chasingthecrazies

Chasing my crazy dream in the writing world…

Monday Musings: Always Push Forward April 13, 2015

 

When I was a kid I had this habit of always thinking about the next exciting thing to happen in my life. Just days into starting school in September I was already wishing it was Halloween. Once Halloween was over, it was all about Thanksgiving and then Christmas.

 

This pattern didn’t disappear as I got older. When I was 14 I wanted to be 16 so desperately I looked through the classifieds every week, thinking about the car I’d drive one day. At 18, and a freshman in college, all I wished for was my 21st birthday. After 21, it was graduation, first job, etc.

 

While annoying at times, especially when friends and family yelled at me to “live in the moment, I’m happy to say this habit followed me into adulthood and here’s the reason why: when you write, you have to look forward. Not get stalled in the process, but think about what you’re going to work on next.

 

When I first ventured into the query trenches, I was plotting something new. When the rejections came and it was time to think about next steps, I already had a new book I was working on. Even in the darkest days of that “rejection period,” I had hope because my mind-set was “Okay, they don’t want that one, I’ll write something even better.”

 

Some may think this idea of forward motion stopped when I signed with my agent. That I would work on the manuscript she signed me for, polish, and revise and then wait to see what happened. While I did work on it, and revise, and rework until it was just right, I was still thinking about what was next. And here’s the honest truth: it’s what has kept me sane through the ups and downs of publishing.

 

For me the idea of forward momentum is akin to running a marathon. You plan, you train, and then comes the race. Sure, people pass you, but then you pass others, always with the same goal in mind: finishing the race. It’s no different in the publishing world. You have to focus, write, and when things don’t work out, write some more. The end goal always being the same-that beautiful finish line-a published book!

 

What about you? Do you keep a forward momentum when you write? I’d love to hear about it  in the comments.

 

QUITE THE QUERY with Annie Cardi and THE CHANCE YOU WON’T RETURN April 10, 2015

 

 QuiteTheQuery

 

 

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 so 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 Annie Cardi. This great query connected her with her agent, Taylor Martindale.

 

 

Sixteen-year-old Alex Winchester’s mother starts calling herself Amelia Earhart—decades after the famous female pilot disappeared. This isn’t the first time Alex’s mother has struggled with mental health issues, so Alex and her father hope the delusion will work itself out. But a confrontation with one of Alex’s teachers makes Alex realize that this is going to be a long struggle for the whole family. Now Alex faces the responsibility of helping care for her young siblings and a mother who doesn’t recognize her.

 

Alex doesn’t feel like she can share her family situation with anyone, not even her friends. They assume Alex is ditching them to be with Jim Wiley, a cute junior famous for crashing a car into his house and who has suddenly taken an interest in Alex. Balancing her social life and the secret at home becomes harder than Alex ever imagined—and to top it all off, she’s the only person at her school failing drivers ed. Suddenly, the one person Alex can talk to is her mother, who spends her time mapping out historical flights. But when Alex realizes that Amelia Earhart’s final flight is approaching, she wonders if she can stop her mother from disappearing forever.

 

An accident involving Alex, her mom, and a late night car ride puts Alex’s mom in a residential care facility for extensive therapy. There, Alex tells her mother that she doesn’t want her to disappear like Amelia Earhart. She has to come home. Not long after being at the hospital, Alex begins to receive letters from her mother–not signed as Amelia Earhart. Although Alex knows that her mother working through deep emotional issues will be a long process, she’s hopeful that her mom will one day return.

 

 

Query Tidbit:

 

I submitted to about 15-20 agents before signing with Taylor over the course of about six months. I had a big spreadsheet of agents I’d sent to, what their submissions policies were, the date I sent something out, and any info I heard back from them. I really appreciated when agents (particular those who requested fulls) would offer their feedback. I know agents are so busy working with their current clients and reading new submissions that even sending a few sentences of thoughtful comments can be a big boost in continuing to send work out.

 

When Taylor read my full manuscript, she said there was a lot about it that she did like but had some suggestions for revision and wanted to know if I would work with her on an exclusive revision. (The original ending was SO different, and Taylor is a big part of how that changed.) Getting to see Taylor’s suggestions and working with her a little before signing with her actually worked out really well for me. I got a sense of how she worked and what things she picked up in a manuscript, and showed me that we’d be a really good match.

 

I’ve loved working with Taylor, and I know at some points in the querying process I doubted myself and my story. But querying isn’t about finding someone who likes your manuscript–it’s about finding someone who really loved it and gets it and gets you as a writer. That can take a while, but don’t give up!

 

 

 

 

chance you wont return
(Now available via Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooks and other retail outlets)

 

 

 

 

 

Annie MAnnie Cardi holds an MFA in creative writing from Emerson College and a BA from the University of Virginia. Her short stories have appeared in The Georgetown Review, Vestal Review, Juked, and other publications. In 2011, PEN New England selected her as a winner of the Susan P. Bloom Children’s Book Discovery Award for the manuscript that would become her debut young adult novel, The Chance You Won’t Return. Annie lives near Boston with her husband and a portrait of a sea captain. You can find her sharing funny gifs and pictures of corgis at: Blog Facebook Twitter Tumblr.
 

BEHIND THE CURTAIN: The Realities of Self Publishing April 8, 2015

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(Logo design courtesy of Kelly deVos)

 

 

 

There are many myths and misunderstandings about what goes into self publishing. Today I wanted to help clear up some of those fallacies by asking my good friend, and amazing author, Katie French to share her own experience with this publishing path.

 

Katie and I have been friends since we first met at a writing conference in New York in 2011. At the time we were both pitching our debut novels. While her book, THE BREEDERS, went on to be her first self published novel, my own manuscript went into a drawer (where it will stay probably forever!)

 

Over the last several years, I’ve watched in amazement as Katie has grown not only in her writing, but in her business acumen, making THE BREEDERS  an award-winning and bestselling series. So when it came time to pull back the curtain on self publishing, I knew Katie was the best person for the job.

 

In the post below, Katie opens up about what it takes to be a success at self publishing. She shares figures in regards to time and cost, but please remember these are her own numbers. Costs and time varies for every author who decides to travel this path.

 

My hope is that after reading this post writers will have a better understanding of self publishing and what it takes to go this route.

 

 

 

Behind the Curtain: Self Publishing

By Katie French

 

 

 

Since 2010 self publishing a book has become as common place as Kanye West humiliating himself at awards shows. What used to be an impossible feat has become manageable for anyone with a word processor, a desire to learn, and some guts. I’ve been self publishing books since 2012 and have four full length books and several shorter works and anthologies for sale. I am by no means an expert, but I wanted to take a moment to draw back the curtain on the process for those of you pondering the leap. Self publishing might not be for the faint of heart, but it can be awesome in so many ways.

 

 

The first thing to understand about self publishing is it is a business. It took me almost a year to get up the nerve tell people I run a small business. But I do. My book publishing business is as legitimate as any other small business. The problem was I had no business background and no marketing expertise. I am an English major for cripe’s sakes. So I spent the last three years learning about marketing, promotion, L.L.C.s. (I know, fun right?) I had to bone up on all things business and produce good writing at the same time. As you may have guessed, insanity ensued.

 

 

The good news is I like running a business. I’m one of those hyper-organized, busy-minded people who likes to have things to think about and check on at all moments of the day. You see people like me heading up the P.T.A. while organizing a fundraiser for their church and Pinteresting Girl Scout meeting ideas. You know, crazy people. But I like it. I like getting a call from my children’s book illustrator and discussing our current contract while cooking dinner. I like writing a blog post after I put my children to bed. What else would I do with my spare time, organize my recipe books? Clean my house? I don’t think so.

 

 

That’s the main thing a lot of people don’t understand about self publishing. When you self publish, you must tackle all aspects of a book that a traditional publisher would take over. After I write my manuscript and have beta readers go over it, I hire an editor. I have a wonderful relationship with a former Harper Collins editor who I love. But she wasn’t my first editor. I had to ask for referrals and try a few out before meeting Lindsey. While she’s editing, I contact my cover designer and go through concepts before settling on a cover we both like. When Lindsey gets my edited draft back to me, I fix it and then send it off to a copy editor. Meanwhile, I am setting up my book launch, contacting my street team, and setting up BookBub promotions and price reductions on other books. I’m on social media all the time, growing my platform. I write a monthly newsletter to keep my fans informed and remembering me. I hire a formatter for Kindle and CreateSpace drafts to save my last shred of sanity. This process usually takes about two months from draft to final product. It’s a tiresome but necessary two months, but I’m always pleased when I send a new book out into the bright, shiny world. I publish, social media my face off, and pray the reviews are good.

 

 

And rinse and repeat.

 

 

Finances are another factor to consider when readying a book for publishing. A good editor costs anywhere from $1500 to $3000, depending on expertise and the length of your manuscript. A cover can cost as much as several hundred dollars and it is just as important as a good manuscript. Promotions and advertising costs can vary. Mine cost me about $500 this year. You can spend less, but it costs money to make money, and from what I’ve found, BookBub and sites like it help you make money. Formatting is another seventy to ninety dollars and don’t forget ISBNs, website domains, and other miscellaneous expenses.  In the year 2014, I made $19,000 before taxes and spent $6,000 to get it. And much of the money spent is upfront costs. Like any business, you invest in yourself. If you won’t, no one else will.

 

 

It’s all very exciting and a little tiring, but I love having control over my destiny. I don’t get mad or frustrated because I make the moves. I steer the ship. My job satisfaction is very high. And I make decent money, even if money isn’t the goal. The readers are the goal. And if it means doing the heavy lifting myself, I’m okay with that.

 

 

 

 

Breeders1

 

 

Sixteen-year-old Riley Meemick is one of the world’s last free girls. When Riley was born, her mother escaped the Breeders, the group of doctors using cruel experiments to bolster the dwindling human race. Her parents do everything possible to keep her from their clutches– moving from one desolate farm after another to escape the Breeders’ long reach. The Breeders control everything- the local war lords, the remaining factories, the fuel. They have unchecked power in this lawless society. And they’re hunting Riley.

 

When the local Sheriff abducts the adult members of her family and hands her mother over to the Breeders, Riley and her eight-year-old brother, Ethan, hiding in a shelter, are left to starve. Then Clay arrives, the handsome gunslinger who seems determined to help to make up for past sins. The problem is Clay thinks Riley is a bender– a genderless mutation, neither male nor female. As Riley’s affection for Clay grows she wonders can she trust Clay with her secret and risk her freedom?

 

The three embark on a journey across the scarred remains of New Mexico– escaping the Riders who use human sacrifice to appease their Good Mother, various men scrambling for luck, and a deranged lone survivor of a plague. When Riley is shot and forced into the Breeder’s hospital, she learns the horrible fate of her mother—a fate she’ll share unless she can find a way out.  

 

 

 

 

Believers2

 

 

They’ve escaped the Breeders, yet their journey has just begun.

 

Riley and Clay are once again on the run from the Breeders. The group may have escaped the deranged experiments at the hospital, but as one of the world’s last free women, Riley can never be safe. On the road back home, Riley and her crew are captured by a band of savage men. Their destination: the Citadel, run by a bizarre religious prophet named the Messiah. Somehow he knows their secrets. He wants them to join his group of Believers, but only if they’ll drink the baptismal water and swear allegiance.

 

The problem is there’s something wrong with the water. Something wrong with the people. And there’s human moaning coming from the bottom of a dark crevasse that no one wants to talk about. If they can’t figure out what’s going on, Riley and everyone she loves could become a Believer forever.  

 

 

 

 

Breeders3A

 

 

 The third book in the award-winning, best-selling dystopian series.

 

They’ve escaped the Breeders.

 

They’ve broken out of the Citadel.

 

Now, after all they’ve been through, Riley, Clay, and Ethan know one thing for sure: nothing tastes sweeter than freedom. And no one can rest easy with Auntie Bell in bondage. The group journeys home to rescue her and liberate Clay’s town from the cruel Warden. But when an ally betrays them, they must face the very enemy they’ve been trying to avoid.

 

Captured and separated, Riley is sold to a slave-owner who uses human beings for sport, while Clay and Ethan become the latest in a series of lab rats to be poked and prodded. As a slave, Riley conceals her identity to survive among the other benders, but it’s only a matter of time before a dangerous job takes her life. Clay and Ethan find themselves in a war zone between a madwoman and marauders. And the odds don’t look good.

 

All available now via Amazon.

 

Katie2Katie French is the author of The Breeders series, a bestselling YA dystopian adventure available on Amazon. She’s a wife, mother, and teacher, but not always in that order. She’s represented by Amanda Luedeke of McGregor Literary. You can find her at her website, on Facebook, or Twitter.

 

Monday Musings: Blogging BS and Other Misconceptions April 6, 2015

I’ve been hearing a lot of chatter lately from various sources about how blogging is a waste of a writer’s time. How their hours should be more focused on putting words down for their own work, rather than sharing personal experience or insight.

 

Okay, so I agree that if you’re not committed to blogging it may not be a good use of your time, but on all the other stuff I call TOTAL B.S. and here’s why: For me personally, blogging has been life-changing. And no, I’m NOT being dramatic. Honest.

 

When I started writing my first manuscript, I was like a woman in a dark forest on a moonless night, stumbling around without a flashlight completely clueless. I made all the rookie mistakes: querying too early, sending in a request formatted incorrectly, misspelling the title of an agency. Name it, I probably did it. And I’m not sorry to admit this, because I think most starting writers make most of, if not all of, these mistakes. But instead of wallowing, you know what I did? I shared my experience on this blog so that other writers could learn from my screw-ups.

 

What started as a blog about navigating the strange world of publishing turned into so much more for me. I found my voice as a writer and wanted to share what I learned along the way. For instance, when I first started querying I was totally shocked by how quickly the rejections came. So you know what I did? I reached out to other writers and asked them about their query experiences and their path to publication. Those writers’ willingness to share their stories turned into my Writer Odyssey Wednesday (W.O.W.) series-which is now closing in on 100 posts! Crazy, 100 writers sharing their ups and downs on the way to being published. That feels like a HUGE accomplishment. One I wouldn’t have had if I’d listened to those who said, “Don’t Blog!”

 

On my second manuscript I was sure things were going to be different. The requests would come flying in. And luckily they did, but after I turned in my requested materials, the “R”s came shortly after. At that point, I wondered what the heck I was doing wrong. I reached out to an agent and asked about beginnings and openings pages. That desperate need to understand the importance of how a story starts turned into my FIRST FIVE FRENZY series. That series has not only changed how I approach beginnings, but it gave me my first connection to Roseanne Wells, who would later become my agent! See my point…life-changing!

 

Out of my desperate need to understand this business, I started a few other series: Query 101 and Behind The Curtain. All meant to not only teach me, but hopefully other writers, some tips and tricks about this business.

 

Blogging should not weigh you down. If you have something to share that you feel will help others, than I say go for it! Don’t let the misconceptions keep you from posting what you want. Yes, it’s true, don’t start a blog and then only post once a year, but you can set your own parameters for how much you want to post and when. And the topics can be varied. You’re not forced to stay in one niche if you don’t want to. Don’t be afraid of the those who say it’s a waste of your time. That is for you alone to decide.

 

For me, blogging has been a total blessing. It’s made me a better writer, critique partner, and listener. Had I believed those naysayers I think my writing life would be in a totally different place today-a place I would not be happy with. So I say this, if you’ve got something you want to share, and you can commit, then BLOG!! It may be the best writing decision you ever make.

 

What do you think about blogging? Does it help you as a writer? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

 

 

 

W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday with Chandler Baker April 1, 2015

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Somedays writing is all about instinct and listening to your gut.  In today’s W.O.W., Chandler Baker shares how she knew she’d found her voice when she started reading and writing YA. As she puts in her own words, “Any time I reached for a book that I’d heard of and was particularly excited to read, I realized it was YA. So it’s no surprise that YA is where I found my voice.”

 

Many thanks to Chandler for sharing her writing odyssey today…

 

 

 

Amy: When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

 

Chandler: In my heart of hearts, I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Even in elementary school, writing was a form of play. It took until my senior year of college, though, to connect the dots that being an author was a job that real people could do—including me. After that light bulb moment, I began pursuing a writing career seriously.

 

 

 

 

Amy: What inspires you to write Young Adult Fiction?

 

Chandler: This is easy. I love reading YA. Especially at the time that I started writing toward publication, YA lit was going through what felt like to me a renaissance. Any time I reached for a book that I’d heard of and was particularly excited to read, I realized it was YA. So it’s no surprise that YA is where I found my voice. I also love writing about the teen years because I can look back and judge my own experience. In retrospect, I find that from eighth grade through college, I was at varying times closer and further away from my true self. I love writing about that process of finding identity.

 

 

 

 

Amy: I love that you’re an attorney, but write both YA and Middle Grade fiction. Do you use any of your legal education when you write your books?

 

Chandler: Not directly so far, but I do think there is certain training in becoming a lawyer, that has been helpful, namely focusing for long periods of time, working on deadline, working under pressure and excessive attention over the exact meaning of particular words. I do think that my career as a lawyer has made the business side of reading feel more accessible and comprehensible, though I still trust my agent to negotiate all of my contracts.

 

 

 

 

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

 

I completed two manuscripts of my own prior, but I’d also ghostwritten 4-5 books in between the two trunked novels and ALIVE.

 

 

 

Amy:  If you had preliminary rejections, how did you deal with that process and continue to write?

 

Chandler: I don’t take (writing) rejection personally, so I’m lucky in that way. However, when ALIVE went out to editors, selling a book was something I wanted so badly that I’d built the stakes up to an immeasurable height in my heart and mind. It could be really crippling at times. I was fortunate that the time from submission to sale was relatively quick, but I still fretted. I ended up starting a “just for fun” book that ended up being a lovely place to place my energy.

 

 

 

Amy: How long did it take you to write the query for ALIVE? Did it go through many drafts?

 

Chandler: I had signed with my wonderful agent, Dan Lazar, for another manuscript, so didn’t have to query ALIVE.

 

 

 

Amy: How many agents did you query for ALIVE?

 

Chandler: I didn’t have to query ALIVE since I already had a fabulous agent that had stuck with me through my first manuscript which didn’t sell. For the manuscript that didn’t sell, though, I queried about 12 agents before getting an offer. But for the manuscript before that? Probably 100.

 

 

 

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

 

Chandler: Sometimes publishing feels like the land where time stands still, but when I queried Dan I heard back in minutes. For ALIVE, editor responses ranged from a couple days to a couple weeks.

 

 

 

Amy: Can you tell us what your “call” was like with your agent, Dan Lazar?  How did you know he was a good fit for you?

 

It caught me off guard, that’s for sure! I’m very Type A, so as soon as I suspected that we might be moving toward an offer, I prepared questions. He was, of course, lovely and I made every effort not to sound like an idiot. I knew he was a good fit because he was unfailingly honest with me, forthright as well as responsive. I wanted someone who would advise and guide me toward a long-term career and who’d be transparent about the process. Mainly, I wanted a business partner and for six years now he’s been the best one I could ask for.

 

 

 

Amy:  As many writers know the publishing world is very hard to break into.  What was the one thing you did to help garner agent attention?

 

Chandler: I think I wrote a snappy query that hit the right agent at the right time.

 

 

 

Amy: What advice did you get early on in your writing career that you still use today?

 

Chandler: “You are the best steward of your own career.” I forget where I heard this from but it’s really resonated with me. I think it’s great to listen to the sage of advice of people you trust, but then always go back to a gut check and making sure you are doing the things that are helping you grow in your craft and grow in the business.

 

 

 

 

Alive cover

 (Available June 9, 2015)

 

 

 

 

 Stella Cross’s heart is poisoned.

 

After years on the transplant waiting list, she’s running out of hope that she’ll ever see her eighteenth birthday. Then, miraculously, Stella receives the transplant she needs to survive.

 

Determined to embrace everything she came so close to losing, Stella throws herself into her new life. But her recovery is marred by strange side effects: Nightmares. Hallucinations. A recurring pain that flares every day at the exact same moment. Then Stella meets Levi Zin, the new boy on everyone’s radar at her Seattle prep school. Stella has never felt more drawn to anyone in her life, and soon she and Levi are inseparable.

 

Stella is convinced that Levi is her soulmate. Why else would she literally ache for him when they are apart?

 

After all, the heart never lies…does it?


 

 

 

 

Chandler BakerChandler Baker is a lawyer, author of young adult and middle grade fiction, and a dedicated nerdfighter (not necessarily in that order). Her debut YA novel, ALIVE is forthcoming from Disney-Hyperion in May 2015 followed by TEEN FRANKENSTEIN in the Fall of 2015, which is Book 1 in her new HIGH SCHOOL HORROR STORY series to be published by Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan. For more on Chandler, check out her website, or follow her on Twitter.

 

QUITE THE QUERY with Melissa Albert and JUST BREATHE March 27, 2015

QuiteTheQuery

 

 

 

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 so 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 Melissa Albert. This great query connected her with her agent, Uwe Stender.

 

 

 

On October 24th, seventeen-year-old Kate Mitchells left her job at 11:00 pm. At 11:01, she was held down and raped in the parking lot by her ex-boyfriend, her close friend, and a third guy who she couldn’t see. She hadn’t wanted to involve the police, but a boy from her school, Hunter Shaw, witnessed the ending moments of the attack and reported it. Twenty-one days “Post Incident,” Kate still refuses to talk about what happened.

 

 

Suffering from PTSD, Kate avoids all human touch. She tries to live in the present, but that’s difficult when simple life events lead to flashbacks of “The Incident.” The community has labeled her one of two things: “the girl who was raped” or “the girl who is lying.” Her father stays at the office and her mother prays for her daughter’s lost purity. The only person who treats her like an actual human being is Hunter. But that doesn’t stop Kate from hating him for making her go through with the trial. If it were up to her, she would go back to being normal.

 

 

As it turns out, the cards are not in Kate’s favor. Her assailants claim to have an airtight alibi while the alleged third attacker is nowhere to be found. The whole town would rather believe that the act was consensual than accept the hard truth about the son of a prominent business leader, and Kate can’t find the strength to tell her side of the story. As the trial draws nearer, she must wrestle each day with the fact that the events of that night were not her fault. Because if she can’t convince herself that she isn’t to blame, then she has no shot at convincing a jury.

 

 

JUST BREATHE, a YA contemporary novel, is complete at 60,000 words. It finds its roots in psychological theory as well as actual court cases. It would appeal to readers of DREAMLAND by Sarah Dessen and SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson, although it focuses on an older narrator and the implications of her choosing to speak out. Thank you for your time and consideration.

 

 

 

Query Tidbit:

 

A funny thing about my querying process: I personalized all of my query letters except for one. The one that I didn’t was the one that ended up landing me my first offer of representation. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to personalize that one, I just couldn’t find anything to say. I guess the moral of the story here is that personalization is great to have, but don’t freak out if you can’t find anything. In the end, it’s your story that’s going to hook the agent, not the (somewhat creepy) fact that you know they eat blueberry pancakes for lunch every Sunday…

 

 

 

 

Melissa AlbertMelissa Albert is a YA writer who is repped by Uwe Stender of TriadaUS. She majors in Industrial and Organizational Psychology at The College of New Jersey where she is going into her sophomore year. Lover of all YA fiction, she has three completed manuscripts and four WIPs. When she’s not writing, she’s singing, acting, dancing, and day dreaming about her days of playing travel soccer and doing competitive gymnastics. You can bribe her with anything chocolate or cat related, and she orders all her food on separate plates because she hates when it touches. For more on Melissa, check out her blog, The Truth About Teens or follow her on Twitter.

 

W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday with Sarah Henning March 17, 2015

WOW

 

 

“No query or pitch is ever perfect on the first draft.” I love this line from today’s W.O.W. with Sarah Henning. Sometimes we think we can get it all done in one attempt, but as Sarah points out “there’s always tweaking to be done.” The key thing to remember is revision is important. It can take quite a bit of massaging before your manuscript is ready to be sent out into the world, but once it’s done you’ll be grateful for the experience.

 

 

Many thanks to Sarah for sharing her writing journey today…

 

 

 

Amy: You’ve had a prolific journalistic career writing and editing for The Palm Beach Post and The Lawrence Journal-World. What made you decide to make the jump to writing fiction?

 

 

Sarah: I’d actually always wanted to write fiction—I’d written several “books” as a child and teen— but I’m very practical and attracted to stability and, so, I’d talked myself into journalism as a much smarter career choice. But the thing is, you can’t escape your passion. It’s not as simple as trying to reassign it. I couldn’t escape the fact that I wanted to write fiction. And so, the second I graduated from college and got my first full-time journalism job, I started in on a book, wishing I hadn’t waited so long.

 

 

 

 

Amy: Was DEAD MEAT your first completed manuscript?

 

 

Sarah: Nope, not at all. It was the third one I’d completed as a post-college adult. I wrote two and then took a few years off to have my oldest child. When he was about one, I started revising the second of those manuscripts and querying it and then started in on DEAD MEAT.

 

 

 

 

Amy: Did you have critique partners or beta readers that helped you polish DEAD MEAT? If so, what did they add to the process?

 

 

Sarah: Oh, man, I have so many people to thank for looking at that manuscript. But the big kahuna is Rebecca Coffindaffer. She was my mentor in the very first Pitch Wars contest put on by Brenda Drake. Becca helped me refine DEAD MEAT just enough that I was able to get four offers and then sign with Rachel Ekstrom of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency.

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

Sarah: I actually have a really easy time with queries. I’ve been a professional copy editor since 2003, and, when I worked in newspapers, a big part of that job was to write headlines, subheads and cutlines. To write those, a copy editor has to be able to summarize the story in just a few words, phrases or sentences. In reality, that is what a query letter is, only in long form. So, I think my career in newspapers made it very easy for me to write both queries and pitches. And I often help friends with their queries and pitches, because there are some very good writers who have a hard time distilling their work into such a short summation. That said, no query or pitch is ever perfect on the first draft. There’s always tweaking to be done.

 

 

 

Amy: How many agents did you query for DEAD MEAT? Did you receive instantaneous response or did you have to wait for requests/rejections?

 

 

Sarah: I queried 38 agents, including the people who requested DEAD MEAT through Pitch Wars. I had requests for 16 fulls and 7 partials and then I ended up with four offers. The thing about DEAD MEAT is that it has a very distinctive opening line (Funny fact: Human flesh sears just as easily as lamb. Crisp skin on the outside, tender and juicy on the inside.). Most agents knew right away if it was for them or not!

 

 

 

 

Amy: What can you tell us about “your call” with your agent, Rachel Ekstrom? How did you know she was the right fit for you?

 

 

 

Sarah: Rachel is an amazingly enthusiastic person and not in a fake way. She is bubbly and smart and soooooo knowledgeable about the industry. I’d talked to three other agents before I talked to Rachel and then I talked with three more after Rachel, and while they were all amazing and I would’ve been lucky to sign with any of them, Rachel’s spunk, humor, intelligence and mystery smarts bowled me over.

 

My “call” with her was actually in the afternoon and that morning I’d gotten my first offer from another agent. In between, I sent out my “I have an offer” emails to every agent who needed to know other than Rachel. I didn’t know if she was going to offer to me, but it didn’t feel right to email her two hours before we were scheduled to talk and tell her I had an offer.

 

Anyway, I went into the phone call not really knowing if it was “the call” or if it was one where we just talked about my work (which had happened to me two times previously). From the very first moment I heard her voice, I knew Rachel loved my book. Not only did she read it ASAP (I sent her the full on a Thursday night, she emailed about a phone call on a Sunday and we talked on a Monday afternoon), but she loved it, already had a list of editors she wanted to send it to and couldn’t wait to talk to me about what else I was working on and my literary vision. She offered to me and I felt like a jerk telling her that I’d already had an offer that morning, but I knew right away that she was probably going to be it for me. And she was. I love her and I’d recommend anyone who writes in her wheel house.

 

 

 

Amy: As most writers know, publishing is a very difficult business. What was the one thing you think you did to garner agent interest?

 

 

Sarah: Honestly, my first offer didn’t come off of Pitch Wars, it came from an agent who I’d happened to send DEAD MEAT to outside of the contest. And who happened to offer the Monday after the contest ended. That said, I think being part of that contest was a game-changer for me. It introduced me to someone who helped me perfect the book (Becca) and it gave me a chance to stand out away from the query inbox to Rachel and other agents. Plus, because of the way the format works, agents can see if other agents are interested because all the comments/requests are public, so it adds a layer of urgency.

 

That said, I think it’s important to understand that contests aren’t your only way to go and that some manuscripts may not work in a contest format. Mine did specifically because of the way the opening page read and that was integral to the way the contest was laid out. My pitch was also really succinct and easy to understand. Again, some books are difficult to pitch in a way that does them justice in just 50 words.

 

 

 

Amy: What one piece of advice can you impart to aspiring writers to encourage them to keep working towards their dream?

 

 

Sarah: Keep going. Keep working. And remember why you write. It’s easy to get caught up in thinking, “Is there a market for this?” “Is this too much like X?” “Is this something that will be ‘over’ by the time I finish it?” etc. Yes, those things do matter in a business sense. But if you focus on them too much you’re just going to make yourself crazy trying to figure out a secret formula to getting an agent/deal/bigger sales. Don’t do it. Just write to write and everything else will fall into place.

 

 

 

 

SarahHenningSarah Henning is a crime writer, recovering newshound, and word nerd of the highest order (aka a freelance copy editor). She has degrees in journalism and Spanish from the University of Kansas, and has worked for several news organizations, including The Associated Press, The Kansas City Star, The Charlotte Observer, and The Palm Beach Post. When she’s not hunched over her computer or curled up with a good book, Sarah is probably running ultramarathons, playing with her cherub-cheeked kids, or nagging her husband to eat more kale. She is repped by Rachel Ekstrom of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency. For more on Sarah, check out her website or follow her on Twitter.

 

 

 
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