QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Pen Names - Should You Have One?

Pen name, nom de plume, pseudonym, literary double, alias. Some authors have them. Other authors don’t. In some instances, having a pen name can increase your marketability. In other instances, the opposite is true.

Some reasons for considering a pen name:
  • Your name is too common, strange, or hard to spell.
  • Someone else has an online presence with the same name.
  • Your name is not a match for the genre you write.
  • For whatever reason, you would like to remain anonymous
  • Reasons of gender; using a pen name allows females to write as males and vice versa.
  • You write in more than one genre, as discussed last week.
  • For your protection, when your subject matter is inflammatory or controversial.

Author Jessica Verday shares her reasons for choosing a nom de plume:

I have a very, very, very common last name, so I kept my first name but based my last name (Verday) on a variation of my middle name. There hasn't been any problem whatsoever with my agent or my editor about it. The key is to be consistent in whatever you do. When I address my agent or my editor, I always use my pen name.

Even among agents, there are differences in opinion.

Kristin Nelson of the Nelson Literary Agency has a sneaky tip on how to use a pen name to sandwich your book between bestsellers.

Jessica Faust of BookEnds advises using your new name immediately and exclusively from the moment you settle on one.

The Rejecter thinks pseudonyms are "a case of 'thinking too far ahead' syndrome, along with sending in your cover ideas and your pre-written book jacket."

Miss Snark suggests listing both your real and pen names on the header of your manuscript.

Choosing to use a pen name is a decision not made lightly, which is why so many authors struggle with it. Next week I'll be posting exclusive interviews with several writers, including bestselling author Tess Gerritsen, regarding their pen name preferences. I'll also answer questions from our blog readers, so be sure to email me (suzettesaxton@querytracker.net) or leave your questions in the comments.

And now, just for fun...

There are multitudinous pen name generators online. Below is a quick list of pseudonyms these sites suggested for me, along with links to the sites for your amusement:

Emely Rainbolt -- from Chucklehound

S. N. Loafer -- from TestCafe

Citronella Canteloupe Onassis and (I couldn't resist listing this as well) Frau Froo-Froo Buntcake -- from The Preposterous Pen Name Generator

And if you'd like some help from the U.S. Census Bureau, check out the name generator at Critique Circle.

Have a fantastic last day of March!

Suzette Saxton's idea of a perfect day includes a picnic lunch, laughing children, and her laptop. When she's not writing books for kids, Suzette can be found gardening, doing finish carpentry in her home, or walking in the canyon in which she lives.

Monday, March 30, 2009

When the Agent Comes Calling

…it’s best to be prepared.

Today, I’m delighted to introduce you to our guests: Agented Authors! First, we have Cole Gibsen, young adult author of KATANA, represented by Chris Richman at Firebrand Literary. Lisa and Laura Roecker, young adult sister-authors of FINDING GRACE, represented by Catherine Drayton of InkWell Management. And Leah Clifford, young adult author of REAPERS represented by Rosemary Stimola of the Stimola Literary Studio.

I’m ElanaJ and will be firing off questions about THE CALL. On Wednesday, Carolyn will be posting a cheat sheet of questions you can use when you're preparing to field the call. So let's get to it.

Q: How did you prepare for the phone call? Loud pitched screaming? Frantic web-searching? Large amounts of Dove dark?

Cole: I consulted with my fabulous friends that I made through Query Tracker – many of whom had already experienced “The Call” and had a wealth of knowledge to share.

Lisa: Before we started querying our first book, we researched all of these questions to ask agents. We were just so SURE we’d have tons of offers of representation right away. Yeah, 6 months later we felt pretty silly about that. But the good news is that when we got our first e-mail asking to discuss book #2 on the phone we were able to dig up all those questions. SO we had plenty of squee/chocolate/drinking wine time BEFORE we actually fielded the call itself.

And as for researching the agents themselves, for the second book we only queried 16 agents and we knew a LOT about all of them, so we didn’t really have to do much research on the agents themselves.

Laura: Luckily we had a little warning because we received an email that an agent loved the manuscript and wanted to set up time to talk. So, we dug up (and I mean dug) an old email that listed questions to ask potential agents. When we first started writing, we thought we’d be flooded with offers of representation (it’s easy to publish a book, right?), so we were totally prepared. The second time around, we had to do some digging to find that email. But the questions were the same. I think we found the bulk of them by researching on the Internet.

Leah: All of the above? I went on AgentQuery and they had a great article on what to do when an agent calls, so I relied on that pretty heavily. But I also had a very strong idea of what I personally wanted in an agent, so I asked specifically about communication and how they work edits (line vs. big picture and why). For me though, one of the most important questions I asked was what their favorite book was as a child. I wanted to see if they were as excited talking about my book as they were about their favorites.

Q: How did you stay calm during the call?

Cole: The smell of freshly made donuts kept me calm. Seriously. Chris and I had arranged our phone call via internet and I hadn’t quite made it home from work when my phone rang. I knew I would be too distracted to drive so I pulled into the first parking lot that I came to – which just so happened to be a bakery. Serendipity? I think so.

Lisa: Umm…I didn’t. The first call I was ok, because we had scheduled a time to discuss via e-mail, but we had written all of the other agents considering our full MS and when our future agent actually called me on the phone to tell me that she was going to be reading our book over the weekend and would call us on Monday, I was a blathering idiot. And then when she called AGAIN the very next day to offer representation I was a total mess. I have two kids under the age of 4 and it was 5 pm. Any mother knows that a phone call at 5pm on a Friday is pretty much a suicide mission. To say it was a trainwreck is a huge understatement. I had to put the agent on hold to give the kids lollipops and shortly thereafter one of the kids started gagging on the lollipop, it was kind of a nightmare. I finally ended up locking myself in the bathroom with my laptop. It was just really hard to focus and as a result I didn’t have a good impression of the agent. Thankfully we scheduled a second time to talk, so Laura, my writing partner, could be on the phone too. That time we were prepared and somewhat calm.

Laura: The only experience I have with business calls is when I would call parents in regards to student performance. So obviously, this is all new to me. I tried to remind myself that we have the goods—we are the writers and have produced something and are trying to find someone to best represent us. Clearly, my heart was pounding and my voice was shaking those first few minutes, but I settled down and felt more comfortable the more we got to talking. Deep breaths and lots of walking around in circles helped too. What didn’t help, was my daughter screaming to get out of her crib. Apparently, 11 month olds don’t understand the importance of business calls.

Leah: I was actually really surprised. I stayed pretty calm once I was on the phone, it was the before that made me nervous. The thing to remember is agents are just people.

Q: Did you take notes?

Cole: I did! I’m a nerd like that.

Lisa: Yes, for each of the calls I had a word doc up with all of the questions I wanted to ask and I typed furiously the entire time. I wanted to remember everything they said about our writing and the potential for the book, so Laura and I could discuss it later.

Laura: Yes. I wanted to make sure that when I was done with the call I could report back to Lisa. It also helped to take notes so I could keep track of which agent said what. It’s funny how much is forgotten out of excitement.

Leah: I took almost two pages of notes for each agent that I spoke with. I wrote out all of the questions I wanted to ask, with big spaces in between so there was room to write the answer. It really helped because I could see if I’d missed anything.

Q: About how long was the call?

Cole: Over an hour – but it hardly felt like it. That’s one of the benefits of having an agent who used to be a comedy writer. I was too busy laughing to be nervous.

Lisa: It varied from agent to agent. The shortest call was probably 10 minutes, the longest call was probably 45 minutes.

Laura: Two of our calls were around 45 minutes and the other was around 30 minutes, I think.

Leah: My phone calls lasted anywhere between an hour and two, give or take. Your phone call should last as long as it takes for you to be comfortable enough to have your questions answered and have a good sense of the plans for your book. It should last as long as it takes for you to be comfortable with that person handling your career.

Q: If you feel comfortable, can you name some specific things you talked about with your agent?

Cole: Basically I asked the questions that I had outlined and Chris gave me straight up answers. I asked him about his ideas for revisions, his ideas for submission, and his availability.

Lisa: We spoke a lot about how she would be marketing the book to editors. She told us that when she evaluates an MS for representation she looks at all the reasons why an editor would say no and she does whatever she can to fix those issues. So she ran through that list with us and talked about whether or not we’d be comfortable with her suggestions.

Laura: We talked about how the economy is affecting publishing and the impact that has on debut authors. One agent actually said debut authors have it better right now because we are cheaper. Good to know. We also talked about how to best communicate and what we could expect of the entire process. All the agents we spoke with were extremely involved in the process and would communicate on a regular basis. This is important to us.

Leah: I might not be like others, as I didn’t really concentrate on being uber professional on the phone. I tried my best to be myself, and knowing that I joke around a lot and I’m sarcastic, I wanted an agent who would get that and get ME as a person. My agent calls ranged over pretty much every topic imaginable. The focus was the writing and my future, but I covered a ton of really interesting subjects while trying to feel each agent out and make sure they were the best fit for me.

Q: If you received more than one offer, how did you know which agent was the right one for you?

Cole: At the time I received “The Call” from Chris, I still had two fulls out with other agents. I picked Chris, because I feel the agent/author relationship should be a little bit like a marriage. I want an agent for life. I don’t want to have to go through an ugly divorce a few years down the road, and the lack of enthusiasm I received from the other two led me to believe that might be the case. I felt like they only wanted me for this one story. Chris made it clear that he saw beyond the story. His interest in my other projects (even in the initial phone call) proved that. He also emailed me back within 24 hours from every email I sent to him – the other agents took up three days. I thought, “If it takes them this long while they’re ‘wooing’ me, who knows what it will be like once they ‘got’ me.”

Lisa: This was SO hard. At first we were completely torn. We just didn’t have that gut feeling about any of the agents. There were things that we loved about all of them and we just couldn’t decide. But then we had one last conversation with Catherine and we both hung up the phone and just knew that she was the agent for us. She had a vision for our book and she loved it. It was actually a little surreal that she loved it, but she did.

Laura: At first, we didn’t. Lisa spoke with the first agent before I had a chance to and instantly felt a connection. After I spoke with her, I felt the same way. Then we both spent time on the phone with the second agent and saw a lot of positives to going with that agent as well. The third agent called Lisa to offer representation without warning. Needless to say, there were a lot of lollypops shoved into little mouths at Lisa’s house that night. She talked to each agent before I had a chance to, and had no idea which one was right for us. She was torn. And then we had one last conversation with Catherine—we were both on the phone together. I remember thinking the entire call, this is her. This is our agent. And I wondered if I would have a hard time convincing Lisa. As soon as we hung up with Catherine, Lisa called. She’s our agent. We practically said it at the same time. I was hoping the entire time, I would just know, and I did. You just know.

Leah: For me, this was the hardest question to answer. I received four offers from four amazing but very different agents. What it came down to was who I connected with best and who I felt would be the best advocate for my novel and my career. I really feel that I found that in Rosemary.

Q: Overall, what’s the one piece of advice you have for authors who receive the call?

Cole: Stay calm, have a list ready, a donut in hand, and when it comes down to it, go with your gut instinct. It won’t steer you wrong.

Lisa: Be confident! An agent loves your book. It’s their turn to impress you. A couple of the agents we spoke with mentioned that they were turned off by authors who didn’t come across as confident.

Laura: Remember, they want you. They are calling because they saw something in your writing (maybe money signs, but hopefully something more than that) and want to use their connections to help you. The querying process humbled me. Especially with our first book. We received rejection after rejection. I began to consider agents more powerful than God. They had the power to make or break our book. But after learning from all (okay, maybe not all, but hopefully most) of our misakes the first time around and producing something we thought was successful, we grabbed some of our confidence back. Agents are not God. They are just experts with a bunch of contacts that we need. We need eachother. Remain confident, especially during that phone call. You’re good and you deserve this.

Leah: Have fun! Be yourself and don’t hesitate to ask questions they may not have heard before…chances are they’ve heard a LOT and had a chance to get their answers down over the years. I had great fun asking really random questions just to keep them on their toes. ☺

Thanks Cole, Lisa, Laura and Leah! We appreciate you sharing your wealth of knowledge with us. Hopefully, we’ll be recording success stories for many years to come!

Don't miss the second installment of THE CALL--Questions to Ask--coming on Wednesday!

Elana Johnson writes fantasy and science fiction for young adults. When she's not doing that, she's blogging, facebooking, eating out, or wishing she could do any or all of those things.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Publishing Pulse 3/27/09

Blog Author News

Our very own Carolyn (aka Archetype) has sold her first book! 
Carolyn Kaufman's NERVOUS BREAKDOWNS AND PSYCHOPATHIC KILLERS: The Writer's Guide to Psychology has been sold to Quill Driver Books.  Carolyn's agent, Kate Epstein of Epstein Literary Agency, handled the deal.  Congrats, Carolyn!  

Agent News

Former editor and co-founder of Impetus Press, Willy Blackmore, has joined Bliss Literary Agency.  Check out the Bliss website for represented genres and submission details.  

Firebrand Literary has added two new agents.  Danielle Chiotti, a former senior editor at Kensington and Stacia Decker, former editor at Harcourt, have joined the agency which is expanding its list into the adult fiction and nonfiction book markets.  For more details, check the Firebrand website.  


The Knight Agency has announced its "Book in a Nutshell" contest.  Writers are invited to submit three compelling sentences about their unpublished manuscripts.  The twenty best submissions will receive requests and be reviewed by agents.  

Blog Posts of Interest

Two of our favorite blogs featured articles on blog comments recently.  I recommend reading both Grammar Girl Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing's, "How to Write a Great Blog Comment" and Miss Snark's First Victim's, "Critique Etiquette 101: Sit on Your Hands."

Barbara Poelle's post about character traits on the blog, Hey, There's a Dead Guy in the Living Room, is a fantastic read if you write fiction.  

If you have any news you'd like to share from this week, please feel free to post it in the comments.  

Have a great weekend!


Mary Lindsey writes paranormal fiction for children and adults. Prior to attending University of Houston Law School, she received a B.A. in English Literature with a minor in Drama.

Mary can also be found on her website.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Believing in Yourself as an Author

Every author goes through a cycle of self-doubt and reflecting on why they started writing in the first place. This is especially true when you receive feedback on something you’ve penned.

Some of you have asked how you can keep your own voice, your own style, your own uniqueness in the writing when so many others have their fingerprint on it. I believe it all comes down to believing in yourself as the author.

That’s right. You. Are the author.

Does that mean the insight of others isn’t valuable? Of course not. You just have to know how to take what they’ve said and use it in your own way. How do you do this? How can you become that cat up there that is prancing through what is clear dog territory? How can you navigate the rejections, the critiques?

1. Be confident. You’ve chosen the words to tell the story. True, sometimes someone will have a better one. Change those. But you don’t have to change everything just because someone suggests it.

For example, just a few days ago, someone told me I used “walking” too much during the opening scene of my novel where two characters are walking through the park. She suggested “strolling”. Um, no. My MC doesn’t use words like “strolling”. So while that’s a fantabulous word, it wasn’t for my story. I didn’t change it.

2. Be confident. You’ve chosen the structure for your writing. True, sometimes someone will point out the awkwardness of your phrasing or the repetitive nature of your sentence structure. Pay close attention to that, modifying as you see fit. But you don’t have to change your entire style and structure because someone doesn’t like it.

For example, a while ago, one of my critmates told me it really bothered her that I never used “and” in a sentence with a list. Like this one: The presence soared in my soul, called to me, promised me no harm would come.

I know it’s grammatically incorrect. And I don’t care. It’s part of my structure. It’s part of the storytelling. It didn’t change.

3. Be confident. You’ve chosen where to start the story. True, sometimes you can’t see a better place and someone might have a better idea. Listen. Ponder. Perhaps try a rewrite. But you don’t have to start your story somewhere else just because someone wants you to.

I have several examples of this, but I'll abstain from sharing another example. Just suffice it to know that you have to have confidence in what you’ve put to paper. If you feel like your story is starting where it needs to, don’t change it.

4. Be confident. Receiving feedback on your writing can be a tough gig. Getting rejected (over and over) can deflate even the biggest of egos. My husband said something to me the other day that set me stewing. He said, “Why not you?”

Indeed, Mr. J.

That boosted my confidence back to the level it needed to be to continue down this winding path toward publication (despite the rejections and/or critiques). True, it’s a bumpy, sometimes dark and treacherous path, but I can learn what I need to learn. And you can too. When you believe in yourself, you’ll do what it takes to reach the end of the road. I firmly believe that if you put in the effort to hone your craft, you will find the confidence you need to find success.

And so I ask you, fellow QueryTracker blog readers and aspiring authors: Why not you?

Elana Johnson writes fantasy and science fiction for young adults. When she's not doing that, she's blogging, facebooking, eating out, or wishing she could do any or all of those things.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Genre Hopping - Should You Do It?

John Grisham does it. So do Tess Gerritsen and Orson Scott Card. What is it? Quite simply, genre hopping is when one author writes books in more than one genre.

When is it okay to genre hop?

Rumor has it that genre hopping is frowned upon in the publishing industry. This is not the case. In fact, there are two times in your career when genre hopping is encouraged.

  • One: Before you ever get published
According to the brilliant Ms. Jessica Faust of Bookends, “Part of the publishing process involves discovery—discovering your voice, which genres suit your voice best, and which genres you really have a passion for—and until you get that magic publishing contract in hand, there’s no one out there telling you what you can or cannot do. For the unpublished, you should use this point in your career as a time of exploration and growth. And you should have fun with it.”

  • Two: After you have successfully published multiple books in one genre
For an explanation, I’ll defer to the ever-popular Mr. Nathan Bransford: “Here's the best method: first you become hugely successful. It's really, really hard to break out in one genre. It takes mountains of time, effort, luck, perseverance, luck, effort, perseverance... time... The kings of genre fiction have worked for years to steadily build an audience (and a brand) within the same genre. You make it even harder for yourself when you splinter your time, attention, learning curve, and, eventually, your audience by jumping around to different genres. Genre hopping should really only be undertaken in close consultation with your agent and after a lot of soul searching.”

Are there exceptions?

Absolutely! The most notable being Children’s Literature. Of all audiences, this is the one with the most wiggle room. Take author Cynthia Jaynes Omolou, who writes picture books, YA, and everything in between.

I have this talk with my agent all the time, and her answer is "write what you love." -Cynthia Jaynes Omolou

Annnnnd if you want to get really sneaky…

You can use a pen name to write (and submit!) in more than one genre. I’ll talk about this more when I discuss pen names next week here on the blog. So be sure to leave me any questions/comments about your experiences with pen names so I can cover all the bases!

If you'd like a free download of this article, visit GoArticles and enter my name in an author search. Have a fantastic rest-of-the-week!

Suzette Saxton's idea of a perfect day includes a picnic lunch, laughing children, and her laptop. When she's not writing books for kids, Suzette can be found gardening, doing finish carpentry in her home, or walking in the canyon in which she lives.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

What To Put On Your Writer Website

Following my post about starting a website or blog, Kate Karyus Quinn (who already has a blog) asked what writers should put on their websites. So today that’s what we’re going to discuss.

Before we get into content, let’s talk a little bit about design. You need to pick a theme or symbol to represent you. Something that’s unique to your site and your work. In advertising, we call that branding.

I have this really cool pen that my mom got me as a stocking stuffer one year. The barrel is clear, and there’s a little light in there that changes colors. I turned it on, put it on a white sheet of paper and started snapping photographs as it changed colors. That silly little gift, with the light orange, has become my symbol for Archetype Writing. I have it on my site; I have it on my blog.  (I also have it on notepaper and my business cards.  I'm getting oodles of mileage out of that pen.)

Scenes from Mary Lindsey’s novel Soul Purpose take place in Old City Cemetery in Galveston, Texas. I did the graphic design for her site, and we decided to use a beautiful angel grave marker  to mark her “brand.” She then took this a step farther by including more of the cemetery and other monuments from her story in a Photos  section of her site.

If nothing leaps to mind, you can start with a site template and worry about branding later. But definitely keep your eyes open for something unique to represent you and your work!

Moving on to content, here are a few pages you definitely want to include.

Your Biography

Include a brief, interesting biography. Here are a few examples.
Carrie Vaughn is the bestselling author of a series of novels about a werewolf named Kitty, as well as numerous short stories in various anthologies and magazines. She's also a contributor to the Wild Cards series edited by George R. R. Martin.
Stephenie Meyer graduated from Brigham Young University with a bachelor's degree in English. She lives with her husband and three young sons in Phoenix, Arizona. After the publication of her first novel, Twilight, booksellers chose Stephenie Meyer as one of the "most promising new authors of 2005" (Publishers Weekly).
Include a picture of yourself — it helps your readers feel more like they’re “meeting” the writer, and assures them that you’re a real person!

Some writers create longer biographies, and that’s also fine. In addition to the “official” bio above, Stephenie Meyer has an “unofficial” bio that’s much longer. Jodi Picoult also has an extensive biography page.

Never use your website to replace the biography section in your query letter, and never ask an agent to go to your website to read an excerpt from your novel. It’s fine to include your website address on your queries, but don’t count on the agent clicking on it!

Your Publications

A simple list of publications is adequate, but it’s even better if you have a cover scan and a brief synopsis for each story or novel. If a story is out of print, you may be able to post it on your site, but double-check your contract to make sure it’s okay first.

If you’ve published a novel or been included in an anthology, don’t forget to link to places your visitors can buy the book!

Your Unpublished Projects

If you write novels, consider creating a separate page for each series or project. And don’t be afraid to share a little bit of your work. Mary Lindsey has the first 15 pages of her novel Soul Purpose posted on her website. Thanks in part to this, she was approached by an independent film company and her book is now being made into a TV series! (We’ll let you know more as things move along.)

Be careful if you’re unpublished — don’t create pages for umpteen projects; instead, pick between one and three of your best works and showcase those.

Never post your work in its entirety — nobody wants to pay to publish something that’s already available online for free!

Your Blog

Many if not most website owners use a blog to provide updates to site visitors, so provide a link if you’re also blogging.

Along the same lines, you may want to provide links so interested visitors can also find you on Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, or other social networking sites.

Always stay professional on any site you link to from your website. Don’t bash agents, other writers, or the publishing industry in general. And don’t bash yourself, either. Agents want to represent someone who’s going to get out there and sell herself, and obvious insecurities may make them doubt you can do it.

If you have questions, suggestions, or other comments, definitely let me know in the Comments below!

Dr. Carolyn Kaufman is a clinical psychologist and professor residing in Columbus, Ohio. A published writer, she runs Archetype Writing: Psychology for Fiction Writers and an associated blog. Visitors will find not only articles about psychology tailored to their needs, but they can ask Dr. K their writing/psychology questions. She is often quoted by the media as an expert resource.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Let Me Remind You...

Here's a handy QueryTracker.net feature you might not already know about:

There are a lot of agencies out there working hard to ensure they respond to every query they receive. Some agencies, though, give a specific time frame for a response. If they haven't responded, well... to use the recently extra-popular phrase, They're Just Not That Into You.

Most authors query more than one agent at a time, so it can be hard to keep track of when you're expecting a response.

But QT will take care of that for you. Seriously, if Pat just adds in attachments to brew coffee and make french fries, there's not much QT can't do for you.

You can set a reminder on QT. Yes, seriously. You can choose an on-screen reminder on your QueryTracker account, or you can even have the reminder emailed to you.

Here's how to do it:

From the agent's listing page, click on "My Reminder"

Then just choose on-screen or email (or both), select the date, and type whatever you need to remember into the box. Click "Save Reminder" and you're all set.

So, if you'd decided to query Aaron Priest, you'd notice on his agency's website that they set a 4-week time frame to respond to queries.

Set a reminder to mark the query as rejected in four weeks, and you can put it out of your mind until then.

You can also use reminders for things like the date an agent is due back from maternity leave, or any other event you want to keep on top of.

Sweet, huh?

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, March 20, 2009

Publishing Pulse 3/20/09

Literary Agency News:

New Children's Agency: Rodeen Literary Management. Paul Rodeen recently left Sterling Lord Literistic to form his own agency that will focus on children's writing. Find out more here. Or visit the new Rodeen Literary Management website.

Jenny Bent has left Trident Media Group to form The Bent Agency. (Her 15 years in publishing included a stint at Cader Books.)

Literary Agent News:

Rebecca Gradinger has left Janklow & Nesbit Associates and launched Finchley Road Literary, a boutique agency specializing in literary fiction, up-market commercial fiction, narrative non-fiction, memoir, humor and pop culture. (She has also worked as a scout at Mary Anne Thompson Associates and a lawyer practicing media and intellectual property law at Frankfurt Garbus Kurnit Klein & Selz).

Jackie Meyer has joined Whimsy Literary Agency LLC. She represents women's fiction, thrillers, and a long list of non-fiction topics. Check out her profile here.

Gretchen McNeil posted another agent interview on her blog. This time it was the fabulous Tina Wexler of ICM. Click here to read.

Colleen Lindsay is temporarily closed to submissions.

The Pulse of Publishing: Steady

The ever-diligent Colleen Lindsay had some great posts this week. This was taken from her blog. What a great mantra for publishing--and life! Click here to get your very own print by Mike Monteiro.

Contests, Etc.

Writer's Digest has announced their annual writing contest. Check it out. Entries are due May 15, 2009.

And just because I can, I'm going to give a shout out to myself (ElanaJ) and H.L. Dyer because we made the cut for the quarter finals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award! Please read our excerpts and leave us a review. The contest has sort of moved into a stage Heather appropriately called "Author Idol" so we need your reviews (votes)!

Heather's excerpt.
Elana's excerpt.

Publishing people on twitter. Follow them for all the great publishing news! Special shout out to Alice Pope who tweeted the link.

And that's it! How's your pulse right now? Weak from rejection? Giddy from requests? Slow and steady wins the race? Let us know!

Elana Johnson writes fantasy and science fiction for young adults. When she's not doing that, she's blogging, facebooking, eating out, or wishing she could do any or all of those things.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Starting Your Writer Blog or Website

As a serious writer who is or hopes to be published, you should have a website or blog. Websites and blogs are simple, effective ways to get your name out there, showcase your talent, and connect with other writers. Here are a few tips on getting started, plus some dos and don’ts.

1. Blogs
Cost: Free

Blogs are websites that look like journals, with entries displayed in reverse chronological order. The first ones began as personal online diaries, but the approach took off, and blogs have expanded into business, marketing, and promotional tools. The two biggest blog providers are WordPress (wordpress.org) and Google’s Blogger (http://www.blogger.com/).

Blogs require a commitment because they are, by their very nature, meant to be updated regularly. Nobody is interested in visiting a “dead” blog. Before you let that deter you, blogging is an excellent way to reach the public -- if you write about something interesting, people will follow or subscribe to your updates. And if your subscriber base gets large enough, you’ve started to develop a platform — name recognition. Platforms are increasingly important in the competitive publishing arena, even for fiction writers.

How To: One of the best things about blogs is how easy they are to set up and use. Just visit WordPress or Blogger, create an account, choose a template, and start blogging!

You have a number of options to help you update regularly. Here are a few ideas.
1. You can write about whatever strikes your fancy and relate it back to writing. Example: Elana Johnson’s blog is fun, funky, and a fantabulous example of great writing.
2. Use memes that catch your interest. A meme is a concept that catches on and is imitated by people who encounter it. Example: Work In Progress Wednesdays, started by Kate Karyus Quinn.
3. Work with a small group of colleagues or friends, taking turns updating the blog. Obviously, this is what we do here at QueryTracker Blog.  Both Blogger and WordPress allow you to set up blogs with multiple contributors. If you don’t feel up to starting your own blog or website but are interested in getting involved in one, consider contacting the owner of a blog or site you admire and asking if you can be a guest contributor.

2. Websites
Cost: Around $8-10/month (and up)

Websites can be as small or as large as you’d like them to be, and they can be more static than blogs, though they do need to be updated from time to time to keep people coming back. The benefit of a website is that you can veer away from the journal-like presentation of a blog.

If you’re trying to decide between a website and a blog, start with the blog -- it’s the fastest, easiest, and cheapest way to get started online. WordPress even allows you to add different “pages” to your blog to make it more like a traditional website.

How To: To set up a website, you will need to purchase space on a host server (unless you already have free server space, for example through a university or your employer). GoDaddy (godaddy.com) is a popular choice, and includes free site layout templates so you don’t need to be able to use a site-building program or speak HTML (the “language” of the web).  You can also hire a company to build your website; a few companies cater to authors.  For example, purplesquirrelwebdesign.com and americanauthor.com.

You will also need to buy a domain name. For example, Mary Lindsey’s website is http://www.marylindsey.com/. You can purchase your domain name through godaddy.com as well. Most writers buy the name under which they intend to be published, and it’s a good idea to reserve your name sooner rather than later so someone else doesn't snatch it up…especially since it’s so inexpensive to do so.

According to QueryTracker.net and RallyStorm.com creator Patrick McDonald,
GoDaddy.com is about $10/year for a domain name. At that price I recommend grabbing a few extra while you're at it. [yourname].com is the most important, but [yourname].net is also good to get. At godaddy, you can forward names for free, which means if anyone types in your .net name, it will automatically bring up your .com site. The extensions .name and .info, which are usually used in conjunction with someone's name, are also available, but they are not very popular and you probably don't need to worry about them.

Also, if your name has a common misspelling, you might want to get that too, just because people might spell it wrong and end up nowhere, or worse, in the wrong place. For instance, if I were to register my name as a URL I would want McDonald and MacDonald.
Have questions or comments about sites or domain names that I haven't answered here?  Or maybe you have ideas about ways to keep your blog fresh!  Hit the comment button below and let us know what you're thinking!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Social Networking Basics

The first article in this series on social networking covered blog readers. This second post will address basic info on the major social networking sites.

Now, if you're already tweeting and hurling sheep at your Facebook friends, you may be well-acquainted with social networking sites. My next post on this topic will cover ways to maximize the benefits of your online presence.

But for now, we're going to start with the basics, because none of us want to end up in this situation:

For those of you who think "Twitter" has something to do with woodland creatures falling in love, here's a quick rundown. I've linked each heading to my own profile, so you can see what they look like.

Facebook: www.facebook.com Facebook is a social networking site that allows you to create a profile, upload photos, post links, and add "friends". This site requires accurate personal information (If they discover a profile for a fictional character, business or pet, they'll delete it) and therefore gives the added bonus of looking up the girl you went to summer camp with and your third grade crush.

How does this help with your writing career? You can use Facebook to post links to your personal blog, and keep your contacts in the loop regarding your writing projects. You can network through groups for writers and fans for your genre, and-- if you've established a following-- you might just get a group of your own "fans." Many, many people of all ages use Facebook, so it's a great place to make connections with potential readers.

Downsides: A recent scandal erupted when it became known that Facebook had altered their user agreement (without notifying users) to language that essentially gave Facebook rights in perpetuity to any content used on their site. Meaning they had rights to photos, notes, text, etc. if it had been posted to a user's profile. They have since backed off on the language and are rewording, but it would still be ill-advised to post any original content there. Post links back to your personal blog or website where you are guaranteed full rights to your content. Also, Facebook's silly side (Superpoke, pieces of flair, etc.) can be a lot of fun, but be careful about maintaining your professional image.

Myspace: www.myspace.com Myspace is similar to Facebook, but in my experience is geared towards a younger audience. If you are a YA or MG author, get thee a Myspace page. Unlike Facebook, Myspace allows pages for fictional characters, so if your contemporary character wants to get online, this would be a good place. You can customize your profile-- even blog there, if you like.

How will this help with your writing career? Like Facebook, Myspace allows you to add users as "friends". Unlike Facebook, default settings allow you to view profiles of people you aren't already connected to, so that can provide an easy way to increase your online connections. It's also easy with the customizable profile to add things like book trailers directly to your profile for easy viewing.

Downsides: Since a public profile means anyone can find you, that includes smarmy dudes looking for someone to complete their threesome and the like.

: www.twitter.com Lately cyberspace is all a-Twitter. Everybody and their agent is Twitter-pated. So what is Twitter, anyway? Twitter is a "microblog" site, where users post personal updates, links, etc, but are limited to 140 characters per posting. You can "follow" other users who interest you, and other users can choose to follow you.

How does this help your writing career? As opposed to Facebook and Myspace, which require you a user to approve you as a "friend," Twitter allows you to follow any user you like (unless their profile is private). As a result, agents and editors who may not be thrilled if you try to "friend" them on Facebook, generally don't mind unknown Twitter followers. Many agents maintain Twitter accounts and following publishing professional can often get you the inside scoop on timely topics. In addition, you can follow QueryTracker there, too, for breaking news on new and updated agents on QueryTracker.net.

Downsides: Although agents might not be following you (even though you're following them), most of them still check their @ messages (if you're new to Twitter, an @-message is a post starting with @[username]). Which means you still need to be careful of the impression you're making if you respond to an agent's tweets. The casual nature of Twitter can be a bit misleading. Like always, you should keep your professional reputation in mind and avoid tweeting anything you wouldn't want a prospective agent or editor to read.

Rallystorm: www.rallystorm.com Suz did a great job of discussing Rallystorm on Monday. Check out her post, if you haven't already.

Linked In
: www.linkedin.com Linked In is a professional networking site. Keyword here is professional. While agent opinions vary regarding friend requests from aspiring authors on sites like Facebook and Myspace, Linked In is one place where the connections are generally professional in nature. In other words, if you are working with an agent or editor, it's perfectly appropriate to ask them to add you to their Linked In network. But Linked In is absolutely not a place for cold networking with publishing professionals.

How will this help your writing career? You probably won't find Linked In to be all that helpful at the Seeking-Representation stage. But it can be a great networking tool once you're officially part of the publishing industry. Linked In adds a person's whole network of connections with them. So, you'll see your personal contacts, but also your contacts' contacts.

Downsides: Not that useful for an aspiring-to-be-agented author.

Goodreads: www.goodreads.com Goodreads is a fun way to connect with your friends over books. You can post books you've read, books you've loved, books you're reading right now, and what books you can't wait to read next. You can compare your thoughts with your friends and snoop through their lists to find new great things to read.

How does this help your writing career? Anything that exposes you to more good books can only help your writing. Anything that connects you to people who love to read, is good for your platform. And one day, folks might be posting about your book there.

Downsides: Although you can peruse your friends' lists of contacts, Goodreads is mostly directed towards people you are already connected to.

There are plenty of other sites where you can connect online, from chatboards to music sites like Imeem.com. Any connection you can make online, helps build a pool of folks who might be interested in your book later. So get out there and start networking... just don't forget to keep writing while you're at it.

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.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Writers' Conference Etiquette

It's conference season again.  Whether you are in the middle of your project or have published your fifth book, attending a well-run, reputable writers' conference can be beneficial.  Conferences offer networking opportunities as well as educational workshops.  In most cases, the person who stands to benefit the most from a conference is the unpublished author in the query stage.  Conferences sometimes give writers access to agents who are not accepting queries except by referral or personal contact.

Now, I love conferences.  I look forward to networking and am comfortable in group settings both large and small.  Having performed on stage and been a teacher to 150 high school students a day, pitching my novel in person or talking to someone I don't know doesn't faze me.  I get nervous, of course, but it provides a positive energy and I enjoy it.  That doesn't mean I'm always good at it--it just means I'm more at ease than some.  The idea of meeting the Great and Terrible Oz that is the literary agent face-to-face is terrifying for some writers.  So terrifying, it ruins the whole conference for them and they end up spending hundreds of dollars for nothing more than a bad case of freak out.  

As with most things, the best way to succeed at a conference is do your research, be prepared, and be professional.  

Do Your Research

Find out which agents and editors will be at the conference well in advance. Many conferences allow for a brief one-on-one pitch session with an agent or editor of your choice.  Research every agent (or editor) on the list and see if they represent the type of books you write.  I know this is obvious, but if an agent only represents children's books, do not schedule a pitch session with her for your Vietnam vet memoir.  You are wasting everyone's time.  I saw this happen at the last conference I attended, and when the agent asked the writer why he was pitching a genre she didn't represent, he replied that he had registered late and she was the only agent that still had a slot open.  If that is the case, let the session go and register earlier next time.  All is not lost if you don't get to pitch to your first choice.  In most cases, you will have ample opportunity to talk with the agent you prefer sometime during the conference whether it be at a meal or in the bar.  

Research the workshops and the speakers.  Pick the ones that are most relevant to your genre and stage in the publishing process.  Most conference coordinators post workshop information on the host website well in advance of the conference.  If you have questions, email or call the listed contact for the conference ahead of time, rather than try to hunt her down at registration.  Registration for larger conferences is like a trip into one of Dante's inner rings of hell for some of these coordinators; the last thing they need is a question about which workshop would be more beneficial for you while they are trying to track down someone's awol registration paperwork or placate an irate attendee who wants blood for not getting her first choice of agents to pitch. 

Be Prepared

Approach the writers' conference as if it were a job interview.  If you are looking to catch the eye of an editor or agent at the conference, the number one thing you need to do is prepare a pitch.  I addressed the pitch in my post, "The Elevator Pitch."  For a conference, I recommend having two versions ready.  One would be the 30 second to 1 minute pitch to deliver at your pitch session.  The other would be the one sentence pitch.  You will use the one sentence pitch a lot.  At most conferences, it is easy to engage agents and editors in conversation in social settings.  You will be surprised how many times you will be asked, "what is your book about?"  Nobody wants to hear a writer launch into a 5 minute oration on  her masterwork when this question is asked.  If the one sentence pitch is effective, the writer will usually be asked to reveal more about the book. This makes for natural discourse rather than a memorized speech.  If you do not have a prepared pitch, click here for more on this topic.  

Questions that most first time conferees have are: "What do I wear," and "What do I take?"

What you wear is a matter of personal taste.  Most conferences consist of long days.  10 hours in panty hose is not a feasible option for me.  Uncomfortable suit is out.  As long as you look nice and are not wearing shorts or jeans with holes in them, you will be fine.  It is not a Sunday finest affair.  Be yourself.  Be professional.  

Even though you will receive a goodie bag upon signing in at most conferences that includes a pen and paper amidst the plethora of promotional material, you should bring your own pen and paper so that you can take notes during workshops or write down other authors' email addresses or websites.

If possible, bring business cards.  I know this might feel pretentious if you don't already have them, but a simple card with your name and contact info is enough.  You don't need the byline, "Future NYT Bestselling Author" under your name.  You can get cards printed for very little money online.  Some companies print them cheaper than you can print them yourself on Avery forms.  If you don't have the time, money or inclination to print business cards, that's okay.  I've had writers hand me a pre-printed slip of paper with their contact information on it.  I've never handed my card to an agent or editor at a conference.  I use them to network with other writers.  

If for nothing more than your own peace of mind, bring a copy of your synopsis, your first three chapters, and a copy of the complete manuscript.  Chances are, you will not need these, but on the remote possibility you wow an agent on the first day of a three or four day conference to the point they want to read your work right away, it is good to be prepared.  This happened at the last conference I attended and the writer was offered representation before the conference was over. 

Be Professional

I think this one is the most important of all.  Conference etiquette is pretty much the application of good manners and common sense.  Be polite and aware of what is going on around you.  

Be courteous during workshops and presentations.  People pay a lot of money to attend these events.  Agents, editors and authors take time off to teach the workshops.  Turn off your cell phones and do not talk to the people around you during the presentation.  Do not take notes during workshops on your laptop--it is noisy and distracting (use paper and pen).  Some workshop settings are okay for computers, like ones where writing is part of the curriculum, but there is nothing more annoying than listening to "tap, tappity tap" the entire workshop. Wait, yes there is!  More annoying than the laptop tapping and whirring is someone munching chips right next to you.  Or how about the person with the iPod?  Teeny squeaks barely more audible than a gnat emanating from the earbuds making you fantasize about ripping the device out of the wearer's ears.  Why would a person pay for a conference and then wear an iPod through a workshop?  I wish I had asked her.  Workshops rarely exceed an hour.  Go to the bathroom first. Eat your snack at another time.  Talk on the phone and listen to music on your own time. Chat with fellow writers between sessions.  

No agent stalking.  None.  

The agents usually go out of their way to make themselves accessible.  Be respectful and pitch to them at appropriate times.  If you are in the bathroom together, do not pitch your project.  Do not follow them onto the elevator and corner them.  It's called an elevator pitch, but refrain from using it there.  You might think I'm going overboard with all this obvious blather, but look around at the next conference you attend.  It happens all the time.  

If a group of agents and editors are having a conversation, do not go up and interrupt.  Sure, agents attend conferences in search of new clients, but honestly, they also do it to network.  They get to talk to other people in the industry they don't see while doing their everyday job as an agent.  They are there to make contacts too.  Writers are not the only ones with agendas.  

Some conferences have dinners or meals.  Often, an agent will sit at a table with writers.  This is a good time to mention your project if it appears the agent is receptive.  They expect to be wooed at these meals.  Do not usurp the conversation.  Let the other writers talk.  You want to be charming, not pushy.  "Charming" and "pushy" are mutually exclusive.  Ask industry questions.  Intelligent questions.  As long as you do not get personal, you can ask the agent things about himself/herself.  Pets, favorite books. Think of some things you want to know ahead of time so that you come away enlightened even if the agent has no interest in your project.  

Do NOT try to hand your manuscript to agents during a conference.  Now, I know I said it was prudent to have a copy just in case.  If you bring it for a "just in case" situation, leave it in your hotel room or car.  An agent does not want to lug a hard copy of your manuscript through the airport.  She will ask you to email your submission or snail mail it to her office if she is interested.  I have a clever friend who put her manuscript on a usb drive and attached a laminated tag with her contact information and title/genre on it with the thought that if an agent wanted to read it on the return plane trip home on a laptop, this would be a good thing.  

Conferences are a blast for me, but are not some people's scene.  I certainly understand that.  If it is a miserable, stressful experience, it is not worth the money, time or energy.  But if you are going to put the time and money into attending a conference, do your research, be prepared and be professional.  

All conferences are different.  If you have anything to add regarding your own conference experiences or funny stories stemming from conferences, please post it in the comments below.  

Mary Lindsey writes paranormal fiction for children and adults. Prior to attending University of Houston Law School, she received a B.A. in English Literature with a minor in Drama.

Mary can also be found on her website.

Monday, March 16, 2009

RallyStorm - Taking the World by Storm One Forum at a Time

What is Rally Storm?

Whether writing related or not, we all have forums we love to spend time on. Some forums have the power to change lives. One of my favorites is the QueryTracker forum. It is there that I met Patrick, the owner of all things QueryTracker. (I also met the awesome gals I blog with.)

Patrick also owns a most amazing site called RallyStorm. RallyStorm is a combination social networking site (such as MySpace or Facebook) and group site (such as Yahoo Groups and Google Groups.) By combining the features of both of these concepts, RallyStorm offers a complete platform where you can contact and interact with others. Groups take the form of forums. These forums can be public, private, or any degree in between. To add the icing to an already delicious cake, RallyStorm is completely FREE! It's simple to join. All you need is a user name, email address, and password.

What types of forums can I create?

  • Your favorite hobby
  • Work-related sites
  • Clubs and organization
  • To keep in touch with friends and family
  • Writing and critique groups
  • Any type of forum you can dream up!

Imagine owning your very own forum. You can choose your own private members or open it up to the public. You can create the boards within your forum and easily upload photos to share with friends and family.

Let me tell you about the family I grew up in. Seven kids. Seven! The youngest is in college, and the oldest is, well, me. (I'm wearing the orange plaid shirt in the photo.) With so many kids, Mom finds it hard to remember who she's told what. Entrer RallyStorm. Our Online Family Room forum is the place we go to offer support, share news, and upload photos. Mom doesn't have to worry any more about who's heard what. Each child has their own board where they can start multiple topics.

Now imagine your dream critique forum. With private forums and easy pasting and editing of your work, RallyStorm is a great place to turn your little lump of coal into a multi-faceted diamond. Critiques are so easy to read, you can glance through other member's work and learn at an accelerated pace. There are several critique forums on RallyStorm if you'd like to join an existing one. Or come on over and create your own! RallyStorm is so easy to use, even a child could navigate it with ease. (Please note, however, RallyStorm is for users ages 13 and up.)

So join RallyStorm and then come check out the QueryTracker Blog Activities Forum. Many QTers have begun posting their work for critique in the Showing vs. Telling board. (Mary wrote a great post about the subject.) Here are a few pics to help you find your way around and give you a feel for the simplicity that IS RallyStorm:

This is what the QTblog Activites Forum main page looks like. It lists all the different boards that are in this forum:

And here is what the Showing vs. Telling Board looks like. It lists all the topics in this particular board:

Here's the first post in the Topic Overview (don't you just love Mary's splat frog?):

Now you know where we dwell when we're not here on the blog. Come hang out with us! We would love to get to know you better. (Psssst... let me know when you've arrived. I would love to give you a special online "gift" to welcome you! (More about RallyStorm gifts in the near future. *wink*))

Suzette Saxton's idea of a perfect day includes a picnic lunch, laughing children, and her laptop. When she's not writing books for kids, Suzette can be found gardening, doing finish carpentry in her home, or walking in the canyon in which she lives.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Publishing Pulse


Harper Collins announced their new It Books imprint which will feature pop culture, sports, style and content derived from the Internet, including a book of clever Twitter posts.

The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards quarter finalists will be announced on Monday. If you are a quarterfinalist, we want to know about it! Be sure to send us an email (addresses at right.)

QueryTracker.net recently added Jill Corcoran with the Herman Agency to its database. Ms. Corcoran represents Children's, Middle Grade, and Young Adult fiction.


Essense Magazine Best Selling author K. Elliott is offering his newest book, "Dear Summer," free online to encourage more people to escape with a good book.

Users of the iPhone and iPod Touch can now tap into Amazon's Kindle store with the free Kindle for iPhone application.

Brenda Novak's 5th Annual On-line Auction for Diabetes Research will open May 1st. Up for grabs are a plethora of prizes that would thrill any author, including lunches with agents and editors, vacation packages, and much more.


Kristin Nelson had some very interesting blog posts regarding the 4.8 million dollar sale of Audrey Niffenegger's second novel. (Her first was Time Traveler's Wife.) Joe Regal, the agent behind the deal, was kind enough to weigh in as well.

How much should you tell an agent about yourself? Find out about confidence in querying at BookEnds.

Miriam Goderich lifted spirits when she blogged about the supposed death of publishing.

Queryfail (agents tweeting live query rejections) caused an international stir on Twitter. Check out Colleen Lindsay's, Rachelle Gardener's, and Elaine Spencer's blogs for their takes.

Check out What Gets Rejected on Jane Smith's How Publishing Really Works blog. (Thanks, Lady Glamis, for providing the link!)


Do you have a tidbit of publishing industry news to share? If you do, be sure to send us an email (addresses at right.)

Have a fantastic weekend!

Suzette Saxton's idea of a perfect day includes a picnic lunch, laughing children, and her laptop. When she's not writing books for kids, Suzette can be found gardening, doing finish carpentry in her home, or walking in the canyon in which she lives.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Your Medical Fiction Questions Answered

Got a burning medical question to give your novel authenticity? As in my previous Medical Fiction post, I'll be answering a couple of medical writing questions today.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is intended for writing purposes only and does not represent medical advice. (Sorry, my lawyer-boy husband made me say that.)
First, from Stina:

Hi Heather,

I have a medical question dealing with something my character goes through in my novel.

The seventeen year old starts to have heavy uterine bleeding. Now there’s no real medical reason for it (fantasy element to the novel), but I was wondering what kinds of tests they would run in the hospital and as an outpatient. Also, in what kind of time frame would they occur? She is unconscious when admitted. She isn’t pregnant, though her friends thought she was, and thought she was suffering a miscarriage. She loses a fair amount of blood (nothing life-threatening but it is serious), and is hospitalized. The bleeding doesn’t last for long and it doesn’t start up again. How long would she be hospitalized for? Other than pain killers (she was in immense pain when she passed out), would she be on any other medication?

Thanks for your insights. It’s greatly appreciated.


Well, your character's friends were definitely right to consider pregnancy (and not just miscarriage, but also ectopic pregnancy) as a possible explanation. But there are a lot of other issues to consider. Creating a list of possible explanations for a patient's symptoms is called a differential diagnosis, and this one would be fairly long, so it's easier to break down by category.

1. OB including pregnancy, miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy

2. Gyne including polycystic ovary syndrome, cervical or endometrial polyps, endometriosis

3. Infectious including sexual transmitted diseases such as chlamydia or gonorrhea

4. Endocrine (hormones) including hypothyroidism or diabetes, as well as any number of issues with the various hormones that control the menstrual cycle.

5. Bleeding disorders including clotting disorders such as Von Willebrand, platelet problems such as ITP. This could also include overdoses or exposure to medications that affect clotting, such as aspirin, warfarin (commonly found in rat poison), etc. Liver disease could also lead to bleeding disorders.

6. Cancers including cervical cancer, leukemia

7. Trauma (such as due to rape or rough sex play with damaging objects)

Now, the fact that she's unconscious when she comes in complicates things quite a bit. Why is she unconscious? Because of the blood loss? Because of the supernatural element at work? If she was really unconscious due to blood loss, she probably wouldn't be out for very long... a few seconds to a minute maybe. And she would respond quickly to things like IV fluid and medications that raise blood pressure. If she'd lost enough blood to be out longer than that, she'd be coding... i.e. she'd stop breathing, heart might stop, etc. If she was unconscious and not actively coding, she would at least buy herself a CT scan presenting this way, because uterine bleeding doesn't explain unconsciousness in a patient with relatively stable vital signs.

To evaluate a patient like this, the doctors would most likely obtain bloodwook to check the level of bleeding that had already occurred, to see the response her body had to the blood loss (i.e. was her body working hard to replace the loss? Had it been going on for a long time?) and to check her ability to clot. This would also serve as a screening test for leukemia, and they would want a pathologist to look at the blood smear to look for abnormal cells. Other bloodwork would probably be done to check hormone levels.

A pregnancy test would be an absolute must.

Once she regained consciousness, they would ask her a detailed history regarding her sexual activity, drug use, prior STD's, etc.

They would do a speculum exam, looking for lesions on the cervix (cuts, warts, polyps, etc.) and test her for GC/Chlamydia

Assuming they didn't find any specific source for the bleeding or infection/cancer to treat, they

would probably assume this was related to hormone balance and would start her on progesterone or birth control pills to regulate her bleeding.

Naturally, if she lost enough blood to have symptoms (meaning she's extremely fatigued, out of breath, etc. from the blood loss) they would have to transfuse her. But they would be very cautious about doing that... uterine blood loss in an otherwise healthy adolescent patient is extremely unlikely to reach a fatal level, and in addition to the risks associated with a transfusion, giving blood products would make some of the blood tests invalid. Unless it was a real emergency, they would at least be sure they'd obtained all the bloodwork before transfusing.

If her pain was well-controlled, she was otherwise well, she would probably be discharged a day after the bleeding stopped.

Hope that's helpful, Stina. Thanks for pitching in your question!

Our next question comes from Kathleen:

Hi, Heather! First, let me commend you and the other QT ladies and
Patrick on what you're doing with the blog. It's a must-read for me
daily. :-)

I have a medical question for you about stitching wounds:

In a contemporary wilderness setting, a man falls and bangs his head
on a rock -- hard enough to knock him out and leave a significant gash
through his eyebrow. Would a veterinarian who is reluctant to do
anything at all (for thoroughly non-medical reasons) stitch the wound
two or three days later (the first opportunity she has), or would the
gash have healed enough on its own by then to make stitching a waste
of time (or too difficult to attempt unless one is a plastic surgeon)?
The injured man won't be getting to a hospital in the foreseeable
future. In fact, he and the vet are trapped in the wilderness, but the
vet has her medical bag with her.

I realize there are concussion and cosmetic issues. The concussion is
dealt with, and appearances aren't a concern. I'm just curious how a
dedicated medical professional, even though she doesn't treat humans,
might approach the injury. (I'm also curious to know whether I've used
enough parenthetical remarks in this email. Cuz, yanno, I can add some
if not. :-D )

Thanks for any insight you can provide! And thanks to both of you QT
docs for offering to provide medical insight. I hope both of you
realize what a boon that is to your fellow writers. :-)


Aw, gee, shucks, Kathleen. Thanks!

Yours is a fairly straightforward question to answer. At the time frame you mention, stitches would not be indicated. A wound needs to be stitched as soon as possible after the injury. This is not just to help with healing and the cosmetic appearance, but a stitch represents material that is foreign to the body. Any foreign body has a chance of getting infected under the best of circumstances, but a wound left to its own devices for several days would be far from clean. Passing a suture through the wound and under the skin would be introducing pockets of infection and giving them a nice place to thrive.

And, yes, by three days, the wound would probably be fairly well healed on its own (the eyebrow area doesn't have a lot of room for a deep gash, so I assume it's shallow enough to have scabbed over by this time.

So, your veterinarian is off the hook!

Thanks for a great question!

Big to Kathleen and Stina!

And if you have a medical fiction question, you can still email me for future posts. My email address is in the sidebar.

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.