Is Sexism Alive in Publishing?

Now, before you all yell and scream at me, or roll your eyes thinking I’m about to rage in feminist fury… Don’t.

I’m not accusing. Yet. I honestly want your opinions.

Recently, I was talking with another writing/author friend of mine (who has one book published), and is feeling pressure from her publisher to market more. She’s also verbalized some concerns that she is not getting enough support from her publisher and the market since she is female and her MC is male.

I know that J.K. Rowling’s publisher asked her to go by her initials because they didn’t think boys would want to read a book written by a female. Especially with a male lead.

Has anyone else noticed this? Are there certain genres that are more accepting of male versus female writers? Or vice versa?

I know this thought has entered my mind a few times. It seems to me (and I know this is probably me being ignorant on the subject) that young girls are fine with reading books with male MCs, but young boys aren’t as open to reading books with female MCs.

I’ve actually heard a 9 year-old boy confirm this theory.

I know this isn’t true for every age range and genre, and I certainly don’t want to make generalizations about one gender over another, but does it go so far as to be true in publishing houses, agencies, or any other aspect of the writing world?

What are your thoughts? Have you noticed any trends?

Toodles!

~ Amy

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R.L. Stine Interview

“Don’t ask me about nonfiction. I never read it. I hate anything real.” ~ R.L. Stine.

Probably due to the new Goosebumps movie coming out, R.L. Stine has been more in the news lately. An interview he did with The New York Times gave me a chuckle, but also an insight into the mind of a brilliant writer.

See the article here, and find out for yourself how droll he is.

In it you’ll learn he hates nonfiction, adores Ray Bradbury, thinks horror is funny, and hasn’t yet read the “autobiography” about himself written by five other people.

Many of his questions are humorous, and it was interesting seeing him through his own eyes.

I’m not going to deny, I couldn’t read the Goosebumps books when I was a kid. Self-proclaimed scaredy-cat. They gave me nightmares. John is not at all like that. But I sure am.

Looking back, I know they weren’t nearly as scary as my adolescent mind made them to be, and I’m tempted to go and re-read them.

But the one quote that struck me above all the others was the one I posted at the beginning of this post. He hates anything real?

As a fiction writer, myself, I can understand the lure of escaping the real world, but there is so much to learn from history and current events. And many times, history is fictionalized and we end up reading about “real” life anyway.

What do you think? Do you like nonfiction? Fiction? What do you think of his opinion? (Unless it was sarcastic. I won’t know. Ask John. I’m a doof when it comes to sarcasm).

Toodles!

~ Amy

Submitting Your Manuscript

When it comes right down to it, how do we know which agents to query when we finish a manuscript? Where do we find them? Who should we pick?

After completing my last round of edits for my middle grade fantasy, I knew it was time to send it back out into the insane world of agents for representation.

I tried my hand at this last year (with a much less impressive draft, might I add), so I wasn’t going into it blind.

Here are a few tips:

  • Edit your manuscript. And when you’re done editing. Edit again. And again. And send it to editors or freelance editors or beta-readers for testing. Then edit some more. Your own opinion is not enough.
  • Make a list of agencies that accept your genre. Not all agencies accept everything. So DO YOUR HOMEWORK! I’ve read so many comments by agents and publishers that are frustrated because writers do not take the time to research each agency individually. Yes it takes extra time. But if it gets you one step closer to a contract, why take the chance at looking unprofessional?
  • Narrow down your list to favorites. I narrowed my list of 90 potentials to 30. I know it is tempting to send your baby to every living agent who accepts your genre, but resist!!! Read up on the agency. See what books they represent, what authors they love, even their agent bios. It tells a story of the agent we might not otherwise know and points us in a good direction. It may seem like we’re taking away chances at publication, but why would you want to be represented by someone who you don’t have anything in common with or who won’t do their best by you?
  • Avoid agents who charge you for printing or reading. THIS IS A SCAM!! I’ve read it over and over. This is supposed to be part of their services, not another charge to you.
  • Try for agents who are members of a national association. Especially the AAR. Association of Authors’ Representatives. If they say they’re a member, they’re obligated to follow a code of ethics as an agent and do their best for you, the writer.
  • Prep your submission package to within an inch of its life. Again, professionalism is everything here. There are certain requirements and formatting guidelines that are required when you submit, and so few people know about it. Don’t be someone who sends an unwashed draft of your story. Get informed. And tailor your submission to the agency’s demands. If you don’t, they will literally throw your submission away or delete it from their inbox. Do EVERYTHING in your power to make sure they are impressed with you.
  • Be patient. Most agencies do not appreciate it if you keep calling or e-mailing them. If you don’t hear back within two months, assume they’ve rejected you. If you keep trying to contact them, they get annoyed and might get rid of your stuff. Don’t take that chance.
  • Breathe. It’s okay to be rejected. I was rejected 12 times last year, which sent me on a massive re-writing tour through the past year and produced a novel that’s 100 times better than it was a year ago. Remember, all your favorite authors were rejected. Yes. All. (Unless self-published).

There you are! A few tips for those ready to submit your manuscript. Did I miss anything? What do you think?

My own personal field guides to agents and submissions are:

Writer’s Digest. Seriously, folks. It’s a wealth of information, and they have a zillion articles literally titled, “How I Got My Agent.” Hello?!?!!? Free advice for getting an agent! Score!

Guide to Literary Agents. Which is a book updated and published every year with contact information of hundreds of agencies, as well as tips and tricks to increase your chance of publication.

Formatting and Submitting Your Manuscript, 3rd ed. This is an amazing resource for any writer. It has submission guidelines for articles, poetry, short stories, novels, screenplays, etc. I don’t know how I ever lived without it.

Good luck in your submissions!

Reading In Public

We’ve all done it. At least I hope some of you have. Otherwise, I’ll really feel like a nut.

Who here has completely embarrassed themselves reading in public? *WAVES HAND*

*Crickets*

Nobody else? Crap. It’s just me, then.

Seriously, I see it happen a fair amount, and I know I do it all the time. I giggle or snort or groan or accidentally burst out “HOW COULD HE DO THAT??!?!!” while reading in public places.

For readers such as ourselves, I feel like we should do this more, just to prove to everybody else how awesome-sauce reading is, or at least to start a conversation with some reading noob about how awesome books are. Yes? I think so.

I’ve literally been asked if I was okay when I started laughing hysterically one time at a book I was reading.

And another time, I huffed and slammed my book down on the table, in the middle of a coffee house with a dozen people surrounding me.

Then, of course, come the weird looks, but I’m cool with that. I think the fact that books penetrate my reading poker face means they were exactly the right book for me at the right time. Or maybe they were meant to be read to teach me a lesson. Such as how NOT to write a certain character/passage/plot. Am I right?

Please tell me I’m not the only one who’s embarrassed themselves in public reading. Please!!!

I am? Oh well.

Killing Main Characters

I don’t know about any of you, but I used to despise authors who killed off main characters. How could they, right? Especially if those characters are part of a series and the readers get so emotionally attached to them. It seems despicable!

I remember when a friend of mine went BERZERK after reading a certain modern series where the main character dies at the end. She was so utterly disgusted with the author, I thought to myself, “I’ll never kill off one of my main characters.”

But now, as a writer, I see the benefit and difficulties of a potential main character’s death. And, as a medical professional, I also realize how ridiculous it is for an author to work so hard to keep a MC alive. I can’t help but roll my eyes in disgust when I read about horrendous wounds and injuries and atrocities that happen to a MC and, miraculously!, they survive! I mean, how do authors get crap like that past an editor and publisher?

Coming from working in a hospital in downtown Detroit, let me tell you, that is not what happens. When people are wounded or blown up by a bomb, they either don’t make it, or they’re scarred or disabled for the rest of their lives. Unless you write fantasy or magical realism where there literally is a magical cure for an injury… THERE IS NO MAGICAL CURE!

So, yeah, now I’m plotting and planning the deaths of a MC or two in a few of my books, and it is not easy. It requires so much work to justify their deaths to the readers. I believe some authors are afraid to cause an uproar in their fan base and lose money, but if it fits the story, then kill them off!

Let’s be real, if J.K. Rowling had killed off Harry, there certainly would have been riots in the streets. But she still had the authorial right to kill him if she wanted. Life happens. And in books, life should still happen.

Am I right? What do you think? Keep or kill MCs? Why?

A

The Wisdom of Carl Sagan

Many people don’t know who Carl Sagan was, but they’re probably familiar with a well known quote of his.

“What an astonishing thing a book is. It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.”

[Cosmos, Part 11: The Persistence of Memory (1980)]”
― Carl SaganCosmos

Well, to be fair, I think people are only familiar with the end of that quote. “A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.” But I think the rest of it is pretty darn cool!

For those of you who don’t know, Carl Sagan was a very famous scientist, primarily in the field of astronomy. He also wrote quite a few books on the cosmos, and a little known book called “Contact.” Yeah. Remember the movie? It came from him. *Mind blown* Right?

Anywho, this quote, to me, sums up the reason that people love to read so much. And the reason people take care of (or should take care of) their books.

Reading has always been a mind-altering experience for me. Yes. You heard it right. Reading is my drug of choice. And in all honesty, I’ve probably been on trippy experiences as a reader that might equate to hallucinogenics. (No, I’ve never touched that stuff). I’m sure you can think of a few trippy books you’ve read that left you feeling a little ‘out of body.’

This quote also embodies the fact that, once a book is published, the author no longer has ANY way to control how people perceive it. We all take books and make what we will of them. I don’t think I feel the same way about “1984” as other people, and you know what? That’s okay!

Did J.K. Rowling ever think people would make OTPs between Hermione and Draco? Umm… Doubt it!

“Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you.” And whenever we read a book, we use our own life experiences to make what we will of the genius of the author’s gift. Thank you, Carl Sagan, for reminding us how important books are.

So… are books proof humans do magic? I vote, heck yeah! What do you think?