February 18th, 2007

Problems with manuscripts: looking like an amateur

I'm teaching a class at the end of the month. Those who wanted to could submit the first 10 pages of their novel to be critiqued. I saw a lot of info on the cover page or the top of the very first page that they didn't need to be there. Don't do this:
• Put a copyright symbol on the first page. You may think your prose needs some protection, but a) it's probably not so good that an agent or editor is going to risk her entire career to steal it and b) you just look unprofessional. A lot of people seem to believe that you have to register to obtain copyright protection or at least include the little copyright symbol. However, you do not need to do EITHER of those things. Your work enjoys copyright protection from the moment it is created. When you get published, your publisher will take care of registering the copyright.
• Put a copyright symbol on every single page just to be extra sure.
• Put "North American Rights" on the cover sheet. Your agent will negotiate rights with your publisher. You currently own all the rights. If your editor makes your agent a big enough offer, they will purchase world-wide rights.
• Speak for the book. If you label it "An Amateur Sleuth Turn-of-the Century Hawaiian Murder Mystery" it just feels like you are leading me by the hand too much. Just put down the name of your book on the cover sheet.

(Full disclosure and caveat: I'm not an agent. These are just my opinions.)



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Should I be happy or sad?

Happy that my book showed up in a Library Journal (not to be confused with Live Journal) blog? Or sad because my book is definitely NOT the one most patrons will be looking for.
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From the February 8 Library Journal blog:
King spawn spawns fresh horror
Filed under: New Books, Fiction, Mysteries, Authors, Reader's Advisory — Wilda Williams @ 5:23 pm
In today’s New York Times resident pop fiction reviewer Janet Maslin gives a favorable review to a first novel by Joe Hill. Calling it a Valentine from Hell, Maslin praised Heart-Shaped Box as a “wild, mesmerizing, perversely witty tale of horror”. And who is this Joe Hill? None other than Joseph Hillstrom King, the son of you-know-who. While our reviewer Kart G. Siewert of the Tulsa City County Library noted some predictability in the plot, he called the novel “a wrenching and effective ghost story…that reads like good early [Stephen] King mixed with some of the edgier splatterpunk sensibilities of David J. Schow (The Kill Riff)”.

I know there will be high demand for this title, but make sure your patrons don’t confuse with it with April Henry’s amateur sleuth mystery Heart-Shaped Box. However, this might be the perfect time to steal a page from Entertainment Weekly and do a reader’s advisory display of novels with the same titles. A Battle of the Books! How about David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas versus Liam Callanan’s The Cloud Atlas? Or Geraldine Brooks’s March duking it out with E.L. Doctorow’s The March? Or Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man going head to head with H.G. Well’s Invisible Man? Check out library blog Papercuts for more suggestions.
==
I remember when Laura Lippman showed up at a bookstore for an event and they had dozens of copies of not her book, In Big Trouble, but Dave Barrys's Big Trouble.



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