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First Five Frenzy with Laurie McLean of Larsen Pomada Literary Agents February 22, 2013

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, Laurie McLean’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?

 

Laurie: A great first line is huge. It sets the agent’s expectations from the very start that this author takes time and care to begin their tale. I advise YA writers to read the first lines of their absolute favorite books and see how in one sentence these authors have impressed the reader. Then make it a goal to make sure every first line in anything you write is the most incredible sentence you can write. Not overwritten, just perfect for each book.

 

Here’s a link to a wonderful blog post by my colleague Michael Larsen that not only talks about great first lines, he gives lots of examples. It’s very inspirational: http://sfwriters.org/blog/great-opening-lines-how-to-grab-readers-and-never-let-them-go/

 

 

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?

 

Laurie: Oh, yes. No dreams or mundane every day activities, please. Commonplace school action is also a big no-no, as in sitting in class and having something embarrassing happen. Or in the school cafeteria. Or on the bus. Try to find something different, something that encapsulates the purpose or theme of the book, and use that as your opening scene. Make it as unique as your story.

 

My advice with both first lines and with opening scenes, is that these are things that can be fixed and crafted during the editing phase of the writing process. Just get the words on the page initially. Write the book. But when you write ‘The End’, it is really only the beginning. Then you must edit like a house-a-fire. Then you must spend a lot more time crafting the words, pruning your prose, to turn your writing from good to publishable. A great book is not written, it’s rewritten!

 

 

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?

 

Laurie: Most often I respond to the voice of the writer in those first 10 pages, which is what I request. It is difficult to tell much about the story in the first 10 pages, but I can certainly tell if the writer has his or her writing “chops” down. I can tell a lot about pacing, word choice, voice, characterization, grammar fu, and other things in those first few sentences. But voice is the big one. How do you make your story stand out from the other thousand submissions I receive each month.

 

 

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

 

Laurie: Mistakes could include delving into backstory (don’t do this AT ALL in the opening scenes), telling the reader too much up front, slowing the pace to a crawl with exposition, grammar mistakes (especially words that sound right but are wrong), misspellings, set up (telling the reader you’re going to tell them a story), overwriting (using too many words to say something), overuse of adverbs and adjectives, or jumping into the action in media res to the point where the reader is confused and does not read past the opening scene.

 

Again, all these things could have been fixed during the editing process. Writing is a journey, a process, and you learn more about your craft and improve it with every book you write. Most submissions I read are just not ready yet and the writer is impatient to be published so they throw it out there and hope and pray. At least put it in a virtual drawer for a few weeks, or even better months, after you finish writing the first draft. Your brain will think about it at odd times of the day when you’re doing something else and certainly when you sleep. Then start editing and keep editing until you absolutely cannot make it any better. THEN, and only then, start your querying process with agents and editors.

 

 

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

 

Laurie: A unique concept will get me interested in reading something. But if the voice isn’t unique and strong and compelling, I won’t read very far into the manuscript before I reject it. It may seem unfair, and I often hear, “But if you’ll only read the fourth chapter. It really picks up and gets going there!” If that’s the case, start your book with chapter four and keep going!

 

 

Thanks for letting me answer some of these important questions, Amy.

 

-Laurie McLean, Senior Agent, Larsen Pomada Literary Agents

 

 

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For more information on Laurie and what she represents, please visit her agent page on the agency website, larsenpomada.com, and her blog agentsavant.com. Also follow her on twitter @agentsavant.

 

W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday – Miranda Kenneally January 2, 2013

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When I first began writing, and in turn getting an education in publishing, I started following Chuck Sambuchino’s series on Writer’s Digest called, “Successful Queries.” I read each letter he posted with intensity, learning about voice and the almost impossible task of narrowing down your story into three paragraphs.

 

The query I kept going back to study was one that broke ALL the rules – but was an extraordinary example of incorporating voice into your writing.  Ever since reading that query for “SCORE”  (which later turned into CATCHING JORDAN),  I knew I wanted to interview today’s author, Miranda Kenneally, about her writing and incredible path to publication.

 

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

 

Miranda: When I was 25 years old.

 

 

Amy: When did you complete your first manuscript?

 

Miranda: I was 26 when I finished my first manuscript. It was a very crappy book about a boy who grew up on the moon and stows away on the space shuttle to earth, where he falls in love and tries to legally “divorce” himself from his parents. I have no idea what I was thinking when I was writing this, but my biggest issue was that I didn’t know who my audience was. Teen boys? Teen girls? Pre-teen boys? You have to know who your audience is before you start writing!

 

 

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

 

Miranda: My second novel, CATCHING JORDAN, was the one that got me an agent. My first novel about the boy who grew up on the moon garnered some agent interest, but again, I didn’t know who my audience was so the agents didn’t know who they would sell the book to.

 

 

Amy: If one manuscript was continuing to get rejected, how did you know it was time to move on to a new project?

 

Miranda: I knew it was time to move on to a new project after about three months of querying my first book. It wasn’t getting enough interest for me to believe it could ever sell to a real publisher.

 

 

Amy: If you had bites on previous manuscripts, and then was ultimately turned down by agents, what kept you pressing forward?

 

Miranda: I wanted to be published so bad! I just kept working on craft and reading as many YA books as I could. I finally realized that I wasn’t focusing on a particular audience, and once I did that, it all started to fall into place.

 

 

Amy: You’ve kind of earned a reputation for being a rule-breaker when it comes to writing queries. In fact, there is a thread dedicated to you on AgentQueryConnect about it. How did you know that was the right direction to take for CATCHING JORDAN?

 

Miranda: Jordan’s voice was loud and clear. I originally wrote it in first person, so I could make sure I had good voice and characterization when I converted it to third, but I found I didn’t want to convert it! So I sent out three test queries written in Jordan’s voice. All three garnered full MS requests, so I just kept sending out queries in first person.

 

 

Amy: How many agents did you query for CATCHING JORDAN?

 

Miranda: 17

 

 

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

 

Miranda: I queried CATCHING JORDAN for about three weeks before I received an offer of representation. Some agents were faster than others at getting back to me.

 

 

Amy: Can you give us a short summary of your call with your agent, Sara Megibow?

 

Miranda: It was a snow day here in DC, so I wasn’t at work. She called me on my cell at about 5pm and we talked for about an hour. She had just given birth (she was a surrogate mother!!) so I was shocked she was willing to take me on as a client at that time. I was super excited she took a chance on me.

 

 

Amy: What parting advice can you give other aspiring writers who may be on the cusp of giving up on their writing dream?

 

Miranda: Know your audience, keep reading books in your genre, keep looking for the right hook for your book and make sure to find your own, distinct voice! Don’t give up if your friends or family members don’t think you’ll make it. Many people react negatively to their friends trying new things, as they don’t want them to fail. Publishing is really, really hard.

 

 

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Miranda Kenneally is the author of CATCHING JORDAN, STEALING PARKER, and THINGS I CAN’T FORGET (April 2013). Miranda is the co-creator of Dear Teen Me. The Dear Teen Me Anthology came out on October 31, 2012. She enjoys reading and writing young adult literature, and loves Star Trek, music, sports, Mexican food, Twitter, coffee, and her husband. Follow her on Twitter or Facebook. Miranda is represented by Sara Megibow at Nelson Literary Agency.

 

 

 

 

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First Five Frenzy with Mary Kole of Movable Type Management November 16, 2012

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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 five pages of a manuscript.  By reading each agent’s comments, I hope you’ll learn how to make your MS a shining gem that will be requested time and time again.

 

 

Today, I am proud to share Literary Agent, Mary Kole’s perspective on what is important in those critical first pages…

 

 

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

 
It’s very important. I like to have something in there that raised tension or hooks me–makes me wonder about something that’s been mentioned. Cramming too much information in the first sentence or starting with dialogue (you haven’t put the characters “on stage” yet, don’t make them talk) are two weaker gambits.

 

 

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?

 
Dream openings are a huge cliché and I recommend you avoid them at all costs, even if you think you’re the one writer in the world who has the perfect reason to make it work. Everyone has already ruined it for you, don’t even try. Another big opening no-no is the disorienting beginning, where a character (who we don’t know) is running from something (we don’t know what) and the stakes are…we don’t really know but it sure is frantic! We aren’t connected with the character yet so throwing us into life-or-death drama right away is a waste. More on that here:

 

 

http://kidlit.com/2012/05/21/confusion-is-not-the-same-as-mystery/

 

 

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

 

 

Voice, starting in a specific scene, being grounded in a present moment, and getting some kind of conflict. It doesn’t have to be life-or-death (see above) but it should inject tension. More on what I mean by “grounding the reader” here:

 

 

http://kidlit.com/2010/08/04/grounding-the-reader/

 

 

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

 

 

A character sitting in their room and thinking about how much their life sucks. Not only is this telling, but it’s all internal conflict. We need a nice balance of internal and external conflict in fiction. Also, that action should be balanced well with information–too much information at the beginning (whether through telling or flashback) is an info-dump and also stalls pacing.

 

 

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

 

 

I have to have a sense of voice, as I said above, and that action or conflict right off the bat that will keep pacing brisk. The concept is more something that I react to after reading the query letter and seeing the larger scope of the story–it doesn’t have to come into play in the first chapter but, if your novel is truly unique, getting a sense of that early on certainly won’t hurt!

 

 

Be sure to check out Mary’s new book, WRITING IRRESISTIBLE KIDLIT: The Ultimate Guide to Crafting Fiction for Young Adult and Middle Grade Readers from Writer’s Digest Books for more tips on how to make your novel stand out in the slush!

 

 

 

 

Mary came to literature from a writer’s perspective and started reading at Andrea Brown Literary Agency to see what it was like “on the other side of the desk.” She quickly found her passion there and, after a year of working behind the scenes, officially joined the agency in 2009. In 2012, she became a Senior Literary Manager at Movable Type Management, where she is also heading up the children’s department. In her quest to learn all sides of publishing, she has also worked at Chronicle Books and earned her MFA in creative writing at the University of San Francisco. At this time, Mary is only considering food books, food memoirs, cookbooks, and, for the children’s market, young adult and middle grade fiction and truly exceptional picture books from authors, illustrators, and author/illustrators. She prefers upmarket premises with literary spark and commercial appeal. Her favorite genres within children’s books are character-driven fantasy, thriller, horror, adventure, humor, contemporary/realistic, romance and mystery. She blogs at http://www.kidlit.com, which has been named one of the 101 Best Websites for Writers by Writer’s Digest Magazine for three years running.

 

 

Mary is currently open to queries and represents PB, MG, and YA. If you’re interested in submitting to Mary, please make sure to check the Movable Type Management website for their guidelines

 

Destined for the Drawer? October 19, 2012

 

 

In all my author interviews there seems to be a common denominator that links each and every writer – they made their debut with a manuscript that was their second, third or fourth try.

 

It is rare that an author can pen a novel for the first time and have it be pristine enough to make it past both an agent and a publisher.  Many writers refer to their first novel as their “starter manuscript,” or their own personal education on how to “not” write a story. But many times that first novel owns a piece of our soul.  It is an accomplishment that many people in this world cannot crow about , and with that distinction, many writers, including myself, find it very hard to put that precious baby away without ever introducing it to the public.

 

So the question then becomes how do you know if the blood, sweat and tears you’ve just poured into that beloved concept, should never see the light of day?  A couple of things come to mind….

 

1) After letting the story marinate for weeks/months/years – you go back to it and realize the writing is at a novice level

 

2) You present it several times over to your CP, who keeps trying to warn you the plotting and structure are shaky

 

3) You query the heck out of it – and you get nothing but form rejections

 

Now with all that being said, that doesn’t mean the concept has to be buried somewhere deep in a drawer or in the bowels of a trunk.  I’ve heard many stories of successful authors, who have gone back to their original work, and applied all their experience and knowledge to that first try. The result is something not only highly marketable, but a manuscript an author is proud to finally reveal to the world.

 

So if you’re like me, put that precious manuscript away.  Hone your craft, learn from your peers, listen to the advice of agents and editors and work on something new.  When you’ve reached your goals, and sharpened your pen, go back to that original idea with fresh eyes.  The result may be something that you never imagined and a thousand times better than your original concept.  It’s still your baby, it’s just dressed up pretty and finally ready to show off to the world.

 

What about you?  Do you have a precious jewel of a manuscript locked away somewhere?  What made you decide to put it away?  Do you think you’ll ever go back and repolish it?  Drop me a line, I’d love to hear about it!

 

W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday – Lisa and Laura Roecker October 3, 2012

 

 

The writing team of sisters Lisa and Laura Roecker are truly a force to be reckoned with.  Besides being accomplished authors, with an amazing novel, THE LIAR SOCIETY, under their belts, they are also wives, mothers, and founders of the online writing conference phenomenon know as WRITEONCON.

 

 

 

 

When do these amazing women have the time to write?  I do not know, but continue to write they do. Their forthcoming release, THE LIES THAT BIND, the follow-up to THE LIAR SOCIETY, will be released on November 1.

 

 

 

 

When I began this series, I really wanted to hear about writers‘ struggles prior to success. I framed my questions based on what I wanted to know.  Over time, some of the W.O.W. questions have changed, but one that continues to remain important to me is whether authors contemplated giving up on their writing dream after rejection.

 

 

Lisa and Laura responded to this question with a blog post of their own.  Not only did this blow me away, but it made me realize one thing. No matter how much you think authors have “made it” when they publish a book, they are still struggling like you and I to get the work right.  Not only for themselves, but for the readers.  And we all know what a daunting task that can be.

 

 

So here are Lisa and Laura’s answers to this week’s W.O.W. I hope you will be inspired by them.

 

 

Amy: Did you both write separately before becoming a team?

 

L&L:  If you consider angsty poetry and random story ideas writing, then yes. But no, never a true book. We both dreamed of becoming writers one day and would tell anyone who would listen, but like most dreams, never did anything with it. Until one, late-night, random phone conversation. We wanted to DO something. And we landed on writing a book TOGETHER. That was the ticket for us. We had to write together. And it had to be YA, because YA is the best. Ha! We thought it’d be easy. Famous last words.

 

 

Amy: Have you always written YA fiction?

 

L&L:  Yes. YA was what we most enjoyed reading. Laura taught 6th grade Language Arts in a past life and would pass the best books onto Lisa, who didn’t take long to hook. Our first book was extremely original–an updated PRIDE AND PREJUDICE (I hope you caught that sarcasm.). After hundreds of rejections, with a few “you can writes” sprinkled in, we quit the book and started fresh. GMAIL/FINDING GRACE/THE HAUNTING OF PEMBERLY BROWN/THE LIAR SOCIETY was the result.

 

 

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

 

L&L:  We queried two. THE NORTH SHORE (the failed PRIDE AND PREJUDICE update) and FINDING GRACE (which eventually became THE LIAR SOCIETY).

 

 

Amy: If one manuscript was continuing to get rejected, how did you know it was time to move on to a new project?

 

L&L:  We knew it was time to move on when there were literally no more agents to query. We definitely had a few close calls, but at the end of the day, most could never get past the full manuscript. We could write a query–yay! An entire book–um, no. So we had a choice to make. We could give up and pretend like we never dreamed of being writers, we could start over with the most original idea in the world (the PRIDE AND PREJUDICE update) or we could start over with a new book. Start over we did. It felt so good to come up with a new idea and jump into a blank document. We vomited words we were so excited about the book.

 

 

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

 

L&L:  The query came relatively easy with the help of Elana Johnson. Lisa LOVES writing queries and is very good at them–must be her marketing background. We knew we wanted to be a bit snarky and try to insert our voice into the query. When all was said and done, it was very representative of the book itself, which is a good thing.

 

 

Amy: Did you have critique partners for THE LIAR SOCIETY? If you did, how critical were they to your writing process?

 

L&L:  Yes. We had many critique partners. The cool thing about the writers that we work with is that they are all inadvertently looking for different things as they edit. The end result is super-valuable feedback that is both constructive and essential to working toward that final draft. It’s incredible how much goes into writing a book. It takes a whole team to make it shine and we owe a TON to our critique partners who are willing to read our dingy first drafts.

 

 

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

 

L&L:  When we prepared to query the second time around, we went about the process much differently. Instead of preparing a list of A MILLION agents, we targeted our dream team–around 10. We figured if the agents passed on the query, we could go back and adjust as necessary. We knew the query would work right away when we started getting requests for pages. Our collective hearts began drumming when those requests for pages turned into requests for fulls (that’s when you know you’re onto something). We about died when Catherine Drayton CALLED Lisa ON THE PHONE during the witching hour in her house when the kids are screaming and it sounds like utter chaos is erupting. Catherine wanted to “throw her hat in the ring” and be sure she had time to consider the full before we signed with an agent. It was all very exciting and surreal.

 

 

Amy: What can you tell me about “the call” with your agent, Catherine Drayton?

 

L&L:  We were offered representation by three agents. It was a very exciting place to be, but also very scary. We had a choice to make and we knew it was important and would impact our entire career as writers. Catherine lives in Sydney so the call was at night for us, morning her time. We were very nervous in the beginning. Catherine shared her vision for the book (which closely resembled ours) and explained about Inkwell–selling the agency as she would a manuscript. That was important to us. We wanted not only a reputable agent, but an agency that would back and support us as well. Foreign rights, subsidiary rights, etc. Those are all very important when you’re dealing with a book deal. Catherine felt like the kind of agent who would challenge us to grow. She’s tough and semi-scary and we needed that. In fact, she felt a lot like our mom. Someone we wanted to please! The conversation continued and we asked all the questions we felt like we were supposed to ask. Catherine gave us the name of Becca Fitzpatrick as a reference. As soon as we hung up we called each other and said, “She’s the one” at the exact same time. After speaking with Becca, who sang Catherine’s praises, it was decided. We signed with Catherine and made a pact to always be ourselves around her no matter what. Yes, she was an agent, but she was OUR agent. This was the best choice we ever made. We now have a very easy relationship with Catherine and feel comfortable talking to her about anything and everything. She absolutely rocks.

 

 

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

 

L&L:  Many, many times. Just last night Lisa called me and said she wanted to give up. When I asked her why, she said she felt like we could never be good enough. We commiserated for approximately 2 hours (our standard phone call length) and hung up with a renewed sense of hope. Yes, there are incredible, fantastic, award-winning, we-bow-down-to-you-genius-writer books out there. Books that make you want to hold the delete button, slam your laptop shut and GIVE UP. Will our books be amongst them? Maybe? Never? Definitely? In our dreams? Who knows! The beauty is in the trying. If you give up, you’ll never know if you could have gotten there! One of the best parts about writing is that there is no race. People will always need books to read. As a result, people count on us to get better (or something like that). None of our books will ever be as perfect as we want them to be. In fact, we also have another pact to NEVER read a final copy of the published book. There’s just no way we wouldn’t want to change something and that would kill us in a very slow and painful way. So we write. And we delete. And we re-write. And we complain. But at the end of the day we hope. Because you just never know! That big book could be right around the corner. And I don’t know about you, but I want to be a part of it.

 

 

Lisa and Laura Roecker are sisters-turned-writing-partners with a passion for good books, pop culture, and Bravo programming. Not necessarily in that order. Lisa has always been a phenomenal liar and Laura loves to write angsty poetry, so writing for young adults seemed like a natural fit. The sisters live in Cleveland, Ohio in separate residences. Their husbands wouldn’t agree to a duplex. To learn more about The Liar Society series, check out www.theliarsociety.com or follow them on Twitter.

 

W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday – The Illustrious Authoress September 26, 2012

 

 

Being anonymous is one thing. Staying anonymous is quite another. Yet the woman behind the blog, Miss Snark’s First Victim, has managed to successfully stay behind the curtain. All the while sharing her energetic personality with readers, as well as offering ample opportunities for writers to get their work in front of a prestigious contingent of literary agents.

 

Known as Authoress, this woman not only has an amazing touch with the aspiring writer community, but is well-versed in the world of writing, being an author herself. Fascinated by her ability to not only write, but run an amazingly successful blog, I knew I had to track down this great lady and learn about her writing journey.

 

Gracious as always (although still remaining anonymous) Authoress took up the challenge and agreed to answer my questions…

 

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

 

Authoress: I self-published a non-fiction book in 2002. At the time, I considered myself an essayist, and believed (truly!) that I could never write a novel. Everything changed when I sat down and wrote my first (horrible) novel, a YA fantasy. That was in 2003. From the first word, I knew I wanted to be a published novelist.

 

 

Amy: When did you complete your first manuscript?

 

Authoress: Some time in 2004.

 

 

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

 

Authoress: What’s really interesting is that this first, horrible novel actually received 2 partial requests! Clearly I’d done a better job on the query than I had on the novel. I finally realized that my first novel was not publishable, and began querying my second novel (an MG fantasy). I received requests for partials and my very first request for a full, so there were some heady moments during Novel 2′s journey! But ultimately, it wasn’t strong enough, either. In truth, I was still honing my craft, and in looking back, I can clearly see why the MG fantasy didn’t land me an agent. By the time I queried Josh, I was on my fourth completed novel. And that was the winner!

 

 

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

 

Authoress: At first, it had its normal ups and downs (and obsessive email checking, of course!), but it got really difficult toward the end. The YA dystopian that Josh fell in love with had gotten many requests and two revise-and-resubmits that all ended in rejection, and I was beginning to despair of ever landing an agent. People kept telling me, “It’s always the hardest right before your big break comes, so hang in there!” It was hard to believe that, but it turns out they were right.

 

 

Amy: If one manuscript was continuing to get rejected, how did you know it was time to move on to a new project?

 

Authoress: Well, I was always working on the next story, so after a while, when my rejections had piled up and the agents left on my list had dwindled to almost none, it was easy to shift gears and query the next novel.

 

 

Amy: If you had bites on previous manuscripts, and then was ultimately turned down by agents, what kept you pressing forward?

 

Authoress: You know, I’ve just had this carved-in-stone vision for my writing career, and quitting would have meant giving that up. Even when I was ready to walk away–and I was seriously considering it, even as Josh was reading my manuscript–I ultimately knew I could never do it. I’m just not the walk-away type.

 

 

Amy: Can you give us a short summary of your call with your agent, Josh Getzler?

 

Authoress: Short? *grin* Actually, Josh had mentioned in an email that he felt like he was already my agent, so it was clear that our call was going to be a confirmation of that. A sort of “let’s-make-this-official”. It was a cold day right before Christmas, and I took the call in our upstairs TV room, wearing a chunky, brown sweater and my gray Jodimitts (you all know what Jodimitts are, right?). As Josh talked, I furiously scribbled down everything he said. And I smiled a lot.

 

The truth is, I absolutely hate phones. So that made me all the more nervous for this initial phone call. Now, of course, my scheduled calls with Josh don’t make me twitch anymore. He’s wonderful and warm and real over the phone, so it’s not the heart-stopping event it used to be. But, yeah. That first call was scary not so much because it was Josh, but because it was…a phone.

 

 

Amy: Your blog, “Miss Snark’s First Victim” has numerous success stories. But for every success, there are many who still can’t get an agent to bite. What is your advice for those writers who continue to struggle with rejection?

 

Authoress: I know you have heard it so many times that you probably want to drop-kick the next person who says it. But here it is, anyway: DON’T GIVE UP. Rejection is hard. I’m not going to pretend it didn’t come close to crushing me sometimes. But it’s imperative that you learn–hard and fast–that rejection of your work is not rejection of you. That you have within yourself the ability to take the bad and use it to create GOOD. In other words–keep growing as a writer. Never stop. Never say, “This is the best I can do, so screw it.” Because…the best you can do today is not the best you will be able to do tomorrow. This is a journey, and we’ve got to be willing to keep traveling until we reach our destination.

 

Also? You’re not alone. Don’t sit in your warm, little hole licking your wounds. Come on out and commiserate. We’ll stroke your hair and hug you for a little while, but then we’ll kick you in the behind and tell you to get back to work. Because that’s what it’s going to take.

 

And you can do it!

 

 

AUTHORESS WRITES MG AND YA FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION. SHE HAS AN ADORING HUSBAND AND A STASH OF ORGANIC CHOCOLATE THAT KEEPS DISAPPEARING. (THE CHOCOLATE, NOT THE ADORING HUSBAND.) SHE IS ALSO A CLASSICAL PIANIST, A TRAINED SOPRANO, AND AN UNABASHED FOODIE.

 

YOU CAN FIND HER AT MISS SNARK’S FIRST VICTIM, AND FOLLOW HER ON TWITTER AT @AUTHORESS.

 

A Writer’s Education Via The Web September 21, 2012

 

 

When you sit down to write a book no one ever tells you that trying to get it published goes way beyond writing “The End” on the final page. Oh no, that is just the first step in a very looong journey. A journey that may, or may not, end with an agent, and seeing your book in all its technicolor glory on the shelves one day.

 

I was very naive when I started the writing process. I thought I knew how to maneuver through the publishing trenches, reach out to an agent, and get my book published in record time.

 

Yeah, right. Hello Newbie.

 

I was seriously deluded, thinking I could pull this off without educating myself on how this business works. And there’s no doubt about it. Publishing is first and foremost a business – a fact us creative types tend to ignore.

 

So if you’re new to writing and/or publishing how do you educate yourself?

 

I personally have found the web to be a wealth of knowledge when it comes to teaching a novice writer how to succeed in the land of the written word.

 

Here are some great blog posts I’ve come across that have been amazingly helpful in teaching me about the industry:

 

Questions about word count?  Think that YA novel you’ve written is stellar at 150K? You might want to think again.  Check out super agent, Jennifer Laughran’s blog post on word counts. I find myself referring to it constantly.

 

Think you’ve got an amazing query that you’re just itching to send to agents?

 

Hold off before hitting the “SEND” button and check out this post from Words From The Woods titled, “Optimizing The Query Process With Fewer Mistakes.” It will make you rethink your querying approach.

 

What happens after you sign on the dotted line and sell your book?  YA author, Mindy McGinnis, takes us behind the curtain in a post on Book Pregnant called,  “Why Does It Take So Long To Publish A Book, Anyway?”

 

Once the book is on the shelves how do you promote it? Well if you’re with a large house, they’ll have you work with a publicist, but they can only do so much.  What should you do as an author to promote that baby you’ve toiled over for so long?  The answer may be in Stephen L. Duncan’s “Mind the Gap” post on From The Write Angle.

 

All of these important posts have taught me that I’ve still got a lot to learn about the publishing business.

 

What about you? Have you come across a helpful article on the web that has taught you something about writing or publishing you didn’t know?  If you have, please tell me about it.  I’d love to read it and share with others!

 

W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday – Alison Cherry September 12, 2012

 

 

A while ago I wrote a post questioning whether or not there was such thing as an original idea left in the world. This was after the release of the re-boot of the Spiderman series, and the last installment of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight saga hit the theaters.

 

Well today, I am pleased to say I have discovered an author who brings a completely “unique” twist to the world of publishing.  Her Young Adult manuscript, while having modern elements, is completely original in the fact that all the characters have red hair. That’s right, I said red hair. Who you are, your social standing, etc… is all determined by how deep your red runs.

 

Now, I must admit, I’m biased.  Both my sister and my nephew are natural redheads, and I’ve been known to experiment with several copper shades courtesy of Clairol and L’Oreal.  So perhaps this is why I find today’s featured author, Alison Cherry’s concept so intriguing.  Her debut novel, of course, titled RED, will debut in the fall of 2013.

 

Here is Alison’s writing journey…

 

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

 

Alison: I started writing my first book in November of 2007, but I wasn’t very serious about it at the beginning. I’d write a little, abandon the manuscript for months, and revisit it when I had nothing else to do. It probably wasn’t until I was about halfway that I thought, “Huh, this isn’t bad, maybe I can write a book.”

 

 

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

 

Alison: My first manuscript took me two and a half years. It was complete and ready for querying in April of 2010.

 

 

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

 

Alison: RED was the second book I queried. There were good things about that first manuscript, but in the end, it was too small and quiet a story to make much of a splash.

 

 

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

 

Alison: I think the query process is pretty laborious and frustrating for everyone. I did tons of research, made a spreadsheet, honed and re-honed my query letter, and I still got tons of rejections. The waiting is the hardest part. (It’s still the hardest part—I’ve discovered that even after you get a book deal, there is still a ridiculous amount of waiting. You’re just waiting for different things.)

 

 

Amy: If one manuscript was continuing to get rejected, how did you know it was time to move on to a new project?

 

Alison: That’s an interesting story, actually. After nine months of rejections on my first manuscript, I got a lovely email from Holly Root at Waxman Agency, detailing all the reasons why she loved my writing and my voice and explaining why she didn’t think she could sell that particular manuscript. She suggested we get together and talk about revisions, then asked if I was working on anything else. I was about halfway through the first draft of RED at that point, so I sent her the first few chapters. When we met up a few weeks later, Holly told me she was smitten with RED and that I should concentrate on finishing that, then send it to her right away. I spent the next five months doing so, during which I completely stopped querying the first book. Holly had convinced me that RED would make a much better debut novel—and also that she was the right agent for me, if I could just produce the right book!

 

 

Amy: If you had bites on previous manuscripts, and then was ultimately turned down by agents, what kept you pressing forward?

 

Alison: That did happen five or six times, and it never got easy. But I didn’t start writing because I wanted an agent—I started writing because I loved writing. Even if I had never gotten an agent, I guarantee I would still be telling stories. If you’re writing because you want to be published, it’s really easy to be disappointed. But if the process of putting words together brings you joy, nobody can stop you from being happy.

 

 

Amy: How many agents did you query for RED?

 

Alison: Holly was the only agent who ever saw it! She signed me five days after I sent it to her.

 

 

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

 

Alison: The very first query I sent was an anomaly—the agent answered forty minutes later (on a SUNDAY!) and asked for a full, which he then rejected three days later. Most of the other agents I queried took months to reply, some as many as seven or eight months. It was extremely frustrating at the time, but now that I’m agented, it makes total sense to me. We keep Holly really busy, and I have no idea how she has time to read queries at all.

 

 

Amy: What can you tell us about “your call” with agent, Holly Root?

 

Alison: I knew I’d be a nervous, babbling mess on the phone if Holly called to offer me representation, so I wrote down a bunch of questions in advance to help me guide the conversation. But as it turned out, Holly totally took the lead. First she told me everything she loved about my book, and then she told me how she liked to work and what her submission strategy would be. I had heard you were supposed to end agent calls by saying you’d think about the offer and call back within a week, but that seemed insane—I was absolutely sure I wanted Holly. So after about twenty minutes, I told her that. There was a very long pause, and then she said, “Oh! That was easy!”

 

 

Amy: What parting advice can you give aspiring writers who may be on the cusp of giving up on their writing dream?

 

Alison: Oh, please don’t! You all have stories to tell, and I want to hear them! But here are some (more concrete) pieces of advice to help you on your way:

 

1)  If an agent says a book isn’t right for her but that she’d like to see the next thing you write, she’s not just saying that to be nice. She really means it. She saw something special in your writing. Send her your next project.

 

2) Reach out to the writing community, whether through Twitter or forums or going to conferences. I’ve found that most writers are ridiculously supportive. There are many, many people in the same situation as you, and it helps so much to talk about the process with others who know what you’re going through.

 

3) I know hardly anyone who sold the first book they wrote. If nobody’s snapping up your first manuscript, write another one. You have practice writing a book now, and your second project will be better for it. If you want to be a writer, every minute you spend writing is valuable. Don’t let all that new knowledge go to waste!

 

 

Alison grew up in Evanston, IL. She is a professional photographer and spent many years working as a lighting designer for theater, opera, and dance. Now she lives in Brooklyn and writes young adult novels full time. Her debut, RED, is coming from Delacorte in October of 2013. She is represented by the lovely and amazing Holly Root of Waxman Leavell.

 

 

 

 

For more information on Alison check out her website, see what she’s up to on The Lucky 13s, or follow her on Twitter.

 

Risks and Rewards of Self Publishing – Guest Post by Caterina Torres September 10, 2012

 

Recently, I had my friend and CP Katie French share her thoughts on her decision to self-publish.  Her insights were important to understanding why a writer would choose to go this route instead of traditional publishing.

 

I wanted to follow-up on this important topic with a post from someone who has been part of the e-publishing world for a while.  So today, my AQ Connect friend, Caterina Torres, is sharing her thoughts on what life is like in the self-publishing trenches. As she shares in her own words, the saga does not end when you upload your book, and see it in all its shining glory on bookselling websites.  No, that is just the beginning of a long process that requires a lot of time and self-promotion.

 

Risks and Rewards of Self-Publishing

 

 

Growing up, I never thought much about how a book got to my local library. I’d simply check out however many books I wanted, gush over the story, and return them when they were due. None of my reader friends mentioned the differences between traditional and self-published books, nor did we care. All we wanted was a good book to read.

 

 

Now that I’ve written a couple of books, and published one, all I keep hearing about is the differences between traditional and self-published books. It’s like no matter where I go, this is the heated topic—which is better?

 

 

None of them are.

 

 

You read that right. Whether you do it by yourself or with an agent, as long as the book is good, it really doesn’t matter which path you choose. The best thing to keep in mind is to make sure the path you DO choose is the right fit for you. Not everyone can go it alone, and not many folks like working with others. It all depends on doing your research and figuring out which will benefit yourself the best.

 

 

I happened to choose self-publishing, so I’ll let you in on my experiences and what I found to be the Risk and Rewards of Self-Publishing.

 

 

RISK

 

1.      YOU DO EVERYTHING BY YOURSELF

 

You choose the book cover, the price, and editor. You need to decide how to market, which social media site to join, how to get a fantastic website. You decide who’ll want to read your book and when to publish. You. You. You.

 

 

2.      THE BOOK HAS TO BE PERFECT

 

In my experience, I find that people are a bit more judgmental when they find out the book was self-published. They will expect it to have typos, plot holes, cliché’s, and other issues. They’ll expect it to not be that great, but they’ll give it a try anyways. The best thing you can do is make sure your book is perfect when you publish, or all you’re going to see in the reviews is nitpicks like, “It had some typos, but it was a good book.” Once that review is up, it’s almost as if the rest of the readers WANT TO see those typos, so they will look for it.

 

 

3.      GET READY TO SPEND SOME MONEY

 

When it comes to self-publishing, it’s not cheap. Get ready to shell out some dough for editors, book covers, websites, and giveaways. No one is going to front that money, so save up at least $2,000 and do your research. Not all editors are expensive, and the same goes for book covers. Just make sure the people you choose to hire are reliable and reputable.

 

 

4.      STICK TO YOUR OWN SCHEDULE

 

Some folks might not think this is a risk as it is a benefit, but it really depends on the person. If you write one book, thinking that’s it, you’ll be surprised. It takes several books to make it anywhere in this business. You might think, “Oh, I wrote one book. I won’t have to worry about another one for at least a year.” Well, if you want your book to sit there and gather dust, go ahead and think that way. But really the best thing you can do is keep writing more books. No one is going to push you or give you a deadline. You need to stay motivated.

 

 

5.      NO ONE WILL TAKE YOU SERIOUSLY

 

Or at least certain people won’t. There will be biased remarks towards you about taking the lazy route or trying to take a short cut in life. Get ready to receive skepticism about the quality of your book. The best thing to do is to grow a thick skin and move on. Those people don’t deserve your time or energy.

 

 

REWARDS

 

1.      YOU’RE IN CONTROL

 

That’s right. No one can tell you how much you want to price your book, what type of book cover to get, or which editor to choose. You get to publish your book whenever you want, on whatever vendor you want. You get to choose how many books to give away for free, or to price your book for free. Freedom never tasted so sweet.

 

 

2.      MORE BANG FOR YOUR BUCK

 

If done right, self-publishing can pay you back tenfold. There have been studies done that pricing a book at $2.99 pays you just as much as prices in the $7.99 or higher. Thing is, most folks want to pay the lower price, but traditional publishers won’t go as low as $2.99. That means you could, in a sense, be making more money than people who went with publishing houses.

 

 

3.      YOU GET TO KEEP ALL THE RIGHTS

 

If your books take off, guess what—you get all the profits and no one else. If some producer wanted to make a movie out of your series, you get to decide what do to. Ultimately, whatever profits you make are yours to keep. No one has a piece of the pie, so no can boss you around or decide to drastically change the storyline if they wanted.

 

 

4.      IF YOU FAIL, YOU ONLY FAIL YOURSELF

 

I know what you might be thinking—this doesn’t sound like some reward. But really, if you go the traditional route and your book tanks, your failure hurts those that helped move your book along. But if you self-publish and your book tanks, you are only hurting yourself. You can always start over and try again.

 

 

5.      IF YOU SUCCEED, DOORS OPEN

 

Nothing is more impressive than a self-published author getting on the New York Times Bestselling list. Those authors did it all by themselves, and look how far they went. Now, not only are they making a lot of money and are in control, but doors will open for them. Agents and publishers will come knocking on their door, hoping for a piece of the pie. And the best part of that is, the author gets to choose whether or not they want to join forces.

 

 

There you have it folks! Those are the Risks and Rewards of Self-Publishing. In my future, I’d like to see a good mix of traditional and self-publishing somewhere down the line because I believe both paths have great benefits. Would I self-publish again? Yes, I would. I want to gain experience however I can, in whatever field I can.

 

—Ciao, Caterina Torres

 

 

 

 

The name I go by is Cat, I’m in my mid-twenties, and I graduated with a BA in Anthropology and a minor in Humanities. I truly aspire to be a writer and I hope you enjoy my books. I love to write about the apocalypse, but not in the biblical sense of the word. Any sort of dystopian, end of the world stories seriously interest me. I guess it has a lot to do with being part of the rat race of life, trying to climb the great ladder of success. Regular life just seems so…boring.

 

Website/Blog – http://caterinatorres.com/
Facebook Fan Page – http://www.facebook.com/pages/Caterina-Torres/340181086022992?ref=hl
Twitter – @caterinatorres
Zombie Whisperer on Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/Zombie-Whisperer-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B007DKST8A/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1347293824&sr=8-1&keywords=zombie+whisperer

 

 

 

W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday – Lydia Kang September 5, 2012

 

 

Where do you go when you have a question about your MC having a mild traumatic brain injury? Or when you need details about describing leech therapy in your manuscript?

 

 

Look no further than Lydia Kang’s blog - The Word is My Oyster.  Lydia hosts a weekly feature called Medical Mondays where she will answer any and all wacky medical questions so you can twist and torture your characters using the proper medical terms.  I love it and have already used her expertise to throw a particularly brutal stone at one of my minor characters.

 

 

Part-time doctor, and debut author, Lydia Kang is extraordinary.  As if having a degree in internal medicine isn’t enough, she’s a mother of three, as well an author with a debut novel, CONTROL, releasing in summer, 2013.

 

 

I loved talking to Lydia and learning about her amazing writing odyssey.  She definitely brings a fresh perspective on what it takes to make it in the publishing world.

 

 

Amy: What drew you to write a Young Adult novel?

 

Lydia: During a person’s teen years, there are highs and lows, new experiences, and revelations like no other time in a person’s life. I love the idea of reliving that through different characters and situations. I may not want to relive my own teenage years, but I’d be happy to live through my characters’! They’re far more exciting.

 

 

Amy: How many manuscripts had you completed prior to CONTROL?

 

Lydia: Officially two, but one of them I revised so heavily I practically wrote it two and a half times. So that’s kind of like three and a half!

 

 

Amy: What was your first query process like?

 

Lydia: Man, I learned fast about the business! I made all the wrong mistakes, like query-blasting the world and not waiting to get feedback from initial queries/partials/fulls about whether I needed more revisions. After the first few months, I slowed down and got a little more patient and wiser.

 

 

Amy: Did you have critique partners or beta readers that helped you polish CONTROL? If so, how did that affect your writing process?

 

By the time I’d written CONTROL, I was a die-hard plotter. My crit partners and betas were tough as nails, but even they could tell that this manuscript had more potential than my previous ones. I did do a revision that incorporated their comments, which was hellish but also took the manuscript to an even better level.

 

 

Amy: How many agents did you query for CONTROL?

101.

 

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

 

Some were instantaneous, others took weeks. I had a premium subscription on Querytracker.net, which had info on how fast agents generally responded, which helped with the waiting.

 

 

Amy: How did you know that Eric Myers of the Spieler Agency was the right agent to represent you?

 

Eric was really experienced, had a great plan for submitting my novel to publishers, and really saw the potential of my manuscript. He totally “got” it. (He also wrote a book about the famous father of a past colleague/teacher of mine. I think that was a sign!)

 

 

Amy: I loved your post on the “Lucky Thirteens” blog about your long querying journey. What advice can you offer to other writers, who are struggling through a mountain of rejections, to encourage them to keep writing?

 

Everyone’s journey is different. It’s far too easy to compare yours to others, so when you get jealous, always bring your energy back to your writing, because that’s where you need to spend it. Whether you end up being published via small presses, self-publishing, or the traditional route, in the end, you have to own it. It’s your journey and nobody else’s.

 

 

Many thanks go out to Lydia for taking the time to share her writing journey!

 

Lydia is an author of YA fiction, poetry, and creative non-fiction. She believes in science and knocking on wood, and loves salty food and Star Wars (IV-VI) except for the Ewoks.

 

Find her on:

Twitter (https://twitter.com/LydiaYKang)

Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Author-Lydia-Kang/364820866902622?ref=hl)

 

 
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