Category Archives: Twitter

2

Reading goals for 2015

The New Year is fast approaching—way too quickly if you ask me—and with a new year comes new goals!

I have never before made reading one of my resolutions for the new year. Reading has always been such a huge part of my life that I never really felt it was necessary. It would be like resolving to drink more water or take more showers. But ever since I’ve started taking on clients of my own and representing more and more authors, I’ve found that I’ve had less and less time to read books by authors who aren’t my clients. So for 2015 I will make a very moderate reading goal: I will read one book every two weeks, in addition to the massive amounts of reading that comes with the territory of being a literary agent.

And then, I came across this thoughtful post about resolving to read less on Book Riot via Twitter. (I’m new to Twitter, by the way, so excuse this shameless plug: mike_hoogland.)

Now I’m certainly not at the point of “oversaturation” that Jeremy describes, but he makes a very compelling point. Reading should make you better informed, wiser, and possibly even funnier or more empathetic, so a better-informed, wiser, funnier, more empathetic person-turned-hermit is counterintuitive. I don’t think reading 24 books next year will lead to such a life either, but I’m wondering if there are people out there who have hit this reading tipping point.

Are you one of them? What are your reading goals? I’d like to know. Sound off in the comments.

7

Writer’s block

I’ve been bad. About blogging. I haven’t blogged in quite some time. I don’t want to say how long, because it’s embarrassing, even to me. I could blame computer woes–it’s been fun! Or the fact that I’ve been really busy with work work. I could pretend I’ve made up for it by being very active on Twitter, but you’d find me out. So what gives?
I would blame writer’s block, but it’s not something I believe in. Because the truth is, it’s not that I can’t write about things. It’s that I don’t want to write about things. Call it a crisis of confidence if you will, but I can’t imagine there’s anything left to blog  about that either 1) I haven’t already blogged about or 2) someone hasn’t said better than I ever could.
I’ve been feeling pretty overwhelmed lately, but not by work–busy though that has been. I’m feeling overwhelmed by the constant stream of information: the RSS feeds, the news, TV, texts, movies, IMs, music, Twitter. It’s a cacophony, and I’ve been feeling especially mindful of my part in it. Am I just adding to the noise? Does what I say actually benefit anyone or add to their existence/knowledge/growth? Am I listening and learning? Why am I blogging and tweeting? Am I carrying on a meaningful conversation?
I’m not sure I have the answers. Sometimes I feel like I’m talking into the wind, and there’s no point in that. Other times, I feel like I’m making a real human connection, and I cherish the contacts I’ve made through social media (many of whom are now people I know in real life).
I hope my quietness or silence isn’t misinterpreted. I want to connect. I want to learn. I want to grow. But I also want to make sure that what I’m putting out there isn’t just for the sake of putting something out there. Bear with me?

Why buy?

For all the time we spend talking about marketing and social media and discoverability, we don’t necessarily have much more than gut instinct to go on.  X works, Y doesn’t, prevailing wisdom says, but do we really even know?  The one thing we’re all confident of is that word of mouth is effective, probably so much more so than everything else.  But every once in a while, I like to stop and think about why I’ve chosen to read something.

The other day a client of mine got a not-yet-revealable blurb that made think, “Huh.  I think I’d actually buy a book with that blurb on it.”  Which underscores just how little they impact my choices.  I think I once bought a book because an intern recommended it to me and it had a blurb by an author I love, but blurbs alone don’t do it for me.  I still think they’re incredibly valuable for a million other reasons (the blurber might mention the book later, it helps to grab the attention of people along the chain between editorial and the customer, lends credibility, etc.).  But I don’t typically buy because of them.

I do buy books because of Twitter.  Usually it’s a critical mass question.  If everyone in publishing is reading something, I buy it (and eventually read it, though I’ll admit not always speedily).  Gone Girl; The Fault in Our Stars; Code Name Verity; and Where’d You Go, Bernadette? all made it to my house on the strength of the wisdom of the masses/fear of being left out.  Occasionally, one tweet reveals a book so perfect for me that I’ll rush out to get it, like My Beloved Brontosaurus, which I came across in a tweet from its editor Amanda Moon (@amsciam).  By title alone I knew it was for me.  My favorite dinosaur is still the Brontosaurus, and Pluto’s my favorite planet, and no lousy scientists with their knowledge are going to change that.  I not only bought it, I pre-ordered it (which I never do out of a combination of cheapness and impatience), and ordered one for a dino-obsessed friend’s upcoming birthday.

As someone who used to license first serial (periodical excerpt) rights for the agency, I always wondered how well magazine coverage translated to sales.  The trouble is the newspaper or magazine wants something that works in its own right.  But recently I read what was either an excerpt or an article referencing The Age of Edison, and I was really intrigued.  When I spotted the book at B&N the next day, I grabbed it.  Conveniently, it turned out to be my book club book for DGLM’s next book club meeting.

I do sometimes read the books that hit all the best of lists at year end, but I will admit that it’s an imperfect source for me.  It brings books to my attention, but I judge them with a critical eye before deciding whether to buy.  I’ll be reading Just Kids this weekend, which I kind of sort of thought about buying when everyone was talking it up, but never did till it became the selection for my book club.  Likewise, Beautiful Ruins abounded on the lists in December, but I didn’t read that till my book club decided I had to.

Incidentally, I adore the cover of Beautiful Ruins.  It called to me from everywhere.  But I resisted buying it because it didn’t sound like a book I’d like so much as it looked like a book I’d like.  So I’ll pick a book up for its cover, but it’s not a guarantee that I’ll actually take it home.  Until I had to, I just didn’t.  And for what it’s worth, I thought it was wonderful and well worth the read.

Word of mouth is really hit or miss for me.  It depends entirely on the mouth.  And there are recommendations I’ll take from someone and others I’ll disregard, if I think it’s clear the book doesn’t fall in the center of the Venn diagram of our tastes.  I have definitely at times chosen not to read something, based on who I know who loves it.

So I guess in the end I’m much more about critical mass than anything else.  Given enough reasons, I’ll pick something up, even if I’ve previously decided not to read it.  Why do you buy?  What works for you, and what decidedly doesn’t?

1

“She seemed to realize that she’d lost her right to knock.”

Were you with us on Twitter this past Tuesday, when Jim and I chatted with a bunch of folks about the first half of Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park?  As promised, we want to take the conversation to the blog as well, for those who couldn’t make it.  If you want to read it without the SPOILERS you might find below, why not give it a read in the next two weeks, then come back and check out part one’s conversation here, and join us on May 14th at 6 p.m. EST on Twitter (#EandPdglm)?

I’d say the subject that most dominated our discussion was the 1980s setting.  Jim and I both felt that though we love how it plays out in the book, it might have given us some pause as agents considering the book in the slush pile: as Jim asked, “Do kids care about the 80s?”  Fortunately, we had some researchers in the chat to uncover the answer for us.  Anecdotal evidence from Susanna Donato (@SusannaDonato) and DGLM client Brian Bliss (@brainbliss) suggests that teens didn’t mind the choice, might even have been intrigued by it, but would not have cared about the music referenced, which is the source of much of the bond between the two characters.  I was perplexed when Bryan reported that his teen creative writing students wouldn’t have bothered to look up the bands on Park’s mixtapes, until I realized that I didn’t bother to look up the comics that take up an equal amount of the narrative, if not more.  Of course, I’ve heard of them, but it doesn’t mean I fully understand the context.  In the end, I don’t feel like I’m missing anything.

After all, that moment where Park first realizes Eleanor is reading his comics along with him and stops to let her catch up has plenty of impact no matter what.  That was one of Kellie Lovegrove (@k_love671)’s favorite parts of the book.  Other favorite moments in the first half included: the very end of the first half, which made Susanna’s heart race.  She also loved when Park asked his grandmother for batteries for his birthday so he could give them to Eleanor.  Jim swooned over “You look like a protagonist…You look like a person who wins in the end.”  And for me, the line referenced in the title of this blog entry, which I loved so much I ran across the room to get a post-it to flag it.

So if you couldn’t make it, tell me, what was YOUR favorite part?  And what did you think of the time period?  Do you have the same sense of dread about whatever Richie reveal is coming our way in the second half?

On May 14th at 6 p.m. EST, Jim (@JimMcCarthy528) and I (@LaurenAbramo) will reconvene at #EandPdglm to talk with everyone about the rest of the book.  If you haven’t gotten started yet, please jump on in!  It’s a pretty quick, short, wonderful read.  (Though Jim and I were rooting for a contrarian to come along and mix it up—are you that person?  Come tell us why!)  I can’t wait to find out how the rest of the book will unravel.

And in case you want to catch up so you can join us next time, here’s a handy dandy widget with all the good stuff to come out of our chat under the #EandPdglm hashtag:


 

 

3

Authors in real life.

On the way home yesterday, I saw a man near the subway who looked oddly familiar.  I found myself trying to figure out what TV show or movie I knew him from or if he’d dated someone famous.  After a while I finally got it:  he’s someone I recognize from his profile picture on Twitter.

This made me think of how many more authors would be recognizable now than they ever have been before.  Thanks to social media, I know what plenty of authors I’ve never met look like, even many whose books I haven’t read.  Sure, some books have author photos in them, but not all, and you don’t have to be Thomas Pynchon to be fairly unknown as a person to your biggest fans.

When I worked at Barnes & Noble in college, I loved when celebrities came into the store for the fun of seeing them, sure, but I also loved seeing other people see them.  Among my favorite experiences is the day a girl nearly fainted at the sight of David Lascher (who you may recall as Sabrina the Teenage Witch’s boyfriend, or, if you are a truly awesome person of a certain age, as Ted from Hey Dude).  She was on vacation with her family, and you could just tell that it was everything she ever dreamed would be possible on her trip to New York City.  He was lovely and gracious about it, and her face after he continued on his way was absolute bliss.

So is that our world now?  I’ve definitely seen the enthusiastic “OH EM GEE, [insert author here] retweeted me!!!!” messages (you can go ahead and mentally add the appropriate emoticons), and you just need to click onto an author page on Facebook to see how engaged people are with authors as celebrities.  Does that bleed over into the real world yet?  Have you ever seen one of your favorite authors in an unexpected place (so not at a signing or conference)?  If so, did you say hi?  And authors, have you been approached in the grocery store?  Would you want to be?

In a happy coincidence, there’s a Sporcle photo quiz of novelists, poets, and playwrights.  Hey, it’s Friday, give it a go and let us know how you do.

6

Jim opens the flood gates.

If you happen to follow me on Twitter, you may have seen this last Thursday:

Jim McCarthy ‏@JimMcCarthy528 Okay authors: we’re entering the quietest weeks in the publishing year and I’m caught up on slush. Thinking of querying me? Try now!

And it’s true—the last two weeks of the summer leading up to Labor Day are pretty much dead. It seems like everyone is either on vacation or pretending they are, so submissions aren’t going out, contracts are taking longer, and maybe there are SOME new deals, but less than any other time of year barring the stretch from Christmas to New Year’s.

It’s that magical time of year when I feel like I’m almost up to date on everything. So since I haven’t signed on many new authors in the past year, it seemed like a nice time to remind people I was still (and always am) looking. Said tweet had some interesting results. Let’s discuss.

First, a lot of people replied to let me know they were sad that I don’t represent any middle grade fiction. That took me by surprise, because while I certainly haven’t done much of it, I don’t believe I’ve ever said no to the category across the board. I also don’t do much memoir, but the last new project I signed on is just that. It was an interesting reminder to me that as we encourage authors to focus more and more on researching agents before they contact us, we ourselves have to be extra certain that we’re putting good information out there.

Let’s take a quick moment to clarify what it is I’m looking for: just about anything. I know, I know. That’s not helpful. So let’s say this: it seems I’m known for YA fiction and paranormal adult fiction. And I certainly am always looking in those categories. I’d also love to find some wonderful middle grade, more literary adult fiction, and any breathtaking narrative nonfiction. Just because I don’t do something all the time doesn’t mean I’m not game to try it out (note: this is not a rule that applies for ALL agents).

Beyond that, I learned that sometimes it’s possible to be too encouraging. I’ve actually requested a ton of manuscripts in the past four days and got some great, great queries seemingly in direct response to my call for submissions. On the flip side, there were a fair number of queries that clearly weren’t ready to go yet. People saw an opportunity and jumped on it. I get that; I really do. But here’s a safe rule going forward: if it isn’t ready, don’t send it out. No matter how appealing the circumstance is, whether it’s an editor you met who asked to see it or just little old me saying to send a query, it will never pay off to rush material out if you don’t believe it’s in the best possible shape.

All in all, though, I’m thrilled with the response. There’s something so wonderful about digging through and seeking out the books that I’ll fall in love with. Even if that excitement is ever so slightly tempered by the fact that more queries equal more rejections. I know a lot of you think we agents love a power trip and really enjoy saying no. I promise that isn’t true. I’m a whole lot happier to extend an offer of representation than to send a rejection. Let’s hope that I have the opportunity to do so in the near future!

2

Serial Tweets

When I read that Pulitzer Prize winning author Jennifer Egan (A Visit from the Goon Squad) was serializing a short story via Twitter, I admit I was dubious. I could not imagine having a story delivered to me in 140 character chunks.  As she declared in an interview on NPR, Egan may love the “severity of the form” and the attendant challenges it poses, but I cannot help but feel that a story—even a short one—should be immersive, generous, enfolding.  I doubted that I could find the room to inhabit 140 words at a time.  Moreover, it smacked of theoretical undertaking, fresh-from-the-lab synthetic hybrid, like the once-hyped hypertext novel (with links leading off every which way, the text is indeterminate! Cool!) than a red-blooded, forward-moving narrative.

 

Nevertheless, I duly signed up for the Twitter feed, and was actually pleasantly surprised. While the koan-like style of the ruminations of a futuristic female spy took some getting used to, Egan found a felicitous relationship between function and form.  In fact, I liked it so well that when realized I could go directly to The New Yorker, a physical copy of which was sitting on my non-virtual couch, and read the whole thing, I abandoned Twitter entirely, proving that when it comes to reading, I have little patience or restraint. This may be less an issue with Twitterization than serialization.  Reading is one of the few areas in which the price of instant gratification—a bleary-eyed morning, a procrastinated phone call, couscous rather than rice with dinner—is relatively low.

 

Have you read or experimented with stories created especially for a digital medium? What is your experience?

5

1book140

Almost 2 years ago, my friend Tom ranted and raved to me about American Gods by Neil Gaiman. I was hesitant; even though I read a lot of sci-fi and fantasy, American Gods seemed like it would be long, tedious, and ultimately, boring. Then it became the first selection of the monthly twitter book club and I decided it would be nice to join in. So I got myself a copy and started reading. Neil quickly became a favorite author of mine. I immediately ran out to read all of his other works, and I can’t imagine life having not read them.

The brilliant Jeff Howe (@1book140) realized that the biggest conversation in the world was an amazing opportunity to create the first truly global book club. It’s called 1book140, and although it took some figuring out, they’ve got it down to a science now. It is an amazing conversation to be a part of.  This month, 1book140 is reading graphic novels. We’ve begun with Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud, which we are reading this week. Next week we’ll be reading Art Spiegelman’s The Complete Maus: A Survivor’s Tale. The week after is dedicated to the great V for Vendetta by Alan Moore, and we’ll be closing out the month with none other than Neil Gaiman and The Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes.

It’s super easy to follow along on twitter. First, follow Jeff Howe for official updates. Then, use the hashtags to join in:

#1book140 for general discussion

#1book140_1 for Understanding Comics

#1book140_2 for Maus

#1book140_3 for V for Vendetta

#1book140_4 for Sandman

(This also makes it really easy to ignore the schedule.)

I’m in the middle of Understanding Comics right now, and even for a long-time constant comic reader like me, it is very insightful. I haven’t yet read Maus, but I have only heard good things and I am really excited to start it. V for Vendetta and Preludes and Nocturnes are both amazing works, and are arguably two of the greatest graphic novels ever written. So come and join us. You might discover something amazing.

8

“That’s a book”

I spend an awful lot of my waking hours reading the news, following the discussion on Twitter, and having conversations with my publishing colleagues. Part of this is just a natural curiosity about the world, but part of it is a deliberate attempt to find new book ideas. During a biweekly staff meeting, we all come to the table with ideas that we have and discuss their merits, trying to figure out if some person, topic or new item is, indeed, a book. Mostly we’re thinking about nonfiction. Some of the ideas are clear and ready for a writer, while others may be interesting, but aren’t quite a book. Some need a new twist or spin that we figure out during our discussion, or a small idea may lead to something bigger.

But more interestingly, I think, is when a story prompts an idea for a novel. An author of mine has a book coming out next month that was inspired by an article I read–several times–and became obsessed with. And just today an author of mine tweeted about a story she found that is the perfect inspiration for a novel. I couldn’t agree with her more; the story is mysterious and rich and calls for exploration. I can’t wait to see what she does with it. I have to admit: I have a fondness for “ripped from the headlines” stories, so if you’ve got those, send them my way!

Are there any stories you’d dying to see fictionalized? And as writers, do you draw from the news when dreaming up new ideas?

15

@jdystel

Happy New Year everyone!

So, after resisting the urge to join Twitter, I just read this piece in yesterday’s New York Times Book Review written  by Anne Trubek, and I decided it was absolutely time for me to get on board.

Quite frankly, I haven’t been certain that being a part of this community would be useful and, considering that all we have is time, I am very aware of how I use mine.  But Trubek’s piece makes some very good points about being isolated from those we really should be communicating with and so I am learning.  It is going to take a while, but I actually think this could be even more fun than Facebook.

I would love to hear what benefits you get from being on Twitter. Any and all opinions are welcome as I am at the beginning of my learning curve and as with everything I do, I would really like to get it right.