Jun 27 2009

Thanks, Evil Editor!

Evil Editor reviewed my query letter for Don’t Forget the Death Ray!, a guidebook about how to write superhero stories. Although he and his readers mostly panned it, I found their comments very helpful and informative. It’s really important for prospective writers to have thick skin, so I’d like you to know what kind of feedback I’m getting.

  • “You may not have meant it this way, but you managed to insult professional writers while talking down to teens.”
  • “This is a bad query letter… Now you show a great facility with language in this letter. Obviously your writing ability is there; but you need to consider the subtext of what you are saying just a teensy bit when you read what you wrote.”
  • “You might be a really nice person trying to sound confident and sell her/himself, but you came out sounding pompous.”
  • “While you might be right that you are the perfect person to write this book, you’re alienating your reader. Think of it this way, most of the people who read your proposal are going to be 40 and 50-somethings.”
  • “You come off as cheery and fun, bright and breezy in your style. That’s good.”
  • “[If your advice is] going to be credible, [it’s] got to come from someone with credentials to give advice. Which, in practice, usually means someone with a track record of success in their field – the longer the track record, the more credibility. And it takes time to develop that track record.  If you’ve not got the track record, you’re going to have to show us what you do have; putting other people down isn’t an acceptable substitute.”
  • So my Q is this: How is writing advice for the teen set different from advice for the not-so-teen set? I could maybe see if you were pitching a career book, but it sounds like you may be pitching a nuts-and-bolts how-to book. (Hard to tell when you don’t really let us in on just what you’re pitching.) Is the difference in the way you present the content? Is it done in text-ese? Twitter-ese? What makes the content relevant? And if teens are going to be competing with the older generation for shelf space, why should the content be different? That’s your hook. That’s what you need to lead with.

If you’d like to see the review, please go hereHowever, if you visit Evil Editor’s site, please DO NOT ATTEMPT TO DEFEND ME OR MY QUERY. The first rule of taking criticism professionally is that you shouldn’t get defensive.  Tough criticism is an opportunity for growth, not a personal affront.  Thanks!

19 responses so far

19 Responses to “Thanks, Evil Editor!”

  1. Marissaon 27 Jun 2009 at 6:33 pm

    All I have to say is, I bet they’d quit putting you down if they checked out your site. ;D

  2. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 27 Jun 2009 at 7:49 pm

    “Talking down to teens”? I agree with Marissa, they’d stop putting you down if they actually came to the site and saw some of the statistics you have from readers. I didn’t feel that the query talked down to teens at all.

  3. CRon 27 Jun 2009 at 9:29 pm

    Geez, I’ve got to get out more; who is this Evil Editor? Some cat who claims he’s in publishing, I suppose.

    Anywho, some of those digs made no sense to me. The pompous charges are lame. Editors are so sensitive that they are insulted by some “older folks” comment? I sure hope not.

    Most of those commenting at the end are anonymous so you can’t judge the value of their opinions. Few seem to understand the reader stats on this website, for one. The one from Phoenix at the end re the full proposal was the most helpful, IMO.

    Judging from the several comments about “what is your book about” or “give an example of your writing”, I’d say your query was sucessful, since that was your object–interest so-and-so enough that they want to read more,eh? In other words, EE says there’s nothing about the book (in his notes section). That sure sounds like someone who wants to find out more to me!

  4. Marissaon 28 Jun 2009 at 12:27 am

    Well, we’ve yet to see the day where he’s toasted by someone who has a full grasp on what they’re talking about, so keep getting up in the morning I guess?

  5. Marissaon 28 Jun 2009 at 4:05 am

    Also? I just read that review of the book trailers, and how all those crazy fans freaked out… I don’t even think you got that much crap over your review of Twilight. That’s insane.

  6. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 28 Jun 2009 at 6:39 am

    My earlier attempts are writing were so awful that I just want to set fire to the world when I read them. Granted, I was ten at the time, so I wasn’t exactly a literary genius, but I still sucked.

    There was one day when I woke up and realised how terrible my writing was, so I decided to get better. Now I’m a lot better, even though I’ll probably never publish anything amazing. I’ll be satisfied if I can get anything published at all, so I can tick “become an author” off my list of life goals.

    I wrote this when I was twelve:

    “The dim lights lit the streets and cast eerie shadows on the walls. This started to unnerve me, as the threat of robbers and murderers was fairly high, and I did not want to be stripped of my money. Or my life.”

    I thought it was awesome at the time, but now I think it’s okay. At least it didn’t look like my first short story. (shudders) Must. Burn. World. Haha.

  7. B. Macon 28 Jun 2009 at 7:05 am

    Marissa said “I bet they’d quit putting you down if they checked out your site.” Well, first, I don’t feel like they’ve been putting me down. No one crossed the line from “this isn’t working” to “you’re a terrible writer.” In fact, even some of the more negative reviews compliment my writing ability. I’d say that the tenor of the criticism has mostly been “you could have written this much better than you did.”

    For example, my writing works for a lot of teens. (See my audience statistics, etc). A prospective publisher would want to know why. It’s my job to lay out why my writing works in an exciting, clear way that makes the publisher think “wow, this book is really going to work.”

    I think that part of the problem is that I don’t really understand the teen-appeal of my writing. I write like a political scientist, not a Twitterer. And my credentials in this field are quite thin.

    The conclusion I drew– that my writing works better for teens because teens care less about credentials– seems to have come off like I was “talking down” to teens. I think the subtext they picked up was “they read my writing because they’re too stupid to know any better.” I don’t think so. Teens use Wikipedia and TV Tropes, which are edited by amateurs. That’s not irrational or stupid. Both sites are convenient sources of fairly high-quality advice. Maybe not as high-quality as what professionals would put together, but high enough. An economist would say these consumers were satisficing (looking for advice that is good enough). Now the question is whether I can convince people to pay for advice in the Wikipedia model.

  8. B. Macon 28 Jun 2009 at 10:10 am

    Keep rewriting my query until it’s ready to go, and then start submitting to agents. Then it’s up to the agent to find me a publisher.

  9. Hamon 28 Jun 2009 at 10:35 am

    One problem I could see with your book, is that people are going to think: “who the hell is this guy?”. And that’s a bad thing. You’re writing a sort of how-to book. But why should people listen to you? Why should you know any better than the average Joe about superhero comics and novels? Of course we know that you definitely know something about this kind of stuff. But people who’ll see your book and your name for the first time don’t. Now, if you would have a successful series of comics or novels, it would be different.

  10. Marissaon 28 Jun 2009 at 12:56 pm

    Well, I don’t check who the heck the author is before I pick up a how-to book, I just read it and see if any of the advice makes sense.

    And what I meant by ‘putting you down’ is… Like, ‘a tiny blog with a maximum of five followers isn’t nearly enough to show you have any idea how to write’.

  11. B. Macon 28 Jun 2009 at 3:55 pm

    Hey, hey! The full quote was “Actually, it’s evidence that the same twelve people visit your site 20 times every day. And I should know.” It was tongue-in-cheek– he even made a jab at his own site.

    I agree wholeheartedly that the author’s credentials don’t matter all that much to younger readers. Now, I just need to find a publisher that does as well. 😉

  12. B. Macon 28 Jun 2009 at 5:25 pm

    It’s also much easier to give criticism to strangers than to people close to you.

  13. Benon 28 Jun 2009 at 8:57 pm

    I think you might be limiting the audience of your work, B Mac. I’m a high school English teacher and find your advice very good. You have collected views on a very wide range of topics – all relating to writing for superheroes which hasn’t been done as far as I know.

    I’ve pointed students in the direction of your blog as well as adults. And funnily enough, I’d say the adults are more open to reading about writing. Students can sometimes tend to barrel in to a writing task without thinking (that is a generalisation, I know, and the students on this blog are obviously not the ones I’m thinking of). Adults, on the other hand, don’t have to write for an assignment or whatever, so I think they are more open to reading advice and looking at writing from a multitude of perspectives.

    So I would not limit the audience of your book.

    A friend of mine got a novel published for the first time a couple of years ago. It was a superhero book. And he was in his late thirties.

    Keep up the good articles, and good luck with the publishing merry-go-round.

  14. joel wyatton 29 Jun 2009 at 5:59 am

    Hey, B. Mac,

    The fact that you’ve got eyes on your work, and someone who’s willing to give you (fairly) constructive criticism to boot, is good news – congradulations!

  15. B. Macon 29 Jun 2009 at 7:07 am

    At some point, I’ll hit the big time, and then I’ll be able to rely on reviewers who don’t have Evil in their name. 😉

  16. Marissaon 29 Jun 2009 at 1:45 pm

    Aww, really? ‘Cause I know Evel Knievel (which is close enough, in my professional opinion 😉 ) and I’m sure he’d be willing to give it a look.

    Kidding, of course. Not about knowing him, but about him looking it over with any degree of success. xD

  17. B. Macon 29 Jun 2009 at 2:13 pm

    I thought he was dead! Man, if Wikipedia was wrong about his death, then maybe this throws my Wikipedia sales strategy into question. 😉

  18. Marissaon 29 Jun 2009 at 2:26 pm

    …You’re kidding. My dad didn’t tell me he was dead. xD

    My dad and Robbie go out for drinks all the time (Robbie being his son, the one who does all the stunts now), and I just thought Evel was settling down at home or something.

    Wow, now I feel so observant. -facepalm-

  19. Marissaon 29 Jun 2009 at 2:28 pm

    Oh, okay, Wiki says it was only a couple of years back, so that seems reasonable.

    Still though… Dang, that sure throws off my morning. =/

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply