Monday, September 29, 2014

What Literary Agents Don't Want

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It's sad but true, almost all Literary agents are tired of vampires. It's nearly impossible to write an original vampire novel these days. I personally love vampires!

While researching agents, I found most had included "vampires" into their "What I'm Not Looking For" list. There are always exceptions however. Following novels like Twilight and The Vampire Diaries, literary agents inboxes were flooded with similar manuscripts.

Some of the toughest sells in young adult:
  • Dystopia (think Hunger Games, or fallen government books)
  • Paranormal love triangles (think Twilight, The Vampire Diaries)
  • Paranormal (anything with werewolves, shape-shifters, selkies, mermaids, anything with tail, teeth or wings)
  • Zombies (editors are over zombies, and if an editor doesn't want it, neither does an agent)
  • Parallel Universes
  • Time Travel
  • Fairytale Retellings
  • Pregnancy Horrors
  • Apocalyptic Aftermaths
  • Trilogies
Paranormal and Urban Fantasy are becoming tougher sells because of the flooded marketplace.

What most Literary agents are looking for in young adult:
  • Contemporary
  • Science Fiction
  • Stand-alone novels
Literary agents are always looking for "voice" and "good writing". If you research literary agents you're going to find that most want the same thing. They want something they haven't seen before, something unique/original. Agents are also looking for something that will lure more male readers into the young adult genre. They'd like to see more young adult novels that feature a strong-but flawed-male protagonist. They want to see more contemporary thrillers.

As trilogies are becoming a hard sell, editors are looking for more stand-alone novels.

As I said, there are always exceptions and most, if not all, literary agents don't care what genre the manuscript falls under, as long as the writing is good. Whether it's contemporary romance, horror. or a paranormal love triangle, agents want a story that they've never seen before. Something that captures their attention and won't let go - a great story with good writing that's original and unpredictable.

I wrote my manuscript, The Walker And The Witch, six years ago because I love writing. I've been told that it's unique, but it falls under the paranormal categories and includes The Orenda (witches), Skin-Walkers (shape-shifters) and Balkan Eternals (vampires). It has a slim chance of getting picked up by any literary agent, I know that.

Don't get discouraged by this post, write because you love the craft. Write because you love your story. Don't choose your genre based on what other people think, your manuscript will suffer, your writing will seem forced. As with all great trends in the world, it will come back around. They always do.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Literary Agent Wish List

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What do literary agents look for in their inbox? What do they hope to find? Searching for your dream agent is part of the querying process. Unless you plan to self-publish, this is an unavoidable and important step. Every literary agent has a wish list. What they'd love to see in their inbox. Finding agents isn't an impossible feat. It's rather easy actually, and you don't even have to leave your favorite chair. Typing "literary agent" into any search engine on the internet will produce thousands of results. It's easy, but time consuming.

To help you along with this process, I thought I'd add a "work in progress" here. I'll add the represented genres and wish list of literary agents to this post in the hopes to make your hectic life just a little bit easier.

Beth Campbell BookEnds, LLC: According to the agency website, Ms. Campbell is working hard to build BookEnds client list and has a distinct flavor for fantasy/sci-fi. She's also interested in romantic suspense, cozy mysteries, and YA.

Laura Bradford Bradford Literary Agency: Ms. Bradford is actively building her client list and is currently seeking: Romance (historical, romantic, suspense, paranormal, category, contemporary, erotic), urban fantasy, women's fiction, mystery, thrillers, YA, and some select non-fiction.

Andrea Somberg Harvey Klinger, INC: Ms. Somberg's client list is quite full, however she's always looking to take on new authors. In Fiction she represents: literary, commercial, women's fiction, romance, thrillers, mystery, paranormal, fantasy, sci-fi, young adult and middle grade. On the Non-Fiction side: memoir, narrative, popular science, pop-culture, humor, how-to, parenting, self-help, lifestyle, travel, interior design, crafts, cookbooks, health & fitness, business, and sports.

Ginger Clark Curtis Brown LTD: Ms. Clark represents sci-fi, fantasy, paranormal romance, literary horror, young adult and middle grade.

Katie Reed Andrea Hurst & Associates: Ms. Reed represents all areas of young adult and adult fiction. She has a special interest in YA and fantasy. She also represents non-fiction, and has an extensive fiction and non-fiction wish list on the Andrea Hurst site. Check it out!

Cate Hart Corvisiero Literary Agency: Ms. Hart's favorite genre is historical, whether it’s Middle Grade or YA, Adult Romance or something even spicier. She will consider any genre, but is especially looking for YA Fantasy and Magical Realism. Ms. Hart has a detailed list of what she's looking for on the agency site. Check it out!

Nephele Tempest The Knight Agency: Ms. Tempest is actively building her client list, and is currently seeking: literary/commercial fiction, women’s fiction, fantasy, science fiction, romantic suspense, paranormal romance, contemporary romance, historical fiction, young adult and middle grade fiction.

Holly Root Waxman Leavell Literary Agency: Ms. Root is currently seeking middle grade and young adult fiction, women’s fiction (both commercial and upmarket), urban fantasy and romance. She also represents select non-fiction.

Suzie Townsend New Leaf Literary & Media, Inc.: Ms. Townsend is currently building her client list and is specifically looking for new adult, romance (all subgenres), fantasy (urban fantasy, science fiction, steampunk, epic fantasy) and crime fiction (mysteries, thrillers). She loves YA (all subgenres) and is dying to find great Middle Grade projects (especially something akin to the recent movie SUPER 8).

Kate Testerman kt literary: Ms. Testerman concentrates on young adult and middle grade fiction.  Her interests cover a broad range including contemporary drama, urban fantasy and magical realism, adventure stories, and romantic comedies.

Clelia Gore Martin Literary Management: Mrs. Gore represents middle grade and young adult books. In YA she is particularly looking for contemporary, realistic novels, as well as "light" fantasy. She is very interested in YA memoirs featuring unique stories about extraordinary youths. In MG she is currently seeking books that have interplay between the illustrations and text. Humorous MG is her favorite.

Sarah Davies The Greenhouse Literary Agency: Ms. Davies is currently seeking fiction by North American authors, MG through YA and across all genres.

Rebecca Podos Rees Literary Agency: Ms. Podos is interested in MG and YA fiction of all kinds.

Joanna MacKenzie Browne & Miller Literary Associates LLC: Ms. MacKenzie's true passion lies in commercial fiction. She's looking for women's fiction, thriller, new adult and young adult genres.

Hannah Bowman Liza Dawson Associates Literary Agency: Ms. Bowman specializes in commercial fiction. Her interests are science fiction and fantasy, young adult, women's fiction, cozy mysteries, and romance. She is also interested in non-fiction, particularly in the areas of mathematics, science and religion (especially history and sociology of Christianity).

Kevan Lyon Marsal Lyon Literary Agency, LLC: Ms. Lyon represents women's fiction, with a special interest in commercial women's fiction. Young adult and all genres of romance.

Natanya Wheeler Nancy Yost Literary Agency: Ms. Wheeler loves to find new writers and doesn't shy away from debut talent! She's particularly interested in literary fiction that touches on current events or multicultural issues: family sagas; dark and edgy psychological thrillers and crime fiction. She also represents select non-fiction.

Laura Zats Red Sofa Literary: Ms. Zats represents middle grade, young adult, romance and sci-fi/fantasy.

Kristin Nelson Nelson Literary Agency, LLC: Ms. Nelson has an extensive detailed list of what she's currently seeking. Check it out! She represents young adult and upper level middle grade. Big crossover novels, commercial literary, upmarket women's fiction, single-title romance (especially historical), select sci-fi and fantasy.

Jordy Albert The Booker Albert Literary Agency: Ms. Albert is looking for romance (contemporary, New Adult, erotica, or historical-especially Regency). Any genre of Young Adult (especially very strong romantic element). Middle Grade (action, adventure, contemporary).

Maria Vicente P.S. Literary Agency: Ms. Vicente is looking for literary and commercial fiction, LGBT, New Adult, high-concept Young Adult, Middle Grade, high-concept Picture Books, and select non-fiction.

Jennifer Udden Donald Maass Literary Agency: Ms. Udden represents speculative fiction (both science fiction and fantasy), Urban Fantasy, and Mysteries, as well as Historical, Erotica, Contemporary and Paranormal Romance.

Rebecca Strauss DeFiore and Company LLC: Ms. Strauss is especially interested in emerging writers and developing long term relationships. She focuses on Literary and Commercial Fiction, Women's Fiction, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Romance, Mystery, Young Adult, Pop Culture and select Non-Fiction.

Diana Fox Fox Literary: Ms. Fox is currently seeking: Young Adult Fiction (all genres), Science Fiction, Fantasy, Romance, Historical Fiction, Thrillers, Graphic Novels and select Non-Fiction.

Rachel Brooks L. Perkins Agency: Ms. Brooks is actively building her client list. She is seeking Young Adult and New Adult Fiction (all genres), and Adult Romance. While she is looking for all sub-genres of romance, she is especially interested in Romantic Suspense and Urban Fantasy. She is also on the lookout for fun Picture Books.

Uwe Stender TriadaUS: Dr. Uwe Stender is interested in all kinds of commercial fiction especially: Mysteries, Young Adult, Middle Grade and Women's Fiction. He is also interested in select Literary Fiction and all kinds of Non-Fiction projects.

Becca Stumpf Prospect Agency: Ms. Stumpf is interested in Adult, Young Adult and Middle Grade literary and commercial fiction. In YA and MG she is especially looking for spine-tingling mysteries (historical or contemporary). YA thrillers, Fantasy and Sci-Fi. In Adult she is literary mysteries, thrillers, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and spicy Romance novels (Contemporary, Historical, Sci-Fi, Urban Fantasy, Steam Punk).

Ann Behar Scovil Galen Ghosh Literary Agency: Ms. Behar is seeking Children's books, from Picture Books to Young Adult.

Jim McCarthy Dystel & Goderich Literary Agency: Mr. McCarthy is interested in both literary and commercial works in Adult and Young Adult categories. He is particularly interested in Literary Women's Fiction, underrepresented voices, Mysteries, Romance, and Paranormal Fiction. He is also interested in narrative Non-Fiction, Memoir, and Paranormal Non-Fiction.

Ethan Ellenberg The Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency: Mr. Ellenberg is interested in all kinds of literary and commercial fiction, including Thrillers, Mysteries, Children's, Romance, Women's Fiction, Ethnic, Science Fiction, Fantasy and general fiction. He is also interested in select Non-Fiction.

Paula Munier Talcott Notch Literary Services, LLC: Ms. Munier is interested in Mystery, Thriller, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult, Memoir, Humor, Pop Culture, Health & Wellness, Cooking, Self Help, Pop Psych, New Age, Inspirational, Technology, and Science. She's very involved with the mystery community, so if you write crime fiction, send it along.

Margaret Bail Inklings Literary Agency: Ms. Bail is only interested in Adult Fiction in the follow genres: Romance (all subgenres except Christian or Inspirational), Mystery, Thrillers, Historical Fiction, Westerns, and Fantasy. Ms. Bail is also interested in select Non-Fiction.

Wendy Sherman Wendy Sherman Associates, Inc.: Ms. Sherman is interested in women's fiction, historical dramas, and suspense. She is also interested in select Non-Fiction.

Alyssa Reuben Paradigm Talent Agency: Ms. Reuben is seeking Literary Fiction, Chic Lit, Commercial Fiction, Women's Fiction, Humor/Satire, Romance, Family Saga, Historical Fiction, Young Adult, Multi-Cultural, Adventure, Offbeat/Quirky, and Middle Grade. She also represents select Non-Fiction.

Jodi Reamer Writers House: A Literary Agency: Ms. Reamer is interested in General Fiction, Mystery, Romance, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Young Adult, Middle Grade and Children's Books. She is also interested in select Non-Fiction.

Laura Rennert Andrea Brown Literary Agency, Inc.: Ms. Rennert is seeking upper Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction. She's drawn to Contemporary, Multi-Cultural, Alternate Histories/Realities, Fantasy, Paranormal, Science Fiction, Thrillers and Horror.

Christine Witthohn Book Cents Literary Agency: Ms. Witthohn is currently seeking well-written Romance (category or single title), a high-concept, voice driven domestic Thriller, and a smart, sexy New Adult Thriller. She also represents Romance (Contemporary, Paranormal, Romantic Comedy, Mystery/Suspense), Young Adult and New Adult, Women's Lit, Mainstream Mystery/Suspense, Thrillers, and Literary Fiction. She also represents select Non-Fiction.

Karen Solem Spencerhill Associates, Ltd.: Ms. Solem is seeking Literary and Commercial Fiction, and Non-Fiction, primarily for the adult market. She especially loves southern Women's Fiction, and given her passion for animals, seeks any work involving dogs, horses or the natural world.

Emmanuelle Morgen Stonesong: Ms. Morgen represents Adult and Children's Fiction, as well as memoir and select narrative and prescriptive Non-Fiction books. In children's books, she primarily represents Young Adult. In Adult books she represents General fiction, Women's Fiction, Romance, Historical and Mystery.

Miriam Kriss Irene Goodman Literary Agency: Ms. Kriss focuses on Commercial Fiction, and represents everything from hardcover Historical Mysteries to all sub-genres of Romance, from Young Adult Fiction to Urban Fantasy, and everything in between.

Beth Phelan The Bent Agency: Ms. Phelan represents Young Adult Fiction, Romance, and select Commercial and Literary Adult Fiction. She also represents select Non-Fiction.

Pam Van Hylckama Vlieg D4EO Literary Agency: Ms. Van Hylckama Vlieg is seeking Genre Fiction, as well as Middle Grade, Young Adult, and New Adult Fiction.

Reiko Davis Miriam Altshuler Literary Agency: Ms. Davis is interested in both Literary and Commercial Fiction. In Children's books, she loves Young Adult and Middle Grade Fiction--whether Contemporary, Historical, or Fantasy. Ms. Davis also represents select Non-Fiction.

Christina Hogrebe Jane Rotrosen Agency: Ms. Hogrebe represents General Fiction, Mystery, Romance, Suspense/Thriller, Juvenile Fiction, Women's Fiction, Historical Fiction, and Young Adult Fiction.

Monika Verma Levine Greenburg Rostan Literary Agency: Though Ms. Verma's client list is primarily Non-Fiction, she also enjoys working on Young Adult Fiction, whether it's Paranormal, Historical, or Contemporary.

Greg Aunapu Salkind Literary Agency: Mr. Aunapu is interested in Commercial Fiction, Historical, Thriller/Suspense, Mystery, Detective, Adventure, Humor, Science-Fiction, and Fantasy. He also represents select Non-Fiction.

Amanda Panitch Lippincott Massie McQuilkin: Ms. Panitch is currently seeking Young Adult and Middle Grade Fiction and Non-Fiction across all genres.

Valerie Noble Donaghy Literary Group: Ms. Noble is seeking Young Adult and New Adult Fiction in the following areas: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Historical Fantasy and Historical Fiction.

Caitlen Rubino-Bradway LKG Agency: Ms. Rubino-Bradway is building her client list. She is currently seeking Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction. In teen novels, Sci-fi/fantasy is her sweet spot.

Rena Rossner The Deborah Harris Agency: Ms. Rossner is most interested in Israeli writers of Fantasy and Science Fiction, but she will also look at Sci-fi/fantasy with Jewish content from writers all over the world. She also represents Middle Grade and Young Adult Contemporary stories by Israeli authors or with Jewish content or theme. She would love to find a New Adult or Adult novel written about the Israeli army (LGBQT also!)  Also, historical fiction set in Ancient Israel, or historical fiction with Israeli/Jewish content and themes - for Adults/Middle Grade/Young Adult. She is also willing to look at literary novels set in the Middle East - historical fiction, fantasy, and especially multicultural romances.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Agents Queried - Now What

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There is no "easy" feat in the querying process. You've sent a batch of query letters out to your selected literary agents, and now - the wait. Don't sit around playing tidily-winks (as my dad used to say). Don't check your email every five minutes - it will drive you crazy. So what to do?

  • Go for a walk. When was the last time you saw the sky?
  • Visit family and friends. No, your computer is not the only interaction you need.
  • Clean house. The dust is piling up on those end tables.
And Then:
  • Review, Re-edit, Revise. Every time you go over your manuscript, chances are you'll find something. A misspelled word. A forgotten word. A missing word. A duplicated word.
  • Begin a new story. There are dozens flying through your mind. Aspiring authors are never at a loss for ideas.
Querying agents doesn't mean you've reached the end. It doesn't mean that manuscript you've slaved over all these months is sold. Agents are always on the look out for the next best-seller, but they are selective. Finding a literary agent/publisher who loves your story as much as you do, is not an easy task. Re-read that, nowhere in the last sentence was the word impossible ever implied.

Move on to the next project while you wait for agent replies. Keep those creative juices flowing.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Rejection: Even the best go through it

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Never Stop Trying!
Rejection is one of the worst feeling in the world. Most aspiring authors are very familiar with the dreaded rejection letter. However, you're not alone. Did you know ...
 Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell received 38 rejections before publication.
 Anne Frank's The Diary Of A Young Girl was rejected 15 times.                            
 Lord Of The Flies by William Golding received 20 rejections before it was published.
 A Time To Kill by John Grisham was rejected by 12 publishers and 16 agents before it was published.
 Agatha Christie waited 4 years for her first book to be published.                       
 Stephenie Meyer's Twilight was rejected 14 times.                                               
 The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks received 24 rejections before publication.    
 J.K. Rowling was rejected 12 times and was told "not to quit her day job." If it wasn't for a CEO's eight-year-old daughter, who begged her father to print the book, we may still be waiting for Harry.
 Stephen King's Carrie received 30 rejections before being published.                 
 And last but not least, Louis L'Amour received 200 rejections. That's not a misprint, two hundred!
They all persevered and look where they are today! Never give up on your dream! Don't let anyone tell you, you're not good enough. Be proud of your work, and never stop trying. Eventually, you'll make it!




Word Count Guidelines

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Agents are bombarded with queries, and they look for a reason to say no. A high word count will give them the ammunition they need to reject your project. There are always exceptions to the rule, but don't count on being an exception. If you do, chances are you'll be disappointed. A high word count throws up red flags to an agent. It either means the writer hasn't edited their work enough, or they have two or more books combined into one. I've read articles that state because agents are so busy, some simply look at the genre and the word count. If the word count doesn't match the genre guidelines the query is automatically a no.

Previously published authors don't have to sweat this rule much. However, first-time authors should always follow the genre guidelines.

Some Genre Guidelines
Literary/Commercial/Women's: 80,000 to 110,000
-Literary can run as high as 120,000
-Chic Lit: 80,000 to 100,000
Crime Fiction: 90,000 to 100,000
Mysteries/Thrillers/Suspense: 70,000 to 90,000
-Cozy Mysteries: 65,000 to 90,000
Romance: 40,000 to 100,000
-Category Romance: 55,000 to 75,00
Fantasy: 90,000 to 100,000 (some will accept 120,000, but don't aim for it. More doesn't equal better)
Paranormal: 75,000 to 95,000
Horror: 80,000 to 100,000
Science Fiction: 90,000 to 125,000 (big exception due to descriptions and world building)
Historical: 100,000 to 120,000
New Adult Fiction: 60,000 to 85,000
Middle Grade: 25,0000 to 40,000 (debut averages 35,000)
-Upper Middle Grade: 20,000 to 55,000
Picture Books: 500 to 700
Novella: 20,000 to 50,000 (Most agents and editors don't ever want to see a novella)
Non-Fiction: 70,000 to 110,000
Short Stories: 1,000 to 8,000
Flash Fiction: 100 to 500
Western: 80,000 to 100,000 (Almost no editor is buying Westerns these days)
Young Adult Fiction: 50,000 to 80,000 - YA fiction is one of the hardest genres for writers concerning word count due to all of the sub-genres within it. It's a category where the word count is very flexible. However, 55,000 to 70,0000 is a great range. For mainstream YA it's always best to stay under 80,000 words.
-YA contemporary tends to be shorter at 60,000 to 70,000
-YA Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Paranormal tend to run longer due to world building at 70,000 to 90,000 words.
Science Fiction and Fantasy is another hard genre for writers. Some agents and editors will accept a manuscript over 120,000 words but it has to be extraordinary, and you will still be expected to cut it down.
Before you submit your work to an agent be sure to edit, revise and polish, and then ... edit, revise and polish! Make sure you've done your very best work and research each agency. Some include word count preferences right on their site. Study the guidelines carefully, and submit your work accordingly.
Be The Rule. Not The Exception.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

How I Make Characters Real

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The characters in my stories are real to me. They are my imaginary friends. I have a clear depiction of each in my mind. Their height, complexion, hair color and especially their eyes. I have this thing for eyes. I know their mannerisms, their personalities, and all about their childhood. But I like to put a real face to the people who frolic in my mind. A picture I can view with just a click of my mouse.

When I began writing The Walker And The Witch, I spent weeks searching the internet. I typed: new actresses/actors, models, and simply people, among other things into the search engine. It doesn't always work as in my main character, Willow. She's a combination of 3 faces I found.

Most of the time I find the perfect match. I'll happen upon the picture and talk to my computer screen: "There you are!" (Yes I talk to my computer. Doesn't everybody?)

This is also an excellent way to find new characters you didn't even know were characters. That's how I found Euros. I didn't know he was a character in my book until I saw a picture of this man. His eyes told his story and Euros was born.

It's a strange process, I know. But it's one that works for me.

What process do you use? How do your characters come to life? 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Twilight ~ Stephenie Meyer - A reference point

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Chances are, I'm not going to win any popularity contests with this post. That's okay. I'm not an expert in the writing field. I have my own opinions and I'm really only using Twilight as a reference point. This is my own personal viewpoint.

There are two types of groups for the Twilight series: Those who loved it and those who hated it. I'm sure those who loved it outrank the latter. But you'll very seldom find someone who says, "It was okay? I could take it or leave it."

The point of this post is my being appalled by a review of Twilight or more so, Stephenie Meyer. I've stuck to one book genre my entire life. (I know, I've lived a sheltered life.) I fell into YA by accident. My son was struggling with his reading assignments. He hated to read. So I bought the first Harry Potter book and planned to help him with his grade. We read it together and I was hooked! I'd been missing a whole world of books that I found I loved! I proudly own every Harry Potter book and movie! When Twilight came out my friends were all in a frenzy to get the book. I didn't buy it at first but later I thought why not? I loved J.K. Rowling's books. I admit, the writing wasn't as lovely as J.K. Rowling's, but I found the characters intriguing and who could forget Cedric Diggory! I was "Team Edward" all the way! I own all the books and movies now!

I should clear up my statement about only reading one genre my entire life. To be honest, I only read one author my entire life, who we'll refer to as "my author" for this post. I fell into this author's world as a teenager and had no desire to venture farther. In my opinion, "my author" was a writing god/goddess. I'd always wanted to write a book, to get published, but my own mind was an enemy. I could never write as well as "my author" so why even try. However, after reading Harry Potter and the author's bio, I thought: "She's a real person, just like me. I can do this! I can write my book!" I'd played up "my author" so much in my mind that he/she wasn't real anymore. J.K. Rowling is a real person. If she can do it, why can't I? So I did!

Then "my author", my celestial being, reviewed Twilight, and nothing nice was said. That almost broke me. What if I did get published? What if "my author" reviewed my book poorly? The fear of my god/goddess possibly reviewing my book and saying I couldn't write, set my querying process back by 5 years. Seriously!

Then I got angry. "My author" had at one time been modest and said: "If I can do it, anyone can." When did he/she move past modesty? When did his/her head grow so big? I don't remember the exact words in the review my author gave about Twilight. But in my mind, what I read was: "You'll never write as well as me, so give up!" Really?!

Authors are not created equally. Some have great stories, but not so wonderful words. Some have poor stories, but great words, and some have both, (they are hard to find). The point to my rant is: Stephenie Meyer was like every other aspiring author out there. The courage it takes to put yourself through querying, rejections and bad reviews is immeasurable. So Kudos to you, Stephenie Meyer!!

As I'm often told I live in a fantasy world. I had this fantastical misconception that authors should stick together. Veterans should encourage the new-comers. I still love my original genre but I've since ventured farther. So I guess I should thank "my author" for that. But the review has left a sour taste in my mouth for any of "my author's" new books and an astounding disappointment in my heart.

So to conclude: Don't ever put all of your stock into one person. Don't ever give up! And when you do make it, please don't ever bash another author. You were them once.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Critique Partners

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Critique Partners are invaluable and awesome! I have two CP's at the moment, and they have both become such good friends.

A great site to find CP's or Beta Readers is Agent Query Connect. Join today! It's free and I promise you, you won't regret it. AQC has several forums full of wonderful people and helpful advice. Finding trusted Critiqe Partners is extremely important before beginning the query process. I don't know where I'd be without mine. Thank you ladies!

It's stressful at first. You're entrusting all your hard work to a complete stranger. Everyone goes through it, you're not alone in what you're feeling right now. Sharing personal email addresses is how my CP/friends and I connected. We share our work with one another and help to the best of our abilities, whether it's suggesting eliminating unnecessary words, changing how a particular scene plays out, or pointing out grammar and punctuation errors. Also support and praise for a job well done! Soon you find yourself emailing just to say hi, have a great day! You're sharing everyday events, rejection letters, requests... Before you know it, a friendship blossoms and that's the greatest thing about the invaluable critique partners!

Monday, September 22, 2014


So a little off-subject today. But I can't help it. I'd like to introduce the newest edition to our family. Sweet and handsome Wesley Allen. He warms my heart.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Agent Requests

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Querying is an emotional roller coaster! Following a few "not right for me" rejection form letters I received a request for further material, and to boost my excitement even more, it was an agent from my "top agent" wish list. So exciting!

What does it mean when an agent requests further material? You've successfully piqued their interest with your query letter and sample pages. Good Job!

Depending on the agent's interest they will request a partial or a full. If it's a partial then you should send the amount the agent has requested, this is usually 50 pages but it can vary. A full is obviously your entire manuscript.

Some agent's ask for an exclusive. This can be tricky. If an agent requests an exclusive, they are asking you to stop everything until the agreed upon time has expired. No querying, no accepting further requests, just sit and wait for them to finish reading your manuscript. If you're comfortable with that, go for it! If it's an agent from your agent wish list and you're certain you'll snatch up an offer of representation then by all means, do it! Accepting an exclusive is completely your call. I know it's exciting, but try to avoid pestering them during the agreed upon time. If it comes and goes, then a polite "nudge" is acceptable.

I don't think a one to two week exclusive is an absurd request but when you move into a month or more, seriously think about it. A request doesn't mean an offer of representation. The agent may still pass on your manuscript, and that will be a month or more of querying other agents that you missed out on.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Four Basic Components Of A Query Letter

When submitting your query to literary agents you only have one shot to grab the agent's attention. So make every word count.

Don't skip the query letter. Some writers make the mistake of sending their sample pages in place of a query letter because they find the query too difficult to write. You wrote an entire manuscript. You can write a query. Literary agents don't have time to read all the sample pages they receive and if you fail to send a query, your submission might end up unread and discarded. There went your chance.

Don't forget your contact information and the date. You want a formal format:

Chris Smith
1402 20th Street
Kansas City, KS 12345

September 19, 2014

Terri Knapp
Kringle Literary Agency
2463 58th Street, Suite 302
New York, NY 10001

Dear Ms. Knapp,

A basic query letter is made up of four essential components:

An Opening Line
Mini Synopsis
Author Bio

The opening line, also known as the hook is meant to catch the reader's eye, pique their interest and keep them reading. Most agents frown on questions as the hook. Example of a bad hook: Have you ever wondered what it would be like ...

The mini synopsis. I've read a couple different viewpoints on what makes a good mini synopsis. One author/literary agent said to keep this paragraph to three sentences. How can you get the plot into three sentences you ask. It's not easy, but it's doable. He further explained to leave any names out of the query. If you add names that distracts the agent because now they have to store away a name. The author/literary agent's book is packed full of information and great advice, although I'm not a big fan of the three sentence synopsis. I tried it out. I sent one query letter using his advice and received a rejection the following day. That's a record as far as my query replies go. So my advice is: keep your mini synopis to the recommended 250 - 300 words and make every word count. Focus on the main plot, settting, and characters, but don't introduce any more than two characters. Let the agent know what your main character is facing, what's at stake and the choices they will have to make.

Author bio. Again this is an area I've read different points of view. Some say if you have nothing to show, then skip the bio. What you include in this section is totally up to you, but I'd caution against hobbies or anything unrelated to writing. Some agents don't mind reading about your obsession with chocolate or that you're the official cookie-baker your son's t-ball team. But unless your manuscript specifically pertain's to chocolate, baking or t-ball I'd leave it out. Your query letter should be a formal introduction to a professional literary agent, not a Hey Buddy! What are you up to today? However, if you've been published in magazines or any other form, do tell and be specific. If you've won any writing contest or if you have any expertise in the subject of your book. Some agents request a bio, even if you've never been published. They want you to tell them about yourself. So always read the agent's submission guidelines and follow them closely.

Appreciation. I will repeat how important it is to follow the agent's submission guidelines one more time, and don't forget to say thank you. Something as simple as: Thank you for your time and consideration. If the submission guidelines request sample pages or your synopsis this can read along the lines of: Per your agency's submission guideline, I have included the first ten pages of my manuscript below. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Check your spelling and spell the agent's name correctly. Don't fret too much. You will do great! Good Luck!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

My First Rejection Letter

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After days of waiting and checking my email program every hour for that long awaited reply from an agent, it finally came. My heart pounded and it seemed like a swarm of butterflies had taken up residency in my chest. Opening the email was almost as hard as sending the query letter, I was terrified.

Dear Ms. Rumburg, Thank you for giving me an opportunity to review your query.  My client list is comfortably full, however, and I am therefore taking on very few new writers; your material doesn’t sound quite right for me, nor I for it. I wish you the best of luck in finding representation elsewhere.

Very pleasant but heartbreaking. The query process is just that, it's a process. There are thousands of literary agents out there, and finding the right one is part of it. So why do I do it? Endless hours of researching agencies and agents, personalizing each and every query letter, second-guessing my query and sample pages every time I get a rejection ... Because "my agent" is out there and I'll find her one day. Giving up isn't an option.  

Querying - It's A Process

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The first query letter - what a terrifying experience!
A query letter is defined as:
A query letter is a formal letter sent to magazine editors, literary agents and sometimes publishing houses or companies. Writers write query letters to propose writing ideas.
For example, a standard requested format for a manuscript query letter to a literary agent could be approximately 200 - 400 words, expressing the following information:
  • The topic of the work
  • A short description of the plot
  • A short bio of the author
  • The target audience
The literary agent would then decide whether to contact the author and request to see the manuscript, based on the contents of the query letter. In this sense, the query letter is an author's first step towards getting his/her manuscript published.

Don't forget the word count and follow the agent's submission guidelines exactly. Before querying an agent, it's always a good idea to have other people read your query letter. The community of writers, authors, editors and agents on Agent Query Connect is a wonderful place to test your query letter out. It has multiple pages and one in particular designed just for the dreaded query letter - AQ Connect - Query Critiques. I thought my query letter was pretty good. But after posting it on AQC and receiving several suggestion it became even better. Most people are very nice about helping you and you get the chance to repay the favor.

After several revisions, my query letter was ready to go, thanks to the great folks on AQC. I chose an agent from my list, composed a formal letter, made sure it contained my contact information and that I spelled the agent's name correctly. (That's important.) I reread the entire email three times, spell checked three times and then stared at the cursor hovering over the send button for longer than I'm willing to admit. This was my baby, I worked so hard, poured my heart and soul into it and I'm just going to hand it off to some stranger? I have one shot to catch an agent's attention. What if the agent doesn't like it? What if my writing is poor? What if she does like it and requests more material? Question (fear) after question (fear) sored through my mind.

It's a terrifying process but one that must be done, and it does get easier. I finally hit the send button, closed my laptop, and walked (rushed) away to calm down. Then the wait begins.

Research Agents

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When I reached the querying stage of my work, I had no idea what I was doing. One mistake I made early on was failing to do my research. I composed my list of agencies, making sure they represented my genre, and chose the agent I thought would be a good fit for me. That's research. I addressed my query letter to the particular agent I chose and copied/pasted my query into the body of the email. I sent out thirteen using that format.

Then I happened upon an interview given by a literary agent that was on my list. She described what she believed to be a great/successful query letter, with examples. I was missing one element in mine. Further research. Some agents don't mind a "form" type of query letter: your query immediately following a respectful salutation. Most agents see hundreds of generic query letters a week.

After I read the interview, I imagined the literary agent sitting at her desk, chin resting on a hand while she opened email after email. All beginning: Dear Ms. Smith, -Query- In my opinion, that could get really boring. But then she opens an email from an aspiring author who has done their research: Dear Ms. Smith, I'm writing you because you represent (name of book) by (author) and I believe my manuscript, (TITLE) is similar. Or, I'm writing you because we met at the (name of event) conference in (state) and (reason you chose to query her).

My imagination brought me back to the literary agent, her chin raises and a spark of interest ignites. I returned to my list of agents and began the real research. It's simple, but time consuming. I typed the agent's name into a search engine and most gave me multiple results: their agency of course, which gives you a bio. Interviews, the agent's twitter and Facebook, agent spotlight, new literary agent alert, query tracker results, among so many more. ( is a wonderful place to find agents by the way, and it's a free site)

It's impossible not to find some personal tidbit about a literary agent. Who they represent, books they love to read, upcoming events, their wish list and what they would really like to see in their inbox. I teased that I'd become a literary agent internet stalker. It felt like that at times. But if I was an agent, I would much rather see a short personalization over a generic query letter any day.

I believe personalizing the query letter gives me a better chance to catch an agent's attention. It shows I've done my research and I'm serious about finding an agent that would be a good fit for me, to represent my manuscript.

Some agents have a policy of no response means no, but most will reply with a form rejection letter. I'll be honest, it was discouraging at first when I spent hours researching an agent, personalizing a query letter and then received a form rejection or no response at all. But some agencies receive five hundred query letters a week, others less, and others even more.

Literary agents are always on the look-out for the next best seller, but their responsibilities far exceed reading query letters. I'm not going to profess to know what an agent does on any given day but I can imagine how busy they are, and how completely impossible it would be to send a personalized rejection to every aspiring author in their inbox.

I have found that sending a personalized query letter normally results in a reply, even from agents whose agency's website clearly states that they regrettable cannot reply to every email, so no response means no.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Editing, Revising and Polishing

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You've finished your manuscript. Yay! Congratulations! Take a day or two, sit back and relish in the accomplishment. Now the real work begins.

Editing, Revising and Polishing. It can be a never-ending process. Read your manuscript from front to back, go over every page with a fine tooth comb. Read it aloud, listen to the words. Does it flow well? Is the dialogue believable? Have you cut all unnecessary words and eliminated redundancies?

One of my biggest problems was adverbs and as the saying goes: The Road To Hell Is Paved With Adverbs! I'm not going to say I've been cured but an invaluable critique partner pointed out my nasty little compulsion for them. I'm not saying delete every adverb you find, but I found that most are unnecessary.

That leads to the next step in the editing process. Find a Critique Partner. They really are invaluable and some become wonderful friends. There are several sites on the internet where you can connect. One that I use is Agent Query Connect. It has a ton of information and the people you'll find there are always helpful. That's where I found two amazing CP's who have since become fantastic, valued friends.

Joining writing communities can be scary and sharing your manuscript with other people ... terrifying. Having family and friends read your manuscript can be helpful but what you need is a critique partner, someone who doesn't know and love you, someone who can be brutally honest.

Your emotions will run high and low, mine did. I read a Writer's Guide years ago that I thought prepared me. The author pointed out that every aspiring author thinks their book will be the new best seller, agents will fight over representation and publishers will offer big money for your ideas. The painful truth is that's just not so. There are hundreds of thousands of talented writers out there. But with a lot of hard work and the help of your invaluable CP's, you can make your manuscript the best it can be.

You think that was an emotional roller coaster and one to the scariest rides of your life? Not even close. Now it's time to start the querying process.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Writing Process

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The best part of the writing process is writing. This is my favorite part. It's the fun part ... the easy part. Let you imagination run wild, your creative juices flow, and type, type, type. Don't worry about editing, that will come later. For now, simply enjoy yourself.