QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Monday, January 26, 2015

Just Do It!

©Stina Lindenblatt

For many writers, they write because it’s a great way to relieve stress. When you write fiction, you escape to another place and temporarily forget your real life problems. It can be therapeutic and cathartic.
But it can also be deadly.

For starters, you stress about your plot, and wonder if it will be strong enough to land you an agent or publishing deal. You stress when you get feedback that cuts deep and leaves you gutted. You stress when you have queries out and haven’t heard back yet from the agents after several weeks. You stress when you get nothing but rejections, either on the query, partial, or full. And once your book is out on Netgalley or on retail sites, you stress over your reviews. Does any of this sound familiar?

It’s something that every writer goes through.

But the stress isn’t necessarily the one factor that will push you over the edge. That risk factor comes from the nature of our job. Yes, welcome to the new smoking: the desk job.

Many of us spend our days at the desk, even if you don’t write full time. And even if you do exercise daily, it’s not enough to completely remove the risk. The best defense is getting out of your seat every hour and move. It doesn’t have to be big. You don’t need to invest in a treadmill and desk so you can walk while you type (not everyone can write this way). It can be as simple as putting on some music and dancing around for five or so minutes. It doesn’t matter what you do; the goal is to get your blood flowing. Not only will your heart benefit, so will your project. The time away from the computer and the increased blood flow to your brain will help stimulate the ideas that might have otherwise been stalled.

Now, you might be grumbling at this point, wondering how the heck you can do this when you have deadlines or when you need to promote your book. You don’t have time to take a short exercise break. But trust me, you don’t want the alternative. In my previous life, I was a drug rep (I also possess a Master’s of Science in exercise physiology). As part of my regular training, my company organized various medical talks so we could learn about the implications behind the diseases our drugs treated or prevented. One of my drugs was for cardiovascular disease and hypertension, and I had to learn about type II diabetes (one the most common medical conditions in developed countries). My company organized an opportunity to meet someone impacted by the disease, and we spoke to him while he was undergoing dialysis.

It’s easy for us to become too focused on our publishing journey, but in the end none of it will matter if you don’t take care of your health. Your friends, family, spouse, kids won’t care if you landed an agent, had a book sold at auction, or were a New York Times best seller when they say their final goodbyes. They’ll just wish you had taken the ‘new smoking’ warning more seriously. They’ll wish your life hadn’t been cut so short.

In the words of the famous Nike slogan: JUST DO IT!

Stina Lindenblatt @StinaLL writes New Adult and adult contemporary romances. In her spare time, she’s a photographer, loves hanging out on Pinterest, and can be found at her blog/website. Her New Adult contemporary romances TELL ME WHEN and LET ME KNOW (Carina Press, HQN) are now available.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Dealing with Publishing Blues

 ©Stina Lindenblatt

It doesn’t matter where you are on the publishing pathway, the publishing blues will blindside you at some point.

When you first start out on the writing journey, you’re excited. You have hopes (even if you’re not willing to admit it aloud) that an agent will grab your query from the slushpile, immediately request the manuscript, then offer representation a mere five minutes later. The book will sell at auction the following week (because it’s perfect as is), and will quickly become a bestseller (thanks to the publisher support that would make most authors mossy green with envy).

But then reality sets in.

You send the book out to critique partners and beta readers, and they either tear it apart (which results in you ripping your hair out and consuming an unhealthy amount of chocolate), give you great feedback that helps improve the story, or tell you it’s the best thing ever written and an agent would be an idiot not to offer representation. Either way, none of this prepares you for what comes next: the rejections. It also doesn’t prepare you for the emotional roller coaster you can expect during this stage. Be prepared to stock up on metaphorical anti-nausea medication. But also make sure you CELEBRATE the good points on your journey to publication. This includes celebrating the completion of your novel, a request based on your query, a request based on your partial. Relish each moment. You’ve earned it.

Now, maybe you’ve landed an agent and this led to a book deal. The emotional roller coaster has only just warmed up. Many unknowns still lay ahead. You’ve got deadlines now to deal with. Some of these deadlines will overlap, which makes you wonder if sleep is truly necessary. You’ll kiss your family vacation goodbye, or spend a good portion of it editing your manuscript to meet your deadline (hopefully you have an understanding family). You might discover at the last moment that all the PR support you were promised is nonexistent. Or you might end up dealing with other frustrations from either the publisher or agent side of things. You might realize that with all the traditional and self-published books currently available, the chance of succeeding is not what it used to be, especially if no one knows your book exists.

Disheartening, to say the least.

Now take a breath and remember why you’re on this crazy journey. If it’s to become a bestselling author, you might want to rethink that. With so many books out there, it’s becoming harder to make the lists. But if you started writing fiction because you love creating stories, and you can’t imagine not writing them, you might simply need to take a step back for a moment. This happened to me in December. I was working on a new book, but due to circumstances that were out of my control, I’d lost that spark I needed for me to keep writing. I felt hopeless and depressed. I didn’t want to give up and I loved the story, but I just couldn’t get motivated to write.

So I started writing a new book. One no one was waiting for. I changed how I wrote. Instead of plotting and outlining the book, I came up with a loose plot based on the standard story structure format. I knew my characters and trusted they wouldn’t lead me astray. I started listening to music while I wrote. I’d never done that before, but with the kids home for the holidays, I needed to block out their noise. And I started doing writing sprints, writing as much as I could in that hour, before taking a short break. Even my novel was different to what I was writing or had written before.

The benefit? I relocated that joy for writing I had lost.

We place so much pressure on ourselves to be published, it’s easy to lose the passion we once had. For some people, they need to step away and take a long break. But if you’re not willing to do that, or have deadlines that prevent it, try writing something new. Try writing something for yourself that no one will see. Experiment with a style you’ve always wanted to try or experiment with a new genre. If you’re on deadline, try writing a short story (or if you’re a fast writer, a novella). Have fun! But most of all, don’t set any expectations on yourself. Just let the passion you used to have for writing poke through.

In the end, you might discover you’ve created something that will give your writing career a kick in the right direction. You might discover a genre or writing style that will change everything for you. But more importantly, you will have found a healthy method for dealing with publishing blues.

What positive things do you do when faced with publishing frustrations?

Stina Lindenblatt @StinaLL writes New Adult and adult contemporary romances. In her spare time, she’s a photographer, loves hanging out on Pinterest, and can be found at her blog/website. Her debut New Adult contemporary romance TELL ME WHEN and LET ME KNOW (Carina Press, HQN) are now available.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

It means you're alive

My father tells a story about his childhood dentist in Brooklyn, a crusty old man from the Old World who'd come across the Atlantic with a sack of dentistry tools and the bedside manner of a tractor.

"Does it hurt?" the man would growl.

My dad would cringe away from him, whimpering. "Yes."

"Good." The dentist would just keep working, following him as he scrinched up the exam chair. "It means you are alive."

My own dentist is more responsive, even if he does use a blow-torch, but this isn't DentistryTracker, so let's talk queries.

Back when I was trying to land my agent, I occasionally still sent a snail-mail query. You know those things, printed on paper with an SASE tucked inside so they could return you a single sheet of paper, if you were lucky, telling you that life is pain and yeah, but no.

(If anyone can confirm the rumor that each agency has one intern brought on board specifically to steam the stamps off the SASEs and throw away the envelopes, let me know, otherwise I'll have to believe most SASEs just end up in the trash.)

(And here's another parenthetical, if you do send printed queries with an SASE tucked inside, the trick is to buy a package of size 9 envelopes instead of just the regular business-size envelopes. Size 9s are large enough to hold a sheet of 8.5x11 paper, but they're small enough to fit inside a regular business-size envelope without folding. This is sheer brilliance, and I have shamelessly stolen this idea from Miss Snark on her long-ago weblog.)

(I also bought some 24# paper to print those queries because the paper was just a tad bit heavier without being consciously noticeable. The idea was to trigger the reader's subconscious to think my query was weightier than the others. Aren't I brilliant?)

At any rate, one day my pilgrimage to the mailbox yielded one of my own envelopes -- one of my own unfolded envelopes -- with an agency's return address in the corner. Note: always put their return address because sometimes you'll get a rejection with no identifying information whatsoever. No agency name. No book title.

As I opened it and saw the expected "kiss off" letter, I thought, "Good, it means I'm alive."

For years I'd never submitted anything, and during that time I never got rejected. But I'd never gotten published, either. And that left me kind of dead inside.

Does rejection hurt? Good. It means you're alive. It means you're submitting.

Is this a whole lot of mental nonsense? Maybe it's a crutch to keep ourselves moving through a difficult process without feeling dehumanized, as if we're giving ourselves an edge. Did my 24-pound paper make a difference? Did those pristine unfolded size-9 envelopes?

I have no idea if it made a difference to the agency interns who sort the mail, but it made a difference to me because I felt I was doing my best, and it kept me going to know I was working every angle I could.

Even if it's a crutch, well, crutches are what you need when you're hurt and want to keep moving.

You're alive. You're writing. Keep querying.

Jane Lebak is the author of An Arrow In Flight . She has four kids, four 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. 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

New QueryTracker Feature - Comment Feed

The "Comment Feed" is a new feature coming to QueryTracker mid-February of this year. This feature consolidates all of the comments made about agents in one place, so you can skim through them without jumping from profile to profile.

You can customize your comment feed to only include the agents you are most interested in viewing. Then, whenever another member leaves a comment about one of those agents, the comment will display in your personal comment feed.

For details, please watch the below video.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Book Visibility and the Single Author

Every once in a while, I’ll look up from my keyboard, stare out the window, and daydream about having a PR team.

Chin in the palm of my hand, plot lines and characters forgotten, I imagine a flurry of activity around my make-shift office. There’s someone on the phone, arranging radio and newspaper press releases. Another has a calendar, making mad notations about yet another book signing. A quiet guy in skinny jeans and a Club Monaco shirt is returning emails from bloggers and reviewers, sending out review copies and queuing up interview questions. And there are no less than half a dozen interns, legs shackled to a long table, each pounding away at their laptops, sending out Tweets and Facebook statuses and checking in with every single social medium that has my name on an account. If they are lucky, I will let them have a water break around noon.

Then, my focus returns, and it’s just me again. No interns, no Club Monaco shirt guy. Just me, and my book, and a red spot on my forehead from face-planting on my desk, defeated.


When my first book came out in 2012, I had only one burning plan. It was THE PLAN. I was gonna have myself a blog tour. I figured it would be a great way to get my new book in front of the audiences I wanted to woo.

Visibility. That was the target.

I researched book blogs and review sites and other authors in my genre and I emailed each one, announcing my soon-to-be released book and asking if they’d be interested in hosting me. I had review copies. I had graphics. I had blurbs and links. And I had a mountain of hope in my soul.

And nearly had a coronary as the responses came in. The huge majority were happy to help. Would I like to do an interview or send in a guest post? I responded enthusiastically. Of course I would---I’d love to! I ended up booking a full month of blog stops... and I could not wait to get started.

Looking back, I wonder how I survived it all. I learned very quickly the tremendous amount of work that goes into a blog tour. The emails. The organizing. The scheduling. The writing of guest posts and original material. The visits to each stop, several times a day, to thank and engage and respond. The reminders to my socials to invite my readers and friends and family and the strangers who friended me on Facebook and everybody within shouting distance to visit that day’s stop.

Work, work, work, work, work.

Was it effective? Sure. The book got a ton of exposure, and I met readers and bloggers along that tour who have stuck by me since. Most of all, I attained the main objective: visibility. I even learned loads of new stuff, including the most important lesson of all—you can never do too much promotion.

That’s exhausting. I get tired just writing about it.

So why write about it?

Because promotion is still a key element in the success of my books. I’m an indie writer. I’ve published novels with small presses, self-produced several ebook anthologies of my shorter work, and am preparing to enter the final stages of production on my first self-produced novel. (And, because I have so much free time *snort* I’m developing a poetry chap book.)

However, I don’t get to just sit and write and plan and produce…I have a backlist to promote. I will always have a backlist to promote. Difference between 2012 and today is that now I have a handful of irons in the fire, and I simply don’t have the time to run an exhaustive blog tour.

I’d already known that visibility is essential for success, and that being a trending topic wouldn’t hurt, either. But how can we get that visibility without losing precious writing time?

Good thing that the big wide world of book promotion is huge and varied and full of helpful people and services. After all, a great philosopher once said “A single view alone does not a trend make.”


BOOK PROMOTION COMPANIES have taken most of the stress out of planning tours. For a fee, you can schedule the blog tour of your dreams, whether it be a one-day blast or a four-week tour. Best part is that they come with built-in connections to bloggers and reviewers, something a new author may not yet have.

GOODREADS is a writer’s best friend and is essential for the success of your book. My favorite parts? Participating in group Read and Review programs and offering print copies of my book in the First Reads giveaway program.

FACEBOOK and TWITTER are by now old hat for writers. We know the importance of using our social media powers and the benefits of having a healthy following. The trick most of us need to learn, therefore, is not the why…it’s the how. How can we get use of social media, knowing that Facebook can turn on us at any moment and pull us into its time-sucking vortex of memes and kitteh pictures?

Multi-tasking, that’s how. Use a platform that gets one message sent across all your outlets. Hootsuite lets you organize your accounts, pick any or all of them for a particular message, even schedule announcements. It’s free. It’s got owls on it. Win, win, win.

SMART PHONES really are clever little things, with their cameras and their Candy Crush and their awesome little app stores. My phone is my main command center, even when it comes to engaging my readers. I multi-send my announcements from my Windows phone using Unishare. And I love Instagram because I can send a picture AND a text message to every single medium I have. In a world where I have less time than ever before, I adore a time saver.

Another thing that would help is everybody talking about your book, preferably at the same time, so that you might attain the enlightened state of virality.

THUNDERCLAP and HEADTALKER are another no-cost way to make a big noise with a single message. These crowd speaking platforms allow you to create a message, enlist the help of fellow social media addicts, and launch a campaign that, if successful, will get your announcement sent out on a particular day and time by everyone. People can “donate” a Tweet or a Facebook status to promote your message. Hit it just right, get enough help, and you just might start to trend. I created a Thunderclap and a simultaneous Headtalker campaign to promote free Kindle days for my last release, along with a slew of other promotional efforts. The bulk of my downloads came shortly after those campaigns went live. Never underestimate the power of a crowd.

Remember that great philosopher, who said it best: “What is the sound of one Tweet tweeting?” That’s deep thinking there.

(For a first-hand look at Thunderclap and Headtalker, check out my current campaigns at http://thndr.it/1wm1k1J  and  https://headtalker.com/campaigns/smart-steamy-fantasy-romance/  I hope you’ll even join the crowd.)

FREE & BARGAIN EBOOK SITES are officially too numerous to mention them all. Some offer you an opportunity to submit a listing at no cost, while others will list your book for a fee (I’ve found the fees can range anywhere from three to three hundred dollars.) Such services may list your book ad (basically cover, blurb, and links) on their website, include your book in their daily emails to targeted subscribers, and may even pimp it out on their various social media. I query Bookbub for each of my promotions but have yet to get my golden ticket from them. (Kind of like the good old days, when I’d send out submission after hopeful submission, only to get yet another form rejection. Ah. Good times…)

Entire lists of websites like these can be found with a simple search for “free sites to promote ebook”. Some of my favorites include Fussy Librarian, Awesome Gang, Ebook Soda, Ebook Lister, and Book Gorilla.

If you have free Kindle books, try hitting up these Tweeters: @DigitalBkToday @kindleebooks @Kindlestuff @KindleEbooksUK @KindleBookKing @KindleFreeBook @FreeReadFeed @4FreeKindleBook (Of course, there’s a billion more like them so keep looking!)


There’s no practical way to get every possible option into a single article…so thank goodness for comment forms. Take a moment to share your favorite promotion tip with the rest of us.

And remember... keep writing. A wise person once said "The way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time." (That's a goofy one, but I swear somebody said it.)

Click to Tweet:
"Book promotion tips for #DIY authors"
"Visibility & the Single Author #book #promo #tips"

My recent release, a fantasy romance called WORDS THAT BIND, is on sale for a limited time…I'd be thrilled if you shared with your readers. See crowdspeaking in action! : )
"Some wishes should be Forbidden... WORDS THAT BIND by @AshKrafton #fantasy #romance #ebook on sale $.99"

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). Her paranormal romance WORDS THAT BIND (The Wild Rose Press) is available and on sale for 99 cents through January 22, 2014.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Blast from the Past: Goal Setting

Given that I returned from my vacation late last night (thanks to a winter storm in my city) and didn't have a chance to write a post while I was away, I've decided to post one of Carolyn Kaufman's brilliant posts on goal setting. I'm sure there are a few of us who have been working on our 2015 writing and publishing goals.


I don't believe in New Year's Resolutions.  You know why? Because they're good intentions you half-plan to break anyhow.  I do, however, believe in setting achievable goals all year long, and in this post I'm going to teach you some tricks to help you keep and achieve your goals for 2010.

1. Write your goals down.

Putting your goals in writing not only makes them more concrete, it also tells your brain that you're more committed than you might be if you just made a mental promise.

Just make sure that you differentiate between wishes and goals.  Goals are within your reach; wishes have more to do with luck. Compare it to playing the lottery.  You can buy a ticket or tickets religiously and tell God or your teddy bear or whomever just how much you want and need that money, but in the end it's dumb luck whether your numbers are picked.  In other words, you can't set a goal to win the lottery.  You can only play and wish.

Likewise, you may hope to see your book go to auction and pull in an advance in the tens or even hundreds of thousands -- but there's little you can do to make that happen.  Obviously you can write the best book possible, and you can even choose the agent with the most lucrative sales if you get multiple offers, but in the end it isn't your goal to go to auction and make a mint -- it's a wish.

So be sure that you're writing down goals.

2. Be specific.

It's harder to reach vague goals, so be specific.  Sure, you want to get published, but by whom? In what format?  There are a lot of ways to get published these days.  Rather than saying "I want to get published," try something like "I'd like to see my work published with a major print sf/f/h publisher" or "I'd like my short story collection to be e-published by a small literary press" or "I'd like to try self publishing, and my goal is to sell ___ copies by January 1, 2011."

Another example: Rather than saying, "I want to write more," choose something more specific: "I want to spend at least an hour a day on my writing."

Now that you've written down specific goals, it's time to pick one.  Which is most important to you?  That's the one you need to focus on.  Keep your list with the other goals on it -- you can go back to it after you accomplish your first goal.

I know, you want to multi-task, but you're far more likely to meet a goal if you're focusing on it, rather than juggling several.

3. Break your target goal down into smaller steps.

Arguably the biggest mistake people make in trying to reach goals is focusing on the big goal without creating a series of smaller, more manageable mini-goals to help them along the way.  Being able to break a large goal down into specific steps (which may also be broken down, depending on how large they are) is crucial.

So let's say you want to spend an hour a day writing. You may well spend an hour writing every day for the first two or three days, or -- if you're stubborn -- a week or so.  But unless you already spend quite a bit of time writing each day, you'll never be able to ramp up to a whole hour a day from nothing.  If you try, you're likely to get a goal-violation effect. In other words, after you've failed once or twice, you proverbially throw your hands in the air and decide you can't do it, so you give up.

Instead, start with a specific mini-goal you know you can achieve.  For example, "I will write for 15 minutes at least twice a week over my morning coffee."  Caveat: start smaller than you think you need to.  If you set the goal too high -- say, 15 minutes every day -- you're likely to fail and get the goal-violation effect, and then it's all over.

4. Be realistic -- and use common sense!

If you want to get an agent, write out all the steps not only of getting the agent, but also of preparing your manuscript and query.  Too many people rush out to find an agent before their work is really ready.  Build in plenty of mini-goals in which you get lots of feedback from other writers -- and listen to what they have to say.  Then you can consider sending your material out.

5. Take it slow.

Once you accomplish a mini-goal, take some time to make it a habit rather than rushing on to the next mini-goal.  If you're able to write for 15 minutes at least twice a week over coffee but you feel like you just barely pulled it off, the very last thing you should do is move up to your next mini-goal of writing for 15 minutes at least four times a week.  Instead, take some time making writing over your coffee a habit. Only once the task is regularly coming easily -- perhaps you even find yourself looking forward to the two days -- should you move on to your next mini-goal.

Likewise, give yourself at least six months to a year to find an agent.  Longer -- think two to five years -- if you have yet to have your work critiqued by objective strangers, if you need to build a platform, or if you need to get some short stories published to establish yourself.

I know you're impatient, but remember, it's better to get there a little slowly than not to get there at all!

6. Reassess at least once a week and make changes as necessary.

If you get to the end of week 2 and you're really struggling with your mini-goal -- say, you just weren't able to get yourself to write for 15 minutes twice a week -- don't beat yourself up.  Just troubleshoot and adapt. Make the mini-goal 5 minutes twice a week.  Then work your way up to 15 minutes.

Plan to make adjustments in your goals and mini-goals as you see what works and what doesn't.  Rather than seeing adjustments as failures, see them as what they are: effective problem-solving.

7. Have a FAIL-prevention plan.

Know ahead of time what you're going to do if things don't work out the way you want them to.  Maybe your goal was to secure an agent, but everybody and their brother has rejected your material.  Now what?

Now try to realistically figure out where the problem is.  If nobody even requested your partial, your writing probably needs work. If you didn't get many requests, your writing may be good, but your query may need work. If you got lots of partial and full requests but no offers of representation, your writing is probably good, but your story may need work.  Again, tap objective crit-mates for feedback -- don't harangue agents.  It's not their job to tell you what's wrong with your writing, only to decide whether they can sell it.

When you hit a setback, back up a little bit and figure out how you can take a new approach.  Face any problems with a creative problem-solving attitude, and you'll find that there's always another approach if things don't work out the way you'd hoped!

If you stick to the tips above, though, I bet you'll find that your goals are much more manageable and achievable than they were before!