QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Friday, March 29, 2013

Publishing Pulse for March 29, 2013

New At QueryTracker:

This week we've added one agent profile and updated six (two of whom appear to be no longer agenting). Are you querying one of them? Always make sure you double-check every agent's website or Publisher's Marketplace page before sending your query.

If you're a QueryTracker premium member, then you can be notified whenever an agent or publisher profile is added or updated. If you're not a premium member, you can just check for yourself.

Today is Good Friday for many Christian denominations. If you're celebrating the Easter holidays, have a peaceful and holy weekend.

Publishing News:

"Oddest Title Of The Year Award" goes to Goblinproofing One's Chicken Coop. (I'm kind of disappointed they didn't go with How Tea Cosies Changed The World. I could totally knit a tea cosy. It would match my iPod cosy.)

Malala Yousafzai, a teenager shot in the face for standing up to the Taliban, will publish her memoir with Little, Brown.

Around the Blogosphere:

Author David Farland administers a kick in the pants: how to be prolific.

Does your story open with a shock, or with a seduction?

One cause of unsatisfying writing: ping-pong dialogue.

Via Kristin Nelson: seven queries, seven rejections.

Literary Quote of the Week:

"In writing, plot is Soylent Green -- it's made of people. Meaning, plot is the sequence of events created largely by the characters." -Chuck Wendig

Thanks for stopping by, and keep sending those queries!

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

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

KDP Select: What Do Authors Think?

I'm a hybrid author.

I suppose that means a few different things. After completing my first novel, I embarked on an agent search--and you probably know the length of eternities between each agent reply. In order to keep my mind (and my inbox) busy, I wrote and submitted short fiction and poetry. Eventually, my short work was available in both print and electronic formats (and even a podcast or two).

My first novel was published traditionally by a small press (the team of which became my book's best friend). I'm also self-published as well: last year I created anthologies of my previously-published short stories and published them through both Smashwords and Amazon's KDP.

So, yeah. Hybrid. (And, considering my reliance on technology, I suppose I'm even the plug-in kind.) Although I'd only been writing "professionally" since 2008, I've tried almost everything at least once and, if I hadn't tried it yet, I'm probably seriously thinking about it.

I'm grateful to be traditionally published because honestly, it's a lot less work. I'd rather spend my time writing than publishing, if I can. Plus, I really value the relationships I've created with my editors. I like myself okay but, when acting as my own editor, it's just not the same.

However, there's a project in my WIP folder that I have set aside to become my first previously-unpublished story. I did the right thing by hiring professionals to edit and proof it, and am working with a graphic designer for a cover. Then there is the matter of how I'm going to publish it.

My gut was pressing me toward the KDP Select program. I'd have the same ease of publishing I experienced when publishing my anthologies and I had a rudimentary understanding of the payout structure, the whole exclusive-for-ninety-days thing, and the heralded glorious free day promotions. I figured once my other projects simmered down, I could take my time and really look into it.

This week, one of my publishers notified me that my July release is going on KDPS. Due to the 90-day exclusivity period, they've decided to put it up on Kindle early so that the three month period is over before they release and sell it on the publisher's website.

When I say "put it up on Kindle early" I mean "in the next few days.

Of course, I panicked. I have a book release this week and never knew about it! Kind of feels like a couch-bound cardio workout when you get news like that. After a moment of frantic emailing and texting, I took a big swig of Irish Breakfast and got to work researching what I thought I had months to do: the KDP Select.

Amazon puts it all out there right on their website. What I wanted to know was more personal: what do other authors think of the Select program?

Hitting the Books Blogs

When I sat down to begin my intense research, the first article I found was How Amazon's KDP Select Saved My Book. You would think with a title like that, it'd be a good article. Well, let me tell you: it was exactly the sort of feedback I'd hoped to find. Here was an author whose sales had flat lined. The KDP Select program turned out to be an AED*, resurrecting sales and downloads and sending them heavenward. Best of all, David Kazzie describes what happened after his free days. He still enjoyed an immense success with the program. His sacrifice for the exclusivity? Pretty much nothing. He'd sold only one copy on B&N leading up to that so it was a no-brainer.

Ok, that's one author's opinion. Although it's the one I wanted to hear, I figured I better keep reading. That's when I came across this post on the Huff Po. In Amazon: To KDP Select, Or Not? Jim Kukral surveyed several authors. There wasn't unanimous agreement, but enough positive response to make me feel good about my (and my publisher's) decision to go KDP Select.

There has to be a dark side to all this happy sunshine, right? I appreciated Victoria Strauss' article The Fine Print of Amazon's New KDP Select Program because it explains the payoff structure. This article was written in 2011--and I have yet to compare it word for word, number for number to the current guidelines--but it still breaks the main sections down and explains what it all means for the author.

Plenty of good reason she wrote this for the Writer Beware website. It's not a dark side, per se, but a serious one--authors enrolling in the KDP Select are signing a contract and every author had better understand what they are signing.

It's also important to remember how important promotion is to the success of your KDP Select's free days. Those free days are the program's sweetest plum and can be a huge missed opportunity if not promoted right. Author Kirkus MacGowan wrote about what he would have done better in his article My Experience with KDP Select. I think that is what is causing me the most amount of anxiety: the constraints of my day-job are absolutely the largest obstacle to my promotional activities.

And The Beat Blogs Go On

I am fairly confident that I can keep right on finding article after article on the pro's and con's of the KDP Select program.  I'm also fairly confident that the KDPS is still a great way to launch (or re-launch) a book.

Maybe I've failed to mention one of the most important aspects about the whole thing--for me, anyway. It's a chance to get my book in front of thousands of people. That day job I mentioned? I'll probably work there until I keel over, so it's not like I'm counting on KDP to be my one way ticket to economic stability.

Rather, it's my one way ticket into thousands of e-readers. That's what I want--my book loaded into a Kindle, waiting for the moment a person spies the cover graphic and dives in. I want my work to be on bookshelves, real and virtual. I want to be a click away from a hungry reader.

KDP Select promises me that opportunity. Now, it's up to me to make it work.

Ash Krafton is a speculative fiction writer who, despite having a Time Turner under her couch and three different sonic screwdrivers in her purse, still encounters difficulty with time management. Visit Ash's blog at www.ash-krafton.blogspot.com for news on her urban fantasy series The Books of the Demimonde (Pink Narcissus Press). Book Two "Blood Rush" will be released May 14, 2013, the same day her urban fantasy novella "Stranger at the Hell Gate (The Wild Rose Press) goes free with Amazon's KDP Select.

Monday, March 25, 2013

A Character By Any Other Name

New moms are forgiven for choosing awkward or overly popular baby names. Until you stand on that playground, you really have no idea that your child will not be able to pronounce "Ellison" until well after his fifth birthday, or predict that little Ava will share her name with two others in her class. After kid #1, we wise up.

Repetitive authors, what is your excuse? I have seen the name Gray or Grayson in ten different novels this month. (That is, unfortunately, no exaggeration.) There can only be two possible explanations: either authors are subconsciously imbued with 50 Shades sales figure envy, or worse--the imitation is intentional.

Granted, naming characters is not easy. Every time I name one, the new name jumps off the page like a counterfeit interloper until I've typed it at least a hundred times.

One way to make a character unique is to invent a name. But that's risky too.

My kids' recent obsession with Star Wars has brought a host of unpronounceable names to the family dinner table. It's difficult to say Count Dooku with a straight face. Ditto Qui-Gon Jinn. Not only are those characters' names awkward on the tongue, but both spellings violate English language expectations. For example, "ook" in English usually rhymes with "book" not "puke." And "Gon" leaves us similarly guessing as to whether the O should be a short or long vowel.

Yet some authors have perfect pitch. J.K. Rowling is a naming master. When we first meet Harry Potter, we learn that "his hair simply grew that way--all over the place." She's subtly merged a homonym physical characteristic of her hero with his appearance, and all before we get a sense of him. She loves using adjective suggestions in naming. The Dursleys live in Little Whinging (whining). Professor Snape seems to blend "snap" and "snake" and "cape" into one offensive bundle. Flitwick. Hufflepuff. Muggle. So colorful! How does the lady do it?

And what, if anything, can we learn from our favorite literary naming masters, without copying them? For the truly flummoxed, consider these two time-tested ideas:

1. Action is Good

When a verb or adjective is used as a name, the character takes on a gleam of action immediately. Luke Skywalker, for example, is a very memorable and actionable name. Write down some attributes of your character, and then squint at the things you've written. Is there a name in there somewhere? There are a surprising number of verb names out there in the ether, even in common names. Lance. Walker. Harper. Chase. And that's just for starters.

In Colleen Hoover's very successful book HOPELESS, the perfect boyfriend's name is Holder. And it is the perfect descriptor of his character. (Although I should point out that Ms. Hoover is another Grayson offender, but at least she gives it to a secondary character.)

2. Keep Looking, Seek Help

If you're just stuck for inspiration, there are two websites I find invaluable. Nymbler is meant for parents-to-be to brainstorm baby names. But unlike other baby naming websites, this one will generate a bunch of "similar" names from those you type in.  So if you're tempted by an over-popular name, put it into their algorithm and see if something just as wonderful pops out.

Also, if you just need to be realistic, and aren't sure which baby names were popular in, say, 1996, the social security administration is happy to help you. During my birth year (not 1996, unfortunately), Sarah was the 58th most popular girl's name. Jennifer / Michelle / Lisa were the top 3 that year.

Let us feel, authors, that your hero and heroine are unique yet believable. Go forth and name well!

Sarah Pinneo
is a novelist, food writer and book publicity specialist. Her most recent book is Julia’s Child. Follow her on twitter at @SarahPinneo.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Publishing Pulse: Friday, March 22, 2013

This Week at Query Tracker
The profiles of several agents were updated this week. Please make sure you double-check every agent's website or Publisher's Marketplace page before querying.

You can see the publisher updates list here. 

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

The Twitter Feeds
Victoria Marini @LitAgentMarini  anyone interested in writing YA must read this: http://www.yahighway.com/p/publishing-road-map.html …

Porter Anderson @Porter_Anderson MT @mickrooney7777: Five publishing industry trends writers should be aware of from @JaneFriedman http://fb.me/I3uJBP3N  @WriterUnboxed

GalleyCat @GalleyCat  Dust off your resume. Publishing jobs at @AAknopf, @globepequot, @hallmarkcards + more: http://mbist.ro/WUbiHv

Jane Friedman @JaneFriedman Excellent overview of today's book publishing landscape & power shift to authors: http://ow.ly/jfo0u  by @evanhughes @wired

EBook News
Sorry, ebooks. It's not all good news this week.

First off, the research is in. Pixels have not yet made paper obsolete: bookshop browsing is still vital for publishing.

Additionally, Digital Book World has reported on the apparent slowing of ebook growth.

But, don't fret, ebooks. There's hope for you, yet.

The Bloggity Blogs
If you aren't on a dial-up connection and you need a smile, see this post on the emotional rollercoaster of publishing. (Confession: an appearance from the Ninth Doctor cinched a spot for the post in this week's Pulse.)

Margaret Eckel offers a writer's perspective on publishing trends over at the Book Machine blog.

Variety is the spice of life...it's also a key element in making a living as a writer. See what Rachelle Gardner has to say about it.

Rejections Aren't Completely Useless
Grab that pile of rejection letters you can't seem to throw away and have a little fun: play rejection letter bingo, compliments of Writer's Digest.

Have a great weekend, everyone!



Ash Krafton is a speculative fiction writer who, despite having a Time Turner under her couch and three different sonic screwdrivers in her purse, still encounters difficulty with time management. Visit Ash's blog at www.ash-krafton.blogspot.com for news on her urban fantasy "Bleeding Hearts: Book One of the Demimonde" (Pink Narcissus Press 2012) and the follow-up "Blood Rush" due May 2013.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Five ways to keep up your motivation

A lot of the QueryTracker success stories involve writers whose book was rejected about a hundred times before they landed an agent. Miss Snark told queriers to plan on querying a hundred agents. Think about it. Think about ninety-nine rejections.

But don't reach for the bourbon right away. You need a game plan. You need to know how to stay motivated.

1) Don't get married to any agent's profile, twitter feed, or blog. A lot of agents sound chatty and personable on their blogs, and that's probably because they're chatty and personable. That doesn't mean they love you. Up until the moment an agent offers representation, assume your affection for your "dream agent" is entirely unrequited and one-sided.

You may feel connected because the agent has created a connection with many people online. Get too attached and it's going to burn like the dickens if the agent sends you a form rejection. (Not that it eases the pain to get a rejection beginning with "I love this book! But alas...") Moreover, being "married" to an agent in your mind will keep you from really looking at others. Monogamy is laudable, but not at this stage of the game.

2) Respond to rejections by sending more queries. Have your next ten queries in mind while you're sending the first batch of ten. When a rejection comes in, roll your eyes, square your shoulders, and send the next query or two. If you have a concrete plan for responding to rejection, you'll find it's easier to handle.

3) Incorporate rejection into your goals. Back in 2005 when I decided I was sick of being a failed writer, I set the goal of getting either ten acceptances or 100 rejections for the year. This covered everything: poems, essays, short stories, magazine articles, novels, even advertorial writing. To do this, I'd need to get two rejections a week, and doing that meant I had to submit two to three queries per week.

When you've got that many balls in the air, it's difficult to get too worked up about any particular rejection. For one thing, you don't have the time to wallow -- because if you wallow, you're not going to hit your short-term goal. And in a perverse way, rejections get you closer to the overall goal. "Ooh, only 46 to go!"

In order to achieve something this broad, you probably need to branch out. But the interesting thing is that while doing this, you're going to start wracking up some literary credits, which then make it easier to get more acceptances.

4) Change your own attitude. You wouldn't be getting rejections if you weren't actively pursuing your goal. In this age of no response means no, I found it helpful to respond (in my head) to actual rejection letters with "Oh, good -- this means I'm alive."

5) And most importantly: write your next piece. (Unrelated. Not a sequel.) Working on another novel will inevitably create in you a sense of love that dwarfs any feelings you have for the one still out there. Oh, you'll still love it, but if you're neck-deep in Manuscript B, a rejection of Manuscript A is going to have the same effect as a friend from high school mentioning your crush who dumped you three years ago. Yeah, that was great, but look at the one I'm with now.

You know may be a long slog; prepare yourself.

One final note: when I was doing my year of 100 rejections/10 acceptances, an established freelancer said to me, "How do you celebrate your successes?" I shrugged. She shook her head. "Do something," she said, "no matter how small." So I instituted my "acceptance routine" of eating one frozen fun-size Snickers and dancing with my Kiddos in the kitchen to the Happy Dance Of Joy.

It's silly, but just as it helped to have a routine for dealing with rejection, it also helped to have one for acceptance. I therefore pass along her suggestion: celebrate your successes. Partial requests, full requests, R&Rs, hand-written rejections that begin with "I can't represent this, but let me tell you how it changed my life," referrals to other agents, and even "I would really like to see your next piece."

Fortify yourself. You're on your way.

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

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Emotional Impact of Symbolism

by Stina Lindenblatt @StinaLL

©Stina Lindenblatt

One way to create a richer story is by weaving in symbolic subtext. This is also a great way to reveal the story’s theme. I know, you’re now groaning, no thanks to flashbacks to your high school English class. But it’s not hard to add symbolism when you consider how many things in our world have been assigned different meanings. For example, we associate red with passion, anger, embarrassment, danger, power. Crows are symbolic with death and magic. Symbols are also effective when you give them meaning based on your own story. If a character swims in your story, swimming or the water the person swims in might be symbolic, and is woven throughout, further heightening the symbolic subtext.

Subtext works both at a conscious and unconscious level. When we read a book or watch a movie, some symbols will jump out at us, especially if the creators have done a good job drawing your attention to it. With other symbols, you won’t stop to analyze it. For example, if the scene takes place in a room with green walls, you won’t be thinking that the director wanted to reveal the subtext of life. But you can guarantee someone behind the scenes purposely picked that color because of what it symbolized and not because it was her favorite color.

In the first season of Criminal Minds (spoiler alert), there was one episode (Compulsion) in which fire and the number three were important elements to the show. Among other things, fire represents anger and divinity. It was eventually determined that the unsub was starting fires based on the need to test her victims. If they survived the fire, they were free of the wrath of God. The number three (or rather the triad of the number three) would set off the unsub. The creators could have randomly selected any number, but three has a symbolic meaning. In Christianity, it represents the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.  As the unsub lined up the three bottles of flammable liquid, before dousing her three victims with them, she made reference to the bottles as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

The movie Sleeping with the Enemy is about a young woman who fakes her death in an attempt to escape her nightmarish marriage. During one scene, the abusive husband hits Laura (Julia Roberts) and she falls to the floor.  Laura pushes herself up to a sitting position, her long red hair spilling around her shoulders, legs bent to the side. At that moment, she reminded me of Ariel from The Little Mermaid. When Laura tries to stand, after her husband leaves, her legs are shaking so badly, she looks like Ariel after the sea witch turned her into a human, and Ariel takes her first steps into the new world. In Sleeping with the Enemy, this image is symbolic foreshadowing. What her husband doesn’t know is that Laura has been learning to swim, to overcome her fear of water. She is a mermaid, so to speak. Soon after, she fakes her death in a drowning accident and escapes to a new life.

That evening, after Laura’s husband hits her, he gives her red roses and red lingerie. They are supposed to represent his “love”, but they really symbolize the physical and emotional abuse (blood, danger) she suffers at his hands. After Laura escapes, she takes a Greyhound bus to a small town in Iowa. As it arrives, we see Laura looking out of the bus window and the reflection of the American flag waving in the breeze. The American flag symbolizes freedom and the home of the brave. A perfect symbol for Laura’s courage and her new life.

Symbols can show up once in the story, or they can be repeated throughout the book. They can be obvious, as what happens when the camera zooms in on the symbolic object, or they can be subtle, nothing more than a mere mention in the middle of a paragraph. Movies are a great place to learn about symbolism, since the director, writers, set designers look for ways to insert it. Most of the time, we don’t notice it at a conscious level. It impacts us subconsciously. But when done well, it adds to the emotional satisfaction we get from watching the movie or when reading a book.

Do you watch for symbolism in movies and books? Do you pay attention to it in your stories? 

Stina Lindenblatt @StinaLL writes young adult and new adult novels. In her spare time, she’s a photographer and blogging addict, and can be found hanging out on her blog.  

Friday, March 15, 2013

Publishing Pulse for 3/15/13

Around the Internet

The New York Times tries to explain the court case (and the very idea) of resellable ebooks. (While authors shudder.)

Nathan Bransford announces that he'll self publish a non-fiction book, and solicits advice on the process. The comments are full of authors' favorite web resources.

Media Bistro provides an amusing look at 25 Terrible Things You Should Never Include in Your Twitter Bio

The UK government added eBooks to the basket of goods it uses to gauge inflation. (Note: you may have to be both a publishing nerd and an econ nerd to think this is cool. I am both of those things.)

Sarah Pinneo
is a novelist, food writer and book publicity specialist. Her most recent book is Julia’s Child. Follow her on twitter at @SarahPinneo.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Violating the Copyright Laws?

by Stina Lindenblatt @StinaLL

 ©Stina Lindenblatt*

You have no doubt heard it a thousand times. Social media is essential if you want to succeed as a writer. And if you’ve checked out all the difference platforms available, you’ll notice they all have something in common: pictures.

The use of pictures or any sort of visual display adds interest to the post, especially on blog and Facebook posts. And they’re essential when you’re dealing with Pinterest and Tumblr.

As many of you know, there’s a nifty term called copyright. It protects our writing from being used without our permission. It protects songwriters’ lyrics from showing up in books and in the lyrics of other songs. Yes, read that sentence again if you were thinking of including copyrighted songs in your story. And it protects artists and photographers from having their pictures used without monetary reimbursement. If the work is copyrighted, you don’t have the right to use it without the creator’s permission.

But how do we know if the photos we want to use are copyrighted? Often we find pictures through Google images, and most of the time the pictures don’t list the photographer or don’t have a copyright symbol (©) associated with it. Except, there doesn’t need to be any of these things for the picture to be copyrighted. In Canada and the USA, the moment a picture is taken, it is automatically copyrighted. Just like the moment your words flow onto the page, they are copyrighted. You don’t need to register them to make them legally yours (though it is recommended that you do it if you publish them).

So what does this mean if you want to use a photo that doesn’t belong to you and you want to post it on your social media site? It means if you didn’t get permission from the owner of the picture, they have the right to sue you. The same is true if you decide to use more than a line from a copyrighted song on any form of social media or in your story. The songwriter can sue you.

Now you may be thinking, “But how is a photographer going to know I used their photo?” Bestselling author Roni Loren was sued last year for using on her blog a photo that didn’t belong to her. She thought she was safe by posting where she found the photo. That’s not true. She was still vulnerable. Apparently the photographer had a way of tracking down his photos when they were used without his permission. I’ve even stumbled across a blog that used a photo I’d taken, and the blogger never gave me credit (no, I didn’t sue her. I did email her, though).

When it comes to copyrighted material, don’t take the chance. It’s not worth it. If you’ve self published a story and used lyrics from a Rolling Stone’s song, what happens if the book because a bestseller and someone who knows the band reads your book? Hey, it could happen. If you self publish a story, expect to pay for the pictures you use, unless you get it from a stock photo site that allows you to use certain photos for free. But remember, if you do this you’re at risk of ten other authors having the same cover photo as you. I’ve seen that happen before, too.

Do you use photos on your social media that don’t belong to you? Have you found a site that allows you to use photos for free? Did you know you can only use a line from lyrics before you’re infringing on the copyright laws?

*(Don’t worry. If you violate the copyright laws, you won’t be sent to Alcatraz.)

Stina Lindenblatt @StinaLL writes young adult and new adult novels. In her spare time, she’s a photographer and blogging addict, and can be found hanging out on her blog