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April 2016
A Message from Kristin Nelson

Why I Can’t Tweet My Manuscript Wish List

Kristin Nelson

If you’re a writer on Twitter, you probably know that #MSWL is a popular hashtag. It’s how lots of agents and editors broadcast their submission wish lists.

I love it! But I can say with complete certainty that I’ll never post a #MSWL list. Why? Simply because I honestly don’t know what I’m looking for until I start reading it.

Case in point: When I read Stacey Lee’s UNDER A PAINTED SKY in manuscript form, never in a million years would I have posted to #MSWL that I was looking for a young-adult novel set in the American West, with two female protagonists—one Chinese, one African American—on the run and cross-dressing as boys to disguise themselves.

Yeah. I don’t think that would have come up.

But the minute I started reading, I knew I had to have that book. And thank goodness Putnam Children’s agreed with me.

So here’s the plain, honest truth: I have no idea what I’m looking for until the voice of a story grabs hold of me and doesn’t let go.

Just recently, I sold two science-fiction novels—DARE MIGHTY THINGS and THE BLACK HOLE OF BROKEN THINGS. Both, oddly, feature a competition at the heart of the story.

Ha! If you’d asked me whether competition stories were on my wish list, I probably would have said no. Popularity of The Hunger Games and all.

But once Emmett got a hold of me in THE BLACK HOLE OF BROKEN THINGS, I was 100% in. And in DARE MIGHTY THINGS, once Cassie Dhatri convinced me that competing for the opportunity to be an astronaut was cooler than competing for a prince and a kingdom, my inner geek girl squealed with delight. I was in.

So keep that in mind when you ask an agent, “What are you looking for?” If they have a ready answer, take it with a grain of salt. Rarely do we find exactly what we are looking for.

As the Rolling Stones would say, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might find you get what you need.”

Pub Rants University

Recording only of Royalty Statements Auditing Workshop

Friday, December 01 at 12:00 pm

This is a recording of the Webinar held on July 30, 2015.

Chances are, your agent is not auditing your royalty statements. And chances are, accounting mistakes are being made. So if you’re not auditing your royalty statements, you could be missing out on significant income!

In this Webinar, Nelson Literary Agency’s contracts and royalties manager, Angie Hodapp, will walk you through the basics of royalties reporting and teach you how to read and audit your own royalty statements. Using statements from several big and mid-sized publishers as examples, Angie will explain how various publishers express returns, reserves, royalty-rate escalators, subrights income, bonus income, and more, and illustrate how everything adds up to affect your bottom line.

Finally, Angie will walk you through how to set up an Excel spreadsheet you can use each reporting period to track cumulative units sold and total earnings for each book you’ve had published. This valuable tool will also help you track your payments and find accounting errors!

You can buy access to this Webinar recording until December 1, 2017.





Register Now

eSpecial Price

$0.99 Until April 4, 2016

           
Recent News
Think Like an Agent

Why It's Dangerous To Think That "Diverse Books" is the Latest Hot Trend

By

Just recently, PW published an article in which agents shared their thoughts on children’s books and YA trends. Although I’m quite tickled that so many agents are seeing lots of submissions featuring diverse characters, it’s dangerous to consider diversity the latest YA trend.

I’m sure I’m not the only agent who can say they’ve been repping diverse authors/books since day one. It certainly didn’t take a trend for me to sign those books and authors (for example, Kelly Parra’s awesome MTV Book Graffiti Girl in 2007, Kim Reid’s memoir No Place Safe in 2007, and Simone Elkeles’s Perfect Chemistry in 2008). But I can say this: unequivocally, before #WeNeedDiverseBooks became a rallying cry in April 2014, selling in a diverse author/book was tons harder to do. I have my submission logs to prove it. It often took me about 12 to 16 months of grim determination to find a diverse book a home.

If diversity is now hot enough to make the selling-in part a lot of easier, trust me, I’m all for it. Yay! Finally! But I absolutely do not want diversity to be considered a trend in young-adult literature, and here is why: If something is a trend, then it can go out of fashion just as quickly as it came in. And quite frankly, that would be a travesty.

The blunt truth is that selling a diverse book is a perfectly normal thing to do in publishing. So my rallying cry? Agents, new and old, even when diverse books become harder to sell, as they inevitably will (in publishing, trends of every kind have always come and gone), keep on keeping on.

Diversity is not a trend. It’s simply here to stay. This is the new normal.

Kristin's Book Club

Boys Join The Club for Just One Evening

In the 18-year history of our book club, this has never happened! Three husbands expressed interest in NO PLACE TO HIDE, our April selection, which is about Edward Snowden. They asked if they could join in for the evening. How can we possibly say no?

Edward Snowden’s biggest fear is that he would jeopardize his liberty and expose the invasive surveillance of the U.S. government, only to have Americans simply shrug. That alone makes this book worth reading.

And for folks short on time, check out Laura Poitras’s documentary CITZENFOUR instead.

Guest Article

Query Tip: The Wandering Protagonist

Angie Hodapp

Contracts and Royalties Manager Angie Hodapp teaches writing-craft and query-letter workshops both online and through various writing organizations.

Here are three examples of a formula I’ve seen many times in our query inbox. See if you can figure out why the formula doesn’t work…and why we’re probably going to pass on reading the sample pages:

Example #1: Middle Grade

“Protagonist and his friends go on many exciting adventures. Along the way, they encounter a band of pirates, a herd of mystical unicorns, a swarm of angry fairies, and one club-swinging giant who just wants to find his way back to his home in the Mountains of Malfesioria.”

Example #2: Coming of Age

“It’s the last summer before college, and in the wake of his father’s death, Protagonist needs to figure out who he really is. He takes off on a cross-country road trip in Dad’s old Jeep. Along the way, he meets a wise homeless man who teaches him about gratitude, a scrappy orphan who teaches him about forgiveness, and a blonde cocktail waitress who teaches him about love.”

Example #3: Crime Fiction

“In her quest to capture a serial killer, Detective Protagonist must interview one quirky character after another: a past-her-prime exotic dancer who bakes the world’s best chocolate-chip cookies, a grouchy old chess champion with an eidetic memory, and a cynical comedian whose dark sense of humor has managed to offend nearly everyone in Setting City.”

Each of these story-summaries is based on the same formula—a formula I call “The Wandering Protagonist.”

Keep in mind that there’s nothing inherently wrong with a novel in which the main character goes on a journey. And, of course, anyone on a journey is bound to meet interesting folks (human or otherwise) along the way. However, journeys and interesting side characters are neither story nor plot. As such, these three summaries have all missed some very crucial marks. What they’re missing, in the immortal words of Debra Dixon, are Goal, Motivation, and Conflict. I’d also add stakes. (Donald Maass puts his lesson on stakes at the very beginning of his book The Breakout Novelist.)

Let’s look at each example a little more closely.

In Example #1, our middle-grade protagonist has no goal—at least not one that’s mentioned in the query letter. (Hint: The protagonist’s goal should be present in the query letter!) What does he want? What is he looking for? Why? (That’s motivation.) What happens if he finds it, or doesn’t? (That’s stakes.) How can you (the author) make me (the reader) care about Protagonist’s impending success or failure? While this example does hint at conflict (pirates, angry fairies, a club-swinging giant), none of that conflict is directly hooked into the protagonist’s goal. Do the angry fairies want the same thing Protagonist wants, and will they do anything to prevent him from getting it first? Are the pirates the swashbuckling sort, or are they another antagonistic force standing in Protagonist’s way? Do our heroes end up helping the giant get back home? While the author might answer all that in the manuscript itself, this summary, unfortunately, is too vague and does little to pique my interest.

In Example #2, we have a goal, but it’s not a very strong one: Protagonist wants to find out who he really is. We’re missing motivation: Why does he need to find out who he really is (whatever that means), and what happens if he fails (stakes)? We are given hints of conflict: He’s mourning the death of his father, and apparently he needs to learn about gratitude, forgiveness, and love. But in this example both goal and conflict are internal to the protagonist. Remember that there are two kinds of dramatic conflict—internal and external—and that a good story develops both. Give this protagonist an external goal (to visit his grandmother in Sedona, or to scatter is father’s ashes at Niagara Falls, or to return something his father stole to its rightful owner) and some external conflict (the Jeep keeps breaking down, or the scrappy orphan steals his wallet, or his sister is chasing him across the country to stop him from, say, returning the object their father stole, etc.).

In Example #3, we have a goal that’s both clear and genre appropriate: To capture a serial killer. The motivation is implied: To stop the killer from killing again. The stakes are also implied: If Detective Protagonist fails, someone else will die. (Hint: For higher, better stakes, make the killer’s next target someone close to Detective Protagonist. Make the stakes personal.) So far so good. However, the author then wanders off into Wandering Protagonist territory, and there’s zero conflict in the rest of the summary. Perhaps this author, like the author of example #1, hopes to hook agents with his cast of quirky characters. But any author who thinks his secondary characters are more interesting than his plot probably needs to take a long, hard look at his manuscript!

To see if your query letter’s pitch paragraph is solid, print it out and grab a highlighter. Highlight your protagonist’s goal, motivationstakes, and conflict. If they’re all present and accounted for, you’re on the right track!

New Releases

Beacon 23 - Omnibus release by HMH

by Hugh Howey

For centuries, men and women have manned lighthouses to ensure the safe passage of ships. It is a lonely job, and a thankless one for the most part. Until something goes wrong. Until a ship is in distress.

In the 23rd century, this job has moved into outer space. A network of beacons allows ships to travel across the Milky Way at many times the speed of light. These beacons are built to be robust. They never break down. They never fail.

At least, they aren’t supposed to.

With Beacon 23, best-selling author Hugh Howey delivers white-knuckle suspense, with aliens, war, and madness all combining in a story of one man living aboard a beacon and his battle against the solitary of space.

Available to buy here.

 

Buy It Here:

Shift and Dust - HMH curated Sci-Fi edition

by Hugh Howey

ShiftIn 2007, the Center for Automation in Nanobiotech (CAN) outlined the hardware and software platform that would one day allow robots smaller than human cells to make medical diagnoses, conduct repairs, and even self-propagate. In the same year, the CBS network re-aired a program about the effects of propranolol on sufferers of extreme trauma. A simple pill, it had been discovered, could wipe out the memory of any traumatic event. At almost the same moment in humanity’s broad history, mankind had discovered the means for bringing about its utter downfall. And the ability to forget it ever happened.

DustWool introduced the world of the silo. Shift told the story of its creation. Dust will describe its downfall.

Shift available to buy here.

Dust available to buy here.

Buy It Here:

Exposed - A Madame X novel

by Jasinda Wilder

My name is Madame X.
My life is not my own.
But it could be…
 
Everything Madame X has ever known is contained within the four walls of the penthouse owned by her lover, her keeper—the man who controls her every move and dominates her desires.

While Caleb owns her body, someone else has touched her soul. X’s awakening at the hands of Logan’s raw, honest masculinity has led her down a new path, one that is as exciting as it is terrifying.

But Caleb’s need to own X completely knows no bounds, and he isn’t about to let her go. Not without a fight that could destroy them all…

Buy It Here:

       

Just This Night

by Mari Madison

At News 9 San Diego, the hottest developments happen off camera.

TV news photographer Jake “Mac” MacDonald moved to San Diego for a fresh start and a new job at the local news station. Since his wife left, he has no time for women. All he cares about is his four-year-old daughter. But when his brother-in-law drags him out to a night club, Mac can’t help flirting with the cute blonde who asks him to dance. Maybe he has time after all…just for a night.

A hot one-time fling is exactly what morning news reporter Elizabeth White had in mind when she brought Mac home. When her anonymous hookup turns out to be her newest colleague, Mac and Beth agree to put the night behind them. But when someone tries to sabotage Beth’s career, Mac is the only one she can trust. And maybe their one night has the makings of an ongoing exclusive.

Buy It Here:

     

Tell the Wind and Fire

by Sarah Rees Brennan

In a city divided between opulent luxury in the Light and fierce privations in the Dark, a determined young woman survives by guarding her secrets.

Lucie Manette was born in the Dark half of the city, but careful manipulations won her a home in the Light, celebrity status, and a rich, loving boyfriend. Now she just wants to keep her head down, but her boyfriend has a dark secret of his own—one involving an apparent stranger who is destitute and despised. Lucie alone knows the young men’s deadly connection, and even as the knowledge leads her to make a grave mistake, she can trust no one with the truth.

Blood and secrets alike spill out when revolution erupts. With both halves of the city burning, and mercy nowhere to be found, can Lucie save either boy—or herself?

Buy It Here:

       

Eddie Red Undercover #3: Doom at Grant's Tomb

by Marcia Wells

Eddie Red, the NYPD’s youngest crime-solving hero, smells trouble. Could he be the target of the elusive art thief Lars Heinrich, whose last robbery he ruined? If so, why won’t the police let Eddie help on the case? What are they hiding from him?

In the thrilling third installment of the Eddie Red Undercover series, Eddie will need some luck of the Irish as he races against the clock (and bombs and runaway subway cars) to stop what could be one of the greatest heists in history.

Companion to Eddie Red Undercover: Mystery on the Musuem Mile and Eddie Red Undercover: Mystery in Mayan Mexico.

Buy It Here:

       

Soulless - Subterranean Press Limited Edition

by Gail Carriger

New York Times’ bestselling author Gail Carriger’s Soulless introduced a legion of readers to the delightfully romantic Victorian steampunk world of her acclaimed Parasol Protectorate series. Revisit the start of this acclaimed and singular series in this exclusive limited edition.

Limited: 750 signed numbered copies
Lettered: 26 signed leatherbound copies, housed in a custom traycase

Buy it here!

Buy It Here:

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