Chasing my crazy dream in the writing world…

QUITE THE QUERY: Gwen Katz and AMONG THE RED STARS August 17, 2016







If you ask any writer about the process of connecting with their agent (or publisher), the majority will say the most difficult part was querying. Not only the actual process of sending out the letters/emails, but formulating the query itself. In fact, I’ve heard more than a few authors say writing their query took them almost as long as drafting their book!



Some people have the talent of being able to summarize their book in a few sentences, but for those who don’t I wanted to provide a resource where writers could learn what works, and what doesn’t, in a query.



With that in mind, I’m pleased to share today’s successful query from Gwen Katz. This great query connected her with her agent, Thao Le.




Eighteen-year-old tomboy Valya and the boy next door, Pasha, breathlessly follow the adventures of Soviet air navigator Marina Raskova. When World War II breaks out and Valya discovers that Raskova is getting airwomen into combat, she’s first in line. Valya hopes to become a fighter pilot, but Raskova assigns her to the night bombers. Instead of a high-tech Yak-1, Valya ends up flying a wood and canvas biplane no faster than a car.



On the front, Valya braves anti-air guns, blinding searchlights, and deadly Luftwaffe night fighters, all under the command of an air force that still believes women are only suited for the home front. When Pasha, now a Red Army radio operator, finds himself trapped behind enemy lines, one small aircraft might be able to slip through. Valya sees her chance to rescue the boy who has begun to capture her heart—but in Stalin’s Russia, defying orders could land both of them in front of a firing squad.



Valya’s regiment, the 46th Guards, really existed. Its aviators so terrified the Wehrmacht that the German soldiers nicknamed them the “Night Witches,” yet the brave Soviet women and girls who served in World War II are little known in the West. My 84,000-word YA historical novel, AMONG THE RED STARS, highlights many of these real-life heroes. It is a semi-epistolary novel that will appeal to fans of FLYGIRL and CODE NAME VERITY.




Fun Tidbit:


My query barely changed from its first iteration, but the manuscript itself needed a lot of work. Although it got a lot of attention in contests, I ultimately found my agent through the regular slush pile.




_DSC2444Gwen C. Katz lives in Altadena, California with her husband and a revolving door of transient animals. When she’s not writing, she’s usually drawing, listening to rock music, and leading nature walks. For more on Gwen, follow her on Twitter (@gwenckatz).




2016 PitchWars Bio – Bring on the YA! July 19, 2016









Welcome to my blog and my bio and wishlist for Pitch Wars! Although I’m a newbie mentor this year, I’m no stranger to Pitch Wars. I’ve been chosen as an alternate twice. First for a YA Thriller, then for a YA Historical (for which I had to pull out of the contest after signing with an agent.)


Because of this extraordinary experience, I understand all facets of this process and the commitment it takes to make a manuscript shine. I decided to dive in as a mentor this year because I know how it feels to have someone special on your side. Rooting you on. Pushing you to do your best work. I’m here to be mentor, guide, teacher, and above all a support base for what will be a long, yet thrilling ride.






I started out my career working in entertainment then moved on to my true love, advertising and marketing. In my many positions, I managed to work with writing at some level. Formulating pitches. Copywriting. Developing and creating marketing plans for new book releases. No matter the job, my love has always been the craft of writing.


To understand the publishing world better, I’ve completed internships at not one, but two publishing houses, as well as a literary agency. Currently, I’m a freelance editor for Wild Things Editing. And along with Michelle Hauck, I host a yearly contest called Sun vs. Snow where I mentor several entries (my favorite part!) Oh, and I also run this fun (and somewhat crazy) blog – hence the name.


When I’m not doing all the things above, I write Young Adult (Historical, Thrillers, and Contemporary). My work is represented by Roseanne Wells at the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency.



Six Fun Facts…



–  After college I worked as an NBC Page. I met dozens of celebrities and tried to act cool, but after I made an ass out of myself in front of Garth Brooks I learned it’s best just to be yourself!



–  I worked at a major book distribution company just when Harry Potter was being introduced to the U.S. market (I read an early ARC of The Prisoner of Azkaban). Right before Goblet of Fire released, I was in charge of calling bookstores and reminding them (over and over) that they could not release books until midnight (a lot of them did not listen – LOL!).



–  I was a competitive gymnast for a good part of my childhood until several broken bones ended that dream.



–  I’ve been to BEA three times – all for work. The last time, I presented to a major group of publishers while eight months pregnant. I got a few side-eyes, but I killed it!



–  On a trip to England several years ago a tour guide informed me that every book published in Britain is housed in a huge vault below the University of Oxford library (not sure if this is true), but at that moment I realized I wanted to be a published author and have a book housed in that library one day.



–  My favorite all time movies are: Somewhere in Time (I’ve watched over 20 times) and Field of Dreams (If you want a good example of Magical Realism, this movie is it!)







I’m not going to say “wishlist” because for me it’s more about what I “hope” to see in my inbox! To add to that, I “hope” whoever subs to me will be ready to work. I’m looking for something that has a unique concept, but also has tons of heart. The manuscript doesn’t have to be completely polished, but it does have to be something I know agents and “hopefully” editors will want to see come across their desks. This includes the following:






Looking for family and friendship stories. Dual POV and male POV always catch my eye. If it’s an issue-based story, the approach needs to be unique. Love, love, LOVE strong heroines who make bad choices but rely on themselves to solve the situation (not a male or parental figure). HEAs not required, but there needs to be a suitable and satisfying resolution.


Favorite books in this genre include: The Boy Most Likely To, Lola and the Boy Next Door, Going Too Far, and Eleanor and Park.



Overall favorite: SUCH A RUSH (Jennifer Echols)





Why I love…Strong heroine who makes bad choices. Believable Romance. Satisfying and honest ending.







If you submit historical to me, be prepared to be grilled about your facts down to the most minute level. I’m a stickler for authenticity and detail. I don’t have a preference for a specific time period, but I’m looking for a compelling manuscript that weaves in historical elements that elevates the level of storytelling.


Favorites books in this genre include: Flygirl, Under A Painted Sky, and The Explosionist.




Overall Favorite:  Outrun The Moon (Stacey Lee)




Why I love…Fierce female heroine. Intriguing time period. Magical storytelling!







Please send me manuscripts with twists and turns. Psychological mind games. Huge bonus points for unreliable narrators. No gore or grisly murder descriptions. The best writers allude to these facts rather than splash them across the page.


Some favorites: Between The Devil and The Deep Blue Sea, Ten, and The Darkest Corners.



Overall Favorite:  Anna Dressed in Blood (Kendare Blake)





Why I love…Spot-on male POV. Intriguing mystery. A cast of minor characters who help tell a compelling story.





Fairytale Re-Imaginings


Please be aware I AM NOT looking for Peter Pan (or Captain Hook), Snow White, or any traditional “Disney-style” retelling. If you’ve got an obscure villain origin story or a side character who has been overlooked (think one of the ugly stepsisters), I’m in. Again, I’m going to be very selective here. Only send me something very unique if you have it!


It will not be released until 2017, but I’m dying to get my hands on fellow mentor, Sarah Henning’s SEA WITCH – the villain origin story of the Sea Witch from Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid.







I take this process very seriously and am ready to get to work with a manuscript I know will blow agents away. If your book meets any of the criteria above, I hope you’ll send it to me. Please, if you have questions, or need clarification, leave a comment and I will get back to you as soon as possible.


Thanks and good luck! No matter which mentor “U” apply to, I can guarantee “U” will have an amazing experience.


There are many other incredible YA mentors. Check out the list below and click on the link to go to their bios and wishlists!




































































Powered by… Mister Linky’s Magical Widgets.


First Five Frenzy with Elana Roth Parker of Laura Dail Literary Agency July 8, 2016



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 the right balance, but I hope by reading each agent’s comments you’ll learn how to make your manuscript a shining gem that’s requested over and over.



Today, I’m proud to share Elana Roth Parker’s perspective on what’s important in those critical first pages.




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




Elana: A great first line is…well, great. But it’s so not the most important thing if the sentences after that first one are less great. Out of all the books I’ve signed and sold, I only remember the first line of one novel by heart, if that tells you anything.



What’s more true is that a bad first line can do disproportionate damage relative to the good a killer first line can do. It’s more important that you have a solid first line followed by a solid first paragraph followed by a solid first page, and so forth. We’re looking at these cumulatively and holistically. You never want a reader to say, “Well that first sentence was the wittiest line ever. Where’d that writer go for the rest of the novel?”





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?



Elana: Those are some pretty good examples right there. I also get tired of the “It all started that day when…” opener. Or an out-of-context piece of dialogue. You want to start the book about 5-10 minutes (I hope you understand that this is not literal time…) before the big story starts. Just enough to give me some context and get to know the main character before I get derailed by a big plot point. Not enough to bore me, or confuse me (which is why dreams aren’t awesome).





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?




Elana: Ease of entry is what I’m looking for most in the sample pages I ask for in the query. I look for quality of writing that matches the pitch—i.e. if it’s a great concept, I need the writing at an equal level of quality at a minimum. I need to be brought into the character’s world naturally, and feel like the pages are inviting me in, not fighting me. And I also need those sample pages to offer me something the query didn’t in terms of depth.





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



Elana: Mostly writers get tripped up on where their story starts, as I mentioned above. Context is very important for a reader—we like feeling grounded. I often find the sample pages are either too slow and voicey or too caught up in some big action sequence that I have no idea what’s happening. You need to find a happy medium. Strong voice AND some movement. But not overkill on either front. And make sure the characters I’m meeting in the first pages are the same ones you’re talking about in the query. There’s nothing more disorienting than a prologue or short scene featuring some other characters.





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



Elana: All of the above. I need to see all of those thing. Nicely balanced. Remember that you’re welcoming a reader into a world they’ve never stepped foot in before—even if you’re writing a contemporary novel in a recognizable setting. I don’t know anything about your characters or their situation before I open the book. Ease me into it and show me my this is going to be an interesting story to continue with.





Elana Roth Parker has specialized in children’s publishing from the beginning of her career, from her very first internship at Nickelodeon Magazine followed by 5 years as an editor at Parachute Publishing. She’s been an agent since 2008, most recently at Red Tree Literary, which she founded in 2012. She joined the Laura Dail Literary Agency in 2016.




If you’re interested in submitting to Elana, please check the Laura Dail Literary Agency website for submission guidelines.



New Release: Sarah L. Blair’s DARKNESS SHIFTING July 1, 2016











I’m always thrilled for my writing friends when they take on a new challenge. Some decide to write in a new category or genre. Others decide to share their work via the self-publishing route. Today, I’m excited to share a guest post from Sarah L. Blair who shares insight into why self-publishing was the best option to introduce readers to her debut novel, DARKNESS SHIFTING.




I graduated college ten years ago. Like most new graduates, I entered the world clutching my shiny new Creative Writing degree with a bunch of ideas for what the future would hold. None of them included self-publishing. It was a whole different world back then, so long ago, yet not so far away. My professors all made it clear that getting published would be a long time coming, I’d be one of the lucky ones if I could turn it into any kind of career. It takes practice to hone your skills as a writer. 10,000 hours of doing something to become an expert. I knew I was a good writer, maybe even a great one. But I also knew I wasn’t good enough. Not yet. I also didn’t have any clue about how to get published, even when I was ready. I still have the 2006 edition of Writer’s Market in a box in the back of my closet somewhere, hiding out with a bunch of workshop stories that will never see the light of day.



About a year after I graduated, I got married and moved to Georgia. I still had no clue what I wanted to do other than Be A Writer, but I really had no practical experience in anything other than babysitting. So I got a job teaching at a pre-school. The hours were great, my boss and co-workers were incredible. And in my spare time, I wrote. I fussed around with a few ideas until one afternoon a girl walked into my head and said, “What have we got?”



I had no idea, but I wanted to find out. The idea took hold of me like no other story had before. I knew it was something, even if I didn’t know what.



It took me years to get that first draft down. But I finally had it. The End. And I revised and revised and REVISED. This book barely resembles what it once was. My scrap file is over 100k words. Finally, I thought I was ready to try to get published, because I didn’t know what else to do with it. By the way, it was still a hot mess.



Around this time I joined Twitter. This is where I learned everything about how to get published. Being able to see agent tweets, figure out what they were looking for, how they wanted to be approached, connecting with other writers just like me who were trying to find their way in the darkness of the query trenches—it was everything I didn’t know I needed. It was invaluable. I wish I could go back to 2006 Sarey and hand her this knowledge. There are a lot of things she would do differently.



I queried with a lot of positive response, but from the feedback I got, I knew it wasn’t ready. I revised. I queried again. By that time however, the market for anything paranormal or fantasy was starting to wane, and gauging what agents were looking for with things like Manuscript Wish List, I quickly realized that my little urban fantasy wasn’t what publishers wanted on their desks at the moment. Talking to friends, browsing through tweets from readers, and perusing Amazon lists, I still felt like it was something readers might be interested in. After all, I’d written a book I wanted to read, maybe other people would want it too? Self-publishing was a consideration in the back of my head. Maybe someday. It was at least a backup plan.



I took the advice of better people who had more experience and put my little urban fantasy away for awhile. I started a brand new project. Something completely different. I started something else. Even more different. I liked them both. But I stalled out. The characters just didn’t hold my attention the same way.



In the middle of trying to birth a book baby, I birthed two human babies. If you have kids, you know how time consuming they are. They need constant attention.



At the same time I was just entering the world as an intimidated but hopeful young writer, the idea of self-publishing was associated closely with the word vanity. It came with a certain stigma of entitlement and defiance.



Not anymore. In this past decade alone,  thanks to technology and e-books, it’s quickly evolved into something else: A viable path to getting books in front of readers. Isn’t that ultimately the goal for most writers? We just want people to read our work, and hope that they love it, or at the very least, react to it in one way or another.



One day I sat down and thought of all the reasons I wanted to be traditionally published. The biggest one was that I wanted a team. I needed people behind me who were smarter and more objective than I was to help me hone my words into something better than I could make them on my own. I needed a great cover. I needed publicity and marketing.



And then I realized… I already had those things. Thanks to Twitter, I had an entire community of talented people who love me and my words, and want to see me succeed. I already had my team.



Another thing I realized was that I have two little kids who need a lot of attention. I’m a slow writer. I can’t get to the page every single day. It’s essential that my family comes first. At this point in my life, I absolutely need to work at my own pace. Deadlines are certainly important for meeting goals, but at this point in my life I need flexibility. I’m not the type of person to let other people down or be unprofessional. If I chose to pursue traditional publishing I’d have zero control over deadlines. I’d be beholden to other people who really didn’t care if my kids were throwing a fit, or sick and needing extra attention. They wouldn’t care why I didn’t meet my deadline, only that I didn’t meet it. They’d remember that and see me as sloppy and unprofessional. Sure, they’re all human. Agents and publishers aren’t heartless. They have families and get sick too. But the publishing world keeps going, regardless.



What was I waiting for? I had a team. I could set my own timeline and adjust as needed. My decision to self-publish was made.



It’s probably best that I didn’t know exactly what I was getting myself into, because the learning curve has been enormous. Thankfully, I’ve got Trisha Leigh and Laura Oliva, my self-publishing gurus to hold my hand and guide me through this process. Their advice and input has been invaluable. The best advice I can give anyone else considering self-publishing is to find someone who has done it several times and snuggle up under their wing like a baby duckling. This is not something you can do alone. I mean, you can do it alone, but it’s a lot better with help.



The first step I took was to hire a professional editor. I sort of fell into this. I wasn’t looking seriously, yet. But my friend Julie Hutchings mentioned one day that she was needing a project and I knew I had one. We struck a deal and it was the best thing I’ve ever done for this book. Julie got it. Every single thing about my book, she nailed it. Not only that, but she helped me bring out the very best of my characters. She showed me which parts needed to be strengthened, and guided me into making this book so much better than I ever could have made it on my own. I was extremely lucky. I already knew Julie well enough to know she’d be a great fit for me and my book. If you’re looking for a professional editor, do your research. Read other projects the editor has worked on. Follow on twitter and other social media. You’ve got to find the right person, someone who understands your project as if they were inside your head already. It’s worth the time and effort, trust me.



The next step was a cover. I had no clue what I wanted. I scoured pre-made covers, and browsed other books in my genre to try to figure out what the trends were. I endlessly searched stock photos, trying to find something that caught my eye. Again, my critique partners, and self-published experts came to my rescue. We played around with ideas until I finally had a concept that I loved. I found a couple of stock photos that were perfect. My husband helped me put together a general idea of what I wanted, but he’s not a professional cover designer so he could only get me so far. I took my ideas to local cover artist and photographer Vania Stoyanova to put everything together into a finished product. She absolutely did not disappoint! What she came up with was so much more than I could have done on my own. I’m absolutely in love with it!



While I was waiting for Vania to work on my cover, I decided to tackle getting everything uploaded and ready for publication. I used CreateSpace for my print copies, and they’re great, but there’s definitely a learning curve. Everything is laid out in a step-by-step checklist, which really helps. But as far as formatting goes… I won’t lie: It’s been a total headache. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve tweaked margins, and spacing, and font-size. No matter what I’ve done, there are still a couple of spots with widow and orphan lines hanging on for dear life, alone and desolate at the top of the page. It’s been frustrating beyond belief. But at some point, I realized there’s truly only so much I can do. No book is 100% perfect in every way. Not even those written by the greatest authors of our time. Yes, even Harry Potter books have typos. You can only do what you can do, and then you have to let go.



And so I have. This book is as ready as it’s ever going to be to head out into the world. People jokingly talk about their book babies, comparing them to real children, but there’s a lot of truth to the analogy. As a parent of humans, I do what I can to guide my children, support them, and urge them into becoming the best they can be. I want them to be good people and grow up to do amazing things. I hope my book babies will do the same. I’ve spent countless hours honing, guiding, and shaping this book into something I want to put out into the world for others to experience. Who knows, maybe it’ll even surprise me and do something spectacular? I have no idea. For now, I’m keeping my expectations low and my hopes high.






Paranormal Investigator, Sidney Lake doesn’t jump at shadows. The weird stuff is her jurisdiction. When the mangled body of a supposedly extinct creature turns up in New York City’s subway system, she’s number one on the Medical Examiner’s speed dial.


But this case hits too close to home when clues point her toward the truth about her parents’ brutal murder twelve years ago. Her boss Mitchell Harris, questions whether she should continue to investigate. However, Sidney insists on facing her greatest fears and putting her parents’ memory to rest once and for all.


What she uncovers sheds a light on secrets that reach further into the darkness than she ever wanted to go… and leads her to a future she never imagined.


Now available via Amazon and Bookbub.





SareyPic2Sarah L. Blair earned a BA in Creative Writing from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. While spending a semester abroad at Swansea University in Wales she traveled to nearby Bath and Glastonbury often, drawing inspiration for her writing from the myths and legends surrounding the area. Sarah now resides just north of Atlanta, Georgia with her husband, their two children, and chihuahua. While writing is her first passion, she also enjoys sewing, tater tots, catching up on her teetering TBR pile, and hanging out on her porch drinking sweet tea.


You can find Sarah around the web on Twitter: @SarahLBlair, Facebook:, or visit her new website:



W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday with Rachel Lynn Solomon June 29, 2016







Every writer has their own path to publication. Some paths are long and winding. Others are a straight shot. No matter the tale, the journey always involves ups and downs, caution signs, and for some, serious roundabouts, but what always remains is the writer’s commitment to their craft and their enduring dream to see their work on bookshelves one day.



In bringing you the W.O.W. series, I hope as a writer you will learn that no dream is unfounded. That with time, patience, perseverance, and commitment to your craft, it is possible to cross that finish line and share your story with the world.



Today, I am pleased to share Rachel Lynn Solomon’s writing journey…





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



Rachel: I can’t remember ever not wanting to be a writer — I think I’ve wanted to be one as long as I’ve been a reader. When I was growing up, I wrote constantly and posted stories on FictionPress (some are even still up there). I didn’t get serious about being a writer until after I graduated college. I’d studied journalism, so I’d been writing and hearing others’ stories for years, and I decided to try telling one of my own. It became my first finished book, a semi-autobiographical new adult kind of thing that I still can’t believe I queried! I did not understand showing vs. telling. I did not understand what was wrong with three chapters filled solely with info-dumps. But it was important for me to write that book — to know that I could write a book.




Amy: I love the themes of sisterhood and family dynamics in FINGERS CROSSED. What inspired you to write the story?



Rachel: The story concept came to me in several waves. The very first one — and this is almost awkward to admit! — was that I wanted to write a bold, kind of sexually aggressive teen girl because I hadn’t read very many female characters like that in YA. I thought it would be fun to explore, so she became one of the twins. I also felt I’d read a lot of twin stories where the characters were opposites: one’s going to Harvard, and the other’s a slacker. Both sisters in my books are ambitious in different ways; one is a viola prodigy and the other wants to become a surgeon.



I’ve always thought of Huntington’s disease as one of the most tragic things that can befall a family. The idea that you can know if you’ll develop the disease but not when — it’s heartbreaking to me. While doing research, I learned there’s a 50/50 chance that the child of a parent with Huntington’s will inherit it, and I thought, what if one twin tested positive and one tested negative? It seemed to lend itself naturally to a dual POV story, and I hadn’t read too many multiple POV books narrated by sisters.



Lastly, family dynamics and Judaism are integral to the story. This is actually the first book I’ve written with Jewish protagonists. Growing up, I rarely read any stories about Jewish people that weren’t about the Holocaust. I wanted my younger self and other Jewish readers to see themselves in my book.




Amy: After reading your amazing blog post about the journey to selling your debut (read the post here!), I was inspired by your perseverance. How did you keep writing in spite of the ups and downs?



Rachel: I kept writing because it was the only thing I could do, the only thing I had control over. At any stage of this journey, that remains the thing we have the most control over. Writing has always been a bundle of different things for me: cathartic, comforting, challenging. While taking breaks is always a good idea, I don’t think I could have stopped writing because in my soul I am a writer.



It also helped to connect with other writers on long journeys, particularly writers who’d left agents and were querying for the second or third time. I never felt alone, and that was a tremendous comfort.




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 your final version?



Rachel: Depends on the book! I always write queries early on in the drafting process so I know whether what I’m writing has a solid enough hook and stakes. If I’m struggling to write the query, maybe I haven’t fully developed the plot or characters yet. Then I labor over each word. I love words (I mean, obviously, right?) — but more specifically, the exactness of them, the satisfaction of a dynamic verb or a precise noun.




Amy: Do you work with critique partners? If so, how do they help shape your stories?



Rachel: YES, and I would be absolutely lost without them. I used to send chapters to readers early on, but now, while I brainstorm with CPs throughout the process, I don’t usually share until I have a completed (and often extremely messy) first draft. I like to have something finished that I can then mold and take apart.




Amy: From beginning (first draft) to end (signing contract), how long was the process of getting a deal for FINGERS CROSSED?



Rachel: I started writing the book in March of 2014, and it sold in May of 2016, so a little over two years! It’s been through several rewrites and many, many revisions. Once it went on submission with my current agent, Laura Bradford, it sold in six weeks, which still feels unbelievable to me. I don’t think anything in publishing had moved quickly for me up until that point. Laura is amazing; she put the book in the hands of the right person!




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



Rachel: From my first draft, I knew this book had a great hook, and that my challenge was going to be getting the writing to live up to that hook. I wrote and rewrote several times from a blank page, which I’d never done before. I wrote each character separately to ensure their voices felt distinct. I printed the manuscript several times and did hard copy edits. I had at least 10 readers over the course of the two years I was working on it. This book meant the world to me, and I didn’t want to put it out there until I felt I had done everything I could.




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



Rachel: Though I’d been represented previously, this manuscript had not been queried. Laura was the first to offer on it in March of 2016. From the moment we got on the phone, I felt so at ease. She was funny and down-to-earth, and my favorite thing she said that made me feel like she got what was I trying to do was something along the lines of, “You don’t really like Adina [one of the twins] because she’s so sharp. But she’s compelling. You root for her.” I feel strongly that (female) characters don’t need to be likable — but they should be interesting. I don’t want to spend 300 pages with a nice, mild character who follows the rules. My characters live in moral gray areas.




Amy: If you were doing a book signing and you met a writer who was about to give up on their publishing dream, what would you say to them? 



Rachel: I’m going to borrow something I wrote on my own blog for this one:). It took me several books to realize that getting published was what I wanted more than anything else. Every new book made me want it even more. It’s taken me a long time to develop the confidence to be able to say that I have something to say as an author. I’ve spent so much time in my life downplaying my own accomplishments, however small, and I’m trying to take more pride in what I do. We have to be our own best advocates. So I would say this: you are the only person who can write your book. You are the only person who is going to put it out there. You are the only person who’s going to send it to readers and agents and editors. Maybe you need to take a break for a while, and that’s okay. Maybe you need to find new readers, take a class, consult craft books. At times there are more downs than ups, but if this is something you desperately want, you have to keep writing.





rachel 2016 3Rachel Lynn Solomon is a Seattle native who loves rainy days, tap dancing, red lipstick, and new wave music. Her debut contemporary YA novel, FINGERS CROSSED, will be out from Simon & Schuster/Simon Pulse in spring 2018, with a second book to follow in 2019. She’s represented by Laura Bradford of Bradford Literary Agency. You can find Rachel online at and on Twitter @rlynn_solomon.


Monday Musings: Agents, Publishers, and Research June 27, 2016



Monday Musings Image





Over the last few weeks there’ve been two pitch events on Twitter. The AMAZING #PitMad hosted by Brenda Drake, and the stellar #SFFPit organized by Dan Koboldt. There’s also been the ongoing battles heating up with the writing contest #QueryKombat.



Hopefully those of you who are participating in these contests are getting a ton of requests! The question that comes next is what do you do with those requests? Do you polish your sub package up all neat and shiny and send right away? I’d say yes ONLY if you’ve done your research first.



Getting a request is an amazing thing. It feels like discovering that “golden ticket” that’ll move you to the head of the slush pile. And while this may seem true, there’s still work to do. Your job at this point is to not blast off an email right away, but go to each individual agent or publisher’s website and do your research. Determine if their list, and what they are looking for, gels with what you are writing. If their sales and distribution chain match your goals.



In thinking about all these things, I thought I’d go back into my archives and share a post from my QUERY 101 series regarding research. This information applies not only to those who have received requests, but those just getting ready to jump into the trenches.






Once your query is a masterpiece you think you’re done, right? Wish I could say that’s so, but there’s more work ahead. Now it’s time to figure out who you want to receive that shining gem. But before you can do that, you must do your research.



First, I recommend you have a clear understanding of your category (i.e. is your book Middle Grade or Young Adult?)


Here’s a great post from Writer’s Digest on defining categories:



Next, make sure you’ve determined the correct genre for your work. This is critical to the querying process. Why? Because I’ve heard many agents say they’ve rejected a query because it was labeled wrong and they did not rep. said genre.



For help with determining genre, check out this link from literary agent, Jennifer Laughran:



When you have your category and genre clear, you can move on to agent stalking, umm, I mean agent research. While finding someone who takes your category and genre is imperative, you should also research their sales, publishers they’ve sold to, and how long they’ve worked with their clients. In my opinion, when querying an agent, you need to look for someone who wants to invest in your entire career, because of course, you’re going to write more than one book!



So where do you go to research agents?



Here are two websites that will help your process: AgentQuery and QueryTracker. Both will allow you to research by category. From there, you can drill down to see which take your genre. Once you determine this information, I suggest you go to that agent’s website. Many times they may have changed their query guidelines, be closed to queries, or revamped their wish list. You can also check out writing communities like AbsoluteWrite & AgentQueryConnect for writer feedback on agents. I’d also suggest dropping by the #MSWL website this Thursday, June 30 (2016) where agents will be dropping in and adding their latest updates!



Note: Research should also be done on publishers if you’re going to submit to them as well. My suggestion here would be to try and reach out to someone who has worked with them and ask about their experience.



Once you’ve determined the right agents for your manuscript, I recommend one additional research step. Google that agent and see if they have a personal blog and/or if they’ve done any interviews. Often times these bits of information can give you additional insight into what the agent wants. It can also help you personalize your query letter to highlight how you and the agent would be a good match.



I know this may seem like a ton of work – IT IS. But doing the legwork prior to querying may save you a lot of heartbreak. Determining which agent is a good fit for you will help with needless querying & rejection. Hopefully, it will connect you with the right person who believes in your work and wants to partner with you to ensure you have a successful career!



Want additional insight into what agents want and reject in queries? I recommend checking out these hashtags on Twitter:









And you can always ask your general publishing questions during #askagent sessions.



As always, I wish you luck on your querying journey. Please feel free to ask questions in the comments!



FIRST FIVE FRENZY with Caitie Flum of Liza Dawson Associates June 17, 2016



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’s requested over and over.



Today, I’m proud to share Caitie Flum’s perspective on what’s important in those critical first pages.




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



Caitie: Not as important as I think some writers think! I have seen advice that says if your first line isn’t brilliant, agents will stop reading. I never give up on something after just one line. A great first line will get me excited, but what comes after that first line is more important.





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?




Caitie: Well, all of the ones you mentioned above! Getting ready for the day is another one that should be avoided – it is just boring. I have also seen lately something similar to the dream opening – something is described and is really exciting and it turns out to be from a movie or TV show. And please, stop having your characters look in a mirror and describe themselves.





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?



Caitie: I don’t ask for first pages, so it is just based on the query!





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



Caitie: The biggest mistake I see is that it is just info dumping, no story or character. Also, over describing things. Yes, we want a sense of place, but most of the time, having two pages straight of what it looks like is not that compelling. Also, not starting is the right place. which I know is difficult, but makes sure the story has to start where it does.





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



Caitie: All of the above! It depends on what it is. If it is middle grade, it needs to have that voice from page 1. Any books with action need to nail that pacing. In every genre, I need to get to know the main character.




Caitie Flum joined Liza Dawson Associates in July 2014 as assistant and audio rights manager. She graduated from Hofstra University in 2009 with a BA in English with a concentration in publishing studies.



If you’re interested in submitting to Caitie, please check The Liza Dawson Associates website for their guidelines.



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 5,864 other followers

%d bloggers like this: