Afternoon Journey & Milestones Discussion Group: My Blog as Book Proposal
Stephanie: Okay, before we went on break, some of you had some questions. We can answer questions, or if you've forgotten them, that's fine too and we'll go on to the next thing. I know we told you we were going to answer some questions so if they've just been burning.
Member: I had a question about the marketing section of a proposal, and you might want to get to this later, I don't know, is how specific you should get in that. Like, "I have x-number of followers on twitter, I will do headstands with no underpants."
Stephanie: You weren't lying about this hot question!
Member: It's all about the underwear. So I'm just wondering how specific you should get.
Stephanie: You should get as specific as you can.
Member: How much are they going to hold you to?
Stephanie: They're not. You don't want to completely exaggerate. I would give a ballpark number. Estimate up and then try to get there by the time your book is published, you know what I mean? Round up, that's what I'm saying, not by so much though that it's unrealistic and if they were to check out, because they will. Like I said, dig up whatever social media you're doing and try to make it a sound a little better than it might even be without completely lying and making up wrong facts. But definitely put it all in there.
Kathy: You want to make yourself sound and look impressive because this is your one shot to prove to them what you have so as much as you can pull up. I'll make a huge list of everything and then I'll go through and kind of prioritize it and then I'll say, okay, I got to cut it off right here. I pick the best ones that are most impressive and then even sometimes I have to remove myself from Crafty Chica and become like an alter-ego and pretend like I'm the agent reading this and what would I be impressed with. Pull the biggest and the best things. Brainstorm a whole list of them and put in as many good ones as you can.
Stephanie: You have to be a little shameless. Or a lot shameless. You really do because that's how you're going to get people to take an interest in what you're doing.
Kathy: Any quotes that you've received from your blog, like people who have taken my classes or people that have big names, I always ask them, "Can I get a blurb?" And then I'll put it on my blog or my homepage or I'll use it in marketing types of things. Even if it's not a book blurb but just vouching for you and your site, put some of those too. That's good as well.
Stephanie: That really helps.
Member: My question is from when we were talking about comparative titles and book proposals: How do you decide if your book is more memoir or more personal essay? Is that something you let an agent decide for you and you just give them the proposal?
Stephanie: You need to know what your book is for sure before you start querying an agent. It's pretty clear. If it's essays, if it's self-contained essays then it's a book of essays. If it's one long narrative or story, then that's a memoir.
Kathy: I've always written essays on my blog just about living the crafty life and juggling it all, but I could never get a book of crafty essays published if my life depended on it. But I found a crafty way to sneak it in to get published, so when I have my craft books, every chapter I have an essay in there. It breaks up the chapters, it's a new element that is different from other craft books on the market. I still get my essays. My dream was always to stand up and do a book reading, but with the craft book, it's like, "Take two jars of glitter..." [Laughter.] It wasn't going to cut it for very long, so this is a way that I could go up and share my essays and do an actual book reading. This was before the novels came out. It's just thinking and going in through the window instead of the front door; break the rules. Take chances, do something different. Even if you can't get a straight book of essays, find another way to work them in if you go the non-fiction route with whatever the topic is.
Stephanie: By the way, I hate to be a downer, books of essays are next to impossible to sell as an unknown author even a known author, it's really hard. So if I were somebody was like, "But I have these great quirky stories that should really be in a book of essays, maybe they should, but they're just very difficult to sell for a book company. Most book companies, even if they love your voice and they think you're fantastically talented, are gonna have a hard time selling it. You might want to just think of another way, either write it all as one piece or just think of another way to go. I don't know what that would be. Maybe a self-help book with essays. Another way to frame your book of essays.
Member: I have a question about highly-packed, image driven book proposals; I didn't see any images. How do you express that part of what you intend to do in a book in your proposal?
Kathy: Well, I've noticed over the past couple years when it comes to submitting a book proposal for crafts, you have to have images as well. Even with my fiction, when I turned in my draft, I went to Polyvore and dressed what the characters would wear and did sheets that went with that just so they could get a visual image. With craft books or food or any of that, if you can collect images of your work and put those together as a gallery -- everything is about pictures these days, so, including that as part of your proposal would be a definite plus if your book is going to be picture heavy.
Stephanie: What if your book is not going to be picture heavy? Do you think people care about pictures?
Kathy: No, I don't think you have to worry about it then.
Member: I have a point about books of essays being difficult to publish. The proposal I'm putting together is actually an anthology of bloggers stories around a specific topic, which is infertility, and I was just wondering if you think that's too difficult of a book proposal to get through or...
Stephanie: I don't think anthologies are so difficult, but they're going to make no money. Also, an anthology, you would be the editor, and you would probably have a story in the book, but it's really hard and nobody is going to think of you as an author when you put out an anthology. It's just a sad truth. They're not going to think of that book as by you, they're just going to see that as a book of stories, so that's not going to help you get your next book. It's going to be just as hard to get the next book as the first one. An anthology book, in my opinion, has to be a labor of love. It has to just be something that you feel these stories need a home and need to get out there, and then you have to pay everybody who will be in the book and there's legal complications to doing anthologies. I've thought of doing anthologies too and then my agents have talked me out of them. For those reasons. Like I said, but if you feel like these stories would really help people, then sure, do it. Just know that it's not going to be a moneymaker.
Member: It's more of a cause of the heart, just because there's not a lot of stories out there being told.
Stephanie: That also seems like a great self-publishing project too because that seems like you could really get the word out on infertility.
Kathy: An e-book!
Stephanie: It seems so niche that it would be great for self-publishing.
We're going to work with you guys individually too. We're going to take the rest of these questions, then we're going to talk about agents and query letters and then we're going to separate you guys into groups.
Member: I have an essay going into an anthology like that and we're at the stage, well the editor is at the stage where she's talking to publishers and she, at first, needed celebrities if she was going to go with a big publishing house. Now she has decided, and we're all on board, because it's about deconstructing the mommy myth, the good mother myth, and we just want our stories, the stories, out there. She's going with a women's publishing press, their focus is on women and it's very small -- and I can't remember the name of it, but she's talking to them and, like self-publishing, hit the pavement ourselves and go to bookstores and say, "I have an essay in this book."
Member: Did I hear you say that if three of us are writing one story, it's not considered credible?
Member: In other words, three different authors instead of one author?
Stephanie: No, an anthology is a book that somebody books together with a bunch of different people's stories, self-contained stories.
Member: But if you have a book that is written by three different people, is it taken seriously?
Stephanie: Yes, I am sure it is -- depending on who the authors are, yeah. People do that all the time.
Kathy: Are you excited to get going on your books? Yay!
Member: Apologies if you covered this already, is it true that you shouldn't publish a book with material you've used on your blog? It should be all new material?
Stephanie: That's a good question and it's one that I will answer like this: You probably should not lift material straight from your blog and put it into a book because the general consensus is why are people buying your book, it irritates people when -- especially if they're a fan of your blog and then they buy your book and then they go, "Well, you already wrote this on your blog." Now do people do it? Yes, all the time. Let's just say you're a super, well-known blogger and you write a book and it has a lot of stories from your blog but now you're reaching a bigger audience that may not have read your blog... Here's what I did: When I was writing this book that you guys have the proposal for, I had stories on my blog that I really wanted to draw from. So what I did is I would delete the post off of my blog, then I would take the story and make it longer, turn it into an actual book chapter, and I have done that many times. But I try not to do it too much. I try to generate as much original material as I can so that people don't have that feeling, like, Oh I read that in your blog.
Kathy: I did the same thing with some of my essays that I knew I wanted when I got my book deal because I started writing essays on my blog, that's how my blog started. I wanted to get them published in my books. So I did the same thing. I picked out the best ones. I deleted them, because at that time I didn't have as many blog readers as when my book came out and then I edited them, I extended them, I made them book-worthy. In general, I would stay away from re-posting. You kinda want to come up with new, exclusive, original content because all your blog readers, you want them to go spend money and buy this book because it's new and different, it's an extension of your blog. I always do original stuff for the books.
Member: So it's kind of like you need to keep all the good stuff of your blog?
Stephanie: Kinda, yeah. But you know what? It forces you to write even better stuff because, you know, you want to have good stuff everywhere. So you don't want to think of it as, "Well, I'm just going to write something shitty for my blog because I'm going to save the good stuff." You want to do your best and step it up a notch for your book.
Kathy: Everything is good. You save your favorite pieces for the book, the special project.
Stepahnie: Or sometimes you write something and, this is what would happen to me, I'd write something on my blog and I'd think, "Oh, that's so specific to parenting, that's really kinda perfect for the book." Not because it's so much better even, but just because it's a story. I remember I had written a story about flying with my oldest daughter and it was just horrendous flight from hell. I wrote a funny blog post about it, and I was like, "Well, I'm gonna write a chapter about traveling, how can I not use that story?" That would be one I deleted, not because it was so crazy fantastic, but because it was so perfect for the book that you know I really wanted to use it. So I deleted it.
Member: I'm writing a novel, I was thinking of using the blog as another angle as a prelude to a novel that is not yet finished. Is it viable, do you think, and helpful to maybe catch the eye of an agent or a publisher if I use the actual title for the book and have a piece that I'm writing, like a couple of paragraphs about what it's about, an intro, and make some posts. Does that help at all in terms of book publishing or are you just giving yourself away and you don't even really have a product yet?
Stephanie: That could work. That's an interesting, creative way to do it. It would just depend on how you got attention on the blog after that. Also, I can't stress enough: a catchy title is huge. So if you had a catch title and you started drawing people to that blog and got the word out and people were intrigued, but you'd have to hurry up and write it would be my thing. It would be weird if it was two years later.
Member: No, it's mostly written. It hasn't been edited yet. The title is catchy. The concept is catchy. I was thinking of using it as a landing page for the novel eventually.
Kathy: What I did with mine, I did flash fiction. That way they could see my style of writing, they could see what my characters were like, but I didn't put anything from my actual novel that I wanted to get published, I didn't put any of that on my blog. I put hints about it. I put what I wanted the title to be, which ended up getting changed after the acquired it...
Stephanie: Yes, that would be the risk.
Kathy: I just kind of put sneak peeks of what I was doing, but I really wanted to show that I could write fiction. So I looked up fiction sites, I did round-robins or blog tours for Halloween we all wrote a flash fiction piece and we all took turns posting each others' stories.
Stephanie or Member: What's flash fiction?
Kathy: It's just short fiction that is maybe about 1000 words, just a little story. Like a blog post style. That way they could see my writing, my style. When they saw that I was working on a novel, they had something to refer to to put the pieces together. So that was just how I did it. No one told me to do it that way. I just kinda thought, "I don't want to put all my goods out there, but I still want to show." I just love to write. I just participated in these things to be able to do it and show a different side.
Stephanie: I think you could put something from your book on the blog. I wouldn't put a lot, but it would be fun. It's going to change anyway, so it's not like it's gone to an editor. It's all gonna change, so why not put some stuff from the book to tease people and make them want to read it.
Member: I have a commentary on the question before about using things from your blog on your book and should you do that. I'm actually sort of under that constraint; I blog for Women's Day Magazine, I'm their divorce blogger. I've been doing that for two years. At the BlogHer Writer's Conference last fall I was actually approached by an agent who is interested in seeing a blog-to-book. But my problem is first (Women's Day) owns my words, all two years of them. Every bit of the pain and agony, they own those words. I sat down with the agent and said, my hands are tied, I can't use these blog posts.
Stephanie: Did you ask the publisher of the website?
Member: Well, she said, here's the deal, she said, "They might own your words, but they don't own your life events." You can go back and write about those from another angle or you can write bits and pieces. She said, fair use, you can say, "Today on the blog I wrote..." And take a chomp, and expand on it. You're limited to 500 words on your posts, there's another 1000-3000 words that they don't know about. And that's what I've been doing. It's been a great writer's exercise. If you see a great blog post that you would love in your book, go back and re-visit it. You would be surprised what you can pull out and write around when you're realizing you can't use those exact words.
Stephanie: But also sometimes you can -- I was writing for this website called Mommy Tracked which is now called Modern Moms, and they owned the posts too. But when I wanted to use a couple of the posts for my book, I just asked them and they said, "You can do it, you just have to say that they were originally published on that site."
Member: I'll cross that bridge when I get there.
Stephanie: They had no problem with it. It's not like it's in big letters on that piece: THIS WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED SOMEWHERE ELSE. It's just like in the book somewhere it says, "This piece and this piece were originally published."
Member: I have a couple of comments also on some things that were discussed in the other room and here. First of all, you do have to check your contracts if you're signing things because you might be signing away your life rights. And that's a very, very big deal. I know you had a strange book publishing experience, but with book proposals, my understanding is there's a very specific format. You have to know how to identify your book, you have to have publishing numbers, you have to have a lot of information that we haven't discussed today and I was wondering if you looked at any books or resources that helped you with that format information that might be applicable.
Kathy: I think Stephanie's thing is awesome that we passed out earlier that goes through everything that sold her book. I also have one that I downloaded for you guys at http://craftychica.ning.com which is more of a how to where it has the different sections and a summary of why you need to put that information there. It is a specific format. I bought books from the bookstore on how to do them. I researched online. I just tailored it all to the book that I wanted to have published. A lot of it was exactly what's in here, what we got today.
Stephanie: It isn't one specific thing. I think that's not quite accurate. There's not one specific format for a proposal. There are specific elements that every proposal must have, but there are all sorts of different proposals and there's different proposals for different types of books. We were talking about some might have pictures, some might have a longer overview, some proposals are 90 pages and some are 30. It just depends on how -- and also if you are working with a specific agent, it varies from agency to agency. Some agencies might be like, "No, I could never sell this proposal, it needs 40 more pages." And some might be like, "Oh, this is way too long and you don't need this section and I don't need all these numbers."
Kathy: The most important things are the overview; you need to state the reasons why your book is hot. Why they need to publish it. You have to know your book better than anybody else to make it sound like a seller. You need comparative titles. You need to have your chapter outline. Those are all essentials that you absolutely have to have in any book proposal. And then the rest is, it changes to whatever type of book you're doing -- picture book, memoir book, whatever. You definitely need to have that overview down and introduction, sample chapter. And why you're the best person for it.
Member: I've written other people's book proposals. You can have someone help you, professionally and pay for it.
Stephanie: Why not?!
Member: Why not, exactly. Also, there is no more editing in most houses unless you're a very special person and (name) wants to work with you alone. So you can get a book doctor. Especially if you're doing something that has a timeline. You can have someone, you can feed stuff and the editor will help you. One recommendation as someone who has looked at a lot of this: there are really good online courses for book proposals. MediaBistro uses people from the industry. You'll have an editor and an agent responding to you and you'll have a group workshop. I think they're worth it. There are published people like myself -- I did magazines. They can short circuit the path for you.
Kathy: One other thing to think of, this is what I do when I do my book proposals, is I look at it, read it over and say, "Is there any spot where they would say no." Where is it that they would say no? And then I give them a reason to say yes. Look at it from that way too. Any weak spot, go in and fix it. Give them the answer so they can't say no.
Member: If you deliver a good book proposal, that helps.
Kathy: I did mine every night after the kids were in bed, from ten at night until like two in the morning.
Stephanie: I'm going to take a year off from parenting. My kids and my marriage. And I'm just going to explain, "I'm going to get a bigger advance. It's going to be worth it."
Kathy: When it comes to your book proposal, don't overthink it. "Oh I'm going to save this for when I have time." Start on it this weekend. As soon as you get home from this conference, if you're serious about it. I did mine, I started it on a Saturday and I worked on it for two weeks solid every single night because I wanted to get it done. Go through and do it. It's just like writing: nothing is going to happen unless you start it and finish it. You have to start somewhere. So don't overthink it and get intimidated by it. Don't you think?
Stephanie: I agree. Do it. I hated writing a proposal. I thought it was so hard. But then you get it done and you have something to show agents and it's worth it. Think of it this way: You're going to have to write a book, so you might as well write a proposal. Anybody will tell you this, it really helps you write the book.
Kathy: It does.
Stephanie: It's kind of half-written. You know your chapters. You know where you're going. It's not such a crazy idea when you have... well, that's a lie. It's still going to be a crazy ordeal when you have to write a book. But it's going to be more manageable if you have your proposal as your guide.
Member: MediaBistro also posts deals.
Member: Here's a humble brag, I went to Barnard uptown and English is the most popular major. We have an incredible list of published authors. Martha Stewart and all of these people who have published books. The one place that I use LinkedIn is the alumni network and the most famous of these people that I just mentioned are not on LinkedIn but I could easily go there and who is willing to read my book proposal and people who are willing will click on that. And then it's not annoying people, because I'm not sending them email. It's just part of month/weekly digest of posts that are new on LinkedIn Barnard, and it's not my class, it's everybody.
Stephanie: So can people just say they went to Barnard? You might not remember me, but I was there, and I have a book proposal! Who wants to read it? You could be an alumni of a lot of really great schools! [Laughter.]
Member: Somebody has been posting recipes from her cookbook that's coming out. And it's really fun. She's gone all around the Mediterranean for her cookbook, so she'll just post the recipe and if you want to see the instructions or she'll just post the ingredients list or something and if you want to see the pictures and the whole cookbook, you have to buy it. It's been really fun to watch her journey. That's what I used LinkedIn for.
Stephanie: That's a really great idea. Thank you. I'm getting some good tips today. Some hot tips!
Member: This is a follow on to the comment that there are some really good online classes. I took one in May, a non-fiction writers online conference and it was really outstanding. The person who facilitated it, her name was Stephanie Chandler, and the conference really had a number of notable published authors who talked about the advantages of self-publishing versus going the traditional route. They have a lot of experience in the ways. The reason why I'm here was one of the suggestions they made was that you should consider starting a blog as a way of promoting and marketing a book that you're either writing or planning to write. Their feeling was that even the book doesn't come out for a year or two, start a blog and you begin to build a following so that when you go to a book publisher or even when you decide to self-publish, you already have a following. You can also buy excepts from the conference from some of the session. Non-fiction writers conference.
Member: Are you supposed to -- can you say whodunit in the book proposal? Do you give it away? You do all of the chapters and everything, so do you say what the grand outcome is and everything?
Stepahnie: Is it a mystery?
Member: No, actually it's a memoir. But I'm curious also for the other stuff -- do you give it all away and lay it all out there? Or?
Stephanie: So you're not being literal? Do you give it all away, do you say how it ends?
Member: I'm not being very clear then. For a memoir, do you say everything that happens basically. So that when they read the proposal, they know how the book ends.
Stephanie: Oh yeah. They're not buying your book. If you want somebody to publish your book, you've got to tell them what's the story.
Member: Because I heard somewhere that you're not supposed to do that.
Stepahnie: Oh. Where'd you hear that?
(Another) Member: Is it possible Stephanie that you leave them with a cliff-hanger and make them want to read the rest?
Stephanie: I feel like an agent would be so annoyed if you were like, "If you wanna know what happens, you're gonna have to call me!" [Laughter.] I don't know how all that would work. Maybe we can talk about that for your query letter. Maybe you don't give it all away, you only have a couple paragraphs to write a query letter to an agent so you might not want to tell them the whole story, you might want to compell them into saying would you like to hear more? Do you want the book proposal? I could see that, but if you're giving a book proposal, you gotta tell them what happens. That's how you're going to sell it.
Member: I just wanted to offer another resource to anyone who's writing. It's a book, it's for non-fiction, fiction, children's books, all of it. It's called The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published. It got me all the way through my proposal. You can find it on TheBookDoctors.com.
Member: I was just wondering what you thought could improve e-books, because they have kind of a wishy-washy reputation of not always being worth the money. Sometimes they're just like a fancy PDF. What do you think makes an e-book demonstrate real quality?
Stephanie: I have no idea, to be honest, because I have not self-published so I haven't done the research. I'm sorry. Maybe somebody else. You know what, when you guys break into your small groups, maybe that's something you can talk about. Unless you...
Kathy: Well, I know in the DIY industry, the craft bloggers, everyone is doing e-books. And they're using Pages from the Mac program. As long as you do it right and design it nice so it looks like an actual book, I think they're great. I have a lot of friends who are doing really well with their e-books. Not only in the craft world but also in fiction as well. People who are tired of waiting for a publisher and they're doing their own book, and they're really happy with the outcome. I think it's getting better all the time.
Member: I would like to go back to this idea of shameless self-promotion and particularly the idea of the query letter in which one has to be seductive, shameless, proud, confident, concise and get them to even get them to the book proposal.
Stephanie: Let's talk about that right now. The query letter and then we'll take a break and then we'll split up into groups.
Member: I was just going to add one more really good resource. The American Independent Writers out of Washington DC has a writer's conference in June, and I think there are a lot of clubs like this in New York too, but they allow you to do elevator pitches, 10 minute agent pitches and that gave me a lot of direction. I did it a few years ago and they said exactly what you said, You need a blog and a website first to get a platform. So that's what kind of got me into this world, but it's a great way. It's not until June, but you sign up and you can meet with three different agents for ten minutes. I was telling someone here, it's very balls to the wall. Your idea sucks. They will tell you. You will walk out either in tears or jumping up and down. But it's better to hear that from an actual agent. It was a great experience for me. Also, I was involved in a self-published venture where I wrote an essay and I did the publicity pro-bono and it was an amazing experience and I'd be happy to talk to anybody about it but you are schlepping books in your trunk to PTA meetings. It's not glamorous at all. The conference is for non-fiction and fiction a lot. The best part of it is you can sign up for the agents in advance. I met some really great agents. It got me further in the journey.
Kathy: Speaking of elevator pitches, this is what my agent does with my books. She'll connect different characters, for my novel, she'd tell people, "It's Waiting to Exhale meets Ugly Betty." It gives the picture like, "Oh, okay." For my website, It's Ugly Betty meets Martha with Oprah Enthusiasm. It just shows what it is about. If you can do that with your own site, we'll get to that in the exercises, start thinking of visuals, that helps relay the message too when it comes to elevator pitches.
Stephanie: Query letter -- everyone wants to know. I wish I brought one of those for a leave behind. You can probably look that up online. Do you have one on your site for people to download?
Kathy: Not the query letter. But I do have the book proposal.
Stephanie: They're kind of standard, but what you really want to remember is a couple of things. Make sure you spell your agent's name right. You would be absolutely surprised, I asked my agent to give me tips and tell me what she likes or doesn't like about query letters that she gets and she told me that so many people either don't even -- her name is Andy -- people all the time address her as a man. Like call her Andy, I mean her name is Andrea but she goes by Andy, so people assume she is a man. That irritates her, because then it tells her that they aren't even specifically sending it to her for any reason, they're just cold-calling.
And then another thing is you want to make sure that you're query letter is really specific to the agent that you have in mind. The reason I say this is because agents just like anybody else in the business specialize in things, they have certain -- you know, you don't want to try to query an agent who specializes in memoir your historical novel because it's not up their alley, they don't have that much time. You're wasting your time and you're wasting their time. Better to figure out who publishes some books that are similar to something you want to publish. It doesn't mean they're publishing too much of any of those, it means that's what they like. There's some authors that do a lot of self-help books and they do some women's fiction and you can just see through their books what their theme is, so if it's an agent you like, then that might be their theme. You can also talk to an agent, you kind of know of an agent, but they're not right for your book. A great thing you can do is send a query letter to that agent and say I know this isn't your thing, but can you recommend an agent that you think might be interested in a book like this. That's a really in-offensive thing to ask, and sometimes there's somebody who works in their office that does that kind of book. Then they might say, "Oh yeah, send it to this person."
Another thing is that people assume agents don't want to be queried, that they're so busy. That's not true. Agents love to be queried; that's their job. That's how they find the next great book. You shouldn't feel bad sending out query letters or feel like shy about it or or like "Ooh, I hope I'm not bugging you." That's their job. That's what they want to do. They're hoping that they want to read your proposal. They're not in the business of saying no to everybody just to say no. I think that's a common mis-perception. I used to think that they just want to reject, they're just going to reject people because they're only doing a couple of books. But a lot of publishers need to buy a certain amount of books per year, especially in a particular genre, so the agent's job is to find books to give to those publishers. So if your book is right for them, chances are that they'll ask to read your proposal.
So what you want to do is it should be about two paragraphs long. You don't want to go on and on and on. You want to get to the point. You want to tell that agent why you're querying them. You want to do your research. Find out who they are, what kind of books they like, and all of this information is in agent guides, or you can just look it up online. Or what I did, I went and looked up the agents that seemed like they'd be a good agent and, those would be agents that I'd either ask around and say, "Does anybody have a connection to this agent," or you can just cold-email them, and say, "I was a big fan of such-and-such a book that you represent this author, I'm a huge fan of this author, I know you represent them, so you caught my eye as somebody who might be interested in this kind of writing. I have this great book and it's all about..." and then you gotta sell it. You have to have a great opening line.
Kathy: Sell it fast. It's the first paragraph, first few sentences, that's where you have to sell it. Just get that hook. Stalk them online. Google them. That's what I've done, just look them up. A lot of times agents have blogs now...
Stephanie: And twitter accounts.
Kathy: You can read their blog, their twitter feed, just kind of get a feel for their vibe of what they're looking for. A lot of times they share that information.
Stephanie: Again, it is a numbers game. You're going to be sending them out a lot. Most agents... they're not either taking on new writers or the project's just not something they think they can sell. You should feel pretty good if an agent signs you. That's because they really believe that they can sell your book. They don't waste time. So that's why most of the time they're going to say no. If they don't really see the book and go, "Oh, I can sell this..." Usually they are thinking of editors that they work with, that they go, "Oh, I know who would like this book." I know who I'm going to go talk to. I think it used to be more that they'd go wide with a book, which means that they'd send it out to 20 publishing companies and try to get a bidding war, I don't think that's as common anymore. Companies are buying fewer books. I do think it's more personal relationships. You're probably wondering, is a bigger agent better than a smaller agent? Does it matter where they are located? Do they need to be in New York? The answer to that is no, it doesn't really matter. It matters how passionate they are about your work. So you don't want an agent who is like, "I don't know. Maybe. You're going to have to do a lot more work on this." That, to me, sounds like they're not that into it. I just contradicted myself, because I just said they're not going to take you unless they're into it; there are going to be some agents, these are usually much smaller agencies that are like, "Maybe I can do something with this person." I would be careful with that. Then again, if there's not another option, why not? If they end up being a big fan and being really into the book? It doesn't matter; if someone has a book agencies, chances are they have some connections with some publishing companies. If you're a small fish and you get in with William & Morris, does that mean that you're going to sell your book any more than if you get in with a small agent? Not necessarily. I don't think you should worry yourself about, "Oh this, agent is in Hawaii." Well, there's fax machines. And there's email. I wouldn't worry about it. It's not that important.
Kathy: Also, the reality of it: If you put all of this effort into your book proposal and you have to be ready to have it changed. I know with mine, I spent all this time thinking it was fabulous and found every reason for them to say yes, gave it to my agent, she sends it back: Make all of these changes, take this part out, include this in, go back and redo it again. And then we have an editor who is interested and the editor is like, "Go change this and this and this and bring it back to me." It's constant back and forth changing, and you have to be ready to do that. An ugly cry, or I don't know an ugly cry in that sense but almost verge of ugly cry, "How many times do I have to do this?" And then sometimes that editor will pass on it, and you're like, "Oh, okay. Where's my original?" Start again with another one. That's the reality of it. But the main goal is to sell it and have it be your vision, and stay true to what you want it to be.
Stephanie: Just to reiterate -- a couple of paragraphs, sell them the book in the first paragraph, tell them a little about what it is and ask, "I'd love to send you my book proposal if you're interested."
--inaudible member question--
Stephanie: Your agent makes you a deal. If they sell your book to a publishing company, you sign a contract. They don't own anything until you sign a contract. Those are negotiated terms, you negotiate -- sometimes a publishing company will try to retain 10% of the rights to film and television. In that case, that is the controlling, those are the controlling rights; they can make, they can decide what to do with it, but you still get 90% of the film and television. I've never heard of making a deal, signing a contract where they just own everything and don't have to pay you. That would be some kind of a scam. That's not legal. An agency, they do your legal deal, you have a contract. And then they have to pay you a certain amount of money before they... they pay you money up front, you provide the book, and then they pay you more money depending on your deal.
--inaudible member question--
Stephanie: Some agents will want you to sign with them before they've even gotten you a book deal. They don't want to get you a book deal and have you go, I don't wanna. I think I'm going to do this on my own.
--inaudible member question--
Stephanie: It's pretty standard that book agents take 15%. I would imagine that if they want to take more than that, then it would be a weird agent and also, it doesn't hurt to ask if they take 15%. But that's pretty much the standard. Regular agents take 10%, I don't know why book agents take 15%. Kind of wrong if you ask me. No offense to any agents in the room. But then if you were an agent, why would you really be in this room.
There are agents that specialize in blog-to-book. If you know of people that had a blog that became a book, find out who that agent was and query that agent. Some of them are serious, trolling, trying to find the next...
Kathy: They definitely are. I know of people who do that for agents. Go look at the books, Texts from Last Night, Eat Your Feelings, those are all blogs that have been turned into books. A lot of times they thank their agents in there.
Stephanie: They should thank their agents.
Stephanie: Okay, break and split into groups.
-- __ -- __ --
Stephanie: If you want to get out of this what we really think you can, we have to give you an assignment. Does everybody have a notebook? Or a computer?
Kathy: There's also paper on the table. And pens. What we want you to do in the next 10 minutes we want you to come up with three book ideas based off of your blog. Visualize your book on the bookshelf, what would the cover be, what would the title be, what would it be? Three different ideas. Write it down. At the end of 10 minutes, we will break up into groups.
Stephanie: We'll tell you what to do afterwards so just write three ideas that are something that come from your blog or your point-of-view and write a few sentences about each idea. How do you see the book?
Kathy: Book ideas.
Stephanie: How could it be marketed? You don't have to come up with a lot of ways, just so that we know you really visualized that book. Maybe a possible title. Just three.
Stephanie: Here's what we're going to do: we're going to split into four groups of 10. I want to mix up your tables, because you have been sitting with the same people, and you've already chatted and this will give you an opportunity to share your ideas with new people that you haven't talked to before.
[Break for activity in groups.]
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