  And if I said 50,000, but it was really 48,983, and you wanted to represent me, but then you found out about my lie, would you dump me?

Would you fault me if I told you what people have been saying about my unpublished masterpiece?  What if I told you that my mom said, “You’re wasting a college degree?”  Would you think my work was actually great because most people who slap gushing comments into a query submit work that is the exact opposite?  Could this novel be the exact opposite?  Does reverse psychology actually work?  Will I find out?

Are you asking yourself how many questions can one person include in a one-page query?  Or is this the “norm” now?

Did I forget to mention what my book is about?  Should I even try and squeeze the story in since I only have half of a page left?  Yeah?

What if I told you my novel,                                                   , is about an Ultra Beast EXPLODING from the earth and killing everyone?  Would you think, what’s the point, isn’t everyone dead?  But then what if I told you the Ultra Beast, since he’s immortal and invincible, hates his life because he’s the only one left alive, so he creates a demon to go back in time to protect the seven-year-old boy who possess the Shoe of Unstoppable Force, which is the only thing that can end his existence?  But what if I also told you aliens were coming for the shoe?  And that all the other stuff I mentioned earlier, like zombies and vampires and werewolves, they’re all going to be crammed in there, too?  Did I mention there’s a love triangle between the boy, a girl and a teacher who’s actually eight, because she has that disease where her body ages four times faster?

Is there enough white space in this query?  Was I suppose to indent?  And did I go overboard with using two spaces after a period opposed to one?  That could’ve saved space, right?  If this were paper, and I had to print my query out, a lumberjack would surely be disappointed in me, wouldn’t you think?

I forgot to tell you a little bit about myself, didn’t I?  What if I told you I’m a mathematician and that this question is number forty?  Does it really matter how many questions I asked, because all I really want to know is if you’ll be my agent?

                                                   , part one in a series of at least thirty, is finished and ready for your review.  Believe it or not, I am actually “professionally” published.  I took a chance with this query, but really, the paperclip kept popping up in Word and made me do it.

I look forward to hearing from you.


Casper Pearl

And here is one agent’s response:

Dear Casper Pearl,

Thank you for your entertaining query. I'd be happy to take a look at                                                  . Please send it as an email attachment, and please let me know whether other agents currently are considering your novel.

I look forward to reading your manuscript.



What am I trying to say?  If you’ve done the work to become good at what you do, then trust yourself.  The only thing that can really kill your chances is a lack of confidence.  With the above query, I knew I was breaking almost every set rule.  And that’s the point—I knew.

So when it comes to the crapshoot that is query writing, the two things you should focus on are experience and confidence.  With those, and a bunch of luck, you’ll be getting nabs in no time!

But really, does anyone know any famous query letters?  I'd love to read a few.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Internet Rage

We’re a little more than a month into The Memory Eater project, and it’s coming along far better than I had expected.  There are already enough submissions to release a full-length book, and if my predictions are correct, there will be an influx of stories near the deadline.

To all of those who have already submitted, thank you again.  And to those who said they plan to, well...

Now, this project has been keeping me very busy, but I still find time to write.  The story I’m currently working on revolves around people fighting over things they have no stake in.  Like the Lakers or Bulls.  Xbox or Playstation.  American or cheddar cheese. 

I visit a lot of forums/message boards, especially with the addition of 45+ websites I advertised on for The Memory Eater, and I’m constantly coming across people bickering about the thing they root for being THE BEST, therefore making them superior.  It’s a trend that got me thinking—if these people are so consumed by products, what’s happening to their own lives?

So in my story, a man who spends his days fighting on the internet about his army of products being superior to the competition is blind to the fact that his real life is caving in on him.  His job catches on to his neglect of work duties, while his wife begins despising the bitter person he’s becoming.  And in the end if he doesn’t choose reality over the internet, well, in the balancing scale of life, one can be up but the other must come crashing down.

That is my story, but what I really want to showcase is a hilarious fight I came across while gathering ideas.  I found it on a video game forum, and the title of the thread is, “Who is the lamest superhero?”  With a title like that, I knew there would be some interesting arguments, and boy was I right.  I had to shorten the battle because more people got involved and it was simply too long, but here is the condensed version.

WARNING: the following contains immature comments and disguised cursing

Who is the lamest superhero?

ANTI CA: Captain America. Come on, he has no powers and all he does is throw a shield around wearing a costume.

PRO CA: cap has no powers? are you retarded? Not only is he a super soldier with a shield that can withstand anything. He has been fighting since 1942 with a brief break of being frozen. So he is the most polished hand to hand fighter in the Marvel Universe. He has never lost a fistfight, not even to Spider-man or someone much stronger. Captain America is a freaking BOSS.

ANTI CA: "He has never lost a fistfight."  False. Iron Man beats the crap out of Captain America the first time they fight during the Marvel Civil War.

PRO CA: oh please, Captain America was not even trying because he did not think the war would become serious. The second time they fought in Civil War Captain America could have killed iron man easy.

ANTI CA: Regardless of your personal feelings about Iron Man, he still beat Captain America. And considering that the official government line at the time was superhero registration...if anyone was a traitor, it sure wasn't Iron Man.

PRO CA: uh yea he was, and to ur little argument. Captain America beat Iron Man the second time. So suck on that.

Iron Man is not even a superhero, He just has a suit that his dad invented and he found in the basement. That is his real backstory, he also has a viatmin deficiency so he needs to take lots of iron supplements and thats why he calls himself iron man. That leads to mile retardation and his real suit is made of tin. The other heros just feel bad for him, so they let him hang around.

ANTI CA: No, he wasn't. Traitors fight against the government, not for it. I never said Captain America didn't win the second time--but you seem unable to accept that he lost the first time.

PRO CA: TRAITORS LOCK ALL THEIR FRIENDS IN JAIL AND SELL OUT EVERYTHING THEY BELIEVE IN. IRON MAN WAS THE TRAITOR. the only reason it appeared that iron man beat him the first time was that captain america was not trying. Look, if u wanna have ghey buttseks wit iron man than fine, he is into that. But leave Cap out of it, Cap is a hero. Look at iron mans ghey little plan in fear itself. "hey im iron man, lets build a city for the ass guardians" well look at that, the genious got them mad and they left and now thor is on death row with evil assguardians coming to destroy earth. Wow good idea iron man. Awesome, thanks, got anymore cool plans. Oh yea like your plan to make being a superhero illegial unless u work for the gov, that worked out sweet too. Wow iron butthole is sooooo smart and kewl huh?

ANTI CA: The funny thing is I'm not even a huge comic book fan, but I happen to know a little...and I know from reading Civil War that Iron Man beat the crap out Captain America.

PRO CA: Oh please first of all Iron Man sucks. All you have to do is get a big magnet and he will be stuck to it. Secondly, Ironman is a traitor and he is lucky Captain America did not kill him the second time. Thirdly, IronMan is an a hole and got spiderman to reveal his identity with no regard for spideys feelings. I hate Ironman for what he did in civil war and Captain America should have killed him when he was on top of him about to do it, The only reason he didnt is because Captain America is cool and is too good for that. But Ironman is a jerky douche laughing when Cap is in jail. The dude just spared his life and hes a cocky jerk about it. F U IRONBOY, I HATE U


Friday, April 15, 2011

The Writer Band Sophomore Album!

They say JUMP RIGHT INTO THE ACTION, DUDE/DUDESS!  And that’s exactly what we did with the Writer Band’s sophomore album titled JUMP RIGHT INTO THE ACTION, PEOPLE!  This is our best album to date, and unlike when other artists proclaim this, we’re write, lol, get it?

1.    Prologue Part 1
2.    Prologue Part 24
3.    Watch my picture slideshow with music...I mean book trailer
4.    He Steven Seagal’d my jaw
5.    Hold it right there, new character, state your age, sex, physical description and location
6.    He set his clock for U.S. time
7.    What's the weather like out there in your novel?
8.    He said.  She said.  They emancipated.
9.    If you want to get on this flight, show me your one-page synopsis
10. The four friends, Bill, Bob, Bogart and Bragginghards...
11. He said, "I just got done writing my novel."  His non-writing friend said, "Yeah, I might write a novel tomorrow."
12. No one answered What is Literary Fiction? correct
13. Write what you know, unless you're a dumbass
14. Go to hamburger school...seriously
15. Try a Canadian agent
16. And so deflates my 190,020 word novel, Using Air to Fill Your Tires: How to do it Properly, Safely, and Greenly
17. You're writing can't be worse than THIS song
18. She approached him like a lone pickle in a jar, but she loved pickles, so she attacked him with a shank and is now serving life in prison
19. Where's the honest agent?  I mean Waldo?
20. She gave me a hardcover
21. "ARE U THIS GAI I NO?!?!"
22. My novel is bigger than yours!
23. Want to meet at Bung Hole or Phat Phuc's Noodle Bar (Both actual restaurants located in London, England)
24. Pulchritudinous Endings
THE ENDbet you read this before 24©
25. Epilogue 1
26. Epilogue 9 can be found in book 2
27. Book 2 Chapter 1
28. Acknowledgements:
29. Thnx mom for gettin' me a PC w/ the internets
30. An' my gf Willow <3
31. PS—Hey Tom, remember the toaster strudel incident of 95?!

BONUS TRACK: Like printer speed, the police enthrall

Hey, down here!  Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Staying on Track

So I was fishing, and this deer, this huge deer, it came right up to me.  That reminds me of the time I was at the zoo, three years ago, petting a moose.  A moose is better than a deer.  Oh, wait, scrap that.  I saw a bear, which is cooler than a moose, by a lake several weeks ago. 

You know what?  I went skydiving last week.  But before that, I met Lady Gaga.  Actually, I won the lottery.
What am I saying?  As writers, our biggest curse might be our imaginations.  And it wouldn’t be so bad if humans didn’t feel the need to constantly look for the next big thing.  Like my little story.  I tried to tell it straight, but I got side-tracked, and before you knew it, I was trying to outdo myself.  Halfway into a sentence, I was getting more and more ideas I thought were much better.  The same holds true for story-telling.

You don’t even get five pages into a new story when several more ideas come to mind.  And you sit there and say, “Man, maybe I should scrap this story I’ve already written 5,000 words of and start writing this other one.  It is better!”

But the truth is, it’s newer, and as humans, we’re constantly looking for change, or as I put it before, the next big thing.

This is the biggest plague I struggle with.  Ideas constantly sprouting up on my brain like weeds.  People always say, “I bet you have a ton of ideas,” like it’s a good thing.  And it is—but like superheroes, our gift can often be our curse.

So how do you combat blossoming ideas baked with change and covered in procrastination sprinkles?

For me, I only allow myself to have three unfinished short stories on the table at once.  The same holds true for novels.  Sure, that seems like a lot, but for novels, when I lose steam around the third chapter, and I find myself really struggling, I’ll turn it into a short story.  And with three short stories open at once, I have just enough variety to switch between them when I find myself getting bored.  That way I don’t feel rushed to finish.

When I get ideas for more stories while I’m writing, I’ll jot down paragraph summaries in a word document.  Then, when I have a few built up, I’ll revisit them to see if they developed or if they were truly a result of impulse.  That way when I compare them, I can pick which ones were the best ideas, if any, and work on them next.

Also, when I write a story, even if I’m not finished, I’ll read it a few hours later and make edits.  I’ll also read what was already written in a story before I write more to it.  With this method, I’m constantly digesting the story, and the more I read it, the tighter I’ll be able to edit, or the more problems I’ll find.  Many times I’ll get to the end of a story and decide that it isn’t very good.  So I’ll scrap it.

Being able to toss work away is probably the best tool to have.  Simply put, if I wanted to fill a square idea in my head, but I made a triangle, well, you get the point.  Sometimes when we sit back and think about it, certain stories aren’t very good.  And even if they are, if we had a square idea in mind, we need to make a square.  So instead of driving yourself nuts over one story, realize the name of the game isn’t about perfection—it’s about creating a portfolio of finished work. 

Remember, the more work you have, the greater your chances of getting published.

So, with that in mind, what do you do to stay on track?