chasingthecrazies

Chasing my crazy dream in the writing world…

QUITE THE QUERY: LAURA RUECKERT AND A DRAGONBIRD IN THE FERN March 22, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 authors say 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 where writers could learn what works, and what doesn’t, in a query.

 

With that in mind, I’m pleased to share today’s successful query from Laura Rueckert. This great query connected her with her agent, Zoe Sandler at ICM Partners.

 

 

 

 

I hope you’ll be interested in my YA Fantasy with Vietnamese and Maori-inspired elements.

 

 

When an assassin kills Princess Anh’s older sister Mai, her ghost is doomed to walk the earth. Blinding rage leads her to punish loved ones until the killer is brought to justice. Before anyone can track down the murderer, King Matewa, from a country far away, requests that seventeen-year-old Anh take her sister’s place as his betrothed.

 

 

Anh couldn’t be more torn. She’s never forgotten that breathtaking moment—back before her sister’s engagement—when the tattooed king’s laughing eyes had locked with hers. But due to dyslexia and years of scholarly struggles, her chances of learning a new language are slim. She’s terrified of life in a foreign land, where she’d be unable to communicate.

 

 

Then Anh discovers evidence that Mai’s assassin came from Matewa’s country. Marrying the king would allow Anh to seek the murderer and release herself and her family from Mai’s spirit, whose thirst for blood mounts every day.

 

 

With a translator by her side, magical bracelets on her forearms, and a dagger strapped to her calf, she makes her way to the country of her sister’s assassin. But Anh hasn’t even reached her new home when the first attempt is made on her life. To save her family, Anh must find Mai’s killer…before he murders her too.

 

 

A DRAGONBIRD IN THE FERN is complete at 76K words and would appeal to fans of Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore and The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson.

 

 

 

 

Fun Tidbit:

I only sent a handful of this version of my query. Then I rewrote it. Just goes to show a query doesn’t have to be perfect—only good enough to make the agent interested in reading more. I also actually sent the query to a different agent which proves many of them really do share queries if they think someone else is a better fit!

 

 

 

 

Laura grew up in Michigan but dove into a whirlwind romance just after college, which meant moving to southern Germany without a job, but with a lot of love. She and her husband married a blink of an eye later, and they’ve now lived there happily for more years than seem possible. By day, Laura manages process and system projects, and she’s a mother of two. Nights and stolen daytime hours are devoted to living in her head: writing YA science fiction and fantasy novels. Laura is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, and her work is represented by Zoe Sandler of ICM Partners. You can find her on Twitter (@LauraRueckert) or on her blog.

 

 

 

 

 

QUITE THE QUERY: Katie Bucklein and THE ELEGANCE OF TYRANNY March 15, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 authors say 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 where writers could learn what works, and what doesn’t, in a query.

 

With that in mind, I’m pleased to share today’s successful query from Katie Bucklein. This great query connected her with her agent, Josh Adams of Adams Literary.

 

 

 

Nineteen-year-old Idrys Kendrik is a survivor of Idelle Realm, the kingdom where the Young God—a man of immortality and powerful magic—rose from the hells, bringing with him a reign of tyranny and monsters. He destroyed Idelle, forcing Idrys and six others to scatter into the night. Since that night sixteen years ago, he has swept across the world to conquer realms and turn them into his Fallen Thrones. A scarce few remain free.

 

 

When Idrys became a bootlegger, she was determined to forget the other survivors. Yet, after finding herself in the same city as Tristas—the renowned Northern Warden she hates for his cold and calculating heart—for a royal wedding, she realizes that dream cannot be a reality. And when the city is besieged by the heir to the Fallen Throne of Rethia, only Tristas and Idrys manage to escape.

 

 

Now, Idrys and Tristas must return to the Rethian city that haunts them, in hopes they can turn it from fallen to free. Instead, they walk into a trap: the walls of the city have succumbed to a curse, and no one can leave. If Tristas and Idrys hope to escape from this city of monsters and dark magic, they must work together to break the curse…if they don’t kill each other first.

 

 

Inspired by the board game Risk, THE ELEGANCE OF TYRANNY is a multi-POV Young Adult fantasy complete at 119,000 words with series potential. Set in a re-imagined Earth, the story follows a cunning bootlegger with a death wish, a Northern Warden famous in a hundred cities for his lies, and a princess struggling to lead in the midst of a siege. I believe it will appeal to readers of A CRIMINAL MAGIC by Lee Kelly, SHADOW & BONE by Leigh Bardugo, and MISTBORN by Brandon Sanderson.

 

 

 

Fun tidbit:

 

Josh Adams is my second agent, whom I received a referral (due to his agency being closed to queries at the time) from one of his clients I met through mentoring Pitch Wars in the same year. I first got an exclusive R&R (revise and resubmit) from him, and after turning in the R&R (which allowed me to cut 15,000 words from the whopping 119,000 the manuscript sat at) he offered rep a couple days later. It’s often not recommended to take exclusive R&Rs, but I’m so, so glad I did–Josh has been a wonder to work with!

 

 

 

 

Katie Bucklein started writing at the age of twelve, when a girl challenged her to a dare: who could finish writing a novel first? Spoiler: Katie won, and has since written Young Adult contemporary, historical fiction, and dystopian, but found fantasy to be her true love. The middle child of five—two older brothers and two younger sisters—she grew up in Southern California, went to high school in Arizona, and now studies history at Idaho State University. When she’s not devouring a book, she spends her days researching stories of past civilizations and people, with an intention to one day become a real life Abigail Chase, and her nights holed up in her writing cave, fueled by music and insomnia. Katie is represented by Josh Adams of Adams Literary. For more info on Katie, check out her blog, or follow her on Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest.

 

 

Monday Musings: A Writer’s Bill of Rights February 27, 2017

 

 

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It’s hard to believe, but in January of this year I celebrated my five year blogging anniversary! When I started posting, I wanted to share my ups and downs in publishing. What I learned as I went through the process. In those five years, I’ve used this blog to share agent insight into first pages, success stories from hardworking writers, and queries that pulled people out of the trenches. I’ve done all this in an effort to help educate writers about the ins and outs of publishing.

 

As of late, I’ve been receiving a lot of questions about working with agents. What questions to ask during the call, expectations during submission, and handful of other important topics. Then I saw this post recently from literary agent, Janet Reid (aka Query Shark) and was convinced it was time for this post.

 

Below, I’ve drafted what I want to call a Writer’s Bill of Rights. This is a list of things that should be kept in mind when you move out of the query trenches and into a working relationship with an agent.

 

There’s a long period of time in writing when you simply focus on your story. You spend hours making sure your plot doesn’t have any holes, your characterization is thorough, and the pacing is spot on. It may take rounds upon rounds of drafts, revisions, and CP feedback before you get the story right.

 

Once it’s right, it’s time for the query trenches. This is only the first part of the publishing process and it rests firmly in your own hands. I’ve written many posts about how to approach querying. How the responsibility falls on your shoulders to do your research. To take the time to make it a thoughtful process, choosing only those agents who would be a good fit for your work.

 

At this point, you stay in the trenches until hopefully you connect with an agent. If, and when, that does happen, the responsibility again falls on you to ask the right questions to make sure you and the agent are on the same page in regards to your entire writing career. “The call” is a critical conversation because now the tables are turned. The agent is interested in you and your story. It’s on you to ask questions about the agent’s process in regards to edits, communication, and the submission period.

 

If you’ve done your due diligence, and you and the agent have the same philosophy on the future of your book, it’s time to sign. There are a ton of great agents out there, many of whom give up their nights and weekends to help their clients. But what happens if things don’t go as planned? If what you originally discussed with the agent never comes to fruition?

 

This leads me to the point of today’s post: A Writer’s Bill of Rights…

 

  1. You have the right to an open and honest communication with an agent. If you’ve done your job, then you and your agent should be on the same page as far as to how often you speak. Once a week. Once a month. Things will vary based on whether you’re submitting or working on a new project. Let’s be clear though, if you send an email you have a right to hear back within a reasonable period.

 

  1. You have the right to know how long edits will take. In your very first discussion, you should ask how long the agent expects you to work on revisions prior to submission. You can even ask if they have a submission period in mind so you know what type of deadline you’re working toward. This is incredibly important. I’ve heard many stories where someone signs and a year later they’re still working on edits. Be sure you know what kind of process the agent has in mind. Also, be aware that these timelines may shift – also a discussion you and your agent must have. It’s important to remember that when you send a manuscript out for submission you’ve only got one shot with that editor. The agent wants to make sure it is your best work.

 

  1. You have the right to fully be in the loop during the entire submission process. This means you and your agent discuss who is going to see your manuscript in the first, and subsequent, rounds. This conversation may also include how many houses you submit to first, as well as what the agent has in mind as far as reading deadlines. Some agents will tell editors they want to hear back by a certain date. Others will do a regular check-in with the editors. As the writer, you and your agent must be on the same page as to how this process works.

 

  1. You have the right to see your submission list. When your book first goes out, you should have a good idea of where it’s going. Many agents put this info into a spreadsheet with notes on when it was submitted, when first contact is made with an editor, and any follow-up calls.

 

  1. You have the right to regular check-ins. It’s not fair to expect that an agent is going to call you every day, or even every week, if there’s no movement on your submission. But, there should be some type of agreement as to when you will get a status update on where your manuscript stands with editors.

 

  1. You have the right to know about rejections. Most agents will ask if you want to see the editors feedback after a rejection. You should have a choice as to whether or not you see this information.

 

  1. You have the right to an open communication on new projects. In the “call” period, you should have already discussed with the potential agent what new ideas you are working on. This would also be the time to discuss writing in new categories or genres. The expectations should be clear on what you work on next. You also have the right to know about reading periods. In most cases, you are NOT the agent’s only client. You need to respect they are only one person with a limited period of reading time. Make sure you agree up front how you will communicate about new projects, and how long it will take them to read and get you feedback.

 

There is a certain give and take to the agent/writer relationship. Things will not always fall into place. Emergencies come up. Life gets in the way. Misunderstandings happen. As a writer, it is on you to be professional and respectful of the relationship. The longer you work with an agent, the more you begin to understand how they work, but this does not take away from what you are entitled to as part of the process. If you are ever concerned about how things are going with your agent, it falls on you to communicate with them. To discuss your expectations. It’s only through these honest conversations can you have a real partnership.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2017 Sun vs. Snow – What it takes to put on this show! February 13, 2017

Filed under: Blog,contest,Literary Agent,Query — chasingthecrazies @ 8:18 am
Tags: , , , , ,

 

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Well, once again, we’ve blown through another year of Sun versus Snow. As usual, it was crazy, a little nerve-racking, but ALWAYS fun.

 

I put together this post after last year’s contest, and went ahead and updated this year, because I believe it’s important for every writer to understand what it takes to put a contest of this magnitude together.

 

Yes, it’s a lot of work, but the rewards far outweigh the time it takes to ensure Sun versus Snow is a success!

 

 

 

 

Another Sun vs. Snow is complete and I can’t tell you how happy I am at the results this year. Team Sun and Team Snow received a total of 106 requests!

 

 

Now that it’s over, I always use this time to reflect on what went right, and what can be done to improve things for next year.

 

 

Yes, I’m already thinking about 2018. But see, here’s the thing, contests take a lot of work and time to plan. Hours are spent deciding logistics, dates, reaching out to readers, mentors, and agents. Not to mention actually writing the scores of emails, blog posts, and other types of communication involved.

 

 

What people see on the co-hosts’ blogs is the finished product, but it’s taken a lot of time to get to that point. So today, I want to share an insider’s view on what goes into making a contest a reality.

 

 

 

The Planning

 

Starting in late fall, Michelle and I start to discuss timing. We usually pick a date in early January, but things can vary depending on what else we have going on, other writing commitments, etc.

 

Once we nail down a date for the actual contest, we work backwards filling in the timeframe for what needs to happen. This includes checking to make sure no other contests are happening at the same time. We’ve had problems with this in the past, and it’s important there’s not any overlap. This is also critical for reaching out to agents. Many times agents are overwhelmed with requests, and they don’t want to spend all their time reading contest entries.

 

Once we decide on a date, we begin writing the emails – and there are A TON!

 

First, we reach out to our potential list of agents. This can take anywhere from a few days to a week, because again, research is involved. We have to look at things like who’s open to queries, who reps a variety of categories, but we also need to consider that whoever we choose is going to want/request from a wide range of entries.

 

When the emails are sent, we then wait on the responses. They can come within minutes, hours, or days. I must confess though, Michelle and I have been very lucky. The agents we’ve reached out to in the past have been great about wanting to participate in spite of their busy schedules.

 

While we wait on agent replies, we next need to consider who our mentors will be. Again, this involves quite a bit of planning. For me, I consider who I think will be open to working with a writer, and has the time for it in their schedule. Even if I know, and have a good relationship with a writer, I may not ask them if they’re on deadline or have a book coming out soon. There also needs to be consideration of what category and genre they write in. We never know what entries we will pick, but Michelle and I need to have all our bases covered.

 

 

 

The Announcement

 

After a date is selected, it’s time to think about the announcement. Together, Michelle and I formulate a blog post, as well as discuss social media plans. Once we have things in order, we coordinate a time when we will both post. Sometimes this is not always easy as we live in two different time zones.

 

 

 

Social Media Blitz

 

Because there are so many contests out there now, Michelle and I want to make sure Sun vs. Snow stands out. In order for this to happen, we need to make sure we have exposure. Starting early on, we discuss how we will announce, where, and then the follow-up. One of the new things we continued this year was the series of Twitter chats. Coordination is key because not only do we need to make sure we are available on a certain day, but our mentors are too.

 

 

 

Announcement Posts

 

When we announce both the mentors and agents it’s not as simple as posting it on Twitter. After a flurry of emails (again), we have to cull photos, bios, and social media links for both our agents and mentors. The information then has to be set into a specific blog post which includes adding text, importing images, and placing links.

 

This year it took me close to two days to build the mentor post, and about three days to get the agent post correct. This is critical to our process because potential entrants want to know who they may be working with, and who will see their work. It’s critical for Michelle and I to make sure we have this all aligned so writers feel comfortable entering the contest.

 

 

 

 

The Submission Window

 

This is always an exciting day. It’s filled with a lot of scurrying around as we make sure our posts go up on time and that the rules are clear. It may seem arbitrary, but there are specific reasons why all writers must follow the rules. If the formatting is off, or we don’t know your category/genre or word count, it skews how we view the entry. Michelle and I want to make sure every writer is on even ground when entering Sun vs. Snow. Yes, there have been times when people have not followed the rules, but I’m glad to say those examples are rare.

 

 

 

 

Why Only 200 Entries?

 

As usual, the submission window opens and closes very quickly. You may ask, “why do you only take 200 entries?” The answer is simple: time. Michelle and I are very dedicated to this contest, but we both work, as well as write. We read each and every entry, and we find that 200 is a manageable number. It’s important to us that everyone who enters has a fair shot at getting picked.

 

 

 

Parameters for Picks

 

I wish I could say Michelle and I have some elaborate algorithm for how we pick our entries but honestly, we both pick based on very simple things:

 

  • What grabs us instinctually. Premise. Voice. Concept. And above all strong writing.

 

  • What are the participating agents looking for? I personally look at websites and #MSWL to know what agents want to add to their lists.

 

  • What’s happening in the marketplace. If we know that a certain type of genre is not selling (based on agent interviews) we may shy away from picking such a genre. This is not firm. Sometimes we come across a concept we love and include it anyway, but it is something we must consider.

 

 

 

Selected Entries & Mentors

 

Behind the scenes there is always negotiating going on. Usually it’s pretty easy for Michelle and I to pick because we have very different tastes, but sometimes we come across an entry we both love and have to discuss who gets it. Because we’ve been doing this so long, it’s pretty easy for us to decide who gets the entry. That’s one of the reasons this whole things works: because Michelle and I are a great team!

 

Once each of us has our selected entries, major work is ahead. First, we have to decide which mentor gets each entry. Then we have to communicate with the mentors and send them their mentee’s work. And of course, we have to swear them to secrecy until the official announcement.

 

Like all the other big announcement posts, careful coordination has to be arranged so that posts on both blogs go off simultaneously. Again, Michelle and I not only have to take hours to format the post, but we also have to agree on a date and time when it will go live.

 

 

 

Inevitable Surprises

 

Ah yes, as much as you plan there are always surprises. Last year we had a great little shock when one of Michelle’s picks received an offer from an agent prior to the final round. And this year, I hear we may have some good news coming soon from one of our writers!

 

 

 

Before the Final Post

 

While our mentors and writers are making their entries shine, we send out email reminders to our agents about the contest. Prior to the final post, we answer any last questions and prepare for the big day when we post the revised entries.

 

 

 

The Final Post

 

It may be surprising, but this is where the major amount of work for the contest is done. We have a set deadline for when the writers must return their final entries. Sometimes it comes in formatted correctly (sometimes it doesn’t). When the format is off, there is a flurry of emails until the entry is fixed and returned. This may seem odd, but building that final post takes a loooong time. If the entry is even slightly off, it can mess up the entire flow.

 

This year it took me two and half days to build the Agent round post. You may wonder why it takes so long, but for me there is a definitive process involved:

 

  • I check the entry for typos and other issues – missing words, punctuation etc.

 

  • Next, I double-check the date stamp to make sure it is the FINAL entry.

 

  • I check the tags, the headers, as well as the spacing to make sure each entry looks the exact same way.

 

With a total of 16 entries, this process takes a long time but it’s worth it when that final post goes up and the agents start to request!

 

 

 

The Agent Round

 

When that final post goes live everything is pretty much out of our hands. Now it’s up to the agents to decide what they like and what they want to request.

 

While the agents are doing their thing, the work for the co-hosts is not over. We still have to watch the feed to answer questions, announce when agents arrive, and keep the positive interactions going. We also have to work with the agents behind-the-scenes to make sure we understand how they want their requested materials sent and ensure our writers are following those guidelines.

 

 

 

At Contest’s End

 

This is where we take a deep sigh of relief and celebrate! Agents have been very good to us over the last four years and have made a lot of requests. Those requests are what makes all the hours of organization and work worthwhile.

 

Yes, it takes a lot of time and energy to put Sun vs. Snow together, but it goes beyond sharing the entries with agents. It’s about connecting the community. Helping to link people who, hopefully, will go on to support and lift up one another up as they move through the ups and downs of publishing.

 

 

SUN VS. SNOW SUBMISSION DAY!!! January 23, 2017

 

 

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Hooray! Hooray! The submission window for Sun versus Snow opens today at 4:00 pm EST!

 

 

 

Act fast. We will only be taking the first 200 entries. Please do not enter early or your entry will be deleted. You can resend at the proper time if this happens accidentally. Confirmation emails will be sent. If you don’t receive one, don’t resend. We don’t want duplicate entries. Please check with us on Twitter first to confirm your entry did or did not arrive, then you may resend. There is only ONE, yes that’s right, ONE entry per person allowed. Any attempt to cheat will result in entries being thrown out. This contest is only for finished and polished stories.

 

 

Important note: The story can’t have been in the agent round of any other contest in the last three months. This doesn’t mean twitter pitch events with hashtags, but multiple agent blog contests. 

 

 

Also, Michelle and I have decided not to accept picture books for this contest. Though we love picture books, Michelle holds special contests just for them. We do accept all MG, YA, NA and Adult genres, excluding erotica.

 

 

 

The Format:

 

Send submission to Sunversussnow (at) yahoo (dot) com. Only one submission per person is allowed. It doesn’t matter if you write under different names or are submitting different manuscripts. You are still one person and get one entry.

 

Here’s how it should be formatted (yes, include the bolded!) Please use Times New Roman (or equivalent), 12 pt font, and put spaces between paragraphs. No indents or tabs are needed. No worries if your gmail doesn’t have Times New Roman. No worries if the email messes up your format. Yes, we will still read it! 🙂

 

(Here’s a trick to keep your paragraph spacing: copy and paste your entry into your email and then put in the line spaces. They seem to get lost when you copy and paste. It may look right but sending scrambles the spacing.)

 

Subject Line: SVS: TITLE, Age Category + Genre

(example: SVS: GRUDGING, Adult Epic Fantasy)

 

 

In The Email:

 

Title: MY FANTASTIC BOOK (yes, caps!)

Genre: YA dystopian Ownvoices (Age category and genre. New this year! Add “Ownvoices” here if it applies)

Word Count: XX,XXX (round to the nearest thousand)
Twitter Handle: (Optional so we can contact you. Will not be public.)
Is Your Main Character hot or cold?: 

Describe whether your character is hot or cold. Personalities differ. Is your character a person of volatile emotions or are they calm under pressure?

 

(Can be in your MC’s POV, but doesn’t have to be. 100 words or less.)

 

 

Query:

 

Query goes here! Include greeting and main paragraphs. Please leave out bio, closing, and word count + genre sentence. You may include comps if you’d like. There is no word count limit on the query but please aim for 250 – 300 words.

 

New this year! You may include if your story is OwnVoices up in the genre line. We really want diverse and talented writers and stripping out the bios sometimes leaves us in the dark. Ownvoices means the author is from the same marginalized group as the mc in the story. 

 

Remember a query has several paragraphs. Don’t send us a pitch.

 

 

First 250 words:

 

Here are the first 250 words of my manuscript, and I will not end in the middle of a sentence. But I will not go over 257 words. Be reasonable and don’t make us count. Don’t forget to space between paragraphs! No indents!

 

 

And now that the rules are out of the way, how about the fun stuff?!!

 

 

 

 

 

TWITTER PARTY!!!

 

 

 

Here are the suggested daily topics. But if you want to make up your own fun games on the hashtag #SunvsSnow then go right ahead! Just keep it clean and inclusive for all.

 

  1. Submission day! What genre and age category will you/did you enter? Show us a sun or snow picture from your neighborhood.

 

  1. It’s very important to read new books in your genre to get a sense of pacing and timing as well as style. What book in your genre have you read recently?

 

  1. Do you get more writing done when there’s sun (summer) or snow (winter)? When are you most productive?

 

  1. Do you have a writing goal for each day? How do you carve out time to write?

 

  1. Pantser or plotter or somewhere in between?

 

  1. Shout out a favorite line from the ms you entered.

 

  1. If you had to choose one goal for your writing career this year, what would it be?

 

  1. Beta readers and Critique Partners are important in the writing world. Where did you meet yours so others can check out those places?

 

  1. Final advice as before picks are announced on how you manage nerves during contests/querying?

 

 

Have fun! Mix and mingle! Make friends! Be active! Let’s have fun today!!

 

 

FIRED UP FRIDAY: A Publishing Journey with Joy McCullough January 20, 2017

 

 

In a recent Monday Musings I talked about how too often we see negativity in the writing community. I’m tired of opening social media and seeing authors tear each other down when we should really be building one another up. Supporting each other.

 

With that idea in mind, I reached out to some friends who have had AMAZING publishing journeys and asked that they share (in their own words!) what they went through before they saw their publishing dream realized.

 

My hope is that these posts will light a fire in each and every writer who may be struggling. Encourage those who wonder if they can take another month in the query trenches. Build up those feeling low from being on submission for what feels like forever. Each post will be proof that if you hold onto that dream it CAN and WILL come true.

 

 

 

 

Fired up Friday – A Post by Joy McCullough

 

 

 

 

In the fall of 2016, I sold my debut novel. It was only on submission for a week before the editor wanted a phone call.

 

 

BUT WAIT. Before you rage against another quick-sale-story while you’ve been languishing on sub for months and months and maybe even years, let me back up.

 

 

First of all, I wrote five middle grade novels before I signed with my first agent. I detail that in this blog post (http://joymcculloughcarranza.blogspot.com/2014/02/how-i-got-my-super-amazing-agent.html), but here’s the short version: 290 queries, 47 full requests, one offer from a really well-respected agent.

 

 

I was with that agent for two years. I kept writing. She put three different manuscripts on sub. (New ones, not the trunked ones from before I signed with her.)

 

 

Eventually, I went through the really agonizing decision to part ways with that agent. I blog about that in this post http://project-middle-grade-mayhem.blogspot.com/2016/01/on-parting-ways-with-literary-agents-by.html but here’s the short version: leaving an agent is scary, but worth it if they weren’t the right match, and it’s really very common. You’re not alone, if that’s your situation.)

 

 

Since it had taken me so long to sign with my first agent, I was pretty convinced it might take me another five novels to do it again. Or maybe I’d never have another agent. But as it turned out, I signed with the amazing Jim McCarthy quickly, did some revisions, and got out on sub, sure that this time would be different!

 

And you know what? That book didn’t sell either.

 

 

But! Jim was supportive and lovely (and still hasn’t given up on that book). Once that book had gone on sub, I had sent him a list of pitches for what I should work on next. There were five or six things on the list. At the very end of the list, I tacked on an idea that seemed so wildly unmarketable that I was almost embarrassed to include it.

 

 

But I did. (Because I’m a glutton for rejection? I don’t know.)

 

 

And Jim wrote back (within five minutes, probably, because that’s how he is) and said, WRITE THAT LAST ONE. (And then he hedged to say how several of the other ideas were good too and I should do what I wanted to do, because he’s always trying to let me be me. But it was clear how he really felt. And I really trust him.)

 

 

That last pitch? Was for BLOOD WATER PAINT.

 

 

It’s a historical verse novel set in the 17th century. Also partially set in Biblical times. Super feminist. I didn’t know what Jim was thinking. But it’s a story I’ve loved for a long time—an adaptation of one of my own plays. And I was excited about the possibilities of making it a YA novel. So I wrote it. And revised it. And it went on sub. And guys, this was my fifth book to go on sub. The tenth I’d written. My hopes? They were LOW.

 

 

Low really doesn’t begin to describe it.
And THEN. A week after it went on sub, my phone rang. I was at my sewing table. It was Jim. Jim hadn’t called me at all during the submission period of the first book we tried to sell. A phone call seemed like it might mean something.

 

 

He was calling to tell me an editor wanted to have a phone call with me. (And not just an editor. THE editor that I had freaked out to see on my submission list.)

 

 

“WHAT DOES THIS MEEEEAAAAAAN???” was my immediate response.

 

 

Jim didn’t know for sure, but it definitely wasn’t bad news. So we set up the call (blessedly for just a couple days later).

 

 

I have phone anxiety. And this felt like maybe the most important phone call ever. But the editor was incredibly lovely, and mainly wanted to talk about how I’d come to write this story and what my hopes were for it. And at the end of the call, he said he “hoped to offer” and would know in about a week if he could.

 

 

Of course, publishing is publishing, so it was more like three weeks before my phone rang again. With Jim’s number. I was at my sewing table again. (I really don’t sew that much! Next time I’m on submission, though, I’ll probably sew non-stop.)

 

 

And he told me Andrew Karre at Dutton Young Readers had made an offer on BLOOD WATER PAINT to be published in 2018.

 

 

More things had to happen before all was final, including another phone call with Andrew, throughout which he was standing in an NYC Whole Foods. Also several phone calls with Jim, during which I was so grateful he already knew I could form actual sentences, because I was probably less coherent than I’ve ever been in my entire life.

 

 

And then, finally, it was real. It was happening. I didn’t believe it, of course. Not when I signed the contract. Not when I finally got to announce it. Not even now that I’ve been working with Andrew (who is straight up brilliant) for a couple months. It probably won’t feel real until I’m holding the book in my hands.

 

 

But it IS happening. There’s even a Goodreads page! (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33301702-blood-water-paint?ac=1&from_search=true) My book is going to have a cover and ARCs and even be on bookstore shelves one day!

 

 

And yours will too, eventually. It might even happen on your very first book. If so, that’s AMAZING! But if your journey is on the longer side, just know you’re on a well-trodden path.

 

 

These are my trail essentials for the long route to a book deal:

 

 

  • The AMAZING kidlit community—find your people and surround yourself with them.

 

  • Your next story: As soon as you begin querying or subbing one manuscript, start the next thing. Getting invested in a new project has always been key for me.

 

  • Be kind to yourself. It’s okay to step away for a bit when rejections get to be too much and/or it’s not fun any more.

 

 

You’ll be back. Because you have stories to tell—and I can’t wait to read them.

 

 

 

 

headshot1Joy McCullough’s debut YA novel BLOOD WATER PAINT is coming from Dutton in 2018. She’s a freelance editor, ghostwriter, and Pitchwars mentor. You can find her on Twitter at @JMCwrites and on her website at www.joymcculloughcarranza.com

 

FREE PASS DETAILS FOR TEAM SUN! January 9, 2017

 

SUBMISSION WINDOW NOW CLOSED FOR TEAM SUN FREE PASS

sunvssnow copy2

 

 

Before I provide details on the Free Pass, I thought I’d share a quick, fun story.

 

One of the first writing conferences I ever attended was in San Francisco. The experience was both informative and a little bit intimidating. The conference took place in a beautiful hotel, and the craft sessions were held in small conference rooms that looked like they had not been renovated since the turn of the twentieth century.

 

One of the best sessions I attended was on crafting an elevator pitch. For those who do not know, an elevator pitch is a one to two sentence pitch describing your story. It should be no more than 30-60 seconds and entice the agent to request more.

 

For example: Bitten by a radioactive spider, a young man learns how to manage his new extraordinary powers in order to save a city under attack by a brutal villain. 

 

LOL! Not the best example, but you get where I’m going.

 

Even with clear direction, it was hard to figure out how to take a sixty thousand word story and boil it down to one sentence, but after forty-five minutes, I had something I was proud of.

 

After the session was over, we were reminded to practice the pitch until we felt comfortable with it.  I imagined if I ever got that opportunity to actually use the pitch it wouldn’t be until later in the conference. If you guessed it, I was wrong. Not ten minutes later I was introduced to an agent who asked to hear my pitch. Needless to say, I flubbed it, but the agent was a good sport and went on to ask me several more questions about my manuscript.

 

The point I learned from that experience is that you can never know your story too well. The elevator pitch forces you to glean down your story to its core element. Root out what makes it unique, something an agent would be eager to request.

 

So after that long-winded story, I bet you can guess what you’ll have to do to qualify to enter for my FREE PASS…Yes, provide an elevator pitch for the story you will be subbing for Sun vs. Snow in the comments section below.

 

The Free Pass window will be open now until January 19. I will announce the winner here on the blog (at the bottom of this post) on January 21. The winner will get automatic entry into the contest and will work directly with one of the TEAM SUN mentors to polish up their entry before it goes live during our agent round.

 

Good luck and I look forward to reading your pitches!

 

 

Congrats Paul Sylvia (@rykter07)! You are the winner of the TEAM SUN FREE PASS!

 

 

 
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