Chasing my crazy dream in the writing world…


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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 Pete Catalano. This great query connected him with his agent, Eric Myers.



After reading about you on Publishers Marketplace, I would like to offer my MG urban fantasy novel, THE GRYPHON HOUSE OF THE FEARSOME, FRIGHTENING, AND FORMIDABLE, for your consideration.



In 1913 New York City, thirteen-year-old Connor McLaren is one of five apprentices at a failing creature catching shop. When Connor catches a boggart named Burnley, they devise a plan to take Burnley to the most famous landmarks in New York, release him, and then recapture him while some very frightened, very grateful people are watching . . . and lining up to hire them.



The plan is going well until a creature of enormous size and power smashes its way into an event at the American Museum of Natural History. The museum is nearly destroyed, and Connor and his friends must enlist the aid of H.G. Wells and his steam-powered weapons, and dinosaur hunter Barnum Brown to kill it. Should they fail, New York will be overrun and the creatures will either rule the world, or destroy it.


A book to be enjoyed by those that love fantasy, creature-catchers, and fast paced action, THE GRYPHON HOUSE OF THE FEARSOME, FRIGHTENING, AND FORMIDABLE is 48,000 words of Lockwood & Co. meets The League of Beastly Dreadfuls. 




Interesting Tidbit:


The main issue I’ve had with all the queries I’ve sent out up to this point was that my comp titles were always movies. The Sandlot, Home Alone, Despicable Me, etc. I loved the imagery they gave but Agents and Editors need to see how it compares to what’s currently in the market.




Pete CatalanoPete Catalano’s debut novel ARTIFACTS will be published by Month9Books. He is represented by Eric Myers of Dystel & Goderich Literary Management and his books are written for kids of all ages — and adults who secretly never grew up. Living in Charlotte, NC with his adorably funny wife and two neurotic, massive Old English Sheepdogs, he was a theatre major in college and tries to keep the ‘suspension of disbelief’ in his life as much as he can. He spends his free time watching HOME ALONE, THE SANDLOT, and ELF. For more on Pete, check out his blog or follow him on Twitter (@Pete_Catalano).


W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday with Jody Holford September 2, 2015





Stories of perseverance always stay with me. The ones where folks get knocked down time and again and still manage to brush themselves off and keep going. In this series I’ve featured a lot of success stories where people have been rejected yet returned to writing better – stronger. Today’s W.O.W. with Jody Holford is one of those stories.





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


Jody: In 2012, I attended a writing conference with the intention of sharing my picture books. At the time, I knew nothing of how the process worked—getting an agent, getting published, any of it. When I sat down with an agent and she expressed interest, giving me her card and asking me to email her, I thought she was just being nice. But within the month, she’d asked to rep my book. While that relationship didn’t work out, my desire to see my work published began to really take root; it became less of a hobby and more of an actual goal.





Amy: How many manuscripts had you completed prior to the novel that connected you to your agent?


Jody: In total, over the last 3 years, Fran read three of my manuscripts. In that time, I worked hard to learn more about writing and the publishing industry in general. It paid off, as it was the third try that hooked her.





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


Jody: I used to think my process was more unique than others, but I don’t know that it was. I was quickly agented, before I knew how hard it was to get an agent. That lasted less than six months, which put me back to querying (new genre entirely). I briefly signed with someone else in between, but feeling more confident about my understanding of the agent/author relationship, I knew it wasn’t right for me. It was hard to take that step and I queried for almost another year before Fran signed me this summer. It’s the waiting that is hard—the getting your hopes up and not letting rejection push you back so far you’re unwilling to try again. So, I guess, on a scale of one to “I’m never writing again”, there were times when it tipped both ends and times it was right in the middle.





Amy: Publishing can be a very difficult business. What do you think has inspired you to keep writing through good times and bad?


Jody: Honestly? People. My husband. My best friend. My daughters. My mom. Good friends. People I’ve really connected to via FB and Twitter. Without those people, even agents that rejected but ultimately encouraged, I wouldn’t have kept going. It becomes less about the writing sometimes and more about the process. You can get lost in the process and forget why you started. There were many times I just didn’t know if I had anything left. They assured me I did. They’ve read my work, talked me down, talked me up, listened when I needed them to, didn’t listen when I said I was quitting. I cannot stress how important it is to have people in your life who care enough to tell you the truth (preferably in a way that won’t rip your heart out of your chest). I am so incredibly lucky. Which is why, if I ever get rich (ha-ha) I will buy them all matching buddy bracelets.




Amy: From reading your website, I understand you’d been talking back and forth, and sharing stories with your agent, Fran Black before you signed with her. How did that unique relationship come about and how did you know she was the right fit for you?


Jody: This question makes me very smiley. When I parted ways with my first agent, I’d switched from writing PB to writing romance. Fran was one of the first agents I queried with a story called Sweet Seconds. She ultimately rejected it but she was just so straight-forward about it: she said, “I really like it, it’s a really nice story, but I don’t think I can sell it right now.” When I reached out to send another, she was completely receptive. I’ve actually sent her four manuscripts. On the third, she was, once again, completely upfront. She said my words just weren’t digging deep enough. She said she thought I could do it, but I hadn’t done it yet.


And because I couldn’t wrap my head around how to do it but knew I was improving with every story, I sent her my latest one. She emailed and said I was off to a good start. She did that more than once—updated me to let me know where she was at, even before she signed me. And I loved/love that. Then she emailed and said she really liked it and was going to do some research and she’d get back to me in a week. Before the week was up, she emailed and asked if I could talk. I actually planned not to say yes during that phone call because I had the book out with other agents, one of whom was trying to read quickly because she knew I was close to getting an offer. But there was Fran, phoning my house with her perfect New York accent and straight-up, no-nonsense words and I couldn’t help it. She’s honest and upfront and she won’t tell me she likes something if she doesn’t. She communicates and, as an obsessive-anxious person, that means the most. And that’s what sealed it for me. On agent appreciation day on Twitter, when she wasn’t my agent yet, I thanked her because I felt like she’d supported my journey from the beginning—good or bad, yes or no. So. To be completely corny, she had me at ‘hello’.




Amy: If you were giving a keynote speech at a writers conference, what would be the most important piece of advice you would share?


Jody: I would want people to know that everyone’s journey is different, but it’s also the same. You need to surround yourself with people you trust—which unfortunately takes some learning the hard way about who you can’t. You have to be able to reach out to others and understand that those authors you admire, the ones you feel like you couldn’t be in the same room with because you’d embarrass yourself—they’ve all been right where you are now. It takes courage to keep going after someone tells you your work just wasn’t right for them. It takes courage to reach out to people you admire and say hey, I’m struggling and I don’t know why. It takes strength to listen and hear their answers and to improve your craft. Writing is an industry where there is room for everyone to succeed. Success comes from working hard, surrounding yourself with good people, giving back, and continuing to move forward even if you trip along the way.





Jody HJody Holford lives in British Columbia with her husband and two daughters. She’s a huge fan of Rainbow Rowell, Nora Roberts, Jill Shalvis, and Emily Giffen. She’s unintentionally funny and rarely on time for anything. She loves books, Converse shoes, and diet Pepsi, in no particular order. When she has to go out into the real world, she’s a teacher. She writes multiple genres but her favourite is romance because she’s a big fan of love and finding happily ever after. Probably because she’s lucky enough to have both. For more on Jody, follow her on Twitter @1prncs .  On her website or on Goodreads or Facebook.






First Five Frenzy with Brent Taylor of Triada US, Inc. August 21, 2015


FFF SideWords




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


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


Today I’m proud to share Literary Agent, Brent Taylor’s perspective on what’s important in those critical first pages.





Amy: There is a belief among many writers that having a great first line is imperative to drawing in the reader. How important is a first line to you as an agent?


Brent: Very important. I am more forgiving for bad query letters than I am for bad writing samples. Because of the amount of queries I receive in a day, I have to move quickly – there are just so many other things going on. When I open a query letter, I skim to see the genre, category, and word count. Then, I jump straight into the writing. If a first line is weak, it’s not a good sign. That being said, I will usually suspend that prejudice and give it about five pages before I give up completely. If I’m really excited about the writing, then I’ll go back and read the query letter before requesting or rejecting.





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


Brent: All of them. If you can describe something as “common” and “cliché,” then stay away from it. Of course, sometimes it’s not always that black and white, and you really have to stay true to your creative license as a storyteller. My best advice here is to just be really critical of where you start your novel. Ask yourself all of the questions: Does the story have to start here? Why does the story start here? Is there an alternate opening that makes more sense?


I see a lot of openings that are fine, but just not great. A great opening entices the reader with the voice or the writing, and then makes them ask questions about the protagonist and their circumstances.





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


Brent: It can be many things! Writing is very important to me as a reader and an agent, so a handful of good sentences alongside a fresh premise is usually what seals the deal that I’ll ask for a full manuscript. But sometimes I’m just intrigued to see where a story will go, or if I’m lukewarm about something, I’ll try to give it a chance and see if the writing and story take a turn for the better.





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


Brent: Starting their stories in stagnant places. Placing the reader in scenes where there is no forward momentum.




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


Brent: All of the above. I like books that are well-written, but also appeal to a wide, commercial audience. I want stories and voices that I’ve never encountered before. Pacing, however, is one of the biggest reasons I reject novels. If the writing impresses me, though, I’ll usually request a manuscript anyway, just in case everything clicks 25 pages later.



Brent Taylor joined Triada US, Inc. as an assistant to the agency’s founder in 2014. Prior to that, he interned at The Bent Agency. He represents a wide range of upmarket fiction for kids, teens, and adults: middle grade, young adult, graphic novels, women’s fiction, literary fiction, and crime fiction. You can find him on Twitter @NaughtyBrent.


For submission guidelines, please visit his Publishers Marketplace page:



W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday with Brittany Cavallaro August 19, 2015




Passion. It’s what drives us as writers. It can come in many forms: music, food, art, and of course, books.


What I love about today’s W.O.W. with Brittany Cavallaro is she used her passion for Sherlock Holmes to write a Young Adult manuscript where the main character is the great-great-granddaughter of the famous sleuth himself. The idea of taking one of mystery’s greatest detectives and transforming his adventures into a modern day tale where his relative is now the lead is fascinating. It’s this passion that made her book, A STUDY IN CHARLOTTE, a standout, eventually attracting the attention of an agent and editor.


Many thanks to Brittany for sharing her writing journey today…



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



I knew pretty young. I was always scratching away in notebooks, writing poems about ridiculous things (I have an actual notebook filled with poetic dialogue between Mulder and Scully; I have no shame), writing stories. I was really lucky that my parents paid attention to what I loved to do and supported me. Because of them, I took creative writing classes in the summer and eventually applied for and won a scholarship to go to an arts boarding school. In a way, I almost regret my single-mindedness, since it would have been really fun to chase down some other dreams at some point along the way (painting! marine biology!), though I’m sure I would have come back to writing eventually.



When did you complete your first manuscript?


Not until my MFA in poetry, actually. I’d written quite a bit before that, but I’d never compiled my poems into a manuscript. As for writing novels, other than a misfire when I was in high school, I didn’t attempt one until my twenty-fifth birthday. I remember lying on the couch, thinking about the summer stretching ahead of me—I was, and still am, in grad school—and kicking around an idea for a scene set against Lake Michigan, at my favorite waterfront dive up in Wisconsin’s Door County, and I began to imagine the disaffected, badass girl that tended bar there. That became my first manuscript, and the one I queried agents with.



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



I was lucky. The first manuscript I queried agents with landed me mine (the incredible Lana Popovic at Chalberg and Sussman). She had such smart, incisive ideas for revision; I felt like we were speaking the same language. I also showed her the first forty pages of A STUDY IN CHARLOTTE, which she was excited about too, and I loved that she was interested in my other projects. This was back in fall 2013. We’d been planning on going out with that first full manuscript but decided in the end that I should finish writing CHARLOTTE, which I did in six crazy, obsessive, caffeinated weeks. That other manuscript is in a drawer; I’m not really sure if I’ll pull it out again. Though I loved it, it was definitely a starter novel.




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?



My first stab at a query made me sound pretty stupid, I think, but I was lucky to have some agented and published friends who were willing to help me whip it into fighting trim. I listed comps to things I adored (Laini Taylor, Buffy) but that, until I actually wrote a query, I hadn’t realized had influenced my manuscript as much as they did. Thinking about those influences was a really useful exercise when I sat down to revise.




I love how you talk about Sherlock Holmes in the bio on your website. Did you always know somewhere deep down you’d write something involving him one day?


Oh God, yes. I’m a passionate Sherlockian and have been since I was a kid, though the most recent iteration of that obsession took root about five years ago, when I rediscovered the stories, the wonderful BBC radio adaptation, and the Jeremy Brett Granda series all in the same summer. I sort of walked around in a Victorian fugue state for months. That period spurred my writing a Sherlock Holmes murder mystery in poems, because I loved the language of the stories so much and wanted to steal some of it for my own work. And then, as the television adaptations began to come out, Sherlock and Elementary, etc., I began to think more about the process of adaptation. I love both those shows, but I got increasingly frustrated that none of them were willing to cast the genius role, the Sherlock, as a girl. I started writing A STUDY IN CHARLOTTE as both a love letter to the original stories and as a fix-it to address that frustrations.




Can you give us a short summary of your call with your agent, Lana Popovic? How did you know she was the right fit for you?


I knew absolutely when I got her long editorial letter before I’d even signed with her. It was like she was inside my own head, but smarter. She was able to pinpoint what I did well and what parts of the manuscript were broken and needed fixing. I revised and resubmitted, and though I had interest from other agents, I sort of said ‘yes!’ the moment she called to offer me representation. It just felt like an incredible fit from the get-go, and she’s been my best reader, and my stalwart champion, since.




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?


Don’t be afraid to take a step back, if you need to, and recharge. After I finished the first draft of CHARLOTTE and a quick, intensive revision, I was sort of artistically useless for months. The best thing I did during that time was read for pleasure. I read everything, from the fantasy novels I loved as a kid to really fabulous new literary fiction, and I wouldn’t let myself analyze it critically or compare my own work to it. I just let myself enjoy it, and when I felt full and happy again, buoyed by all that reading, I was ready to go back to work.






Study in Charlotte



The last thing sixteen-year-old Jamie Watson–writer and great-great-grandson of the John Watson–wants is a rugby scholarship to Sherringford, a Connecticut prep school just an hour away from his estranged father. But that’s not the only complication: Sherringford is also home to Charlotte Holmes, the famous detective’s enigmatic, fiercely independent great-great-granddaughter, who’s inherited not just his genius but also his vices, volatile temperament, and expertly hidden vulnerability. Charlotte has been the object of his fascination for as long as he can remember–but from the moment they meet, there’s a tense energy between them, and they seem more destined to be rivals than anything else.

Then a Sherringford student dies under suspicious circumstances ripped straight from the most terrifying of the Holmes stories, and Jamie and Charlotte become the prime suspects. Convinced they’re being framed, they must race against the police to conduct their own investigation. As danger mounts, it becomes clear that nowhere is safe and the only people they can trust are each other.




Brittany CBrittany Cavallaro is the author of A Study in Charlotte, forthcoming from Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins in March 2016. She is the author of the poetry collection Girl-King (University of Akron) and is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship. She earned her BA in literature from Middlebury College and her MFA in poetry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Currently, she’s a PhD candidate in English literature at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She lives in Wisconsin with her fiance, cat, and collection of deerstalker caps. Find her at her website,, or on Twitter @skippingstones.



QUITE THE QUERY: THE NEVER SILENT by Audrey Lockwood August 14, 2015








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 Audrey Lockwood. This great query connected her with her agent, Marlene Stringer.




Henry Thorp is a seventeen-year-old con artist working the Manhattan streets in 1847. Along with Thomas and Mary Doyle, his best friends and partners in crime, Henry swindles naïve travelers fresh from the docks—old, young and beautiful alike. But when Thomas is murdered, the only clue to his death is a ticket to board The Never Silent, a ship with a covert destination. Henry impersonates Thomas to take his place on the ship in the hope of finding his killer.


But Henry soon learns that Thomas kept one vital secret from him—he was part of an ancient society descended from the Norse who gained magic through the sea, and Thomas himself could hear other people’s thoughts. Now Henry must use every confidence trick he knows to convince an entire crew of magicians that he too is no ordinary human but instead a powerful reader. Between the risk of discovery, the peril of a murderer walking about the ship and the looming threat of pirates roaming the Atlantic, the next life lost could be Henry’s. He’ll need all his wits to solve Thomas’s murder and return home… to the streets he knows and to Mary, the girl he just might love.


THE NEVER SILENT is a 90,000 word YA historical fantasy. It could be described as Pirates of the Caribbean meets Holly Black’s WHITE CAT.




Fun Tidbit:


I found out about my agent (Marlene Stringer) from my critique partner when we traded agent lists. I randomly decided to research the agents with online submission forms first, and Marlene was top of the list. I really liked everything I saw about her. I sent in my query, and within a few hours she requested the full ms. A few days later she emailed again to set up the call! I was so impressed with her response time–I’d never had an agent get back to me so quickly–and to have her response be a positive one! I was almost sold solely based on her speedy response, and then we had a great conversation on the phone that convinced me the rest of the way that she was right for me.




Audrey Lockwood was raised on two types of books: math puzzles and stories of magic and fantasy. She graduated from William and Mary with a degree in mathematics, then promptly did a 180 in her career path to write novels. She loves to travel, preferably to places with ancient ruins to explore. She’ll try anything creative—including music composition, crocheting and chocolate making—but so far writing is the only thing to stick long-term. She’s mostly harmless, but has inherited a strong competitive nature that shows up around the board game table. She lives in Virginia with her husband, son and cat. You can find her on Twitter (@write_lock) or check out more on her website,








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 Tom Torre. This great Middle Grade query connected him with his agent, Dawn Frederick at Red Sofa Literary.



I am writing you today seeking representation of my 54,000 word middle-grade adventure novel, COPERNICUS NERDICUS. It targets readers who are gamers at heart by bringing to life video game elements while combining the hilarious adventures of Michael Buckley’s NERDS series, with the robotic action packed pages of J.V. Kade’s BOT WARS.


Thirteen-year-old gamer, Copernicus ‘Nic’ Wilhelm, has one chance to win fifty thousand dollars and prevent his dad from losing his laboratory to the devious inventor, Geoffrey Zorn–The Digital Zone video game tournament. But when Geoffrey Zorn unveils a new virtual gaming console called EVO to be used in the finals, Nic only has a week to master a futuristic robotic fighting game.


Easy enough for Nic, that is, until the game fights back.


When EVO transforms into a short-circuiting attack robot, the term video game realism takes on a completely new meaning. With the help of his friends, Nic re-programs the rampaging robot, but that wasn’t the only problem. EVO was also installed with a brainwashing microchip by the vile criminal organization, C.O.R.E (Coalition of Rogue Engineers) in order to kidnap tournament contestants, including Nic’s best friend, and transform them into pilots for an army of kid-controlled robots straight out of the game.


With the police now controlled by C.O.R.E too, Nic and his friends must pummel their way through C.O.R.E troops using everything from stink bombs to slime cannons in order to rescue the contestants and discover proof of Zorn’s involvement in the mind control plot. Meanwhile, a fleet of robotic drones is preparing to invade Nic’s hometown of Twin Valley, and ultimately the world. Nic is in a race against time to put a stop to C.O.R.E and ensure the tournament goes on, before his gamer guile and new robot’s battery, runs out.



Fun Tidbit:


I revised my query a total of 8 times before I settled on this final version. I’m still not completely happy with it LOL. Don’t think I ever will be!


Final querying stats : Queries Sent : 62

Full Requests : 12

Offers of Rep : 3





TomTTom is an IT whiz by day (just think of one of those guys from Office Space), and a comic book artist, video game buff, and middle-grade writer by night. After a few stints as colorist in the comic book industry, he completed his first major middle grade novel, COPERNICUS NERDICUS, which combines his love for video games and robotic warfare. Under the wings of expert literary agent, DAWN FREDERICK of RED SOFA LITERARY, he is now in the “submission trenches” – submitting both COPERNICUS NERDICUS and his latest middle-grade conquest, LUCAS PEREGRINUS and the ESCAPE FROM MANUKI ISLAND.


When he isn’t locked away in his man-cave watching The GOONIES for the 347th time, or catching up on some geek-news on Kotaku, he’s probably busy cooking up some chaotic food dishes for his wife and his 100 lb doberman named Braveheart’s Dantes Inferno. Yes…that’s his dog’s real name.


Follow Tom on Twitter @CopernicusNerd and his blog




BEHIND THE CURTAIN – Listening To Your Gut – A guest post from Christina Lee June 3, 2015

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Even though we are in an age where information is readily at hand, it still seems many things in the publishing world are kept in the dark. Things that we’re taught not to talk about or share. One of these things is rejection and how long it takes to sell a book.



The authors who seem to get the most exposure are the ones who have whirlwind experiences. They write and sell their first book in a year and suddenly they’re on the New York Times Bestseller list. As most writers know, this is NOT the norm. But for those outside of publishing, that’s all they see. This exposure puts pressure on a lot of writers to sell the first book they’ve got out on sub. If they don’t, they walk away feeling like they’ve not only let themselves down but others who believed in them (agent, family, critique partners).



This leads me to a conversation I had with Christina Lee when I attended my first RT convention. One evening the organizers arranged a scavenger hunt through Bourbon Street. While I was in one location, a good writer friend, A.J. Pine introduced me to an author I really admired, Christina.  I actually had a hard time speaking after we met. I’d  just finished her book, ALL OF YOU and loved it.



As we talked, Christina opened up to me about the ups and downs she went through in publishing before she sold her first book. That conversation was over a year ago and to this day I still think about it vividly.



Her story makes for the perfect “Behind The Curtain” post because many times writers don’t talk about what happened prior to selling their first book. Rejections, unsold books, and failed agent relationships are forced back into the shadows like pieces of dirty laundry everyone is too afraid to talk about. To be honest, by keeping quiet I think we’re doing the writing community a disservice.



If you want to write, then I think you should go into the publishing world with your eyes wide open. You need to be aware that there’s not some magical formula you can create to sell a book. It takes years of hard work, sacrifice, and perseverance for many writers before it happens.



So today I’m proud to share this guest post from Christina Lee. I hope it will touch you and open your eyes to the realities of publishing. We each have our own path and it takes bravery and guts to follow wherever it may lead!






Guest Post From Christina Lee




Thanks for inviting me to write something for your Behind The Curtain series. To tell you a little bit about my journey, I wrote my first book in 2008. It was like a hybrid NA/YA romance that will thankfully never see the light of day. HA!




But finishing that first book was so liberating because I gave it my all and figured out my passion for writing fiction in the process. Plus, I began learning my craft. You can only do that with lots of practice, rewrites, revisions and critiques from other writers.




In hindsight, that wreck of a book still wasn’t ready and no surprise that it was never picked up by an agent. So I began writing another young adult novel immediately. That one got some attention from a few agents but ultimately I had to shelf that book as well.




I landed my first agent with my third YA book. We went on submission, but then something strange happened. She left the business suddenly with no forewarning to her clients. There were other disappointments that went along with that situation (that I won’t mention publicly) but honestly, I should’ve known better. Because in the end, I never listened to my gut when I signed with her. I was so excited about being repped—she seemed cool, legit, loved my book, and had the right contacts—but other things were way off that were red flags.




So I queried again with the same book while writing my fourth. I found an awesome and reputable agent who loved that book, was really passionate about it. We went on a couple rounds of submission, got rejections and R & Rs (revise & resubmits) with no result. So we tried my next book and got even fewer bites.




It was around that time that I got an idea for a new adult romance, but I knew my agent only repped YA. I wrote the book anyway and did it with wild abandon. It opened up this new world for me. A world I didn’t realize I was passionate about from the writer’s side, only from the reader’s side. The world of new adult and adult romance.




I had a candid discussion with my agent about my desire to write in a new category/genre and we ended up parting ways. Our goals had become vastly different. And that’s okay. The important thing was to recognize it.




I considered querying a few agents who were accepting NA submissions at that time, but I was also asking myself some tougher questions about my future goals. Did I want to continue with my dream of traditionally publishing my first book or should I go with a smaller press or maybe self-publish? Just keeping it real here. I wanted to be an author and get my book in reader’s hands. But I also wanted to be smart and put out a great product.




So I queried a handful of agents I thought sounded like the right fit, while I studied the market and talked to other writers about their experiences. I got an immediate response from my current agent, Sara Megibow, who asked for the full, and then contacted me with an offer a couple of days later. And this time around felt especially right. We were on the same page, had the same general philosophy and goals. Especially when it came to communication.




It was all such a whirlwind after that. My book went to auction with six publishing houses. I accepted a two-book deal with Penguin. This spring, my fifth and sixth books will publish with the same house. One is a gay romance and the other is an adult contemporary, so I’m still evolving and challenging myself, and I have an agent in my corner who supports all of that.




So my advice to any new or even seasoned writer would be: Ask yourself some difficult questions and then really listen to your gut. It sounds cliché but that little voice inside of you will never lead you astray. If something feels off—with an agent relationship, or your book, or your offer—if you’re not writing in the genres or age categories you’re most wild about, LISTEN!




Ask yourself what you can or should do differently to meet your goal. And then do it—even if it feels uncomfortable and disappointing at first. Because later on the discomfort may be greater.



Keep trying new things in the general direction of your ultimate dream. Don’t stay static. Always move forward, even in baby steps, to learn and grow and change. Eventually something good will happen!




Christina WOWMother, wife, reader, dreamer. Christina lives in the Midwest with her husband and son–her two favorite guys. She’s addicted to lip gloss and salted caramel everything. She believes in true love and kissing, so writing romance novels has become a dream job.  Author of the Between Breaths series including ALL OF YOU, BEFORE YOU BREAK, WHISPER TO ME, PROMISE ME THIS, and THERE YOU STAND are all available now from Penguin. Her latest release, TWO OF HEARTS, an adult contemporary romance, is now available via Amazon and Barnes & Noble.


She is represented by Sara Megibow of The Nelson Literary Agency. Also the creator of Tags-n-Stones (dot com) jewelry. For more on Christina, check out her website, or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.





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