Not Just Who, but When and Where!


         February 2018  

Cadens Corridor


                                           Not Just the Who, but the When & the Where!

In talking viable markets for self-publishers, Mark Dawson  reminded his listeners in a recent webinar that they might want to promote their self-published books in places other than America, where the competition is considerably less than in the USA.

He mentioned (Australia) and (United Kingdom). Of course, interest in other countries depends on content and genres. Sci-fi, fantasy, thrillers, and contemporary romance appear to be global and do rather well in both Europe and Asia, while historical romances set in 19th century Devonshire might find a viable market in Britain, but not in Germany. Always keep your target audience at the forefront, whether you’re writing or promoting.

Michelle Johnson discusses “going global” for those who take the traditional pathway to publishing (January 2018, Writer’s Digest). For many authors just starting out, the book should have “demonstrated strong sales in the author’s home country” before an agent or publisher’s attention shifts abroad. She adds that some agencies have their own foreign rights people, while other agencies use co-agents in other countries already familiar with the language and the issues involved. If a co-agent is used, the usual 20% foreign sales commission is split. If foreign sales aren’t the agency’s usual forte, you might want to seek out an outside agent who deals exclusively in foreign rights. Authors should also ask questions of either agencies or publishers if translation rights could become an issue later down the road. Global platforms are growing, and the reach of social media could give you access to a worldwide audience.

The “when” part of submitting  a query or manuscript to an agent is the subject of much debate on the internet. There does appear to be a consensus. Nathan Bransford with The Forums asserts the worst possible time to be December, and many concur. First, it’s the busiest holiday season. Second, it follows on the heels of November’s NaNoWriMo, and agents are flooded with those novels hastily written during “National Novel Writing Month” in November.

Karen Ball with the Steve Laube Agency repeats what we all know in our heart of hearts. You submit your story “when you read your story and sit back, heart pounding as you wonder…Did I really write that?” Simply put, you submit when it’s ready to submit.

Carly Watters, a Literary Agent, agrees that “publishing usually shuts down for December holidays,” adding that agents are busy during book fair months such as April and October. She says the summer, when agents are catching up on their reading, can be a good time to submit, but reiterates that “the important thing is that your manuscript is ready.” She reminds writers to query agents who are “actively looking for new authors” in that genre, and that a “well-written, targeted query will always stand out.”

So, when is your darling truly ready? That’s another corridor, one we’ll walk down next time.


When Words Grow Up and Want To Leave Home

Cadens Corridor

CADEN’S CORRIDOR                                                                                                 January 2018  

If you’re like me, not really a novice anymore but not quite ready for that leap of insanity, or faith, then you scour magazines, sign up for webinars, and click on anything that might help you hone your craft. There was an article in the January 2018 issue of Writer’s Digest that I thought belonged in my time corridor.

I read my hot-off-the-press January 2018 issue of Writer’s Digest in December. A bit early, but I wanted to check out the deadlines for their 87th Annual Writing Competition. Once I noted the contest deadlines on my trusty calendar, I happened across an article by Lucy Snyder titled, “Applying Poetics to Prose” and subtitled “The Poetry of Flash Fiction.” Catchy title. I love writing poetry, and since flash fiction has always eluded me due to a tendency to overwrite, I wanted to know more. She suggested using a discarded poem or a poem that just wasn’t working, and transforming it into a short story, i.e., flash fiction! So obvious, why didn’t I think of it? After all, as she reminded us, poems are complete stories condensed, but they can easily be expanded into 300 or 500 words. What if your poem’s not working as a poem because it secretly dreams of being a short story? What would happen if you took that poem, stretched it a little, blended in some prose, and allowed it to blossom into fiction.

If poetry isn’t your thing, try tinkering with those little ideas that are pretty amazing—you know the ones I’m talking about—those germs of what-ifs that come at 2:00 in the morning, but don’t contain the wherewithal to morph into a novel. Yeah, those. Play with them, explore what prompted the idea to begin with, and lastly, “engage the senses” (as Lucy says in her article). But be careful. She warns us to be specific, bring the story to completion, and don’t forget plot or characterization.

Lightning struck, and I realized I’d already done that with a poem I wrote about a marriage falling apart on a train in Wales. It’s now a novella! Will it be a novel when it grows up? Entirely possible. Why didn’t I repeat the process with other poems? I considered it a fluke and didn’t purposefully try it with another poem that refused to stay a poem. When I expanded yet another poem, it worked again, and bloomed into a short story. I thought, hey, this is good stuff! Of course, my imagination flew into overdrive. Would it work just as well on nursery rhymes, or even songs! If the nursery rhyme of Old MacDonald Had a Farm had been fleshed out as fiction, would it have become something incredible like Charlotte’s Web? What about songs, which are simply poems put to music? I thought of the words to the famous Canadian poet/songwriter Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne. If that’s not a powerful story, I don’t know what is. Spoiler alert: it first appeared as a…you guessed it…poem. Allow me to tease you a little with the first three lines:

     Suzanne takes you down to her place near the river
     You can hear the boats go by, you can spend the night forever
     And you know that she’s half-crazy but that’s why you want to be there …

I don’t know about you, but I’d love to flesh that baby out, expand the setting, play with some dialogue, get into their mindsets, and follow wherever it leads me. Give it an actual ending. Even do a little head-hopping. Wait—did I say that out loud? Don’t forget about quotes, sayings, maxims, and proverbs. What’s the difference between Confucius’ famous saying, “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves” and Shakespeare’s MacBeth? Around 17,110 words, give or take.

So how about taking some time to resurrect what’s not working in one form and breathe new life into it. Does it work in reverse? Sure thing. If a novella isn’t working, try taking the best sections out, rework beginnings, endings, characters, and plot, and you might just have a super short story when the dust settles! Let me hear your ideas! I’d love to know if this works for you as well! Shoot me an email (below), and thanks for walking through the corridor with me.