When Is A Debut Novel NOT a Debut Novel?

Yesterday, I read a blog post from Janet Reid (the literary agent). What I spied with my little eye was the bit about the writer who was very, very good but she’d turned him down because she’d seen that story a dozen times. A debut novel needs to be something fresh and new, she said.

Over the weekend, I attended an SCBWI conference where Alexandra Cooper (an editor) mentioned that writers should do their homework, see what publishers are buying and pay attention to what kinds of books are glutting up the marketplace. But what if a writer’s been working on a book for a couple years and NOW the marketplace is glutted with her kind of story? What to do then? Ms. Cooper suggested that perhaps that “overdone” novel might need to stay under the bed for awhile. A debut novelist needs something…yep, fresh and new.

The last query response I received was very sweet. I can’t remember the agent’s name off the top of my head, but she personally answered the email. Loved the title, she said, loved the humor, and she felt that the writing was good and that the book would find a home. But this sweet agent already had something like my novel. Honestly? It’s not the first time I’ve gotten a response along those lines.

And so I’m considering, or perhaps I should say re-considering, whether this manuscript is the one I should be putting out there as a debut novel. I really love this story. I love these characters. And I want to tell more of their story. A story that may, if I keep pushing, sell sooner or later.

But is it fresh enough and new enough to be a debut novel? In the last three months, I keep hearing this message, and now it’s beginning to take on an ominous tone, like a warning. To wit: just because you can get your first book published…should you?

Which just goes to prove that October may be all about scary monsters and things that go bump in the night, but what really keeps a person wide awake and terrified is freakin’ reality and the choices we make that might affect the rest of our lives. (Boo!)

Thursday’s Three: Something for Everyone (If You’re a Writer)

So, I go to Twitter. And because it’s been over a week, maybe two, a GAZILLION little tweets have rolled by. And at first, I get a little panicky. Egads! What have I missed? The secret to the universe may have been tweeted and where was I? I AM THE ONLY ONE WHO DOESN’T KNOW.

But then I breathe into a paper bag and notice that a lot of tweets are things like, “meet me at Pete’s-it’s on the corner of 4th and Lex” and I figure that the secret of the universe was probably not divulged at a bar in New York.

Still, I do find a couple writerly gems and save these sparkly posts to read for later. That is where Thursday’s Three comes in. Here are a few sites you might want to check out. And best of all, you don’t have to go through a panic attack to get there.

For the freelancer who wants to make more money, Kelly James-Enger has a wonderful blog, Dollars and Deadlines. And you might want to check her sidebar, too. Lots of great freelance resources there.

For the wannabe published author, Alan Rinzler has a blog called The Book Deal that’s brimming with in-depth information on just about everything to do with the publishing business.

For the social-media challenged writer, check out Kristen Lamb’s Blog. I really like her love revolution, We Are Not Alone (#MyWANA on Twitter). BUT, she’s got plenty to say about all things social media, not just Twitter.

Okay, those are the top three of this week. I hope you find something you like. And please, people. If you happen on to the secret of the universe, shoot me an email.

Finding Something Friday: Packing Your Pitch!

Yikes! I don’t have time to find something this Friday–I’m busy packing and whatnot for an SCBWI conference!

Fortunately, I found something earlier this week that’s been quite helpful in the packing department. I found a blog post from Bubble Cow on “How to Clearly Communicate the Essence of Your Book to Agents and Publishers.”

You may or may not like the idea of piggy-backing your pitch onto a well-known construct, but it can help you squeeeze out the essence of your book, and get you started. Because packing a short, well-thought out pitch is just as important as comfy shoes and your toothbrush.

Which reminds me. I need toothpaste!
P.S. That’s Juniorest Hall, getting ready to throw a pitch. He’s WAY bigger than that now. But he’s still pretty cute!

Thursday’s Three: Things I Learned from Jeff Herman

I should probably mention that Jeff Herman and I are not close friends. In point of fact, Jeff Herman doesn’t know me from Adam’s house cat. Which is a funny sort of thing we say around here that means Jeff Herman and I are complete strangers.

HOWEVER, I am reading his swell book, Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents 2011, and I feel like a kinda know the guy. I mean, I’m on page 515 (out of 1094) and a body gets a feel for things after that many pages.

So, as I’m done with the publishers section, I’ll share three things I learned:

1. Many publishers, especially those from the publishing conglomerates (ie. Random House, Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster), don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts. If you want your manuscript to find a home there, you’ll need an agent.

2. The independant U.S. presses are more open to unsolicited manuscripts, but do your research! Check the websites and fine print and follow submission guidelines carefully to maximize your chance at acceptance.

3. University presses offer excellent opportunities for publication if you write non-fiction, particularly if you’ve written a book with regional appeal. Some presses accept fiction, too. Look into your local college or university to see if your book will fit and follow guidelines. It may be a long process, but these presses are well-respected.

That was about the gist of 500 pages. Not that there wasn’t tons more exciting stuff that I learned, but if you want details, you’ll just have to get to know Jeff yourself.

Monday Musings on Publishing and Such

Before I commence to gentle musing, I have a bit of a loud shout:

YOU ONLY HAVE TILL MIDNIGHT TONIGHT TO ENTER THE JANUARY BIG BANG CONTEST FOR A CHANCE TO WIN A BARNES AND NOBLE GIFT CARD.

Now, on to (quieter) publishing subjects and such.

My good friend, Donna, over at Donna’s Book Pub, interviewed Linda Fisher on the subject of publishing (Linda edited and pubbed a recent anthology, A Shaker of Margaritas: Hot Flash Mommas). Linda also gives details about a submission opportunity at Mozark Press. You’ll want to read the whole thing for inside tips to getting your work published. Then you’ll want to submit. So zip over there now.

Wait! Not now, now. After you read the next publishing subject. To wit, the very BIG, very jam-packed book I just purchased called Jeff Herman’s Guide to Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents.

I’m not kidding about the size of this book. It’s as thick as…well, let’s just say you could use it as a booster seat. I’m plowing into it this week as Book 1 on my list of writing books to read this year. I thought I’d better start in January if I have any hopes of completing it. And I’ll share interesting tidbits as I go.

So, Tidbit One: “As someone who was young and is presently less young, I will confirm that nothings beats lessons learned from direct experience, especially those instances that carve humility into our know-it-all hides.” From Jeff Herman’s introduction

Amen to that, Jeff. You and I shall get along swimmingly. And one more note here. If you’re looking to purchase Jeff’s book, please choose carefully. I almost picked up the 2010 edition rather than the 2011 edition! The publishing world changes every day and you want to get the latest news, so make certain the cover reads “2011.”

Now we all have brilliant writing to produce, or contests to win, so I’ll end my musings and get back to work. Oh, and now, you can zip over to Donna’s Book Pub!