The Longest Reply

Writer waiting for an e-mail reply, biblical painting by William Blake

In My Inbox

Today, in my e-mail inbox I received another form rejection. That in itself is nothing out of the ordinary, for I get these things all the time. But what set this particular reply apart from all the other replies is that it took the agent, two years and three months to return the e-mail. I’m sure in the overall scheme of things this is no record, but for my particular literary endeavors it is definitely a major milestone, for I have never had to wait so long for a rejection.

A Glimmer of Hope

And then from all the information conveyed to me by this agent, who I will allow to remain anonymous, there was this little glimmer of hope.

“Regarding your submission, while there’s much to like, I’m afraid I’m not connecting enough emotionally to your characters, which ultimately means I’m not connecting enough with the content of your story. “

This in itself wouldn’t be so bad except for the fact that it was obviously part of a form letter. A few original words would have been greatly appreciated, but I guess it just wasn’t going to happen on this day. Maybe this agent would have been better off, if he had sent no reply at all. After all that seems to be the current form of saying no.

 

Halloween in Vegas

A carved Jack O’lantern celebrates Halloween, photo from Wikipedia by Jackins

Vegas

For some strange reason, Halloween this year has me down and out in the city of Las Vegas Nevada, though not so down and out that I couldn’t afford a cheap motel room for a week (Vegas has lots of good offers in that category) and a night out on the town on All Hallows Eve. (that was last night Oct. 31) For somebody in my position, the choice is not hard to make….Head straight to Fremont St. in the downtown area and check out all the free shows. This includes the live music shows on stage, the street performers, the light show that comes up every hour from 6 p.m. till midnight and the constant parade of costumed partygoers that roam up and down the wide avenue that has mostly become a pedestrian walkway. And if you get thirsty, you can always go inside and buy a cheap beer. Then there are always the ever-present slot machines, which could conceivably pay for your night out. They almost did for me, but even so I enjoyed the evening thoroughly.

Fremont street and its canopy during the daytime, photo from Wikipedia by Mikerussell

The Call

During my night out on the town, I had a lot to celebrate and think about. For during that very afternoon I had received an e-mail

from an interested agent about a screenplay I had written about a year and a half ago and circulated through an equerry service back in May. And the strangest thing about all of this was that the person had a physical address and phone number right here in Las Vegas (Did she know I was in town for a few days?). So without any ado and with much excitement, I e-mailed back a reply complete with a brand new synopsis that I had worked two hours on. Today, I received the bad news, a rather lengthy rejection on why she was passing. Still, the brief rush of excitement made my day and at the same time I was glad I had resisted the urge to contact her directly by phone or personal appearance. (It was very tempting)

Las Vegas today at dusk, photo from Wikipedia by Ville Miettinen

Do e-query services work?

 

I’ll address this issue in more detail later, but my first attempt at this much-frowned-on method of querying

yielded surprisingly good results. Though the inquiries were few and far between, I achieved what I hadn’t been able to do by querying on my own … and that is find some  legitimate insiders in the film business to read my screenplays. No offer of representation came with these readings, but my limited success was a big improvement from my own direct query efforts.

Nathan Bransford Moves On

NGC 4452: An Extremely Thin Galaxy Credit: ESA, Hubble, NASA
NGC 4452: An Extremely Thin Galaxy Credit: ESA, Hubble, NASA

In transition:   “It’s with a huge mix of emotions (insert: wonderment, excitement, sadness, nostalgia) that I let you know that this is my last day as a literary agent. I am leaving the world of publishing to work at the tech news/review site CNET, where I will be helping to coordinate social media strategy.”  Nathan Bransford on announcing his exit from Curtis Brown.

The big news in the literary blogging world concerns the sudden departure of Nathan Bransford from the Curtis Brown Agency.  Nathan has decided to leave the world of agenting literary masterpieces and will now work for CNET reviewing electronic equipment and software.

Here’s what Betsey Lerner at “The Forest For The Trees” had to say;

“Anyway, Mr. Bransford, agent and gentleman, we will bid you adieu from the dark side of living off the backs of writers, au revoir to 15% percent commish and enjoy a real salary.” Actually these comments were a little bit tongue in cheek for she continued with these words:

“Your generosity is as infectious as is your love for books and the writing process. I wish you well in your new endeavor. I’m sure your clients will miss you enormously.”

And then there were some comments posted by J.N. Duncan, a client of Mr.Bransford, who has now been picked up by another agent at Curtis Brown;     “It is a sad day today. Today we say goodbye to Nathan Bransford, literary agent. He is leaving us for greener pastures……Secondly, I want to say what a pleasure it has been to work with him and be his client.”

All in all the move seems to be a wise one for the most widely-read, blogger among prospective authors, but his departure does seem to point towards the rapidly changing world of publishing. Maybe Nathan just had a good opportunity that he couldn’t pass up, but I suspect he took a look at the rising success of e-books and the diminishing returns on print and decided it was time to go.

Personally, I think for a person that was already a published writer and likely entertained more ambitions as a writer than as an agent, the move might even be a bit overdue. Nonetheless, I enjoyed reading his blog and even got a kick out of the the two “Not for me” rejections he sent me. All in all, I think he just took a big step in the right direction.

The Cat's Eye Nebula Credit: J. P. Harrington (U. Maryland) & K. J. Borkowski (NCSU) HST, NASA
The Cat's Eye Nebula Credit: J. P. Harrington (U. Maryland) & K. J. Borkowski (NCSU) HST, NASA

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad E-book

a glass of beer
a glass of beer

Last week I had the privilege of attending a Mediabistro function in downtown Boston. The get-together was held at a popular watering hole. right in the center of Boston’s financial district. It was the first time I’ve ever attended such an event, but I have taken several classes through the organization, and so for a good hour or so, I got to hob nob with some of the professional writers, who make their living around the great city of Boston. No great superstars here, just some entertaining and hardworking people , who seemed to know what they were doing and were fun to talk to.

New York City Skyline, credit; NOAA.gov
New York City Skyline, credit; NOAA.gov

Now Mediabistro is a national organization, for they are also active in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and a handful of other major American cities. In fact, other places around the country had a seasonal party that occurred about the same time that the Boston party happened. Their website is fun and informative, especially their award winning  blog called GalleyCat.  Also check out their other blog, eBook Newser, which is entirely devoted to the up and coming e-book.

And just this week in New York, Mediabistro sponsored an e-book summit, an event which drew speakers and participants from all over the country and beyond. Anybody who wants to know how the conference went can find a very nice twitter transcript here, but this is really not necessary because the subject of e-books is all over the internet, especially if you follow the blogs of some of the more popular literary agents.

For example, Nathan Bransford recently undertook a survey among his readers to see how the e-book was faring. And guess what! The new format is gaining popularity. You can see the poll results for the last three years here . Also from Nathan is this post on November 23 of this year entitled, “The Top Ten Myths About E-books”.

Here’s another agent blogger, Agent Sydney, discussing e-book deals on the very informative agent blog, “Call My Agent”. Basically, this agent is saying that if you have already published an e-book, it might be more difficult to find a literary agent, because you have taken away the possibility of allowing the agency to handle e-book rights. And finally here is some advice from Jessica Faust at Bookends on the subject of something called e-publishing.

But the question of the day remains; is the e-book going anywhere with its limited commercial success and increased popularity? I am of the opinion that it is not, but I will be the first to admit that this assumption is anywhere from an educated hunch to a wild guess. Best of luck and good searching.

Truly, Everett Autumn.

Boston Public Library
Thinking of Escher, photo of Boston Public Library by E. Autumn

Adding To The Slushpile

Roadside in Halifax, England

In snowed yesterday here in northern New England, then turned to a heavy rain and left a real big mess. One big slush pile is what I would call the deposit that Mother Nature made on our fair city. Further inland, the ski resorts and mountain residents received a good hefty amount of snow, while further to the south, our good New England neighbors got nothing but rain. However, this pile of slush that we received yesterday is now frozen solid, but at least the rain followed in ample amounts to wash the streets and side walks clean.

Strange that this real-life, slush dumping would arrive almost exactly at the same time that I had finished my six month contribution to another proverbial slush pile. That is the one accumulated by editors and especially literary agents, as they wade through the weighty stacks of paper and endless lists of e-mail submissions that eager and ambitious novelists and writers, like myself, have so graciously sent their way in hopeful anticipation of that ever-so-elusive intangible object, known as the book contract.

Fortunately, by time this latest snow event had come our way, I had called it quits on my contribution to the literary slush pile. Nearly 100 queries and only two real requests for written material have left me in the same boat as sports fans everywhere, who can be heard around the country uttering the famous words, “Wait until next year!”.

pile of paper
A pile of paper

I think I have given my fair share to the ideas of literary quest during this year, but have I learned anything from my unsuccessful endeavors. The answer to that timely question is a definite yes. And here’s what I have gathered in from events.

Some writers do succeed in becoming authors via sending large numbers queries to one of the many literary agents, located around the country, but they are few and far between. I think it is fair to say that submitting unsolicited queries is a long shot, but there might be better ways to achieve the impossible. Here are a few of my suggestions.

1 – Getting to know agents at conferences and other similar gatherings will greatly improve your chance of finding an agent.

2 – Finding a referral from an established writer or other important literary person will also open doors for you.

3 – Getting an MFA in Creative Writing will not get you a book contract, but it may get you a teaching job or some other kind of similar employment.

4 – Bitching to an agent about a rejection slip is a complete waste of time and energy.

5 – Publishing short stories in well read and admired literary journals can be of great benefit.

Skiers in slush
Skiers attempting to navigate the slushpile

And for those of you who are so inclined to undertake such an endeavor, here are two links that list literary agents and provide some basic info about each one. You can find Query tracker at this address and there is also Agent Query, which can be located here. They both are very good and inclusive, and also free, but I have a slight preference for Query Tracker. This is partly due to their blog and partly due to the way they organize their site.

And finally for those of you who like to keep tabs on what literary agents are up to and how they operate, here is a partial and incomplete list of some of the more popular blogs put out by agents. Probably the post popular blog is that published by Nathan Bransford, who is an agent for Curtis and Brown in San Francisco. You can check out the blog here and find out why for yourself why he is so popular. Another interesting blog is Call My Agent, which is put out by an Australian literary agent, who goes by the name of Agent Sydney. I have also mentioned the blog put out by Query Tracker. This daily (weekdays only) posting actually involves four bloggers, who post on a rotating basis. And then there is Guide To Literary Agents put out by Chuck Sambuchino, which is always a good read. And of course, last but not least is the fabulous rant once published by a fictitious Miss Snark. She hasn’t posted since May 2007, but her fabulous and humorous comments are still worth the time and effort. Be sure to check them out as the whole blog can still be read online.

Good day and I hope you find this post helpful, Everett Autumn

Rainbow Over Portland (Maine)

Rainbow in Portland Maine
Rainbow in Portland Maine

A huge intense rainbow formed today in Portland, Maine during a day that produced some very strange weather, here along the coast of Maine. On a day that saw mostly sunshine mixed with a few very brief periods of intense rain, a gorgeous rainbow formed across the city skyline late in the afternoon. The rainbow was full, but it was too near for me to capture the entire arc on film. It was simply immense in the way that it stretched from one end of the horizon to the other.

Of course there has to be a pot of gold at the other end, and I’m sure that a pot of gold must exist somewhere in the nearby environs just waiting to be found. But so far it has not be that his found any pot of gold.

Sometimes when I try to sell my writing or enter a short story contest, I feel like I am maybe searching for a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. No big bonanza or contract yet, but still the money does roll in at a steady rate and perhaps even now at a slightly better rate than it did at this time last year.

Looking for an agent for my great American novel, now that is something akin to looking for the pot of gold at he end of rainbow. Odds of winning are a bit like winning the lottery, but alas, skill and persistence can effect the odds favorably on your behalf, but it’s still a long shot, no matter how talented and dedicated your are.

Today, I got an e-mail that drove this point home in away that was a little sad and forlorn. I got a letter from a writer who had written a novel and sent out 300 queries and received only three partial requests. However the sad part was that instead of deciding to write another novel, he had decided to set up an online writers collective, where other enterprising writers could join and sell thir work online as e-books or something like that. So far so good except that the price of this privilege was $500 per year. OUCH!!

Funny thing before the rainbow occurred this afternoon, I road my bicycle across a short causeway to an island that is close to my home. It located close to where the pot of gold might have been. I did not find any treasure, but then bring back a picture of some golden-colored leaves. They are everywhere this time of year.

Golden-Leaves