Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday Roundup

Yes, I realise I didn't post this week, I've been under the weather.

But I have been collecting a few links for you guys to enjoy this Friday, so check them out:

A oldy but a goody: I just stumbled on author Robert J Sawyer's post from back in 1996 about Heinlein's Rules for Writing Success - it's a good one.

The always insightful agent Kristin Nelson explains why Apple's latest iPad is a Game Changer for the publishing industry.

Following on my positivity kick of late, Agent Rachelle Gardner posts about how important it is as an author to make friends within our industry (and not just for networking purposes).

A game from Agency Gatekeeper - spot the twelve mistakes this caller made to the agency in: How Not To Communicate With Agents

In sad news JD Salinger passed away this week.

And for those of you who truly still believe agents have the evil in them, then I think the following video will help solidify that belief. For the rest of us, it's just really funny:

Saturday, January 23, 2010

First Professional IT Visit

Sticking with my positivity theme of late . . .

With all the doom and gloom about the state of the publishing industry, how evidently it will cease to exist once things move to e-books etc, I thought I'd share with you this lovely comedy sketch from Norway. You might have seen it before, it's been on the web for a few years. Technically it mocks people who call IT professionals to help them with new technology, but there is a bit of a reference to the constant evolution of reading material as well.

And it's funny.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Darklight Book Trailer

Since Monday was the day of self-aggrandisement, I thought Wednesday should be the day of celebrating others. I should honour someone who I think is totally awesome, who's abilities I totally respect, and who you all should get to know immediately.

And then I was all like . . . but what about me???

So I came up with a remarkable solution. Today I am going to showcase a brilliant book trailer for the amazing Darklight, the second book in the series by Lesley Livingston (the first is Wondrous Strange).

This is the cover for the book:

Now, you may wonder how this in any way has to do with me. Well. I'll tell you.

First I submit that all the people involved in creating this trailer (well most, I don't know all of them I must admit) are friends of mine, so I think that shows my remarkable good taste that I would hang out with such talented, gorgeous, intelligent people.

But most importantly . . . I'm in the trailer. You will see me at the end, laughing merrily as I play Titania.

And that is why this blog post is also about me.

(But seriously guys, you have to check out this series - it's a YA Urban Fantasy Romance, about faeries in NY, and unlike some protagonists in these kinds of books we could mention, the main girl Kelley is totally kick ass. Oh. And her love interest Sonny ain't to bad either.)

The trailer:

Monday, January 18, 2010

Welcome and A Walk Down Memory Lane . . .

In the last few weeks I've had some new visitors to my blog and I just wanted to say thank you very much for stopping by, I hope you visit again, and, of course, welcome! It means a lot to me that people feel like I'm blogging on subjects that interest, inform, and sometimes even inspire.

With that in mind, and seeing as I missed Friday and my usual roundup, I thought I'd post a list of previous posts I've written for those of you new to my blog. Yes, it's Monday - the day of self-aggrandisment. I do have a list of what I consider quite helpful posts in my sidebar to the right, including my road to publication, advice on how to read aloud, and General Advice on Writing/Publishing, but I thought for all my new visitors who have enjoyed my entries from the last week that you might like a quick list of posts that have garnered a particular bit of attention in the past.

I've also finally decided to add that "Followers" thingy in my sidebar, so if you are so inclined, please do click on the "Follow" button. Wondrous things will happen when you do. Namely you'll be . . . following . . .my . . . blog . . .

Now, without further ado, some of my previous posts on the world of publishing:

So you want to get published . . .Getting An Agent and From Agent To Publisher

Magical Realism

Advice and Uber Helpful Links

Chasing Trends

Addendum to Chasing Trends


On Editing

Why I write for Children (a guest blog post at agent Nathan Bransford's blog)

Lauren Conrad's Book (about celebrity authors)

The New YA

The Self Publishing Debate

The Self Publishing Debate Becomes a Debate

Gender in the Publishing World

Why "New Adult" Interests Me

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Apparently my "It's Not About the Odds" post really struck a chord with many of you, and I am absolutely thrilled that it did. Obviously I don't write this blog just for the fun of it, I do my best to share what I've learned in my two industries and try to put things in perspective for some. So it does mean a lot to me that you came by to let me know your thoughts, and that many of you will be sharing in my resolution this year (which I can tell you has already been tested several times over this year for me).

But the biggest thing I noticed was a sense of gratitude at the positivity in my post, and I wanted to touch on that today.

I have to tell you all, I'm not a person who's all sunshine and rainbows. I'm no Pollyanna. I can get quite down on myself just like the next person. And this industry is tough, both industries (acting and writing) are tough. From the outside I can understand how it can appear that I have it made, but trust me, I am facing the struggle as much as any of you (maybe not the same struggle, but still one that is equally frustrating and demoralising). And I wallow. And I mope. And I cry.

But here's the thing. It isn't like anyone is forcing us to take this path. Nor is it like this path is particularly treacherous compared with other certain career choices out there. I'm not trying to minimise our pain, but we don't have to go through this if we don't want to. We chose to be authors, actors, and as much as we can insist that it's more of a calling and less of a choice (something I've always felt personally), we don't need to go through all this if we really don't want to.

So the thing is . . . we do want to. Sure we don't want to feel sad in doing it, but we feel it's worth it for the ultimate goal (whatever yours may be). What's more we have enough to struggle with, the actual act of writing, the networking, the rejections, we don't need to add more to that list. And since that is the case, may I offer the following advice:

- don't read articles about the demise of publishing. First of all, publishing isn't going anywhere, and secondly, exactly what do you plan on doing with that information anyway?

- don't pay attention to the numbers (as I've already addressed)

- don't compare your path to success to anyone else's (as, again, I've already mentioned)

- Twitter wisely. By which I mean, if you find you are following someone that you constantly feel jealous of, or if you find you are following someone who only wants to post links to articles about how crappy the writing world is these days, stop following them. Follow people who inspire you, follow people you care about, you have the choice. And in turn try to tweet things that others will find positive. Don't make Twitter your personal soapbox. Try to spread the cheer, not the pain.

- to that end, read blogs wisely. Choose the industry blogs that speak to you. I like a good sarcastic rant every once in a while, so I like The Rejectionist, but I also like (as you can tell from this post) positive messages, and so really enjoy agent Kristin Nelson.

- change your way of thinking. Okay, that's a big task. But what I mean is, there tends to be the positive way of looking at something, and the negative (glass half full thing). I've blogged in the past about Celebrity Books for example. Many people hate that they exist, but instead of looking at them as if they are taking away contracts from "real" authors (which they don't, they are a totally separate market), look at them as earning tons of money for publishers so that the publishers can then take a risk on a new untested author. Also . . . Instead of looking at all the "crap" that's been published, look at all the interesting original stuff that's out there too: The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures etc. Also realise that what you might consider crap, someone else considers wonderful. And it's likely that there's someone out there who considers your taste to be less than stellar.

- relish the small successes. Sure we all want to be published, and big goals are always very important. But relish achieving a word count you set for yourself in a day. Relish creating a really awesome description. Relish sending out two more queries. Relish making a new friend. Eating some good food. Look back at your day when lying in bed and list all the good things that happened.

- don't get upset with yourself for getting upset. This is something I post about often. Look, rejection sucks. That's all there is to it. But you don't want to add to the sucky-ness of the moment by being angry at yourself for feeling bad. Feel what you feel. Let it pass through you. Then you can move on. Don't waste energy on feeling that you shouldn't be feeling a certain way.

Last but not least -

- give yourself permission to fail. And don't be scared of it. Especially when it comes to your writing. So many people ask if they are allowed to do something in writing, and my answer is always, "Try, see, what's the worst that could happen?" It goes hand in hand with playing. The freer you feel to just see what happens, the more exciting the discoveries will be. Fear of failure, fear of rejection, these fears hold us back more than anything else I know.

We don't have to sit around grinning like crazy all the time in order to be positive. And I'm not saying it's easy either. Nor am I saying that we all must follow every step of my advice and never just want to bang our heads against the wall.

I'm just saying that we do have some control in a situation where we have very little. We depend on so many other people supposedly for our happiness - agents, editors, reviewers, readers. But we can also depend on ourselves. We can focus on the writing. We can choose what information we allow into our lives.

We can also just step back, take a deep breath, and stop for a second. This world might seem so fast paced, but we can choose whatever speed we want really.

Anyway, some thoughts. I hope they were helpful. I know I'll be checking this post every once in a while to remind myself of all of it. Trust me, out of everyone, I really need to practice what I preach.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Friday Roundup

Yes it's time for Friday Roundup! Yay!

Before we launch into our list I'd like to share a wee bit of good news with y'all.

The big SF/Fantasy bookstore in Toronto is called Bakka Phoenix. It's a great place, super supportive of authors, and has just about every SF/Fantasy book you can imagine. I took my friend Emily there for the first time last year, and she was so excited to find a book she'd been looking for for years. Anyway, it totally rocks.

And I am pleased to announce that "Alex and the Ironic Gentleman" came in number 5 in their top Trade Paperback Bestsellers! What's even more impressive about this is that it's the second year that "Alex" has been out. Very cool!

My dear friend, the lovely Lesley, topped the list with her first novel "Wondrous Strange", and the delightful Robert J. Sawyer topped the hardcover list, with Megan Crewe coming in 5th. Here are all said lists for your perusal:

Mass Market Bestsellers
1. Ages of Wonder, Julie E. Czerneda & Robert St. Martin, eds.
2. Name of the Wind, Patrick Rothfuss
3. Anathem, Neal Stephenson
4. On the Edge, Ilona Andrews
5. Tyrant, Christian Cameron

Trade Paperback Bestsellers
1. Wondrous Strange, Lesley Livingston
2. Black Man, Richard Morgan
3. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Jane Austen & Seth Grahame-Smith
4. Cast in Silence, Michelle Sagara
5. Alex and the Ironic Gentleman, Adrienne Kress

Hardcover Bestsellers
1. Wake, Robert J. Sawyer
2. Makers, Cory Doctorow
3. Enchantment Emporium, Tanya Huff
4. Unseen Academicals, Terry Pratchett
5. Give Up the Ghost, Megan Crewe

And now . . . some links!

A blog from last year, but a very good read - the Waxman Agency waxes thoughtful on the definition of High Concept

Agent Janet Reid: The Fifteen Things You Need to Know B'twixt "The End" and "Send"

Agent Rachelle Gardner: The Book's the Thing

Plus ca change . . . Robert Gray on the Publishing Trends of Futures Past - yes, the book industry has always been in trouble it seems.

And last but not least:

The next link might confuse some not so deeply passionate about fonts as I am. I'll try to explain. There are certain fonts that are very popular with people who don't know a lot about design. Often these fonts are requested over and over by people of designers, and tend to be used most often on self made advertising, invitations etc. To anyone in the design world, using these fonts is considered the mark of an immature design. These are fonts that most designers can't stand. Two of them are Comic Sans and Papyrus. With all that in mind: An Open Letter to James Cameron from Papyrus

And that's it for now! Have a lovely weekend everyone!

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

It's not about the odds.

Yup another resolution post. Everyone's writing these. Everyone's making them. Why not jump on the bandwagon? I like the music they're playing and it's being pulled by horsies.

So, here's mine:

Stop comparing myself to others.

And there's kind of an interesting story behind coming to this conclusion. It has been something I've been thinking about for a while (and um maybe have been told a few times by others), but what made it finally click was the following:

Before the holidays many agents, as has almost become tradition, posted their stats for the year. How many queries they got, how many full manuscripts they requested, how many clients they signed. Here, for example, are some of the lovely Kristin Nelson's stats -

books sold

number of new clients (Kristin & Sara combined)

estimated number of queries read and responded to (and yes, that is up from last year)

full manuscripts requested (down from last year)

These stats I think are always interesting as a glimpse into the world of publishing. And yup. The numbers do paint a pretty intimidating picture.

How do I know they are so intimidating?

Because for the two weeks of holiday that followed the agent round up posts, writers on various forums spent hours upon hours analysing what the stats meant. Some were depressed by the odds, others invigorated, many many were overwhelmed. And then there was me.

I couldn't have cared less.

Well yes you would say that Adrienne, you have an agent, you've been published.

But, lest we forget, I didn't always, and I'm still trying to get other stuff published out there and still trying my hand at this insanity that is acting - where the numbers I imagine are ten times more terrifying.

I know the odds my friends, but again . . .

I couldn't care less.


Because they don't matter.

There is luck in the arts. Yup. Totally. You need to find the right person who likes the same stuff as you do, the market has to be just perfect for the kind of book you've written. And I will always maintain that the crazy successes (Harry Potter etc) get the crazy success because of good timing, not a good story (I think good storytelling would have still resulted in books that were published and had a following, but the degree of success of those kinds of books, in my mind, is not about talent - oh, btw, I think Rowling rocks, not trying a diss here).

But despite all the luck, publishing still isn't a lottery. It isn't. I've written about that before. There are very solid steps you can take that will get you published. You need to learn the craft, read a lot of books, write a lot of words. You need to then write a killer book, edit said book, have others look at the book, perfect the book. You need to write a fab query, submit to the correct agents/publishers. You need to be professional. You need to also not give up if the first book doesn't get you where you want it to. Perseverance is just as important as talent in this business. If not, arguably, more important.

And because publishing truly isn't a lottery, you can't look at the agent stats, or any stats, as meaning anything to you.

Yes, for Kristin, she signed 6 new clients out of 38 000 queries. But this doesn't lead to the conclusion that 6 authors get agented out of 38 000 queries. It means that this year, there were 6 authors who suited what Kristen was looking for, could write more than competently, and who in turn accepted her offer (she has blogged about writers turning her down in favour for other agents). It doesn't mean that there weren't authors out of the 38 000 queries who didn't sign with other agents.

Nor does it mean that if you submit your book to agents chances are they will reject it.

Basically the key point to all of this is: all books are not created equal.

When you buy a lottery ticket you have as much of a chance as the person who bought it just before you of winning that cash. You are equal.

When you submit your manuscript you have no idea how it compares to the thousands of other manuscripts that are submitted to that same agent. Chances are it is better than some, hopefully not worse than too many others. But I bet, if you're reading this blog as a hopeful as yet unpublished author doing some research, you are probably writing something better than 90% of the submitted works out there.

But let me do a little quiz just to make sure:

1. Can you write in coherent sentences, with proper spelling and grammar?

2. Do you do your research which agent is best for you to submit your work to?

3. Did you learn/or are planning to learn what a query letter is and how to construct one?

4. Are you professional and thoughtful?

If you answered yes to these questions, congrats! You are now in the top 10% of submissions.

Yes. You read that right. The lion's share of submissions sent agents are pure crap. Crap. Would you like to know how crap? Please read this lovely post by The Rejectionist. Warning it's a bit blunt, and meant to be cynically funny, please take the attitude as one as being a little over the top.

Here's another very famous post called Slushkiller over at Making Light (to which I've linked in the past). Scroll down to find a much more comprehensive quiz than the one I just made.

So, fine, Adrienne, fine. We get it. So we aren't competing against 38 000 queries for 6 slots. We are competing against 3 800 queries for 6 slots. Awesome.

No. No you're not. First of all, there aren't 6 slots. You have no idea how many new clients an agent is going to take on in a year. Guess what? Neither does the agent. They don't have a quota to fill. They are taking on new clients because they want to represent their work. This means they could take on no clients even. Hmm . . . that might not be that inspiring . . .

Second of all, and in my mind, most importantly, you aren't competing. You aren't. If you're competing against anyone it's yourself, but in a far more metaphorical way. To compete means there is a winner and a loser. Competing is what happens in acting. 100 actresses vying for one role. Only one person gets that part. End of. But anyone can get published - in theory. If you've written a quality book that suits the current market. Every book written by every author is different. Except if you've plagiarised. But that's wrong. Don't do it. You have agents who represent sometimes only one genre and yet have many clients. They can do that because there are enough differences between author voices, choices, characters etc. I mean look at the YA section these days, all urban fantasy romance, but look at all the different choices within that. All these authors co-exist. And sure some do better than others. But who knows, maybe ten years down the road, the roles will be reversed.

Agents want good books. Books that speak to them by authors they think they can work with for several years. The only numbers that matter to you are your numbers. How many rejections are you getting, are you getting requests for partials and fulls? Those matter because you can tell if there's something wrong with your query or manuscript. But what do those other numbers matter to you? In the end. What do they matter?

Nothing. The only thing I can think of is to point out just how many people want this and that we have to make sure our stuff is as awesome as possible. But. Were you not already working really hard on your novel? Were you not already making sure that everything in your query was so crystal clear so you won't alienate a potential business partner? Were you not intending on being thoughtful and professional?


Back to me.

After all my trying to comfort others that the stats don't matter, that we need not compete with our fellow authors, I realised that I spend far too much of my life comparing myself to others ironically. I felt like a hypocrite. And I want to change. My career is my own. And that author I'm comparing myself to has her own journey to travel. She's taking care of herself, why shouldn't I take care of me? (btw, I just used "she" so I wouldn't have to get all messed up with the "they" thing, I'm not talking about anyone in particular in case an investigation ensues post reading this)

And I hope this resolution resonates with some of you. It's so easy to get wrapped up in the lives of others, I mean, isn't that the essence of Twitter? We need to remember that we are different, and we know what works best for us, and that might not be what works best for someone else. We might want what others have, but who's to say we won't get it, in our own way. And then in turn have others comparing their lives to ours.

It's time to strip away the excess. It's too much energy taking on board everyone else's life as well. So I'll focus on the people I care about, and I'll focus on me. But the rest? It's time to let go.

It's not about the odds. It's about what I can do so they don't matter.