Chasing my crazy dream in the writing world…

Behind The Curtain: All About An Acquisitions Editor February 25, 2015

Filed under: Blog,Guest Post,Publishing,writing,writing craft — chasingthecrazies @ 6:59 am
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Today, Vicki Merkiel is helping me “pull back the curtain” on an important role in the publishing world: Acquisitions Editor. In her own words, Vicki shares her role and responsibilities in looking for new talent and manuscripts for publisher, Curiosity Quills. As you will see, this is not work for the faint of heart. Not only must you love reading, but have a keen sense of what will stand out in the marketplace.


Many thanks to Vicki for sharing her insights today…




A Day in the Life of An Acquisitions Editor

By Vicki Merkiel 



It was in November 2013 that I signed my contract with Curiosity Quills for CATCH ME WHEN I FALL. As a debut author, I didn’t know what to expect from a publishing house. But their entire team blew me away; they fight so hard to ensure every author reaches his/her potential. So, I knew that if I wanted to continue a career in the publishing industry (outside of writing books), Curiosity Quills would be a great place to start.



Since then, I’ve taken on a few different roles within the CQ family. I started in March 2014 as a copyeditor, then moved into an editor role, and then began beta reading for their acquisitions team. Finally, at the end of December 2014, I took on my current role an acquisitions editor.



With a month of experience under my belt now, I can definitely say the position has been all I’d hoped it would be—yet not as glamorous. Being an acquisitions editor is hard work. We sift through the queries that come in, finding those manuscripts that have potential based off their first few pages, and then when the authors/agents send in the full manuscripts, we have to dedicate time to reading them. And not only do I read the manuscripts that come directly to my inbox; I’m also sent manuscripts from our general inbox when my bosses feel it’s something I might enjoy. It’s a good thing I love to read, because the AE position is every time consuming!



I, personally, split my full submissions into three groups: (1) Manuscripts where I know I won’t ask for an R&R; (2) Manuscripts where there’s enough potential for an R&R; (3) Manuscripts I feel are ready for publication (or will be ready after a strong round of editing).



For any manuscript that falls into category #3, I draft a pitch and approach my bosses about acquiring. If they agree that it’s right for our current catalog, they will send me a contract for that book. I then reach out to the author/agent with the contract and negotiate the deal. If the author decides to sign, yay! If they want changes, I talk with my bosses. If my bosses agree to the changes, we then send a revised contract. If they don’t agree, then it’s a lot of back and forth with the author/agent to determine whether a relationship would be beneficial for both sides. And if the author decides not to sign, then we make sad faces.



If any manuscript falls into category #2, I will send the author a request for an R&R only if I feel I can pitch the manuscript to my bosses after a significant rewrite. In these cases, if the author is willing to do an R&R, I typically go through the manuscript and leave in-depth notes about what I feel needs to change. I then send the manuscript back to the author, with my notes, and wait to see the revised version. If the revised version is strong, I move them to category #3 and reach out for approval to acquire. But if the revised version still isn’t strong enough, I, unfortunately, have to pass.



Finally, it doesn’t take me long to tell if a manuscript falls into category #1. Those manuscripts are the ones that I feel need so much editing that the author would benefit from more practice, in general. In these cases, I can usually tell by page fifty, and I rarely finish these manuscripts. (I have so many other things I have to read!) With the books that fall into category #1, I will send a kind email to the author, suggesting how I think they can improve, and request they send new material in the future.



So far, I’ve acquired one manuscript, have requested to acquire two more, have requested three R&Rs, and have passed on several. I make a point every day to check my email for new queries that come in and respond to each, and then I dive into reading the manuscript submissions. I prioritize based on: when the submission came in, whether they’re agented, and if I have any other deadlines to meet (ex: editing a contracted manuscript). I do give myself two days off every week to unravel my brain (those days vary), and my working days are typically eight hours long.



But though my job is very time-consuming, it’s always a thrill when I read a really great manuscript. Finding those gems is so worth the time spent looking for them, and I especially like making authors’ dreams come true. And when I think about all the readers who will enjoy the books I discover…yeah, all the effort I expend is so totally worth it.





Vicki Leigh_Author Portrait copyAdopted at three-days-old by a construction worker and a stay-at-home mom, Vicki Merkiel grew up in a small suburb of Akron, Ohio where she learned to read by the age of four and considered being sent to her room for punishment as an opportunity to dive into another book. She writes Young Adult novels under her pen name, Vicki Leigh, and if she couldn’t work with novels, she would be a Hunter (think Dean and Sam Winchester) or a Jedi. Her favorite place on earth is Hogwarts (she refuses to believe it doesn’t exist), and her favorite dreams include solving cases alongside Sherlock Holmes. Her YA debut, Catch Me When I Fall, released October 23, 2014.


You can find her at her website or on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, YouTube, Pinterest, Google+, and Instagram.



W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday with Stacey Lee February 18, 2015






Today’s W.O.W. features one of the kindest writers I know, Stacey Lee.  Not only is Stacey an amazing writer, but she is also a big part of WE NEED DIVERSE BOOKS where she is currently the Legal Director. What I love most about this interview is what Stacey shares about her dedication to the craft of writing. Since a very young age she knew she wanted to write. Through many life changes, she stayed the course and eventually signed with an agent. Now, her debut novel, UNDER A PAINTED SKY will hit bookshelves this March!



Many thanks to Stacey for sharing her writing odyssey today…




Amy: I love the story on your website about writing your first manuscript on a typewriter when you were very young. Have you always had the writing bug?



Stacey: Yes. My third grade teacher hung a poem I had written about Thanksgiving on the classroom wall. I was the shyest kid in the class, and was astounded to be recognized this way.



Amy: What was the most challenging thing in writing your debut, UNDER A PAINTED SKY?



Stacey: For me, it was not being episodic. My main characters, Sammy, a Chinese girl, and Annamae, a black girl, are fleeing down the Oregon Trail disguised as young men. There were a lot of adventures that I had to ‘cut’ from the main journey as it didn’t move the main story along. For example, there was one baseball scene where the girls are forced to play baseball, and have to do it ‘in character’ as boys. I hated to cut that, but it had to go.



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



Stacey: I started querying in 1984 as a teenager, and back then, everything was so slow. I would often give up querying because it was just too daunting a process to send manuscript after manuscript, then wait for the SASE (self addressed stamped envelope) to come back, which could take months. Email made things a lot easier!



Amy: How many agents did you query for UNDER A PAINTED SKY?



Stacey: Around 20, I think!



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



Stacey: Not instantaneous. A few requested right away, but then it took a few weeks for them to read. Once I got the first offer though, things did start moving – other agents began requesting to talk to me. I was on my way to Lake Tahoe and my phone connection was really spotty. I felt sure I was going to mess it all up and no one was going to want me.



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



Stacey: I had always enjoyed reading her blog posts, and knew she was a great agent. (She had previously rejected another of my manuscripts.) She was at the Romantic Times convention when she offered, and so it was a super busy time for her, too. Our ‘call’ wasn’t long. Basically – she told me what she liked about my MS, and I said, okay, thanks, let’s do this.



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



Stacey: Absolutely. Sometimes it happened after querying a big project and getting nowhere. Sometimes it happened when I got busy with other things in life – like having kids! And pursuing other interests. But I always naturally came back to writing. I think it’s the same with a lot of writers – it’s instinct, like how salmon swim upstream. Without the dying part at the end.




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



Stacey: Do it because you love to do it. Because you can’t NOT do it. Then you’ll stick to it.





Under painted

(Available March 17, 2015)



Missouri, 1849: Samantha dreams of moving back to New York to be a professional musician—not an easy thing if you’re a girl, and harder still if you’re Chinese. But a tragic accident dashes any hopes of fulfilling her dream, and instead, leaves her fearing for her life. With the help of a runaway slave named Annamae, Samantha flees town for the unknown frontier. But life on the Oregon Trail is unsafe for two girls, so they disguise themselves as Sammy and Andy, two boys headed for the California gold rush. Sammy and Andy forge a powerful bond as they each search for a link to their past, and struggle to avoid any unwanted attention. But when they cross paths with a band of cowboys, the light-hearted troupe turn out to be unexpected allies. With the law closing in on them and new setbacks coming each day, the girls quickly learn that there are not many places to hide on the open trail.




Stacey LeeStacey Lee is a fourth generation Chinese-American whose people came to California during the heydays of the cowboys.  She believes she still has a bit of cowboy dust in her soul.  A native of southern California, she graduated from UCLA then got her law degree at UC Davis King Hall.  After practicing law in the Silicon Valley for several years, she finally took up the pen because she wanted the perks of being able to nap during the day, and it was easier than moving to Spain.  She plays classical piano, wrangles children, and writes YA fiction. For more on Stacey, checking out her website, or follow her on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook or Pinterest.



2015 Sun vs. Snow Contest: Announcing Team Sun! February 2, 2015

Filed under: Blog,contest,Literary Agent,Publishing,Query — chasingthecrazies @ 6:30 am
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I’m very excited to share this post today and welcome this fabulous group of writers to Team Sun. To say that Michelle and I were blown away by the entries this year is putting it mildly. The selection process was very difficult for both of us, and in fact we’ve added a little surprise!


There were so many worthy entries this year that we decided we each needed one more pick! So yes, instead of 15 entries each, we both have 16 now to share with the agents on February 9.


My choices are listed below by category in no particular order. If your entry was not selected, please remember we only had 32 spots for over 200 entries. There are many other contests coming up this year. I highly recommend looking into Brenda Drake’s Pitch Madness (submission window opens February 20.)


Just to let you in on a little secret, I was selected for Pitch Madness last year, and received a few requests, but ended signing with my agent via the slush pile (six months later). So remember, DON’T GIVE UP!  We each have our own individual path in this crazy world of publishing.


Now enough of my babbling. Here are my picks for this year’s Sun versus Snow contest:




The Hideaway


Missing Emily


New Adult

Picked Apart


Young Adult

The Sinner Rose

Of Night and Stone


Beneath Our Skin

The Heartsmith

In Darkness We Rise


Suspension of Disbelief

Forces Beyond Our Control (Free Pass Winner)


Middle Grade

The Secret at Seachase


Lost in Never (Wonder) Land



If you are part of Team Sun, expect letters from your mentor soon. Your mentor will help you fine tune your entry privately all this week.


Here’s the important part:


Get your revised entry back to me by Friday, February 6th at 3:00 pm EST. That’s so I have time to format the entries and have them ready to post for the agent round on Monday, February 9th. Mail your revised entry to the contest email Sunversussnow (at) yahoo (dot) com. Please use the exact same format.


Then it will be up to the agents! Congrats and good luck!





It’s Sun versus Snow Day!! January 26, 2015

Filed under: contest,Literary Agent,Publishing,writing craft — chasingthecrazies @ 8:20 am
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Yes, it’s finally here!! Today at 4 pm EST the submission window for Sun versus Snow opens. Michelle and I are very excited to be bringing you this contest again, and are looking forward to hearing all the success stories that come from the contest – *fingers crossed*.


While we are waiting to open the window I wanted to share a few reminders:


1) Once the window opens please get your entry in ASAP. We are only taking the first 200 entries!


2) Before sending, please double-check to make sure your entry is formatted correctly. Formatting link is here:


3) If your entry is not selected this year, please DO NOT be discouraged. As with everything in publishing this is a very subjective process. Not only do Michelle and I have our preferences, but we also have to keep in mind what the participating agents are looking to represent.


4) Use this time to connect to other writers via #sunvssnow. When I first started entering contests I met a lot of new friends (and critique partners) during the process. Don’t be afraid to reach out and say “Hi” to someone who writes in your same category and/or genre. You may make a lifetime friend!


5) Keep writing. Work on something new. If this manuscript isn’t THE ONE, the next one may be. Continue to perfect your craft and NEVER GIVE UP!


Some other important links regarding the contest:

Submission Information (important!!!)

The Agent Post

Team Sun Mentors


Again, Michelle and I are excited to see your entries. Let the battle begin…







Filed under: writing,Blog,Publishing,Guest Post — chasingthecrazies @ 8:57 am
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Social media has made the publishing business a much more open place. Now we find out about writers signing with agents in seconds via Twitter or Facebook. When someone signs a book deal, and their listing in Publishers Marketplace goes live, it shoots through the Twittersphere like a meteor.


While all of this is well and good, there are still certain aspects of publishing kept in the shadows. With this new series, BEHIND THE CURTAIN, I want to try to shed some light on these topics. Things like what an Acquisitions Editor really does. What happens during a Revise and Resubmit (R&R), and why an agent or editor might ask for an R&R.


When I announced I was doing this series I asked for suggested topics. An overwhelming majority said they wanted to know more about the submission process. With that in mind, I went back to my writing friend, Michelle Krys and asked her permission to share her guest post again.


While Michelle’s experience is of course not the same as everyone else’s, she openly shares how crazy being on submission can be. I hope her words will make the subject seem less secretive and create a better understanding of how the process works.


Here is Michelle’s post:


The wonderful Amy Trueblood has asked me here today to speak a bit about my experience going on submission. For those of you who aren’t deeply entrenched in the publishing business, I’m not referring to some kinky 50 Shades of Grey stuff, but to the process whereby an agent sends an author’s book out to editors in the hopes of landing a book deal.


Before going out on sub myself, I didn’t really know much of anything about the process. All of my focus had been on landing an agent. And then once that happened (I mean after I Carlton-danced around the house, called everyone I knew, and bragged excessively on the interwebs), I blinked at the computer screen, wondering what comes next.


See the thing is, no one really talks about going on submission. I guess you’re not supposed to or something. Well, here I am, talking about it. Today, I will share with Amy’s lovely readers my experience, beginning from the moment after I accepted my agent’s offer of representation.


*hides from agent and editor*


It was within the first week after the call with my fancy new agent, Adriann Ranta, that I received her edit letter. It was short (a few small paragraphs), and it outlined her suggested changes to the manuscript. We’d already touched on these changes during our phone call, so nothing came as a surprise. It took me just a couple of days to complete. A few weeks later, we were on submission.


Initially, I was pretty calm about sending my book baby out into the world. But it wasn’t long before I was cyber-stalking editors like a madwoman. Oh, the stalking! And then I stumbled across Mindy McGinnis’ SHIT series (Submission Hell—It’s True), and really tortured myself. I was cautioned against comparing myself to other writer’s experiences, but that didn’t stop me from becoming completely obsessed with the series. One moment, I was a failure because I hadn’t gone to auction in the first week and Fox hadn’t bought my film rights, like one author, and the next I was still doing ok because another author had been on sub eight months before they got their deal. Sounds horrible, but if I could go back, I wouldn’t do it any differently (I challenge you not to read Mindy’s SHIT series while on submission. It’s impossible).


My agent forwarded along my rejections as they came in, which was something I really appreciated because I have the patience of a housefly. And actually, for some inexplicable reason, I was exhilarated any time I heard back, even when it was a rejection. I lived for those emails. (Have I mentioned I checked my email about 32,000 times a day? Because I did).


I was often advised by fellow writers to dive into a new writing project to distract myself, but that just wasn’t possible. I couldn’t concentrate, knowing that any moment I could hear back from Adriann and my life would change forever. Going out didn’t help either—I just thought about when I could check my email next. Chocolate didn’t help. Neither did wine (Okay the wine helped a little bit). This was the part that sucked. That feeling of being in total limbo. There’s not a whole lot you can do about it that wouldn’t qualify you for AA. It just sucks.


And then I got a book deal.


Allow me to set the scene. I was at work. It was a busy day in the neonatal intensive care unit. We were a month into submission, and it was the last day for offers on HEXED, which we were accepting until 12 noon. I’d already struck out with 6 out of 10 of the houses I was out to.


All morning, like any self-respecting writer, I compulsively checked my email any chance I got. My agent emailed me at about twenty to 12 to say we’d received rejections from another three of the houses, and no word from the last house. Adriann remained incredibly optimistic and let me know we’d go out for another round soon, but I was pretty shattered. However I was at work, so I sucked it up and put on a brave face.


But in a turn of events straight out of the movies, not twenty minutes later I got another email from Adriann, saying that she’d heard from the last editor and could I call her? I went into a quiet hallway to make the call. Wendy Loggia of Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, had made an offer for a two-book deal. I was euphoric! Except I couldn’t really jump for joy since, you know, I was at work and it’s a hospital and what not.


After the call, I went into the bathroom to compose myself and do some deep breathing exercises before going back into the NICU. When I walked back inside, another nurse casually asked what the call was about, and I broke down and ugly cried in front of all my coworkers and the babies’ parents, who had no clue what was going on and looked quite startled.


Wendy and I spoke on the phone later that week. She was incredibly warm and easy to talk to, and so enthusiastic about my project that I just couldn’t help loving her immediately (and not just because she bought my book!).


It’s been a while since then (almost a year), but as I recall we chatted about what aspects of the book she liked and then got into the revisions she had in mind. I was lucky because I completely, wholeheartedly agreed with her ideas (that woman is a genius), and it seemed we shared the same vision for the book. We also chatted about timeframes for when I would likely receive my editorial letter, and what the road to publication might look like for me.


I got my revision letter about 4 months after that initial phone call—pretty average in the business. The letter was 4.5 single-spaced pages. It expanded on what Wendy and I had already discussed, plus a few more things we hadn’t discussed but that I totally agreed with. My deadline was six weeks, and I finished just under that without too much stress. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed when I got another revision letter not long after, but this one was just a page or so in length, and the fixes were so easy it took me just a few weeks, maybe less, to complete.  Copyedits came a few months later, which took a day or two.


So there you have it, folks. I hope my lengthy diatribe has been helpful to some poor author out there on submission. Or at least, that it hasn’t made anyone question their self-worth too much.









If high school is all about social status, Indigo Blackwood has it made. Sure, her quirky mom owns an occult shop, and a nerd just won’t stop trying to be her friend, but Indie is a popular cheerleader with a football-star boyfriend and a social circle powerful enough to ruin everyone at school. Who wouldn’t want to be her?

Then a guy dies right before her eyes. And the dusty old family Bible her mom is freakishly possessive of is stolen. But it’s when a frustratingly sexy stranger named Bishop enters Indie’s world that she learns her destiny involves a lot more than pom-poms and parties. If she doesn’t get the Bible back, every witch on the planet will die. And that’s seriously bad news for Indie, because according to Bishop, she’s a witch too.

Suddenly forced into a centuries-old war between witches and sorcerers, Indie’s about to uncover the many dark truths about her life—and a future unlike any she ever imagined on top of the cheer pyramid.


Available now via Amazon, iBooks and Barnes and Noble.




michelle krys final 4x6Michelle Krys is the author of HEXED and the upcoming sequel CHARMED. She works part-time as a NICU nurse and spends her free time writing books for teens. Michelle is probably not a witch, though she did belong to a witchcraft club in the fifth grade and “levitated” people in her bedroom, so that may be up for debate. Visit her at or follow @MichelleKrys on Twitter.




Filed under: Blog,contest,Inspiration,Publishing,Query — chasingthecrazies @ 9:46 am
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I love writing contests. They provide so many unique opportunities. Not only do they force you to think outside the box (like trying to sum up your 70k manuscript in a single logline), but they encourage you to do the one thing I know many writers are hesitant to do: share their work.


When I first began querying I knew nothing about contests. I simply sent my emails to agents and patiently waited. Is there anything wrong with this process? Absolutely not. Many great writers have been discovered via the slush pile. Yet when I started participating in social media, I discovered a whole new world beyond traditional querying. A world where amazing writers like Brenda Drake, Authoress, Jessa Russo, Tamara Mataya, and the ladies behind Adventures in YA Publishing, as well as those behind Operation Awesome, provide a unique opportunity to pitch directly to agents. Who knew there were so many amazing ways to reach agents beyond regular querying?


Once I discovered these contests, I jumped in with one of my older manuscripts, a YA Thriller. I worked tirelessly on my pitch, my logline, my query, my first pages. I shared with my critique partners, and used their feedback to polish my words until they were beyond shiny. Then with one deep breath, I entered each and every contest.


What did I discover? Well, those polished words needed a little more work as I didn’t get selected for the first or second contest. Even though I was very discouraged, I went back to revising and set-out to enter another contest. This one I was lucky enough to get into, but didn’t make it past the first cut.


My state of mind? Crushed. Sad. Bewildered. I thought for sure what I was sharing was exactly what the contest hosts wanted. As I sent frantic emails off to my CPs, one was kind enough to add some much needed perspective. She told me that just like querying, contests are all about subjectivity. While one host may think my work is the best thing they’ve ever read, another is going to reject it. Why? Some will say “no” due to personal taste. Others might say none of the agents involved are looking for that type of MS. The truth of the matter is that just like the slush pile some people are going to like your writing and others are not.


Should you let this discourage you? Absolutely not. Here’s why: that next contest may be the right choice for you. That next contest may have a judge that will fall in love with your writing. Champion you all the way to the end until you get a full manuscript request from an agent you love.  The point here is DO NOT GIVE UP. If you believe in your manuscript, keep working. Keep digging. Keep fighting. Continue to get feedback. Polish your work. Improve your craft. The ones who make it in publishing are the ones who keep trying. Continue to claw their way toward their dream.


So polish up those words and gird your loins. Dig in, do the work, and then look for the next contest opportunity. That next chance may be the key to connecting you to the right agent or publisher. All you need to do is believe.










When you’re new to both the writing and publishing world there are a lot of mysteries. At first you may question how to craft the perfect query or write a successful synopsis. After you’re a little more seasoned, you may wonder about the correct format for submitting a full manuscript or how to approach revisions.


But even after you’re educated about the writing process and think you know a lot about publishing, there are still mysteries that remain. Things like: What really goes on during the submission process? Or what role does an Acquisitions Editor play at a publishing house? You may wonder how an editor decides on a revise & resubmit or what role an agent plays in a book auction.


In BEHIND THE CURTAIN I’m going to peel back some of those veils of secrecy. Share with both new and seasoned writers what goes on behind the scenes. Every month there will be a new installment that I hope will both educate and create a better understanding of both the writing and publishing process.


So stop by the third Wednesday of every month and check out what’s BEHIND THE CURTAIN. I promise it will be a fun and informative new series!


Do you have something about the writing or publishing world that you’d like to know more about? If so, please leave a comment and I will do my best to try and include in the series!



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