About Rejections, Agents, and Dialogue vs. Narrative

by Bobbie Christmas

Q: I received two more instant rejections from agents today. One said, “We’ve read your material, and I’m sorry to say we don’t think it is right for the specific talents of the people working at our company at this time.” Another rejection said, “Unfortunately we feel that your manuscript is not right for us.”

I am getting concerned. I researched agents who were accepting new clients and who were interested in the type of material I was submitting; however, already almost half have stated otherwise. Is my research model flawed?

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Being the Expert on a Subject and Abbreviating Cousin

By Bobbie Christmas

Q: A friend read my nonfiction manuscript and said it lacks conviction, as if I’m not an expert on my subject matter. I have advanced degrees that prove I’m an expert on the subject of my book. What might she mean?

A: First let me say that one opinion should not shatter your dream. We editors know the old adage, “Ten editors, ten opinions.” Nevertheless, if you think the comment has merit, I have some suggestions that will help. Note that my recommendations do not apply to textbooks and academic books, which have restrictions, but to how-to books and other less formal nonfiction. Continue reading

When Your Publisher Drops You and Determining the Viability of a Book Idea

by Bobbie Christmas

Q: My publisher closed the imprint under which my book was published. What should I do now?

A: You have several options, but first and foremost, you must have the publisher return your rights to you. After you receive a letter that officially reverts the rights to you, you can then look for another publisher or choose to self-publish.

Cardoza Publishing, which bought and published my book on creative writing, Write In Style, did exactly what you describe, a few years after releasing my book in 2004. It shut down the Union Square Publishing imprint that specialized in books for writers and moved the company from New York to Las Vegas, where it concentrated on books about gambling. Continue reading

How to Integrate Your Opinions into Fiction and the Value of Print Ads

book doctor 2015by Bobbie Christmas

Q: I have strong political opinions, especially in light of the recent presidential election in America. I’m not one to write a letter to the editor or other nonfiction essays and opinions, but is there a safe way to express my opinions through fiction?

A: Absolutely, and you can have great fun doing so. Conflict and suspense drive fiction, so you have the perfect setup in fiction to voice your opinions through one or more characters. You can then add conflict by having other characters disagree with the character or characters’ opinions and act based on that disagreement. Continue reading

Colons and Semicolons, Organization and Tables of Contents, and Breaking the Rules of Point of View

book doctor 2015by Bobbie Christmas

Q: I liked the way you addressed commas in a prior column. Have you addressed colons and semicolons in depth, as well?

A: I haven’t addressed colons and semicolons in my Ask the Book Doctor column, but those details (along with hundreds of other details) are in my book doctor reference book, Purge Your Prose of Problems. I will say this, though: (note the colon) If a manuscript uses colons and semicolons frequently, chances are the sentences are too long. It’s something worth examining. Continue reading

Commas, Believability, Book Promotion, and Testimonials

book doctor 2015by Bobbie Christmas

Q: Do I need a comma in dialogue after “Oh” here:

“Oh no, I can’t do that.”

“Oh my, that’s a good question.”

A: No comma is required after “Oh” in your examples; the commas after “no” and “my” are sufficient.

Q: My protagonist, who had his eye shot out by his abusive father, later discovers he is a proficient shot himself. He earns the nickname Deadeye, not only because of his natural marksmanship but also because of his lost eye. The double meaning seems too awkward and obvious, so do you have any other suggestions for a cool nickname for him? Continue reading

Word Counts, Dialect, and Overusing Conjunctions

book doctor 2015by Bobbie Christmas

Q: How many words are in a young adult novel?

A: Young adult books for ages twelve and up should come in at 40,000 to 50,000 words. Yes, I know that the Harry Potter series pushes that envelope until it pops, but J. K. Rowling’s first book in the series was not disproportionately long. The success of the first book allowed her more freedom with the lengths of the remaining books in the series. Continue reading