If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com

Our September Author Interviews--9/6 Kathleen Valenti, 9/13 David Burnsworth, 9/20 Jeri Westerson, 9/27 Frances Brody. Please join us in welcoming these authors to WWK.

September Saturday Guest Bloggers: 9/2--Anne Bannon, 9/9 WWK Bloggers, 9/16 Margaret S. Hamilton, 9/23 Kait Carson, and on 9/30 Trixie Stiletto.


“May 16, 2017 – The Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA) today announced the finalists of the second annual Star Award, given to authors of published women’s fiction. Six finalists were chosen in two categories, General and Outstanding Debut. The winners of the Star Award will be announced at the WFWA Retreat in Albuquerque, New Mexico on September 23, 2017.” In the general category, WWK’s Carla Damron was one of three finalist for her novel, The Stone Necklace. Go to Carladamron.com for more information. Congratulations, Carla!

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Warren Bull's new Lincoln mystery, Abraham Lincoln In Court & Campaign has been released. Look for the Kindle version on February 3.

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published. Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th.

In addition, our prolific KM will have the following shorts published as well: "Sight Unseen" in Fish Out of Water, Guppie (SinC) anthology, just released, and "Making Tracks" in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon anthology, October 2017.

Margaret S. Hamilton's short story, "Once a Kappa" was published as a finalist in the Southern Writer's Magazine annual short story contest issue. Mysterical-E published her "Double Crust Corpse" in the Fall 2016 issue. "Baby Killer" will appear in the 2017 solar eclipse anthology Day of the Dark to be published this summer prior to the eclipse in August.

James M. Jackson's 4th book in the Seamus McCree series, Doubtful Relations, is now available. His novella "Low Tide at Tybee" appears February 7 as part of Lowcountry Crimes: Four Novellas, which is available for order.
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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Risk/Ruin Theory and the Unpublished Novel

At this year’s Sleuthfest, Paige Wheeler (Founding Partner at Folio Literary Management) said she loved working with actuaries because their writing was so logical. Donna Bagdasarian (President of literary agency Publication Riot Group, Inc.) almost spit her coffee in hysterics at the thought of having an actuary for a client. How dull would that be?

Let me pause to tell you the joke I told Donna when I later met her for a pitch session.

Q: Do you know the difference between an actuary and an accountant?
A: An actuary is someone who wanted to be an accountant, but didn’t have enough personality.

I told her that joke right after I told her that before I retired, I had been an actuary. I have to admit we actuaries do look at the world a bit differently. Here’s an example.


The blue line shows an agent or editor’s interest. The goal is to write a novel so at the end of the book the reader will score it at least a 20. Twenty means the agent takes you on; the editor buys the work; the reader buys the book and tweets about it; the book goes viral.

Starting at the left edge, we see the novel begins with a bang in the opening pages. It steadily slips from there until we get to the last 40% of the book, which is incredible. Once finished, readers score the novel well above the success threshold of a 20.

We’ve got a winner, right?

Wrong. Check out the graph below.


The red line is what I studied in the risk/ruin theory as part of my actuarial training. The short version is if you hit the red line, it doesn’t matter how good things would have been after that—it ain’t going to happen because the enterprise has ceased to exist. In this case, the reader stopped reading. They will never get to the whiz bang ending that would make it a best seller.

As writers, we must recognize the gatekeepers to our project have so many proffered manuscripts to review that they look for reasons to declare our manuscript ruined. Once they find a reason to reject us they can move on to the next manuscript in the pile. Often ruin happens within the first page or five pages or thirty pages. When I was a reader for Poisoned Pen Press, it rarely took more than five pages to know I wasn’t going to suggest they ask for a full. By 30 pages, 95% of the submissions I read had disqualified themselves.

The novel charted must have followed the advice from Ramona’s post The First Chapter Coloring Project  since the opening is strong. However the dip illustrates a sagging middle that eviscerates the great opening. The reader gives up before getting to the awesome finale. I’m sure Ramona will have some great tips to solve that problem in future posts. (hint, hint)

Hardly seems fair. No one said it was.

If I have learned only one thing about this business it is this: Anyone can write, but Writers know how to edit.

~ Jim

PS – Oh, the pitch session with Donna? She asked for a full manuscript and it sits in her TBR pile.

3 comments:

Sandy Cody said...

I won't pretend to understand the grafts, but wish you the very best with your book. Hope Donna loves it.

Ramona said...

I second Sandy's best wishes. You were smart to follow up Donna's comment with a self-deprecating joke--and with a good pitch, apparently.

James Montgomery Jackson said...

How people deal with stereotypes is interesting to me. Would I want an agent who couldn't look past my former life as an actuary -- or that I'm bald -- or a Guppy brother? Not for a minute.

When someone pigeonholes me, I tend to challenge the assumptions and see where the conversation goes from there.

~ Jim