QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Why Love Matters

Courtesy of nellart

You're standing in the middle of a bookstore. On every side are aisles and aisles full of hungry paper. Staring at you. Each a siren's song meant to entice you into their story. Author shaped shadows huddle behind the covers, waiting. Pleading.

And yet, unless you've happened upon a rather large fortune recently, there's no way you could bring every good and worthy book home. Because there are a lot of them.

Maybe you prefer action and high tech gadgets to beautiful scenery and romance. Or maybe you like glass slippers and happily ever afters to misshapen monsters lurking in the dark, just waiting for their victim to pass by.

Odds are, as a reader, you're going to be drawn to certain stories over others, narrowing your genres. Does that mean the stories with sultry evenings or undeserving corpses are not good enough? Of course not! It means that there are only so many hours in the day and dollars in the bank. Time is finite, and people tend to those things they enjoy the most when they can.

But the good news is that there are a lot of readers. And they all want different things.

So while you may not be feeling much towards the entire technology section, you're eyeing the time travel novels with anticipation. So you start pulling them off the shelf--ignoring the author-shadow rustlings--and admire the covers before flipping the book over and reading the blurb on the back. Some of them are well done, and some of them are the annoying kind. The kind that have a lot of quotes praising the story without giving you, the reader, any idea what the story's about. And some, well, yes. Not quite what you were looking for.

And you only have $24.00.

You find ten lucky books and stagger off into the corner to get to know them better. You flip a couple open, fanning through words, hoping to find gems. That one's all right, but not singing. That one . . . no. Not what you were looking for after all. This one, yes. Definitely a possible yes. You set it aside. You dig through the stack, anticipation racing through your fingertips.

And then you find it. The one that has a great plot, awesome characters, and an incredible voice. That voice that feels like a leaf from your heart. Your eyes race across the page. Devouring. You're right at that part--you know, the one where everything hangs in the balance and one wrong breath and it all collapses like a house of cards--and someone taps you on the shoulder.

Excuse me, sir/madam, but we're closing now.

You blink at the sale's clerk, disoriented. What is she talking about? If only that person could figure out that clue at just the right . . . and then the bookstore filters back into your consciousness. Your heart is thumping against your chest. You're head comes back to rest on your neck. And your stomach redoubles its attempts to catch your attention.


You look at the scattering of books littering the floor at your feet. Sheepishly, you hand her two from the pile and clutch the one you've been reading as you follow her to the counter.

That'll be $28.50.

You eye the three books sadly. One of them's going to have to go. You lay one aside, promising yourself you'll stop by the library the next day. But in your hand burns gold.

This is what I imagine it's like for agents as they go through queries and read through manuscripts. A lot of them pass on things that are perfectly good (and sometimes not so good), because they only have $24.00 to spend a day, so they pick the stories they love.

As writers, sometimes we get so caught up in needing to get to the next step, that we rationalize everything in our head. If an agent would just . . . If only he/she would . . . But do you want just any old agent? Someone who might enjoy your story without ever having loved it?

Or do you want someone who is in love with your story? Who won't rest until it's on the shelf, even if it takes a few years to get there. Who sees gold in the tangle of words and won't be satisfied until they dig it up and polish it for the whole world to see.

I don't know about you, but when I find those books on the shelf, the ones that last with me long after The End, those are the books pulsing through my veins that I come back to time and time again. Those are the books that remind me why reading is such a magical experience.

And I want my agent to feel that way when he/she picks up my manuscript. It's not enough for them to like or enjoy it. That wanting needs to burn through them until the words hollow out a place in their heart for it.

Because I want my agent--my advocate--to love my story as much as I do.

Danyelle writes MG and YA fantasy. In her spare time, she collects dragons, talking frogs, and fairy godmothers. She can be found discussing the art of turning one's characters into various animals, painting with words, and the best ways to avoid getting eaten by dragons on her blog.  

Monday, March 28, 2011

In Brief: The Path to Publication

I decided it was time for a post that pulls all the basics together in one place.  For a lot of people, it will be review, but you never know – you may discover something you didn’t know!

One: A Writer Must Write

I’ve met a lot of aspiring writers.  In fact, it seems like nearly everyone has an idea or two for a novel; some people claim to have the whole thing mapped out in their brains. They just haven’t taken the time to get it all out on paper.

Ideas are just that, ideas.  A writer must write, and writing is a lot harder than thinking about an idea.  After all, “nothing you write, if you hope to be any good, will ever come out as you first hoped,” said playwright Lillian Hellman.

And one can’t just write when one feels inspired – to be a writer, one must write often, and wrestle with the prose, editing it into shape.

Two: A Writer Must Edit

There’s a big difference between writing and writing well, and if there’s one single thing that stands between most people and publication, it’s the writing well part. To be a successful writer, you must be a true master of the language in which you’re telling your tale.

You know all those movies that show a cocky young swordsman who believes he’s the Best That’s Ever Been? And then a true master gets his hands on the arrogant young fool and makes him realize he’s no good after all?  If you’re having trouble getting published, assume that’s where you are. Like Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins, you may need your butt kicked by someone better than you (in Wayne's case, that's Liam Neeson’s character, Henri Ducard) to really learn your craft.  For you, that someone is a critique partner or, better yet, a critique group.

Three: A Writer Must Accept Feedback to Grow

A lot of writers have trouble finding good crit partners, get defensive, get confused about which critique to listen to, or just plain old give up after they've been knocked around a bit (in a friendly way, of course) by their crit buddies. But this is not the time to make like a turtle and pull into your shell!  The only way you're going to grow and improve is by sorting through the feedback, using what you can, and thanking your crit buddies for their time and assistance (perhaps by helping them with writing of their own).

Did Bruce Wayne like getting knocked down?  Of course not! Did he like realizing he wasn't as good of a fighter as he wanted to be? Absolutely not! But what had he been taught about falling down? Why, that we must always pick ourselves up again.

Don't launch your attack on the publishing world before you're truly ready. And don't ever stop learning, growing, or picking yourself up.

Four: Finding An Agent

There are lots of different approaches to publishing these days, and thanks to the internet it's easier than ever to try to work around an agent and/or self-publish, but we're going to focus on the traditional route for now.

Literary agents are people who have established themselves as go-betweens for authors and publishers.  Many of the big publishers won't even look at a writer's work unless that work is represented by an agent.  Why? Because the agents act as screeners.  They receive hundreds, often thousands of letters each year from aspiring authors.  These letters are called queries, because they succinctly introduce the writer's project, explain the story's premise, and introduce the writer's platform, or ability to sell the novel.

Ninety-nine percent of queries are rejected.  Yes, you read that right, 99%. Some of them are wrong for the agency because it doesn't represent that genre (so always do your research!), or maybe it's just not looking for that type of book this week.  Overall, though, the biggest problem is that the writer's work isn't polished enough to go out.  A mere 1% of queries are good enough to warrant a request for more material.  (This is why it's crucial to spend most of your writerly energy on becoming a great writer and editor!)  And only some of those requests for more material will lead to an actual offer of representation.  

Keeping track of all of those queries, requests, and, let's face it, rejections used to be a big pain, but QueryTracker.net makes it easy! (If you don't already have a free account to help you find and keep track of your queries, run over now!)  Also -- QueryTracker only lists legitimate agents, which means agents who abide by an ethical code and refuse to charge writers to review or make suggestions on manuscripts.  Remember, any agent who asks for money up front is to be avoided!  Legitimate agents make a commission from sales and royalties of their clients' books, not from reading or editing fees.

Many agents will help you polish your manuscript, either before or after The Call --  a phone discussion about possible representation. If you agree to work together and are able to produce a final project you are both happy with, it's time for the agent to start shopping your manuscript to publishers!

Five: Finding a Publisher

Here again, the numbers are downright depressing -- only about half of the authors whose books are shopped will end up with a sale to a publisher.  Of those who do, most will never earn back their advances -- the money they are paid up front, usually upon acceptance of the publishing contract.

Six: That's Why You Need a Platform

That's why you need a platform -- a way to market your own books.  It's rare these days for publishers to spend thousands launching your book, and even when they do, you're still expected to carry your share of the work.  If you don't know where to start, try books like:
Thinking ahead and planning to work hard to help sell your books will guarantee that there will be a second book...and a publisher who wants to buy it!

* The Importance of Determination

I've emphasized throughout this piece the importance of being a good writer.  And that's key.  But so is persistence and determination to keep getting up when things don't go as you'd hoped.  Assuming you write well enough (to, say, keep readers from wondering what the heck you're trying to say), many people in publishing believe that determination and persistence are in fact the most important qualities any writer can bring to the table.  Not arrogance, mind you -- determination.

So just remember, when you fall...pick yourself up again, polish those writing skills, and try again!

All right, readers -- it was tough to consolidate this all into a brief post, and to keep it from getting unwieldy I had to stop without getting into how things work after you're in contract with a publisher.  Before that point, however -- what important landmarks am I missing?

Carolyn Kaufman, PsyD's book, THE WRITER'S GUIDE TO PSYCHOLOGY: How to Write Accurately About Psychological Disorders, Clinical Treatment, and Human Behavior helps writers avoid common misconceptions and inaccuracies and "get the psych right" in their stories. You can learn more about The Writer's Guide to Psychology, check out Dr. K's blog on Psychology Today, or follow her on Facebook!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Publishing Pulse, March 25th, 2011

New at QueryTracker.net:

Congratulations to our newest success story, Beth Cato!

Also, four agent profiles have been updated this week. Most notably, Deborah Grosvenor has started her own agency, and Wendy Schirmer is no longer working as an agent. We wish the best of luck to both of them in their new endeavors.

Publishing News

Simon and Schuster has started a new online, interactive book club for tweens through Everloop. 

A federal judge rejected the Google Book settlement, stipulating that in order to be fair it has to be an opt-in rather than opt-out process. 

No one wants to buy Barnes & Noble, and they may call off the search for a buyer. No word on whether you could get 10% off the entire company if you have a B&N preferred membership card.

Self-published author Amanda Hocking, who has sold a million books on her own, has signed a four-book deal with St. Martin's Press

Around The Blogosphere:

What to do when your agent doesn't want to represent your next book.

Want to boost your writing prowess? Maybe the way you're sitting can affect the way you're writing. (And here's the nice thing: if it doesn't, there were no negative side-effects to trying.)

Author Gina Holmes talks about why the best novels don't always sell well   

An author writes an open letter to his French publisher about why their cover will ensure his good novel doesn't sell well

Literary Quote Of The Week:

Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.  ~E.L. Doctorow

Until next week, then, keep those words flying.

Jane Lebak is the author of The Guardian (Thomas Nelson, 1994), Seven Archangels: Annihilation (Double-Edged Publishing, 2008) and The Boys Upstairs (MuseItUp, 2010). At Seven Angels, Four Kids, One Family, she blogs about what happens when a distracted daydreamer and a gamer geek attempt to raise four children. She is represented by the unrivaled Roseanne Wells of the Marianne Strong Literary Agency.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

In Short: Writing a Novel Synopsis That Rocks: by H.L.Dyer

This is Part II of founding Query Tracker Blog author H.L.Dyer's series on synopses. Be sure to check her useful links for more information. Part I was posted Monday.

In Short: Writing a Novel Synopsis That Rocks

Okay, QT's... as promised I am back to discuss how to create a rockin' synopsis. Now--just like with a novel--there is no single way to write a synopsis. There are many folks on the internet and in Pitchcraft texts such as Katharine Sands' Making the Perfect Pitch or The Sell-Your-Novel Toolkit giving advice on how to write a compelling synopsis. I'll include links to several of the online references at the bottom of this post.

In general, the recommended processes fall into one of two categories: to start with your one-word logline and build up. Or to start with your novel and condense down.

While either method may work well for you, the best synopses in my experience were created using the second method. I'm going to describe the system I use for synopses and why it works for me.

When I first began preparing my manuscript submission, I drafted a 2-page synopsis using the "just describe your novel as briefly as possible" method. To admit that my original synopsis failed to rock would be an understatement. In attempting to be as brief as possible while "revealing all", I had virtually eliminated the component that makes a project unique.

I had surgically extracted my voice from my work.

Luckily, before I began submissions, I found another way.

A contest I was considering entering required an 8-page synopsis. I had read that agents or editors may request a "Chapter Synopsis," which is a brief summary of each chapter of your novel. So, I decided to write my chapter synopsis first, and then see where I was lengthwise.

Now, chapter synopses are not often requested, but I still strongly recommend you write one. Here's why:

1. For me (and for most writers I know), it is much easier to edit down than up. The chapter synopsis will hit all your main conflicts and give you the length flexibility to preserve your voice. Then you can cherry-pick the best bits when you trim down to the length you need. BONUS: Agents will request synopses of varying lengths. My requested synopses have varied from 1 - 8 pages. You can create these various lengths along the way as your editing progresses.

2. It's a lot less daunting to summarize a chapter than it is to summarize a WHOLE manuscript. The Baby Steps approach is nothing new, but it is surprisingly effective.

3. The chapter synopsis will help you to edit your novel Big Picture style. Our writing, our characters are personal. In the creative whirlwind of drafting a novel, we sometimes create scenes that don't resonate with the rest of the story. Once they've been created, and edited to polish the writing to a blinding shine, it can be easy to miss the fact that the scene isn't actually necessary to the story we're telling. Or that the characters have changed since the scene was written.

Each chapter, like a novel, should have a beginning, middle, and an ending. And the chapter, overall, should work to improve our understanding of the characters and to advance the plot. You might well discover while composing your chapter synopsis that a chapter or two needs reorganizing, or your novel may be stronger without them altogether.

So, here's my recommended method for writing your synopsis:

Step One: For each of your chapters, write 2 - 3 sentences to summarize. Use strong verbs and language that captures your tone and voice as much as possible. Focus on the CONFLICTS. For mine, I wrote three sentences for each chapter. The set-up, the conflict, and the resolution.

For example, my first chapter summary reads:

When a young girl collapses in an unfamiliar house, no one knows where she came from or how she ended up on war widow Thea Greyson's front porch that stormy night. Thirty years later, Beatrice is devastated by the death of the woman that took her in. But her grief turns to a sense of betrayal when she discovers the letter from her birth mother that Thea claimed was lost.

Which may seem familiar to you if you follow the BookEnds blog (where Jessica Faust occasionally critiques query pitches). Because, with some minor revisions... Hello, first-half-of-query-pitch!

Step 2: If you're having trouble identifying the beginning, middle and ending of a chapter, there may be a problem with the chapter itself. Revise your manuscript as necessary.

Step 3: Once you've written a few sentences for each chapter, check your summaries for chapters which are not working because they are unnecessary, tangential, inconsistent, etc. Revise your manuscript as necessary.

Step 4: Group your chapters into acts. Most story arcs follow a three-act format. The first act generally establishes the protagonist's starting place (the first act is also usually the shortest) and continues to the point where your catalyst drives or forces the protagonist to make or endure a change. The second act is represented by the series of events that bring the protagonist to the climax. In the third and final act, the story rises to its climax and resolution.

For example, in The Wizard of Oz, the first act would end when Dorothy lands in Oz. The second act would comprise the journey to the Emerald City, and the third and final act would consist of the climactic showdown with the Wicked Witch of the West, and the resolution where each character realizes they already have the power within themselves to get what they want.

Step 5: Get out your editing scalpel. Depending on the length of your novel and chapters, your chapter synopsis will probably be longer than your desired length. So now, within your three-act collections of chapter summaries, you'll have to start trimming. Based on the requests I've received, I would recommend trimming to a 5-page length, and then trimming further to 1 - 2 pages. You can always edit to other lengths if necessary, but the vast majority of requests are satisfied with one of those two options.

Step 6: Read your synopsis aloud to yourself, looking for words or phrases that fall flat or pull the reader out of the narrative. The end result should resemble the sort of descriptions you see for movies in TV Guide and the like. Brief and punchy... don't let yourself get bogged down in things like setting or physical descriptions of the characters.

Step 7: Check to be sure you've accomplished your basic synopsis goals. Have you established the main characters and their motivations? Have you demonstrated the main conflict and the obstacles preventing the protagonist from achieving his or her goals? Do the events of your plot unfold naturally without resorting to cliches or plot devices? Do your plot twists culminate in a climax? Is the resolution of the story conflicts thorough and satisfying (Have you tied up any loose ends?) Does the language and tone of your synopsis reflect YOUR voice?

If your synopsis has done those things, Congratulations!

You now have a synopsis that rocks. Yay, you!

Don't forget the Novel Synopsis Basics we talked about last post, or course.

For other folks' thoughts on writing a synopsis, check out these links:

Mastering the Dreaded Synopsis
Writing a Synopsis From the Ground Up
Writing the Synopsis: The Basics to Get Your Book Synopsis Written
How to Write a Synopsis
Workshop: Writing the Novel Synopsis
Jessica Faust posted a nice guideline of synopses on the BookEnds Blog.

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

Monday, March 21, 2011

Novel Synopsis Basics Part I: by founding QT Blogger, H.L. Dyer, M.D.

We receive questions regarding how to write/format synopses regularly, and rather than re-invent the wheel, I decided to pull out one of my favorite Query Tracker Blog posts written by one of our founding blog team members, H.L. Dyer.

Quantum of Synopses - Novel Synopsis Basics

Publishing your debut novel can certainly seem like an impossible mission. Since you’re following the QueryTracker.net blog, you’ve clearly realized that you’re going to need a special agent for this mission.

And, my little QT's, you need to supply that agent with the requisite bag of cool tricks.

Naturally, your gripping, marketable and, totally polished novel will be immediately available. And, of course, after Elana’s series of posts a couple of weeks ago, your killer query is ready to go as well. But there is one other item you need for your special agent Awesome Proposal Kit.

Yes… THAT item.

More overwhelming to write than a 100K word novel!

More fearsome than the dreaded query letter!

Run, don’t walk… it’s the SYNOPSIS!

But, honestly… the synopsis is not all that scary. I'm going to cover the basic structure of synopses today and the next post will address how to make your synopsis ROCK.

So, here are the rules of engagement:

Formatting: Agents may request synopses of varying lengths depending on their preferences. You should absolutely respect those requests. For a one-page synopsis, use single spaced block text, as you would for a business letter. For synopses longer than one page, use standard double spacing, just as you would for your manuscript.

Point-of-View: Regardless of the POV for the novel you’re marketing, a synopsis is written in third-person, present tense. So, “Dorothy and her friends plan to murder the Wicked Witch of the West,” not “Dorothy and her friends murdered the Wicked Witch” or “The scarecrow, the tin man, and I plan to murder…”

Characters: Focus on only the most relevant characters in your synopsis. Minor characters should be referenced by role, rather than by name. For example, “Scarlett tricks her younger sister’s beau into marriage" rather than "Scarlett tricks her younger sister SUE ELLEN's beau FRANK KENNEDY into marriage.” For main characters that must be identified by name, the first mention of the name should be in all caps. This makes it easier for the agent or editor to remember which character is which (after all, they’ll only have a couple of pages to get to know a whole book’s worth of new characters).

Plot: The synopsis is a way to evaluate your story from a big picture standpoint. Does your plot make sense? Do the events unfold naturally through an effective story arc? Is your ending a satisfying resolution to the story conflicts? The agent needs to know that your basic story works, and that means you have to tell the WHOLE story. Which is not to say you shouldn’t be brief—you don’t need to include every subplot. But you MUST reveal the major conflict’s beginning, development, and resolution. And that means INCLUDING the ending in your synopsis. The query letter is for teasing; the synopsis is spoilerific. Tell the WHOLE story.

Language: As you distill your manuscript down to a few pages, your word choices become critical. The synopsis is not the place for unnecessary adverbs and adjectives. It is also generally not a place for excerpts and dialogue passages. The language in your synopsis should be clear, concise, and easy to read.

With so many rules for such a short document, it can seem impossible to compose a synopsis that does everything it needs to do and still manages to be interesting to read. I’ll be addressing some tips on how to accomplish that goal in my next post.

So stay tuned! Part II will be posted this Wednesday, March 23rd.

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

Friday, March 18, 2011

Publishing Pulse 3/18/2011

Success Stories:

Jane Kindred  http://querytracker.net/jane_kindred.php
Amanda Sabourova  http://querytracker.net/amanda_sabourova.php
Mindy McGinnis  http://querytracker.net/mindy_mcginnis.php
Lisa Iriarte    http://querytracker.net/lisa_iriarte.php
Marian Pinera  http://querytracker.net/marian_pinera.php

A triple congratulations to our success stories as QT has just officially logged in our 500th success story! Congratulations!

Around the Internet:

Trying to figure out what strategies work best for your personal goals? Check out this article on the PSYBLOG.

Agent Rachelle Gardner has an excellent post on myth-busting common misconceptions in publishing. Part II here, and part III here.

Fellow QTer Carolyn Kaufman has an excellent post on whether or not your character should get a diagnosis

And finally, when is too soon to start social networking? According to Nathan Bransford, there's no such thing as too early.

Have a great week!

Danyelle writes MG and YA fantasy. In her spare time, she collects dragons, talking frogs, and fairy godmothers. She can be found discussing the art of turning one's characters into various animals, painting with words, and the best ways to avoid getting eaten by dragons on her blog.  

Monday, March 14, 2011


About six months ago, my agent and I were discussing a follow-up to the novel she had in front of her, and she said that when you write a sequel, the two books need to play into each other. They need to feel like each other, complement each other, and address the same questions. As kind of a one-off, she said that a sequel shouldn't be just 'the next book about the same character.'

I didn't realize at first what she said, but when it hit me, I was shocked. I understood then why some of my books took very well to a follow-up whereas others never got up enough steam, and I'd left them as stand-alones. By then I'd read hundreds of novels and completed an MA in English and no one had ever said it that way: a sequel needs to be more than just another book about the same characters.  

We'd discussed trilogies, of course, but trilogies divide up neatly into their own setup, intensification, and conclusion. It's different when broken up over two books. Ideally your two-book deal will have an overall arc: the first book will address the hidden need of the character, but the second book will resolve it more permanently or in a more complete form. 

More to the point, a great novel has characters with specific needs who have been put together by the author with a specific purpose in mind. If the author didn't intend to have that second book on the horizon, but sits down to write one, the novel won't work if all the central needs of the characters have been resolved.

And there lies your tightrope: your novel needs to stand alone; but in order to have a sequel, the characters need to be able to take their resolution further than they did in the first book. 

When you write a novel about a character, hold one thing in mind (told to me by author Alysse Aallyn at the 2010 Connecticut FictionFest): this should be the story about these characters' lives. Ten years from now, there won't be a better one. What you're telling now needs to be the moment these characters, at the end of their lives, will say it all changed: the pivot-point. 

Therefore you the author owe it to them to give the entire story its own harmony and its own set of central questions, no matter how many books it spans.

If not, then what you end up with is a book with another book tacked onto the end, the second book having a different feel, different scope, and an almost superimposed set of needs that should have been established (and worked on) in the first novel.

At the end, my agent told me to make sure that closing chapter points in the direction the next book will head, while still fully wrapping up that first book. The closing chapter of the first book, she told me, sells the second book.

And if the needs, the drive, and the conflict of the second book will be that dramatic a turn from the first book, possibly a sequel is not for this story. It might be time to end the story and start a new one.

Jane Lebak is the author of The Guardian (Thomas Nelson, 1994), Seven Archangels: Annihilation (Double-Edged Publishing, 2008) and The Boys Upstairs (MuseItUp, 2010). At Seven Angels, Four Kids, One Family, she blogs about what happens when a distracted daydreamer and a gamer geek attempt to raise four children. She is represented by Roseanne Wells of the Marianne Strong Literary Agency.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Publishing Pulse: 3/11/11

Agent Success Stories
Congrats to our four success stories this week.

Agent Related Advice
Assistant agent Natalie Fischer talked about when the client/agent relationship doesn’t work anymore.

Nathan Bransford explained this week why some ebooks cost more hardcover.
Pimp My Novel talked about five things to know about the e-evolution.

Writer Conferences
Are you going to any upcoming writer conferences? Agent Janet Reid shared some advice about the benefits of attending conferences and what you shouldn’t do after attending one.

Conference Handouts for Free
Check out this listing of free handouts from the RWA (Romance Writers of America) annual conferences. You don’t have to be a romance writer to appreciate many of the handouts, which include topics on craft and promotion.

Free Online Conference
And if you haven’t already heard, the 2011 WriteOnCon dates are now out. Mark off your calendars for August 16-18th.  You don't want to miss out on the awesome event.

YA Fiction and Teen Opinions
Agent Mary Kole discussed the hierarchy of publishing opinions when it comes to YA novels.

Turning Your Book Into A Movie
Agent Rachelle Gardner talked about in the Hollywood side of the book deal (parts one and two).

 Hope you all have a great weekend!

Stina Lindenblatt writes romantic suspense and young adults novels. In her spare time, she’s a photographer and blogging addict, and can be found hanging out on her blog, Seeing Creative.  

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Querying Age: Are You Too Young or Too Old?

                                        ©Stina Lindenblatt

I was recently asked if there is an age beyond which a literary agent will shy away from when it comes to signing a new client?
First, I want to make it clear. Never, ever, mention your age in a query. You only include the essentials. Your age is not essential.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a teen writing YA. Yes, your voice might be authentic compared to a ninety-nine-year-old writing a YA novel, but the agent doesn’t care. Nor is it important that you’re approaching the upper end of your life span.
The agent only cares about three things: your story appeals to her, she loves your voice, and your writing skills are honed.
That’s all. And these three things will be reflected in your query. Right?
The only circumstance in which you would tell the agent your age is when you’re a minor (under the age of eighteen). Then a parent or legal guardian will have to co-sign your agency agreement. But you only mention it to an agent when you get The Call. Not before.
And really, what does it matter how old you are? Sure, if you’re eighty, your writing career might not be as long as someone in his twenties. But the same twenty-year-old might die in a car accident and that’s the end of his writing career. You can’t predict these things, and neither can an agent.
So don’t worry about your age. Just focus on producing the best possible query and manuscript.

Stina Lindenblatt writes romantic suspense and young adults novels. In her spare time, she’s a photographer and blogging addict, and can be found hanging out on her blog, Seeing Creative 

Monday, March 7, 2011

Social Networking: So Many Options, So Little Time

Social networking is both a blessing and a bane to authors. It literally opens the world up, allowing authors to chat with people they never would have been able to meet in real life. It allows people to share insights and knowledge.

It can also become a huge time suck, and like anything social, can be filled with land mines.

So what's an author to do?

I think the first thing an author needs to do is decide why they are going to network, and then what, how, and how much. Nearly anyone that's ever blogged or networked can attest to getting burned out.

The Why
Networking can be rewarding for many reasons. It can be used as a way to branch out, to form friendships, to find some great support systems, a way to gnaw on ideas and share them, a way to help others, and a way to help promote your own books as they come.

I think knowing the why is a crucial first step, because you are projecting an image of yourself out there, and that image will become your brand. Knowing why you're there can help focus your efforts as you make deliberate decisions on exactly what your brand looks like.

The What
So, you've decided to dive in. Now what? What are you going to say? What do you have to say? From my own observations, those that are successful with social networking have something to offer. They might be funny, informative, have a beautiful voice, or any number of things. But the one thing they are not, is a commercial. While there's nothing wrong with mentioning yourself or your books, I would caution how many times you do it in a given time period. I'm trying to adhere to a 1:5 ratio. Me once, someone/something else five times before cycling back to myself.

Remember, this all goes back to branding--how people see you. If the only time they hear from you is when you're promoting your book, asking people to come to your signings, buy your book, or hey, look at this awesome review of *my* book, you're going to lose or even alienate the audience you were hoping to cultivate. You'll no longer be a person, but a commercial. And how many people pay attention to commercials? People are much more receptive to other people that have something to offer instead of always asking for something. Again, it's not bad to promote yourself, but I would do so with discretion. Be a person. Be yourself.*

I think it's also important to share things you're passionate about. Because all of the networking in the world won't do much good if you don't care about the things you're passing on--focus is the key. Some people are very successful in being eclectic in what they blog/tweet about, while others are less so. Find what works best for you.

The How
Now that you know why and what, it's time to figure out how. Something that I've discovered recently is that social networking platforms are not created equally. And, with the exceptions of blogs, it's easy to maximize your output with a minimum of time.

Blogs: Blogs are where the deeper sharing of ideas occur. You've got more space you can take up, people can comment, and conversations can happen. Blogs, for me, are where the essays are posted. The important thing to remember, as with all the different platforms, is to keep your audience in mind. I blog mostly about writing and anything writing related both here and on my personal blog. But even though I blog about the same topics, the tone is different. I'm more professional here, and a little more personal on my own blog. Different audiences have different expectations, and it's important to understand what the expectations are if you want to get the most out of the platform.

Twitter: Hit and run conversations and the spreading of links. Twitter's a great place to converse with writers, authors, publishing professionals, and nearly anyone you can think of. It's easier to do it on Twitter vs Facebook, because you can follow a person without them having to friend you back. It's also a great place to serve up links.

Paper.li: This is connected to Twitter in that it takes all your links from your feed and puts the most popular ones in the form of a newspaper. As of now, there's really not much you can do to personalize what you want topic-wise (at least to my knowledge), but that could change. I've recently started using this, and have found a lot of helpful links to writing articles I had missed before.

Tumblr: Twitter! With pictures! Tumblr has also been dubbed as the microblog of our times. So if you have important things to say, but prefer to disseminate the information in bites rather than all at once, Tumblr might be something to look into. I'm still experimenting with mine, but I've developed a love for feeds that feature books and pictures full of bookish places.

Facebook: Facebook is another great place to have conversations with people. The only drawback is that unless its a page, the other person has to friend you back in order for you to write on their wall. I like Facebook for conversations that are a little more placid than the rapid fire that is Twitter. And since the comments are all lumped together, it's a lot easier to follow the conversation.

How Much?
One of the most frequent complaints I've heard about social networking is how exhausting it is to keep up with everything. People get burned out, go offline, take blogging breaks, etc.

How much you participate in social networking will be a personal thing, but I do think it's important to maintain balance. Networking will help get your name--your brand--out there, but you won't be able to keep your career going unless you get that next book written, and the next. Not to mention that we all have lives outside of the computer screen, and this all takes time.

I think the most important considerations to take are consistency--whether it's blogging five times a week, three, or even once a week. Getting onto Twitter at certain times during the day, etc. Another thing to consider is activity. You want to be active on your accounts, but without draining yourself. A way to achieve this is by linking accounts. I have it set up so that anything I post on Tumblr automatically gets posted on Twitter, and anything posted on Twitter automatically gets posted on Facebook. So I can hit three places at once while only really visiting one. And I check up on @mentions and comments in between bouts of writing/revising or at night. This has saved me a lot of time.

So there you have it. What are your experiences with social networking? Which platforms work best for you?

*About the social networking being a land mine thing, remember, always remember, that the Internet never sleeps, and it's forever. It's important to be yourself, but it's also important to be mindful of the things you say and to remember that everything has its consequences.

Danyelle writes MG and YA fantasy. In her spare time, she collects dragons, talking frogs, and fairy godmothers. She can be found discussing the art of turning one's characters into various animals, painting with words, and the best ways to avoid getting eaten by dragons on her blog.  

Friday, March 4, 2011

Contest Update

Our recent contest with Weronika Janczuk closed this morning with 99 entries! I went through all of them to make sure things went into the form properly, and found no problems, so for everyone who entered -- your entry is complete, and has been forwarded on to Ms. Janczuk.

Please do not contact Ms. Janczuk or the D4EO Literary Agency directly regarding the contest. Winners will be posted here, on the blog, and put directly in touch with Ms. Janczuk once she has selected the winning pitches. We expect to have the results within two weeks -- probably sooner.

If you have any questions in the meantime, you can post them in the comments or shoot me (Carolyn) an email using the email address in the sidebar of the QueryTracker Blog!

Thanks again to everyone who entered, and to Ms. Janczuk for judging!

And if you weren't able to enter this contest, don't worry -- we expect to be having another soon!

Publishing Pulse: 3/4/11

Agent-Judged Contest Now Closed

Our contest with Weronika Janczuk is now closed.  Thank you to everyone who entered! I will post a little more information this afternoon, after I get a chance to count the entries and make sure they all came through all right.

Q&A With Leah Clifford: A Huge Success!

The Q&A with Leah Clifford last week went well and we have randomly selected two door-prize winners.

  1. The autographed copy of Leah's book, A Touch Mortal goes to Eliza Faith.
  2. And the ten page manuscript critique goes to Keriann Greaney Martin.

Winners, congratulations!  Please contact Patrick using the QT contact form at http://QueryTracker.net/contact.php for instructions to claim your prizes.

Thank you again to Leah, and to all who participated!!

Celebrating A Job Well Done

We want to give a little shout-out to another great writers' blog: Adventures in Children's Publishing is celebrating their 1st anniversary on March 10th—so Happy 1st Anniversary!

Around the Internet

Fantastic blog post over on Inkpunks: Lessons from the Slush Pile: Your Cover Letter and You

Blood-Red Pencil has some good info on how to consolidate your crit buddies' remarks into one document.

Rachelle Gardner gives you some tips on what to do When Multiple Agents are Interested

From Novel Publicity, 10 Tips to Get the Most Out of Twitter. And while you're at it, check out how to Build a Facebook Author Page and Get People to "Like" It

Carolyn Kaufman, PsyD's book, THE WRITER'S GUIDE TO PSYCHOLOGY: How to Write Accurately About Psychological Disorders, Clinical Treatment, and Human Behavior helps writers avoid common misconceptions and inaccuracies and "get the psych right" in their stories. You can learn more about The Writer's Guide to Psychology (or buy an autographed copy!), check out Dr. K's blog on Psychology Today, or follow her on Facebook!