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First Five Frenzy with Michelle Richter of Foreword Literary September 12, 2014

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If you’re like me, you toil for hours editing and fine-tuning the first pages of your manuscript. You look at the first lines to make sure they are compelling and tight.  You examine the next few paragraphs, hoping your MC’s voice is already taking hold of the reader.


The First Five Frenzy is all about getting an agent’s perspective on what works, and what fails, in those first pages of a manuscript. By reading each agent’s comments, I hope you’ll learn how to make your manuscript a shining gem that will be requested time and time again.


Today, I am proud to share Literary Agent, Michelle Richter’s perspective on what’s important in those critical first pages.



Amy: Many writers have the impression that a great first line is imperative to drawing in the reader. How important is a first line to you as an agent?


Michelle: It’s pretty clutch. Sometimes a writer can come up with that one line that grabs me by the throat (which is a good thing). But it has to flow into a narrative that holds my interest and that makes sense with that first line. But if you don’t have a killer first line–and most don’t–that’s OK. Just hook me within the first 1-5 pages.



Amy: Many times a writer is told to stay away from common openings like dreams, eating breakfast, riding in a car, etc. What are some common openings you recommend writers stay away from?


Michelle: All of the ones you mentioned, of course. But also, discussions of the weather (unless this is the about a tsunami or blizzard or tornado), waking up from a dream, someone’s morning routine whether tooth-brushing/blow-drying/going to the bathroom or running around getting kids ready for school.



Amy: When you’ve responded to a writer to request a partial or full manuscript, what was it about their first pages that piqued your interest?


Michelle: Usually it’s a combination of a great voice, compelling character(s), and a hint of a plot that will either thrill or move me, depending on whether it’s mystery or women’s fiction.



Amy: What are some common mistakes writers make in their first five pages?


Michelle: Including an epigraph, which never does anything to advance plot and uses a full page. Those first few pages are precious real estate. I’m also very much an opponent of prologues, something a lot of writers use. Unless a prologue takes me by surprise, is extremely short yet consistent with the feeling of the rest of the book–and not a flash-forward or flash-back that will be repeated later–I think it can easily be eliminated.



Amy: What resonates with you most in those first pages? Voice? Pacing? Unique concept?


Michelle: I’m looking for a unique concept in the synopsis, and looking for the first pages to show me the writer can execute that concept, with a strong voice, vivid characters, and most importantly, a plot. As much as I love character-driven fiction–and I do love it, a lot–something has to happen. In The Casual Vacancy, for example, Rowling is fantastic at creating characters. But I felt no momentum or urgency, no plot, because the event that informed the action happened at the beginning and then I kept waiting for something else and eventually stopped reading (I didn’t finish the book).



Michelle Richter is an Associate Agent at Foreword Literary. She was at St. Martin’s Press for eight years, where she edited Melissa Joan Hart’s MELISSA EXPLAINS IT ALL, among others, and worked on a variety of fiction and nonfiction. Michelle is seeking fiction including book club reads, literary fiction, well-crafted women’s commercial fiction, thrillers, and mysteries (amateur sleuth, police procedurals and smart cozies). In nonfiction, she’s seeking fashion, film, television, science, medicine, sociology/social trends, and economics. She has a soft spot for stories set in Boston, Ireland, and Russia. You can find her on Twitter at @michrichter1.


If you’re interested in submitting to Michelle, please check the Foreword Literary website for their guidelines.



W.O.W – Writer Odyssey Wednesday with Ronni Arno Blaisdell September 10, 2014





How does a shower spark creativity? In today’s W.O.W., Ronni Arno Blaisdell talks about how the simplest things like taking a walk or even hopping in the shower can inspire new ideas. As Ronni explains, it’s the process of always thinking about the work, whether it’s writing, reading, or connecting with other authors that can help you learn and create.


Many thanks to Ronni for sharing her writing odyssey today…




Amy: At what age did you truly know you wanted to be a writer?


Ronni: ​I ​was pretty young; probably around 10 or so. I took Creative Writing classes all through high school, and started college as a Creative Writing major. I switched my major to Communications after my Freshman year, because I didn’t know what I’d do with a Creative Writing major! Although my heart knew what I wanted to do right away, my head didn’t catch on for a few decades!



Amy: When did you complete your first manuscript?


​Ronni: My first manuscript, a middle-grade fantasy, was completed at the end of 2012. I queried it, got a few requests, but that was about it. I ultimately realized it wasn’t going to be THE ONE. Shortly after that, I started on RENEE REINVENTED, which is the manuscript that eventually got me my agent and book deal.​



Amy: How many completed manuscripts did you query before one garnered agent interest?


​Ronni: RENEE REINVENTED was my second queried manuscript.​



Amy: Are you one of those people who has an easy time writing a query or does it take several tries before you land on the one you want to send?


​Ronni: I love writing queries! That’s totally weird, I know. I have a PR background, so the fact that I have experience writing pitches definitely helps. In fact, I love queries so much that I write the query before I write the actual manuscript. I find writing the query first helps me to identify the conflict and the stakes, which are so very important for any story. Of course, I usually end up tweaking the query letter, so by the time it goes out it’s not exactly what I started with, but it’s close! ​



Amy: I love the premise behind your manuscript, RENEE REINVENTED. Where did the story idea come from?


​Ronni: Thank you! The story idea came from a bunch of my life experiences. Right after college I worked as a publicist in Hollywood, so the idea of having famous parents seemed like an intriguing one. My husband’s from Maine, and my kids had been begging us to move there for years. We ​decided to look at schools, and although they weren’t boarding schools, we visited quite a few campuses in Maine. They were all so quaint, and seemed like a perfect setting for a story. Plus, the dichotomy of glamorous Hollywood and down-to-earth Maine provided instant cultural conflict. The fashion part of the story completely took me by surprise. I know nothing about fashion (I’m lucky if I remember to get dressed in the morning, let alone put an actual outfit together), but as I wrote the main character, her interest in fashion just appeared, so I went with it. Sometimes your characters tell you about themselves as you write them and you just have to listen.



Amy: Can you give us a short summary of your call with your agent, Sarah Davies? How did you know she was the right fit for you?


​Ronni: I did quite a bit of research before querying agents, and Sarah was very high on my list. She’s so knowledgeable about the publishing industry, and the fact that Greenhouse looks to nurture their writers really resonated with me. Sarah emailed me on a Friday, asking if we could talk on Monday. As you can imagine, that was one of the longest weekends of my life! But it did give me time to learn even more about her, so by the time we spoke on Monday​ I knew I wanted her to represent me. Luckily, the call went well, and speaking with her just solidified the fact that she was my top choice. As soon as I got off the phone with her, I pulled my manuscript for consideration with the other agents that had it. I knew Sarah was the agent I wanted to work with.



Amy: The writing process is grueling and querying even more difficult. What one piece of advice can you impart to aspiring writers to encourage them to keep working towards their dream?


​Ronni: My dad gave me this piece of advice years ago, and it’s true no matter what field you’re in: “Be a student of your business.” Never stop learning. Read books on writing, read blog posts on writing, follow writers on social media, find a critique group, enter writing contests (not necessarily to win, but to meet other writers), and read. A lot. Write as often as you can, and even if you don’t have a chance to write, spend your spare time thinking about your story ideas. I often get my best ideas taking walks or showering. So, in short, my advice to aspiring writers is to shower!​



RonniRonni Arno’s debut RENEE REINVENTED publishes with Simon & Schuster/Aladdin in Fall 2015. Her second middle-grade novel, also with Simon & Schuster/Aladdin, is scheduled for release in Summer 2016.  In a previous life, Ronni worked as a publicist in Hollywood. She now lives in Maine, where she kayaks, eats chocolate, and stalks her kids for story ideas.  Ronni is a SCBWI member and contributor to the blog. You can visit her website, or find her on Twitter.



QUITE THE QUERY: EM Castellan and LILY IN THE SHADOWS September 5, 2014





If you ask any writer about the process of connecting with their agent (or publisher), the majority will say the most difficult part was querying. Not only the actual process of sending out the letters/emails, but formulating the query itself. In fact, I’ve heard more than a few writers say that writing their query took them almost as long as drafting their book!


Some people have the talent of being able to summarize their book in a few sentences. But for those who don’t, I wanted to provide a resource so writers could learn what works, and what doesn’t, in a query.


With that in mind, I’m please to share today’s successful query from writer EM Castellan. This great query connected her with her agent, Erin Niumata of Folio Literary Management.



Between trying to make a living as a flower girl, dodging local gang leaders and hiding the fact that she is almost deaf, sixteen-year old Lily Scott has enough problems as it is, thanks for asking. The last thing she needs is a strange epidemic killing all the flowers in 1862 London. All of a sudden out of a job and threatened with starvation in the streets of Whitechapel, Lily decides she can’t trust some British Museum scientists in top hats to help.


Hell-bent on solving the mystery of the dead flowers, Lily quickly finds herself in over her head as children disappear, books self-combust in libraries and newspapers mention words like “dark magic”. Soon panic sweeps across the city, and Lily’s investigation becomes deadly when bombs go off everywhere she turns. From East London where the fog takes on a life of its own, to the gardens of Buckingham Palace turned into a haunted forest, Lily needs to follow the clues and sort this mess out before society collapses and she loses everything – for good.


LILY IN THE SHADOWS is a 65,000-word Historical Fantasy that will appeal to readers of Leanna Renee Hieber’s STRANGELY BEAUTIFUL series or Cassandra Clare’s THE INFERNAL DEVICES series.




Query Tidbit from EM:  I’ve read MANY posts by writers who signed with their agents only a couple of months after sending out their first query. It’s not necessarily the norm. Even if you’re querying successfully (i.e. you’re getting requests, positive feedback and R&Rs), the querying process can take a long time. Out of the 13 agents who read my full manuscript, the quickest one took 1 week and the slowest one 4 months. Their average reading time was 10 weeks. The time between my first full request and my offer of rep from Erin was 6 months. Waiting for a reply from agents can feel frustrating at times, but getting a book published really IS a slow business. Better get used to it early ;)



EMCastellanEM Castellan is a writer of YA Fantasy novels. She lives in an English castle, travels extensively, reads voraciously, listens to music from bands few people have heard of and watches too many movies to count. In case you are wondering, she also has a full-time job, so she mostly writes at odd hours and drinks a lot of tea. She is represented by Erin Niumata of Folio Literary Management. She is a member of the British Fantasy Society as well as SCBWI British Isles. For more on EM, check out her her blog, Facebook,Twitter,Tumblr or Pinterest.


W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday with Sarah Bromley September 3, 2014




Your gut instinct. The inner voice. Whatever you want to call it, every writer has an idea of what is right and wrong for their story. Sometimes creative feedback comes your way and you know it’s exactly what your story needs. Other times you get notes that feel off. Listening to your creative intuition is critical when you are a writer and today’s featured author, Sarah Bromley is proof of this. She knew the right direction for her manuscript, A MURDER OF MAGPIES, and that instinct turned into a debut that will hit bookshelves this October!



Many thanks to Sarah for sharing her writing journey today…



Amy: When did you first begin seriously writing with the intent of wanting to be published?



Sarah: I knew by my early teens that I wanted to be a published author, and I had my first agent when I was still a minor. I’m actually quite glad nothing came of that relationship because I wasn’t ready as a writer, but it did let me know that I could do this. I married my husband when I was still a teenager as well, and I had a few tumultuous years between losing my parents, finishing college, and having my daughter so that writing went on the back burner for some time. However, I decided six years ago that I was ready to pick up the pen again.




Amy: When did you complete your first Young Adult manuscript?



Sarah: I was thirteen when I completed a truly hideous YA book. I have always written YA since I was one, and I was writing the stories that I was looking for at that time.




Amy: You studied gothic literature in college. What draws you to write in this genre?



Sarah: The Gothic has been part of my life since I was a wee thing and my mother read Poe’s stories and poems to me. My father was a church organist, and if I was home sick from school, I often had to tag along to funerals he played. Not to mention, my great-aunt ran a funeral home, so there’s been more than a bit of the macabre in my life. I have a fascination with ghosts, hidden passageways, and family secrets. The dark atmosphere and blend of romance and horror, the idea of lost beauty and things unseen, speak to creative areas of my mind.




Amy: Did you have critique partners or beta readers that helped you polish A MURDER OF MAGPIES?  If so, how critical were they to the process of completing the manuscript?



Sarah: A MURDER OF MAGPIES was the first book where I used critique partners, and it was so beneficial to have them point out strengths and weaknesses. Over time, my relationship with my crit mates has changed as our careers have grown, but that give and take process, learning from others, is something that can’t be duplicated when you’re in the reclusive writer cave.




Amy: How laborious/frustrating was the query process for you?



Sarah: Querying is something I hope not to have to do again, definitely. A MURDER OF MAGPIES was one of those books agents loved but had no idea how to sell. One agent asked for an extensive revise and resubmit that left me so frustrated because I knew it wrecked my vision for the book, but it was a top agent and I wanted so badly to work with this person. Ultimately, I listened to my gut and pulled the book from all consideration, shelved it for a time, and licked my wounds while I wrote something new.




Amy: How many agents did you query for A MURDER OF MAGPIES?



Sarah: I don’t remember how many agents total I queried for A MURDER OF MAGPIES before I pulled it. I had a good request rate and a ton of frustration–I recall that much. The next manuscript led to my signing with Miriam Kriss of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency. I sent out sixty queries. At the time of Miriam’s offer of representation, I was waiting on close to ten requests with twenty queries still out.




Amy: Did you receive instantaneous response or did you have to wait for the requests/rejections?



Sarah: It was pretty quick. It was three months from the time I sent my first query to Miriam’s offer. Normally, she’s a fast responder if she wants to see your work, so after two months, I was about to close out my query to her as a no response but decided to wait one more day. What could it hurt, right? She emailed me that afternoon to ask for the full and offered representation eleven days later.




Amy: What was your call like with your agent, Miriam Kriss?  How did you know she was the right fit for you?



Sarah: When I was querying, Miriam was one of my dream agents. She has an outstanding client list and a stellar reputation as a devoted agent to her authors. She was super knowledgeable and still wanted my input. We clicked personality-wise, and I recall coming away from our conversation feeling as if I had a smart, solid ally. Other agents I spoke with just didn’t have the same vision that I shared with Miriam. I’ve been with Miriam for four years and endured some difficulties in my personal life, and she remains steadfast, supportive, and passionate always. When I asked her about taking A MURDER OF MAGPIES out of the trunk and rewriting it to be the book I wanted, she gave me a resounding, “Do it!”




Amy: What is one piece of writing advice you got early on that you still use today?



Sarah: Go with your gut. Most writers are their own worst critic, so if something in the story doesn’t feel write to you, it probably isn’t.






  (Available October 28, 2014)




Winter in Black Orchard, Wisconsin, is long and dark, and sixteen-year-old Vayda Silver prays the snow will keep the truth and secrecy of the last two years buried. Hiding from the past with her father and twin brother, Vayda knows the rules: never return to the town of her mother’s murder, and never work a Mind Game where someone might see.


No one can know the toll emotions take on Vayda, how emotion becomes energy in her hands, or how she can’t control the destruction she causes. But it’s not long before her powers can no longer be contained. The truth is dangerously close to being exposed, placing Vayda and her family at risk.


Until someone quiets the chaos inside her.


Unwanted. That’s all Ward Ravenscroft has ever been. To cope, he numbs the pain of rejection by denying himself emotions of any kind. Yet Vayda stirs something in him. He can’t explain the hold she has on him–inspiring him with both hope and fear. He claims not to scare easily, except he doesn’t know what her powers can do. Yet.


Just as Vayda and Ward draw closer, she finds the past isn’t so easily buried. And when it follows the Silvers to Black Orchard, it has murder in mind.






Sarah Bromley Author PhotoSarah Bromley lives near St. Louis with her husband, three children, and three dogs. She likes the quiet hours of morning when she can drink coffee in peace, stare into the woods behind her house, and wonder what monsters live there. When she’s not writing or wrangling small children, she can be found volunteering at a stable for disabled riders. For more on Sarah, check out her website, follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, or as a contributor to YA Scream Queens and BookYArd Writers.


FIRST FIVE FRENZY with Sarah Negovetich of Corvisiero Literary Agency August 29, 2014

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If you’re like me, you toil for hours editing and fine-tuning the first pages of your manuscript. You look at the first lines to make sure they are compelling and tight.  You examine the next few paragraphs, hoping your MC’s voice is already taking hold of the reader.


The First Five Frenzy is all about getting an agent’s perspective on what works, and what fails, in those first pages of a manuscript. By reading each agent’s comments, I hope you’ll learn how to make your manuscript a shining gem that will be requested time and time again.


Today, I am proud to share Literary Agent, Sarah Negovetich’s perspective on what’s important in those critical first pages.



Amy: Many writers have the impression that a great first line is imperative to drawing in the reader. How important is a first line to you as an agent?


Sarah: I think the first line is important, but it’s usually not a deal breaker if it isn’t the most awesome sentence I’ve read all week. What I don’t want to see is any grammar issues, passive voice, telling or info dumps. Writers will point to the greats of literature sometimes as their “get out of jail free card” for writing overly descriptive and oxygen-deprivation inducing first sentences. They forget to factor in that reader perceptions and expectations have changed from 100 years ago. Faulkner got away with it. You will not.




Amy: Many times a writer is told to stay away from common openings like dreams, eating breakfast, riding in a car, etc. What are some common openings you recommend writers stay away from?


Sarah: Yes, all of these. I also advise against extreme world-building. This is where the author tells us every little detail about a character and their location before getting to the present action of the story. The reason we advise against all of these is because they are boring. I’ve seen myself eat breakfast. It’s a real snooze fest. That doesn’t mean these openings are automatic passes. Consider the main character sitting down to breakfast where he has to arm wrestle his 11 siblings for the only two slices of bread in the house. This is the opposite of a boring breakfast.


The opening is all about convincing the reader they want to turn the page. You can open with almost anything so long as it captures the reader’s attention and not in a gimmicky way.




Amy: When you’ve responded to a writer to request a partial or full manuscript, what was it about their first pages that piqued your interest?


Sarah: For me, the plot comes first. If I’m requesting pages, I’ve seen enough from the query to convince me that the plot is both unique and interesting. After that, I’m looking for clean pages that deliver on the promise of the query. Not to place any more pressure on the query, but it’s really a promise of what you will deliver to readers in the novel. If your query is funny, I want funny opening pages. If your query has a snarky voice, I want to see that in the opening pages.




Amy: What are some common mistakes writers make in their first five pages?


Sarah: The most common mistake I see is a distant POV. A lot of readers assume that first person is automatically engaging because we are in the characters head, but that’s not true. Consider these two lines:


ex. 1:  I felt a cold breeze across my bare arms and it caused me to shiver.


ex 2:  A cold breeze brushed my bare arms sending spidery tingles along my skin.


This is hardly poetic genius, but it should be clear which is a better sentence. The first distances us from the character by telling us how she felt. The second lets us experience the sensation along with her.




Amy: What resonates with you most in those first pages? Voice? Pacing? Unique concept?


Sarah: I think it’s impossible to isolate a single aspect though plot is a biggie for me. Great first pages use each of these to their advantage. I know I’ve read something good when I get to the end of the sample and am surprised I already read five pages. It’s a no if I stop at page two and scroll down to see how much more there is.




Sarah Negovetich headshotSarah Negovetich knows you don’t know how to pronounce her name and she’s okay with that. Her first love is YA, because at seventeen the world is your oyster. Only oysters are slimy and more than a little salty; it’s accurate if not exactly motivational. We should come up with a better cliché. Sarah divides her time between her own writing and working with amazing authors as a Jr. Agent and PR Team Leader at Corvisiero Literary Agency. Her background is in marketing, which is not as glamorous as it sounds. FYI, your high school algebra teacher was right when they told you every job uses math. Sarah uses her experience to help authors craft amazing stories, build platforms, and promote their work.


If you’re interested in submitting to Sarah, please check the Corvisiero Literary Agency website for their guidelines.


W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday with Lauren Spieller August 20, 2014




I’ve heard it several times, and in several interviews, but you can never underestimate the power of the slush pile. As today’s W.O.W. with Lauren Spieller shows, if you have a solid submission package, the slush can help you attract the attention of a great agent.  It may take time (and perhaps entering a few contests) but having an impressive query and first pages can help you make a career-changing connection!


Many thanks to Lauren for sharing her writing journey today!



Amy: What inspires you to write both Young Adult and Middle Grade fiction?


Lauren: I’ve written two YAs and one MG, and MAN are they different experiences! Right now I’m connecting with YA more (I’m really interested in the changes–both internal and external– that happen during the teen years), but I plan on working on another MG in the future. I might even go back to my second manuscript, which was a really fun, magical MG.



Amy: How many completed manuscripts did you query before one garnered interest?


Lauren: I didn’t query my first YA widely, because by the time I finished it, I realized I had out-grown the project, both in skill and interest. My second manuscript–the magical MG–brought in quite a few requests, three of which eventually turned into R&Rs. However, I started CAPTIVE during the MG querying process, and by time I received the last R&R, I was EXTREMELY excited about querying my new project. Turns out it was “the one!”



Amy: Did your query for CAPTIVE come easily or did it go through many drafts?


Lauren: BOTH! It came pretty easily, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t nitpick it! I run a freelance editing business, and query critiques are my specialty, so I felt very prepared to write my CAPTIVE query. That being said, my critique partners still helped me fine tune the wording, and were extremely supportive when I asked them to read draft after draft even though I’d only changed a word here or there!



Amy: Did you have critique partners for CAPTIVE? If so, how critical were they to your writing process?


Lauren: Absolutely! I worked with early draft critique partners, multiple rounds of beta readers, and 2 Pitch Wars mentors. All told, more than 10 people gave me feedback on CAPTIVE (be it the first page, the first 50 pages, the synopsis, or the entire manuscript). I am extremely grateful for their feedback, especially since my manuscript hinged on eliciting the right emotion at the right time. I couldn’t have nailed down the pacing without my talented CPs!



Amy: How many agents did you query for CAPTIVE? Did you receive immediate responses, or did you have to wait a while for replies?


Lauren: I queried about 38 agents total, quite a few of which went out *after* I had already received full requests. Some agents responded within days, others took weeks, and some never responded at all! I also received a few requests via Pitch Wars, the amazing contest run by Brenda Drake. Though I ultimately signed with an agent I queried on my own (Go Team Slush!), the mentoring aspect of Pitch Wars helped me polish my first page, which definitely contributed to my querying success.



Amy: Can you give a short summary of your call with your agent, Jim McCarthy? How did you know he was a good fit for you?


Lauren: Jim was my #1 choice, so when he emailed me about scheduling “The Call,” I went into a state of shock. Luckily I managed to email him despite my catatonic state, and we ended up talking immediately. Most of the call was a blur, but I do distinctly remember warning him that I was probably going to cry.


I knew Jim was the right agent for me for four reasons: 1) He told me right off the bat that he had read my book twice and couldn’t stop thinking about the main character’s twisted journey. It was important to me that an agent be enthusiastic! 2) He told me about the strengths AND weaknesses of the manuscript. I wanted an agent who would be honest with me, and Jim was. 3) We saw eye to eye about revisions (in fact, he called me out on the very thing I knew I needed to improve!) 4) We got along right away!  It also didn’t hurt that he made me laugh within the first two minutes of the call.



Amy: Was there ever a time you thought about giving up on your writing dream? If so, what motivated you to keep writing?


Lauren: I’ve never been tempted to give up writing in general, but I HAVE been tempted to give up on individual manuscripts before I should. In those cases, I relied heavily on my friends and family, in particular my amazing boyfriend Patrick and my friend and CP Juliana Brandt. Without them, I’d probably have gone crazy by now. If there was an acknowledgments section of my life, I’d dedicate my years as a querying writer to them.


…And to cocktails and pizza. They supported me when I needed them most. Love you, guys.



LaurenSLauren Spieller is a California girl living in Brooklyn. When she isn’t longingly gazing at interior design blogs, searching for Brooklyn’s best latte, unintentionally collecting owls, or complaining about the weather, she spends her time writing young adult and middle grade novels, as well as short stories for adults. She also works as a freelance editor, specializing in query and manuscript critiques. Lauren welcomes you to contact her about any and all of these things!

Lauren is represented by Jim McCarthy of Dystel & Goderich Literary Management.

Follow her on twitter @laurenspieller




Rain words



There’s a lot of talk among writers about what I like to call the trinity of publishing: the query, the agent, the deal. We discuss at great lengths the query I think most of all. Is it written? How many times has it been revised? Did your CPs sign off on it? And on and on.


Once the queries go out, the focus then turns to request and rejections. There is a sort of mythical formula that goes along with this stage. If you get two requests (or three depending on who you’re talking to) for every ten queries sent, then your submission package (query and first pages) are doing their job. If you don’t get any requests in those first ten, then the next step is to go back and look at the query and first pages and tweak again until they are ready.


But what happens if your query does work? You send the full or partial, but unfortunately, those requests come back as rejections. I don’t think a lot of people talk about this stage. Why? Maybe because it’s embarrassing to get that far and not have an agent bite. Or perhaps it feels like a huge let down to get so close and then get a “no”.


Here’s the thing though, this stage of the querying process is not uncommon. It’s the reason why you read so many articles about querying in batches, so you can reassess when things aren’t going right for you and your manuscript.


Recently, a great writing friend of mine, Amy Reichert, announced her publishing deal for her book, THE COINCIDENCE OF COCONUT CAKE  (I love, love, love this title BTW!). In a blog post, she talked about the ups and downs of publishing and the detour she took with her manuscript. This detour included pulling it from the query trenches and doing a massive rewrite based on the feedback from a close writing friend. When Amy shared this with me, I was amazed by her commitment to the manuscript and her willingness to pull it apart and put it back together. Most of us, I think, would have trudged forward in the trenches and prayed someone would take a chance on us. But what Amy did was very brave. She knew that parts of her book weren’t clicking. She made the right decision, albeit a scary one, to step back and rework a story she loved in order to connect with an agent and eventually sell it.


So if you’re in the query trenches, and struggling, let Amy’s story be a beacon of light for you. Don’t be afraid to pull back and reassess. Send your manuscript to new CPs or perhaps work with a trusted editor. Do what you can to make that beloved book better. If you put in the hard work, you may just have a happy ending like Amy’s.


What are your thoughts about stepping back mid-query? Have you done it before? I would love to hear your feedback in the comments!





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