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Elizabeth
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Author Salon - Reviews, Talk, Films

#1 Post by Elizabeth » 26 Jul 2012, 05:23

Author Salon recently posted this page in their craft section http://www.authorsalon.com/craft/view/96/ and I've posted it below. It appears really handy in terms of zeroing in on all the most important features of the novel.

I'm using this as a check list. Also wondering if any of this language or these issues should be directly addressed in an agent query. But since Author Salon will do the querying, it probably doesn't matter. Nice to know though.

Still not clear on the high concept in terms of market value. I understand that the antagonist drives the plot line. How does the antagonist drive the high concept? Or does he/she? I just want to get this right for my new novel so I won't waste a few more years in useless toil or rewrites. I've rewritten enough of my life already! I'm working on my profile and the story is already configured for the six act, two-goal structure: http://www.authorsalon.com/page/general/sixact/.

Hope everyone likes the picture of me when I was much younger!

MARKET VALUE:

Originality, freshness, high concept
Clear target readership
Hook

STRUCTURE:

Concise, effective setup
Plots and subplots
Well designed reversals
Effective transitions
Catalytic situation driven
Conflict, tension, build
Every scene relevant (i.e., to driving plot forward)
Effective, believable climax
Resolution

CHARACTERS:

Antagonistic force
Consistent opposition
Protagonist’s goals
Sympathetic protagonist
Protagonist’s arc
Supporting characters
Authentic to background

MECHANICS:

Scene length
Spelling/grammar
Page count
Dialogue
Use of theme


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Leekaplan
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Re: Coverage Post and Agent Query on Author Salon

#3 Post by Leekaplan » 27 Jul 2012, 02:34

Elizabeth wrote:I'm using this as a check list. Also wondering if any of this language or these issues should be directly addressed in an agent query. But since Author Salon will do the querying, it probably doesn't matter. Nice to know though.
AS would approach this differently than we do, but AS or no, you must deliver some details on the market value. There's your hook line which spells out the story premise, and your comparables that target readership for the agent, or publisher. You wouldn't address "well designed reversals" in a query, too much detail.

I believe there is a query example that AS analyzes on their blog that demonstrates a failure to include comparables, one of the most important features of the query. There is a noteworthy article on comparables written by Caitlin Alexander, one of the AS editors. It's definitely the most informative and succinct I've read on this topic: http://www.authorsalon.com/craft/view/62/

That's my one cent on market value. I hope an AS agent will chime in here at some point.

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HoffmanB
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Re: Coverage Post and Agent Query on Author Salon

#4 Post by HoffmanB » 27 Jul 2012, 04:15

By the way, how is it going for you guys on Author Salon? One of the writers on there who blogged about it said he saw a social network at first, like a Facebook for writers. I had the same impression, but once I got into the thick of it, all that changed. And I'm now passing all the questions on the tough skin test. Someone in my writer's group in Cleveland turned me on to the site.

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JosiePackard
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Re: Coverage Post and Agent Query on Author Salon

#5 Post by JosiePackard » 27 Jul 2012, 22:40

It's revelation time for me. And I'm clearing up a lot of confusion I've had regarding plotting and craft details, and I got rid of my passive voice. YESSSSS!!! The biggest thing is a whole new story that will sell. Author Salon secured four requests for my fantasy novel. btw, I admit I was in a writer peer group with one person who was excessively childish with moderators and who even hissed at me for my critique. She's gone. We all sang a special munchkin song. You know, ding dong, etc.?

That's one of the best features of Author Salon is that they don't put up with crap. I've been in a couple of writer groups outside Author Salon where giant egos dominated and ruined it for everyone else. On top of it, they were terrible writers. Since the childish one left, months ago, it's been calm and mods are saying that the screening process now is stronger than ever.

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Elizabeth
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Re: Coverage Post and Agent Query on Author Salon

#6 Post by Elizabeth » 27 Jul 2012, 22:53

I think I might have run into that one. I had some bipolarized type bombarding me with nasty mail on my blog.

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MarleneNolan
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Re: Coverage Post and Agent Query on Author Salon

#7 Post by MarleneNolan » 28 Jul 2012, 01:25

I read your blog post. I know where that group dynamic is coming from. Rejection loves company, and there is so much to reject!

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HoffmanB
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Re: Coverage Post and Agent Query on Author Salon

#8 Post by HoffmanB » 28 Jul 2012, 02:30

Leekaplan wrote:I believe there is a query example that AS analyzes on their blog that demonstrates a failure to include comparables, one of the most important features of the query. There is a noteworthy article on comparables written by Caitlin Alexander, one of the AS editors. It's definitely the most informative and succinct I've read on this topic: http://www.authorsalon.com/craft/view/62/
Here is the blog post I think you're talking about. It does mention the comparables but they were included.

Author Salon or The Agent Query? Comments and Observations On a Q Letter

While exploring the art of the agent query letter for the purpose of comparing and contrasting the Author Salon approach, we came across this piece. At first glance, the sample query might appear satisfactory to some, but upon close inspection flaws become apparent that must be addressed.

As follows, with comments from Author Salon appearing in brackets [ ... ]:

The Hook: This is a 2-3 sentence description of your book. It needs to be catchy, so the agent will read on!

[ here is the place where even a professionally written query letter goes terribly wrong and sinks the writer. There is a real art to writing a suitable log or hook line that will communicate the "hook" or marketable story premise. Here is an example taken from the Author Salon Profile Guide which covers hook lines in detail (from "The Hand of Fatima"): "In 1564 Grenada, a young half-Christian Moor termed "The Nazarine" faces a life of scorn and torment by Moors and Christians alike until the kidnapping and murder of the woman he loves sets him on a dangerous path to reconcile the two faiths by seeking the God they both share." ]

Mini-Synopsis: This is one paragraph that describes the characters and action of the book. It’s supposed to be short and to the point.

[ If you've nailed the hook with your log or hook line, you don't need to include a mini-synopsis in the body of the query. The agent will be persuaded to read your first pages regardless, esp if the query demonstrates you have platform or credentials. Also, unless you are really adept at writing an excellent pitch-synopsis, the act of doing so might well sink your chances. Regardless, assuming you are adept, you would be advised to shorten the query by adding this mini-synopsis, or longer pitch, as an attachment to the query, not to exceed 150 words or so. See the "Hand of Fatima" pitch-synopsis using the link above. ]

Biography: Describe the writer(s) and their background. [ That's fine, but do we have platform and/or credentials in this query that matter to an agent? ]

That’s it, simple and to the point. So, we have written and re-written ours a bunch of times already. We have sent out 30 queries in the last two days and have actually received one request for sample chapters already. [ Is this agent query ratio a good sign? ] I am going to share our query letter in it’s current form. Please share any feedback or suggestions you have, we really want to make this letter sing!

Dear Prospective Agent,

[ Big mistake: name the agent, Mr. or Ms. ____ ]

Set in the Detroit of the near future, several people have mysteriously died in their sleep while using a new gaming system that allows them to experience designer dreams. After the death of his godson, Harry Anderson discovers just how dangerous the combination of popular technology and corporate greed can really be.

[ A brief opening paragraph re how you found the agent might work better, and "Set in Detroit of the near future" will result a search for the backspace key. Best not attempt to hook an agent in this manner. ]

Set in the Detroit of the near future Harry Anderson, an aging psychology professor with a penchant for whiskey and a dry sense of humor, investigates the sudden and unexplained death of his godson Elliot. Harry soon discovers a series of unexplained deaths in his community all seemingly related to the DreamGate, a new video game device that allows the user to play custom dreams. We soon meet Detroit police detective Susan Boucher, a strong and intelligent woman who finds herself drawn to Harry, despite his age. The two, relying on each other’s strengths, have to navigate the world of cutting-edge technology, corporate greed and the very human need for security.

[ Okay, so we have two characters and a bad guy, but what happens from there is vague. Where is the real cliff-hanger? Is DreamGate just covering up or something far more sinister? Would much prefer a tighter hook line wrapping up with something like, " ... determined to expose the deadly truth of DreamGate, only to discover the trail leads to (wherever it leads--NSA? CIA?), and that their own lives are in jeopardy (at least!) ..." etc. ]

Complete at just over 80,000 words, The Sleep of Souls is a quick read that sets the stage for a series of novels based on the adventures of Harry Anderson.

[ Do publishers want a series in the first place that stars an aging psychology prof with a "penchant for whiskey"? Uncertain. The odds are not great, especially since the author is not established. And where is a statement of genre and comparables? It sounds somewhat like a futuristic thriller. That should be stated up front. ]

Husband and wife writing team Jennifer and Kevin Lill bring you The Sleep of Souls. Kevin has been an avid writer since childhood. His boundless imagination and eye for life’s little details are what make The Sleep of Souls come to life on the page.

[ Get the agent out of the agent query letter asap and onto the page where they can judge for themselves whether or not it comes "to life on the page" and so on. Making this statement achieves nothing and might sound amateurish to many agents. An inconvenient and brutal truth! ]

The book’s main character, Harry Anderson, is based on Jennifer’s real-life father who, like Harry, is a genuine character. Working in the field of technology Jennifer’s in-depth research and ability to predict future technology trends are what give The Sleep of Souls its exciting and groundbreaking edge!

Market Analysis

The audience [ readership ] for The Sleep of Souls would be made up of fans of the murder mystery genre. Those who like Dan Brown, Douglas Preston or Patricia Cornwell will love this book. Because it deals with technology and the world of gaming the cross over audience would be gamers and fans of technology-based science fiction.

[ Well, best to go to http://themysteryreader.com and check on this. Murder mystery fans and thriller fans do overlap, but not always. If marketed as a futuristic thriller, SF readers won't really be interested for the most part. And who says "gamers" will want to read about an aging psych prof, i.e., assuming they read at all? But is this a futuristic thriller? Sounds like it. The technology does not exist in the present, and the body count is piling up, dark forces congealing, perhaps bigger stakes, etc. ]

Comparative Analysis

The Sleep of Souls is similar to Snow Crash in the respect that it deals with technology that is right on the cusp of being discovered. This book showcases animated movies whose plot changes in response to the viewer’s bio-electrical feedback, a video game system that allows users to purchase and experience customized dreams and the use of wide-range wireless coverage for spying.

[ "Snow Crash" is huge, and a comparable that is often used. Recommend a rethinking. But the tech concept is interesting. Would prefer it to be included in an attached synopsis/pitch. This doesn't substitute for a single line early on that notes the proper comparables (at least two of them). ]

Marketing Strategy

The Sleep of Souls deals with the very hot topic of technology and privacy. With the focus on issues of online privacy in the news currently, this book will be a perfect sell for those who are concerned with their own privacy!

[ Yes, well, publishers don't have access to figures that equate "the need for privacy" demographic with the purchasing of certain types of novels that touch on privacy issues, so pitching this concept as a marketing strategy has little or no chance of success. ]

Thank you for taking the time to review this letter and consider The Sleep of Souls. The full manuscript is available by request.

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Re: Coverage Post and Agent Query on Author Salon

#9 Post by RobertKing » 29 Jul 2012, 02:33

Elizabeth wrote:I just want to get this right for my new novel, THE YEAR OF MAGICAL BOOKS, so I won't waste a few more years in useless toil or rewrites. I've rewritten enough of my life already! I'm working on my profile and the story is already configured for the six act, two-goal structure: http://www.authorsalon.com/page/general/sixact/.
You know what they say Liz, there are no great writers, only great rewriters.

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MarleneNolan
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Re: Coverage Post and Agent Query on Author Salon

#10 Post by MarleneNolan » 29 Jul 2012, 03:09

I'm waiting for an agent to come in and answer your questions, Liz, about the antagonist and the high concept hook line. I have a few questions myself.

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LitAgentSalon
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Re: Coverage Post and Agent Query on Author Salon

#11 Post by LitAgentSalon » 29 Jul 2012, 04:55

I'll be back in later to comment some more on high concept issues. I couldn't help but laugh at part of this agent query post from Mr. Hoffman:

[ A brief opening paragraph re how you found the agent might work better, and "Set in Detroit of the near future" will result a search for the backspace key. Best not attempt to hook an agent in this manner. ]

I must confess, I would have hit the boilerplate reply button after reading this. It's so true that we agents have "flush words" as I call them, and there are certain types of settings or story concepts that quickly sink our desperate need to love a manuscript.

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Re: Coverage Post and Agent Query on Author Salon

#12 Post by LitAgentSalon » 31 Jul 2012, 05:28

Elizabeth wrote:Still not clear on the high concept in terms of market value. I understand that the antagonist drives the plot line. How does the antagonist drive the high concept? Or does he/she? I just want to get this right for my new novel, THE YEAR OF MAGICAL BOOKS, so I won't waste a few more years in useless toil or rewrites.
First of all, Liz, right now I love your title and look forward to hearing more about your novel once your profile is done. You sound like a tough writer veteran! To answer your question about the antagonist relation to the high concept, read the hook for this recently acquired novel just posted on Author Salon Connect http://authorconnect.authorsalon.com/in ... y-romance/:
Virginia Pye's RIVER OF DUST, a story of retribution about an American missionary couple in rural China in 1910 whose toddler son is kidnapped by Mongol bandits and whose search for him across a dangerous land comes to haunt them, changing not only what they believe but who they are...
This is a polished hook line and it displays the high concept story premise. Without the actions of an antagonist or antagonistic force, we would not have the plot point of the couple's son being kidnapped by Mongol bandits. This sets in motion the entire story. The actions or agenda of an antagonist provide catalyst and momentum. btw, this is linked elsewhere here I believe, but Author Salon just posted a marvelous tool for plotting that covers these issues. I recommend memorizing it: http://www.authorsalon.com/page/general/sixact/.

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Elizabeth
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Re: Coverage Post and Agent Query on Author Salon

#13 Post by Elizabeth » 31 Jul 2012, 20:13

Thanks so much for straightening this out for me. I hope you'll represent me one day--as soon as I make myself presentable.

Thank the Fates for Author Salon!

:)

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Leekaplan
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Re: Coverage Post and Agent Query on Author Salon

#14 Post by Leekaplan » 01 Aug 2012, 01:26

Amen to that! Author Salon on most days is like a mouthful of warm buttered toast, and on days when it's bitter the reality might get me down a bit, but I emerge from that and I'm a stronger writer. Always. And what does not kill my manuscript makes me stronger.

See, don't I sound like a writer? I have to compete with you guys!

Liz, btw, back to this:
Elizabeth wrote:Author Salon recently posted this page in their craft section http://www.authorsalon.com/craft/view/96/ and I've posted it below. It appears really handy in terms of zeroing in on all the most important features of the novel.
You had already posted this link, http://www.authorsalon.com/page/general/sixact/, but since you did, Author Salon has done a huge huge revision and added a lot of details and references. Did you see?

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Elizabeth
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Re: Coverage Post and Agent Query on Author Salon

#15 Post by Elizabeth » 01 Aug 2012, 06:34

OMG! I see it. Back to the profile.

And better OMG than ignorant.

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MarleneNolan
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Re: Coverage Post and Agent Query on Author Salon

#16 Post by MarleneNolan » 01 Aug 2012, 07:26

A question for the agent. One of my friends wants to sign with an eBook publisher. That is definitely not what I want to do. I'm aiming for mainstream New York, and that's why I'm at Author Salon, but what are the pitfalls of eBook publishing?

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Re: Coverage Post and Agent Query on Author Salon

#17 Post by LitAgentSalon » 02 Aug 2012, 02:47

If you are an unknown looking for breakout, but a really good writer with a marvelous manuscript, as well as a large social media platform, then self-publishing your ms as an eBook works for you. You will sell eBooks. How many? We are not sure. After you spend how much? I hear the price tag is near $5000.00 for doing it right.

But if you have all those quality checks in your column, why don't you have an agent who is signing you with a major New York publisher? By doing so, you are more likely to get reviews in important places and you are in line for foreign rights, film rights, and many other benefits. Look at Amanda Hocking as a good example. And if you are really good, the two-three book deal is next, and the advance could well be meaningful. You can still promote your novel on your own, but with the imprimatur of the big publisher or major press behind you.

Also, don't forget that mediocre books and eBooks get published every day, and they all share the same fate.

Just beware of some of the new eBook publishers. I was talking to an admin on Author Salon about this very thing just yesterday. They are basically vanity press types who now legitimize themselves as eBook publishers. They play on a writer's vanity by pretending to offer real publication without strings. They search you on Google after you submit, and if you have any social media platform whatsoever, they will publish you. They correct the typos, hopefully, contract out to India to produce the eBook for a few dollars, as well as the faux cover, and if you manage to sell only a hundred, they make money.

If you wish to retain your dignity and be seen by the reading public as a very good or great writer, I don't believe the fate above is something you would desire.

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Re: Coverage Post and Agent Query on Author Salon

#18 Post by JosiePackard » 02 Aug 2012, 22:35

Aiming for a major publisher myself, and if the current novel can't make it, I'll try another until something sticks. I can see maybe self-publishing a memoir or a family memoir later, but I want bigger things for my fiction. Call me a snob.

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Re: Coverage Post and Agent Query on Author Salon

#19 Post by Somberwoman » 02 Aug 2012, 23:09

I must say I feel the same way. I've put in a Rocky Mountain amount of labor on my novel at Author Salon, too much to ever consider settling for anything less than a contract with a real agent and publisher. But I must say truthfully that my because novel has come so far and I've learned so much, and developed such unbelievably rewarding relationships at Author Salon, that whatever happens I am grateful and satisfied.

I can't thank my writer peers and editors enough.
Somber Woman

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Re: Coverage Post and Agent Query on Author Salon

#20 Post by MarleneNolan » 03 Aug 2012, 08:53

btw, on the subject of alternatives to traditional publication, the interview with Peter Rubie on Author Salon also helped. Here is a quote from him on the subject of self-publishing:

But, interestingly, for all the noise about self publishing and how no one needs agents or publishers any more, most of this first wave of self published authors has discovered that in fact few people want to read their books for the same kinds of reasons that agents and editors did not want to acquire them in the first place. The books are at best, average, and at worst downright poorly done and the only reason they sold at all was the low price point. This is the P. T. Barnum end of publishing, not the Flying Wallenda end. http://www.authorsalon.com/page/general ... eterRubie/

However, and this is interesting, he does state that he believes there are some important, larger eBook publishers gaining a presence, so need to separate those from the social media eBookers.

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Re: Coverage Post and Agent Query on Author Salon

#21 Post by Somberwoman » 03 Aug 2012, 19:55

My novel is upmarket literary, so I would also consider a major independent press, one that's been around for years and has a good reputation.
Somber Woman

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RobertKing
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Re: Coverage Post and Agent Query on Author Salon

#22 Post by RobertKing » 03 Aug 2012, 21:20

HoffmanB wrote:By the way, how is it going for you guys on Author Salon? One of the writers on there who blogged about it said he saw a social network at first, like a Facebook for writers. I had the same impression, but once I got into the thick of it, all that changed. And I'm now passing all the questions on the tough skin test. Someone in my writer's group in Cleveland turned me on to the site.
So in bygone days you were not always passing all the questions on the tough skin test? If I may be permitted to hassle the Hoff?

:D

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Re: Coverage Post and Agent Query on Author Salon

#23 Post by HoffmanB » 03 Aug 2012, 23:45

I was in a writer's group in Cleveland, about ten of us, and there were some who would be negative no matter what you did, especially this former high school English teacher who made it her mission to grind me into the floor. I wasn't the only one, but it made me oversensitive, I think, and I know now that my ego was also in the way. I didn't take criticism or advice well from anyone because I thought I knew what I was doing. A combo of those things. That's it.

The thin skin test made me think about a few things, about myself and how I react in a way that defeats me, especially the questions about "loading the gun" and rushing to defend. In the writer's group I was in the habit of defending and arguing back no matter what they said and some of that was just pure spite on my part. It became a habit. Things are different now. I wouldn't be able to exist on Author Salon if I had that old frame of mind. The critique is too specific and it drills down, which is what I need at this point.

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Re: Coverage Post and Agent Query on Author Salon

#24 Post by Leekaplan » 04 Aug 2012, 00:00

Wait a minute, Hoff, she was in my group too and I was in Seattle!

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Re: Coverage Post and Agent Query on Author Salon

#25 Post by JosiePackard » 04 Aug 2012, 00:26

She must have moved there from El Segundo because she was in my group 14 years ago! I wonder if she was the same one who dropped the F bomb on Liz? :roll:

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