QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Interview with Rosie Genova, Author

Today's post is dedicated to author Rosie Genova, whose debut cozy mystery "Murder and Marinara: An Italian Kitchen Mystery" will be released October 2013. Rosie will be hanging out with us here at the Query Tracker blog so let me introduce her to you.

Welcome, Rosie Genova! 

Tell us a little about yourself.
Well, you can take the girl out of Jersey. . .except I never left. I was born here, schooled here (Go RU!) wed here, and work here. And my books are set here.

I grew up in a tiny, working class town that had a cool old library, and I spent hours there. Becoming an English teacher seemed like a natural progression from being a bookworm, and I’ve been in the classroom 23 years. When I was home raising my sons, I wrote for a regional family publication, which provided me my first byline and a valuable way for me to hone my craft.  In 2006, I wrote the draft of my first novel, and have been working steadily as a writer ever since.

You're represented by Kim Lionetti of BookEnds. Any highlights you'd like to share from your querying process?
I had a number of times I came close with well-known agents who represented women’s fiction, and I learned from each of those rejections. I was lucky enough to go to Kim with an endorsement from an editor at Berkley with whom she’d once worked; she liked my query and requested a partial. I still remember the Sunday afternoon I opened my email to find a message from her that read: “Loving this so far. Please send the rest.”

What do you like best about partnering with a literary agent?
She knows the business in ways that I never could, and has access to people I could only dream about contacting. My focus was always traditional publishing, so an agent/author model works best for me—I know it’s not a model everyone embraces, or even needs. But her guidance and advice has been invaluable, and she tells me the truth, even when it’s not what I want to hear. She also laughs at my jokes, which helps a lot.

I remember when you shared pages with me from your "Shakespeare by the Shore" manuscripts. Loved those stories--and deeply distressed that it's not certain when I'll get to read those books. Tell us what happened to those stories--and, subsequently, your publishing focus.
Those stories are still living and breathing. I open them up and still derive pleasure from reading them. I believe in them, and believe they have an audience, but the time isn’t right. I’m considering self-publication, but that’s probably a couple of years away. It’s also possible that if the mysteries do well, I’d have a platform to try to get them published the traditional route. And thanks for the kind words!

How did you react to Kim's suggestion to switch genres?
My romantic comedies circulated among editors for three years. We had several “rejections with regret” but they were perceived by editors as chick lit, end of story. (They are, in fact, “chick lit-erate,” and that’s how I’ll eventually position them.) When Kim called to suggest I try a cozy, I balked at first. Plotting does not come easily to me, as I’m generally a pantser when I work.

Mysteries call for tight, logical plots with no holes, so I was intimidated. But Kim reminded me that she could sell a cozy based on three chapters and a synopsis, so it wouldn’t require the time investment of my women’s fiction.

When I talked it over with my family, my son Adam said he’s always thought I should do a mystery,
and my beloved husband offered me these words of wisdom: “Listen to your agent. She’s sold a lot of books. You haven’t sold any.”

So I worked on the proposal, and had Kim and a couple of trusted readers look over the pages. After another round of edits, Kim submitted to three houses. Within six weeks, all three had offers on the table. I ended up signing with Penguin’s NAL division for three books. Let’s just say I have since taken my hubby’s words to heart.

Tell us about your new writing persona: Rosie Genova. What can we expect from Rosie?
Well, while Rosemary is off spinning romantic tales based on Shakespeare, Rosie is dreaming up ways to knock people off. She’s also coming up with recipes for fabulous Italian food—never let it be said that her victims don’t get a savory last meal. Rosie is the author of the Italian Kitchen Mysteries, a new series of cozies set at the Jersey shore. The first of which is Murder and Marinara, which releases October 1.

From the back jacket:

Hit whodunit writer Victoria Rienzi is getting back to her roots by working at her family’s Italian restaurant. But now in between plating pasta and pouring vino, she’ll have to find the secret ingredient in a murder....

Where can we find you on the web?
You can find me at www.rosiegenova.com, on Facebook, on Goodreads, and occasionally at www.rosemarydibattista.com.

Can we have a sneak peak at a future project?
Absolutely. Book 2 in the Italian Kitchen Mysteries is tentatively titled The Wedding Soup Murder.  Victoria’s grandmother puts her in charge of catering a large wedding reception with a menu featuring the Casa Lido’s famous Italian Wedding Soup. At the reception, Vic tangles with a couple of egocentric chefs, a spoiled bridezilla, and the snooty club president. But by the time the wedding dust settles, one of them is dead, and Victoria once again finds herself on the case.

If you could go back five years and change something, what would it be and why?
You mean besides getting that bad haircut or eating all those cannolis? Assuming you mean in my writing career, not very much. Five years ago I signed with Kim, and that was one of the smartest professional moves I’ve made. I did try my hand at a more serious novel that I have since trunked. If I had to do it over, I would spend those couple of months coming up with better jokes instead.

Do you have a favorite writers’ resource, such as a book, a website, a course, or an association?
I know I’m biased, but I love the Query Tracker community. There are few writers’ forums with the level of support and lack of snobbery found here. Personally, I have found two critique partners here who’ve been invaluable to me.

I also think that it’s important to become part of a writers’ community within your genre through email loops, but I’d suggest lurking for a good long while before posting. It’s important to separate those who provide genuine support from those who are just there to hawk their wares. And if the tone of the group is whiny or complaining, that’s probably not the place for a fledging writer to try her wings.

What's your message to the writers who haven't "made it" yet?
I think there are many definitions of “made it.” It could be the moment you print out that first manuscript. Or the first time an agent asks for a partial. Maybe a dozen people comment on your blog post, and only one of them is your mom! I think the secret is savoring all the small triumphs along the way, and constantly honing your craft.

As a writer, I embrace some words of Hemingway: “It is better to be lucky. But I would rather be exact. Then when the luck comes you are ready.”

If I had to come up with some essential message, it would be pretty simple. Work hard. Be exact in your writing. And be ready for the luck when it comes.

I couldn't agree more. Buona fortuna, Rosie, and welcome to the Query Tracker Blog! We are lucky to have you here.

Be sure to watch for Rosie's book and join us in welcoming her to the QTB!

About Rosie Genova...

A Jersey girl born and bred, Rosie Genova left her heart at the shore, which serves as the setting for much of her work. Her new series, the Italian Kitchen Mysteries, is informed by her deep appreciation for good food, her pride in her heritage, and her love of classic mysteries, from Nancy Drew to Miss Marple. Her debut novel, Murder and Marinara, will be released October 1. An English teacher by day and novelist by night, Rosie also writes women’s fiction as Rosemary DiBattista.  She lives fifty miles from the nearest ocean  in central New Jersey, with her husband, two of her three sons, and an ill-behaved fox terrier.

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" was released May 2013. Currently, her urban fantasy novella "Stranger at the Hell Gate" (The Wild Rose Press) is available on Amazon's KDP Select.

Monday, May 27, 2013

An Author's Complete Guide to Using Goodreads, Part I: Mechanics

Goodreads.com, recently purchased by Amazon.com, is the largest social media platform for book lovers. With over 10,000,000 members, and a focus on reading and but reading, it is a great place to find readers for your book. While logging in and using the site is simple, some features are much more powerful than others, and deserve attention and scrutiny.

Part 1: Mechanics will step you through the (occasionally counter-intuitive) usefulness of various features, while Part 2: Dynamics will cover the philosophy of staying zen about the star ratings system and an author's place in the feedback loop.

Goodreads.com Under the Hood

Like Amazon.com, Goodreads is a giant database of books in print. Readers create a login, and then add books to their virtual "shelves" in order to track their personal experiences with books. My Goodreads bookshelves currently contain 484 titles, including 322 that I've read, and more than 150 that I aspire to reading.

Goodreads is also a database of readers. Members can friend each other at will. Just as on Facebook, friendships do not have to be accepted.

But friending is only one way to "meet" people on Goodreads. The other way is to join a "group." Groups are usually organized around interests. There are groups devoted to YA, to fantasy, to cookbooks and yoga. And there are a few groups organized by geographic location.

To help Goodreads members find your book, consider any of the following:

  1. Set yourself up as an author on Goodreads. To do this, your book must already be part of the Goodreads database. Click on the author (that's you!) and follow the links to the Goodreads Author Program. In essence, you're claiming your book as your own. It will be linked to your personal user profile.
  2. Friend people (you can start with me if you wish) who read in your genre, and then link your personal blog to Goodreads. Why? Because when your friends login to Goodreads, they see a feed of friend activity. And your blog posts will become part of your feed. This is a very valuable way to make sure that readers find you, remember you and keep up with you.
  3. Join a group which is genuinely interesting to you, and then contribute to it. Keep up with discussions, and contribute in a meaningful way. That is: don't spam the group with nudges to buy your book. That will only make enemies.
  4. Make sure your book is part of a "list." Example: my novel is part of a list called Foodie Novels. Any Goodreads user who clicks on the list, presumably after enjoying another foodie novel, will be taken to a list containing my novel too. Isn't that handy?
  5. Add quotes from your book to the quotes database at Goodreads. If another user "likes" your quote, it will show up on his or her profile. 
  6. List a giveaway for your book the month before it comes out.
Each of those suggestions helps readers find you, because it isn't enough to simple create a profile and expect to be found. Goodreads is a big place, so give it some time. Fill your shelves with books that genuinely interest you. (As a reader, I'm suspicious of friend requests from people with 1,574 friends and 8 books on their shelves. Just sayin'.)

Not only will you potentially attract readers, but you may discover how useful the website really is. I keep my "to read" list there, and use the iphone app to carry my ambitions into the local library in a portable way.

Until next time, happy Goodreading!

In Part II of this series we will handle the, er, emotional impact of Goodreads reviews, and frame our thinking around healthy success. (Hint: 5 star reviews aren't the only ones worth having.)

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, May 24, 2013

Publishing Pulse: May 24, 2013

Jane Friedman developed a great infographic explaining the 5 different types of publishing--good information especially if you're trying to decide whether you want to self-publish or go a more traditional route.

Jody Hedlund addresses readers' criticism of authors--when is it too much? She advises that we always remember what it would be like to receive a nasty critique, and to be gracious in how we approach other writers.

Jody also has some tips for you on crafting a great book review.

We all need beta readers, no matter how good we are at our craft. Here Janice Hardy provides some insights on finding good betas, and why you need more than one.

Why attending a literary event may be the best way to land a literary agent of your own.

I read several great articles on self-publishing this week!

Be sure to check out these 5 Must-Do PR and Marketing Tips When Self-Publishing.

Another one for self-publishers--dealing with the ISBN. GalleyCat gives you some advice.

And then there's the all-important question--would self-publishing be a good option for me? Ask yourself these questions to find out.

Have a great weekend and we'll see you next week!

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

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

This is all great, but why am I reading this?

I'm critiquing a manuscript right now that's very good from a technical perspective. The writer knows her stuff, isn't making a lot of mistakes in terms of character or description, could marginally improve on some aspects, and has a firm command of sentence structure and language usage. We've had some exciting passages and characters struggling for their lives. But I have no idea why I'm reading this story.

Authors sometimes develop tunnel vision. To take a shot at an easy target (sigh) one of my critique partners asked me straight up, "What's the relationship between the main character and her mother supposed to be?" What kind of question is that? To me it was beyond obvious how the mother felt about the daughter and how the daughter felt about the mother. To me. It's not properly evoked in the manuscript, and so to everyone else, it was an unsettling bit of vagueness, and my critique partner is correct. It needs to be remedied (do you love my use of the passive voice there? Can you tell I'm reluctant to go back and edit?)

I couldn't see it myself because I knew what I meant. I suspect it's the same for the writer I'm critiquing now, and in case it's the same for you, here are some questions to ask yourself.

Is the main conflict of the story reflected in the first thirty pages? I'm not talking about jumping right in with all the juicy stuff you're rightly holding back until the proper time to reveal, but your actual story question. Let's go back to Star Wars (the first film) where our introduction to Luke shows us someone who feels oppressed by his circumstances, feels restless, feels he could do better, and is being held back by the constraints of the man serving as his father figure. We've already seen the Empire in action. Even without Lucas stopping the film to say "Wouldn't it be great if this restless, ambitious spirit could be put to use helping the Rebellion?" we feel that's the direction the story has to take.

Imagine if you just started with Luke going to town with his friends and drinking a beer, getting into a bar fight, tossing a quarter to an intergallactic beggar, repairing a broken droid he finds by the side of the road, chatting with a space trader... All the while he could be dropping hints that he's restless and his uncle is holding him back, and maybe we'd know there are Stormtroopers around. It could be exciting and well-written, but without the larger context of why any of this matters, we won't have a sense of where Luke is headed, and therefore where the story is headed.

You may think it's obvious what shape the story is going to take, or that your characters are pawns of the oppressive Evil Empire, or that your main character needs to develop self-confidence, but make sure it actually is. Go back into the text and actually highlight for yourself that the clues are there. 

You have to telegraph the main conflict of the story in your opening. Keep it understated, but include it. Your young magician is going to need to overcome his past? Fine. In the opening chapters, show a way in which that unspecified past is holding him back. 

Let's say you're reading a novel that opens with a mom and her seven-year-old child over dinner. There's no father or husband at dinner, and this appears to be their norm. Okay. Well, you can look at the cover or the category and figure out it's a romance, so probably the woman is going to meet someone and fall in love. But you're a bit directionless unless something happens during the dinner to tell us what is the obstacle to meeting someone and falling in love.

Child: "Oh, I forgot. We had a substitute for the afternoon. Mr. Miller got called out all of a sudden."
Mom: "Yeah. Probably fooling around with the school secretary."
Child: "What?"
Mom: "Nothing. Did you like the sub?"

Gee, she's bitter. Is that her past speaking? Was it the child's father who cheated, maybe her own father? Also, she doesn't mind talking right over her child's level of understanding -- was she treated with lack of respect as a child? Or is she just starved for adult conversation?

These are the tidbits we need in order to form a coherent world view within the story. We're also going to need to know how this woman fits into her society, how her situation compares to  those around her, how being single impacts her life and her child's life. Maybe it's beneficial to her to remain single because she's getting a barrel of money every month in alimony -- but show all this. Let us know what's holding her back and what's propelling her forward.

In Save The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need, Blake Snyder goes one further, and suggests you state the story's theme in the opening scene. We need a signpost so we know where we're headed. And yes, this works with my general aversion to opening a story with an explosion of action. We need to care, and before we can care, we need to know why we care. 

If you're on the road and you pass a sign that says Boston - 60 you have your direction, your time, your expectations. It does the same to telegraph the protagonist's hidden need and give a hint at the general problems of the world he's in. Once we know where your story is taking us, we're happy to come along for the ride.

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. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Rejection: #1 Cause of Writers' Neurosis


It's a cruel beast, one that strikes through the heart of even the most stalwart person. Writers must be gluttons for punishment because our profession, by nature, is fraught with rejection. I've been asking for it myself for years now, as I've queried agents and editors and publishers while submitting my non-novel stuff around to everyone who'll read it. I've heard "no" more times than I can count.

And it never gets easier, not even when the no's are accompanied by apologies and compliments and offers to try again with something new. Even the form rejects hurt, making us think--what, I'm not good enough to reject personally? And how about the ones that say this is good but it doesn't fit my list/this issue/our publication? It's still a no. And it bugs us.

All these no's make it hideously easy for writers to doubt themselves. I used to wonder sometimes why I hadn't developed a complex. I wonder today if, in fact, I have.

Like most working writers (I hope so, at least) I have an email compulsion. I need to check and re-check and re-check often, hoping for a return on a query or a submission. I even developed a sort of separation anxiety since my day job is a twelve-hour shift without Internet. It had become so difficult to endure the day job-email blackout that I got a data plan on my phone. (And then I got a new phone because it was too hard to read mail on my Crackberry. Go figure.)

One day, my way out of work, I downloaded my mail to find new messages. Yay! I had that tiny thrill of happy-happy that momentarily satisfies my email compulsion. Even better when I saw two emails from a journal I'd submitted to back in October.

Of course, doubt strangled my excitement and the first thing I thought was, Oh great. Rejections. And sure enough, the first one was a form rejection. Boo.

Why bother checking the other right now? I thought. After all, it wasn't like the other had a subject that read BUT THIS ONE WE LOVED! Being a sadist, however, I decided to read it and get it over with, so at the first stop light, I hit retrieve. By the time the light changed, I'd noticed it was still downloading.

Fantastic, I thought. So much for painlessly ripping off that Band-Aid. The connection was murderously slow. Figures. This rejection was really going to make me work for it. I canceled the download and started over as I headed over the mountain. Fifteen minutes later, though, it was still only half downloaded.

What the heck? Curiosity consumed me. I pulled over onto the side of the road and checked the file size of the rejection. Eight MB. Ok. I checked the other one. Thirty-two hundred. Ooooo-kay. Which could mean…maybe not a rejection after all. I couldn't do anything about it, being in a low signal area, so I stowed my phone in my purse and resumed my drive home.

Here's where the whole I-think-I-have-a-complex comes in. I instantly began to doubt it could be good news. But I didn't have just any old doubt. Oh, no. This was Writer's Doubt to the nth degree.

Over the course of the next ten minutes, I went through a series of stages of doubt that ranged from maybe it's a form rejection and a copy of their newsletter to maybe it's a rejection and a copy of their submission guidelines with a warning to follow them next time. By the time I got home, I'd reached the confidence-crippling final stage of it's got to be a list of reasons why they're rejecting it accompanied by a wav. file of all the editors chanting YOU SUCK! YOU SUCK!

It took a while to get up the nerve to turn on my laptop and actually read the message. My heart was in my throat and my anxiety was so palpable the dog hid under the table and whined.

Stupid doubt. My poetry submission had been accepted and the email contained the contract.

Whew. Talk about dodging a bullet. I chuckled and sank bonelessly onto the couch, promising myself that, next time, I won't doubt myself to the point of neurosis.

But eh, who am I kidding? I may write fiction but I can't kid myself into believing that fantasy.

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" was released May 2013. Currently, her urban fantasy novella "Stranger at the Hell Gate" (The Wild Rose Press) is available on Amazon's KDP Select.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Publishing Pulse for 5/17/13

Success Story

Please congratulate Naomi Hughes on her recent success at finding an agent! You can read her interview here.

Quick Tip 

Agents and publishers are gearing up for Book Expo America. Response times are likely to slow down until it's over.

Around the Internet

Consumer spending on books in 2012 was up 6.9% over 2011! (**flings confetti into the air**) Come on, economy. You can do it.

As reported on GalleyCat, the Department of Justice looked at eBook pricing before and after agency pricing took effect with five key publishers in April 2010. Very interesting reading, here.

Flying in the face of "write what you know," a 29 year old Chinese American from Queens is making waves with his novel about Mississippi. And the author has never been to Mississippi.

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, May 15, 2013

Catching Up with Our Now-Published Contest Winner

Amy Sue Nathan was one of the five winners in our April 2010 contest with agent Jason Yarn. She went on to become one of Jason's clients, and her first novel, The Glass Wives, came out yesterday. We're pleased to be able to find out how far she's come since our last interview with her!

Tell us a little bit about your novel and where people can learn more about it and where they can get it. 

THE GLASS WIVES is about Evie Glass, a divorced mom whose ex-husband dies suddenly leaving her the only parent of ten-year-old twins. Then, when Evie finds she’s strapped for cash, she takes in her ex’s widow and baby, so they can share living expenses and childcare. Troubled by this decision, Evie’s friends and family try to intervene, forcing Evie to walk out on long-time friendships until the widow causes a ruckus of her own. That’s when Evie has to decide who she can trust, and what really makes a family.

On May 14th THE GLASS WIVES became available in bookstores (indies and Barnes & Noble) as well as at Target stores. It's also available online everywhere books are sold.

What inspired you to write The Glass Wives? Where did the idea for this story come from? 

Like my main character, Evie, I’m a divorced mom in a suburb where everyone is married. And like Evie, my ex-husband passed away suddenly. When I divorced, I felt that some people were uncomfortable having a single mom for a friend. When my ex-husband died, well, they just didn’t know what to do with me, or my kids. We didn’t fit into any of the fixed suburban circles and frankly, I think the sadness in our lives overwhelmed them. Writing this novel allowed me to put this kind of discomfort—and its ramifications—on display and show that families are equal no matter their parts, and that the term broken home is outdated. There may be a few cracks in our walls, but broken? No way.

The sales aspect of writingproducing a good pitch and query and providing a great excerptcan be very challenging for some writers. How did you learn to produce such catchy material? Were there any particular resources you used?

I have always belonged to writing groups and online forums, but I'd say in the years leading up to up querying my novel, the best resource was Backspace, where traditionally published authors (Karen Dionne, Randy Susan Meyers, Keith Cronin, and A.S. King, for example) and a few literary agents, were kind enough to give me tips, guidance, and advice that I always took to heart.

Do you have a writing routine?

When I'm on track I write fiction in the morning and non-fiction—essays, blog posts, interview questions, and interview answers (like these)—in the afternoon and evening. Working at home and being a single mom means I have to be flexible. Today my daughter had a doctor's appointment in the morning, so I did my fiction writing in the afternoon.  But my preference will always be morning. I'm an early bird!

What is the single best piece of writing advice you've ever gotten?

Recently, while working on the beginning of my new novel, I kept thinking about best-seller trends and what my editor would be looking for.  I considered fitting elements like magical realism or a heated romance, into my new story. And then Therese Walsh, author of The Last Will of Moira Leahy and co-founder of Writer Unboxed told me something very simple: separate the craft from the business. I wrote it on a sticky note and stuck it to my computer. She was right. I couldn’t worry about whether the book would sell, all I could do, at that moment, was to tell the story I needed to tell. And for me that story does not include zombies or a hot shirtless hero. At least not today.

What has been the hardest or most surprising thing you've learned on the journey between the time Jason began submitting to editors and your publication date?

That patience in publishing is not simply a virtue, it's a necessity.

What is the most important (or surprising) thing you've learned about publicity as you near your publication date? Do you have any advice for others on publicity?

I've learned there's no such thing as too much publicity. I'm not sure about "any publicity is good publicity" adage, but we'll see!  My advice would be to seize every opportunity to build relationships with readers and other writers because in the long run that will go farther than hundreds of "buy my book" tweets.

Are you working on any new projects? Can you tell us anything about them?

Absolutely! I'm always working on a few things, and right now I'm writing a novel about a blogger who tells lies online and keeps secrets in real life and what happen to make her finally truth. I'm also jotting down notes for two more book ideas I'm excited about. I know if I don't write down my ideas I'll lose them. Sometimes my best scenes are written on the backs of envelopes or napkins while I'm standing in the kitchen or parked in a parking lot!

Visit Amy Sue Nathan on her website, Twitter @AmySueNathan, or Facebook!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Out of Context

by Stina Lindenblatt @StinaLL

 ©Stina Lindenblatt

Two weeks ago, I wrote a post that resulted in a level of interest and comment that I never expected.  One of the individuals in question pointed out that her conversation on Twitter was taken out of context, which is one of the unfortunate problems of social media. But the situation led me to think about the issue, one that we all face at one time or another. The question is: how do you make the most of it?

As readers, we see things taken out of context all the time when it comes to books. You might pick up a book in which a major reviewer has stated on the cover, “The imagery is a glorious treat for all the senses.” Wow, pretty impressive, and if you love great imagery, you might buy the book. What the author cleverly avoided was to include the rest of the five hundred word review in which the reviewer trashed the book. We see it all the time. As readers, this is where we become victims of things taken out of context. But as authors, those snippets can be a great tool for promoting your book.

In my past life, I was a drug rep (not to be confused with a drug dealer, thank you).  Pharmaceutical companies (like many other industries) are notorious for taking things out of context. In Canada, there are rules against highlighting passages in medical reprints and showing quotes out of context, but that hasn’t stopped reps from still pointing them out. And do you think they point out the conclusion that shows all the drugs in the study had the same efficacy and safety profile? No, they point out some tiny quote that makes their drug look superior.

Now, I worked for a company that took a different approach. They preferred we travelled the rockier high road. So instead, we donned our fire-fighter suits and tried to stomp out the fires. Unfortunately, the competition hired more reps than we had for a given drug, so we were never successful in stamping all the fires out, and the devastation was never pretty.  I learned it’s a waste of time trying to do this. You’re better off letting things slide and focus on your own brilliance. People move on and what was taken out of context will soon be forgotten, unless you make a big deal of it. Take the opportunity to show your strengths instead of fighting back. Focus on the good, not the negative.

While no one wants to be quoted out of context, there’s not much you can do about it if it happens. Just remember, the odds are greater that it will happen if you say something on social media. This is especially true with Twitter. We’re supposed to be writing our books. We’re not supposed to be spending hours upon hours reading every single tweet to make sure we understand the entire conversation. Often we don’t see the entire conversation because the tweet wasn’t linked to the rest of it, and thousands of other tweets were published between the two.

The best thing you can do is watch what you say, and remember your intended meaning might be lost if your wording means something different to the other individual, based on their own personal experiences. Again, this is a weakness of social media. You might be having a conversation with one person, but that person isn’t the only one reading the tweet. Not everyone is going to get what you’re saying, and it could end up being taken the wrong way.

Have you ever had to deal with something you said being taken out of context? What did you do about it?

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.  

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Author Daphne Uviller on Asking for Blurbs

Daphne Uviller’s novels (SUPER IN THE CITY and HOTEL NO TELL) manage to be at once both smart and hilarious.  If you haven't read them, you should do so. Right now. Not only is Daphne herself both smart and hilarious, she has tackled a subject which terrifies so many authors (including me): Blurb Acquisition.  —Sarah P.

By: Daphne Uviller

You’re scanning books on the New Arrivals table of a bookstore (in this scenario, the end of civilization as we know it hasn’t yet arrived). You rapidly pick up and put down volumes, your neurons going slightly haywire over how to make sense of the crowd of titles begging for your attention, each of them desperate to take you out to dinner and a movie, maybe get to second base if you’d only give them a second glance.

Are you the type to be seduced by a cover? A first line? Do you go the Biblical route, letting the book fall open to a random page, and wait for soulful connection to leap forth?

Or do you read the blurbs?

Really? Huh. Tell me now. Is it the name of the blurber that attracts you? Or the title of her own book? Is it the phrase “New York Times bestseller” next to his name? Surely it isn’t the actual blurb itself. You don’t actually get around to reading that, do you?

Tina Fey is famous enough that she could afford to mock the entire blurb phenomenon on the jacket of Bossypants (“Totally worth it.” —Trees) and, like the rest of that book, she carried it off with self-deprecating humor. But the rest of us must use every last tool in the shed to promote our books, and the process of self-abasement begins long before your book jacket is even designed.

Scene II:
You’re sitting with your editor at a midtown Manhattan restaurant and you’re just so excited that someone is paying for your lunch and that you can say things like “lunch with my editor” that you don’t think to dread the awkward conversation about to unfold.

You’re each armed with a list of potential blurbers. On yours, some are friends who have published books who will almost definitely do you this favor; some are biggish names that friends of yours might ask on your behalf; and some are pie-in-the-sky reaches.

Yes, it’s your college application process, relived in all its horror.

Your editor goes first. She suggests a well-known writer who is in her stable and therefore (theoretically) easy to get. Alas, you’ve never heard of this well-known writer, but you don’t want to admit that you’re so unaware of your fellow writers, and, in particular, your editor’s other writers, so you feign excitement and hopefulness. “That would be AWESOME.”

Then you say, nervously snapping your breadsticks, what about, hee-hee, this is crazy, oh my god, I’d be so psyched, Nora Ephron?  And your editor dutifully scribbles something in her notes, and now it’s her turn to feign excitement and hopefulness. “Wow. That would be just...wow. I’ll see what we can do.”

With those out of the way, you turn to reality. “My friend came out with her first novel last year, and I blurbed her book, so she’d probably blurb mine.”

Great, great! What else?

“Um, well, this other friend, her book was serious literary fiction, not at all the same genre as mine, but she was a New York Times bestseller—”

“ASK her!”

So Hotel No Tell is blurbed entirely by kind friends: Jenny Nelson (author of Georgia’s Kitchen, which I blurbed) was well-matched to my book in terms of genre. Then I have Janice Y.K. Lee, who managed to complete her New York Times best-selling novel The Piano Teacher in small part because I made her meet me for writing dates, so I think she felt obligated. I’m extremely proud of my books, but I bet Janice was a little embarrassed. My publisher put her blurb on the front cover.

Then we alit on new territory: Hollywood. I remembered that I have friends who have written movies, funny movies. Movies that were actually made and released. Hey, this was interesting... And so, to my great delight, I have a perfect blurb by the writers of Dinner for Schmucks. These kind, talented men were, not to put too fine a point on it, fresh meat. That is, not too tapped out by dozens of previous requests to groan at mine. I think, I think, they actually enjoyed the task.

Years ago, after she’d established a rock-solid writing career but before summiting the Everest that was Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert promised me, “If you write a novel, I will blurb it. Remember that when you need incentive to keep working.” I finished my first novel just as the world was in the midst of its EPL frenzy. I gave Liz the option of backing out of her promise, telling her I understood that her name was now a commodity to be protected.

Forty-eight hours after she received the manuscript, she e-mailed me her blurb. My agent was able to put it on the manuscript of Super in the City before we sent it out to editors. It was rejected by seven houses before it was accepted, but I’m convinced that her blurb got my manuscript to the tops of editors’ piles.

There are writers known as “blurb whores” – people who will blurb just about anything with pages, and I think this is an outrageous stigma. What these generous people are doing is sharing their fame and good fortune, trying to extend it to help you, the newbie writer.

I hope one day to be well-enough-established that my skimmed name and praise on the back of a book jacket would be of some help to another writer.

Sarah: Thank you Daphne!  Can I ask you a question?  If you could ban any three adjectives from all future book blurbs, which ones would you choose?

Daphne: "Thoroughly enjoyable," "entertaining."  And "readable."  Because they damn with unoriginal praise.

Sarah: Ah, yes.  Sort of like calling a wine "drinkable."  Although... having a glass of drinkable wine while asking for blurbs is probably a good call.

Daphne: Indeed.


This post originally appeared on Blurb is a Verb, the book publicity blog. You may also be interested in How to Ask for a Blurb (Even When You're Intimidated).

Monday, May 6, 2013

Do I Need a Literary Agent?

I’ve gotten several questions via email recently asking me about how to go about finding good literary agents, so I’m working on a series of posts about figuring out if you need an agent, whether you’re ready to start querying, finding a reputable agent, and choosing someone who really “gets” your work. Of course, QueryTracker.net will help you through all of the stages I’m going to discuss, and fellow QT blogger Jane Lebak recently wrote a great post on How to Use the QueryTracker Site.

Base image: DragonTash
Do I Need a Literary Agent?

Though the role of literary agents is changing, there are at least a couple of reasons you may want one. First, they are well-connected in publishing, which means they may be able to open doors you can’t open yourself. Second, they are experts on the publishing business, including negotiating contracts.

Literary agents have traditionally been the gatekeepers between the writer and publishers. There are an awful lot of people who would like to get published, which can leave publishing houses inundated.  For this reason, the biggest publishers closed their doors to unsolicited materials. Literary agents provide a screening process, weeding out all but the very best of the material that is submitted to them.

Statistics vary, but most agents say they reject between 95% and 99% of what crosses their desks. (If you’re interested in a particular agent’s statistics, QueryTracker provides detailed information on how often each agent in the database responds positively—with a request for more material, for example—vs. negatively, as is the case with a rejection.)

Agents develop relationships with publisher editors who are interested in the types of material that agent represents. So when Agent X approaches Publisher Y to say that the editor should take a look at Writer A’s manuscript, the editor is open to learning more.

As publishing experts, agents know the market well. They know what is selling, to whom, and why. They may know about markets you’ve never heard of, and they know how much editors are paying for particular types of manuscripts. They can also negotiate contracts (which include when, how, and how much the writer will be paid) and can act as a go-between with the writer and the publisher, especially if something goes wrong or the writer needs some help. [Edit: A reader notes that agents can also help negotiate foreign rights and film rights.] Usually they can negotiate better contract terms for you, both by knowing what they want removed from publishing contracts and by knowing what should be added or changed. You pay for this service by giving your agent a percentage of everything you earn (usually 15% - 20%), but particularly if the agent negotiates better terms than you could negotiate yourself, their work may proverbially pay for itself. It is in a reputable agent’s interest for you to make as much money as possible, because that's the only way they get paid!

Some agents represent a book or a series of books only; other agents represent the author. Many writers prefer to work with the latter type, as these relationships tend to be longer-term and often  include help with their writerly career—improving manuscripts, trying out new ideas, and so on.

So when would you not use an agent? If you are self-publishing, you probably won't use an agent. Also, some writers decide (even if they have worked with an agent or agents in the past) that they are happier or more comfortable going it alone.  They prefer to approach small publishers directly and are comfortable negotiating their own contracts (or hiring an attorney familiar with literary contracts just to review a proposed contract).

Because good agents are picky about who and what they represent, some authors get so focused on finding an agent that they forget that not all agents are equal. First, not all “literary agents” are legitimate or reputable. Second, all of us get along better with some people than others. It’s important to find someone who “gets” you and your work. I’ll be exploring these issues in upcoming posts.

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, May 3, 2013

Publishing Pulse for May 2nd, 2013

New At QueryTracker:

This week we've added one new agent profile and updated two. Publishing is a fluid industry, so 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 Orthodox Christians. If you're celebrating the Easter holidays, have a peaceful and holy weekend.

Publishing News:

Hachette will now make its ebooks available to libraries.

Amazon's first quarter sales are up 22% while net income is down.

One year later...TOR announces the results of going DRM-free. No discernible increase in piracy. 

Around the Blogosphere:

The problem with "revealing" information that's already been revealed in your back cover copy.

11 signs you're meant to be a writer.

Wrinkles in time: how to handle flashbacks.

Closure and stakes for your character.

A judge for a literary contest shares the most common error in novels.

Literary Quote of the Week:

"The difficulty of literature is not to write, but to write what you mean."
- Robert Louis Stevenson

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, May 1, 2013


A few months ago, I watched a video with the well-known indie author CJ Lyons from a February writers event held at www.IndieReCon.org. She talked about what it takes to really break out as a sustainable writer: in her words, it's not your first book that makes it…but rather the fourth or fifth.

That's pretty straightforward stuff. Real numbers. It's kind of EXACTLY the data we needed. It's just a little intimidating.

Four or five books? Hard to accept that as a real goal when you are querying for the first time with your first book. Finishing a book---settling on a final draft, putting down the red pen, writing THE END (and meaning it this time)--that was a tremendous accomplishment in itself. It's so difficult to absorb the idea that we have to do this three or four more times before we see a measurable success.

A tad bit frustrating, isn't it?

Many of us come across QueryTracker.net because we've decided that our project is worth being published. We are committing ourselves to the scary unknowns of a crowded business but we HAVE NO PATIENCE. We expect to query our dream agent, get a lightning fast response full of praise and accolades, and go from agent contract to publishing contract in the time it takes to spin around three times and throw a pinch of salt over our shoulders.

We've read the stories that pop up here and there about these sorts of lightning-strike successes. The
reality is that the overwhelming majority of us are in for a much longer process.

It's tough to reset our expectations but this is where patience comes in--and we are going to need a lot of it. It's also a perfect time to consider our long-term goals. If you can keep the bigger numbers in mind, then you can use it to your advantage: write your next book, and the wait won't be such a drag.

Distraction Equals Opportunity

Writing your next book will help you manage the frustration and the itch of waiting. I am the Empress of Distractions (in fact, writing this post is a distraction from writing my current book) so I've learned to use distraction to my advantage. When I was querying my first book, I wrote poetry and short fiction as a means of combating writer's block. I'd take all the bits and pieces that were worth saving and wrote publishable pieces around them. Without realizing exactly what I was doing, I was learning patience by distracting myself from the wait--and I also improved my craft and built a published bio in the meantime.

The point is: writers need to write. A writer should spend more time getting words down than getting the word out. Books sell--and those books need to be written. There is no better time to embark on a new writing adventure than the moment after we’ve finished patting ourselves on the back for completing the last. (And, if you are wacky like me, you'll be writing more than one book at a time, hopping back and forth between Word documents as the mood strikes.)

Forward, March!

Yes, it is a wonderful place to be in life: finished manuscript in hand, agents' email addresses and Twitter feeds up on the screen, your polished query in the cut-and-paste file, ready for the inserting and the tweaking and the sending. It is a wonderful place to be when you can finally mail out the book and wait for the inbox to ping with responses. But imagine: a wonderful life awaits the writing writer who perseveres and keeps writing. Each book is better than the last because we learn along the way. By the time we hit our fourth or fifth book, we'll have arrived at mastery of the craft.

Enjoy the moment while you are querying. You've earned it because you've worked hard for it. However, now it’s time to think about the future. When a prospective agent asks you if you have anything else to send over or inquires about your long term goals, you'll want to be ready with a viable list. Considering a series? Have a few ideas for stand-alones? Start thinking about those next books…and start writing them now.

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. Currently, her urban fantasy novella "Stranger at the Hell Gate" (The Wild Rose Press) is available on Amazon's KDP Select.