QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Friday, April 30, 2010

Publishing Pulse 4/30/10 Prizes Announced!

Contest News

Thanks to all who made our contest with Chris Richman of Upstart Crow Literary a success. And thanks to Mr. Richman for so graciously judging entries. I've enjoyed working with him and can promise that anyone lucky enough to sign with him has hit agent gold.

And now about PRIZES! We all know that it can take a while for an agent to get to a query (or submission!) Mr. Richman has come up with quite an amazing prize - a Skip the Line Submission! For our winners, he has offered to make their submissions his first priority.

  • The Grand Prize Winner will be invited to submit a query plus the FULL MANUSCRIPT.
  • Runners-up will be invited to submit a query plus the first fifty pages.
Stay tuned to the blog, winners will be announced sometime in the near future.

For those of you who missed entering this contest, there will be other opportunities - several contests are in the works!

On the Net

Curious about how exactly an agent tackles the query pile? Elana Roth reveals her methods on the CJLA blog.

Agent Suzie Townsend has some great advice on how to pitch an agent at a conference. She also talks about why YA is not the only genre she is looking for.

Thinking of signing with a small press? Could an agent help you negotiate a better deal? Jessica Faust addresses this question on her blog.

A Word About Conferences

Speaking author to author here, conferences are a fantastic way to connect with writers and learn oodles about your craft. Plus you can meet industry professionals. Elana and I recently attended a local conference (Elana taught a fantastic class on queries!) and we were fortunate enough to meet some pretty amazing folks: Krista Marino of Delacorte Press (she edited Forest of Hands and Teeth!), Laura Rennert from Andrea Brown Literary, and Nephele Tempest of The Knight Agency. All were fabulous speakers and incredibly approachable. So find a conference in your area, or fly to one. I promise, it will be well worth it!

Success Stories

Kendra Highly signed with Shana Cohen at Stuart Krichevsky Literary Agency for a YA Urban Fantasy/Adventure.

Diana Renn signed with Kirby Kim at William Morris Endeavor Entertainment for a YA contemporary mystery.

Renae Mercado signed with Bree Ogden at Martin Literary Management for a YA Paranormal Romance.

Congratulations, everyone! (And how interesting that they all signed for YA...)

Have a great weekend.

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

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Conference Etiquette Revisited

Writing forums are full of questions about conferences right now, so I tweaked and reposted this entry from last year.

It's conference season again. Whether you're 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 can 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 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, don't 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's the case, let the session go and register earlier next time. All's not lost if you don't get to pitch to your first choice. In most cases, you'll have the 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 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're 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. 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'll be surprised how many times someone will ask, "what is your book about?" Nobody wants to hear a writer launch into a 5 minute oration on her masterwork. 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 don't have a brief oral pitch for your project, check out One Line Pitches (by agent Joanna Stampfel-Volpe) and Elevator Pitches.

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 heels 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'll be fine. It's not a Sunday finest affair. Be yourself. Be professional.

Even though you will receive a goodie bag when you sign in at most conferences that includes a pen and paper along with promotional material, you should bring your own pen and paper so 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 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 rarely hand 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 won't 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's 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 don't talk to the people around you during the presentation. It's better not to take notes on your laptop during workshops--it's 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. 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, don't 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. 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 any questions or anything to add regarding your own conference experiences or funny stories stemming from conferences, I'd love it if you'd comment below.

Have a great week!


The Contest is Now Closed

Thanks to all those who entered the contest with Chris Richman of Upstart Crow Literary! The contest is now closed. Winners and prizes will be announced in a week or two.

If you missed entering the contest, you may query Mr. Richman in the usual manner, as outlined on Upstart Crow's website.

We have several contests planned for the near future in a variety of genres, so keep your eye on the blog an have a great week!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Contest with Literary Agent Chris Richman Now Open

The contest with Chris Richman of Upstart Crow Literary is now open.

DO NOT SUBMIT YOUR PITCH TO MR. RICHMAN'S REGULAR EMAIL ADDRESS. Your entry will be deleted if you do. Directions on where to submit are below.

Mr. Richman is accepting entries (a 25-word-or-less pitch) in the Middle Grade and Young Adult fiction genres. The contest will remain open until 6:00 a.m. EST on April 28th. There is no cap on entries.

To enter, you must be a follower of the QueryTracker blog (widget at right.) You will also need a free membership on QueryTracker.net to access the submission form. (I promise it's a membership you will not regret. There's not an easier way to find agents and track queries.)

You can find the submission form here. (Only one entry per person, please.)

For articles on how to craft a strong pitch, click the Contest Linky (with the colored pencils) to the right of this post, or click on this link.

Best of luck! Let me know if you have any questions. =)

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

Monday, April 26, 2010

Falling Right Back on Your Fanny

Fanny Brice, that is.

There's a scene I love in the movie, Funny Girl.

Fanny Brice (a young woman trying to break into show business just after the turn of the twentieth century) auditions for the chorus line in a theater production and gets promptly fired.

A production assistant hears her singing "The Greatest Star" and says, "You're no chorus girl. You're a singer and a comic. What made you try out for the chorus?"

And Fanny says, "Because that's what you were looking for. If you were looking for jugglers, I'd have been a juggler."

It's not so different, breaking into publishing versus breaking into acting. And I think there's a valid take-home point in that scene for writers seeking representation or publication.

A few weeks ago, I posted regarding determining the genre of your book. Towards the end, I touched on books that could possibly fit into more than one category.

If your book could truly be marketed in more than one genre, it's perfectly reasonable to do just that.

In other words, widen your query net... if you've written a paranormal romance that also happens to be an urban fantasy, query agents who represent both sorts of projects (just be sure to adjust your pitch as necessary).

Of course, your project must genuinely reflect the elements of the category you're using to describe the book. It won't help anyone to stretch the truth. Your project must deliver on the promise of the pitch.

But if you can juggle*, and they're looking for jugglers, you may as well get to it.

*Incidentally, I can juggle. My high school double-booked the swimming pool one semester during my junior year and, since most of the other equipment and space was already spoken for, we were asked to choose between juggling or hacky-sack. Your tax dollars at work. =)
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, April 23, 2010

Publishing Pulse: 4/23/2010

Enter Our Agent-Judged Contest!

The QueryTracker Blog is hosting another Agent-Judged Contest! 

WhoChris Richman of Upstart Crow Literary wants to read your one-sentence pitch. 

When: The contest will open this coming Tuesday, April 27, 2010 at 6:00 a.m. EST and will remain open for 24 hrs -- the brave Mr. Richman is not capping entries!

Genres: Mr. Richman is looking for Middle Grade and Young Adult ONLY.

What to submit: 25 word (or less) one-sentence pitch.
  • You must be a follower of the QTblog to enter.
  • You must be a member of QueryTracker.net (membership is free)


We're coming up on conference season!  Here are just a few highlights (none of which are intended to suggest we endorse a particular workshop over another -- they're just to whet your appetite).  You can find more conferences on Shaw Guides.

The May Backspace Writers Conference is held in NYC and still has some spots open.  The conference will be hosting a plethora of agents, authors, editors, and publishing professionals (see the conference site for more details).

The 70th Indiana University Writer's Conference is coming up in June and includes faculty-led workshops on fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction.

The 25th Annual Antioch Writers' Workshop near Dayton, Ohio is coming up in July for writers of fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry, and memoir, and welcomes beginning, intermediate, and advanced writers.

The Southern California Writers' Conference is held in September in San Diego, LA, and Palm Springs.  Talk about not being able to go wrong when it comes to location!

Editorial Ass blogged about the Sirens festival, an October conference in Vail, Colorado about women in fantasy literature.  Sounds exciting!

Around the Internet

According to writing coach Daphne Gray-Grant, the ability to tell stories in your nonfiction writing makes it "sticky, concrete, and memorable."  Read more on Quips and Tips for Successful Writers.

The Blood-Red Pencil has a great piece explaining the hows and whys of what good dialogue is not: Dialogue is Not Necessarily How We Talk.

Jane Friedman talks about how technology like the Kindle, iPhone, and yes, the iPad, are impacting writers.

Rachelle Gardner and her blog readers tackle the question: Should Writing Be Fun?

Guide to Literary Agents helps you decide whether (and how) to Collaborate With a Co-Writer.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Have You Been Yet?

Okay, so I'm going to delve into writing conferences today. This is not the first time we've discussed these blessed events on the blog. Oh no. Mary expounded on why she goes to conferences here. And then she gave some excellent advice on etiquette at a conference here. Both are worth your time.

Since I'm literally hours away from being on "the other side of the desk" at a writers' conference, I thought it would be a great time to revisit the topic.

I'm going to give you some tips as I prepare to not only attend classes at a conference, but PRESENT at one too. Tips from both sides, I suppose you could say.

As a (terrified) presenter, here's what I'm hoping each attendee will do--and what I try to do when I attend classes/workshops:

Learn one new thing in each class/workshop. Attitude is everything, and if you go into a class just expecting to learn one new thing, you'll be surprised by how much you hear.

Listen, don't write. I know, I know. This goes against everything I stand for too. I mean, we're writers, right? We write stuff down. But instead of writing every. single. thing. someone says, listen and interact with them. Make eye contact. Just absorb what they're saying, then write it in your own words, if you must.

Eat, talk, laugh. I found my critique group by eavesdropping on two people talking in the lunch line. I'm actually pretty embarrassed to admit that, but I'm also proud that I said something because those ladies are awesome. So converse. Smile. With the attendees and the presenters--after all, they're people too!

Be prepared. If you've signed up for pitches with editors/agents, be ready. Class/workshop schedules are usually online way in advance. Choose the classes you want to attend and prepare intelligent questions. And don't forget the chocolate. That's important too.

So, have you attended a writing conference before? What did you like? What did you wish were different/better? I seriously can't wait for Friday morning, even though I have to be somewhere at 6:30 AM. Because there's nothing better than hanging out with writers. And that alone is enough to attend a writing conference. So have you been yet?


Monday, April 19, 2010

QueryTracker: Who, What and Why?

Well, the QT Blog has been up and running for a while now. The five QueryTracker blog authors have grown a lot, not only as a blog team, but professionally. QueryTracker has grown too. The database now contains more advanced features and includes publishers in addition to agents in the searchable database.

I attend conferences, workshops and writers' groups and am always amazed how many writers are familiar with QueryTracker's main site.

Just in case we have subscribers who don't know how QT came about or don't use the main site, I'm going to repost sections from one of my first articles on this blog.

The what, why and who of QueryTracker.net

The first time I met Patrick McDonald, the creator of QueryTracker, was when he emailed to congratulate me for signing with an agent. Up until that point, QueryTracker had been a tool.

I searched for agents by genre; researched them through the QT links to the agency websites, AgentQuery and Predators & Editors that were on the QT agent profiles; logged my query responses; and finally, clicked on the sunglass-wearing smiley icon indicating I'd received an offer of representation. I dutifully filled out my success story interview and expected to leave QueryTracker.net behind. Wrong!

There is a QueryTracker.net forum. Did you know that? I'm hooked. I no longer need the query tracking features of the main site, but I'm a regular on the forum, which I didn't discover until after I had signed with my agent. ...and then there's this blog. Hmmm. QT feels like family now.

One of the most remarkable things about QueryTracker.net is the person behind the site. I had always thought that QT was a commercial endeavor created to generate income for... someone. Turns out that the someone was an aspiring writer named Patrick McDonald, who had become frustrated with the overwhelming and confusing submission process. He created QT not to make money, but to simplify the query process. Once he came up with a way to keep track of which agents had been queried and their responses, he decided it would be more effective if he made it a "social data gathering site" where lots of writers could input data about agents based on their personal experiences thereby revealing patterns in agent requests, response times and preferences.

The result is brilliant! While using QT's main site, I knew (based on other writers' input) that one agent tended to take eight weeks to respond while another averaged only two days. I could tell which agents rejected by non-response; this kept me from re-querying or becoming angsty when I didn't hear back within a reasonable period of time. I could arrange my selected agents in order of desirability, which dictated my submission schedule. The most important thing was I felt informed while I queried. That goes a long way in a process that is shrouded in mystery and misinformation. Any writer who has had to keep up with queries and responses can appreciate the value of real information.

What? A social data gathering site to help aspiring authors submit to agents intelligently. Why? To simplify and demystify the query process. Who? Writers' advocate extraordinaire, Patrick McDonald.

Thanks, Pat.

Have a great week, everyone!


Friday, April 16, 2010

Publishing Pulse 4/16/10 - Plus Contest News!

New and Updated Agents

Bree Ogden with Martin Literary Management represents Children's, Graphic Novels, and Young Adult.

Kate Caulfield with Zachary Shuster Harmsworth represents Commercial Fiction, Humor/Satire, Literary Fiction, Young Adult, Biography & Memoirs, Cookbooks, and Narrative Nonfiction.

Sarah LaPolla with Curtis Brown, Ltd. represents Fantasy, Horror, Literary Fiction, Romance, Science Fiction, Young Adult, and Narrative Nonfiction.

Amy Boggs with the Donald Maass Literary Agency represents Children's, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Middle Grade, Multicultural, Romance, Science Fiction, Western, and Young Adult.

Rob Daniel with Andrea Hurst Literary Management represents a wide variety of genres, check out his profile by clicking on his name.

Ali McDonald with The Rights Factory represents Children's and Young Adult exclusively.

Anthony Mattero with Renaissance Literary & Talent represents a wide variety of genres, check out his profile by clicking on his name.

Caleb Seeling with WordServe Literary Agency represents General Fiction and General Nonfiction.


Congratulations to Amanda Bonilla who recently signed with Natanya Wheeler of Nancy Yost Literary.

And congrats also to Karen Sandler who signed with Matthew Bialer of Sanford J. Greenburger.

We're so happy for both of you!

On the Net

Want lunch with Janet Reid and Suzie Townsend? Or how about a 40 page critique by Suzie Townsend, Collen Lindsay, Kathleen Ortiz, or Joanna Stampfel-Volpe? Sarah Wylie is celebrating her book deal with a contest for these awesome prizes, deadline April 25th.

Jewel Alan blogged about Tips on Writing Middle Grade on the Guide to Literary Agents blog.

Check out Colleen Lindsay's The Swivet for what not to do when you get a rejection.

Exciting News

Our own Carolyn Kaufman has revealed the cover for her book, A Writer's Guide to Psychology. The book will be in stores this December - just in time for Christmas. Congratulations, Carolyn! Check out Carolyn's blog for all the details.

The QueryTracker Blog is hosting another Agent-Judged Contest! Chris Richman of Upstart Crow Literary wants to read your one-sentence pitch. The contest will open April 27, 2010. Mr. Richman is looking for Middle Grade and Young Adult. He WILL NOT BE CAPPING ENTRIES. You need to be a follower of the QueryTracker Blog to enter. Stay tuned for further details as the date approaches.

Have a fantastic weekend!

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

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Psychology in Fiction Q&A: After A Violent Relationship

Note: So sorry this is a day late -- computer glitch!

Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is intended for writing purposes only and does not represent psychological advice.

QUESTIONS: 1. What kind of therapy would a teenage girl go through after she's been in an abusive relationship? 2. Are there any books or websites you could recommend for more information dealing with therapy post break-up? 3. Since there is a new love interest in the MC's life, would he be involved in any sessions?  4. Is there a way for him to learn how to be there for her, or is that something that is never considered? 5. From what I've read, girls who've experienced relationship abuse may have posttraumatic stress disorder after it's over. Do you have any other resources you'd recommend?
ANSWERS: For readers who aren't familiar with the signs and causes of domestic violence, you may want to drop by the HelpGuide for a comprehensive overview.

On to the questions!

1. What kind of therapy would a teenage girl go through after she's been in an abusive relationship? 

 If you're looking for the name of a therapy, I'd say a likely choice would be Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) coupled with feminist therapy.  The feminist aspect is  important for DV (domestic violence, a catchall term for relationship violence) because it does not blame the survivor (note the use of the word survivor rather than victim); in fact, it looks at how society cultivates violence against women via things like the popular media, attitudes that women should be subservient, court systems that don't provide adequate consequences for batterers, and so on.

2. Are there any books or websites you could recommend for more information dealing with therapy post break-up?

Getting a sense of the feminist theories and approaches that make therapy for DV unique will be a big help.
3. Since there is a new love interest in the MC's life, would he be involved in any sessions? 

No. Definitely not, unless, say, they're ready to get married and wanted to do some premarital counseling. Even then, I'd want them to see a separate therapist for the couples therapy. In fact, if a client asked the therapist if she could involve her new boyfriend, the therapist might want to explore what makes her want to bring him into therapy. The therapist's response would vary based on what she said, but without any extra information (as I write this), s/he might wonder about your MC's confidence in her independence and ability to function without a man.  Not in a blaming way, but s/he might want to work with her even more on autonomy, recognizing her unique strengths, and feeling (and behaving) as if she is equal in a relationship.

4. Is there a way for him to learn how to be there for her, or is that something that is never considered?

Absolutely, there are things he can do, and he'd be a keeper if he really tried to do these things!

Many people believe DV is rooted in sexism, so fighting sexism in himself and the people around him would be huge.

A man who has feminist attitudes can be a great support.  I should probably clarify -- a lot of people feel like "feminist" is a bad word. Like many people, until I was exposed to feminist therapy and truly began to understand what feminism meant, I bought into the stereotype that feminists are militaristic man-haters. Though certainly some fall into that category, they are the exception rather than the norm.  All feminism is is the belief that women should have equal rights and opportunities.

The Maine Coalition to End Violence has a great resource that shows what a feminist man's attitudes and
behaviors would be like.

The nice thing is that younger men often do have more feminist attitudes than older men. Overall a supportive man would believe that what had been done to your character was wrong and that she didn't deserve it and doesn't deserve any blame for it. He wouldn't push her around, smother her, or breathe down her neck -- he'd trust that she is a capable human being.  

Other attitudes that are much more subtle are things like avoiding assumptions of male privilege.  For example, he doesn't assume he should be the one who drives, even when they're taking his car. He can open doors and be nice, but he's not seizing control of things just because he's male. 

He wouldn't put up with sexist jokes and overt exploitation of women -- ie he's not going to endorse pornography that shows women saying "no" when they "really" mean yes. He's not going to see shoving yiour character against the wall or pinning her down as sexy.  (Don't get me wrong, perfectly healthy couples can play at things like that if they've agreed to it and have safety words in place -- but something like this would probably scare someone who's been abused.  So he'd need to be sensitive to things like that.)  

He would need to leave room for her opinions, and respect them even if he disagrees with them.  (He can disagree openly, but he doesn't try to intimidate her into anything, or blame her if, say, she chooses a movie he
doesn't like.)

I don't know how old your characters are or if they're sexually active, but if she was raped, that's definitely something to address in therapy.  He would really need to respect her boundaries and he'd want to make sure she knew it was okay to ask him to stop if she got scared or uneasy.

 5. From what I've read, girls who've experienced relationship abuse may have posttraumatic stress disorder after it's over. Do you have any other resources you'd recommend?

Remember, if YOU have a psychology in fiction question you want to see answered here, use the Q&A form on the Archetype site or send an email using my QueryTracker email address to the right. (Please use Q&A in your Subject Line!).  

Friday, April 9, 2010

From Jason Yarn: Winners!

I know, I know, you're all ticked there's no real Pulse today. But dudes, today I'm letting all the glory bask on literary agent Jason Yarn. He's come back with five winners -- AND explanations for why he chose them!

Here we go...

Thank you to everyone who sent in pitches – this was a fun contest and it was very difficult to just settle on five entries. The winners though, really grabbed my attention and made me eager to read more. Of course, if you didn’t win, I do hope you’ll still send me your query letters to consider.

Here are my thoughts on selecting the winners:

THE SWEET SPOT by Kristine Carlson Asselin: Ms. Asselin’s entry is (excusing the pun) pitch perfect. The pitch showed me the risks and plan of the main character, along with a touch of danger in the blowtorch (as well as raising the question – what kind of damage can you do with a blowtorch to a golf course?). The excerpt gave me a nice sense of Ms. Asselin’s voice in her attention to detail and painted a picture of Kate squaring up to the tee with a look of cool determination on her face.

Kristine's pitch:
With the family golf course on the verge of bankruptcy, Kate decides she's going to be the first girl to win the Junior State Championship to draw the crowds back, but her plans are derailed when her best friend and crush is accused of vandalizing the course with a blowtorch.

Kristine's excerpt:
"A girl has never won." He winked. "Yet."

Her father's words rang in her head as Kate Anderson breathed in her favorite smells; freshly mowed grass and the perfumey scent of rose hips that grew wild at the property line. She walked to the edge of the tee box and bent to pluck a handful of crab grass. It was easy to pretend the grass was lush and green, not brown and dry. Coming back to the patch of dirt where she'd teed up the ball, she threw the grass into the air. The blades fluttered down gently to her left side. She'd have to adjust her swing to account for the breeze. No problem.

FRIENDS WITH DEATH by Christine Nguyen: Ms. Nguyen’s pitch made me smile and then her excerpt made me laugh – a key way to judge if I’m going to like a book on the whole. The image of a hot Death making eyes at the main character was pretty funny, and brought to mind a lot of uncomfortable situations. Mary Kate’s wanting to get out of a test by way of wished-for vehicular assault rang true in the way of teenagers’ sometime callous disregard for others (without meaning it, of course).

Christine's pitch:
When the charismatic Death makes 17-year-old Mary Kate Stewart choose between saving her dying boyfriend or her gift - the ability to see when people are going to die - she can't help but wonder if he wants to be more than just friends.

Christine's excerpt:
Mary Kate Stewart secretly hoped that her Calculus teacher would get hit by a taco truck. It was Monday, 1:15 p.m. when she had that thought. She knew the exact moment because that’s all she was doing – staring at the clock and wishing for the demise of Mr. Randolph Hagen. She didn’t want him to actually die, but if the accident caused the kind of amnesia where you forgot one specific thing and that thing just happened to be Friday’s Calculus test, she’d be all for supporting careless lunch truck drivers.

STATE OF DISARRAY by K.C. Friese: This pitch packed a shotgun of information, but did it in an accessible and fun way. It also raised questions about the alternate history goings on (why is NoCal seceding?) and how the main character’s plight connects to it all. The excerpt is a tad jumbled, but K.C. successfully gets across a migraine attack overtaking Augie, and so it’s fair to say the writing reflects that traumatic event.

K.C.'s pitch:
It's December of '41, the country is hours from war, Northern California is seceding from the Union, and Augie Matayzel couldn't care less - he's a little drunk, a lot in love and running for his life from the sheriff.

K.C.'s excerpt:
Augie Matayzel used the brief moment to reflect that religion is not what The Lord had in mind. He might have gone on - layering the thought with examples of religious fervor run amok - had he not known a very painful message was, in that same instant, rising to his brain like so much bread dough. Instead he allotted the time remaining to dropping the pry bar, falling to his knees and clamping shut his eyes. He battled an additional impulse to crumple to the ground and cry like a kitten, then lost that fight when a white flash ignited between his temples. "S**t!" he said, hitting the dirt.

THE GLASS HOUSE by Amy Sue Nathan: Ms. Nathan’s pitch was solid, but didn’t totally grab me. What did grab me, and what I thought should have been her pitch, was the first line in her excerpt. It’s a great contrasting image. That line made me very curious about the rest of the book and the subsequent paragraph was a nice layout to what’s to come for Evie Glass.

Amy Sue's pitch:
Amidst a torrent of grief, betrayal and bake sales, Evie Glass convinces herself, and a town full of nosy neighbors, to redefine the meaning of family.

Amy Sue's excerpt:
Evie never expected to get divorced, let alone sit Shiva for her ex-husband in a house with a Christmas tree. Yet there she was.

The imitation pine tree was dressed in tinsel and shiny red balls. Hallmark ornaments masquerading as heirlooms dangled from its branches. Stockings hung from the mantel above a card table topped with a green velveteen runner, holly-stamped paper plates and a Lucite platter heaped with lox, cream cheese balls and a mountain of seeded bagels. Richard had mocked Christmas folderol until he married Nicole a year before. Now he was being mourned in the company of a motorized Santa. Evie shook her head, unsure which was more shocking – the attempt for cultural balance or Richard’s sudden death.

THE AWAKENING OF ANNA BRIGHTON by Caroline Tung Richmond: Ms. Richmond’s pitch is great sci-fi – the newly birthed hero, a savior to the human race, but at what cost to their own humanity? The excerpt needs some polish, but it conveys that moment of birth and terror very well, showing Anna’s introduction to the world.

Caroline's pitch:
Fifteen-year-old Anna Brighton has spent her entire life sleeping in a steel incubator; but on her sixteenth birthday, Anna is finally awakened to fulfill her purpose—to bear the children for her sterile city.

Caroline's excerpt:
I awaken in a flood of water.

The freezing liquid pours into my mouth and gushes down my throat.

My arms flail.

My legs kick.

My fingernails scrape against the metal box that surrounds me.

But the water overtakes my body.

As my muscles go slack, the top of the box tears open and my eyes fill with light. Somebody's hands plunge into the water and grip onto my shoulders, hauling me out. I slam onto the floor. Shivering. My lungs gasp for air, but I cannot breathe. Something has lodged in my mouth.

Thank you everyone!

- Jason Yarn

WINNERS: Congrats! Please email me (elanajohnson(at)querytracker(dot)net for instructions on how to get your query and first 10 critique from Mr. Yarn.

EVERYONE: Thanks for a great contest.

MR. YARN: You rock!

And PS: Mr. Yarn said he liked some others as well, and would be contacting those people directly. Squee!

Have a happy Friday!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Agent-Requested Revisions: An Interview with Literary Agent Joan Paquette

Having just finished my first round of revisions for my publisher, maybe I'm just more in tune with the topic of revisions on forums and networking sites than I've previously been, but it seems like everyone is talking about it recently. More and more, the topic of agents requesting pre-offer revisions is the center of the discussion.

My agent, Joan Paquette, was kind enough to answer some questions I see in these discussions. She was hands-on with my manuscript from the beginning and has a keen eye for detail. I've no doubt that without her suggested revisions, my book would not have sold.

Before I launch into her interview, I want to give you my profound revision analogy (that's a joke. It's not profound--but it works for me).

Revisions, no matter how small are like moving furniture in a carpeted room: Any change leaves rug dents. Change one thing, and chances are it will have an effect somewhere else.

So when you move a bookcase, you scrub out, cover up or somehow disguise the big nasty carpet dent left by what you moved, right? Same with revisions. So often, writers fail to check the entire manuscript for the effects of the change.

Moving furniture often makes a room more attractive or functional, but occasionally, it is the wrong thing to do, which brings me to the real topic today:

Why agents request revisions and when you should consider doing them.
(An interview with Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency)

How often do you ask writers to revise before you offer representation? Why do you ask these writers to revise before instead of after you offer?

Ms. Paquette: The decision of whether to ask for a revision before or after offering representation usually depends on the type of work the manuscript needs. If the changes required are fairly substantial, or if I want to give a project a little more time to test out how strongly I feel about it, then I will ask for revisions first. If I'm so persuaded of the need to represent this project that I can't bear the prospect of it getting away, then I will offer right away. It's all about getting the manuscript to the point where it strikes magic; it can happen early or late, but when it happens we'll both know it.

What kind of things do you most often request in the pre-offer revision?

Ms. Paquette: This completely depends on the case. Two things that usually hook my interest in a project are (1) a strong voice, and (2) a unique premise. When I read sample pages that have these two factors, I'm then looking for a certain flow of language that resonates with me, a smoothness of pacing and a readable quality that's hard to put into words. Those things are more challenging to infuse if they are lacking in a manuscript. But if a project has these elements but is weak in other areas--in world-building, for example; or the story begins too slowly; goes on too long; needs to go deeper within the characters; needs a smoother arc or more complete resolution at the end--those kinds of things can be fixed. I think what I'm looking for is a project that feels so close to being ready that I can easily articulate a few fixes that I feel would bring it to that point where I could fall in love. Those are the kinds of revisions I would ask for before signing.

What are the most common kinds of mistakes you see in revised material? What is your primary reason for rejection?

Ms. Paquette: One big mistake I frequently see is writers who return the revision too quickly. Sometimes there is a perception that interest from an agent should be capitalized on as soon as possible or it will expire; unfortunately, this can result in manuscripts being sent back before they're fully ready. Don't be afraid to take all the time you need to do a thorough revision; get some additional readers; let it sit a while and then come back to it with fresh eyes. It doesn't have to take a supremely long time, but there are no special benefits from a super-speedy turnaround--and sometimes, to the contrary, it can be a red flag of an inexperienced reviser.

Why do I usually reject a revised manuscript? Truthfully, there's no one reason. Before I sign a client's manuscript I must truly fall in love with it. So, put simply, I'm looking for the revision to knock my socks off--to make it so I can't pass it up. That's what I'm looking for.

When would you recommend a writer not revise for an agent?

Ms. Paquette: If you don't agree with the direction an agent proposes for a project and you wouldn't feel comfortable having these changes in your final book, then don't make them. Otherwise, it's a case where you are being provided with an insider's critique and input on your manuscript which, even if the end result doesn't end up resonating with the requesting agent, will hopefully result in a stronger finished product that can go on to even greater things elsewhere.

* * *

Once again, I thank Ms. Paquette for taking time out to answer questions for QueryTracker. More can be found about Ms. Paquette and the Erin Murphy Literary Agency on QueryTracker.net.

Have a great week!


Monday, April 5, 2010

Building the Framework for Your Authorial Success

There are some investments in your career you can make now that will grow over time to help ensure your long-term success.

Your Online Presence
  • BE GOOGLE-ABLE! I cannot stress this enough. I recently held a contest on my blog and had over 300 entrants… and guess what? Fully half of their blogs were nearly impossible to find when I wanted to link to them. PUT YOUR BLOG ADDRESS EVERYWHERE! On your Facebook profile, your Twitter home page, in your siggy in forums, etc. Also, use your first and last name ALWAYS. As for how to become Google-able, following the steps outlined below is a good place to start.
  • (To see if you are Google-able, just do a search for your name. If you come up in the first few pages of results, you are on the right track. When I first started building an online presence a year ago, Google searches for my name brought up pages about another Suzette Saxton – a fictional character on a soap opera in the 80s. Today I am proud to report there are four pages about me before the Guiding Light result even appears.)
  • Change your blogger profile to be open to emails. Trust me, people are trying to get a hold of you. This will make it easier on them. (To learn how, see the resources below.)
  • Put your name, first and last, on your blog. Near the top, so it is one of the first things people see. And if you are agented, say so, mentioning your agent by name. It’s good publicity for both of you.
  • Make your Twitter and Facebook profiles public. You would be surprised at how often agents and publishers want to gauge your presence on these sites. Be sure to include your full name in your profiles.
  • Set up a Google alert for your name (and maybe even for the name of your dream agent or agency.) Google will send let you know via email when your name is mentioned online. And you might be surprised by how often you see it! (See resources below to learn how.)
  • Follow agents on Twitter. I’ve heard from many writers that they found their “in” with an agent this way, by offering an agent exactly the genre/story he or she is looking for.
  • Make intelligent comments on agents’ blogs so they are familiar with your name. They say it takes people seeing a book four times online to purchase it, perhaps the same holds true with agents requesting your work. The key is to have them recognize your name when they receive your query; and knowing you follow their blog means they know you are aware of what they are looking for, making them more likely to consider your material.
  • Always be polite to agents, no matter what. Even if they reject you. Actually, this holds true across the board. Be polite and approachable in all your interactions online – your reputation and credibility depend on it.
Getting Your Name Out There
  • Blog, of course. And in every post, link to a handful of other blogs (authors, agents, our blog *wink*) because it makes your blog post more likely to surface in Google searches. Plus, people will be pleased to discover you’ve mentioned them, so it’s win-win. (And you know the good 'ol Google alert? Every agent has one. If you mention and link to them in your blog, they may just come check it out...)
  • Get a “subscribe by email” widget on your blog, like the one on the right-hand side of this blog. The number of our email subscribers dwarfs the number of our followers, so trust me – you’ll want to do this.
  • If you are at the querying stage, make a website for yourself. It will impress your agent-to-be. (A good, low-cost place to do so is 1and1.com.) Make sure it looks professional.
  • Offer to guest blog on writing blogs, or even on blogs of your writing friends. The worst that could happen is hearing “no,” and hey, we’re writers - we’re used to rejection, right? Interviewing and being interviewed by your writing friends is also a good idea.
  • Whenever you visit a blog, comment on it, even if it’s just a small “thank you.” The more you spread yourself around the web, the better known you will become.
People to Get Chummy With
  • Get to know your local librarians. They will be your biggest supporters when your book comes out, even planning book release parties and other events for you. And don’t be afraid to ask them to buy books you want to see on the shelves.
  • Volunteer at a school library, be it elementary, secondary, or high school. There is no better way to connect with kids en masse and get a feel for what they want to read. (HINT: Elementary kids want novels with pictures on every page. Think Diary of a Wimpy Kid or The Invention of Hugo Cabret.)
  • Book reviewers are a savvy group, passionate about reading (though they are not always writers) who blog in a huge, inter-connected community of reviewers. Following these blogs will give you a good idea of the latest trends, and of what works (and what does not) in specific books.
  • Also, book review blogs can make the difference between a book that sells and a book does not. Someday you want your book reviewed by these lovely people. So think of book reviewers as future BFFs. (Want to see what a book review blog looks like? Check out Literati Read, which belongs to the group of aspiring teen authors I mentor.)
Now go forth and conquer! Your success awaits you.

Add a “Subscribe by Email” Widget
Set Up a Google Alert
To Make Your Email Public on Blogger
And for Premium Query Tracker Members, there's an Agent Blog Roll under Premium Reports for your one-stop blogging and tweeting. (Click on the photo for a clearer view.)

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

Friday, April 2, 2010

Publishing Pulse 4-2-10

Around the Publishing Blogosphere:

Michael Bourret of Dystel & Goderich discussed the upcoming Ipad release and what it may mean for ebook publishing.

Jessica Faust explains why agent preferences are often not as detailed as you might like.

Rachelle Gardner gives authors a bit of grateful encouragement.

Guide to Literary Agents gave tips on how to write a breakout blog.

In Publishing News:

The winner of the oddest book title was announced.

Borders had some good financial news for once.

Ebooks may be less eco-friendly than originally thought.

GLA is running their fourth "Lucky Agent" contest, considering MG and YA.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

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.