QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Your Author Playlist

Shutterstock photo by Stokkete
Creating a playlist for your novel is all the rage. The first time I saw this done was over at the Largehearted Boy blog, a hip outlet for all things music and literature. But now, novel playlists are as common as autumn leaves. I find them appended to the ends of eBooks, or as part of a book launch blog tour. For books with musical themes, they can be great fun.

If music is another of your interests, I hope you’ve read Steve Almond’s Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life. Not only is it a gut-busting funny read, Almond has many wise things to say about the mingling of fiction writing with song composition. As a music critic-turned-fiction writer, Almond has spent years analyzing the interplay between a good lyric and a good story. (Warning: in parts, the book is quite raunchy. And so funny that people will stare at you in the coffee shop as you try not to spit up your latte.)

But allow me a meta moment here. Forget about your characters and the fictional story you’ve built. What’s your playlist as an author? Since pop stars face the same challenges authors face, including writer’s block and copious rejections, there is some wonderful overlap in the canon.

I present to you an author’s playlist, with thanks to all the other QT bloggers for their contributions.


  1. We must lead off with Paperback Writer, by The Beatles. "Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book? / It took me years to write, will you take a look?"
  2. Two songs from CAKE’s Fashion Nugget fit the bill. Open Book is perfect for NaNoWriMo. "She’s writing / she's weaving / conceiving a plot." 
  3. And their Sad Songs and Waltzes is an hysterical riff on writing for revenge. The jilted lover has put it all into his music. Yet the object of the song need not fear, because “sad songs and waltzes aren’t selling this year.”
  4. Elvis Costello’s Everyday I Write the Book. Does this feel familiar? "Even in a perfect world where everyone was equal / I'd still own the film rights and be working on the sequel."
  5. Bonnie Raitt’s Luck of the Draw (written by Paul Brady) tells the story of waiting for success. "Tomorrow's letter by the hall doorway / Could be the answer to your prayers."
  6. BranVan 3000’s Drinking in L.A. humorously details the pitfalls of both procrastination and a floppy synopsis.
  7. Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark is an achingly apt plea for success.
  8. Mr. Writer by the Stereophonics is an (ill advised) battle cry over poor reviews.
Tell us, what are your favorites?



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.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Putting The Cart Before The Horse

Never put the cart before the horse.

It’s an adage used to describe the logical order of things—anything other than the horse in front would be preposterous. It’s just how things are done.

Writers traditionally write the book and, upon preparing to begin its marketing, realize that they also need a synopsis to summarize their work. That’s a logical order. A novel and a synopsis are two separate things, so it makes sense to do them separately.

Doesn’t it?

Depends on the writer, I suppose. While some writers are meticulous about creating outlines for their novels, many others are simply content to allow their muses the freedom to wander at will. We call them plotters and pantsers (because they write by the seat of their pants. Probably another adage, but it's best saved for another time.)

I’ve long debated whether I was a plotter or a pantser and, to be truthful, I’ve never been able to decide—until now. That’s because I finished the first draft of my work-in-progress this week and today I thought I’d work on its synopsis.

Bringing Back the Pain

I wrote the synopsis several years ago and hadn’t really looked at it since then. I felt very much like I’d put the cart before the horse when I wrote it; I had a general idea of where the story was going and a bare skeleton of story, but that was it. Before I threw myself back into the project this summer, I had written perhaps 20k words into the book. I’d tripled it over the last two months, adding flesh and blood to the skeleton.

Writers know the will of a story often overwrites the will of the writer. In the case of this manuscript, I encountered a pile of technical details that had to be sorted. The story is about a social worker who becomes involved with a client and, as more story got written, I realized my therapist faced greater challenges than the ones I originally gave her. Chalk it all up to truth being stranger than fiction, and fiction needing to make sense. (Brings to mind this QT article.)

The story evolved. It had to, if I wanted it to be any good.

Today, I pulled out the existing synopsis and realized it wasn’t good enough anymore. That meant the synopsis had to evolve, too.

I remember the first time I wrote a synopsis. I thought it would be impossible to pare down my novel into a mere page or two, and I struggled with it. I agonized over it. I hated every minute of it.

So I did the professional thing and sucked it up. I did everything I could to get better at writing them because I knew if I wanted to sell my book, I’d need a synopsis to sell it for me.

Although I haven’t learned to like writing those tedious things, I have improved my synopsis-writing skills. Knowing how important they are to the success of my projects enables me to respect their place in my work. I think that’s why I wrote that original synopsis back when I had only a handful of scattered chapters. It was a part of the book that couldn’t be shoved aside until the end.

I also have come to believe that I wrote that synopsis 20k words too late.

Redemption for the Evil Synopsis

This is like having one of those grown-up moments. I get them every now and then and they absolutely rot because part of me thinks I can be a kid forever. Synopses are very grown-up things. They are important marketing tools that are no fun to write but are necessary to ensure the success of our work.

Yech. Just writing that makes me look over my shoulder, looking for a walker or denture cream or some other sign that I had officially become Old As Dirt. It kind of deflates the exuberance of youthful devil-may-care imagining and creating and writing.

So why did I think I wrote it too late? Because, if I’d written the synopsis first, I’d have realized where my plot was weak, where my character’s waffled on their convictions. Much of the last two months of writing was spent trying to reconcile old material with the new. Had I written the synopsis first, the book would have had better direction, better flow, and I wouldn’t have had to spend so much time going through the chapters, wondering why certain scenes just didn’t work.

The synopsis, I realized, isn’t just a marketing tool—it’s a crafting tool that gives a novel a reason to exist, even before it’s written. I have come to realize that synopsing is just as important as the noveling itself. (Yes, they are now verbs. Somebody call Webster.)

And the best part is that I still don’t have to define myself as a plotter or a pantser. A synopsis doesn’t keep the crazy ponies of my writer’s mind from stampeding across the page. A story doesn’t cease to evolve just because it’s been plotted. And I’m still free to pants my pants off, however awkward an image that phrase evokes.

Put the Cart Before the Horse

I still don’t think I can cold-start a novel by writing a synopsis before anything else. My stories generally emerge from random scenes and passages I write while exploring an inspiration. If I like an idea, I’ll keep with it. But now that I’ve explored its tremendous usefulness as a crafting tool, I’ll pen a synopsis a lot sooner.

Synopsing early can identify themes I may have subconsciously written into those first few chapters—identifying those themes means I can go back through a first draft, adding subtle nuance or clever coincidence or full-tilt emotional enhancement so visceral no reader could miss it. Synopsing early means I don’t lose track of secondary characters or the importance of their roles in the story. Synopsing early means less pain later, when all I had to do is tweak and polish the synopsis before submission. When I finally finish this current book, I don’t want to delay sending it off. I’m way too eager to get back in the game.

That's a win-win-win for me.

Most important, an early synopsis ensures that the novel is a story is worth writing, while preventing a lot of deleted scenes and abandoned subplots along the way. Maybe it is a bit like putting the cart before the horse, but the horses appreciate knowing they have a cart to pull once I give them free reign.

And, once they start off, they don’t need to slow down until they get to THE END.




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 at www.ashkrafton.com for news on her urban fantasy series The Books of the Demimonde (Pink Narcissus Press) or stop by the Demimonde Blog at www.ash-krafton.blogspot.com .

Friday, October 25, 2013

Publishing Pulse for 10/25/2013



Success Stories


First, a great big congrats to our latest QT success story, N.K. Travers! Read the story here.


Around the Web

Ever tempted to turn your nasty ex into a character in your book? You might think twice after reading agent Janet Reid's take on the dangers of getting sued for libel in fiction.

At She Writes, Kamy Wicoff shares her decision to turn down a contract from a big house to go with a small press.

Book Vibe analyzes billions of tweets to pick up talk about books. You can use it to find your next read. . . or to check out how your own book is doing.


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,  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 ocean  in central New Jersey, with her husband and two of her three sons.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

How To Score That Book Review





If you want people to read your books, you need the get the right individuals to review them. I don’t mean your friends and family. I’m referring to book blog reviewers. I recently interviewed Laura Carter of Bookish Treasures to gain insight on how to increase the odds that your book will be reviewed on a blog. While not everyone will buy your book based on these reviews alone, it will get them thinking about your book.

Laura, what are some of your pet peeves for when authors approach you to review their book?

When people start with “Dear Reviewer.” It may be a bit petty but I really don’t like that as it seems a little like they can’t be bothered to find out my name.

What increases the chance that you will agree to review a book on your blog?

First of all, it actually being a book that I would be interested in. I get quite a few review requests for books that are nothing like what I feature on my blog and sometimes even are genres that I specifically state I won’t review.

A little extra explanation helps too as sometimes the synopsis may not cover the aspects of the book that makes it the sort of thing I read.

[Remember, querying a book reviewer is much like querying an agent or editor. The same etiquette that is expected when querying an agent or editor applies to book reviewers.]

What advice would you give to authors whose book is reviewed on a blog? Is it okay to respond to a positive review, or is it better not to comment at all?

As a reviewer when I give a positive review I really like it when the author comments thanking me for the review, especially if they requested it. If you didn’t request the review I think most people wouldn’t have a problem with you commenting.

If you ever plan to comment on a negative review be very careful. I personally wouldn’t have any problem with an author saying something along the lines of “thank you for your honest thoughts.”

What is the scariest thing that has happened to you (or that you’ve heard happening  to another blogger) when you’ve turned down a request for a review or gave a negative review?

Luckily I have never had anything bad happen over turning down a review request but I remember not too long ago a reviewer replied to a review request with a link to her review policy which stated that she was closed to review. The author then replies with a link to some sort of website or discussion which was about ways to commit suicide. I can’t remember who this happened to but she did write a blog post which you can probably find if you care to search. You also often hear about authors who verbally attack people who gave them negative reviews and often get their fans to do the same. Luckily that has never happened to me so far.

What can a self-published author do to increase the odds of her book being reviewed?

Make sure your synopsis sounds amazing. The majority of reviewers only accept a small amount of requests they receive so the better you sell your book with the request the more likely you are to get acceptances. Make sure the reviewer knows why you think they will like your book, if you have researched the people you plan on sending requests to this shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

Some authors use PR companies that organize blog tours. How have you found it working with these groups?

As a blogger I love working with PR companies though I am not more likely to accept a request if it has come through a PR company. In fact it is harder to say no directly to the author so I am more likely to accept direct requests.

You’re also an administer for a Goodreads New Adult Book Club. Do authors approach you to be included or is it something you choose on your own (or a combination of both)?

We set up a discussion thread where people suggest the books that they want to read. We then create a poll that has all the books that were suggested (unless they aren't NA or have already been a group read) and the group members then vote on which books they want to read.


When we created the group we decided that would be the fairest way to do it :)

[I’ve heard of authors trying to spam in these groups and being kicked out. This is not the best way to promote your book. It’s a great way to damage your reputation.]


If you decide to approach book blogs for reviews, remember that you won’t be the only one. A lot of other authors will be doing the same, especially with the most popular blogs. This means the sooner you contact the reviewers the better. Don’t wait until the week before your book is released and hope the reviewer can fit you in.

Have you tried querying book bloggers for a review?


Laura is a university student from the UK who loves books and anything related to them. She loves to lose herself in great stories that stay with you long after you have finished the last page. Whilst her current obsession is New Adult, her tastes in books are varied and she believes great books can be found in any genre. When she is not reading or studying Laura can usually be found spreading her love of books through blogging, helping authors and managing the Goodreads New Adult book club.  Laura is currently looking forwards to finishing her degree when she will then hopefully manage to fight her way into a career in publishing.




Monday, October 21, 2013

Reality doesn't have to make sense

I cannot tell you how often in critique group I've had or heard the following conversation:

Critiquer: This section felt a bit unbelievable.
Writer: But it really happened that way!

Or else:

Professor: I found this section unrealistic in its portrayal of police operations.
Writer: But it could happen that way! I spoke to a retired cop once and he said it.

The list of excuses is endless: I saw a news report that... I read a study that... My great-aunt said that... This is based on a man who did almost exactly the same thing!

Honestly? It doesn't matter.

Back in 2010, I came across a news story about a toddler who was ejected from his mother's car during a rollover crash. He was shot into the air over a twenty-foot sound barrier along the edge of the highway and into the back yard of two volunteers for the police department, who were trained to handle emergencies and just happened to be home at the time.

(If you're wondering, the mother was arrested on charges of child neglect because she didn't have a license and there were no car seats in the vehicle.)

My Patient Husband's remark was, "If that appeared in a story, no one would believe it."

No, as a writer, you couldn't do that. Well, maybe in a story about a guardian angel who was told by God to have fifteen of his friends over for a touch-football game, and between plays they noticed the car rolling over, and because they were angels they lifted the child twenty feet into the air to clear the wall, and then they went back in time to ensure two law enforcement officers bought that particular house and would be home to help the kid. You could swing it in Doctor Who, also. 

In a regular story, no. In  non-speculative fiction, it's best to go with the regular way of doing things even if the other way could theoretically happen, or is based on something that probably happened, or even if it did actually happen. 

In fiction, "it actually happened that way" means nothing. You're not going to be standing there with your reader saying, "No, it really happened!" Nor will you be including footnotes to news articles courtesy of the Wayback Machine. 

If you break the fictive dream with your reader, the social contract has been ruptured. The reader no longer feels like believing you because you as an author are unreliable.

Not the narrator (unreliable narrators are fun) but you the author.

Those little trustworthy moments add up to trusting you on the big ones. A friend of mine set an action-adventure SF novel in a series of caves. The overall story involved FTL travel, alien races, telepathic animals, and a bomb that could destroy a planet. Quite a lot to suspend your disbelief for, right? But her caving details were so dead-on-target-accurate that the whole setup was believable. (She got fan mail asking where she did her caving.)

If on the other hand the everyday details don't add up, the reader won't believe the big scene and the big situation and the big stakes you're setting up. And why risk that? Because something cool actually happened? But it's not reality. It's a work of fiction.

Yes, fiction has higher standards than reality. One of my writing professors used to reply, dead-pan, that in reality, a man in a clown suit may walk into the room, hit you in the face with a pie, and leave never to be seen again. But that's not something you want to put into your novel.

If something happens one way 99% of the time, it doesn't matter if it happens another way that other percent: do it the 99% way or you risk alienating all your readers who think, "No, I know that's not how it works." Or else prepare us far in advance for that 1%. Fold it into the story so that when the really odd thing emerges, we already know it's possible.

I'm glad reality rules and that the child in the news survived his brief flight. But children need car seats, and fiction needs to make sense.


---
Check out fellow QT blogger Ash Krafton's Fall Into Fantasy giveaway -- fifty fantasy and paranormal titles up for grabs! And one of them is mine.
---
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 swatting mosquitos. 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. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Publishing Pulse for 10/18/13

News from Around the Internet:


The week's biggest hubbub may be that the Kobo store took down all self published titles. Kobo has a rule against erotica, especially erotica themed on abuse. Discovering that some of the titles published on their platform violated this policy, the store took down all published titles while investigating. Other etailers also kicked out selected titles, hoping to purge the issue. There was much gnashing of teeth among indie authors over the disruption.

In more uplifting news, Forbes ran a piece on positive trends in the business of publishing.

Businessweek did a big article about the workings of Jeff Bezos and Amazon's rapid rise.

And there was much rejoicing over the study showing readers of romance were found to be more empathetic than the general population. (Note: your neighborhood statistics nerd always likes to point out that correlation does not equal causation. But read another romance novel anyway, because they're a whole lot of fun.)




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.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Ten Things I Need to Tell You. . .About Dreams Coming True

On October 1st, I celebrated the release of my debut novel, a mystery called Murder and Marinara. I have typed those last nine words dozens of times, yet I never tire of them. And that's part of what today's post is about. In the land of publication dreams, there lie some hidden realities--some wondrous, some worrying. And I've gathered a few of them for you in this handy list:

1.The time between signing the contract and your book appearing in print is anywhere between forever and eternity, give or take a month. Seriously, it's a long process. So hang on and enjoy the ride. In the meantime, you'll do things like approve cover sketches and edit jacket copy. That's the fun part. (Revising your entire manuscript with "track changes" on, not so much.)


2Saying "my editor" is almost as much fun as saying "my agent." But don't overdo it.



3. Most people will be happy for you. I have an inbox full of treasured messages of congratulations from family and friends who were giddy with excitement and happiness for me. My best friend from kindergarten showed up at my signing with a bouquet of roses, a bottle of bubbly, and a gift card to an Italian restaurant. Then she bought seven books. That's some love right there.


5. A few will not. Here and there you'll come across those who are envious or unhappy about your success. It's a sad truth, but part of the cost of this momentous achievement. Maybe they're frustrated writers themselves. Or maybe you've said "my editor" one too many times.

6.  You will be a raging diva the week before launch. While it is all wonderful and exciting, the time right before release has an effect similar to that steamy, frothing stuff that Dr. Jekyll drank. About a week out, you'll start twitching; be prepared for bulging eyeballs, bouts of tears, and flashes of temper. Thank goodness your family loves you.



7. Prepare to be obsessed with numbers. Sales numbers. Amazon numbers. Numbers of stars on reviews. Numbers of bloggers on your tour. Numbers of review copies that go out. Numbers of ratings on Goodreads. Numbers of friends on Facebook. You get the idea. I'd like to provide more examples, but I have some flow charts I'm working on at the moment.

8. Have ready answers to the following questions: How long did it take you to write the book? and How did you get published? Hands down, these are the two questions I get asked the most.

9. The party is the best part. Have one. It can be four friends and a pizza, but celebrate. There's only one first time. And finally. . .

10. Having a pen name may pay off in unexpected ways:


The beauty of alphabetical order.






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, 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. You can visit Rosie on Facebook, Goodreads, or at www.rosiegenova.com.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Publishing Pulse for October 11, 2013

New At QueryTracker:


This week we've added two agents to our database and updated eight agent profiles. Because things change so quickly in this industry, please 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.

Publishing News:

Alice Munro has received the Nobel Prize for literature.

GoodReads has apologized to members whose reviews it deleted under their new policy and will be sending back the content of those deleted reviews to the reviewers (although they cannot be re-posted.) 

Around the Blogosphere:

via The Passive Voice, how no-inventory publishing changes everything for everybody.

How characters exert control.

If you've ever found yourself unable to sleep, consumed by curiosity as to what is the worst fairy tale ever, Elizabeth Scalia has the answer. Fortunately it's part of the Common Core curriculum, so our children won't be tormented by the same question. The post is worth reading just for the "newly suspicious palms."


Agents give an overview of new trends in YA. (Hint: avoid even a whiff of dystopia.)

The length of your book should fit the subject matter, audience, and genre.

NPR talks about first novels and the literary agents who fall in love with them.

Literary agents Jennifer Udden (of Donald Maass Literary Agency)  and Bridget Smith (Dunham Literary) have posted the first episode of their new podcast, Shipping And Handling. Look for it soon in iTunes, too!

Literary Quote of the Week:

 I want the reader to feel something is astonishing. Not the 'what happens,' but the way everything happens. -Alice Munro

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 swatting mosquitos. 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, October 9, 2013

Where The Truths Be Told




Before you send out your query to an agent (or publisher), it’s important to do the necessary research to reduce the risk of a rejection. 
 
One of the first places to look is the individual’s website. If the agent doesn’t list your genre/category, he isn’t a good match. Please don’t waste his time (and yours) by querying him. The exception is if you’ve seen on Twitter that the agent is suddenly falling over himself for books in your genre. Then query away. 

If you check the Querytracker database and it doesn’t list YA (for example) as a category the agent is looking for, check the raw data for queries sent (found with the Premium membership). If you see people have sent queries for YA and he’s NEVER requested material from any of them, then don’t add yourself to the list. He’s not interested. Get the hint.

The next thing querying writers tend to do is search writer forums for information about agents. These forums are great for giving you feedback as to the expected wait times, and can be super supportive while you wait and wait and wait to hear back from the agent. The downside is that bitterness lingers in some of these forums. People understandably don’t like rejections. But because of the anonymity of these forums, some individuals enjoy spreading bitterness by attacking agents (or publishers). And unfortunately other like-minded individuals do the same thing and start saying things that might not necessarily be true. 

If an agent tries to defend himself, the angry folk pull out their pitch forks and add more negative comments, thereby further besmirching the agent’s (or publisher’s) reputation. They figure if the agent really is good, then his clients will stand up for him. 

But here’s the deal, his clients are busy with other things. They are waiting for their books on submission. They are writing their next book. They are editing the book sold to a publisher. They are promoting their new release. What they aren’t doing is hanging out on the agent’s forum. They don’t need to anymore. They have an agent. Their dream agent. The agent who is doing more for them than is revealed on these forums. Unfortunately you won’t know this because you only see the negative comments, or the comments that don’t really tell you much, other than writers are still waiting to hear back on their queries. 

So what can you do when researching an agent to potentially query? You can look up the agent or publisher on P&E (Preditors & Editors), and you can talk to writers (offline preferably) about their agents. But not all writers are going to be willing to talk to you, unless they know you. All you can do is query the agents who seem like a good choice, based on the interviews you’ve read and their blog posts and tweets. If the agent does offer representation, make sure you ask them lots of questions and talk to some of their clients. You’ll learn more from their clients than you will from the poisonous grapes who leave negative comments on the forums.

And if you are rejected by an agent or publisher, please be professional and keep your negative comments to yourself--unless you have proof that the agent is performing unprofessionally. And in that case, you can fill a complaint with P&E. 

Where do you find your research before querying an agent?



Stina Lindenblatt @StinaLL writes Young Adult and New Adult novels. In her spare time, she’s a photographer and can be found at her blog/website. She is represented by Marisa Corvisiero, and finds it weird talking about herself in third person. Her debut New Adult contemporary romance, TELL ME WHEN, will be released Jan. 20, 2014 (Carina Press, HQN).

Monday, October 7, 2013

Reaching One Reader at a Time

We talk a lot on this blog about having our work read and reviewed, and how to frame our thinking around negative feedback.

That's all part of the writer's life, and it's never going away.

But every once in awhile we're handed a counterexample which makes it all worthwhile.

At a conference last year, I heard YA author Cynthia Leitich Smith tell a story about an email she'd received from a teen-aged girl which began: "I hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate your book." The young reader had objected to the way the story's heroine had set aside her abusive boyfriend to be alone again. The message was a bummer, but Smith is a pro, and takes reader feedback in stride. Imagine her surprise when she received yet another note from the same girl a couple of months later. "You probably don't remember me," it began. (Oh, but she did.) The young woman went on to recount how she'd been facing an analogous problem in her own life, and that she'd eventually come around to the same important decision as the character in the book.

So, while we're busy racking up the rejections, publicity snafus and writer's block, be sure to spare a few millimeters of your battered heart for the possibility that you might actually get through to someone who needs you.

And here's the crazy thing about being there for someone--you don't have to write a groundbreaking feminist take on Dracula to do it. Sometimes we reach readers in the most unexpected ways.

My first book, a cookbook, was published six years ago now. So I don't wander past its Amazon page very often. But I happened to stop by recently and found this review:
First Cookbook Replaced: I originally purchased this cookbook last winter after learning of it from a friend. Having prepared several recipes (the brownie recipe is my stand-by) it quickly became my favorite.
In August, our home burned to the ground as a result of a wildfire. This cookbook was the first one replaced. The process of starting over is challenging at best but having a familiar item and favorite recipes (the soups and brownies are the best) has helped established a new normal.
Just... wow.

So, if you can hark back to that moment in Julie and Julia when the blogger is ready to put her manuscript in the mail. She says something like (and I'm paraphrasing badly): at this moment anything could still happen.

And that moment in that film was meant to tease us with the possibility of success beyond our wildest dreams. You might end up with a quirky best seller on your hands, which is eventually made into a film by Nora Ephron and starring Meryl Streep. Honestly, that probably won't happen.

But before you allow yourself to be beaten down by one more rejection of your work, stop for a moment to take a little hit off of someone who was or will be moved by your writing. The rags to riches stories are fun, but they're not everything. You're going to reach someone. Even if your book doesn't top the charts, and even if its intent was simply to provide awesome chili recipes. Your audience is out there, waiting for you. Don't let them down.


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.