Boo! It’s a ghost(writer)

Recently, I was asked for advice concerning ghostwriting.

I’ve ghost-written non-fiction book proposals, and while I was at the agency there were several authors that ghostwrote fiction and non-fiction. Generally, the publisher signs a contract with the author, and the author signs their own contract with the ghostwriter. Because I can only comment on what I saw, my advice leaned towards the contract that the ghostwriter would have with the author.

If you’re considering ghostwriting for someone (whether they then decide to publish traditionally or non-traditionally), here is what I would watch for in the contract:

  • Whether this is a flat fee project or a fee with royalties. (Most are flat fee.)
  • At what points you’ll be paid. (For example, X on signature of contract, x on delivery of first draft, x on delivery of acceptable manuscript.)
  • How many rounds for revisions and/or what happens if one party feels the other has not delivered an acceptable manuscript OR when one feels they had and the other just wants to continue revising ad nauseum (particularly if this person is not under contract with a publisher, as there would be no defined delivery date that the author would have to make.)
  • If an update to the non-fiction book is needed after publication, will a new contract be drawn?
  • Who pays for the permission fees for necessary photographs, quotes, etc and who is responsible for obtaining them. (The publisher is going to put the onus on the author, but as the ghostwriter you should not take on that financial responsibility in your contract with the author.)
  • Language that says that regardless of what happens with the author’s contract with the publisher, you still get paid for all work that was completed per the aforementioned delivery schedule.
  • Is the author represented? If so, they are likely to work with their agent on the contract they would provide, but you should still be able to ask questions and discuss terms. If you are agented, obviously your agent would be negotiating with their agent. If you are unagented, remember that you should always be prepared to walk away from a bad contract.
  • Be sure there is a warranty and indemnity clause, which basically says that you will provide work that is your own and that you have the right to sell, and that you are not to be held liable for any breach of the warranties made by the author or publisher.

If you’ve ghostwritten, I’d love to hear about your experience and pass on your wisdom to my friend!

Reader question: Where should I submit a children’s book?

Today we have a reader question. Penny asks:

I would like to publish my children’s book. Where should I send my manuscript?

Thanks for the question, Penny! This is actually a small question with many variables, so I’m going to tackle it piece by piece.

Piece the first: What do you mean by ‘children’s book?’

When some people say “children’s literature,” they might actually mean “picture book.” Children’s literature ranges from the very young (board books), to the middle school reader (middle grade) to the cusp of adulthood (young adult).

Not all editors that publish middle grade and young adult novels also publish picture books. Likewise, not all agents are interested in representing the entire spectrum of children’s literature.

So the first thing to figure out is what genre you’re writing in. Start by reading Understanding Children’s Book Genres and How Long Should A Book Be? for some guidelines.

Piece the second: Are you looking for an agent, or a publisher?

Once you’ve made sure that your manuscript fits one of the formats above in both word count, tone, and content, then you need to decide if you’d like to secure the representation of an agent, or if you would like to go straight to the publisher.

An agent will pitch your book to editors, negotiate your contracts and sub-rights (including film, audio and foreign rights) and guide you in your writing career. For this, they generally receive a commission of 15% on domestic sales. Nathan Bransford explains a bit more in-depth with his post What Do Literary Agents Do?

An editor will purchase your book on behalf of the publisher and guide you in revisions to make the manuscript ready for the bookshelves. The editor is just one person at the publishing house who will touch your book. The publisher’s team includes copy editors, proofreaders, art directors, book designers, contracts associates, marketing, library sales, etc. Many publishing houses, however, will only accept submissions directly from agents.

The advantage to working with both an agent and editor, is that the agent can guide you in the business and negotiate on your behalf, leaving you free to focus on the creative relationship with your editor and publisher. (I talked a little bit about this in Benefits of a Literary Agent.)

(NB: When I was back at the agency, I also posted this conversation about Literary Agents vs. Publicists. Some of the cross-over I talked about at the end is happening, but I just want to be clear that when an agent helps to guide you in your career, that’s not the same as a booking agent or talent manager.)

Please note – you should not submit the same project to agents and editors at the same time. If you have submitted a manuscript to twenty editors and received twenty rejections, an agent is much less likely to take the project on because they cannot resubmit to those publishing houses, even if they know that a different editor at that house may have been a better fit.

Piece the third: How do you find your agent/editor?

Now that you’ve decided to submit your manuscript to either an agent or editor, it’s time to find the agents/editors that are looking for your particular project.

For a general overview of the process, start with Building Your Submission List: Making Better Targeted Submissions to Agents and Editors.

Then, start building your list of particular agents/editors you would like to work with. You can find them by:

  • Looking at published books that are similar to your project and reading the acknowledgments for their agents/editors.
  • Looking at the agency’s website for agent bios and submission details.
  • Looking at the publisher’s website for their imprints and a description of what they publish.
  • Joining Publishers Marketplace and searching for deals in your genre. (These will list both the agent and the editor.)
  • Attending children’s literature conferences and attending the panels of editors/agents you’re interested in.
  • Checking Agent Query.
  • Double checking agents and publishers on Preditors and Editors.
  • Browsing through the Agent Spotlight on Literary Rambles. (Link points to Picture Book agents)

Piece the fourth: Writing the Query Letter

At this post, I have a couple great links to learn about query letters, how to follow up with agents or editors, and some sample rejection letters.

I feel like I talk about query letters on this blog quite a bit, so I will leave you to the links and googling. I am sure there are hundreds (if not thousands) of great articles about how to write a great query letter.

Wrapping Up

Hopefully I’ve at least partially answered your question, Penny. And for those of you that are just starting or are curious about writing a picture book, you might also want to read Thinking About Writing A Picture Book? and 9 Factors That Make A Picture Book Successful.

Good luck! If there’s anything in the post above that needs clarification, please feel free to ask in the comments. Also, you can submit a reader question about publishing or my books through my contact page or join The Quacktory for exclusive news about my books and editorial work. (New subscribers receive two free short stories!)

The Lost Vacation

Significant Other* and I had booked our first vacation together during the height of this year’s miserable winter, and at the beginning of May it was finally time to head for sunny Florida.

I had been feeling pretty miserable for all of April, between a sinus infection and then a pretty severe reaction to the meds for the sinus infection. I finished the last antiobiotic a day or two before we left, slept pretty much all of Sunday, and woke up Monday feeling like I could pull through.

IMG_20150504_Launchpad Gets Ready To Fly

Launchpad gets ready to fly.

We had a normal flight, checked in to our resort, and looked forward to our first day together at the Magic Kingdom.

Oh hey Castle

Oh hey, castle.

I wasn’t feeling great, but we had a list of must-do rides that we started to Fastpass. Fun fact: When I was 14 or so we went to Disney as a family, and my mother and I got in line for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, while my siblings and Dad went to do something “less intense.” Half-way through the wait, my mother and I mutually decided to chicken out…but did not tell the rest of the family for years.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

I conquer Big Thunder and reclaim my family’s honor.

But despite the glory of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, between every ride I still had to run to the restroom to make sure that my insides were going to stay on the inside, and after a day of intense abdominal pain I called the doctor, who told me to go to the hospital.

Admitted

Admitted. I will spare you the shot of the IV port.

After a CAT scan and some blood work, I was admitted to the hospital at around 2 a.m., began another round of antibiotics for the serious infection in my gut, and put on a clear liquid diet.

jello and beef broth

Jello and beef broth. Delicious.

SO and I spent two nights in the hospital, so that I could get IV meds and they could do further testing and watch for complications. SO and I caught up on a couple of the Marvel movies I hadn’t seen using the hospital’s on-demand movie service, and I slept. A lot.

I was released and went home with more meds and a very limited diet. I was told that I could do whatever activity I could handle, but I had to stay out of the sun (otherwise the meds would make me break out in a giant rash. Gross.), avoid alcohol, citrus and vegetables, and stay out of the pool. (So, pretty much avoid anything that anybody would go to Florida for!)

the resort

Talk about a tease. Palm trees! Pool! Waterslide!

We tried to make a go of Epcot, thinking that it was the easiest park to handle. But nobody told me that Mission: Space was a FREAKING CENTRIFUGE, and so after spending the entire ride trying to regulate my breathing and not vomit all over the two kids that were sitting next to us, I was pretty much out. We decided to entertain ourselves by taking pictures of ducks, but I couldn’t take much more than an hour or two and had to go back to the hotel.

Communing-with-Disney-Ducks

This duck and I became fast friends.

Launchpad and Disney Duck

Launchpad did not have as much luck. This duck was like, “Bish, please.”

Given the day before, there was no way that I’d be able to handle Hollywood Studios on our final full day, so we decided to relax at the resort.

My SO walked to the CVS to get another tube of sunscreen, and we slathered me in it. I put on a 3/4 sleeve shirt and his (oversized for me) baseball cap, and we went out to play. We did 9 out of 18 holes of mini-golf (I think he won by one?) and then I did the batting cages. (I still kind of suck. But I did get a few good hits.) Then we raided the resort’s game room and set ourselves up in the shade to play SORRY!.

sorry-for-web

With two of three games won, I am victorious once again!

We discovered that they did soft serve ice cream at the pool bar, and I discovered that I can only handle one dairy thing a day. (It was still delicious.)

We did a load of laundry that night (in which SO promptly wrecked two of my white shirts, but I could not be mad because SO had already been doing a lot to keep me resting and as comfortable as possible.) But the next morning we discovered that the dryer was useless, so we woke up at 4am to catch the plane after listening to the dryer rumble all night, and grumpily rearranged all the bags to try and limit the wet clothes from infecting whatever was left.

Believe it or not, the laundry felt like the hardest part of the vacation when it came to grumpiness. I’m not saying that there weren’t some tears when we got back from the hospital and our failed experiment at Epcot. There definitely were. I was (irrationally) mad at my body for not being able to handle it. I was disappointed that my first real vacation in several years had not been going as planned. And I was also just tired from trying to keep a brave face.

At that point, I hadn’t been feeling truly well in about six weeks but still had a big move, a lot of work to get done, and the desire to try to push past how terrible I was feeling so that I could enjoy our trip. So when we got back to the resort and I went to use the bathroom, it all just kind of hit me at once and I found myself in tears.

But all that said, it actually wasn’t a terrible vacation. I mean, the circumstances were not great. But I felt really loved by my friends and family, who were checking in while I was in the hospital. And I felt truly lucky to have someone by my side the whole time, who comforted me when I was upset, and who I was still able to laugh with — even when I was eating nothing but jello and chicken broth.

*Sidenote: SO needs a clever nickname for blog purposes. Ideas?

Back in the Saddle

Yesterday was my indie pub anniversary!

After taking about nearly two years off for grad school, it feels a bit like this:

(Also, I did once see Aerosmith in concert, but they did not do an encore, and I feel like the sacred bond between attendee and band was broken. If you are in a band, please note: encores aren’t really optional. It’s like going to a prix fix dinner and then having them decide that they just didn’t feel like making you dessert that day. It’s part of the meal! Anyway, I digress…)

So! It’s my indie anniversary, and I’ve noticed that there has been a lot of change since I put out my first book. The basics are all still there – write a good book, send it to reviewers, promote with blog tours, etc. But the who, when, where seems to have changed. In the time I’ve been gone, Amazon has probably changed its algorithms a good eighteen times, and a sales spike doesn’t quite seem to hold like it used to.

That said, I’m still excited to get back to it!

On that note, Effie just received another mention:

And I had the opportunity to talk to Synthia Saint James a bit this past week about publishing:

I’ve also changed my newsletter a bit so that you can now join the Quacktory for exclusive updates and sneak previews for my books. (Why the Quacktory and what am I working on now? Guess you’ll just have to join the Quacktory to find out!)

Finally, to keep my focus on writing for children and teens, I’m still closed to editorial work (with the exception of this June’s CWHV conference).

Tips for Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse and the YA Spring Fling Giveaway

From March 15th to 30th, a group of YA authors are participating in the YA Spring Fling Giveaway and blog hop.

YA Spring Fling med

Effie’s Senior Year, The Engine Driver, Don’t Haunt This Place and Lover I Don’t Have to Love are all participating in the giveaway, and I’ve already sent in my guest post. Here’s a sneak peek:

What are your top tips for surviving a zombie apocalypse?

Surviving a zombie apocalypse is all about forethought and preparation.

1.) Make slow friends.
Before you accept anybody’s friendship, challenge them to a road race. If you can outrun them, then congrats, you have a new friend! You’ll at least survive a bit longer than them in the zombie apocalypse.

If you can’t outrun them, then their friendship eventually means that you will be zombie food. Ask yourself, “Am I willing to be gorged on by a zombie for this person?” If not, then perhaps you need a new friend.

2.) Build skills, not a stock pile.
Most guides will probably tell you that you should have a warehouse full of supplies. But then you will be less likely to leave them if your current situation becomes untenable. Instead, casually teach yourself the skills needed to survive a zombie apocalypse. Don’t let too many people know though, or the zombies will figure it out and instead of eating you, you will be repairing the zippers on zombie pants.

Small ways to gain zombie survival skills without attracting attention:

• “Oh, this herb garden? I’m not trying to learn how to grow enough food to survive a zombie apocalypse. I just really like fresh basil.”

• “Oh, this blanket made by the fronts of all my favorite but too-small band t-shirts? I’m not trying to learn how to quilt to survive the zombie apocalypse. I just really don’t like throwing out shirts.”

• “Oh, this popsicle stick model of a collapsible, portable dwelling? I’m not trying to figure out how to shelter myself during the zombie apocalypse. I just have a school project about camping.”

The full guest post can be found on Stacy Claflin’s blog later this month as part of the YA Spring Fling giveaway.