I’m so glad that several of you found the previous post useful.
After reading the latest article on writing, I would like your take on some specific areas in the querying letter process. I do have sales figures on my original book I published in 2003.
The genre is Chinese Silk Embroidery, its ancient developmental history, its spread from the Orient over 5,000 years into different cultures and effects in those cultures, cultural changes coming from other cultures, its influences even into today’s world of commerce, not just clothes.
I’m so sorry, but this is out of my wheelhouse. This is a nonfiction book, so it’s an entirely different ballgame. I know nothing about how to seek representation for it. I would imagine it’s similar. Your specific genre is Historical nonfiction. Please forgive me for insulting you by googling – I know that your research skills are likely a step above mine – but I found this Writer Digest page profiling a couple of History Agents. I would try them or someone similar if you would like to try agent route.
As far as selling nonfiction to the publishers directly, I don’t know, so this a “Do No Harm” situation. It’s best to offer no advice than to offer erroneous advice. Your book sounds interesting, so best of luck!
PS. One note: instead of the total page count, you should use the total word count. Pages are formatted differently, especially when there are illustrations involved, so 320 pages wouldn’t be indicative of a true length of the book.
I would love to hear more about how the literary agent relationship works in the modern world, most sources on the subject seem to be 20+ years old.
We started in 2007, so not quite 20 years, but in my experience, things are the same. 15% commission, no reading fees. There are a couple of logistical differences. The advent of digital media drastically increased the volume of submissions so it takes them even longer to get through the slush pile, and a lot of agents now assist their authors in self-publishing efforts. Basically, a lot of authors are hybrid so a lot of agents are hybrid as well. Audio rights are now very important.
My advice remains the same: do not go into a traditional publishing contract without an agent. There are so many pitfalls that we, as writers, look right over.
When can we have Ella and Ludwig’s book?
Ideas are the easiest part of a book creation. It would probably take us 6 months to write this story out, so the real question here is, do Gordon and I love the idea enough to pay for it with 6 months of our life? Right now the answer is no. That may change.
The plot is very predictable. Like I know exactly how this would go, what kind of conflicts they would have, what kind of setting this would be, etc. Is it even commercial in the current market? I don’t know, I would have to ask our agent about it.
Ideas are also similar. They are differentiated by execution. Ella and Ludwig in Ancient Rome would be different from Ella and Ludwig in Medieval Europe, or 19th century British Empire, or 22nd century Martian colony. One time I made up an elevator pitch to illustrate a random example, and another author freaked the hell out and started frantically firing off messages into the group forum about how she doesn’t feel safe and insinuating that someone must have told me about her current project. That was much more awkward than it had to be.
So long story short, no for now. This was just as illustrative example showing how a writer can condense the plot into an intriguing summary.
How do you choose where to begin an opening scene for a book?
Start at the moment of change or very shortly before it. Ella’s life fundamentally changes with her mother’s death, so we should start there.
On the day Ella Whisper turned 17, her mother died. It happened so fast, it almost didn’t seem real. One moment she was sitting at the table, her grey eyes happy and warm, and the next her expression twisted. She jerked to her feet, stumbled back, the chair clattered to the ground, and then she fell.
It was that moment that branded itself in Ella’s memory. Her mother, her kind, wonderful, capable mother, who was always there, falling ever so slowly, her grey eyes brimming with fear and desperation because she knew something terrible had happened to her and it could not be undone.
Mother was… she was… Love and safety. No matter what happened, she knew what to do and how to fix it. She listened. She understood.
The woman in front of Ella, laid out in a coffin at the altar of Guiding Light, wasn’t her mother. It was a husk, an imitation, a statue carved of flesh instead of wood. Mother’s warmth was gone.
This is what it feels like when your heart breaks.
Or we can start earlier, showing how wonderful her mother was in a scene or two, show the birthday dinner, and then kill her.
Or, we can start at the Academy and have the whole mom dying as a flashback/memory.
Or we can start with Ludwig in the prologue as a small boy watching his family being slaughtered.
There are as many beginnings as there are writers.
Did you really bet ModR a dollar that nobody would want Ella and Ludwig?
Yes, I did. I had valid reasons. I paid up, too.
Patricia Schlorke says
Thank you. I’m still snickering from the last post. 😀
Have fun with work.
Michelle M says
Hi, while the Ella and Ludwig synopsis sounds enticing I would prefer to get another Innkeeper installment – what happened with Maude and her brother who is very secretive about where his location was for YEARS. Why did he appear and announce himself so everyone would know who he was, as opposed to being more circumspect about it? There must have been ways the siblings could have contacted each other that only they would know. As you can see this has been circulating in my mind since Maude’s book. I love the work you have produced since then but I have been wondering about that cliffhanger ending
Where is that thingie Mod R usually writes… Found it.
The authors are no longer announcing works in progress until they are ready for publication. This is to manage both their workload and fan expectations, for more details please see here https://www.ilona-andrews.com/2022/on-being-difficult/
As soon as release dates are official, they will appear in the Release Schedule here https://ilona-andrews.com/release-schedule/#agent-publisher until then any news are speculations.
Right now we are offering Kate novellas. We do not plan to return to Innkeeper series for at least a year.
Michelle M says
Thanks for the feedback. Loving the Wilmington Years so I was not complaining, Kate’s world is one of my favorite places to read about, from whatever perspective its shown
Thank you, Ilona!
Heh, thank goodness you didn’t bet a dollar per request for Ella and Ludwig…
Mary Cruickshank-Peed says
I don’t suppose you two would consider cloning yourselves?
So many stories, so little time…
I am not a writer and have no plans to become one but I still find this discussion fascinating primarily because of your openness to others, willingness to share, and,frankly, your ability to describe complex thoughts in a coherent manner. There is a reason we of the BDH say – put it out there and we will throw money at it.
Thanks for a good start to my day.
Emma Wells says
I guess I missed the bet comment! Sorry, gotta laugh!
I made a trip to China with friends in 2017 and several things made it well worth the time and money. But an early surprise and one I still regret not spending money on was magnificent silk embroidery in a gallery in Shanghai. They looked like paintings. If I could figure out how to reduce the file size on this iPad I would attach a photo. We also got to see several of the artists working at their craft. It was amazing. So I hope your nonfiction author manages to find a publisher!
Moderator R says
Easiest money I ever made 😂
Chloe Baker says
I’ve noticed Mod R has been a little scarce lately, is everything ok?
Moderator R says
I’m here, lurking 😀 . All is well, thank you for asking!
Patricia Schlorke says
She’s enjoying her winnings from the last post. 🙂
Moderator R says
Hehe, they certainly went to a good cause. ( 🍫 )
Amy H. says
I just wanted to say thank you for all this insight. I have an author friend and I’ve been sharing everything you’ve posted. Its quite helpful for her. I also find the insight into the industry to be incredibly fascinating.
As a completely tangential side-question, have you all ever thought of some kind of TTRPG campaign setting for your world(s)?
Donna A says
Not really my type of book so I didn’t want Ella and Ludwig’s story but now you’ve gone and given actual sentences and story beginning so I’m mildly intrigued. Curses on well constructed phraseology. . .
Do you find self-publishing opens up more creativity because of the reduced pressure and increased flexibility in length and timing? Or does juggling all the other tasks of publishing interfere with getting the ideas written down for later exploration?
Disclaimer: no, this question is not me asking you to write Ludwig and Ella’s story, I’m just going to use them as a hypothetical 😊
If you say Ella and Ludwig’s story would take you 6 months to write, would that be a full length novel or something shorter? And do those six months include editing or is that just the time it takes to write a first draft? (ooooh, and while my mind us chasing that butterfly, are you the kind of writers that just write it all and then edit, or do you edit as you go?)
And does what you are writing impact the speed of the process, as in, does a beginning take more or less time than a middle or an end? Does the setting matter, like if the story were set in a world you’ve built before, does it go more quickly or less so?
So basically my question is “how many words do you write in a given time” but I’m feeling like that is too broad a question and there are too many variables… 😊
😂😂😂 I love you Guys
Jen H says
I am laughing a little at you underestimating a Fandom called “the book devouring horde”. You have earned “instant buy” status for many of us. Personally, I love the way you build worlds and have complex characters and I am fascinated to see what you create next. However, if you released a book on knitting or the history of tea, despite me not being a knitter or tea drinker, I would probably still buy it because I think you would make it special in your own way.
Sign me up for both of those books!
I felt a Leon level dammit while reading about Ella and Ludwig. Random made up story that is not going to happen but totally is my idea of a good time. Fantasy matched pair books are my catnip and I’m off to poke around for one to read.
Mod R knows the BDH so well.
Never bet against the voraciousness of the Horde…
I am slowing dipping my feet back into YA and NA. I would definitely read about these young people. But then again you guys are in my top 5 authors so you’re on autobuy anyway!
Thanks Ilona! Love these types of posts that give us insights into the world of writing and publishing.
Thank you for the interesting insight. I have “stories” floating in my brain, but lack the excellent discipline successful writers like you have. I admire your skills.
Thanks for the additional advice! Passing it along!
Linda Trainor says
I’d still buy the book.
Melissa Chapman says
Ha! I was snickering to myself yesterday wondering how many people would ask about a Ludwig and Ella book. The BDH is relentless.
Engines of Civilization. My kind of history!!
My genre: camels. How caravans utilizing camels brought goods from China to the Middle East/Levant and then to Europe.
I would love to read the book on Chinese silk embroidery history. If I Google “non-fiction books 2003 Chinese Silk Embroidery history”, will that be enough specifics to narrow the search?
Thanks to any and all responders!!
Moderator R says
The person who asked about the Chinese embroidery query was named Elizabeth Molnar LaFleur, hope that helps barrie it 🙂.
Elizabeth LaFleur says
If you google Researchgate.net, then my name, Elizabeth Molnar LaFleur, then under the About section there is a text about my research. In the text is my email address which is direct to me. Under Publications section is my title “Inside Chinese Silk Embroidery: The Art and the History” on which I have been researching updates.
Ludwig and Ella sound great, but I definitely want it less than anything House Andrews already has on the docket.
What is this teasing! Now i really want that book.
Thank you for being always so kind to us Ilona
Bill G says
Thank you for these bits of insight. Especially for “I know nothing about how to seek representation for it.” Such a statement is far too rarely heard these days, so it’s great to see that saying “I don’t know” is not damaging.
+1 to infinity. Not that it’s ever been heard as often as it should be, or the saying “Often wrong, never in doubt” would be heard much *less* often.
*At least, so I believe. I haven’t been around for all of human history.
I like YA since it tends to steer away from the drama of adult figuring out difficult stuff. You could definitely take a swing at the book.
I love the advice.
Hello Ilona, thank you for the Ella and Ludwig’s summary.
I agree with not wanting their story, or rather they’re in the bottom of my wish list, and Hugh and Elara book 2 is at the top. Magic breaks and Iron and Magic are my most reread books (I’m rereading Magic breaks right now, for the fifth or sixth time).
I also thought that the plot was predictable… But, wait! We know where the romance is going, but what about the intriguing and politics? Does Ella’s father is the real murderer? If yes, was the inheritance his only reason to kill his wife? Do Berold and Ella’s father have ever encountered each other? … 😂😂😂
So! I’m still having fun! Thank you very much!
Yeah, about that bet with Mod R. You know when you asked us what to blog about and that commenter said we’d probably read your grocery list? They weren’t kidding.
I can take a pass on Ella & Ludwig. But what about the dragon-riding girl from a snippet some time ago? She has to go off to fulfill an obligation of some sort of her parents? I forget the details, and can’t find the snippet, but I would love to read that book.
I like YA. There’s a lot of growth that happens in that time of life, so you don’t have to suffer through realizing an author has just written a 20 or 30 something year old body with a teenager brain and none of the redeeming qualities. (Communicate with someone you care about? Ask for help when you need it? do something other than storm off when things don’t go your way? Think about how something affects someone else?)
It’s one of the reasons I’m a fan of IA. Their adults are actual adults and still have space for character growth.
Hahahaha, I’m catching up on older blog posts. Ella and Ludwig made for a fascinating read! Never say never, HA! Don’t forget how Hugh’s book originally started as an April Fool’s Day joke and then we wheedled a lovely full-length novel out of it. 🙂
I’ll read anything and everything you write! One of my greatest regrets was being scared off of reading Burn for Me for over a year after it was published because of the bodice-ripping romance novel cover.