QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Friday, September 26, 2014

Publishing Pulse for September 26th, 2014

New At QueryTracker:

The QueryTracker bloggers have decided to change our Publishing Pulse schedule to the second and fourth Fridays of the month. Please update your calendars accordingly.

Check out our newest success stories, Christopher Buecheler and David Noer. Congratulations, Christopher and David!

We've added six agent profiles to our database and updated eighteen. That's a lot of motion in the industry, so 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:

Amazon is launching a new crowdsourcing program. Details to come later.

Remember when we wrote about diversity in publishing? It's not just diverse books we need, nor just diverse authors.
...of the 630 respondents who identified their race, 89% described themselves as white/Caucasian, with 3% selecting Asian and another 3% indicating Hispanic. Only 1% said they are African-American.
Clearly we need more diverse publishing personnel too. Read more. 

More about Big 5 Publishing vs Amazon:
To criticize Amazon, the publishers and their defenders must simultaneously insist that literature is essential for society, and that a sudden increase in its availability would be a catastrophe.

If Amazon vs Hachette is looking bad, just wait for the audiobook wars.

Around the Blogosphere:

How not to get your book into Barnes & Noble:
Going through corporate headquarters is one of my favorite things to do because it always works out well for me and is not frustrating or time-consuming at all.

The care and keeping of your writer friend:
Then, she did a brave and admirable thing. She said to me, “How can I love you, as a writer? How can I talk to you about your work?”

Writers as casualties of commerce

Have you ever wondered what would happen if your book changed a reader's life for the worse?

An analysis of the profit margins in publishing. (Hint: it's not very upbeat.)

Literary Quote of the Week:

Thanks for stopping by, and keep sending those queries!


Jane Lebak is the author of Seven Archangels: Annihilation. She has four kids,  three books in print, two cats, and one husband. She lives in the Swamp and tries to do one scary thing every day. You can like her on Facebook, but if you want to make her rich and famous, please contact Roseanne Wells of the Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Challenges of Writing a Sequel

When I first set out to write my debut novel, I hadn’t planned for there to be a sequel. I wanted to write a standalone book. But as I plotted it, I realized I wouldn’t do the story justice if I threw in the big court trial at the end. It wasn’t part of the character arc at that point, and I wanted to make the most of the trial. The only problem was I had no idea how I was going to do that. But I didn’t care. I only had to worry about writing the first book. I’d worry about the sequel later if the book was ever published.

Not a problem. At least it wasn’t one until after I’d had written the book and had no idea what was going to happen in the sequel. I knew there had to be one. There were a few unfinished threads left hanging that called for a sequel (and my publisher agreed). Fortunately, I found the idea for a story from watching the news while on vacation. TIP: If you’re going to write a book with a possible sequel, figure out where book two will go while you’re still writing the first book. It will make your life simpler later on, especially if you need to introduce a few threads in the first book.

I learned a few things other things while writing the sequel. Or rather, I hit a few problems with my sequel. By the time I was editing the second book, the first one had already gone to production. I realized the trial date I had identified in the first book would no longer work in book two, and it was too late to have it changed in the first book. Let’s just say there was some creative reworking of the sequel to work around the issue. TIP: If you’re planning to write a sequel, before you publish or query the book, make sure you have a loose outline planned so that you know if you will have to change the dates in the first book. It’s a lot easier to do that before the book is published. And figure out the sequence of events on a calendar. That would have saved me a lot of work. I would have seen that I was trying to squeeze in too much in a short period.

Another challenge of writing a sequel comes from forgetting minor details in the first book and turning them on their head in the sequel. I realized after book two had gone to production that I had messed up a small detail, but fortunately the sentence was able to be reworked. I wasn’t worried, though, if it hadn’t been fixed. I had a plan B if I wrote a third book to the series. It wasn’t until the ARCs had already gone out that I remember another place in the book where I had made the same mistake. Fortunately this mistake, as it turns out, is going to work to my advantage in the next book in the series. I couldn’t have asked for a better mistake. But yes, it would have made things easier if I had reviewed my secondary character’s backstory while writing the second book. TIP: Keep detailed notes about everything, including things pertaining to your secondary characters, and review them frequently.

A final challenge you have to worry about deals with readers remembering who the characters are and their role in the story. Some readers will have recently read the previous book. Others read it when the book came out and don’t have time to re-read it. You have to be careful not the bore the first group of readers by rehashing everything that they’ve just read. But you also have to give the other group enough to go on so that they don’t get frustrated and abandon the book. TIP: Have beta readers who recently read the first book read book two, as well as the betas who haven’t read the first book in a while. This way you can get both perspectives.

When reading a sequel, what kinds of things frustrate you that you wish the author had considered when writing the book? If you’ve written a sequel, what kinds of challenges have you faced?

Stina Lindenblatt @StinaLL writes 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 and LET ME KNOW (Carina Press, HQN) are now available.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

First 100 Words Category Romance Winners!

Congratulations to our three winners who received requests for full manuscript submission to Entangled Publishing, LLP based on their contest entries.

Ms. Howland said the entries were fantastic and it was a difficult decision to limit it to three writers. All of the winners have been contacted and have responded, giving us permission to name them.

So, in alphabetical order, here are our winners:

Samantha Joyce (New Adult)
Gillian Libby (Young Adult)
Mia Sosa (Contemporary)

If you entered, but were not selected, it does not preclude you from submitting to Entangled. It does not mean your work is not excellent; it just means it did not fit the current needs or interest of this particular editor. Other editors may be looking for a book just like yours.

Ms. Howland was impressed with the quality of the submissions and we are grateful she agreed to judge our contest. We are also appreciative of all of our entrants and the support of the QT community.

We will be hosting an agent-judged contest in October, so stay tuned.


Monday, September 15, 2014

The Writer's Bookshelf: Characters & Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card

This edition of The Writer's Bookshelf features an essay by Marian Perera.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1599632128/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1599632128&linkCode=as2&tag=ashkraautofth-20&linkId=GQXTUZPPAASXMFWCOne of the best books I’ve read on creating characters is Orson Scott Card’s Characters and Viewpoint – part of the Elements of Fiction Writing series from Writers Digest Books.

Card deconstructs characterization with plenty of practical, specific details and advice. How can you give a villain a sympathetic side, or hint at insanity in a character? What might happen if a hero or heroine is too attractive? How can character names be distinctive and memorable? It’s all covered, with examples to show how characters can express themselves—and therefore reveal themselves—in different ways.

My favorite of these “compare and contrast” examples is towards the end of the book, when the conflict between two people first occurs on the surface. Their thoughts aren’t given, so their dialogue spells out their problems with speech tags like “soothingly” and “nervously” to let the reader knows how they feel.

Then the scene is rewritten, with what Card refers to as “deep penetration” into the characters’ minds—and it’s so much more powerful. When I first started writing, I wasn’t very subtle about my characters’ emotions, especially in scenes of conflict. But one of the ways to separate tense, simmering drama from melodrama is subtlety, and restraining what the characters show on the surface is a good way to achieve that.  

Plus, sometimes readers like being able to read between the lines. It’s much more fun to figure out something the characters aren’t saying, and to catch a glimpse of what’s beneath the surface, rather than the writer spelling it all out.

The section on viewpoint is also excellent. Often on discussion boards, newer writers will ask about the difference between omniscient viewpoint and head-hopping, or how they can know what viewpoint would be effective for their novels. This book examines all those. From the Hemingway-esque cinematic point of view, where the “camera” is like a fly on the wall, to the more common third- or first-person perspective and the omniscient narrator who is almost a character in their own right, this book both discusses and shows the advantages and disadvantages of each. There are even drawings to make the different viewpoints clear.

Another thing I like about the examples is that they come from a variety of sources (that is, not just Card’s own novels), though this book was first published in 1988, so none of those sources will seem new. No references to The Hunger Games here. Also, the sections on Romance vs. Realism and Presentation vs. Representation can get a little complex, and I didn’t recognize any of the comedians whom Card mentioned when discussing humor.

But to balance out the serious stuff which makes me feel as though I’m back in an English Literature class, there’s a fun passage at the start where Card shows how easy it is to come up with ideas for characters, just by transcribing what a fourth-grade class came up with as he prompted them with questions (and threw roadblocks in their path). Each idea of theirs led to the next, and soon they had a story. Not a very complex story, but this was, to me, much more helpful and useful than lists where you can fill in your character’s favorite foods. Showing a character doing something is nearly always going to be more productive than thinking of what the character likes or doesn’t like—or, for that matter, what color her hair and eyes are.

On the whole, I’d recommend this book to any writer.

Bio : Marian Perera enjoys bringing romance, science, sharks and magic together in her novels – it makes for a volatile combination. And she’s been into volatile ever since she was sixteen and read Gone with the Wind for the first time.

She was born in Sri Lanka, grew up in the United Arab Emirates, studied in the United States and now lives in Canada. With three romantic fantasies released by Samhain Publishing and more in the works, her dream is to be a full-time writer some day. She has a blog on writing and publishing –
marianperera.blogspot.com – and likes to hear from readers and other writers. Her email address is mdperera@hotmail.com

Find Marian Pereira at
MarianPerera.com and check out Flights of Fantasy

Monday, September 8, 2014

We need diverse books? Then let's get started

Remember back in May, the "We Need Diverse Books" campaign? There were pictures and hashtags and a chat on Twitter, plus a push to buy diverse books and put them on our bookshelves. A few articles went viral, only now I'm not hearing much about it.

From the above website's FAQ:
In June of 2013, multicultural publisher Lee and Low Books put together a graphic
illustrating that although 37% of the population of the United States are people of color, only 10% of children’s books published contained multicultural content. This gap has remained steady from 1994-201318 years!
So. Do we need diverse books? Yes. And if yes, we should do something constructive.

The third stage of the We Need Diverse Books campaign was to go out and buy diverse books, however one defined diverse. But I'm going to take this one step further: we need a greater diversity in our authors. We can't get diversity just by buying the books that are already published. After all, the whole reason this campaign began was the scarcity of diverse books.

You get more "diverse books" by having a roster of authors who represent the true range of diversity in the human species. And in order to get that, we need more than a hashtag.

We need mentoring.

We need mentoring because a lot of promising writers just don't have the opportunities they deserve. Too many promising writers live in neighborhoods with underfunded libraries; they're working after school to help support their families; maybe they've got no one around them who values books. Maybe, like one of my students, no one has ever said, "You have something worth saying."

Mentoring is that intermediate step between a wide selection of true-to-life characters on the store shelves and hashtag activism. Mentoring is where you get in your car or you get on the subway, and you go out to where you think the under-represented writers are.

You call a high school in a minority neighborhood and you ask if they might want to start a book club, or you ask if they might want to start a writing group. Think it's not possible? Check out Rosie's Place, a women's homeless shelter that offers classes for art, jewelry-making and creative writing. Covenant House does the same. You can do that: offer your time and your services. You go out and listen to beginning writers, and you suffer through some terrible story drafts just the way someone suffered through yours, and you give pointers, and you give encouragement.

Give your expertise. But more than that, give your heart. Listen and then say, "What you're writing is important. We need to make this as good as we can so the world will get to hear your voice."

You help your students or your mentees find opportunities. You network until they can score an internship and learn about the business side of writing. You teach them how to write query letters or how to write a proposal. You teach them how to self-publish or you hook them up with someone who can. You show them how you do your own research and how you meet your own deadlines. You help your mentee learn to write freelance articles. You take that late-night phone call when one of them is eaten up with doubt. You listen to one of them shriek when she gets her first acceptance. When one of them publishes a book, you promote the heck out of that book.

You spend time, more time than just a hashtag and more time than a Tumblr campaign. You build a relationship. Relationships build self-confidence, and self-confidence builds careers.

It's nice to post a tweet and buy a book and think that's the end of the matter, but it's not. It can't be. If we want more under-represented authors, we need to go to where those under-represented authors are now, pre-authorhood, and nurture them up. Nurture them into next year's authors and editors and agents. Protect that love of words and fill the toolboxes of those budding authors with everything they need to see their own photo on the back cover of a book.

Jane Lebak is the author of Seven Archangels: Annihilation. She has four kids,  three books in print, two cats, and one husband. She lives in the Swamp and tries to do one scary thing every day.
 You can like her on Facebook, but if you want to make her rich and famous, please contact Roseanne Wells of the Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Making the Payoff Scene Count

One of our goals as writers is to create stories that keep the reader flipping pages, desperate to see what happens next. And if we’re really good, the reader will be flipping pages well beyond her bedtime. Several different elements (e.g. pacing) are used to create the necessary forward momentum. Along with these elements is The Big Scene.

The ‘big scene’ (or payoff scene) is defined as any scene that contains high drama. The intensity within the scene and the level of importance of the scene are greater than for the majority of your other ones. They are most often the turning points scenes (e.g. the inciting incident, the end of the first act, the climax). While the scene will contain heightened conflict, compared to your other ones, car chases and explosions are not required. For example, in YA, a big scene can be the first kiss, but only if the scene has been properly set up and the first kiss is importance (which is usually the case in YA). Think about some of the big payoff scenes from your favorite books. That will give you ideas of what readers in your genre expect.

When you write your payoff scenes, you need to go big. And I mean BIG. Wimpy stakes need not apply.  The same is true for your internal and external conflict. Paint layers of sensory description, theme, symbolism, subtext, emotion (without crossing into melodrama). Each will add impact to the scene and help it stand out from the crowd. Also, the characters’ actions need to be powerful. The big scene is comparable to the Fourth of July fireworks. It is the difference between a few fire crackers and the spectacular display in New York City. One is memorable; the other isn’t.

In addition to the above, you need to create the appropriate set up. When done correctly, this will guide your reader so they have an idea where the story is headed. If you have a ‘big scene’ without the appropriate set up, the emotional impact wouldn’t even be a blip on the Richter scale. You want more than a blip. You want to aim for at least a ten. You also want to use several techniques to help the payoff scene feel even bigger. One technique is the reversal. The reversal is when an event is headed in one direction and then suddenly takes an abrupt turn. A common example in romances is when the hero and heroine are in a heated discussion one moment, and kissing passionately the next.

Another technique is foreshadowing. An example of this is when the protagonist comments early in the book, when she sees a character, that she wouldn’t be surprised if one day that character’s ass is kicked in a fight. If the information is casually added into the narrative as a simple line, the reader won’t remember it by the time she gets to the ‘big scene,’ but subconsciously she will be waiting for it. The trick to foreshadowing is subtlety. If the reader sees that line and thinks, “Oh, there’s going to be a big fight at some point and the guy is going to get his ass whipped,” then you’ve failed. The reader is going to be waiting for the fight and the element of surprise will be lost. Another thing you want to avoid is heavily foreshadowing something that has no relevance to the story. If your protagonist goes on and on about her love of horses in the beginning of the book, horses had better show up later in the book and be important to the plot, or else your reader will feel cheated. And a reader who feels cheated is not a happy reader, and will be less likely to read your next story.

Juxtaposition is yet another way to add power to your big scene. Juxtaposition simply refers to elements in opposition (e.g. love/hate, happy/sad, large/small). For example, you could have a big scene occur during Valentine’s Day, when the protagonist is anticipating her first kiss with the guy she’s been crushing on since elementary school. Her emotions are high. And then she witnesses his death. The contrast between the two emotions adds impact to the big scene.

The YA contemporary novel Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry has one of the most powerful payoff scenes that I’ve read. The story is told from two points of view, but the one that leaves most people in tears is Noah’s. (Spoiler Alert) During the story, we learn that eighteen-year-old Noah has been bounced around the foster care system after his parents’ death and has been physically abused. He now lives in the mildew-filled basement of his current foster parents’ house. Before his parents’ death, he had great grades and played varsity basketball. After their death, he was forced to quit basketball, couldn’t be bothered with his grades, and developed a reputation for being a stoner who slept around, a lot.

Noah’s two younger brothers mean the world to him, but because he was wrongly labeled as emotionally unstable, Noah can only see them on supervised visits, which are far and few in between. As a result of his experiences with the system, Noah is positive his brothers are being mistreated. The emotional punch to the gut comes when Noah, after being banned from seeing his brothers, winds up being invited to lunch with the family who wants to adopt his siblings. Katie McGarry brilliantly uses juxtaposition in the scene to heighten the emotions. Unlike the foster families Noah has lived with, the brothers’ foster parents are financially stable and give his brothers the things Noah has been deprived of. The boys get to go to basketball camps and attend a fancy private school. Their foster parents love them. The boys also have something else Noah doesn’t have: a photo of their dead parents. When Noah sees that picture, few readers can make it through the scene without crying (I’m tearing up just thinking about it). The build up to that moment is worth it—no matter how many times you read the book. Without the build up, the scene wouldn’t have had the same impact. (End of Spoiler Alert)

What books have you read that have moved you because of the powerful payoff scenes? Your homework is to analyze the book and see how the author made those scenes count, and apply what you’ve learned to your own story.

(note: This article was originally posted last year on the Adventures in YA Publishing blog. It has been edited for this post). 

Stina Lindenblatt @StinaLL writes 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 and LET ME KNOW (Carina Press, HQN) are now available.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Formatting Email Query Letters

Recently I was asked how to format an Email query letter and when I replied with the answer, the questioner Emailed back with another interesting question. She wanted to know why Emails were so difficult to format. It seemed like a good question, and knowing the answer could help authors when it comes to writing their Email queries. So, here it goes.

Understanding Email Text Formatting for your Query Letters

First off, let's talk a little about what an Email is. Without getting too technical, an Email is simple text; nothing more. A program like Microsoft Word stores text as well, but it also stores all kinds of information about how to format that text. Things like line spacing, indenting, bold and italics to name just a few, are part of a Word doc file. 

But Email can't do that. They just do text. Using html, some Email programs can add simple formatting codes embedded in the message, but not much. Another problem with Email is there are way too many different programs out there for writing and reading Emails. Why does that matter? Because they all do it differently. When Microsoft Word creates a doc file, it relies on the fact that the file will be opened and viewed by Word and only Word. Microsoft doesn't care if their files don't look right in any other program. Not their problem. But Emails have to look the same in hundreds of different programs.

To make sure your Email looks the same, no matter what program an agent uses to read it, don't do anything fancy. Stick to the basics. Most Email programs can handle the simple stuff.

For instance, don't even try to indent your paragraphs. It's a lot of work in an Email and it probably won't look right on the receiving end anyway. Instead, left justify everything and double-space between paragraphs, much like this article is written.

Use a clean, business-style font (Courier or Times New Roman) with a height of 12 points. No colors. Just simple black text on a white background. Anything else would be unprofessional, and might not even look right on the receiving end. Use bold and italics sparingly, and even then only if you absolutely have to.

A major issue a lot of authors have is pasting sample pages into an Email Query. These pages are usually copied from a program like Word, and when you paste it into your Email program all kinds of weird things happen. This is because Word tries to paste in all those formatting codes we talked about earlier, but your Email program doesn't fully understand or use them. Even if you don't see them after you paste them into your Email, they're there. And since they're there, they might do all kinds of weird things to your Email when the agent opens it up to read it.

But don't worry, there's an easy solution.

If you're using Windows, run the Notepad program, which you can find in the Accessories menu in the Start Menu. If you're on a Mac, you can use TextEdit, found in your Applications folder.

Copy the text from Word and paste it into Notepad (or TextEdit). Then, copy it from Notepad/TextEdit and paste it into your Email. Why? Because Notepad/TextEdit will strip out all those formatting codes. You'll probably have to tweak it a little, like adding spaces between paragraphs and adding any bolds or italics you may need. When you're finished, your Email will be clean and will look right when the agent reads it.

Keep in mind that agents are used to getting Email queries, and so they understand the difficulties involved. If your query is not perfectly formatted, don't sweat it. It probably won't be a deal breaker. Yet you still want to get it as good as you can.