Time for the final review. And I have to admit, I”m? not particularly familiar with the concept of ghostwriting. I think there was a Jonathan Creek once where a ghostwriter was killed, and that is pretty much the depth of my knowledge on the subject. So we”ll see… Writing Tips: Ghostwriting The positive: As an introduction for someone who doesn”t know about this, it strikes me as very honest (probably because there are lots of numbers) and down to earth. It”s also interesting to see that it”s aimed at those who want ghostwritig done for them, not ghostwriters looking for work (I wasn”t sure). I hadn”t heard of “halfway house” ghostwriting either (neither have you?). It handles sensitive issues carefully and gives advice that may save people”s feelings, including links to other (internal) sources. The negative: It isn”t typo-free and, littered with success stories, it”s definitely a marketing page, but I do reckon that makes sense here. More importantly, I take issue with this: “On the other hand, if what you want is a beautifully bound and presented book to share with friends and family, then we can sort that out for you. Self-publishing like this gives you total control over cover design, illustrations, layout, etc. It can be a wonderful gift, either to yourself or for a loved one. ” Self-publishing can seem like an attractive idea, but there are several important things anyone considering this should know. For example, that if you self-publish, it is very, very unlikely that a mainstream publisher will pick up your work afterwards. I know this page is aimed at those who want their life story made into a book for them, not those who want to break into a writing career, but as the only mention of this, it should provide all the information if it is to act as an advice page, not select self-serving parts: not mention the disadvantages of self-publishing when you are selling a service for it seems inherently dishonest to me. Weirdly, the link to the copyediting page goes to a post entitled Writing Children”s Picture Books ???????? …And then talks about editing picturebooks. It”s a nice page with character info, numbers and contact details, but still not what I was expecting. Copyediting being a useful tool for dyslexics was mentioned elsewhere, but no such thing is even alluded to here. I think an additional post could bulk out the copyediting section and take some of the strain out of the very long post in the first section!
So the reviews continue… Writing Tips: How Long, How Many, How Much? So his section is sensible, including numbers on length to actually quantify stuff… but I have read it before elsewhere…! Luckily, not all of it. And when even as it comes to what agents do (the bits we don”t know about) there are numbers. Numbers are good. They offer certainty and security. we know now. More internal linking and references too (this piece is almost scientific!). On the other hand… a quibble: “Manuscripts aren”t rejected because their winning number doesn”t come up in a lottery. They are rejected because they”re not strong enough to sell in a competitive market. So – make your manuscript good enough” [bold mine] Perhaps the wording is overcareful, but, “in a competitive market”does mean their lottery number didn”t come up. It means that they”re only not good enough right now, today. The placement is the lottery and your scrappy novel could be good enough when nobody is writing anything good in its area. And if I get this impression, so will lots of other people reading this, and then instead of improving their novel they”ll put it aside and wait until they think the chick-lit vampire genre is doing poorly again (and I”m not sure that is good advice). And this next to some very good advice which properly makes the point attempted above (and which I”m going to repeat here because it makes me draw smiley faces on my review notes and if, writers, you haven”t read it on Writer”s Workshop, you can read it now):
- Rule 1 Write what you want to write and what there is a market for. If you?re not sure what the market is, then go into a bookshop and find out.
- Rule 2 Be utterly perfectionist about your work. The successful writers are the ones who obsess over their every page; who revise their work repeatedly. And quite often they?re the ones who come to us for help.
How Long Does it Take to Sell a Book? Well, I”ve learnt a few new things in the section, and it”s interesting as well as novel (do you see what I did there?).
- “[A]n oral agreement is nevertheless something you can depend on. These agreements never sour. ” Because this is the kind of thing everyone would just expect you to know, and would be offended if you doubted. And after a long waiting process and nobody tellig you, who could blame you?
- It”s easy to sell US books in the UK, but hard in reverse. Reading why, this makes total sense, but it”s not instinctive, and Writer”s Workshop not only tells us that it is, but explains the market.
- Advances from different countries are not necessarily what you”d expect. Well, at least we know to expect that now.
And to sum up by Monique, a commenter:
August 25, 2011 at 9:31 pm Thank you for a very informative article. You?ve answered several questions of mine, all at once! I?ll be back for more.
Meeting Publishers Given the absurd lengths of some of the early posts, I AM SURPRISED THIS SECTION EVEN EXISTS. Not the content, but as a section, it”s own post, because meeting publishers is not only unusual, but it”s not normally recommended (except apparently in the US, as the post goes on to say… surely this should be a subsection of a post about US publishing?) It has a few other teething problems as well. For instance, sometimes, the headings in the bullet points, which are aligned with the text as if part of a paragraph, don”t juxteposition well. Like, “Scrub up a bit. Contrary to widespread belief, publishers aren?t just chasing books by the young and beautiful.” …So, um, be clean, the publishers don”t want you to look good? What a cofusing message. Which only starts to make sense later on when you realise the second sentence is part of a longer point, the header of which sums up the conclusions. Also, “Don?t forget things digital. Publishers know that digital platform matters, but they are pretty rubbish at helping authors with it. So take a one page sheet setting out what you?ve done already (in terms of blog, website, etc) and explaining what further things you intend to do. Those things won?t swing a deal all on their own, but they do make a difference. ” …which leaves me in the dark. I literally have no idea what this means (beyond “make a plan”). It is so broad and vague I wouldn”t know where to start on this, and it”s frustrating that it tells you to do something, but not what that something is. “take a one page sheet setting out what you”ve done already” took me three readings to even understand that they weren”t talking about a blog page print out (yes, that was slow of me).
I decided to review the Advice Centre section by section for easier reading. Each section consists of multiple pages linked to from the main page under subheadings, such as:
Do you need an agent? And what do they do?
Handily, the sections starts by posing and answering a question before delving into an in-depth discussion on why. If I was just looking for a quick answer, I”ve got it.
Unfortunately, it isn”t all so audience-based, and the bit you will want to read next is the second half, which lists which kinds of books need representation, and which it”s best to do without (plus those tricky middle-ground items!). Luckily the writing, whilst fluid, is not particularly story-like, and the structure is pretty clear, such that it”s easy to skip through to sections you want with ease and not read the weird bits.
The first section is a bit weird. The title asks if you need a literary agent, the section promises to tell you what they”re actually for, but what it seems to actually do is tell you how to be a good agent and warn off amateur agents from this career path with comments such as “Not a game for newbies”.
A… The… What? I”m a writer, not an agent. I have no intention of becoming an agent.
True, such a section can be applied in differentiating a good agent from a poor one, but a lot of the content is stuff you wouldn”t necessarily be able to tell from websites, but would have to be first working with the agent to know. When it”s a little bit late…
I rather casino like this post, although the advice isn”t applicable to me in the slightest. And yes, the opening line doesn”t make sense grammatically.
It”s generally presented in an essay style, first outlining then explaining the hurdles. I was also pretty pleased when I clicked on the “ask us” link and didn”t find Outlook opening gratingly in front of my eyes (and without telling me which email account it has linked itself to). I was a bit surprised by the sentence “ask us” is inserted into, though: “You can ask us, of course” immediately makes me want to ask why I would “of course” ask them. The site is an advice source, but I would also have thought they would want to be paid to trawl around answering questions about agents for me. Or just say “No.”
This is a video. There are a couple. The other one is:
They are very nice, friendly, encouraging videos, but don”t contain a lot of concrete information. It is nice to watch a young author and a young agent talking about their careers just starting out – and in fact the speakers in the second viceo are just as encouraging, but…
Well, what they really say is they want that “page turning” quality, the kind of comment which leads to the frustrated “How do I achieve that, and how do I tell if I am anywhere near?”
I know it”s really hard to say what gives a novel va-va-voom. But you know what does that? Examples.
Give me example. If you give me examples, I will appreciate videos like this much more, because every time the image of what they”re talking about starts to fade I can go and look up an example. Maybe even an example on a similar theme to my book.
The second video also looks a bit less professional. It”s dark and there”s a lot of background noise. I get the impression that the agents were cornered somewhere during a literary festival and just had the camera pointed at their faces and told to talk.
YOU HAVE BEEN TAKEN AS LITERARY HOSTAGES.
I think embedding the videos into Writer”s Workshop could also help. Linking to Youtube is a bit greasy.