Friday, September 23, 2005

So, are YOU a control freak, too?

So, I’ve been slacking here of late. Perhaps because my girlfriend was in town from San Diego. We had a great weekend together, including a dinner with my Team in Training compatriots and catching The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Funny movie.

I’ve also been enjoying the premiere of the fall television season and I think I’ve stumbled onto something very interesting: Americans are control freaks. Yes, control freaks. Look at the show Threshold. The main character is a “contingency” specialist. When aliens do show up, she’s instantly the “most important person in the world” because she wrote the plan on what to do when aliens show up.

Then there’s E-Ring, the new show about the Pentagon where Benjamin Bratt races around the building trying to figure out if we have subs near China that just happen to have SEAL teams aboard. At the start of the show, a spy of ours in China transmits a text message to a sub, which transmits it to the Pentagon, which transmits to a guy at the CIA, who opens this cool spy safe, pulls out a sealed envelope with a little pull string and removes the stop secret “evade and escape” plan for this spy. Cool, eh? It’s another contingency plan.

And I have to say, I love the idea that our government might have all these secret contingency plans. It makes me feel safe, you know? So, of course, I have to ask, where was “Operation Toilet Bowl,” otherwise known as the contingency plan for a Category 5 hurricane hitting New Orleans? Or Houston? No one factored in that cars would run out of gas on the highway, or overheat? No one factored in that gas stations would run out of gas to sell on the highway? Where was the folder with that in it!?

So while I was watching these shows, I caught a Saturn commercial. They’re pitching their no-negotiation policy, low prices, etc., and it occurs to me that this is the work of another control freak. I wonder, though, was it because some guy at Saturn was sick of having cars sold too cheaply or because he figured a lot of folks were stressed out by the idea of going in and negotiating for their car. Maybe they just want to be promised they are getting a good deal and know that they can’t do better. Viola! Stress relief. And who can’t use a little stress relief?

Later, I was reading a review of the new movie about Edward R. Murrow and noticed that, in the still, everyone in the picture was wearing a white shirt. That, of course, was the “uniform” of the day. But it was also a form of control. Look like your business colleagues and you fit in better. Fit in better, work together better. Ross Perot (where is he, anyway?) used to have a stringent dress code at EDS. Michael Ovitz at CAA had a dress code and requirements about what kinds of cars agents could drive. I once read about a CEO who owned five of the same suit, five of the same shirt, etc. He wore the same outfit every day. He said it was more efficient not to have to wonder what to wear every morning. I’ve read about other managers who have no chairs in the conference room; it keeps meetings short.

I was chatting with my gf about the show House the other night and about why that show is so popular. I figured it’s because we would all like to (1) be the smartest person in the room, and; (2) be able to say whatever we want and get away with it. And isn’t that about control? Take Tony Soprano. Why do people like this guy? He’s a pig who murders and cheats on his wife. Yet there’s definitely an appeal. He’s got power, people fear him, and he says whatever he wants. Essentially, he’s in control.

So what does this say about us? Why are we so eager to be in control? Why do these figures who are in control—or seem to be—appeal to us so much? Is it because our daily lives are so out of control? I don’t claim to know the answer, but I’ll think about it while I’m carefully sorting my paperclips later.

Z

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

You can help BOTH causes...

I’ve been writing here in recent days about the difficulties I’ve been facing in fundraising for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and Team in Training, in light of the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. I will be riding in El Tour de Tucson on November 19th and have been trying to raise at least $4,200 for the Society. What I’ve been hearing since the hurricane hit is that many folks feel they should put their charitable funds to helping out those affected by the hurricane. Well, I’m writing today to let you know that your donation can do both: help out those battling leukemia and lymphoma and those devastated by the hurricane.

I think this press release says it all:

THE LEUKEMIA & LYMPHOMA SOCIETY HELPING CANCER PATIENTS IN HURRICANE-STRICKEN AREAS
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society has established a communications plan for displaced patients and will also dedicate funding from its campaigns to help rebuild healthcare facilities.

WHITE PLAINS, NY (September 6, 2005) - The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society has announced several initiatives to help address the long- and short-term needs of blood cancer patients in areas affected by Hurricane Katrina. These initiatives will help ensure that cancer patients in these areas will continue to receive the vital healthcare services they need during this crisis and beyond.

The many thousands of cancer patients in the Gulf Coast region who have been displaced by Hurricane Katrina may have trouble over the coming weeks getting access to the cancer treatment they need. To ensure that these patients, many of whom are in need of acute care, do not have their treatments interrupted, the Society is reaching out to treatment facilities in the surrounding region to find out which ones are able to help displaced patients from the evacuated areas. Patients are urged to contact the Society's Information Resource Center (IRC) at 1 (800) 955-4572 to receive referrals to treatment facilities in the areas to which they have relocated. Specialists in the IRC can also answer questions about patients' eligibility for financial aid offered by the Society.

In order to help meet the critical need to restore health care to the communities ravaged by the hurricane, the Society will commit $1 million to help get blood cancer treatment centers and patient support services in the devastated areas up and running again. The Society will also provide support to overburdened cancer centers in Texas that are caring for patients displaced by the hurricane.

You know how devastated people are by the hurricane. You know how devastating the battle against blood cancer can be. Now imagine yourself battling a blood cancer and having lost your house and all you own because of the hurricane. That is truly a tragedy, I’m sure you’ll agree. But with your support the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society can help many of those in need.

If you would like to support these efforts, please visit to my website at www.active.com/donate/tntnyc/tntnycAZackTucson, or forward your check made payable to “The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society” to me at The Zack Company, Inc., 243 West 70th St, Ste 8D, New York, NY 10023-4366 and I’ll get it to the Society straight away.

Thanks so much!

All best wishes,
Andy

Friday, September 09, 2005

I'll read your unsolicited chapter, IF...

Oh wow! Wow, oh wow. You know, they say that astrology is a bunch of bull-pucky and I tend to agree, but I have to share my horoscope with you from Yahoo! You ready?

Right now you'll make much more progress by hitching your wagon to a team rather than trotting solo. You get a ton done on your own, but you need a more social dynamic to get ahead. This group will help you hone a whole new set of skills that will impress a group of movers and shakers that you thought were beyond you. On the contrary, you'll discover that with enough effort and ambition, practically nothing is beyond you.

I kid you not. Now, if you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that I’m training with
Team in Training to raise funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, so this horoscope seems very prescient to me. But fundraising for the team is getting a bit difficult, in part because so many people are now giving money to help the refugees whose homes were wiped out by Hurricane Katrina. Now, don’t get me wrong, but you are already giving those folks money! It’s called your tax dollars at work. I read today that FEMA is giving out debit cards with $2,000 on them to refugees who register for them. Also, the last time I checked, Congress was voting to give about $68 billion dollars in aid to New Orleans. So, please, please, think of all of the other causes that are now struggling for help. Here are a few links to get you started:

HIV Charities
Cancer Charities
Diabetes Charities

Meanwhile, they say desperate times call for desperate measures, so here’s an idea. And keep in mind that you are reading it first because you actually read my blog. So lucky you!

For the period September 15th through November 1st, I will accept unsolicited sample chapters (not to exceed twenty-five [25] pages), plus a synopsis (not to exceed five [5]) pages. I will read said sample chapters and I will respond with a written explanation of what I think of them (in most cases this response will be only one [1] page). But wait! Yes, there’s a catch. This service will be provided on unsolicited sample chapters only if the author includes a seventy-five dollar ($75.00) contribution to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society with the submission.

Now, before everyone goes nuts and starts screaming “reading fee,” please note the following: This is a charity fundraiser. I make no money off this. Also, I normally do not accept unsolicited materials. Here I am agreeing to read unsolicited sample chapters if you make a charitable donation. My teammate is offering massages to those who give certain amounts. You want one of those instead, let me know and I’ll see what I can do.

All checks should be made payable to The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Your submission must be POSTMARKED between September 15th and November 1st. I will make all reasonable efforts to reply within thirty (30) days. All donations to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society are tax deductible. I will receive no part of your check, though your contribution does support my efforts with Team in Training and goes toward my fundraising goal for El Tour de Tucson. Your donation in no way guarantees that I will respond favorably to your work. Your donation in no way improves your chances of gaining representation. All your donation does is allow you to send along an unsolicited sample chapter and synopsis and guarantees that I will read it and send you a written response with my opinion, rather than a form letter.

Please review the
Submission guidelines and Manuscript Preparation Guidelines on my website before sending any material. An SASE is still required for the response.

Questions may be posted here and I will respond here.

Thank you.

Z

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Throw the bums out!

It’s hard to write anything these days without talking about the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. At least one of my clients lived in New Orleans—Terry Lee Rioux—and I haven’t heard from her. She worked at the National D-Day Museum and I haven’t been able to find any information online about its status. Needless to say, I’d love to hear from her or anyone with some news.

In the meantime, Katrina is doing another form of damage. As millions of dollars in charitable donations go that way, other charities are facing a drought. As someone in the middle of fundraising for a charity right now, I’m experiencing it first-hand, as folks email me to say “I’d love to help, but I’m giving my money to the victims in New Orleans.” Please keep in mind that billions in government aid (as in your tax dollars at work) will be going to those folks, as the feds try to make up for their completely inept handling of this disaster. The impulse to give is great, but don’t forget all the others who need your help and who won’t be on the receiving end of billions in government aid, from AIDS and HIV research to MS to my current focus, leukemia and lymphoma.

For those tracking my training with TNT, I rode to Nyack twice over the long weekend. It was stunning here, weather-wise, so how could I resist some long hours in the saddle? Nyack is about fifty-one miles round-trip each time. And the team did four loops in Central Park (about twenty-five miles) last night. And, since the days are getting shorter, most of that was in the dark. Which brings me to another point.... A lot of folks support the efforts of those who are training in such events and comment on the physical challenges. But let’s not forget the financial challenges. I talked a buddy of mine into doing Team in Training. First stop, the bike store. Cost of a new, entry-level road bike: $1250. Cost of a new helmet: $100. Pedals: About $80. Two pairs of cycling shorts and a couple of cycling jerseys: About $200. A pair of gloves: $30. A headlight and taillight because we are training in the dark: About $30. A big can of Accelerade powder for drinking while on rides: Around $30. I’ve joked about needing a “gear fund” because of the expense involved! No, I’m not whining (I hope). I could end this with “Finding a cure for cancer: Priceless” but the truth is for as much as we fundraise, everyone training is investing hundreds if not thousands of their own money. My girlfriend, who is training out in San Diego (hi Nadene!), emailed me today that she is getting a second job waiting tables to pay for all the gear! I think she’s joking.

On a more serious note, my week started out with the news that a friend of a good friend had died of breast cancer at age thirty-eight, leaving a husband and a three-year-old child. Then one of my mentees emailed to say that her cousin, who was in treatment at the start of training, was buried this weekend. He was the same age I am: thirty-nine. As I say on my
TNT web page, “There but for the grace of G-d go I...and I’m not religious.” It just makes you think, you know? So if you can help me out, that would be great. And if you can’t, that’s okay, also. Maybe you know someone who can. Just email them this blog entry with a note. That could help just as much.

Now, I’m swiftly realizing what a downer this entry is. And for that I apologize. I think I’m feeling a bit disappointed that fundraising isn’t going better. So let me share a little secret with you. I told my friends that if I raised $5,000.00, I’d shave my head! And I’ve gotten at least four checks with notes and a couple of folks who said they’d give more if it would put me over the top. But I’m a long way from that $5K, so if you have any desire to see me do a Mr. Clean imitation, start writing those checks now!

You know, it’s been a while since I mentioned a book here, so let me do that now, since it ties into the National D-Day Museum in a way. Chamberlain Bros., a division of Penguin Group (USA) is going to press this week on THE DEAD OF WINTER, by Bill Warnock. This is just an incredible story and one that has particular poignancy, I feel, in light of all of the dead and lost in New Orleans, the war in Iraq, and the upcoming anniversary of 9/11.

More than sixty years ago, as Allied armies pushed across Europe, the Nazis launched what would become the largest battle on the Western Front: the Battle of the Bulge. For practically the first time since D-Day, the Allies found themselves on the defensive, and few things during war create more confusion than retreat during combat. Equipment goes missing. Men are separated from their units. And sometimes the fallen are left behind.... Sixty years after the last shots of World War II were fired, a remarkable team came together to find their fallen brothers-in-arms, and to bring them home to their families. This team, comprising WWII veterans, battlefield investigators, and forensic scientists, and using a combination of old-fashioned detective work and modern-day laboratory analysis, fulfilled the final duty every soldier has to his fallen comrade: Bring me home, buddy. Bring me home.

Written by a team member and founder of the MIA Project, this is a story of loyalty and the bonds of war, a compelling historical mystery, and a harrowing and emotional journey of tragedy and triumph.

Bill Warnock served four years with the United States Air Force and is a Battle of the Bulge scholar and freelance writer. In 1990, Warnock founded the MIA Project in affiliation with the 99th Infantry Division Association, and today he serves as chief data analyst and archival researcher.

As the fourth anniversary of 9/11 approaches, let us not forget the families whose loved ones never came home from the World Trade Center. And as we read daily of our troops fighting and dying overseas, let us not forget the families who every day bury their sons and daughters who have died in service of their country. And as we watch the news from New Orleans, let us not hope and pray that those who are now missing might find their way home, safe and sound. And for those who do not, let us not forget that this did not have to happen the way it did and that our country has a way to respond to our government when it fails us: Throw the bums out!

Thank you.

Z

Thursday, September 01, 2005

The August Submissions Scorecard

Well, it’s the first of the month and you know what means, right? The rent is due! No, no. Well, probably. But here at TZC it means we update the Submissions page of our website! But I’ll save you the trip and post the stats here also.

In August 2005, we received 116 queries letters and declined 104. We received nineteen requested sample chapters and declined thirty-five. We also requested another eleven. We requested four proposals, received two, and declined three. We received three full manuscripts and requested one more. We also received two revised full manuscripts from current clients.


As of September 1, 2005, We Have...

...approximately thirty query letters to which we responded and requested more material, but have yet to receive such material. Please note that after ninety days of no response we discard the original query materials. If you queried us prior to June 1, 2005, you should have had a response, one way or another. If you have not, then the response was likely lost in the mail and you should send us a new query.

...approximately 131 sample chapters and synopses or proposals from different projects that we requested but have not yet read and approximately one dozen full manuscripts or previously published books that we have requested and need to read or that clients have revised and we need to read. If you sent us a requested sample chapter in January 2005 or later, we have likely not yet considered it.

Now, I admit something that always intrigues me is why there are authors who query me and then, when I ask to see more, don’t send it. Sometimes I get a letter saying, “Oh, I didn’t expect to hear from you so quickly and my book isn’t done.” So, let me say here that your book should be done before you query any agents. Sure, some agents might sit on your query far too long, but then again one might want you to FedEx it immediately. What are you going to do if that happens?

The number one thing any agent brings to the table is enthusiasm. Don’t kill your potential agent’s enthusiasm by delaying sending along the requested material.

The other thing I don’t get about authors is those who insist on creating elaborate layouts and designs of their manuscripts. Please let me save you the trouble. I want it as “vanilla” as possible. Chances are, you never need to “bold” anything. Nor italicize it. In fact, if you want it set in italics in the finished book, use an underline, not italics. Why? you ask. Well, because no matter what typeface or font is used, underline can’t be missed, but italics can be. So if your publisher is old-school and sends out a hardcopy to be typeset, the underline is going to make sure that italics are set.

As for the rest of the design stuff, this is why publisher hire book designers. Let’s not mess with their employment and leave designing to them.

My ideal page looks like this:

Notice a few things? Double-spaced with each and every paragraph starting with a tab. One-inch margins all around. Title and author’s name in the top left header. Page number on the top right. Easy to read font (Franklin Gothic Book; Courier or Courier New is also okay). Nothing too fancy. Please try and emulate this and it will make every agent happy, I promise. And be sure to read the rest of the
manuscript preparation tips on my site.

Next subject...Training is going well for El Tour de Tucson, though I admit that fundraising could be going better. This is truly a great cause and, more importantly, it’s one that’s probably closer to you than you think. You know what Six Degrees is, right? Start with Kevin Bacon and every actor in Hollywood is only six degrees from him, since he has appeared in so many movies. Well, Leukemia and Lymphoma are “six degrees” diseases. If you don’t have one of them, someone in your family has one or had one (and hopefully survived!), or someone you know or someone someone in your family knows has one or had one. At our information meetings, we ask anyone who is currently battling or has battled one of these diseases to stand up. Then we ask that anyone who has a family member or friend who is battling or has battled one of these diseases to stand up. Then we ask anyone who has ever known anyone who has battled one of these diseases to stand up. And, yes, you’re right. At that point, there’s rarely a single person in the room not standing up!

So, if you haven’t had the chance yet, please visit my fundraising page at
www.active.com/donate/tntnyc/tntnycAZackTucson and make a donation with your credit card. Or you can contribute by check made payable to the “Leukemia and Lymphoma Society” and mailed to Andy Zack, The Zack Company, Inc., 243 West 70th St., Suite 8D, New York, NY 10023-4366. All donations are 100% tax deductible. And who can’t use another tax deduction next April?

Many thanks!

Z