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Dealing with Reader Expectations

It doesn’t matter if you’re published and your book is now out for review, or if you’re sending your first book to a beta reader, you have to deal with reader expectations. Most of the time it isn’t an issue. The reader has no expectations, other than they hope your story will entertain or emotionally move them.

Other times they have specific expectations that you may or may not meet. The reader might read your blurb and expect ABC to happen in the story instead of XYZ. And because of that, they give it a less than favorable review. There’s nothing you can do about it. You didn’t write the book they would have written, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Be proud of the story you did write. It’s the one that called to you and the one that you needed to bring to life. If the comments are from a beta reader, give the book and comments some distance then look at it through the individual’s eyes. It could be that you decide she was right, and you can edit the book accordingly. Or you might realize she didn’t share your vision for the book and ignore her suggestions. That’s okay, too.

It also could be that you wrote a story that went outside the box when it comes to your genre. Some readers will love this. Others will cry foul. Now obviously if you kill off the love interest, you won’t get too far calling the book a romance. There is an expectation from readers of the genre that the story will end with a happily-ever-after. When you kill off the hero, it’s hard to achieve that goal. The solution in this case is easy. Don’t call your story a romance. It isn’t. If you call it women’s fiction (for example), you have a better chance of finding the readers who will better appreciate it. But other than this, like before, be proud of your story. One thing you quickly realize is you can’t please everyone. There’s no point trying. You’ll only drive yourself insane if you do.

If you are going to go outside the box, make sure you’re familiar with the expectations of the genre first. It might be you just have to twist the tropes of the genre on the head. For example, in romance, a common trope is where the bad boy meets good girl and he reforms for her–and only for her. Some readers have favorite tropes they love to read and will pick up your book if it contains it. This is great. On the downside, they’ve read the trope so many times, you need to come up with a fresh approach to make your book memorable. There are also readers who hate certain tropes, yet for some strange reason, they still read them, waiting for a chance to tear the story apart in their review. If you’ve done the unexpected with the trope, you’ll surprise the reader and might even possibly delight her. And this could mean a positive review and word of mouth.

And then there’s the individual who reads the blurb and misses the obvious clues that your book is horror, and complains in the review that there is horror in the book. Yes, this happens more often than you realize. There’s nothing you can do about that, and that includes leaving a comment on the review about how the person is an idiot. It’s perfectly fine to think that, but it’s not okay to share that opinion with anyone—unless you want it to come back and haunt you. 

When you write a book, do you write want you want to write, or do you write to meet the readers’ expectations (or a little of both)?

Stina Lindenblatt @StinaLL writes New Adult novels. In her spare time, she’s a photographer and can be found at her blog/website.  She is represented by Marisa Corvisiero, and finds it weird talking about herself in third person. Her debut New Adult contemporary romance TELL ME WHEN (Carina Press, HQN) is now available. LET ME KNOW (Carina Press) will be available Sept 1st, 2014.
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Publishing Pulse: August 15, 2014

Important Contest News:
We have extended the deadline of the current content…please refer to this post for details!

This Week at Query Tracker
Congratulations to this week’s Successes, Roshani Chokshi and Amber Thielman!

Ready to write your own success story?
If you're a QueryTracker member (membership is free) you can view the database of more than 1200 agent and publisher profiles. Premium Members can be notified whenever an agent or publisher is added or updates their profile, in addition to receiving access to several other enviable features.

This Week in Publishing
Nostalgic for the old days, when authors banged away at their typewriters, key by key? Here's a treat...Fun typewriter app.

I'm always looking for tips on improving my author website. Are you?

Promoting our work can cost a lot more than we earn. Here are a few excellent (and free) promo tips.

Good news for indie authors: Kindle now allows pre-orders! (And there was much rejoicing.)

Wondering if you should go traditional or indie path? I thought this was a rather well-thought article.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Ash Krafton is a speculative fiction writer who, despite having a Time Turner under her couch and three different sonic screwdrivers in her purse, still encounters difficulty with time management. Visit Ash at for news on her urban fantasy series The Books of the Demimonde (Pink Narcissus Press) or stop by the Demimonde Blog at . The final story of the trilogy, WOLF’S BANE (Demimonde #3), is now available.
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QT Category Romance Contest - Editor-Judged

NOTICE: Due to numerous requests, we have extended the contest until Sunday, August 17th at midnight to give people the opportunity to post over the weekend. Please spread the word. 

The contest is finally here! We are thrilled with the response to our previous announcements of this contest, which can be found HERE, HERE, and most recently, HERE.

The link to the contest form is at the bottom of this page, but please read this entire post first so that you submit correctly. 

Instructions for entrants (I'm not going to go over the criteria, etc, because that is all covered in the previous posts linked above.)

Entering is easy! You do not have to join QueryTracker. Fill out the form linked below and submit. Taa daa!

You may enter more than one work, but must fill out a separate form for each, not to exceed three entries.

Tips for submission and peculiarities of the form:

There is no advantage to submitting right when the contest opens. You have several days to submit.


Don't get hung up on formatting. Ms. Howland is looking for great ideas, voice, and execution. Formatting will not count against you because it's a text box, for goodness sake. Everyone will be equally limited.

Paragraph breaks:

That said, PUT YOUR TEXT IN BLOCK PARAGRAPHS--MEANING PUT A SPACE BETWEEN PARAGRAPHS. Indents won't work. Neither will italics etc. Format it like this post, with a space between paragraphs. Quotation marks and punctuation will work, just not indentation and font styles like Italics and bold.

Imprint designation:

After reading the imprint descriptions in the announcement post, you should have a good idea where your book fits. If you are unsure, list the one you think it fits best. Designate YA or NA if it is not for adults as well as the imprint.

Once more, this is not super intense. You will not be passed over because you put the wrong imprint or are unsure.

Completeness of book:

Though Ms. Howland prefers completed manuscripts, she will consider those not yet complete. Indicate in the correct box how many words you have completed and the projected word count.

That's it.

Double and triple check your work before you press send. Just like when you send a query or sample to an editor or agent through regular channels and not a contest, once it's sent, it's sent.

Please do not ask us to replace an entry unless something dire happened - like it was sent without a sample because your toddler ran his truck over the enter button while you put out the fire in the kitchen caused by the cat who figured out how to light the burner with matches. Dire. Like a section missing.

That stray comma or word you decide you should have changed before sending? We can't change it. Get it right before you send.

Do NOT contact Entangled Publishing or Ms. Howland directly regarding this contest. All questions should be directed though QueryTracker. The email is

No previously published or self published works will be considered. Entangled is looking for new books that have not been out there already.

We are so excited Ms. Howland agreed to judge for us. Fingers crossed this will be the break you've been seeking. Good luck.

To enter the contest, click the following link:

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Category Romance Contest Begins Tomorrow

NOTICE: Contest extended until August 17! 

A heads up that the QT Entangled category romance contest opens at 8:00 am EDT (Eastern Time) in the morning! It was announced several weeks ago here, and is for category romance only, both adult and YA. 

Heather Howland, associate publisher and editorial director at Entangled Publishing LLC, has agreed to take a look at the first 100 words of manuscripts and brief (no more than a three-sentence long) pitches for category romance novels. Completed manuscripts are preferred, but partial works will be considered. 

Please read the descriptions of the imprints in the earlier post and indicate under which imprint you believe your book falls when you fill out the form between 8:00 am EDT on Wednesday, August 13 and midnight EDT on Sunday, August 17. Preference will not be given to any order of submission, so don't worry if you are not entered in the first day. Just get it in when it's convenient. The editor will receive them all at the same time. 

Entries will not be posted and made public. The form will be sent directly to the judge when the entry window has closed. 

The number of winners whose material is requested for consideration will be determined by the number and quality of submissions. This will also determine how long it takes to judge the entries. 

Winners will receive requests to submit material to Entangled Publishing. 


Please do not submit works that have been self-published. Entangled is looking for new books that have not been out there already.  

First 100 words means the first 100 words at the beginning of Chapter One, not the prologue. If your sample goes a few words over or under in order to cut off at the end of a sentence, that is fine. Don't end mid-sentence. 

Though it is preferred that your manuscript be completed, partially completed manuscripts will be considered. You have two more weeks from today, so get busy and finish that book! 

Do NOT contact Entangled Publishing directly regarding this contest. If you have questions, post them in the comments. 

Winners' names will be posted when all the entries have been read. We do not know how long this will take or how many requests will be made because it depends on the number and quality of entries. 

The contest will open for entries Wednesday, August 13 at 8:00 am Eastern time, and end at 8:00 am Eastern time at midnight, Sunday, August 17. A link to the form will be posted on this blog at 8:00 on Wednesday, August 13. 

Remember: This contest is for category romance only. Be sure to review the announcement post for descriptions of the imprints. 


Mary Lindsey is one of the founding members of the QT Blog. 

She writes young adult novels for Penguin USA and is the author of Shattered Souls, Fragile Spirits, and Ashes on the Waves. She also writes adult romance for Entangled Publishing as Marissa Clarke. Love Me To Death is scheduled for publication October, 2014. 

Mary is represented by Kevan Lyon of the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency and can be found the following places: Twitter, Facebook, and
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Engaging scenes versus bland narration

Sometimes you critique someone else's story and gain an important perspective on your own.

In my local, real-life, face-to-face critique group, I found myself staring at a short story that just wasn't gelling, and I couldn't figure out why. The whole time I was reading, it felt as if I were handling the story with rubber gloves, and I couldn't feel a thing.

Eventually I nailed it: a subtler version of show-don't-tell. The author was showing everything just fine, but we weren't actually in the scene. I'm going to call that "straight narration."

Here's an example (not that writer's story):

I went into the coffee shop, a dilapidated afterthought wedged between the hardware store and the shoe repair shop. I ordered my usual coffee and made small talk until it was time to hand over my ninety-five cents. It hadn't yet begun to rain.

It's okay. There's no telling, and you're pretty clear on what's happening, but…well, yeah. Now we're going to try the same scene in what I call "scene-building" as opposed to straight narration:

The door creaked like a ninety-year-old man's knees as I made my way into the coffee shop. "Hey, Henry." The owner didn't even look up, just started pouring coffee into a paper cup, no sugar, extra cream.

I said, "I want a soy hazelnut decaf latte with a shot of strawberry sauce."

Henry snorted. "Of course you do." He popped the lid on the cup, and I handed him ninety-five cents, then shoved a buck in the tip jar. "You got an umbrella?" Henry said. "Don't water down my damn coffee."

I made my way back up the narrow aisle between the counter and the wall. "It's not going to rain," I said. "Not for a couple hours."

It takes up a larger footprint (and please note that I killed a darling in transition,) but once you've got the actual dialogue and the action motions, suddenly the characters begin revealing themselves. The characters start making word choices, decisions about their motions, and they relate to each other. Oh -- now there's something interesting. Because if the POV character had walked in and said, "Give me a black coffee, medium!" then you've got a different character from a POV character who walks in and says, "Um, excuse me, Henry? Would it be okay if I had a coffee with two sugars and one cream please?"

The characters choose what to tell the reader and then the characters reveal themselves piecemeal in the details of the way they behave. Think about it: that's how you live your life, piecing together information about everyone you meet from their micro-choices about how to speak, how to act, how to move.

The writer is in control in the straight narration -- yes, even though it's first person. The writer has chosen what to tell you and when to say it and inserted her opinion about the surroundings. In scene building, the characters are in control and the writer fades into nothing. Which, arguably, is what we want in the current climate.

But overall, a story composed entirely of straight narration will leave readers feeling as if we're handling the text with rubber gloves. It's all right there, and there's nothing wrong with it, but we can't feel a thing.

That's not to say you should never use straight narration techniques, but use them consciously. When you want to create a sense of numbness, that's an excellent method. But even more, check out this moment, from Jane Austen:
Elizabeth was much too embarrassed to say a word. After a short pause, her companion added, “You are too generous to trifle with me. If your feelings are still what they were last April, tell me so at once. My affections and wishes are unchanged, but one word from you will silence me on this subject forever.” Elizabeth feeling all the more than common awkwardness and anxiety of his situation, now forced herself to speak; and immediately, though not very fluently, gave him to understand, that her sentiments had undergone so material a change, since the period to which he alluded, as to make her receive with gratitude and pleasure, his present assurances.
The narrator has been all up in everyone's business for at least 250 pages. Why, then, at this point, does she omit Elizabeth's response to Darcy's proposal? Instead of the actual dialogue, Elizabeth "gave him to understand"that she loves him and accepts his proposal. In this case, I'm convinced it's respect: Austen has shown us these characters at their best and worst and most human, and now she's doing the equivalent of closing the door and letting us imagine Elizabeth's "giving him to understand" in whatever way we want. Moreover, she's giving us a sense of Elizabeth's joyfully incoherence and loss of her capacity for words.

Do that. Take your narrative distance and leverage it as one of the many tools in your writing arsenal. Make it work for your story. Get close to your characters. Get further away from your characters. Carry your readers along with you, and your story will love you for it.

 Jane Lebak is the author of The Wrong Enemy. She has four kids, three cats, two books in print, and one husband. She lives in the Swamp and spends her time either writing books or crocheting inappropriate objects. At Seven Angels, Four Kids, One Family, she blogs about what happens when a distracted daydreamer and a gamer geek attempt to raise four kids. If you want to make her rich and famous, please contact the riveting Roseanne Wells of the Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency. 
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Balancing Your Writing Career

When I first started writing fiction, I’d never heard of Twitter or Facebook. And blogging, what was that? I had three young kids, but I was able to carve out enough time to write. All my free time went to the novel I was working on.

And then I discovered blogging. I didn’t blog much at first, and I only followed a few blogs. That was around the time when Carolyn, Elana, Mary, and Suzie started up the Querytracker Blog. I learned tons from them, and went on to follow a few agent blogs. And over time, I discovered that I needed to become more involved in social media, because if I was ever published, I would be responsible for a lot of my own promotion.

Flash forward to today. Now like most writers, my days aren’t just about writing my current WIP (work in progress). I have to spend time playing on my favorite social media sites. I say playing because that’s what it should be. It shouldn’t be work. It shouldn’t be all about promotion. It should be about having fun. Connecting with friends. Making new friends. Making new connections with bloggers who might one day review your book and sign up for your blog tour or release day blitz. Chatting with fans. Fangirling over your latest book boyfriend (that you didn’t write). In a recent Romance Writers of America conference panel I sat on, the participants all agreed that it is the connections we’ve made on the social media sites that helped us the most when it comes to promotion. Whenever we have news to share, our writer friends, book blogger friends, and fans are more than happy to tweet, retweet, and share our news via the various social media sites.

Now that’s great, you might be thinking, but I barely have enough time to write my book, never mind hang out on the various social media sites. This is especially true if you have a family, a full-time career, or both. And once you’ve signed a publishing contract, it’s only going to get harder, because now you have to write the next book as well as do developmental, line, and copy edits on the first book. Later, you’ll be proof reading the book while writing your next book and while doing developmental (or line or copy) edits on book two. Oh, and let’s not forget that you also have to write those guest posts for your upcoming blog tour, create picture teasers (if you write a genre in which readers LOVE picture teasers), or writing other types of articles that will help promote your book (whether it be fiction or non-fiction).

Tips to Balance It All

1.  The best thing to do to prevent your brain from exploding is to create a (flexible) schedule—and try to keep to it. Remember, Twitter doesn’t count toward your daily word count. Nor does commenting on Facebook (as much as we wish it did).

2.  If you have anything promotional you need to tweet throughout the day (for followers who weren’t on Twitter when you first posted it), you can schedule them on a site like Hootsuite. This way whenever you’re on Twitter, you can stick to having fun stuff and save time.

3.  Turn off the Internet if you have a habit of getting distracted and usually end up spending more time on it than you should.

4.  Set a timer, or else your quick five minutes on Twitter could end up being thirty.

5.  Assign specific days for certain social media sites. Maybe you love Twitter and aren’t a huge fan of Facebook, but understand the value of your page.  You could tweet daily, but post Monday and Wednesday on your Facebook page (as well as visit the pages you follow and comment on those posts).

6.  That will make things more manageable than forcing yourself to do both every day.

7.  With your writing, set up a schedule and stick to it. Determine what the bigger priority is and focus your time on that (without neglecting the other tasks). Hint, the project with the deadline is the biggest priority. If you have two deadlines plus you have to write blog posts for your upcoming blog tour, then divide your day into manageable chunks and assign each task to be worked on then (e.g. edit in the morning and write blog posts in the evening).

It’s not always easy to balance it all, but it’s the reality of our job. And make sure you reward yourself each day for accomplishing what you set out to do.

Do you have any additional tips for balancing the responsibilities of our writing careers? Do you find it easy to do or do you, like most writers, struggle with it?

Stina Lindenblatt @StinaLL writes New Adult novels. In her spare time, she’s a photographer and can be found at her blog/website.  She is represented by Marisa Corvisiero, and finds it weird talking about herself in third person. Her debut New Adult contemporary romance TELL ME WHEN (Carina Press, HQN) is now available. LET ME KNOW (Carina Press) will be available Sept 1st, 2014.
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Reasons for a Quick Rejection

QueryTracker is happy to announce a new feature here on the blog. We would like to invite readers to present us with agent and query-related questions and we’ll do our best to find the answers for you. So, if you have any questions, please post them in the comments below.

The first question I’d like to address is from an anonymous QueryTracker member.

What does it mean when I receive an extremely quick rejection to a query?

That’s a good question, and you can actually learn a lot from the time it takes the agent to respond. But before I go into that, I’d like to begin by explaining what a quick response does NOT mean. I’ve heard authors complain that, because they received a rejection in just a few hours or even minutes, that there was no way the agent even read the query. Not true. Think about it. If the agent wanted to blow off queries, why would he respond at all? He wouldn’t. He would just delete the email and move on.

What that quick response is telling you is that your query was so wrong that the agent barely had to think about it. It was an easy rejection. And when I say wrong, I don’t mean there is something inherently wrong with your query. It could be something as simple as your project is not for a genre the agent represents. If that’s the case, why would the agent bother to read any further than the genre declaration? He’ll simply reject it and move on.

There are other things that can be grounds for an instant rejection besides genre. Extremely long or short manuscripts could cause instant rejections, as well as not stating your word count or genre in the query. 

So, if you’re getting a lot of quick rejections, take a close look at your query and the agents. Are you sure they represent your genre? Is your word count within the norms for that genre?

If the above points seem to be okay, then you’ll have to dig a little deeper. Is your query letter too long? It should be about a single page. If it gets a lot longer than that, you could be inviting an instant rejection. Or is it too short? If your query doesn’t cover all the key points, the agent probably won’t take the time to ask for more information.

I’m not going to cover the ins and outs of writing a query letter. This is supposed to be a short post after all. But make sure your query looks professional. Odd fonts and text colors can also be grounds for instant rejection. You can learn more about query writing from past blog posts here and here

Other things that may cause an instant rejection are addressing the query to the wrong agent, including attachments, or not following the agent’s explicit query submission rules.

Does an instant rejection always mean a problem with your query? Nope. Nothing in this business is that cut and dry. But if you seem to be receiving a lot of instant rejections, then you should take a close look at your query. 

QueryTracker offers many tools to help you diagnose problems. Take a look at the “Query Response Time” reports for an agent and see if she tends to reply quickly or not. If she normally takes 30 days to respond to a query and you got your reply in 3 minutes, then your query may have one of the problems mentioned above. You can also look at the “Genre Reports” to see if the agent typically rejects projects of your genre. If she does, then that may be the issue with your query as well. You may also want to limit the report range to the last 90 days or less, since agent’s preferences can change over time.

Learn more about viewing QueryTracker Reports.

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