31 March 2009

Suggestions For Querying Literary Agents

A heavy frost came to the western Colorado Rocky Mountains last night. It is 22° now. Fruit growers have already lost the entire apricot crop, I imagine this frost also finished what remained of the peaches—a sad time for our valley.

It is my hope that the following suggestions, based on my own experience in the world of writer/publisher, will save you from some of the pitfalls you will encounter querying literary agents.

1. The completed first draft of your manuscript begins your odyssey toward publication. Up until now your work has been uniquely personal, something that you have created. Before you can send out query letters telling the world of the birth of the great American novel, your work needs editing. I do not mean having a friend, an English teacher, your boss, or any other nonprofessional read your manuscript; no, I mean that you must engage the services of at least one professional editor, two is better. Thus begins the process of polishing your manuscript until it is the best it can be. This process can involve numerous corrections and rewrites. Do not take it personally; treat the process as a learning experience because that is exactly what it is. The time and expense involved varies with the quality of the work. One hundred thousand words will cost in the neighborhood of $2000.00, or more, by the time you get it right. After all of that effort there will still be errors. The most pervasive and difficult to find are words that sound the same, but have different meanings, e.g. – broach and brooch. The English language is full of such words. I find it easier to correct edits electronically within the Word document rather than by hand with a marked up manuscript. Communication between you and the editor is kept within the document by e-mailing it back and forth. There is less chance of missing necessary changes with the electronic edit and it is easier; edit/rewrite by hand can be a crushing experience for an author. Of course, the choice of methodology is yours to make, just be certain you do not skimp on the capital outlay because this is not the place to save money.
2. Before you begin to query keep professionalism firmly in mind. If you do not have letterhead stationery, design some, including the envelope. Microsoft Publisher makes great looking forms, business cards, and stationery. Remember, you are trying to sell a product, be professional in all of your contacts. Edit religiously, use spell check. Everything that you write is a reflection on you personally, so do it right the first time because the one chance is usually all you will get.
3. As an author, you cannot deal directly with one of the large publishing houses, so your next challenge is to interest a literary agent in your work. Famous people query with a proposal before writing the book. I will assume that you are not yet famous. For you the path to conventional publication begins with the literary agent in almost all circumstances. That accommodation is not an accident. Do your homework on the submission guidelines for any query. All literary agents will have their own submission guidelines; adhere to them absolutely. Query only agencies accepting submissions in your genre and target specific agents within each agency. Do not ever send a manuscript unless it is requested, they will not read it. When the time comes, manuscripts are sent loose-leaf, unbound by request. Manuscript mailing boxes can be purchased online. Again, hire professional editors to edit everything that another person will read, especially the final draft of your manuscript. Remember, you cannot edit your own work you must hire someone. Your professionalism will determine whether you ever make the grade. A shabby cover letter on your submission packet will guarantee its demise. Agents and publishers are busy people and they have no time to waste on people who do not follow their submission guidelines.
4. Dealing with agents is a disheartening undertaking for a writer. Agents act like the writer exists because of them, when in fact it is the other way around. Keep that fact in mind. Use the considerable resources of the Internet to find agents interested in your genre. Do not rely on print lists of agents. The game will have changed before you receive the list. Many agents will require an exclusive submission, unnecessarily extending the period of angst for the author. Many others do not; focus on them. These days they are looking for contentious subjects or manuscripts written by known authors, never mind whether or not they can write. If you find a literary agent, your relationship will be contractual. Do nothing with anyone without a contract. Fully understand your part of the contract before signing or hire an attorney versed in literary contracts to help you understand. I wasted a year trying to find an agent from among those professing to have an interest in my genre only to find that there are not any in existence.
5. If you are fortunate enough to become a published author through the literary agent/publisher/reader sequence of progression, congratulations, you have hit the big time. Your publisher will handle all the details of composition/format, cover design, printing/binding, fulfillment/marketing, and warehouse/distribution, leaving you free to crank out books. You will have little or no input regarding any of the production aspects of your book, nor will you retain any rights other than copyright. The publisher will own the ISBN and all future negotiations for anything concerning that work will be through, or with the permission of the publisher.

The road to publication has been a nightmare because of the time and money wasted while I learned the business. I wish I could say that there is lots of help out there for the newbies, but actually, the reverse is true. You are prey swimming in the shark’s pool—take heed. Believe nobody; get everything in writing; and, research, research, research.

J. A. Hunsinger, Vinland Publishing, LLC, http://www.vinlandpublishing.com/
©2009 Jerry A. Hunsinger, All Rights Reserved

28 March 2009

Book Review, Axe of Iron: The Settlers

A glorious morning has dawned over my portion of the Rocky Mountains. I hope your day is good, too.

The following review just came in from Donald Hansen, Owner and CEO of Viking Trader, Issaquah, Washington USA. I like it and I hope you do as well.

Full disclosure: The Vikings were frequent visitors in our Danish house. Mor-mor, my grandmother, told me many stories and read to me from the Icelandic Sagas (the farmer, poet, warrior Egil Skallagr√≠msson remains my favorite). Norway’s King Erik Bloodaxe fascinated me (not just because his mother was Danish) as he could hold a Viking axe at arm’s length and cleave a man in two. Not the stuff of H.C. Andersen and, perhaps, a curious way to instill a sense of wonder in a youngster!

Nonetheless, that sense persists as I still study the many-dimensioned Viking Age. I enliven my lectures on Viking culture and history with stirring scenes from the literature (avoiding the melodramatic and Wagnerian). But I believe that it’s not so much the role of history as that of fiction to present the essence of folks going about their quotidian affairs. And even as a child, I wanted to know what the world was like for my forebears, how they led their lives; fought battles; feasted and fasted; explored; settled; accommodated harsh weather, and how they related to religion, family, friends and comrades. As every nation has its uses of the past so do readers of historical novels.

And so I approached the novel Axe of Iron The Settlers by J.A. Hunsinger. Would this be yet another romance of indomitable, noble heroes conquering all challenges? In short, no. There is daring, as there was in their lives. But here it is balanced with believable dramatic events plus the conflict between good and evil which characterized their culture. Hunsinger sometimes uses archaic language, which puts a helping of “time and place” on the table (although he has one character make unlikely mention of the year 1008). And he did his Viking Age homework, skillfully weaving it into the vivid fabric of the story. It must be said that these were people of the Viking Age with their culture and traditions, but not the daring Vikings of raid and trade. His characters found great stress in their situation in Greenland owing to a hostile climate and unceasing competition for arable land. As is so eloquently stated in Njal’s Saga: “Farmers fought.” They fought each other, the elements and the unyielding land, and so Hunsinger’s characters of the Viking Age started on the arduous venture of exploration into another life in new lands.

We become well-acquainted with the main characters and minor characters swell the scenes including credible and fierce villains. I confess to re-reading pages to recall the characters, but then became more involved in their lives, interactions and thoughts. I wanted to know how their stories would play out. And play out they did in a carefully-crafted, somewhat involved but always engrossing plot. I recall the English master E.M. Forster’s definition of the novel: “Yes – oh dear yes – the novel tells a story.” And Axe of Iron tells a story, an enthralling, believable story.

We are able to suspend our disbelief as Hunsinger rolls out his story, although I could have wished for several other Viking Age activities, e.g., more references to the Norse gods, especially Odin as the god of poetry (recitations being the Viking’s favorite sport); women’s strong role as housewives, mothers & mistresses. But these are not weaknesses in the plot and there’s just so much room in an otherwise tight story.

Jerry Hunsinger has achieved a depth of detail and an expanse of action in Axe of Iron and I recommend this adventurous tale to those interested in the Viking Age, to those who seek historical fiction, and to those who want just a good read. From routine sailing scenes, and thrilling yet convincing scenes of ships in storms, it’s obvious that Jerry knows the rigors of sailing. And I feel that the “stage machinery” carefully wrought by the author will draw the reader into the plot, react to the strong characters and lead us along the story’s path.

I look forward to the next novel in Hunsinger’s planned 5 book series. And I wonder if they could be the subject of an epic motion picture taking us back centuries before the classic Swedish film The Emigrants?


27 March 2009

A New Day

Good morning, all. The face of the sun has risen over the Rockies to clear, cold skies—23° here this morning. Our storm has passed, a new day has begun.

24 March 2009

Interview of Author J. A. Hunsinger

Zensanity blog features an interview with J. A. Hunsinger, author of Axe of Iron: The Settlers, his first novel in the Axe of Iron series of medieval historical fiction novels about the Greenland Viking's adventures in a North America of 1000-years ago.

Drop by the Zensanity site and comment on the interview for an automatic entry in a contest to win a Virtual Book Tour or a $50.00 Amazon Gift Certificate.

23 March 2009

Book Review, Axe of Iron: The Settlers

Tracee Gleicher has a terrific review of my novel, Axe of Iron: The Settlers on her blog, The View From Here. The title of this post links to her site.

Please take a moment out of your busy day to drop by her site, read her review, and leave your comments. This gesture will automatically enter you in a contest to win a Virtual Book Tour with Dorothy Thompson, or a $50.00 Amazon Gift Certificate. How can you lose?

20 March 2009

Beyond the Books Interview

Here we go, a great interview for today, 21 March 2009, featuring me and my writing on the WordPress, Beyond the Books blog site.

Please take a moment to drop by, read the interview, and leave your thoughts in the form of a comment. It is easy and we will not demand your first born in payment.

Additionally, you might, just might, win a contest for a free month of a Virtual Book Tour from my friend Dorothy Thompson—the woman is a dynamo insofar as working for her authors is concerned. No published work? Not to worry, you can also win a $50.00 Amazon gift certificate.
So, what have you got to lose except a few minutes of your time. Give it a shot, you might enjoy yourself.

See you there.


Book Market Buzz

I have an article of publishing tips for authors featured on the Book Marketing Buzz Wordpress blog website.

Drop by for a visit, leave a comment, or ask me a question about my novel, Axe of Iron: The Settlers, my Axe of Iron series in general, or independent publishing.

18 March 2009

Book Review

The ReadingMama blog posted an excellent review of my book, Axe of Iron: The Settlers on her site this morning. Drop by her site to view this review and other germane information. By leaving a comment on her site you will automatically be entered to win a Virtual Internet Book Tour or a $50.00 Amazon Gift certificate. Her review follows in its entirety.

Halfdan Ingolfsson and his second-in-command Gudbjartur Einarsson with a group of people from Iceland and Greenland journey to Vinland (North America) to make a better life for themselves. On their journey they experience hardship and fun times together. The purpose of this expedition is to establish a permanent settlement. They must develop a peaceful relationship with the Skraelings (native people of North America). This is paramount to their survival.
You can tell that Hunsinger put a lot of time and effort into his research. Hunsinger explains the daily lives of the Northmen in great detail. As you read this book you get the feel that you are actually there. You can see, hear, feel what the Northmen had to endure to survive. I am just glad that I don't have to do all they did just to have food.
When you think of Northmen or Vikings, you think of the stereotypical ones who rape and pillage. (Well at least I do.) This books gives you a different perspective on what Vikings are, just typical people who care about their family and friends. These Northmen just want to explore Vinland and live peacefully in their new land.
The characters are well written and believable. I enjoyed the characters interactions with each other.
Axe of Iron: The Settlers is an accurate glimpse into the lives of the Northmen. You get to see how brutal and savage and how ordinary and gentle the Northmen were. It is about a time period that one does not normally read about. Overall, I found this book to be a fantastic read. I give it 4.5 Stars. I look forward to the other books in this continuing saga. I can't wait to see what happens to this group of first settlers in North America.

17 March 2009

Guest Interview at Reading Mama

Today, I am featured on Reading Mama's blog. She has a great interview posted that does a good job of presenting me and my books. Read through the interview and you will be left with a good understanding of the premise behind my Axe of Iron series.

Drop by her site and leave a comment for a chance to win a free Virtual Book Tour, if you are an author, or a $50.00 Amazon Gift certificate if you are working on your first book.

16 March 2009

Guest Interview

Hello, All,

My wife and I returned last night from a seven day Holland America cruise through the Caribbean on the Eurodam.

Gads, it was FANTASTIC!

Today, after attending to quite a queue of e-mails, I am featured on Dorothy Thompson's blog to promote my books on her PumpUpYourBook Virtual Internet Book Tour promotion.

Drop by and comment for a chance to win a free Internet Virtual Book Tour or a $50.00 Amazon Gift Certificate.

Click on this link to leave a comment and to see how Dorothy can help you promote and sell your books: http://www.thewriterslife.blogspot.com/
Thanks for dropping by.

03 March 2009

A New Review of Axe of Iron: The Settlers

Good Morning,

April, the host of CafeOfDreams, just this morning posted her review on her blog of my character-driven, historical fiction book, Axe of Iron: The Settlers, a tale of medieval Greenland Vikings and their association with the pre-historical natives of North America.

Stop by her site and post a comment for an automatic entry in a contest for a free Internet virtual book tour if you are a published author, or a $50.00 gift certificate at Amazon if you are not published.

I will be in the guest position on April's blog all day, so stop by and visit.


02 March 2009

What Brick and Mortar Archaeology Has Missed

I received two comments on my June 26, 2008 blog, The Assimilation of the Greenland Norse With Native Peoples, in which I made mention of what probably happened among the native peoples during pre-history. One commentator chose to remain anonymous so his opinion is meaningless. The other, an archaeologist who has worked with what little data remains of the Anasazi culture after the intervening centuries, has chosen to proliferate the dogma associated with virtually every aspect of archaeology on the subject instead of actually promoting his own opinion. Sadly his comments have been lost, however; I offer the following to him and you others out there who have a propensity to create entire cultures from a pile of rocks.

Now, don't jump to the conclusion that I am maligning the science of archaeology. I am not, but I am pointing out that archaeologists oftentimes exhibit a myopic view, missing clues that have been extant for centuries while they trowel through layers of detritus looking for artifacts to which they can attach a long-dead personality.

To wit: 'their academic degrees can occasionally put them at a disadvantage when compared to a skeptic with common sense and a need for evidence. All too often an "expert" has devoted his life and intelligence to a particular school of thought, followed it without question, enjoyed mutual support from a closed group of colleagues—and never realized that some of his theory's grand and intricate constructs have been founded upon presuppositions that have little to do with truth. An important creed of science is summed up by the old Latin maxim, Nullius in Verba: "Don't take any one's word for it." The history of science shows that the greatest discoveries were made by people who questioned so-called "facts" that all the world thought were settled issues.'
Fred Heeren, Show Me God, Day Star Publications, Wheeling, IL, 2000 P-291.

Much has happened on this North American continent of ours that archaeology has chosen to ignore because there are few pyramids, mounds, ruins, or rock piles remaining of this pre-historical period for them to postulate about. As a consequence they have missed the faint echoes of the past that the early explorers on this continent noted in their journals. I have not however, as will be seen as my Axe of Iron series continues to tell the tale of the Greenland Norse people from the evidence for their disappearance that I have gleaned from careful research of those journals.

Stay tuned, the buzz is just beginning.

Internet Virtual Book Tour

Good morning all,

Today begins a two month Internet Virtual Book Tour blitz. I already feel like a blitz has rolled over me, but hey, that's part of the fun I am told. :-)

I will be featured at Cafe of Dreams today. Drop by and say 'Hi.' For leaving a comment on your visit you will automatically be entered in a contest to win a virtual book tour, if you are an author, or a $25.00 gift certificate from Amazon.

See you soon!