Just a Test

Subscribers haven’t been getting email updates when there’s a new post and I’m trying all kinds of ways to fix that. Here’s my next attempt at it.

If you get this as an email, WOO HOO!! It worked! If you’re on the blog reading this, you can go on to more interesting things.Smile

And I need a pic to test it so here’s the latest Sweet Sixteens printable release calendar. You can click on it to get one.

may

Because sometimes technology breaks

book imageI recently realized that blog posts are not being emailed to subscribers, and I’m pretty sure it’s been a couple months! O_o

The thing is that in those couple months, we’ve had some great content on the blog from amazing debut authors that I think you’d enjoy. So I’m testing a few things, and hoping I can get it fixed up soon.

When I do, I’ll post about what you might have missed. In the meantime, feel free to browse through the front page or check out the Query.Sign.Submit. page for the Query.Sign.Submit.Debut! list of interviews. Thanks for your patience!

Query.Sign.Submit.Debut! with Bridget Hodder

Bridget Hodder PhotoBridget is a middle grade author and her debut, THE RAT PRINCE, releases from Margaret Ferguson Books/Farrar, Straus & Giroux/ Macmillan Publishers on August 23, 2016! she is represented by Eric Myers of Dystel & Goderich Literary Management.
Hi Res Rat Prince Cover

Connect with Bridget . . .
WebsiteFacebookTwitter * Goodreads
Preorder the book . . .
Amazon
 
Query into
Now for Bridget’s insight on querying, signing with an agent, going on submission, and being a debut author!
QUERY
What advice would you give to querying writers?
Not that I'm some kind of authority, but I'm happy to share my thoughts!
So, I'm assuming you've already polished like crazy, you've tailored your word count, and you've incorporated into your manuscript the feedback and edits of at least two beta readers or critique partners. Now I would say, prior to starting the querying process...do the emotional prep.
Get yourself into a determined, focused space in your head. A place from which you can do business.
These days, writing a book you intend to traditionally publish is committing to the equivalent of doing a startup company. Querying is the first stage of "Startup You". If you succeed in getting an agent and selling, this will become an all-consuming endeavor for at least the next two years, and you will be responsible for doing most of the work yourself.
Are you ready for it?
Then it's time to research agents.
What are some important things for querying writers to consider when researching agents?
In addition to all the good advice you can find online and at conferences, I would suggest you take a good hard look at your manuscript and ask yourself: what genre is this puppy? Yes, you may think you wrote an awesome YA, but it may in fact be an awesome Middle Grade. Or even a wonderful mainstream romance or work of speculative fiction. Do the research, and ask your critique partners and beta readers if they think it fits where you believe it does. This will be a huge factor in figuring out which agents will want to represent your manuscript.
Then, it's all about Google and social media platforms, finding out as much as you can about the agents. Unfortunately, there is no "Common Application" like there is for college admissions; every single agent has a different thing she or he wants to see in a query, and it changes often. I spent most of my querying time carefully studying these individual preferences, and making sure I followed them to the letter.
Are there any conferences you attended that really helped you move forward as a writer during this stage?
I learned everything I knew about the process from the amazing Romance Writers of America. What a sharing, caring bunch of professionals. They love their work and they love their readers, and it shows. And soon I'm going to attend my first SCBWI conference!
SIGN
How did you know your agent was the right one for you?
My agent, Eric Myers, was so clearly a great personality match for me. I felt it from the very first phone call. I found we had many interests in common, above and beyond literature, and I knew I could work with him. I had done my research, and discovered before I queried that he represented a best-selling author in my genre whose work I loved, so our tastes were aligned.
He had very perceptive questions to ask about the manuscript of THE RAT PRINCE, and he made it clear he was interested in me as a writer with long-term career goals. I knew he would treat me with respect, but not shy away from difficult discussions if they became necessary. And that's how it turned out!
SUBMIT
What is a typical first round like once a writer goes on submission?
All I can say is, hold on tight, because it can happen fast once it gets going. My agent sent THE RAT PRINCE around, and within a few weeks, I had to make a choice between two publishers. My wonderful editor Margaret Ferguson has her own imprint at Macmillan/ Farrar, Straus & Giroux, and she put a pre-empt offer on the table. My agent helped me understand the pros and cons of the situation and allowed me to make my own informed decision. I'm still so grateful to all the people involved who showed interest in my work.
How did you celebrate when you got the news about your book deal?
Honestly? I was too stunned to celebrate. I kind of sat around and trembled like a deer for a couple of days.
DEBUT
What special things do you get to be a part of as a 2016 debut author? Is there a lot of support among debut authors?
Being one of the original "Sixteen" of The Sweet Sixteens (founded by Kathy Macmillan) has been an intense amount of work and an extra-special, transformative experience!
I've learned so much. When we started, I didn't even know what a Cover Reveal was, or a Sell Sheet, or even swag...and I had no website, no Twitter account, no Facebook Author page, nothing. I didn't know how to write a ProBoards post or do a Google Hangout. But now I can do all those things and more, thanks to the patient kindness and information sharing of my fellow debuts. The entire membership has been a humming, busy, hive of sweet support.
What an amazing thing it is to realize our dreams are coming true...and we're here to lift each other up. Because we stumble under the burden of just how much work and self-sacrifice those dreams demand of us. Every single day.
If you're aiming for a writing career (and I assume you must be, if you've read this far), I'm here to tell you what I wish someone had told me: it's going to take everything you have to give, and the real work comes after you sell, not before.
But, oh!
It's worth it!
Thanks, Bridget!
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Query.Sign.Submit.Debut! with Shari Schwarz

Shari picShari is a middle grade author and her debut, TREASURE AT LURE LAKE, is now available from Cedar Fort Publishing/Sweetwater Books.

Connect with Shari . . .image-2015-09-26

Website * Facebook * Twitter * Goodreads

Get the book . . .

Amazon

 

 

Query into

Now for Shari’s insight on querying, signing with an agent, going on submission, and being a debut author!

QUERY

What advice would you give to querying writers?

Querying is hard. One of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Gather some really good people around you who love you and believe in you so that when it gets almost too hard to handle, they will be there for you to lift you up. You can do this! Don’t give up! It took me 100 rejections to get to my YES!

Did you ever have a Revise & Resubmit? What should a writer consider when deciding whether or not to take one on?

Very early on in my querying process, I had two R&Rs, pretty much at the same time. While I really credit both of them for helping shape my manuscript in different ways, they varied widely on their advice. It was a bit confusing to me as a writer new to the process. I tried to fit all of their advice into one R&R and failed miserably. (I’m a pleaser!) After a few months I began to learn that I didn’t have to take everyone’s feedback and somehow cram it all into my story. Now, I would tell other writers to listen to your gut on revisions and to take it slow. I’m a literary intern now, and I see how rushing the R&R can be heartbreaking. The writer is sooo excited to resubmit to the agent and thinks that they have to ‘strike while the iron is hot’ that sometimes they don’t pour themselves into the revision like they should. Take your time, get lots of good feedback from good readers and good writers…people you trust. And make sure your heart is really in the R&R. It has to resonate with you and the story you’re trying to tell.

What helped you get though the query trenches? Inspirational posts? Writer friends? Writing another book?

My critique partners helped tremendously as I went through the ups and down of being in the query trenches. There were times I thought I’d never write again. But reaching out to other writer friends and letting them know how I was feeling allowed them to help pick me back up by brainstorming with me, or looking at my manuscript again, or just giving me a pep talk. That, and going for good long walks. Sometimes I just needed to clear my head and get a new perspective. It’s easy to get sucked down into a blinding hole with one manuscript. We need help to find our way out sometimes. Writing two other books at that time helped me gain a fresh perspective as did reading posts about other authors’ paths to publication. It’s rarely easy for any of us…we’re all in this together!

SIGN

Are there any specific questions you’d suggest writers ask an offering agent during “The Call”?

I got “The Call” from my acquiring editor, not an agent. I asked a lot of questions over the course of several days…you can find lists of questions online that spell out what you should ask an agent or editor. But the things that convinced me the most that Cedar Fort was right for my book were asking other Cedar Fort authors about their experiences with the company and looking at the quality of books and covers that Cedar Fort puts out. They put out very high quality writing and covers. I’ve been truly happy with them every step of the way! If you get a call from an agent, I’d recommend finding out from an agent’s current clients how their experiences have been. I’d also want to see what deals the agent has made in the past year.

What is the revision process like between you and your agent?

Since I don’t have an agent, I will focus more on my acquiring editor, Ashley Gephart. Her first round of edits to me were completely eye-opening. I had previously had well over 30 critique partners and beta readers on my manuscript before she worked on it and I’ve never experienced such deep, thematically significant edits. I agreed with 95% of what she suggested and the parts that I didn’t, she was fine with me keeping as it was. I have loved the friendly and professional back-and-forth with my editor over the months of working with her. It’s a wonderful partnership that I had not anticipated, but now can’t imagine writing a book without!

SUBMIT

Did you know there was interest in the book before you got an offer or was it a surprise?

I was completely surprised. On Twitter, I had read an #MSWL written by Ashley, my editor, where she put a call out for MG submissions. I had a short conversation with her on Twitter and sent my manuscript in. Only three weeks later, I got an email from Cedar Fort offering me a contract. It was a total surprise. So much so that I thought it was spam, and then a joke, or maybe a mistake. I had to read the email several times before it began to sink in that it was genuine.

How did you celebrate when you got the news about your book deal?

I tried not to hyperventilate. I did an awkward little dance in the kitchen and then calmed myself down because I know these things can take time and sometimes not go through (at that time, I could have still declined). My husband took me out for dinner to our favorite date night restaurant.

DEBUT

What’s involved in promoting a book?

There is an endless amount of possibilities when it comes to marketing and promoting a book. I thought, because I am with a smaller publisher, that I’d have to do so much more self-promotion than the authors being published through the ‘big five.’ And, while in some cases, that might be true, for the most part we are all having to do the very same or similar things for our own books when it comes to promotion: scheduling book cover reveals, being active on social media (not only about my own book but about other’s books), scheduling blog tours, answering questions for interviews, ordering bookmarks and other swag, making connections at bookstores, libraries and schools, getting media outlets to be interested in some aspect of your book or career as a writer, scheduling an author release party and signings and the list goes on. I come across lists of 101 things to do to market your book, and suddenly, I feel my heart clench. It can be pretty overwhelming. One thing I’ve learned to do is to spend at least 5 minutes a day on publicity and focus on the aspects of it that I am most passionate about. I can’t do everything, but taking small bites out of it each day adds up to a lot in the long-run. It’s a month before my release as I write this, and I can already see how it is worth it.

Is there a lot of support among debut authors?

Absolutely! The Sweet 16s group has been a god-send. We are all in this together, and it has been so comforting to know that I’m not the only one who is afraid to look at their reviews, or who is overwhelmed by the amount of appointments that need to be made to promote their book, or who just wants to celebrate the fact that they got their bookmarks in the mail that day! It’s all so new and exciting, I can’t imagine doing this alone, without the support of others who are going through similar journeys.

What was it like to see your cover?

The first time I saw my cover, I cried. Seeing my cover made becoming an author feel so real. And I LOVE my cover. It wasn’t the final version that you see now and there were a couple of things to work out. They had a grizzly bear on the cover instead of a black bear. A minor thing, but since there haven’t been any grizzly bears in Colorado for decades, I had to ask if they could change it. They also worked on a few different styles for the typography and placement of the title and tagline, but in the end, I absolutely love my cover!

Thanks, Shari!

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Query.Sign.Submit.Debut! with Brooks Benjamin

BB author picture

Brooks is a middle grade author and his debut, MY SEVENTH-GRADE LIFE IN TIGHTS, is now available from Delacorte/Random House! He is represented by Uwe Stender of TriadaUS Literary Agency.

Benjamin-My Seventh-Grade Life in TightsConnect with Brooks . . .

Website * Facebook * Twitter * Goodreads

Get the book . . .

Amazon * IndieBound * B&N * BAM * Powell’s

 

 

Query into

Now for insight from Brooks on querying, signing with an agent, going on submission, and being a debut author!

QUERY

What was your method for querying? Small batches? Query widely? Wait for feedback?

I kind played it safe with my querying. I picked the absolute top agents I wanted to work with and sent out a batch of like five emails. And then I waited. For what seemed like forever. And when I got two rejections I’d send more. So in the span of a few weeks I ended up sending probably around twenty five or so emails.

What helped you get though the query trenches? Inspirational posts? Writer friends? Writing another book?

Keeping my mind off the queries I’d just sent and on a new project I was working on. As soon as I hit send on my queries I began a new project and tried to focus every bit of energy into that. And when a rejection would trickle in, writer friends were always there to give me a pat on the back, a pep talk, or to make me laugh. Jackie (my wife) was probably my biggest cheerleader during this time. At one point I was ready to give up, but she wouldn’t let me. If it weren’t for her, I would’ve never found my agent.

Are there any conferences you attended that really helped you move forward as a writer during this stage?

Yes! I attended my very first conference shortly after I decided to try writing a book. I went to the Midsouth SCBWI conference and met my very first writer friends (thanks to Gail Nall who introduced me to literally every person there). It was that conference that introduced me to the publishing world. I go back to it every single year.

SIGN

Are there any specific questions you’d suggest writers ask an offering agent during “The Call”?

Definitely ask your agent which editors specifically he or she has in mind, how many editors he or she will sub to at a time, and what sort of sales record he or she has with your type of book. I was so nervous talking to the agents who had offered and I felt like if I asked something like that it’d be too personal, too rude. But once I did they were all so happy to tell me. Agents expect you to be curious about their plans for your work. They’re excited about your work. They love your work so don’t be afraid to ask them those questions.

How editorial is your agent? Is it what you expected?

Uwe is highly editorial which I love. I was looking for an agent who could help me chop, shred, and rebuild my manuscript to make it as good as it could be. And Uwe definitely did that. We talked on the phone about ideas to make it better. He’d ask questions, offer suggestions, and listen. It was truly a team effort. I was expecting him to give me notes, but I didn’t know he’d be so willing to talk about them like he was. It was truly refreshing.

At what point do you share new story ideas with your agent?

I’ve sent Uwe first chapters and I’ve also pitched him ideas over the phone. One of the things I love about him is how excited he gets when he hears or reads something he likes. It’s such an infectious sort of enthusiasm and I always leave so jazzed about whatever it is I sent his way.

SUBMIT

What is a typical first round like once a writer goes on submission?

So. Much. Waiting. You’ll find out which editors are reading your work and you’ll wait. You’ll ask your agent for an update and he or she will tell you that no news is good news and you’ll wait. You’ll Twitter stalk the editors and see if they’ve posted anything telling and you’ll wait. And then if one of them passes, you digest any feedback they’ve offered and you’ll wait some more.

What do you suggest a writer does while out on submission?

I’d suggest writing. The waiting can be so distracting and if you’re like me, it’ll completely consume your day. So what I’d suggest (and what I’d bet any agent would suggest) is to read as much as you can and begin that next project that your agent will fall in love with.

Did you know there was interest in the book before you got an offer or was it a surprise?

I did! Wendy Loggia, my incredible editor, emailed Uwe to let him know she really loved what she’d read so far. After that I floated through the week and never stopped smiling. And then on Friday, I got the email from Uwe. It was a pretty spectacular day. Smile 

How did you celebrate when you got the news about your book deal?

I immediately showed my wife the email and read it with her so she could verify that it had really happened. Other than dancing around a little and getting some pretty severe face cramps from smiling so much, I didn’t do a lot of celebrating. I did eat pizza, though, and pizza’s always a good thing.

DEBUT

What else are you working on along with all the promotion?

I’m working on another MG right now. It’s tentatively titled THE MOSSY HOLLOW FORTUNE TELLER’S CLUB and has been a blast to write so far!

What other 2016 debut books have you gotten to read? Did you get to read them early?

Oh my gosh, I’ve read SO MANY. I signed up for literally every single book on the ARC tour. If I had to pick a top ten then they’d be Marieke Nijkamp’s THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS, Jen Maschari’s THE REMARKABLE JOURNEY OF CHARLIE PRICE, Laura Shovan’s THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY, Lois Sepahban’s PAPER WISHES, Victoria Coe’s FENWAY AND HATTIE, Melanie Conklin’s COUNTING THYME, Kali Wallace’s SHALLOW GRAVES, Kelly Zekas and Tarun Shanker’s THESE VICIOUS MASKS, Kurt Dinan’s DON’T GET CAUGHT, and Shannon Parker’s THE GIRL WHO FELL. Actually, I could probably list every single galley I’ve read because they’re all so good, but these were the ones that melted my heart in one way or another.

Is there a lot of support among debut authors?

There is so much support. The Sweet Sixteens and the Class of 2K16 groups that I’m a part of have been so wonderful about helping to promote everyone’s work. Without them this journey would be so lonely and not near as much fun.

What was it like to receive your ARCs?

It was an unbelievable feeling. Holding your book for the very first time is so surreal. I actually shot a quick video of the moment when we found them sitting on the deck.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ENej3OsbSZQ

Thanks, Brooks!

See other Query. Sign. Submit. interviews
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Query.Sign.Submit.Debut! with Jenny Manzer

clip_image001Jenny is a young adult author and her debut, SAVE ME, KURT COBAIN, is now available from Delacorte Press (Penguin Random House)! She is represented by Kerry Sparks of Levine Greenberg Rostan.

Connect with Jenny . . . clip_image002

Website * Facebook * Twitter * Goodreads

Get the book . . .

Amazon * Powell's * BAM! * Barnes and Noble * IndieBound * Penguin Random House

 

 

Query into

Now for Jenny’s insight on querying, signing with an agent, going on submission, and being a debut author!

QUERY

What advice would you give to querying writers?

First, be sure your manuscript is ready to query. This may be your one chance to impress a particular agent. The tricky part is—you may not realize that your draft isn’t ready. This is where you either take a step back before querying and reassess the manuscript, or ask some trusted advisors to help you decide. I queried my agent twice with SAVE ME, KURT COBAIN. After an initial pass, I wrote to her months later to see if she was interested in seeing a revision. I was lucky to get a second chance.

If querying was a long time ago for you, what do you remember most?

I remember one day receiving two e-mail rejections at exactly the same time. It was if they fist-bumped in cyberspace. Querying was truly a grueling experience. I still sometimes can’t believe it had such a positive outcome.

What do you wish you’d known back when you were in the query trenches?

I wish I’d been more concise in my queries. When I look at them now, they seem long and perhaps explain too much. A query needs to be complete, but it is only a teaser.

Are there any conferences you attended that really helped you move forward as a writer during this stage?

I didn’t attend a conference, but I did seek out a manuscript consultation from a well-known Canadian short story writer, Zsuzsi Gartner, who also teaches creative writing. Her advice on the manuscript was useful, but her enthusiasm for the story meant even more. I think a well-timed manuscript consult with the right person can make a huge difference both in drafting and your self-confidence.

SIGN

How did you know your agent was the right one for you?

There were several factors. My agent is with a top agency and she has her own track record of success, particularly in YA. But the main things that impressed me were her suggestions for revising my manuscript, her sheer enthusiasm for the book, and also her character. She’s an astute negotiator with incredible drive and energy, but she’s also someone I truly like and admire as a person—and that’s a great place to start a business relationship.

At what point do you share new story ideas with your agent?

I’ll give her a heads up that I’m working on an idea—if I’m actually drafting. I have lots of ideas, and she has other clients, so I generally only let her know if I am really moving forward on a new manuscript.

Do you send sample chapters to your agent or do you wait until the manuscript is finished?

So far, I’ve waited until the manuscript is finished. I tend to plow ahead without revising—adhering to the idea of just getting that messy first draft down. So I need to make sure the place I end up is the place I started before sharing with someone else. My early drafts tend to have name changes halfway through and sometimes eye colors switch—so it’s nice to fix those inconsistencies up first.

SUBMIT

Do you see the feedback from editors?

I did, and I am glad. It’s difficult when critical feedback varies from editor to editor—it leaves you wondering about a path to revision. Still, a published book will receive a lot more scrutiny and it will all be public. The submission stage can help you realize that while one reader may adore a voice; another will not, and that’s just the way it is.

What do you suggest a writer does while out on submission?

Work on something new if that calms you down and fills you up. Many writers need to write to feel grounded. If not, focus on something completely different and unrelated to books—baseball, yoga, kickboxing, movies, your adorable dog or kids—whatever else makes you happy, and you, aside from writing.

How much contact do you have with your agent when you are out on submission?

My agent would let me know who was reading and also send me any rejections so that I was kept in the loop. I liked that system because my agent’s not there to sugarcoat things for me (though I know she sometimes does), but we’re partners in this, working together.

DEBUT

What is the best thing about being a debut author?

Right now the best thing is hearing from real teens who have enjoyed my book—whether they are half a world away in Sydney, Australia, or closer to home in Washington State. I hope I never get over being thrilled about that. I also love seeing mentions of my book pop up at different libraries around North America.

What other 2016 debut books have you gotten to read? Did you get to read them early?

I have read some absolutely wonderful 2016 debut YA books, and there are dozens more I would like to devour. A few I read early and enjoyed include: THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE, ASSASSIN’S HEART, THE FIRST TIME SHE DROWNED, MY KIND OF CRAZY, DON’T GET CAUGHT, and THE GIRL WHO FELL. I recently purchased UNDERWATER and loved it, too. I went on a YA buying spree. I also read a warm and wonderful middle-grade book: MY SEVENTH GRADE LIFE IN TIGHTS. There is a real range in this Class of 2016 mix: from complex fantasy, to suspenseful, heart-wrenching contemporary, to fast-paced and funny.

Is there a lot of support among debut authors?

Yes! I joined The Sweet Sixteens group of debut authors, and they are a fabulous, generous and humorous bunch. I’ve learned so much from the fine writers in this group—about the publishing process, about book promotion, about being gracious, even about the pursuit of diversity in books. Children’s literature is dynamic and competitive, but there’s room for everyone at the table.

What was it like to see your cover?

My cover surprised me. I thought it might have some aspect of Kurt Cobain on it—some graphic allusion to him. Instead, it looks like the knee of a torn pair of jeans. I love it now. I think it really stands out, which was definitely the goal. Seeing the cover made me think: “Here we go. This is really going to be a book!”

What advice would you give to writers who are working hard to get to their own debut year?

The author Courtney Summers once shared the advice that authors have to play the “long game.” So I am going to borrow her advice. In the case of querying and trying to break in, playing the long game means being professional with everyone you deal with. It means continuing to work on new projects so that these can distract and sustain you when your first project is not going as you’d hoped. It means thinking of the bigger picture and not dwelling on every injury or omission—the snarky reviews, or the lists your books doesn’t make. I am still working on all this myself. I’m a WIP!

Thank you, Jenny!

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BEHIND THE BOOK with Janet Sumner Johnson

PrintAll books, no matter the genre, have some reality in them. Some truth that called to the author, and pushed them to write the book.

When I was 19, I found myself at a weekend retreat with a bunch of college friends where everyone had paired off but me. Talk about awkward. I wasn’t a writer then, but I have always loved writing, so I begged some paper and a pen and sat down and wrote.

I started with stream-of-conscious about how I was feeling, but soon I found myself telling the story of Annie and Jason and their exploration of the “Great African Jungle.” I was entranced. And during the time it took to write it, I relived my childhood and those carefree days of easy friendship as I wrote about my childhood best friend and I. Of course, none of it had really happened. But it could have.

I didn’t come back to that story for another five years, but when I stumbled upon it, I was drawn to it. At the time, I don’t think I recognized it for what it was, but I was struggling in the face of becoming an adult. I was a semester away from completing my Masters’ and knew that an era of my life would be coming to an end. Plus, I’d recently gotten married. I didn’t admit it at the time, but my future felt so limited. A long line of all work and no play. Of being serious and responsible.

I needed that story I had written. I needed that carefree feeling. That joy that comes from spending time with someone who means the world to you. And I needed more of it. So that’s what I did. I wrote a series of stories from my childhood. Not all of it is true, and of course, gads and gads of it were changed and formed into something that suited the larger story, but many of the events in my book really happened. Often not in the way or at the time that it happens in the book, but it happened nonetheless.

So today, I wanted to share just one event from my book and talk about the truth behind it. But rest assured there are many, many more.

During the hunt for the buried treasure, Annie and Jason come across an actual ‘X’ scratched into the rock. They frantically dig, certain they have found the treasure, only to find nothing but an old, broken Miss Piggy Alarm Clock. An item from Annie’s long-since past. One night, when she was 5, her mother served pork chops for dinner. Annie asked what pork chops were, and her mother glibly answered, “Pig. We’re eating Miss Piggy!” Properly horrified, Annie buried her beloved alarm clock with the help of her best friend.

This really happened to me! When I asked my mom what pork chops were, that is how she responded. Even she can’t explain that momentary lapse of judgement. And for the record, I do not like pork chops to this day. I had a Miss Piggy alarm clock that I loved, but I didn’t bury it. I wish I would have thought of that, because I would have totally done it! Poor Miss Piggy.

I don’t have time to tell more, but I am offering all of you the chance to win a one-of-a-kind annotated ARC in which I note many of the stories behind The Story. Thanks for dropping in, and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Janet Sumner Johnson 

JanetJohnson.AuthorPicJanet Sumner Johnson lives in Oregon with her husband and three kids. She bakes a mean cinnamon twist and eats way more cookies than are good for her, which explains her running habit. Though her full-time occupation as evil tyrant/benevolent dictator (aka mom) takes most of her time, she sneaks in writing at night when her inner funny bone is fully unleashed. The Last Great Adventure of the PB&J Society is her first novel.

PB&J Society

Connect with and learn more about Janet . . .

Website * Blog * Twitter * Facebook * Goodreads

Query.Sign.Submit.Debut! with Lindsay Eagar

Lindsay Eagar-12-EditLindsay is a middle grade author and her debut, HOUR OF THE BEES, is now available from Candlewick Press. She is represented by Sarah Davies of Greenhouse Literary Agency. CMMlj24VAAApX0r

Connect with Lindsay . . .

Twitter * Goodreads

Get the book . . .

Indiebound * Barnes and Noble * Amazon 

 

Query into

Now for Lindsay’s insight on querying, signing with an agent, going on submission, and being a debut author!

QUERY

What are some important things for querying writers to consider when researching agents?

1) Make sure you really understand the role of an agent before you begin defining the right kind of agent for yourself. Many authors don’t sell the first book they send on submission. Many authors find themselves at creative crossroads after hitting the publishing milestones (getting the book deal, handing in edits, after the book releases, etc.). In these tumultuous moments, you want an agent on your side who has the end game in sight, someone who can offer perspective and guidance for this particular book deal, yes—but also for your entire career. A good agent is not just a salesperson; a good agent can act as book doctor, author therapist, contracts advisor, and that wise little voice in your head.

2) I’ve heard a lot of people compare signing with an agent to marriage. While I understand the hilarity and accessibility of this metaphor, it’s actually pretty important to understand that it’s not a marriage, or a friendship, or any kind of interpersonal relationship. It can definitely blossom into one of those things, but the truth is that many authors switch agents throughout their careers. Agents quit. Agents switch agencies. Agents see differently than their clients and have to part ways. This doesn’t mean you should have the mentality of, “Oh, if this agent doesn’t work out, I can find another one!” It’s still a serious step to hire an agent, and you should do so as if you will be working together and selling books forever! But there’s also a comfort to know, when you are querying, that it isn’t a commitment until death do you part. It’s a business relationship. There are boundaries, and expectations, and you should both be honest about what to expect out of your new pairing.

3) Wait until your manuscript is ready. Really. If you query before you have revised and brought the manuscript up as high as you can bring it, you’re just ensuring that you’ll have rejections. Yes, every author has their own stack of rejection letters—but there’s no reason to add to that pile by querying with an unfinished, unpolished manuscript. Wait until it’s ready—and then wait another week, just to be sure.

What do you wish you’d known back when you were in the query trenches?

I wish I had known that it was just the first step of many (and the first celebration of many!) on my publishing journey. I had put so much stock into this milestone that the next milestone—selling a book—felt so far away. Signing with an agent is absolutely cause for joy, but it is the very beginning of the workload, not the end! I also wish I could have bottled my momentum to unleash during long months of waiting. Seriously, publishing is an industry of mostly silence, a few flurries of emails, and word-by-word, page-by-page book-writing. Getting an agent doesn’t change that, I’m afraid.

What helped you get through the query trenches? Inspirational posts? Writer friends? Writing another book?

I devoured any blog posts like this one—the “how I got my agent” posts were like sweet, sweet candy to me while I refreshed and refreshed my inbox. I also did start on a new project. It kept my mind busy while waiting for feedback from agents, and it also reminded me the reasons I was willing to put myself through such psychological and emotional torture: because I wanted to write stories.

SIGN

How did you know your agent was right for you?

When I was learning how publishing worked (through Google University), Sarah Davies’ blog on her Greenhouse Literary website was the first agent blog I had ever read. I stayed up all night reading her archive, and took notes, and marveled in her perspective on what makes a book good and timeless. I knew she was an agent I would query someday, and when I finally had a manuscript, I gritted my teeth and screamed a little when I sent the e-mail out to her! You’re not supposed to have a “dream agent,” smart people will tell you—but I absolutely did, and when she offered me representation, I pretended to take the weekend to think about it (so I would look like a levelheaded, patient, responsible adult) but she had me at hello!

She is the right agent for me because she is passionate about representing only the highest quality books. She has a killer sales record, and a very grounded, no-nonsense approach to building her authors’ careers. I’m very lucky to have her as my agent.

How editorial is your agent? Is it what you expected?

Yes, she is editorial with a capital “E!” Sarah worked as an editor for years. She has a high standard for manuscripts that she sends out on submission. We worked on BEES for a good six months before we sold it.

I did expect it, because that was one of the reasons I queried her, but working with Sarah was my first experience with an edit letter. It was so much work, but it taught me that a thoughtful critique is the greatest gift you can give to a writer, and I was so grateful that she was thorough with my manuscript before we shopped it to publishers.

At what point do you share new story ideas with your agent?

This is something I recently learned about myself the hard way—as much as I wish I could know what a book is about before I finish it, I really need to get through the first draft and at least one round of revision before I can correctly pitch it. I had a heartbreaking experience with this, when I pitched a book that I didn’t quite understand and sent along sample pages, and the critique of this half-baked book put me off the whole idea for months! The poor book just wasn’t finished simmering yet. Thus, I made my own rule about this: I won’t send her anything until I know my book well enough to withstand its evaluation, and for me that means a semi-completed manuscript.

SUBMIT

What do you suggest a writer does while out on submission?

Find something to work on. It doesn’t have to be Your Next Book— it can just be a bit of writing that sets your heart a-twitter, or it doesn’t even have to be writing! It could be a quilt, a classical music piece, your roller-blading skills. It’s better if it doesn’t involve computer or TV screens, and double points if it’s something physical. That way, your hands are kept from inbox refreshing, your mind can go into that trance-like state that comes with creation, and your heart can remember that there’s more in this world than this book, this round of submission, this deal.

Did you see the feedback from editors?

Yes! I asked that Sarah forward me all messages, positive and negative. It was surprising to see how much the rejections conflicted—one editor thought my main character was too passive, another thought she was much too headstrong and proactive for a twelve-year-old. How funny is that! It was also great to see the ones that were so close—one editor asked to see any future projects from me, even though they couldn’t buy BEES. That was such a great beacon to find in a rejection letter—that my career would have a future, even if this book didn’t.

How did you celebrate when you got the news about your book deal?

I went to the bookstore with no price limit and spent $*** of money on whatever books I wanted to buy. (I’m blurring that number out, because it will shock you.) It was the most fun I’ve ever had. I’m doing it for every book deal.

DEBUT

What was it like to see your cover?

Surreal! I was already a fan of Matt Roeser (my cover designer) so when I heard he was assigned to my book, I heaved a sigh of relief. The initial e-mail with the cover comp required a bit of faith on my part—the watercolor letters of the title were going to be raised and glossy against the matte white cover, but of course, I couldn’t see that online. But when I finally got to see the in-person effect, I swooned. It is the perfect cover for this story.

What else are you working on along with all the promotion?

I am finishing up edits on my second middle grade with Candlewick Press, out fall 2017. It’s called RACE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA, and it’s a very special book to me, but also incredibly difficult to work on—it was a trunked manuscript, and I’ve rewritten it so many times in the last five years. But I’m so excited to see it on shelves.

What advice would you give to writers who are working hard to get to their own debut year?

If you want it, if you truly want to write stories and see them published, you will have to work hard to get there. Either it’s worth it to you or not, so if it’s not, then get out while you still have your heart! If you do want it, then know that everything else fades away and the work is all that remains. Talent fades, cleverness is only relative, and shortcuts lead to the big bad wolf. Publishing requires you to work harder than you ever thought you could… But ultimately, it’s the only thing that matters, and it is the only thing that is rewarded.

Thank you, Lindsay!

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Get a free set of friendship postcards!

As a THANK YOU to those who preorder THE BFF BUCKET LIST, I’m giving away sets of these adorable, custom designed friendship postcards! Send them to your BFFs or use them as notecards and make someone smile. :)

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For details on where to preorder and how to get your set of postcards, go to http://www.deeromito.com/thanks.

About the book . . .

9781481446426

Ella and Skyler have been best friends since kindergarten. Although lately, things have been different.

Ella’s determined to fix things with a fun project she’s sure will bring them closer together—The BFF Bucket List. But as new friends, epic opportunities, and super-cute boys enter the picture, the challenges on the list aren’t the only ones they face.

Releases May 3, 2016 from Aladdin/Simon & Schuster, releases

Query.Sign.Submit.Debut! with Natalie Blitt

Natalie Blitt Headshot 1.10.16

Natalie is a young adult author and her debut, THE DISTANCE FROM A TO Z, is now available from HarperTeen Epic Reads! She is represented by Rena Rossner of The Deborah Harris Agency.

Connect with Natalie . . .The Distance From A to Z cover

Website * Facebook * Twitter * Goodreads

Get the book . . .

Amazon * Barnes and Noble * Kobo * HarperCollins

 

 

Query into

Now for Natalie’s insight on querying, signing with an agent, going on submission, and being a debut author!

QUERY

What advice would you give to querying writers?

Keep querying. Every time you receive a rejection, send out another query. It takes a long time. Long enough to get discouraged, but you need to push through. Remember: everyone gets rejected. Nobody sails through the query process to a fantastic agent to a six-figure deal to the NYTimes Bestseller list. At every stage it takes pushing through the doubt, timing, luck and so much hard work. You definitely won’t sign with an agent if you stop querying after rejections.

How did you keep track of your queries?

Querytracker is amazing and it was one of the only things I missed when I stopped querying. It’s simple and clear, and for the most part, a very supportive community. And you get to see how many other people are just as nervous as you.

What was your method for querying? Small batches? Query widely? Wait for feedback?

I queried in small batches. I kept a file with information on all the agents I was interested in, what comparable writers they had as clients, what personal touches I could add to the letter. And then I’d send them out five at a time, each time careful to make sure that I put the right name on the top and in the email, and that I had the right information of what they were looking for in a query (1 page, 5 pages, 10 pages, etc.). Truthfully, I put off anyone who asked for a synopsis because I was scared of writing one. Now however, I’d suggest you teach yourself to write a synopsis because you’ll be writing them at every stage.

SIGN

What was the week surrounding your offer(s) of representation like for you?

Hell. I hated every moment of it. You’d think that after receiving a good number of rejections, I’d be happy to say no to agents who were interested but it made my stomach hurt. And I was terrified I’d make the wrong choice. And I felt so angry that all these agents who’d had my full for six months or more were telling me: I really love your book but wish we’d had time to do an R&R. Because we did have time!

How did you know your agent was the right one for you?

I didn’t. And I don’t think you can. Truthfully, my first agent and I parted ways very amicably. You really can’t know exactly what you want from an agent until you’ve been in that kind of relationship. You can say you want lots of editorial support, until your agent (not mine!) takes you on edits for a year or more. All you can do is ask the best questions you can, work hard on the relationship and, if it doesn’t work, part ways in a professional way.

Once a writer has signed with an agent, what’s the next step?

For me, it’s always been edits. This is actually the easiest part because it shouldn’t be a surprise what they want to see changed in your manuscript: it should be what you talked about during your call. What gets much more difficult is when you start sharing new manuscripts, ones that your agent didn’t sign you up based on. Then you need to go through the difficult process of figuring out what advice/ edits you agree with and what you don’t.

SUBMIT

Do you see the feedback from editors?

I did. I wanted to see it, and while it was tough to read some of it, I would have imagined it much worse. There were times that I wanted to send one editor’s rejection to another editor, since they directly contradicted each other (one says: it’s too commercial, we’re looking for literary; the other: it’s too literary, if only it was more commercial). It helps you remember that all editors aren’t looking for the same thing. Which is why even the most successful books receive rejections in the submission stage. My editor had to read my manuscript dozens and dozens of times. She had to go to bat for it constantly. You need to personally love a book in order to do that.

What do you suggest a writer does while out on submission?

Write. Another. Book. Preferably one that you’re really excited about or that you can lose yourself inside. It is such a difficult time emotionally, you need to remember why you’re doing all this, how much you love writing. For me, the books I wrote while on sub both times were vital for my sanity!

Also, you need a circle of writer friends you trust completely. Anything that happens while on submission needs to be kept quiet. You can’t react to anything, all those crazy emotions need to be far away from social media.

Can you check in with your agent if there hasn’t been any news in a while?

It’s hard not to drive your agent crazy while you’re in the midst of this emotional time when people are critiquing your baby. So yes, I contacted my agent every tenth time I wanted to. Otherwise I’d be asking her to refresh her email as often as I was refreshing mine.

It’s really, really hard to be in this process. But really, the only thing that helped me was writing at the same time. And having amazing friends and critique partners.

DEBUT

What is the best thing about being a debut author?

The best? Having an answer to the question: oh, you’re a writer? Where can I buy your books?

What’s involved in promoting a book?

Getting outside your comfort zone. You need to talk with bloggers and do all that self-promotion that almost all authors hate. That said, don’t do more than you can, and try to focus on the stuff you enjoy. I really liked making teaser graphics, so I did a lot of that. And I think it helped that I really loved it!

Is there a lot of support among debut authors?

There is a ton of support in the community. Different people handle their debuts differently. Some people are really, really active in debut groups while others get overwhelmed quickly. But if you want that support and friendship and commiseration, you can find it. The best thing about social media (in my opinion), is that even as an introvert, you an be part of all that community. You can just shut off your computer when you need to – it’s much easier than walking out of a party!

What was it like to see your cover?

Amazing. My book actually had a cover contest between three covers, and before that I saw two other possibilities. There’s something about seeing your story with a picture on the front and your name on top that is so freaking amazing. I would have been happy with any of those covers!

What was release day like?

Totally overwhelming and wonderful. Part of being in a debut community is that everyone there knows or can anticipate what the experience is like for you. So you wake up and go to sleep with a ton of Twitter and Facebook and Instagram love. And that really helps as you constantly refresh your book’s Amazon ranking (don’t do it) and read the reviews coming in (definitely never, ever do that).

And frankly, release day is way longer than a day! It goes on and on … soak it in because it’s amazing. You wrote a book. People are buying that book and reading that book. It’s what it’s all about.

Thanks, Natalie!

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