Monday, January 24, 2011

Time for a Character Cheat Sheet

I recently read a romantic suspense novel by an author I had never tried before, but whose work many people have said good things about. I started with her newest release, and that, it turns out, was a big mistake. The book had a very large cast of characters and it was hard to keep up with all the names and relationships. Ideally, any reader should be able to pick up any book in any series and navigate their way throughout the author's world. Sadly that didn't happen. (And for the record this book had several other problems, most egregiously plot threads that we introduced and never followed up on.)

That aside, I started thinking -- is it time for books in a continuing series to have a character list? Harlequin Intrigue actually does this with their category romances -- though I suspect in that case its more to whet readers appetites as the books themselves are so short readers can easily gauge who's who. For an ongoing series, though, the list can include the characters first and last name, nickname and perhaps, if they've been the hero or heroine of their own story, the title of the book they were featured in. 

This can easily been done all on one page of the book so the publishers wouldn't be adding any cost to the measure, but it would make life easier for readers. After all, we shouldn't have to fumble over just who is the heroine's best friend, her confident,  her boss, her ex -- well, you get the picture.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Agent Search

At some point most people who want to be a published author will begin their search for an agent. It's a sort of rite of passage that can't be avoided, though it can be put off and put off with claims like "my manuscript's not ready" "just one more tweak" or even "maybe I'll send in the next story." I know cause I've probably used a bunch of these excuses over the years.

But this time around, the excuses are gone. I can honestly say I've begun the search in earnest. And yes, I've gotten rejections. Some were standard, the thanks, but no thanks. A few were quite encouraging noting that my writing was nice even if the story didn't quite work or didn't fit the agent's needs. So yay on that score! At least I'm on the right track.

Having gotten these rejections though, I am left with some lingering questions. How do you know when the manuscript is ready to send out to agents? What do you do if a couple of agents hit on the same criticism? Do you revise the book? Move on to another and submit that one instead? And what do you do if the genre you're trying to break into just isn't selling well at the moment?