QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Monday, December 28, 2009

Setting, Keeping, and Achieving Your Writing Goals in the New Year

I don't believe in New Year's Resolutions.  You know why? Because they're good intentions you half-plan to break anyhow.  I do, however, believe in setting achievable goals all year long, and in this post I'm going to teach you some tricks to help you keep and achieve your goals for 2010.

1. Write your goals down.

Putting your goals in writing not only makes them more concrete, it also tells your brain that you're more committed than you might be if you just made a mental promise.

Just make sure that you differentiate between wishes and goals.  Goals are within your reach; wishes have more to do with luck. Compare it to playing the lottery.  You can buy a ticket or tickets religiously and tell God or your teddy bear or whomever just how much you want and need that money, but in the end it's dumb luck whether your numbers are picked.  In other words, you can't set a goal to win the lottery.  You can only play and wish.

Likewise, you may hope to see your book go to auction and pull in an advance in the tens or even hundreds of thousands -- but there's little you can do to make that happen.  Obviously you can write the best book possible, and you can even choose the agent with the most lucrative sales if you get multiple offers, but in the end it isn't your goal to go to auction and make a mint -- it's a wish.

So be sure that you're writing down goals.

2. Be specific.

It's harder to reach vague goals, so be specific.  Sure, you want to get published, but by whom? In what format?  There are a lot of ways to get published these days.  Rather than saying "I want to get published," try something like "I'd like to see my work published with a major print sf/f/h publisher" or "I'd like my short story collection to be e-published by a small literary press" or "I'd like to try self publishing, and my goal is to sell ___ copies by January 1, 2011."

Another example: Rather than saying, "I want to write more," choose something more specific: "I want to spend at least an hour a day on my writing."

Now that you've written down specific goals, it's time to pick one.  Which is most important to you?  That's the one you need to focus on.  Keep your list with the other goals on it -- you can go back to it after you accomplish your first goal.

I know, you want to multi-task, but you're far more likely to meet a goal if you're focusing on it, rather than juggling several.

3. Break your target goal down into smaller steps.

Arguably the biggest mistake people make in trying to reach goals is focusing on the big goal without creating a series of smaller, more manageable mini-goals to help them along the way.  Being able to break a large goal down into specific steps (which may also be broken down, depending on how large they are) is crucial.

So let's say you want to spend an hour a day writing. You may well spend an hour writing every day for the first two or three days, or -- if you're stubborn -- a week or so.  But unless you already spend quite a bit of time writing each day, you'll never be able to ramp up to a whole hour a day from nothing.  If you try, you're likely to get a goal-violation effect. In other words, after you've failed once or twice, you proverbially throw your hands in the air and decide you can't do it, so you give up.

Instead, start with a specific mini-goal you know you can achieve.  For example, "I will write for 15 minutes at least twice a week over my morning coffee."  Caveat: start smaller than you think you need to.  If you set the goal too high -- say, 15 minutes every day -- you're likely to fail and get the goal-violation effect, and then it's all over.

4. Be realistic -- and use common sense!

If you want to get an agent, write out all the steps not only of getting the agent, but also of preparing your manuscript and query.  Too many people rush out to find an agent before their work is really ready.  Build in plenty of mini-goals in which you get lots of feedback from other writers -- and listen to what they have to say.  Then you can consider sending your material out.

5. Take it slow.

Once you accomplish a mini-goal, take some time to make it a habit rather than rushing on to the next mini-goal.  If you're able to write for 15 minutes at least twice a week over coffee but you feel like you just barely pulled it off, the very last thing you should do is move up to your next mini-goal of writing for 15 minutes at least four times a week.  Instead, take some time making writing over your coffee a habit. Only once the task is regularly coming easily -- perhaps you even find yourself looking forward to the two days -- should you move on to your next mini-goal.

Likewise, give yourself at least six months to a year to find an agent.  Longer -- think two to five years -- if you have yet to have your work critiqued by objective strangers, if you need to build a platform, or if you need to get some short stories published to establish yourself.

I know you're impatient, but remember, it's better to get there a little slowly than not to get there at all!

6. Reassess at least once a week and make changes as necessary.

If you get to the end of week 2 and you're really struggling with your mini-goal -- say, you just weren't able to get yourself to write for 15 minutes twice a week -- don't beat yourself up.  Just troubleshoot and adapt. Make the mini-goal 5 minutes twice a week.  Then work your way up to 15 minutes.

Plan to make adjustments in your goals and mini-goals as you see what works and what doesn't.  Rather than seeing adjustments as failures, see them as what they are: effective problem-solving.

7. Have a FAIL-prevention plan.

Know ahead of time what you're going to do if things don't work out the way you want them to.  Maybe your goal was to secure an agent, but everybody and their brother has rejected your material.  Now what?

Now try to realistically figure out where the problem is.  If nobody even requested your partial, your writing probably needs work. If you didn't get many requests, your writing may be good, but your query may need work. If you got lots of partial and full requests but no offers of representation, your writing is probably good, but your story may need work.  Again, tap objective crit-mates for feedback -- don't harangue agents.  It's not their job to tell you what's wrong with your writing, only to decide whether they can sell it.

When you hit a setback, back up a little bit and figure out how you can take a new approach.  Face any problems with a creative problem-solving attitude, and you'll find that there's always another approach if things don't work out the way you'd hoped!

If you stick to the tips above, though, I bet you'll find that your goals are much more manageable and achievable than they were before!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Holiday Balancing Act

I'm usually a pretty disciplined person, but if anything can disrupt my writing, it's the holidays.

Summer? No problem. Birthdays, anniversaries--all short term distractions. The Christmas season is another story. From Thanksgiving to January 2nd, it seems like I slip further behind until I get my momentum back after the new year begins.

I realize this post is a bit of a departure from our norm. Usually, we try to give out information in our QT blog posts, but today, I'd like to be on the receiving end. Help me out here.

How do you balance the distractions of the holidays and your writing? Do you get as far behind as I do, or do you have a schedule or technique for being productive as a writer as well as a "real" person.

Please leave your tips in the comments, or if you don't want to give out your trade secrets publicly, feel free to email me at marylindsey@QueryTracker.net.

Have a wonderful week!


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas at QT

This Christmas Eve and Christmas, QueryTracker will be unavailable while I move QT to a faster and more reliable server. The holidays were chosen as the conversion date so as to inconvenience the least number of members as possible. It is hoped that you will all be so busy enjoying family and fun that you won't even notice the change.

What will the change be? Except for less down time and faster pages, you shouldn't notice any change at all.

Thank you for your patience, and have a Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Speed Networking At Its Best!

QueryTracker.net - Not just for queries any more.

We all know that online networking is essential for writers to succeed in this modern age. So what do writers do? We haunt Facebook, Twitter, and blogs. I found myself wishing for a central listing site of WRITERS, a simple way to connect with all their sites from one single page. I wanted something that looked like this:

And then I went to the guy who could make my wish come true.

Patrick McDonald owns QueryTracker.net which, as you know, is full of writers. And so I asked: "Hey Pat, want to make my networking dreams come true?" And bless him, he consented! (The photo above shows the results!)

Now here's what you need to do join the fun:

  1. Make sure you have a membership on QueryTracker.net. It's free and easy.

  2. Update your profile (under the My Stuff tab, click Edit Profile, then click Contact Info) to include links to your Facebook*, Twitter, blog and website. (Make sure you choose to make the links visible to everyone!)

  3. Next, while still in your profile, select Genres I Write and Genres I Read, as this will help you connect with writers/readers with similar tastes. (Hint: The more genres you choose, the more people you will connect with!)

Now for the networking:
  1. Hover over the Members tab.

  2. Click on Search by Similar Likes and you are on your way!!!

Now, spread the word! More people knowing = more connections for you!

Of special note:

There is a way to keep track of who you have already connected with. When you view a QT member's links, click on Send A Penpal Request. It will change to indicate that you have connected with them.

For tips on speed networking check out Elana's post on speed blogging.

*Having a hard time learning your Facebook address? It's simple to find. While signed into Facebook, click on the PROFILE tab. Use the address that appears in your browser's window.

This is a brand new feature, so let me know if you have any questions or problems, or can think of a way to improve it. (Let's make all our networking dreams come true!) So leave a comment in this post or drop me a line: suzettesaxton@querytracker.net.

Happy networking!

Suzette Saxton writes books for tots, teens, and in-betweens. She is represented by Suzie Townsend of FinePrint Literary.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Publishing Pulse 12-18-09

Around the Publishing Blogosphere:

Agent Jessica Faust of BookEnds mulls over the idea of a literary American Idol.

The Blood Red Pencil posted a nice list for fixing those "silly" errors during your editing.

Agent Kate Testerman of KT Literary posted a great Q & A regarding character descriptions and race.

In Publishing News:

Macmillan joined the stand against Amazon, following HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, and the Hachtette Group announcements of their plan to combat low ebook pricing.

The Author's Guild responded to Mark Dohle's assertion that Random House was entitled to electronic rights for books published before such rights existed.

And if you're looking for just the right word, maybe you're interested in these highlights of neologisms from the new millennium thus far.

And finally, Suz has asked me to let you all in on a little QT-insider's tip:

On Monday we will be announcing a new awesome way to connect with other writers all across the web. So be sure to update your QT profile to include links to your blog, Facebook, Twitter, and web page.

H. L. Dyer, M.D. writes women's fiction and works as the Clinical and Academic Director for the Hospitalist Program at a pediatric teaching hospital near Chicago. In addition to all things literary, she enjoys experimental cooking and composing impromptu parodies to annoy close friends and family. Click to visit her personal blog, Trying to Do the Write Thing.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Time Again for Us to Interview YOU!

From time to time we like to interview you, our readers, to find out what you want to read about on the QueryTracker Blog!

What: We want to interview you!
Where: We'll post our questions below, and you can answer in the comments section or via email.
When: We'll be watching today's post December16 through December 25th, so you can answer the questions anytime over the next week!  (You can also answer more than once, if you feel like it.)

Question 1:  Tell us a little bit about yourself!

What do you like to write?  Fiction? Nonfiction? Genre? Etc.?

What do you like to read? 

Question 2:  What do you want to see more of?  What do you want to see less of?

What have we covered that you'd like to see us talk more about?  Please be as specific as you can.

What areas haven't we covered that you want us to address? Again, specifics are great!

Question 3: If you could interview anybody in publishing, whether that be an author, an agent, or someone else, who would that be?  Why?  (Yes, we're asking you to name names here.)

What would you ask?

Question 4: What areas of QueryTracker do you use most/find the most helpful? (e.g. the main site/QueryTracker.net, the Forum, the Blog, QT's Twitter feed) What, if anything, would you add or change about that/those area/s of QT?

Thanks in advance, everyone!  We're looking forward to reading your answers!

Monday, December 14, 2009

'Tis The Season

I don't mean it's time for parties and sleigh rides and stuff. No, I mean it's the season to get your query ready.

In this post, I'm not going to talk about how to get your query ready. (I've already done that here. And there's a wealth of info on that particular topic.) No, this post is about the "best time" to query.

I've seen this talked about a lot in forums and on blogs. I've heard people say you shouldn't query during the summer. And you can't query during the holidays. And you shouldn't query at the beginning of the year because every writer has made a New Year's resolution to send out queries.

Reading all that can make an aspiring author throw their hands up and proclaim, "When is the best time to query then??"

Well, here's my personal opinion. (And I queried over the summer. In fact, many requests came in the summer.)

Q: When to query?

A: When your 1. manuscript 2. query letter 3. synopsis and 4. nerves are ready. Regardless of the season. Because agents are always looking for good books. Always. They're always going to be busy with this, that and the other. So don't stress it.

Query when your material is the best you can make it. And trust that the industry will be ready when you are.

A few good reads on this topic. Nathan Bransford posted this last year. And it's still true today.

Jessica Faust gives some info on how you know when you're ready to query.

Emily Marshall at Author2Author gives some sound advice on when to query.

I agree with all of them. Perfect, perfect, perfect. The MS, the query letter, the synop. Research agents. All that jazz. Get some steel and coat your nerves in it.

Then hit send.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Publishing Pulse 12/11/09

The New QueryTracker Success Stories

Two of our QT Blog authors' success story interviews were posted recently on the QueryTracker Main Site. Congrats to Suzette Saxton and Elana Johnson!

Click on the names below to read the most recent success story interviews (since my last Publishing Pulse Post) from QueryTracker members. Congratulations to these newly agented writers.

Suzette Saxton
Debbie Schubert

New Agents Added to the QueryTracker Database

Several new agents and publishers have been added to the QT Database recently. Check out the box labeled "New and Updated Listings" on the front page of the main QueryTracker.Net site and view their profiles for website links and genres they represent.

Tips, News & Other Interesting Info from Around the 'Net

On the fun side, today is the (unofficial, official) Agent Appreciation Day. QT members Lisa and Laura have compiled a list of participating agented authors and the agents who represent them.

Literary Agent Jenny Rappaport announced that she is closing her agency.

Agent Holly Root contributed an informative article on negotiating publishing contracts over at Romance University.

Chuck over at Guide to Literary Agents posted an article about writing a synopsis that might come in handy if you are at that stage of the process.

Nathan Bransford addressed the topic of pen names this week.

One of my favorite agents, Joanna Stampfel-Volpe, was interviewed on A View From The Top.

If you write YA, you should add Cynthia Leitich Smith's blog, Cynsations, to your must-read list. It has fabulous articles and interview as well as helpful links to resources for writers. Check it out.

Wishing everyone a fabulous weekend.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Interview with Lindsay Eland

Middle grade author Lindsay Eland is one of those amazing moms of four young children who still finds time to write. She's represented by Rebecca Sherman of Writer's House. Her book, Scones and Sensibility, published by Egmont and edited by Elizabeth Law, will be released on December 22nd.

Stay tuned for details at the end of this interview of how you can win a free copy of the book!

So Lindsay, tell us about your journey to agenthood.

My journey to agenthood had all the ups and downs, the cries of despair and the hopeful joys of a daytime drama…or at least in my memory that’s how it looks.

I went into my first query with hopeful abandon thinking that surely this first agent would think that my beloved manuscript was brilliant and they would be knocked to the floor in awe. Obviously after the first through ten informal rejections, my hopeful abandon turned into something that resembled more of a pleaful begging as I slid my envelope and SASE into the mailbox. And though at times I thought that maybe I should just give up, I knew beyond any doubt that I couldn’t. That this—this writing stories thing—was something I was born for and meant for and that I just had to keep trying. That of course happened with the help of chocolate, and my amazing critique group.

So I did keep trying.

And one lonely query to a brilliant agent at an amazing Agency turned into a partial…which turned into a full…which turned into a revision letter…which turned into a request to see more of my writing…which turned into a contract!

And then your agent hooked you up with a publisher – what was that process like?

It was very exciting and completely nerve-wrecking. And to back-track for a second, the first manuscript my agent sent out was NOT the manuscript in that very first query letter. That manuscript is something I’m still revising right now!

Okay, so anyway, my agent began to send one of my manuscripts out into the great wide world of publishing. There it met with one rejection after another until I had racked up around fifteen very nice and complimentary rejections and one “I’d like to see revisions if she’s willing” responses. Of course, in the meantime I continued to write, write, and write some more because writer’s can’t stop writing and it did help me get my mind off of the gathering rejection emails filling my in-box. About three months after the first submission went out, I submitted another manuscript called Scones and Sensibility to my agent, who in her brilliant agent fashion, sent me a long, much-needed revision letter. I revised and sent it back. Then Brilliant Agent called me one day about the manuscript on submission. “I think this first novel will sell, but I’m not sure if it’s going to be your debut novel. I think we should pull it and start submitting Scones and Sensibility.” Of course I said yes, cause obviously Brilliant Agent knows what she’s doing.

And she did.

After I revised again, she sent it out. Two to three weeks later it sold at auction, and I got a two-book deal. All-in-all it was around eight months from signing with my agent to Scones selling to my amazing editor!

Can you tell us about your book and what inspired you to write it?

Scones and Sensibility is about matchmaking gone horribly and hilariously wrong.

And I was inspired to write this novel from my own love of LM Montgomery and Jane Austen, as well as the fact that I wanted to create a story with a main character who wasn’t a tom boy like a lot of middle grade mc’s are (and understand that I’m not down-playing these at all, cause I write them too and love those types of characters…but really, not all girls are like that, right?). I was also inspired my daughter’s best friend who is completely dramatic, overly romantic, and absolutely hilarious…which is very much who Polly Madassa is.

What was your own craziest love match?

Hmmm…all the guys I dated throughout Jr. High, High School, and college were pretty normal, great guys. But Billy Ross, one of my first boyfriends ever, was probably the funniest match cause we were in seventh grade and I was literally a whole two-heads taller than him…it made dancing together very interesting.

Your characters have been described as “the funniest, most unique batch of lulus you’d ever want to meet.” Have you ever met anyone that came right out of your book?

Yes! Audrey, my daughter’s best friend that I mentioned above, is based loosely on her! I also come from an extremely hilarious family with so many stories I could fill three notebooks full of material.

And then I did write a picture book that won third place in the Writer’s Digest Writing Competition back in 2006 about an old lady using her purse as a weapon…that was based on my beloved crit mate’s off-the-cuff comment one time…yes, Lisa Amowitz…that was you ;).

So yes, I have met people that came right out of my books because unique, wacky, lulus are all around us if we as writers just stop and listen and observe them. :)

Your book is available for pre-order on Amazon.com (I've ordered my copy!) and will be released right before the holidays. Are you nervous or in a state of perpetual bliss?

Both at the same time. I can’t wait for it to be released, but it’s also terrifying because it will be out in the world for anybody to read or love or hate or praise or critique. It’s a very scary feeling.

What is the hardest thing about being a writer?

I would say the waiting, waiting, waiting and the mindset of “good enough” that plagues all of us yearning for affirmation and publication (ooo, I rhymed!). Anyway, I really feel no more confident in my abilities as a writer now that I am agented and published as I did when I wasn’t. It’s a constant battle and the hardest part of writing.

How on EARTH do you manage to be so productive with four little kids?

I have my schedule and routine and I’m adamant about keeping it for my sanity as well as my kids. :) Every day, from 1-4 or so, they must occupy themselves in some way (preferably not setting fire to the house or coloring on the walls).

How do you always manage to stay so cheerful?

I’m extremely thankful. And for me that’s what being happy really is…looking around and realizing despite all the sadness and brokenness in the world and life in general, there are still so many things to look at and wonder at and be thankful for. And you can’t help but smile at that.

Would you like to share something with aspiring authors everywhere?

Whatever you do don’t give up. Cry, pout, burn your mss, use rejection letters as a dart board, eat chocolate until you are nice and round and plump, even become a telemarketer for a while…but do not, I repeat, do not give up. It’s only those who give up that always, without a doubt, fail.

Tease us! We would love to see a short excerpt from your book.

The mailman, Mr. Snookers, was delivering the mail, much to Jack the Nipper's protest, and Miss Wiskerton seemed to be in quite a frenzy of excitement. At the same time she attempted to calm the ferocious beast, her cheeks flushed, and she kept trying to fluff up her hair, which sat in sausagelike rolls on her head.

...I quickened my step to her small gate as Mr. Snookers ran past me at quite an astonishing speed when one considers his girth. Jack the Nipper was subdued as much as a dog of his disposition could be, and Miss Wiskerton appeared to look down the street at the retreated mailman with a hint of remorse.

Miss Wiskerton was indeed lonely. Lonely for love.

Where can people connect with you?

You can visit my website at http://lindsayeland.com/

I’m also on twitter: http://twitter.com/lindsayeland

And Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/lindsay.eland?ref=profile

Thanks so much for having me, Suzette!

The pleasure has been all mine, Lindsay. I wish you all the best!

Now for how to win your free copy. Head on over to Lisa Amowitz's blog where she's hosting the SUPER-FABBY Scones and Sensibilities Challenge. And thank you, Lisa, for introducing me to Lindsay and for coming up with the most creative of the above questions. :)

Suzette Saxton writes books for tots, teens, and in-betweens. She is represented by Suzie Townsend of FinePrint Literary.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

More Contest News

We'd like to wish a hearty congratulations to Jane George, runner-up in our Agent-judged YA Contest. She will not be accepting her prize... because since entering out contest she has signed with literary agent Gwendolyn Heasley of Artists and Artisans. Yay Jane!

Writer Stephanie Boman has been chosen to fill the runner-up spot and is invited to submit a partial to Anna Webman of Curtis Brown Ltd. Congratulations, Stephanie!

If you would like to follow our contest winners in their quests for publication, here are links:

J.A. Lawrence

Jane George

Stephanie Boman

Alyssa Kirk

John Sankovich

Katherine Zane

Thanks to all of you, our readers, for making our contest a success.

Suzette Saxton writes books for tots, teens, and in-betweens. She is represented by Suzie Townsend of FinePrint Literary.

Monday, December 7, 2009

E-Books Made E-asy

So, according to Nathan Bransford, E-books are a "trend."

But if you're not one of the cool Kindle Kids and you're not getting any "Nook"ie, that doesn't mean you have to feel left out. There's a free program called ereader that you can download in a variety of formats, depending on the device you plan to read on. I've got the PC and palm pilot versions, myself. Those of you with trendier technology can download the Iphone or Blackberry versions if that's your thing.

Now, the files for ereader are .pdb files. You can download commercial .pdb files, of course (including lots of free literary classics), but if you want to create your own ebooks, you'll have to convert the manuscripts to the ereader format.This is easier than you might think.

I love having a copy of my manuscript handy on my palm pilot, and I love reading my crit partners' manuscripts on the go this way. Ebooks also display nicely on the PC (with ereader) when I'm only looking to read, as opposed to adding comments. (I like to read the manuscripts I'm critting straight through once for big-picture feel, then I go back in Word with track changes and all to make my suggestions). ;)

A long time ago, I celebrated my uber-geekiness when I discovered how to use Palm Markup Language to create my own ebooks with formatting, table of contents, etc. PML tags are similar to html code, so if you're comfortable with html, you should be able to pick up PML quickly.

If you want to embrace your own geekiness, there's a tutorial on creating a formatted ebook using a word macro here. But if you can't be bothered with manual formatting, aren't comfortable with macros, and just want a quick-and-dirty text only version, there's an easy program for that through the ereader site: Dropbook.

Once you have ereader installed on your computer, handheld, phone, or whatever, you'll be able to read your converted manuscript on your chosen device. The files are tiny, too, so you can store a lot of them even on devices without much memory.

Here's my ebook for The Edge of Memory displaying on my PC. I used PML code (by placing a \x tag before and after each chapter title in my manuscript) to add a clickable Table of Contents.

I mean, seriously... how cool is that? You can make virtual bookmarks, change the font size, even set the text to autoscroll like movie credits.

Don't get me wrong, I love a flesh-and-blood book as much as the next bibliophile. But this is pretty durned cool, too.

H. L. Dyer, M.D. writes women's fiction and works as the Clinical and Academic Director for the Hospitalist Program at a pediatric teaching hospital near Chicago. In addition to all things literary, she enjoys experimental cooking and composing impromptu parodies to annoy close friends and family. Click to visit her personal blog, Trying to Do the Write Thing.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Publishing Pulse: 12/4/2009

Three New Success Stories!  

Visit the links below to read about how they found their agents through QueryTracker.net!

New Agents!

  • Susan Hawk has joined the The Bent agency. She's looking for young adult and middle grade books; nonfiction and literary fiction, as well as genre fiction like fantasy, science fiction, historical fiction, and mystery. 
  • Kathleen Ortiz of Lowenstein Associates is looking for chick lit and YA.
  • Justine Wenger of the Emma Sweeney Agency is looking for literary fiction and short story collections.

New QT Features!

There are some exciting new features in QueryTracker.  For example, you can now copy a query list from one project to another (definitely  handy for folks who are querying more than one project in the same genre).  You can also cross reference projects -- if you've queried a particular agent before, you'll get a note showing which projects you queried with and what the results were.

Find out more here!

Great Stuff From Around the Web

Thursday, December 3, 2009

YA Contest Winners Announced!

Thank you, Anna Webman of Curtis Brown Ltd! Ms. Webman judged nearly 500 pages of material and shared this:

It wasn’t an easy decision. I have to say that I was very impressed with the overall quality of the writing and plotlines of the entries—clearly you have a very talented readership.

The winner of the Grand Prize (and full submission) is:

Jill Lawrence for her entry ON THE BEAM (Contemporary)

The runners-up (and partial submission winners) are:

Katherine Zane for A FOURTH OF AIR (Alternate History)

Alyssa Kirk for DEMONIC ATTRACTIONS (Urban Fantasy)

John Sankovich for GIFTS (Paranormal Fantasy)


Congratulations to the winners! I will send you an email shortly with details of how to submit your material.

Thanks to all who participated. Keep an eye on the blog; we will have more contests in the future!

Suzette Saxton writes books for tots, teens, and in-betweens. She is represented by Suzie Townsend of FinePrint Literary.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Agented Angle

Today we're taking a jaunt across the fence to see if the grass is really greener on the other side of the fence. The agented fence. So many of us are working hard to perfect that query letter, research agents and hoping to find that one industry believer who can get our book into the hands of an editor. But what really goes on after you sign with an agent?

Well, Lisa and Laura Roecker (hitherto known as L&L) are here to give us a glimpse. These sisters-turned-authors signed with Catherine Drayton of Inkwell Management earlier this year and were kind enough to give me a few minutes to answer some questions. They run a killer blog and you can check out their website too. I'm ElanaJ (aka EJ. You're disappointed it's not Oprah, aren't you? Dude, that's on my other blog.) and I'm totally going to hit them with my best shot.

EJ: Okay, you’ve signed with an agent. Many of us might be asking: “Is the grass really greener on the other side?” So…is it?

L&L: Oh yes, it’s just gorgeous over here. We’re kidding…kind of. We’ve had the most amazing experience with Catherine. She’s incredibly talented, hardworking and communicative. We feel like we’re her only clients and yet she works with tons of authors, many who are NYT Bestsellers. We feel incredibly lucky that she saw potential in the two of us and has invested so much time and energy into our work.

EJ: Let’s start with revisions. Did you need to complete revisions for your agent before going on submission? If so, how intensive were they? How long did they take? Were you able to ask Catherine for feedback and advice along the way?

L&L: When Catherine offered representation she mentioned that she’d want us to do some revisions before going out on submission. About a month after signing with her we met her in NYC and were lucky enough to get our revision notes live. I will never forget going to Starbucks afterwards and looking at each other, like “Oh, crap. That’s a lot of work.”

But Catherine has this knack for pointing out strengths and weaknesses in your manuscript and really forcing you to make it the very best it can possibly be. She reminded us that you only debut once and it needs to be spot on. So, the revision ended up taking us about a month, but it was an intense month.

We definitely had to ask for advice in regards to the title. We came up with list after list and Catherine would provide feedback. It all comes down to the fact that we suck at thinking of titles. But we all loved THE HAUNTING OF PEMBERLY BROWN, so that’s something.

EJ: Okay, the day comes. Book is revised. Agent-approved. Then what? Give us the low-down on what happens next on your end. On Catherine’s end.

L&L: After Catherine read our revised manuscript she told us she wanted to put it out on submission the following week. We did a little happy dance and then immediately started to freak out. While Catherine was busy writing up her pitch and figuring out who we should submit to, we wrote up bios, took an author pic, created an author website and continued freaking out.

By the next week Catherine sent us the list of the lucky editors and we immediately went into cyberstalking mode. It was sort of amazing to read about all of these uber talented editors who were going to be reading and (hopefully) talking about our work. It was also terrifying.

Catherine kept in touch in regards to who was reading, if/when she’d nudged them, if/when we were going to acquisitions, etc. Every time an email would pop up in our inbox or Catherine’s number would pop up on our cell phones, we’d about pass out. But it was fun. In a terrifying, exhilarating kind of way.

EJ: How did you endure the wait? The rejections? How did having an agent help with both of those?

L&L: We certainly had our fair share of rejections, but Catherine never ever let us give up on THE HAUNTING OF PEMBERLY BROWN. We honestly can’t imagine going through the submissions process without an agent. Whether it was an encouraging e-mail or the constant updates on the status of our submissions, Catherine kept us informed and (somewhat) sane throughout the entire process.

EJ: Did you start a new project while your first was on submission? If so, were you able to bounce ideas off Catherine? How helpful/instrumental was she in what you decided to write next?

L&L: Catherine was extremely open to us bouncing ideas off of her. About a month into the submissions process, the waiting was driving us crazy, so we told Catherine we’d like to start working on something new. She told us to put a few pitches together, so we sent her some of our best ideas. She was on vacation at the time, and while we were waiting for her response we got a completely new idea for a project. By the time she came back, we were already 15,000 words into SHE’S LEAVING HOME. We just fell in love with the characters and the concept. So basically, Catherine didn’t have much of a choice, but I think we’re all really happy we decided to write what we did!

Whew, sounds like it's a thrilling ride, no matter which leg of the publishing journey you're on! Thanks so much for sharing with us. Oh! And Lisa and Laura recently sold their book to Sourcebooks, with a publication date of Spring 2011. Further proof that hard work pays off, no matter which field you find yourself grazing in.


Monday, November 30, 2009

Genre Prejudice-Part II

My last post, Prejudice--Not a Wise Platform Strategy, was part one on this topic. I know this is a subject near to the hearts of many readers because of the emails I received through this blog and my website after that post and my earlier, related one on not using blogs as personal diaries.

Most writers I know are intelligent, educated, open-minded people, which is why I keep leaping onto my soapbox to address the topic of genre prejudice--it makes no sense to me and surprises me every time I see an example of it.

People who know me will tell you I'm not a preachy person, but discrimination is my hot button. I live in the South and consequently have a heightened sense of equality because I live in a society that has embraced or endured all kinds of prejudice and discrimination. I find genre discrimination offensive, just as I do racial, religious or sexual discrimination (Though not to the same extent, of course; it's not on the same level as it doesn't bring with it life and death consequences; but for me, prejudice is repulsive in any arena).

No. "Hating" a genre doesn't equate donning a white hood, but it is unwarranted and often unfounded, with the person degrading the genre and its authors sometimes having never even read a book in the genre (or at least not knowing he/she has read one. *wink*). A little tolerance and respect for other readers and writers goes a long way, especially when you're trying to build a potential fan base.

Hands down, the genre I see belittled the most is romance.

Okay. I agree romance is an easy target. The book covers alone warrant an eye roll. They are often cheesy--in fact, some are downright embarrassing (Psst: Electronic readers solve this problem and allow you to read with reckless abandon anywhere without risk of offending anyone with the naked or nearly naked people on the cover).

Kidding aside, keep in mind the potential pitfalls of alienating people who write or read this or any genre before you slam it publicly. Yes, your personal blog is yours and you can say any darn thing you want, but if you are building a writers' platform, you should still turn on your inner censor. Same with forums and loops. It is fine to be opinionated, but as with all things, is it worth shooting yourself in the foot?

Back to romance. I think the stats will help clarify my position.

The following is from the Romance Writers of America website:

RWA’s 2009 Reader Survey reports 74.8 million Americans read at least one romance novel in 2008, with the core of the romance fiction market at 29 million regular readers.

Not only did romance fiction generate $1.37 billion in sales in 2008, but also it remained the largest share of the consumer market at 13.5 percent. R.R. Bowker’s Books In Print shows 7,311 new romance titles were published in the United States in 2008 (out of a total 275,232 new titles). With 7,311 new romances published in one year, “no fiction category can rival romance in terms of sheer size.”

The U.S. economy slid into recession in 2008, and book sales were down to $10.175 billion from $10.714 billion in 2007. Romance fiction sales were strong in 2008 at $1.37 billion.

Wow. 74.8 million people read a romance in 2008. That's a lot of readers. That's a lot of writers. Romance has a gigantic fan base. Larger than any other genre. See the RWA literature statistics page for more info.

I brought my own prejudices with me to my first RWA meeting, only to be slapped in the face by my own ignorance. My fellow chapter members blew me away. Doctors, housewives, lawyers, professors, students executives and teachers. I went even though I was not a romance writer because of the workshops that crossed over genres. I stayed because of the talent and openness of the members. I adore and admire this group of men and women and can't imagine making this trek without them.

The president of my chapter, Kimberly Frost, spoke to our group one time about why she writes romance. Kimberly is a physician and is one of the brightest people I know. I'm sure her friends and associates frequently ask her why she writes romance. Here is a part of the story she recounted:

One morning I opened a reader email that came through my website. The woman wrote to tell me that she'd had a very tough week. Both of her parents were terminally ill, and reading Would-Be Witch was the first thing that had made her happy in a while. She just wanted me to know. I sat and cried as I wrote her a reply.

Before that reader email, I had occasionally wondered if I should really be writing paranormal romantic comedy. It wasn't, after all, serious writing, right? Afterward though, I never questioned my choice again. My book eased the pain of someone who was shouldering a very heavy load. Nothing will ever mean more to me than that.

Hard to beat that for a reason to write.

Honestly, I can't think of a genre I haven't enjoyed from literary fiction to erotica. There are pitiful examples in all genres, but there are also brilliant books in all of them. I choose to read some genres more than others, but that doesn't mean the ones I don't read as often are lesser quality or not as valid.

My point? Discrimination based on genre prejudice not only offends other readers'/writers', it can negatively impact an aspiring writer's reputation and platform.

I'd love to hear from you in the comments or in a personal email.

Wishing everyone a wonderful week.


Friday, November 27, 2009

Publishing Pulse 11/27/09

Contest Update

Anna Webman is hard at work judging nearly 500 pages of material that was submitted in our very successful YA Contest. (Thanks, Anna!) We will be announcing the winners next week.

New Agents

Whitney Lee with The Fielding Agency represents books of all genres in both fiction and nonfiction, taking on books she feels passionate about.

Robert Kirby with United Agents represents books of all genres in both fiction and nonfiction. He is based in the UK.

Kent Wolf with Global Literary Management's interests include literary fiction, smart thrillers, women's fiction, memoirs, pop culture, and off-the-wall narrative nonfiction.

Justine Wenger with the Emma Sweeney Agency is looking for literary fiction, short story collections, and food/lifestyle nonfiction.


WOW (Women on Writing) is holding a flash fiction contest that closes November 30th. Entries will be judged by Noah Lukeman of Lukeman Literary Management. There are many fun prize packages. Entry fee is $10.

Writer's Digest's short short story competition has a $3000 first prize. Entry fee is $15 and entries are due by December 1st.

Delacorte Press will award publication for the winner of the First YA Novel contest. Deadline is December 31st.

Writers of the Future will publish winners of their contest, which is for prose of up to 17,000 words. Contest closes December 31st.

On the Web

Guide to Literary Agents had a great article, 7 Reasons Agents Stop Reading Your First Chapter.

Agent Kristin Nelson offered a great tip about What's Hot Now in YA fiction.

I loved Everybody Has a Book Inside on the Kiersten Writes blog.

And last but not least, thanks to Beth Revis for spotlighting the QTblog.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Suzette Saxton writes books for tots, teens, and in-betweens. She is represented by Suzie Townsend of FinePrint Literary.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

With a Thankful Heart

Since our American readers are celebrating Thanksgiving this week, it seems a good time for a moment of gratitude. In fact, there's really no wrong time to be thankful.

Many people consider writing to be a solitary activity. But however true that may be, when you begin a quest for publication, you join a community. And if you're reading this post, then you've found your way to the best writing community I've found.

The fact is, it takes a lot of support to pursue a writing career, from your family, from friends, from beta readers... from whoever motivates you to keep going.

I am grateful to many people:

  • My husband and my best friend, the best support system a girl could ask for

  • My fellow blog mistresses, also known as The Best Crit Group EVAH

  • My amazing agent, Katie Boyle

  • Patrick McDonald for conceiving and implementing the fabulous Querytracker.net site

  • My sweetly ruthless beta readers
And finally, YOU... the Querytracker community for sheer awesomeness. I'm grateful for your suggestions, your participation, your thoughtful comments here on the Querytracker blog.

So, what are YOU thankful for?

For those of you celebrating, have a peaceful and happy holiday!

H. L. Dyer, M.D. writes women's fiction and works as the Clinical and Academic Director for the Hospitalist Program at a pediatric teaching hospital near Chicago. In addition to all things literary, she enjoys experimental cooking and composing impromptu parodies to annoy close friends and family. Click to visit her personal blog, Trying to Do the Write Thing.

Monday, November 23, 2009

7 Characteristics You Need To Get Published

In honor of our swiftly-approaching one-year mark, I'm pulling out one of the QueryTracker Blog Team's first posts.  Part of what's fun about the re-post is that I can link to many of the posts we've done over the past year!

Agents and editors deal with hundreds of queries, synopses, proposals, and chapters every month. Whether you realize it or not, your approach to the process has a lot to do with whether or not your work will ever reach publication. Here are the 7 characteristics necessary to achieving your dreams!

Characteristic 1: Commitment to Growth

The first thing every real writer needs is a willingness to learn and grow. All agents or editors—no matter how busy—are interested in quality work. The first step: write the best book you can. That means you’ll probably need to brush up on grammar, syntax, sentence structure, and plotting. Don’t give someone an excuse to reject your work because you’ve either never learned or forgotten how to write in an active voice.

Research local or online writing workshops and sign up for a writing conference or two to jump start your creative juices and brush up on what it takes to become a published author. Join a critique group to help yourself develop a critical eye for grammar, sentence structure and plot in the writing of others. Then apply what you learn to your own writing. When you view writing as a life-long learning experience, you've taken the first step to becoming published.

Characteristic 2: Humility

Completing a project is an accomplishment, and one you should be proud of—just not too proud to miss places you still might be able to improve. Chances are, you did forget a comma or semicolon somewhere. Or spelled a word wrong. Or didn't tie up that loose end. Or tried to cram in too many subplots. Or something. When you share your work with critique buddies, really listen to their feedback. If an agent is kind enough to offer advice, thank him or her and then consider making the changes to your manuscript.

Characteristic 3: Self-Confidence

On the flip-side of humility is self-confidence; you’ll need both in equal measure. Not to be confused with arrogance—there is a difference! Getting published is usually an uphill battle. Everyone along the way will have an opinion about your work, and not all of those opinions will be positive! Most agents reject between 95% and 99% of all queries they see, and editors are even harder to win over.

Even after you make it through the gauntlet of agents, editors, and other decision-makers, you’ll have to face book reviewers and bloggers. You must believe in yourself enough not only to go through the whole process, but also to endure the onslaught that follows. Once you've acquired the skills of a writer, a sense of self-confidence will help you recognize that your hours of research, learning, and growing are going to pay off.

Characteristic 4: Perseverance

Once you've produced the very best story you can, built your self-confidence, and balanced it with humility, it’s time to submit. Research agents and editors and only submit to those who are a good match for your project. And don't just submit to one agent or editor. Or two. Or even ten. Keep going until you find one who loves your work!

And don't stop writing while you submit. Maybe your first book won’t make as big of a splash as you’re hoping. Maybe your second—or your fifth—novel will be the one to land that dream agent and publishing contract. Author Dan Brown published three books before he scored a worldwide bestseller with The DaVinci Code.

Characteristic 5: Professionalism

Understand that publishing is a business, and that agents and editors are trying to find books publishers—and eventually readers—will want to spend their hard-earned money to buy. That means you need to conduct yourself like a professional. While this might seem obvious, you must treat everyone you deal with, from agents’ assistants all the way up to publishing heads, with courtesy. Even if you don’t like what they’re telling you.

Never send hate mail back to agents or editors. (You might be surprised how often publishing professionals have to deal with this.) Also realize that form responses are normal — if you had to read hundreds of queries every month, you’d send them too! Don't take rejection as a personal attack—it's just business.

Characteristic 6: Patience

It takes patience to see your dream of being published come true. Not only patience to write the book—which doesn't happen in a single sitting—but patience to wait for responses from beta readers, critique groups, and then agents, editors, and publishers. Some respond immediately. Some are a little slower, but will respond eventually. And some won’t respond at all. In each case, your patience will be tried.

Characteristic 7: Luck

Before you decide that you’re doomed because you’ve never won the lottery (or even a door prize drawing), you need to know that we’re talking about the kind of luck you make for yourself. There is an old Chinese tenet, “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” So first, be prepared. And then cultivate your own luck. Lucky writers behave in ways that create good fortune in their lives. For example, they read agent and industry blogs (like this one!) to get a feel for what different agents like. They notice and act upon chance opportunities, follow their intuition, look for the bright side of every situation, and are certain their future is promising. Their outlook becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy, creating the perfect environment for “luck” to flourish. Remember, it only takes one positive response!

Put All Those Characteristics Together: Indomitable Spirit

Incorporating these seven traits will result in the indomitable spirit necessary to succeed in the publishing industry. What is Indomitable Spirit? It’s an attitude or state of mind in which you are impossible to frighten or defeat. Never, never, never give up on your dreams.

“People do not seem to realize that their opinion of the world is also a confession of character.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Elana JohnsonCarolyn Kaufman and Suzette Saxton worked together on this article!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Publishing Pulse 11/20/09

PhotobucketNew Literary Agents:

Amy Burkhardt at Kimberley Cameron & Associates. From their website: "She represents both fiction and nonfiction projects for the adult market. In fiction, she looks for literary and commercial fiction, upmarket women's fiction, mysteries with a twist or an unusual protagonist, and historical fiction. In nonfiction, she seeks narrative nonfiction and memoirs as well as prescriptive nonfiction written by experts in their field. She has a soft spot for lifestyle, humor, food, and current events topics."

Lina Sion at Global Literary Management. "Her focus at the agency is to represent authors of Middle Grade and Young Adult fiction."

Stacy Carlock at Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency. "She is interested in character driven stories that deal with women’s issues (both fiction and non-fiction). She is also interested in spiritual stories that come from being real. She is always into a great page turning beach read - particularly legal thrillers with complex and interesting lead characters and just good fun reads. She loves business books that encourage and develop people skills and ethical awareness."

Serafina Clarke at Burkeman and Clarke Literary Agency. "We handle fiction and general non-fiction, children’s books and scripts for film, television and theatre."

Adriann Ranta at Wolf Literary Services, LLC. "She is most interested in realistic, true-to-life stories with conflicts based in the real world. She likes edgy, dark, challenging voices, unique settings, and everyman stories told with a new spin."

Guichard Cadet at Seredipity Literary Agency. "Guichard is looking to represent a balanced mix of fiction and non fiction but is not interested in magical realism, fantasy or science fiction. He has a special affinity for pop culture, sports and Caribbean themed titles."

Contests, Happenings, Etc.

The fine folks at St. Martins are hosting a new adult contest. From their blog: “We are actively looking for great, new, cutting edge fiction with protagonists who are slightly older than YA and can appeal to an adult audience. Since twenty-somethings are devouring YA, St. Martin’s Press is seeking fiction similar to YA that can be published and marketed as adult—a sort of an “older YA” or “new adult.” The deadline is TODAY, so get your pitch entered fast!

Delacorte First Young Adult Novel contest: Submissions due December 31.

Dragon Moon Press is calling for submissions in “Fantasy, Science Fiction and Gentle Horror.” Read the details here. Don't send submissions until December 1.

Literary agent Jenny Rappaport is closed to submissions. Read more here.

Inspiring Things To Read:

Alice Pope, editor of Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market, is calling for queries for her upcoming Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market book. Click here for details.

Alice also did a fantastic post this week on social networking, and just what you need to be doing. Check it out.

I found this glossary of publishing terms on Janet Reid’s blog. Pretty funny, so check it out!

The whole Harlequin self-publishing announcement exploded this week. Reactions have been up all over the place, but here are a couple of my favorites. From Dear Author. Kristin Nelson gives us the possible fallout from the announcement here.

Have a great week and a Happy Thanksgiving!