Category Archives: query

NaNoEdMo

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is almost upon us. For those of you unfamiliar with NaNo, the goal is to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days during the month of November. Impossible? I guess not.

Personally I haven’t ever done a NaNoWriMo challenge. Maybe someday if I have an idea percolating that’s ready to come out, but I’m one of those people who writes better with a strong idea than out of habit. I want to be one of those writers who can sit and crank out 3,000 words a day without batting an eye, but alas, not yet.

Each November I try to challenge myself to some writing goal, and this year, I am creating my own National Novel Editing Month! I currently have 4 projects that are between second-draft stage and ready-to-query stage. All of these books need different kinds of attention, whether it’s editing, polishing, adding critique comments, or writing a query/synopsis.

My distraction level is at an all-time high on the weekends, so my goal for November is to edit something everyday and not just when it’s convenient. This will be a challenge since I’m pretty burnt out on the weekends, and then some weekends get crazy with extra work, volunteer events, and family obligations. I’m hoping to stick to my guns and get this done so I can be one step closer to one of those writers who can sit and write all morning despite the temptations of Netflix and the internet!

Anyone doing the traditional NaNoWriMo this November? Anyone else creating their own version to fit their writing goals? I’d love to hear about it!

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Filed under Editing, nanowrimo, query, Uncategorized, writing

Secret to the Perfect Query

…don’t you wish there was one?

Here’s what you need to know: there’s no such thing as a perfect anything, especially when it comes to art and writing. The beauty of art is that it’s personal expression, and the downfall of art is that it’s personal expression. As much as you like it, there will always be people who think it can be improved. You put your love, sweat, tears, midnight-coffee-runs, tendonitis-flare-ups, and more into your books to make them as “perfect” as they can be.

Once your books has gone through proper revisions, drafts, and critique groups, you are ready to start the publishing process. This is much harder than it seems. Your lovely, full-length novel must now be compressed into 300 words or less! It sucks, it’s hard, and it’s doable. Remember: as great as your book is, the next task is to get someone to buy it. If you decide to go the agent route, that means a query letter.

A perfect query is the writer’s dream, but what you really need is a query that does its job well. You need an agent to: get hooked into your idea, understand the story, knows the important characters, and know a little about you, the author. Now, while there may not be a “perfect” query, there is a formula YOU MUST FOLLOW. I don’t care how awesome and creative you are, an agent’s job is to sell your book, not be entertained with a new version of a query. Make an agent’s life easier and get the attention your book deserves!

Basic query structure (Whole query is 300 words or less):

  1. Dear (AGENT): Personalized reason why this person will love your book. Keep it brief, always use the agent’s name unless querying an entire agency (which does happen) 1-2 sentences will show them you did your research about the agent/agency and also gets to the good stuff faster!
  2. Paragraphs 1-2: Hook the agent and give a brief summary of the events in your book. Don’t give away major plot points, but don’t be so vague no one knows what your story is about. Think of the back of a book cover you read at the library to figure out if the book interests you or not. Keep this under 200 words.
  3. The genre and word count of your book. Round the word count. Don’t be “that person.” If your book is 58, 432 words, you can say 58,500.
  4. Your Bio: Only put down things RELEVANT TO WRITING. Put down: other publications (magazines, short story contests, book talks, and other novel publications all count.) If you haven’t published, it’s okay to say that versus using unnecessary filler information. If you are write paranormal romance but you’re also an aspiring gardener who loves cross-breeding tomato plants, guess which factoid is worth mentioning? Unless your profession/serious hobby is relevant to your book do not fill space. If you haven’t published, that means your writing bio is: “This is my first novel.” Boom. Done.

(The examples and resources at the end of this blog do a much more in depth version of this)

I have been through countless drafts of my query for a couple years and it’s always changing. I’m lucky to be part of several groups that help with queries and other aspects of writing and critiquing. If you write anything from PB-YA, join the Society for Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators (www.scbwi.org) It’s an invaluable resource.

Seeking help, reading examples, and being open to throwing out what you have and starting over is crazy-making, but all part of the process. Writing a query is one of the hardest things you will have to write, but a good letter with the right balance of hook, summary, intrigue, and characters can get you on the path to publication.

Great sources for guidelines and examples:

Agent Query

Writer’s Digest

Fun Examples

Writer’s Market Books

Agencies: Many literary agencies have examples and guidelines on their websites. Great resource, especially if you want that agency to represent you.

Have you used other resources for writing query letters? Please comment and share!

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Filed under agent search, Editing, query, Rejection, struggling, Uncategorized, word count, writing

Contract Offer…Yay?

Today I received my very first contract from a publisher! Woo Hoo!!!

Stop. Read. Think. Re-read. Research.

I am new to contracts, so even though I may not be clear on every detail of the contract, I know to take a step back, understand what I can, and research the rest. The contract came from Black Rose Writing (BRW), and unfortunately their reputation does not make me optimistic. Most of the articles I found online are at least 5-8 years old, so the publisher has changed since then. However, it’s unsettling to read the unsavory reviews of a publisher who sent a contract.

They are not asking for money upfront, insisting I buy X number of books (as they once did), but I’m still hesitant. I’ve reached out to an author published through them to get an author’s experience of the publisher today. I’ve also reached out to SCBWI, my friend who writes and reviews contracts, and other authors in my critique groups for advice. It’s tempting to say “I did it” and sign away, although if BRW is a vanity publisher it’s about as exciting as getting a participation trophy at a sports event.

ABOVE WRITTEN FEB 14

Today I have heard back from several trusted people about BRW. Most people I have talked to are also skeptical and want to know more. This uneasy response has confirmed that I will not be choosing BRW as my  publisher.

The joy of getting a contract has worn off and disappointment has settled in, but I am glad for it. It’s important to do the research and tap into resources. I talked to a librarian today and she knew of another indie publisher in IL that is small but produces quality work. I will check them out. As a new author, using a small publishing house is a great way to get published and start the process of getting known. BRW, however, boarders the line of vanity press and requires the author to do most of the marketing. At least that is the vibe I get from the contract and website.

For those of you new to publishing who are afraid of getting targeted by vanity publishers, here are some things to look out for:

  1. A reputable publisher WILL NOT ask you to pay money upfront. If someone offers you a contract and requires you to pay a fee, buy a certain number of books, or pay for marketing services: run.
  2. Weird typos. Publishers like words and order and professionalism. Having a stupid typo in a contract is a scary sign. BRW had two: 31 of February, and Witnesseth.
  3. If you contact the press and they can’t say anything specific about why they chose you, it probably means they didn’t read the MS. You want someone who loves your work, not your wallet.
  4. Vanity and Subsidy press is the same thing. Both will prey on authors and try to get money from them. A publisher is supposed to support YOU, not the other way around.
  5. More info about staying safe and informed below.

RESOURCES

  1. http://www.sfwa.org/other-resources/for-authors/writer-beware/vanity/
  2. http://theworldsgreatestbook.com/self-publishing-vanity-publishing/

If you have experience with author contracts, what to look for, and how to stay informed, please comment below. I too have a lot to learn, and sharing helpful information unites us as a writing community.

 

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Filed under agent search, contract, query, questions, Set Backs, subsidy press, vanity press, writing

Death to Synopses

Ok, everyone knows writing query letters take time, energy, tears, editing, and more tears. However, a synopsis is perhaps the worst thing I’ve ever had to write.

The query has its own cute little synopsis built right in to get your attention and catch your interest. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about a long synopsis that lists every major event, main characters, and all the plot twists. As an agent, I’d love to have that to know what’s coming without reading 10 books a day. As a writer I want to strangle my computer.

The problem with synopsis is not giving away all the juicy secrets, it’s the total lack of formula. Finding an example query is not too hard. Most agency websites have them, most Google searches can help you out, but a synopsis can be anywhere from 1 page to 50 pages depending on what the agent wants. It’s even more infuriating when the agent doesn’t say how long the synopsis should be! Rant rant rant rant rant etc.

Thank you for listening to my frustrated brain. I’ve tried looking around for help from my SCBWI stranger/friends, but I’ve come up dry. They’ve been instrumental in helping craft my query and MS, but they too seem to have different ideas of what a synopsis is. Some people thought I meant query letter with the baby synopsis. Nope. Some people thought the synopsis was an old practice. *sigh* Nope. One person read my synopsis and gave me their opinion on what they think I should be focusing on. Umm….nope, but thanks for the second guessing?

It’s very frustrating and concerning. My query has gotten a couple agents interested and I want my synopsis to do the same. There are people I want to send my MS to who also want a synopsis, but I’m afraid of sending the “wrong” synopsis and then have them brush me off as someone who didn’t read the directions. I like directions. I will follow them to the end of time. I promise, agent-who-may-read-this-some-day, I don’t want to flood your inbox with spam!

Anyway, my current synopsis is 500 words (ish) with all the juicy secrets, about 4 characters worth mentioning, and maybe some kind of flow (but not likely.) I’d like to find a way to improve my brain fart of a book summary. Please, does anyone have a great source of where to find good example fiction queries?

I appreciate you taking the time to read this. I like to be helpful when I can in my blog, but right now I’m at a complete loss.

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New Book!

So remember my last post about getting the “itch” to write again? Well….I may have finished another book already!

It’s short, only about 25,500 words, but I think it’s for 5th-6th graders so the length may be just right. I’m sure there’s more to add to it for detail and so I’ll be looking for a critique partner after the holiday. It has a whole plot line and everything! It started with a small idea, and then I just kept wanting to work on it. The monster was creepy, the heroine geeky, and, naturally, the dragon was awesome! It was so much fun to put together and I’m excited to see where it goes.

I’m really excited about this new book and the break it gave me from my series. While I still love my series and the main character, looking at it over and over with little positive feedback from agents was getting me discouraged. Taking a break and actually writing helped clear my head. I can come back to the series a little fresher and maybe see some things to improve or at least get up the courage to start writing again.

Another inspiration I found was from an SCBWI article the other day about the author Kate DiCamillo. She wrote Because of Winn Dixie and Tale of Despereaux among others. Her first book about the dog Winn Dixie won a Newbery Honor Award, but she collected 470 rejection letters before it published! If that doesn’t get a writer inspired to keep going I don’t know what will.

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Filed under inspiration, query, Rejection, Self-Publishing, writing

No.

My list of 75 agents is growing smaller and smaller. I didn’t realize how many agencies have a policy where “A no from one of us is a no from all of us.” I have to trust they actually shared my query with their co-workers, otherwise I may have missed a chance. Two agencies have said no, and I was hoping to query about 8 people I now can’t because of this policy.

My heart is racing. I turned on some fun music to pump myself up today, and I finished 4 queries. My query letter is good and my MS has been edited about 4 times so I hope it’s ok. I don’t want to exhaust my options. Again. I know it’s all part of the process, but it’s still disheartening.

Two weeks ago when I had a MS request was the most excited I’ve been in a long time. The no from that was hard, but not as hard as it could have been since I prepared for it. Yet, with each query sent I feel rejection is inevitable. It’s hard to get out of this funk. Self-publishing is not an option for this book so I have to hope an agent likes it.

If I go through all my agents, then what? This question has been plaguing me since the first rejection. I’ve been through this before, but my skin is not as tough as I thought it was. Do I start a new project? Do I push harder for this one? Do I, I dunno, troll Facebook for answers? I want to be optimistic but having a back up plan would help me a lot. Anyone have some good advice? Anyone been through this funk before? Wisdom welcome!!!

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Got my Hopes Up

Last week I got a manuscript request from an agent. After collection 15 rejection letters I was over the moon excited, but I knew it wasn’t an offer. I sent along The King’s School and all week I’ve been resisting checking my email every 5 minutes.

Today I heard back from him………….

It was a no. 😦

My heart sank and I’m upset, but not crying-and-throwing-my-computer-through-a-window upset. I sent him a thank you email and asked if there’s anything he could suggest to improve my writing. I don’t know if he’ll get back to me, but I gave it a shot. He said my MS has “a lot to appreciate here” but he’s not convinced he can advocate for me. I at least got a personalized rejection which is more comforting than an elaborate, cookie cutter “NO” from someone.

Oh well. There was a glimmer of hope though! My query worked with someone and my MS caught someone’s eye. Now I need to find someone to fall in love with it. I will keep going, even if I have to exhaust all 75 people on my agent list.

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Filed under query, Set Backs, writing

Query Madness

The query letter is by far the most difficult 300 words I have every written.

Sometimes in school writing 250-300 words for an assignment took much longer than it should have. I know there were situations where I spent more time griping about the assignment than it took to write! By the time college came around, 300 words could be knocked out in a good 15 minutes. No big deal. Easy.

I have been writing my query for 10 days and I am still apprehensive about sending it out to agents. I have 7 saved drafts that I keep bouncing between trying to get as much information as possible without bogging down the letter. I know agents like it short, sweet, and compelling. My problem right now is that I’m stuck on the first couple of lines. The hook is the most important part, and that has changed about 18 times. I think the second half of the query is solid, but I need to be sure an agent is interested enough to get past those first 20 words.

The hardest part is letting the agent know that this book is not fantasy. I started the first couple query drafts with Charley being in her own world that no one could access, but of course that sounds like fantasy and not like hallucinations. Charley’s perspective is in a world of castles and dragons, but that “world” is all hallucinations/delusions. There are agents I want to query that I think fit the genre but do not represent fantasy. I think it’s clearer now in draft 7, but I think a draft 8 or even draft 11 might make the query read more smoothly.

I think I mentioned this before, but I want to personalize all of my queries to the agent. That of course takes up word count, but I think it’s worth it. I want the agent to know I am serious–that I did my research and that they know why I chose them.

These 300 words have been stressing me out. It is my one shot to make an impression and it has to be a good one. I know I can’t risk sending out an unpolished query on the hopes some agent will have the knowledge that my MS is better than it sounds. No. This query needs to be as compelling as the novel itself. That’s the challenge.

I am ready for this query to be done and interesting and for me to be eager to show it to the world. After it’s done I should probably think about writing a 2 page synopsis. Ugh. That might be even worse!

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