Tuesday, July 08, 2008

You Can Make A Difference

In these days of unreturned phone calls and unanswered emails (yes it happens to me too), at times, it's easy to wonder if you are making a difference. If so, where are you making that difference in the lives of others? From my experience, it will take a conscious effort on your part.

Are you learning something new? It seems like every time I turn around I'm gaining some new bit of information. What are you doing to be a good steward of that information and pass it on to others?

For example, in my agency, someone contacted me with a 190K novel--which is over the top too long. Go to this entry and follow the links if you want to know more about the expected length of novel. Why is this important? Because if you have a mass of material coming your direction as an editor or agent (and we all do), then one of the quickest ways to sort things into the rejection pile is based on word count. A huge manuscript is going to take a tremendous amount of editorial work to get it to the right length if it is too long. Several months ago, I rejected a novel on the basis of word length. Today this novelist came back and said she had managed to trim her 190K novel into 120K would I now take a look? I was flattered that she had taken the time and energy to cut her story and maintain plot lines and other things (according to her note). Yet it was still too long in my view to capture my interest. From my experience anything over 110,000 words is going to struggle to find it's place of publication in the marketplace. So it's not a good use of my time as an agent--and I told her so.Thank you but still no thank you.

Then I got another submission addressed to my personal mailbox, and misspelling Literary in the name of my agency. Yet on the inside the submission began, "To Whom It May Concern" and also did not include a title for their proposed novel. I could have just returned my standard rejection letter but I made a point to call it to her attention so she could change it in the future.

I recently wrote about Mark Levine's book on the Fine Art of Self-Publishing. I have personal connections to two of the Print On Demand publishers in the "Publishers To Avoid" section of the book. I could have ignored it but I didn't.

Instead I brought the information to leaders in each of these two publishers. One publisher had moved from the recommended category to the avoid category and when I told her about it she said, "Why whatever it is, we will fix it." The other publisher made the opposite choice with the information saying, "We weren't fairly treated and this book doesn't know what they are talking about."

Many years ago I learned that when you bring information to someone they have two choices. They can either resist and contend that you do not have the full picture, then make some excuse. Or they can make an effort to grow and learn from the situation. I try to take that latter road and grow as much as possible.

I continue to grow and improve. Recently I held a free teleseminar about book proposals at Askterrywhalin.com. After the teleseminar, I changed the material into the replay mode--but the date remained on the front page (which is not supposed to happen). It could have thrown me off and stopped me from holding additional teleseminars. It hasn't. The date was also on the teleseminar I did with Andy McGuire (see the illustration).

I'm still going to be conducting more of these worldwide events. How do I know they are worldwide? The other night one of the callers on the phone was from Italy--a long ways from Scottsdale, Arizona. Note this teleseminar is now on replay mode. If you would like to hear it for free, simply fill out your first name and email address and write "no question" in the box and you will reach the replay page where you can download the full hour for your computer or iPod plus pick up the 90-page Ebook about book proposals.

As you can see from this second illustration, my date problem has been resolved. Apparently I was missing a line of computer code some place and now my various teleseminars which are in replay are working.

My encouragement is for you to pass along the lessons that you are learning to others. You can make a difference in the lives of the people around you.

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2 Comment:

At 6:52 AM, Blogger Robert Treskillard Left a note...


Do you have variability in the accepted word-count based on genre?

Thanks for your blog!

At 10:54 AM, Blogger Terry Whalin Left a note...


You are exactly right that the acceptable word count will vary with different genres of fiction. For example, romance (the largest genre) would have different expectations than historical novels. Yet my point in the post is that you have to fall into the acceptable limits.

Some writers say things to me like, "I'll write my full story and if it turns out 120,000 words, then the editor can cut it. Isn't that what editors are for anyway?"

When the reality is something different. Because they have fallen outside of the typical word count parameter, they simply don't get a chance to have a hearing--and are instead rejected from the beginning. It's again a matter of meeting the expectations of the editor rather than blowing off this detail.



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