Posted in agents, query letter

Here I go again…

DeathtoStock_Desk5So, about 7 years ago, I started looking for an agent or publisher. I had two finished manuscripts I was ready to send out. I also had a toddler and a kindergartener and a very supportive husband. What else did I have going for me that would entice and agent or publisher to pick me up?

Nada.

Had no clue about social media (wasn’t even on Facebook), no website, no publishing cred, no writing degree, nothing.

Guess how it went?

Nobody was interested. I had a tiny handful of agents or publishers requests a few chapters, then nothing. Admittedly, the publishing climate at that time wasn’t terribly open and no one wanted to take on a newbie. So, I decided to self-publish. I started figuring out the whole social media and marketing thing. I kept writing. I got picked up by several publishers along the way, having good and bad experiences, and now have 20+ books published either traditionally or indie, and even made the USA Today Bestsellers list as part of an awesome box set.

Now what?

I’ve got it into my head that I want to try the agent route again. I don’t know how it will go, but I’m going to do it anyway. That’s a big cliff to jump off of because it involves a lot of research, waiting, heartache, and more waiting.

To anyone else who is thinking about joining the agent hunt, I thought I’d share a few resources that can make it a little easier.

TIPS FOR THE AGENT HUNT

Death_to_stock_communicate_hands_1https://querytracker.net/ — Great for finding agents accepting submissions and what genres they want, and keeping track of your queries and responses.

Twitter and Facebook — great for seeing what the agents you’re interested in are doing and looking for “right now” and also for getting to know their personality and if it’s someone you’d be comfortable working with.

http://www.publishersmarketplace.com/ — Great for seeing what agents have been up to lately, when they’re last sale was and what publishing house the sale was with.

http://www.agentquery.com/ — database of literary agents, who’s taking what, and how to submit.

Comparable titles — know what your book is up against and be ready to tell and agent why yours will fit right in with other popular books readers are currently gobbling up.

QUERY HELP

If you need help writing a strong query letter, I recently did a podcast on the topic. Just click the Write. Publish. Repeat. logo below.

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Posted in books

Writing a Query Letter: Part 5

To find the first part of this series, Click HERE. For Part 2, click HERE. Part 3, click HERE Part 4, click HERE. To listen to the full discussion on the Write. Publish. Repeat. Podcast, click HERE.

Blurb Writing Tips

Research
Reads blurbs for popular books
Not a guarantee, but helpful

Direct to your reader
Different readers require different approaches

Give it time
Rewrite, revise, start over
This is important, so take your time

Cut unnecessary words
Don’t waste limited space

Get an outside opinion
**Someone who’s read the book
They can make sure you’ve include the pertinent details and stay true to the feel of your book
**Someone who hasn’t read the book
They can make sure it makes sense to an outsider

Professional resources
Paid services
Free services like Query Shark

PROOFREAD IT!!!

Keeping Track of Your Queries

QueryTracker.net
Most options are free, but you do need an account

Trusty Notebook/Word File
Sticky Notes
My personal favorite

Whatever method you choose, know the agent’s normal response time.
**Once you pass that, consider it a “No”

Follow up?
Depends on agent. Most usually have instructions on their website about whether or not to contact them for follow up. Follow their directions please!

Pacing?

How many agents should you query at a time?
**Most recommend 3-4/week

Why?
If it’s not working, you may want to change things up

Starting point?
Top or bottom of your list? — Totally up to you, but a lot of authors will recommend not starting with your top choices just in case you find out later your query needs more work.

Good luck with your query writing process and if you have any tips to share, please do!

Listen to the full discussion now on my new podcast!

Write. Publish. Repeat. Podcast: How to Write a Query Letter Without Going Completely Crazy

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Posted in query letter

Writing a Query Letter: Part 4

To find the first part of this series, Click HERE. For Part 2, click HERE. Part 3, click HERE. To listen to the full discussion on the Write. Publish. Repeat. Podcast, click HERE.

Query Writing Tips

Now that you have the basics down, how do you actually write a GOOD query letter?

The blurb/summary is going to be a HUGE part of your pitch and often requires the most attention and revisions.

The next section will go over tips and tricks for writing a query letter that will grab an agent’s or publisher’s attention.

Open Blue BookWhen to write the Blurb?

Before or After?
Depends on the author

Before
Why would you do this?
Not as emotionally invested yet.
Not EVERYTHING feels important.
Focus your thoughts on the story highlights.
Which can help with writing.
Saves you from having to do it later.
Allows you to promote early.

After
Have the full concept in place.

Avoid having to rewrite due to plot changes.

Better idea of future plans.

Anatomy of a Blurb

Situation/Character intro

Problem/Conflict

Hope of Resolution

Tone/Mood

Invisible CastSituation/Character Intro

Jump in right away.
Situation and Character intro right away.
No wasting time with description/thought.
Intro the setting as well.

Who is this story about?
What situation makes their story interesting?

First sentence should introduce both.

Make them interesting!
YOU know them well, so present them in the best, most interesting light

Example:

“In 1938, a small crooked-legged racehorse received more press coverage than Hitler, Mussolini, Roosevelt or any other news figure.”(Seabiscuit, Laura Hillenbrand)

Don’t mislead!
If they start reading and it doesn’t hold up…they’ll put it down

Depressed young homeless womanProblem or Conflict

A hint of the plot…
What challenge is your MC up against?
Simplify as much as possible.There may be multiple conflicts that all seem important.
Focus on the MAIN conflict.

How is this conflict going to hurt/hinder your character?
Again…simplify to the main points. Pick the biggest, most detrimental effect to focus on in the blurb

The blurb is a teaser. Hook the agent/pub…leave them wanting more. This is usually better accomplished in a short blurb.

Some like to end on a question (but not a rule)
“As mouths water in anticipation, can the solemnity of the Church compare with the pagan passion of a chocolate éclair?”(Chocolat, Joanne Harris)

“Lisbeth Salander—outcast…enigma…avenger…”(The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson)

End on a cliffhanger!

HopeHope of Resolution

Don’t be too depressing!

How will your character potentially thwart all the trouble the conflict is brewing?

Don’t reveal the end of the story, but DO suggest a possible escape.

Make readers want to solve the problem.

Tone and Mood

The tone or mood of your query should match the book.

Fun, dark, moody, silly, inspirational, etc.

Let readers know what is in store for them so they know what they’re getting into.

Join me next week for the final part of the Query Writing Workshop. Tips & Tricks, tracking queries, and query pacing.

Listen to the full discussion now on my new podcast!

Write. Publish. Repeat. Podcast: How to Write a Query Letter Without Going Completely Crazy

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Posted in query letter, writing tips

Writing a Query Letter: Part 3

To find the first part of this series, Click HERE. For Part 2, click HERE. To listen to the full discussion on the Write. Publish. Repeat. Podcast, click HERE.

Paragraph Two of the Query Letter

9e9dd-largestackofbooksMini-Synopsis
Similar to the back cover summary
100-250 words

Expand on your hook
Explain more about your Main characters…
Problems/conflicts…
How adversity changes them…

Read back covers of other books for examples!

Paragraph Three: Bio

Brand new Author?
(You may want to skip this)

  • What to include?
    Is it meaningful to the query?
    Does it show personality?
  • Keep it short
  • Keep it writing related
  • Education
  • Work
  • Personal experience
  • Research

Publishing Credits/Awards

  • Awards
    • If you’ve won them…INCLUDE THEM
      Don’t be modest, but don’t go overboard

Publishing credits (BE SPECIFIC)
Journals
Online/trade magazines

Unpublished?
You don’t need to say

Academic or Nonfiction?
Shows you know the process

DON’T INCLUDE:
Church news letter, credits unrelated to professional writing

Self-Published: Include or Not Include?

  • Timing
    • It will be discussed eventually
  • Doesn’t hurt your chances
  • Be confident
  • Be ready discuss success/failure
  • Do you consider it a Mistake/Irrelevant
    • Leave it out
  • Does it make you a more desirable client?
    • Depends on success – mention sales numbers, length of time on sale
      • Success to some agents/pub = 5000 sales (per month…)

Open Blue BookWhat NOT to Mention

  • Social media presence/platform
    • UNLESS you have A LOT of followers
    • Agents will Google you anyway
  • Marketing Plan
  • Years of effort and dedication
  • Family/friends opinions
  • Past rejections/near misses
  • Apologize
  • Compliment your work
  • Discuss $$ your book will make

Thank You/Closing

  • Thank the agent/pub
  • Time & consideration
  • Alert agent/pub full manuscript is available upon request
  • Mention if your book is being considered by another agency
  • Series potential/written
  • Include contact information basics
  • Only offer exclusives for a short time period
  • Only compare your book to another in terms of style, voice, theme (Not $$)

Join me next week for a discussion on writing a great blurb for your query.


Listen to the full discussion now on my new podcast!

Write. Publish. Repeat. Podcast: How to Write a Query Letter Without Going Completely Crazy

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Posted in writing thoughts

It’s Done…Walk Away

DeathtoStock_Medium6I have to start this post off by saying, it was inspired by a post my lovely writing buddy, SeriouslyGina, recently posted on her blog. She was talking about the awfulness of querying agents and trying to write that perfect query letter that simply no one can refuse, despite the fact that it is like a rainbow unicorn made of sparkle dust and dark chocolate.

Hint: It doesn’t exist.

Querying is my least favorite part of writing. Maybe that’s why I gave up on trying to find and agent or pitch to publishers and went almost entirely indie. Actually, there are a whole bunch of other reasons for that!

In all honesty, though, thinking about what a torment querying is reminded me of some advice I got from one of my painting instructors in college that has really helped me in my writing and other areas of life. It was simple and kind of a silly thing to stick with me for almost fifteen years, now that I think of it, but oh well.

I had been working on a single painting, a master study of a JW Waterhouse painting, for the majority of the semester, and it just never seemed quite “done.” My painting professor, the incredible William Hatch, finally walked up behind me one day and said, “It’s done. Put your paintbrush down and start something new.” I didn’t think it was done. In fact, I have a print of it hanging in my house and every time I walk by it I think, “Ugh, I should have fixed that part.” But, there’s no sense trying to paint on top of a print and I don’t have the original painting anymore, and I’m not quite that much of a crazy person.

I think Professor Hatch might have just been sick of looking at that painting when he told me to put down my paintbrush, but even if he really did think it was as good as it was going to get, his comment actually stuck with me and I’ve applied it to more than just painting.

I often reach a point in a project, writing or otherwise, when I just have to put it down and say, “It’s done.” When I’m writing, that’s usually after way too many edits when my eyes are crossing and I’m beginning to hate my own book because I’m so tired of looking at it. Before I actually get to that point, I tell myself, IT’S DONE…WALK AWAY. I don’t go back to it. I move on to a new project and don’t look back whether I have that nagging feeling that it could use a little more tweaking or not. It’s just done.

I heard a piece of advice once, and I can’t remember who it was from but I’m pretty sure it was one of those huge 19th century writers we all aspire to be. The advice was to never read your published book. You’ll always find little errors or things you could have tweaked, sections that could have been stronger, blah, blah, blah. It will never be perfect. No book will ever be, nor has ever been perfect. NOT A SINGLE Girl with Book 3ONE.

Instead of chasing your starburst and sunshine with sprinkles on top masterpiece, write the best book you can write, find great beta readers, even better editors, friends who’ll support you no matter what, and pour your heart and soul into your story.

Your book will never be perfect, but the message you share and the way it impacts your readers will make up the difference.

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