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Learn about Scrivener in the Tools for Writers series.

Research agents and learn about the publishing process with Query.Sign.Submit. interviews.

Try out some new vocab with our Teen Speak feature.

Teen Speak – Am I Right?


A Buzzfeed post I read recently claims people Teen Speak Logo say, “Am I right, ladies?” but I can say that rarely do we ever use “ladies” at the end of that. More likely we’ll just blurt, “Am I right?” to an echo of cheers or completely blank stares.

Often, I use “Am I right?” in kind of a joking way. I’ll say it a couple times while jabbing a friend with my elbow. Wink wink, nudge nudge, get it?

As for “Can I get an amen?”…is that used? Ever? Maybe I’m not a typical teenager, because I don’t use it, but not even my friends say it, nor do my sisters’ friends (and there’s a wide variety there, since one is a sophomore in high school and the other’s an eighth grader). So in your writing, I think you’d be safer just axing that altogether.

And there you have it.

NOTE: There will ALWAYS be exceptions. My experience is simply my experience. So if teenagers around you say/don’t say these things, then by all means, go ahead and use/don’t use them if they fit in your story.

About the Author :

Kate Kate Bucklein is a clumsy, nineteen-year-old writer of YA epic fantasy living in Northern Arizona, where they really do get snow and the occasional tumbleweed. She's a college sophomore working toward getting her degree in Global Affairs with an emphasis on Intelligence Analysis.

Connect with Kate:@KateBucklein

Six Myths About the Publishing Process

Top Tips 150

A big thank you to Renee Ahdieh for our first post in this new series!

1.) Getting an Agent is Like Payday

Don't get me wrong. The day you get an agent is a great, great, GREAT day. And you should definitely celebrate it. But I think a lot of people mistake it for the book nerd equivalent of a Snoop Dogg video.

Really, the day you get an agent is like the first day of the rest of your book life. Or like the first sentence of a brand new chapter in your book life, and sometimes, you're very lucky, and it's a very easy chapter to write. Most of the time, however, the chapter takes a while to write, and you're left waiting and waiting. Or you're left wondering what happens next.

2.) All You Need is Any Ole Agent

Like, I wish I had a button you could press right HERE that went off with flashing green lights that left your mind in a daze and your eyes all blurry. It's true that any agent can submit your work to any publisher. But it is NOT true that any agent can get your work READ by any editor. If you don't get a great agent, chances are, your stuff may not get read at a Big Fancy House, and it will certainly not get prioritized. The reason you work with big-name agents or agents at established literary agencies is because of the rapport these agents have with editors. Editors trust their taste, and these agents know what these editors are looking for in manuscripts.

3.) Your Agent Will Sub Whatever You Write

Not even close to true. I have a lot of good friends rep'ed by terrific agents. Many of my friends have written several books their agents won't sell. Period. If this is something that might make you flinch, be sure to have this conversation with your potential agent before it becomes an issue. Because it's a reality.

4.) Your Big Fancy Publisher Will Handle All Your Marketing

Nope. Your Big Fancy Publisher will COORDINATE some of your marketing. Probably. But you are still responsible for putting yourself out there and being accessible to your readers. Gone are the days when writers were misery curmudgeons hiding in their basements, subsisting solely on cheese and the tears of lesser men. You need to put the Slither in Slytherin. The Grin in Gryffindor. The . . . you get the picture.

5.) Things Will Start to Make Sense Once . . .

Nope. They won't. I have one of the best agents in the business. I'd say the best, but I'm biased, and I'm trying to be somewhat grounded, for the sake of this blog (please don't send me a testy email, B). I'm also working with a terrific publishing house. But I still feel like I don't know what's going on, no matter what I do. The truth is, this business will chew you up and spit you out. One day you'll be on an absolute high, and then the next, you'll be in a corner, hugging your knees, listening to John Legend on repeat. Anyone who says otherwise is selling you something. Besides a book.

6.) You Can't Trust Anybody

This is kind of a half-myth. And I struggled with sharing this one. Because it sucks to put this out there. Of course, there are people you can't trust. But don't believe that everyone out there is gunning for you or hoping you'll fail. It's absolutely true that there's jealousy in the book world . . . because there are always bigger book deals and better covers and flashier marketing plans right around the corner. But there are also amazing friends to be made and people who will catch you when you fall and offer a shoulder to cry on when it's greatly needed. Don't suspect that everyone is waiting for you to fail.

A lot of people just want to be your friend. And book friends are some of the best friends in the world.

About the Author :


Renee Ahdieh is a writer of Young Adult books. Her novel THE WRATH AND THE DAWN, a reimagining of The Arabian Nights, will be published by Penguin/Putnam in 2015.

Connect with Renee . . .
Website ~ Twitter ~ Goodreads

Teen Speak - Hashtag


Teen Speak Logo

Holy Lord, how I wish this weren’t a thing teenagers  actually say aloud. It’s like that horrible time when people actually said “LOL” out loud. That’s a texting acronym. It shouldn’t be said aloud, and yet people did.

Anyway, going back to hashtag, yes, people really do say this aloud. It’s become such a common thing due to social media that it’s probably natural for a lot of teenagers to say. For anyone up-to-date with social media, it’s fairly obvious what a hashtag is used for, so I don’t think I need to go into too much detail.

However, used in a sentence, it looks like this: “I nearly got into a car crash! Hashtag YOLO.”

Bonus word: YOLO. Another acronym that people really need to stop using, it stands for “You Only Live Once.” Apparently, teenagers assume it justifies doing pretty crazy things. My preference is the much more effective “YODO,” as in “You Only Die Once.” But that’s more of an inside joke. J

NOTE: There will ALWAYS be exceptions. My experience is simply my experience. So if teenagers around you say/don’t say these things, then by all means, go ahead and use/don’t use them if they fit in your story.

About the Author :

Kate Kate Bucklein is a clumsy, nineteen-year-old writer of YA epic fantasy living in Northern Arizona, where they really do get snow and the occasional tumbleweed. She's a college sophomore working toward getting her degree in Global Affairs with an emphasis on Intelligence Analysis.

Connect with Kate:@KateBucklein

Query.Sign.Submit. with Lauren MacLeod

Lauren McCleod

Lauren represents middle grade and young adult fiction. She responds to all queries, but in case of overload, after about eight weeks it can be considered a no. There will be an auto response on your submission.

To connect with and learn more about Lauren . . .

The Strothman Agency

literary agent and author  Now for Lauren’s insight on querying, signing with an agent, and going on submission!


What WOWs you in a query?

Voice! Check out the query I got from Hélène Boudreau for REAL MERMAIDS DON’T WEAR TOE RINGS (available here) It has such an amazing voice.

I am also impressed with writers who have really good comparable books and/or super interesting “Think X meets Y”s. It shows the writer is also a reader, which I find very important.

Do you always read a query all the way through? If not, what would make you stop reading?

Nope. A lot of queries we get I can stop after the first few words—we don’t really do adult fiction anymore, and I don’t do picture or chapter books, so the moment I see that I can easily decline. I read more of query letters for genres we represent, but I stop and either decline or just skim if it loses my interest/seems cliché/the writing is weak/the word count is insane etc. If I didn’t, it would take more time than I have and I wouldn’t be able to be open to queries all the time. But thoughtful, voice-y well-written queries in my genres? Yes, I read every word and the sample pages, too.

How do you tackle your inbox? Do you go in order or jump around?

I try and do it once a week or every two weeks, because if I ignore it for longer not only does the sense of guilt start to gnaw at me, but it becomes an overwhelming monster of a task. We have a separate email for submissions, so it doesn’t get mixed up in my regular agency correspondence.

I start at the bottom of the inbox (oldest first!) and work my way up. I personally read every query, but out of the 150 or so emails I get a week I probably only have the urge to continue on to reading the sample pages of about 10ish queries. I usually only request one or two. I set the request bar higher when I’m super busy (for some reason it always works out that my clients all tend to send me mss around the same time) and lower when things slow down.

What does it take for you to offer representation?

It has to make me feel something. Sometimes I read things that are good—that I know are good—but if it didn’t make me laugh, or cry, or completely sweep me up in the story or linger in my mind after I’ve read it, I don’t take it on. I have to be incredibly selective because I devote so much time to my clients and their manuscripts, so I only take on something if I feel something for it.

I know it sounds like we agents aren’t listening to ourselves when we talk about how publishing is a business and then, in the same breath, talk about how we are looking for love in our slushpile, but when we take something on we are doing complex calculations based both on marketability/mss earning potential/time spent AND a “will I want to jump off a bridge if I have to read this ten times?” Which is why we look for love. Reading and giving notes on the same thing a dozen times is made immeasurably easier by also enjoying it/connecting with it on a personal level. (The best part of being an agent, as opposed to an editor, is you only have to do the books you want to do.)


What is it like waiting to hear back from a writer you’ve offered representation?

Oh it is the worst! By the time I’ve offered representation, I’ve fallen totally in love with the manuscript and started thinking about what notes I will give and planning exactly how I’m going to pitch it and which editor is going to be lucky enough to see it. And then I have to wait a week hoping no other agents have the time to read my wonderful manuscript and compete with me.

Plus when agents turn down writers it is almost never personal—it is about the market and those complex calculations I mentioned before. But when a writer picks another agent? It is because they liked another agent more! It is devastating.

How editorial are you?

I would say I’m very editorial. I usually discuss my big picture notes with a potential client when I offer representation and then, once they have signed I will almost always read the manuscript again and give them a written editorial letter of Big stuff. After they revised I usually do a smaller line edit after that, before this goes to the publisher. Sometimes we will do another revision after we hear from a few editors. And a lot of my clients send me sold manuscripts (especially contracted second books) before the editor so I can give them a few light notes before they turn it in. I also get a lot of first halves/thirds of books from clients who want to make sure they are on the right track.

At what point would a client share new story ideas with you?

This totally depends on the client. Sometimes for their next book they will share a list of several ideas and we will talk about which makes the most sense as a next step before they even write a word. Sometimes I get asked to weigh in on first chunks. And sometimes a brand new finished manuscript I’ve only got a vague idea about will land in my inbox.

I love brainstorming with my clients because it is fun and they are all so freaking smart and creative, but they all know what they are doing and I’m happy to come into the process wherever they see fit.


Do you forward editor feedback to writers?

I do, unless the client begs me not to! I give them a list of everyone who has been pitched/submitted to as the manuscript goes out and I let them know in real time as we get feedback/declines. The only thing I might keep under my hat is if an editor mentions being interested but wants to share the manuscript with a few colleagues before he or she decides to take it to an editorial meeting. I try not to get hopes too high too soon.

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

Not think about being on submission! Hopefully my clients will take the opportunity to start a brand new project that they can get really excited about and pour all their energies into. The worst thing they can do is sit at home and worry about being on submission and try and “decode” any declines (or random tweets!) from editors, but if we are being honest I suspect probably 95% of all writers do at least a tiny bit of that. [I mean, I totally would! I’d also probably read every single bad goodreads review and take it personally. Which is why I am on my side of the desk—being a writer is so incredibly hard. I’m pretty sure I’d end up in the fetal position curled around a chocolate cake and a bottle of bourbon after my first week in my client’s shoes.]

But in a perfect world? A client would close the door on Book One (or Book Three, or Seventeen) while we are on submission and start a new one to give his or her all.

Is it okay for a client to check in if there hasn’t been any news in a while?

I am always happy to hear from my clients for any reason! I’d like to think I keep them pretty updated, and if there isn’t any news it is probably because there isn’t any news (publishing is SLOOOOOOW) but I am always happy to help subdue any fears. Plus I always like to hear what they are up to and about any books they have read or new ideas they might have had. I want (hope!) all my clients feel comfortable enough with me that they’d get in touch with me whenever they need to for whatever reason.

Thanks, Lauren!

See other Query. Sign. Submit. interviews
Read inspiring stories of writers getting agents
Find out about agent-judged contests

Posted June 2014– Always check for current info and guidelines.

The Margin Project

School’s out and we cabookplateme up with a fun (and social) way to jump-start your kids’ summer reading- plus a special ARC giveaway (advanced reader copy) to get you started! It’s called The Margin Project and this is how it works:

First, print the bookplate to the left (a simple copy and paste into Word will work or “save as” and open it up in a photo editing program). Next, paste it to the inside cover of the book of your choice (scroll down to enter to win the books of our choice!) This designates the book as part of the project and means that any reader thereafter can doodle or write (clean!) notes in the margins as he or she reads. That part is a thrill in and of itself because we’re talking serious taboo behavior here.

But it gets better. Because now that first reader is photo 1going to pass it along to a friend who is ALSO going to add notes, in a different color pen (and probably giggle over the first reader’s notes) And on it goes. By the end, you might end up with something that looks like this ------>


To get you started, we’re giving away the following books (one each to four lucky winners!) Enter the Rafflecopter below for your chance to win. :)


a Rafflecopter giveaway

About the Author :

Jen Malone is a middle grade and young adult author jenwho spent a year traveling the world solo (favorite spot: Nepal), met her husband on the highway, and went into labor on Stevie Nick's tour bus. She's repped by the fantabulous Holly Root at The Waxman Leavell Literary Agency and her debut AT YOUR SERVICE publishes with Simon & Schuster/Aladdin MIx in August 2014. 

Connect with Jen . . .
Website ~ Blog ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Goodreads

Teen Speak - Fandom


Welcome to the world of Tumblr. In this magical (and downright crazy) place, fandoms exist. The most prominent in my experience have been Whovians, Sherlockians, Cumberbitches, Potterheads, Twihards, and Beliebers. (Though I’ve more likely than not missed a few popular ones. For example, I’m unaware of an overall fandom name for the Supernatural fandom, sadly.)

But fandoms are a huge entity, creating fan fiction and alternate universes (AUs, for future reference) and ships. I recently had to write a paper for my mythology class about cults in the new, modern world, and while researching fandoms, I found this pretty useful site:

Used in a sentence: “The Supernatural fandom teamed up with the Whovians and Sherlockians to take down the Beliebers.” (And they really did, believe it or not. There was a whole debacle after Jared Padelcki of Supernatural tweeted something about Justin Bieber. Go here to read more about it.)

I will have more posts about fandom speak, don’t you worry. If you have any specific words you want me to clarify, though, let me know in the comments!

About the Author :

Kate Kate Bucklein is a clumsy, nineteen-year-old writer of YA epic fantasy living in Northern Arizona, where they really do get snow and the occasional tumbleweed. She's a college sophomore working toward getting her degree in Global Affairs with an emphasis on Intelligence Analysis.

Connect with Kate:@KateBucklein

Cover Reveal (And Giveaway!)for Vicki Leigh’s CATCH ME WHEN I FALL

It’s cover reveal day for Vicki Leigh’s CATCH ME WHEN I FALL! Lots of awesome stuff going on, including a giveaway! But first, here's a special message from Vicki:

And here's what CATCH ME WHEN I FALL is all about:

Recruited at his death to be a Protector of the Night, seventeen-year-old Daniel Graham has spent two-hundred years fighting Nightmares and guarding humans from the clawed, red-eyed creatures that feed off people’s fears. Each night, he risks his eternal life, having given up his chance at an afterlife when he chose to become a Protector. That doesn’t stop a burnt-out Daniel from risking daring maneuvers during each battle. He’s become one of the best, but he wants nothing more than to stop.

Then he’s given an assignment to watch over sixteen-year-old Kayla Bartlett, a clinically depressed patient in a psychiatric ward. Nightmares love a human with a tortured past. Yet, when they take a deep interest in her, appearing in unprecedented numbers, the job becomes more dangerous than any Daniel’s ever experienced. He fights ruthlessly to keep the Nightmares from overwhelming his team and Kayla. Soon, Daniel finds himself watching over Kayla during the day, drawn to why she’s different, and what it is about her that attracts the Nightmares. And him.

A vicious attack on Kayla forces Daniel to break the first Law and reveal his identity. Driven by his growing feelings for her, he whisks her away to Rome where others like him can keep her safe. Under their roof, the Protectors discover what Kayla is and why someone who can manipulate Nightmares has her in his sights. But before they can make a move, the Protectors are betrayed and Kayla is kidnapped. Daniel will stop at nothing to save her. Even if it means giving up his immortality.

CATCH ME WHEN I FALL will be available on October 23, 2014 in both paperback and e-book formats from Curiosity Quills Press. For more information, visit the book’s Goodreads page.

Now, there can’t be a cover reveal without a giveaway, right? Lots of authors stopped by and donated some fantastic books to help Vicki celebrate. You don’t want to miss out on these! Here’s what you can win:

  • An e-copy of CATCH ME WHEN I FALL by Vicki Leigh
  • A submission package critique (query+synopsis+first chap) from Vicki Leigh
  • An e-copy of HEIRS OF WAR by Mara Valderran
  • Two query+first chapter critiques from YA author Emily Stanford
  • A full manuscript critique from YA author Emily Stanford
  • An e-copy of WITHOUT BLOODSHED by Matthew Graybosch
  • A paperback of DESTRUCTION by Sharon Bayliss
  • An e-copy of KIYA: HOPE OF THE PHARAOH by Katie Teller
  • One query+first chapter critique from YA author Katie Teller
  • An e-copy of DARKNESS WATCHING by Emma Adams
  • A copy of DESCENDANT by Nichole Giles
  • An e-copy package of EVER and EVADE by Jessa Russo
  • A signed copy of DIVIDE by Jessa Russo
  • A copy of UNHINGED by A.G. Howard

Enter the giveaway below for your chance to win! All prizes will be accompanied by a Dreamcatcher swag package from Vicki Leigh.

Thanks for stopping by!

About Vicki:

Adopted at three-days-old by a construction worker and a stay-at-home mom, Vicki Leigh grew up in a small suburb of Akron, Ohio where she learned to read by the age of four and considered being sent to her room for punishment as an opportunity to dive into another book. By the sixth grade, Vicki penned her first, full-length screenplay. If she couldn’t be a writer, Vicki would be a Hunter (think Dean and Sam Winchester) or a Jedi. Her favorite place on earth is Hogwarts (she refuses to believe it doesn’t exist), and her favorite dreams include solving cases alongside Sherlock Holmes.

Vicki is an editor for Curiosity Quills Press, a co-founder of The Writer Diaries, and is represented by Sarah Negovetich of Corvisiero Literary Agency.

You can find Vicki at her website and blog and on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, YouTube, and Goodreads.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Scrivener – Corkboard Images

Tools for Writers 

There are several ways you can keep images (or links to those images) in Scrivener. But here’s an easy way for those who want to have groups of images easily and quickly accessible.

bigger split screen

Let’s say you like to have pictures of your characters handy. (This will work for any type of images- characters is just one example.)

If you chose a fiction template when you started, you’ll already have a folder labeled “Characters.” If you don’t, simply create a new folder and label it.

Click on your character folder in the binder and then select “new text” using the add button in the toolbar. This will give you a document within the Character folder. Label it with the character’s name.

adding text

Now go over to the right in the Synopsis box and click on the double arrows. Choose the little photo icon.


You’ll get a box that says “Drag an image file.”

drag image here

Drag the image you want from another file or source right into the box and you’ll see it appear.


Repeat this process for the other characters.

OR you can do this in corkboard view. Make sure your “Characters” folder is still highlighted in the binder and click on the corkboard icon at the top.

When you’re ready to add your next character, make sure the last index card is highlighted and click “new text” like you did in the original example.

Do the same thing as before by clicking the double arrows, choosing the photo icon, and dragging the photo you want.

add from corkboard

The end result will look something like this. Fun, right? :)

corkboard pics

If you want to refer to the images as you’re writing, you can pull them up on their own or use a split screen view. Remember, you can adjust the index cards so they fit the way you want them to. See corkboard post here. And you can use either the side by side or top/bottom split screen.

split screen

You can also click the little blue “i” to the right to close the Inspector Pane and give you more room.

places split screen

This tool can be used for any collection of images, including settings or research. 

Or even if you need a few pictures to refer to on breaks. You know, something that makes you happy or helps you relax. Be creative!


To learn more about Scrivener, head over to the Tools for Writers page.

At Your Service by Jen Malone – Sneak Peek and Giveaway!


Jen Malone is a middle grade and young adult author repped by Holly Root at The Waxman Leavell Literary Agency. She lives north of Boston with her husband and three children, teaches at Boston University, and travels the world as a workshop facilitator.

Her debut AT YOUR SERVICE publishes with Simon & Schuster/Aladdin MIx in August 2014 and today we have a special sneak peak of the first chapter just for you! (But that’s not all, scroll down for a giveaway!)

AtYourService Excerpt by Simon & Schuster Excerpts

Now, who wants to win an annotated e-ARC straight from the desk of Jen Malone?! Enter the Rafflecopter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Patrick McDonald of QueryTracker

Patrick Instead of simply telling you how wonderful QueryTracker is, I went right to the source. Below is an interview with Patrick McDonald, the creator of QueryTracker. (If you’re querying and don’t know about QT, check it out here. It’s a gold mine!)


Tools for Writers

What can you tell us about the man behind the awesome Query Tracker site?

There’s really not much to say. I’m just a boring guy who spends way too much time in front of a computer. I enjoy reading, writing and programming, and QueryTracker rolls all of that info one nice bundle for me.

Why did you start QueryTracker? What is the QueryTracker story?

Well, like every other writer out there, I learned the hard way that writing the book was the easy part compared to querying. And as I was querying, I couldn’t help thinking there had to be a better way to keep track of all my queries. So I came up with QueryTracker. At first it was just going to be a tool for myself and some other writer friends, but it quickly grew beyond that.

What are the most popular features?

I don’t know if I can pinpoint any that are particularly more popular than any others. But I did find it interesting that some of the features I just kind of threw in as an after-thought became very popular. For instance, the “Quick Links” on an agent’s profile that link to other places around the web where you might find that agent. I was pleasantly surprised when people started to comment on how much they like and use that feature. But in the beginning, it was nothing more than a way to fill an empty spot on the page.
Another one that I never expected to take off was the comments section. I thought people would use it, but not as much as it ended up being used. And that’s good.

What is the benefit to getting a premium membership?

There’s lots of extra features available to premium members. One of the most powerful is probably the “Data Explorer” which lets you see all the query information in the database and sort and filter it however you want. For example, you can see all the recent queries to a particular agent, and then see if any queries sent before or after yours has already been responded to. It’s great, because it can let you know if you’ve been skipped over or not.
Do you have a favorite success story?
All of them, of course. But, in the early days of QueryTracker a small group of authors gathered on the QueryTracker forum and we all became very close friends. So when one of them succeeds it’s especially great.

What advice would you give to querying writers?

Be patient. Publishing is a very slow business.
Authors often mention using (and loving!) Query Tracker in our Query.Sign.Submit. series. Does that kind of positive feedback make its way to you?
I often hear and appreciate the nice things people are saying about QueryTracker. The writing community has been very kind and enthusiastic. I can’t thank them enough. But, and this may sound a bit odd, I’d really like to hear more of the bad things. You see, I’m kind of a perfectionist and if there is anything about QueryTracker that needs fixing I’d really like to know. So, if anyone out there has ever ran into a bug or just think something would work better if done differently, please let me know.

How can users help out QueryTracker?

Keeping track of all the agent’s contact information is a daunting task and so I depend heavily on members informing me of any changes they may find. Simply posting about it in that agent’s comment section will usually get my attention. I’ll then verify the change and update the agent’s profile.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Just to thank you and all the QueryTracker members out there. Without all of you, QueryTracker would be nothing.

Thanks so much, Pat!

Posted May 2014

NESCBWI14 Conference

photo 1 Ask a Mentor session run by me & Jen Malone!

There is so much I could say about the New England SCBWI conference last weekend. I could list the amazing authors, agents, and editors who attended. I could mention the helpful sessions, panels, and events. I could go on and on about the inspiring keynote speeches. I could tell you about all the amazing people I met and hung out with or how much fun it was to chat with everyone all day long.

dinner Saturday lunch

But instead I will simply tell you two things.

One, If you get the chance to go to this conference, go. Seriously, get on the mailing list pronto or follow them on Facebook for updates.

Two, to get an idea of the awesomeness of this event, take a look at the tweets I’ve collected with inspiring tidbits. (See slideshow at the top of the post column or click here.)

A BIG thank you to Kris Asselin and her wonderful crew who put it all together!

nescbwi14 From left: Stefanie, Melanie, Monica, Taryn, Ronni, Jen, Me

*HUGS* to all my NESCBWI friends!

Query.Sign.Submit. with Lori M. Lee

Lori M Lee

Lori is a YA author and her debut novel, The Gates of Thread and Stone, releases in August from Skyscape! She is represented by Suzie Townsend of New Leaf Literary.



Connect with and learn more about Lori . . . b2ap3_thumbnail_Gates-cover-FINAL


Enter to win a copy!




literary agent and authorNow for Lori’s insight on querying, signing with an agent, and going on submission!


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

Does the agent have a sales record? If so, are they sales to reputable publishers, i.e. publishers you would want to be published with? If the agent is new and has no sales record yet, then find out whether she’s formed the necessary connections to sell your book. Does she work for a reputable agency? If she’s recently formed her own agency, did she intern with a reputable agency? If the agent has no history of working with agents and/or editors to learn the business, then avoid at all costs.

Other things to consider might be who else the agent represents and whether the agent is editorial.

What resources and websites did you use when querying?

I used,, the absolute write forums, Preditors & Editors, and Literary Rambles agent features. I found them all simply by googling.

How did you keep track of your queries?

I’m a fan of spreadsheets. They’re basically the only way I stay organized. I made a huge list of potential agents, recorded when I queried them and when I received a response, and color coordinated all of it. I’m, uh… kind of obsessed. Hehe.

Had you queried other books before the one that got you your agent?

Yes, I queried another book that garnered a lot of interest but ultimately didn’t work out. Interestingly enough, on that ms, I got the best rejection with lengthy editorial notes from my now agent.


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

Insanity. I went from dramatically flinging myself onto my bed while crying, “NO ONE WANTS MY BOOK!” to fielding multiple offers. It kind of feels like seeing a punch coming while unable to dodge, only to have the punch pulled at the last second and replaced with sparkles and rainbows.

Did you sign as a client of a career agent or on a book-by-book basis?

My agent made it clear when she offered that she’s interested in cultivating her authors’ careers. I definitely wanted a career agent, so that was great.

Did you have any previous contact with editors that you shared with your agent? For example, from conferences or workshops.

I did have a waiting editor request when I began querying. I’d won a writing contest, and one of the judges was an editor, who wanted to see the full ms when it was ready.

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

When I’ve got an outline ready. She’s usually on board with whatever I want to try. Then I’ll write the first few chapters and send them along for her to read to see if I’m on the right track.


Do you see the feedback from editors?

I wanted to see the feedback, so yes. But this is something the author should discuss with her agent. Some authors don’t want to see anything unless it’s an offer. Others just want their agent to summarize feedback for them so they don’t have to see the actual rejections themselves.

What is the next step if an editor shows interest?

Really depends on the publisher, but in general, the book is taken to an acquisitions meeting in which the editor will have to convince a bunch of other important people to love the book as well.

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

Write something new. Loving a new story will help take your mind off the one on submission. Plus, having that new book lined up helps to take the sting out of the book on sub not selling.

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

My agent kept me updated every few weeks. Even if there wasn’t any news, she would email to tell me so. So yes, I knew there was interest. It was all very nerve wracking!

Thank you, Lori!

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Posted May 2014

Query.Sign.Submit. with Mary Elizabeth Summer

Mary Elizabeth Summer

Mary Elizabeth Summer is a YA writer and her debut novel TRUST ME, I’M LYING will be released in Fall 2014 from Delacorte! She is represented by Laura Bradford of the Bradford Literary Agency.




Trust Me

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literary agent and authorNow for Mary Elizabeth’s insight on querying, signing with an agent, and going on submission!


What advice would you give to querying writers?

I’d have to say that the best piece of advice I can give querying writers is to work smarter, not harder. A lot of authors make the newbie mistake that more queries are better. Not so, grasshopper. Targeted queries are better. Find the agents that you know for sure are looking for your type of manuscript. Then Internet-stalk them to get the insider scoop on their turn-ons and pet peeves. Use that info to your advantage in your query. Also, think outside the box. Sometimes querying directly is not the most efficient method. Participate in online pitch contests, pitch agents at conferences, take advantage of direct-to-editor submission opportunities. There are many ways into the castle. You don’t have to force your way in through the often heavily barred front gates.

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

Twitter is your best friend. No really. Get a Twitter account if you don’t have one already. Then get HootSuite or TweetDeck if you don’t have it already. Start making use of the “lists” function. Make a Twitter-feed list of just agents and check it obsessively. Make another one of fellow aspiring authors and check it obsessively. Make another one of pitch/query contest hosters (like @cupidslc, @brendadrake, etc.) and check it—you guessed it—obsessively. Reading agents’ submission guidelines will only get you so far. To get the most info you can on what agents really want, listen to what they say on Twitter. Especially when they do an #AskAgent session.

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

My story is a prime example of what I mean by querying smarter instead of harder. I didn’t query at all. Let me repeat that. I did not. Query. At all. I got my agent through a query contest hosted by Cupid’s Literary Connection (@CupidsLC on Twitter). I literally finished my first draft, entered a query contest, and got an agent within a few weeks. These results are not necessarily typical, BUT it is definitely possible, and besides, query contests offer a whole host of other benefits besides getting an agent—platform building, query-letter/pitch honing, networking, group therapy, prizes, and fun.


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

There are agent blog posts with lists of questions you should ask your prospective agent. Find them and make a written list of questions to ask BEFORE the call, so you don’t forget anything in all your squee. One question that I, in particular, had to ask of every agent that offered me rep was “how do you feel about gay characters in books,” because I fully intend to write gay characters into my books. And not just cardboard cutout side characters—I’m talking gay protagonists where being gay is not the main focus of the book. So if you have issues like that which are deal-breakers for your author-agent relationship, ASK THEM NOW. Even if it might feel uncomfortable bringing up a hot-button topic for you with someone you barely know.

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

Gleeful hell. I was a hot mess and no mistake. First of all, I’d entered the query contest just to test my premise. I had no expectations that I’d get interest from an agent. None. And I got interest from seven or eight agents. So, of course, I panicked. It was only my first draft, and at the time I thought I had to send my ms to the agents within a week of their request. (It is a best practice to send it in as soon after the contest as possible, but I could have taken a little more time.) Tip: Do not enter a query contest with your first draft. Anyway, my agent read my ms within a week of me sending it to her, which, again, I was NOT expecting. And so I had to tell the other agents who had my ms that I had an offer on the table. A few agents bowed out of the running, but a few more threw their hats in the ring. And THAT was brutal. You’d think it would be an awesome thing, right? Such professional validation! But the truth is, you agonize over the conversations with each agent, trying to choose a life partner from a group of people you barely know. And if you’re anything like me, you agonize over hurting the other agents’ feelings when you turn them down. I had an especially rough time, because two of the offering agents were the top agent picks I’d been literarily lusting after for a year. If only one had offered, it would have been easy. But since both did, I had to really soul search before picking.

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

In the end, I chose Laura Bradford because she was strongest in all the areas I was weakest. I’m not really good at writing romance, but she reps romance almost exclusively, so I knew I’d get great advice from her. Also, she’s a highly organized, assertive person. I have moments of organization, but I am faaaaaaar from assertive. I knew she would challenge me to be a better, more professional author, and I knew I needed that push. And I have not regretted my decision for a single second.


Do you see the feedback from editors?

You can choose to see feedback from editors or to have your agent keep it safely hidden from you in a file somewhere. I chose to see all the feedback as it came in, and though it was excruciatingly painful at times, I am SO glad I did. I was able to see a pattern in the rejections—that they all revolved around the last third of the novel (even though the complaints were not consistent, the area the complaints stemmed from was universally the end of the book). So I talked with my agent and revised the last third of the novel in a way I felt comfortable with but that took into account some of the feedback I was getting. Then my agent swapped out the newly edited ms for the original ms with the editors who hadn’t yet read and responded to it. As soon as I did that, I got my first (of several) book-deal offers.

What is the next step if an editor shows interest?

It’s similar to getting an offer of rep from an agent. Your agent notifies the other editors who still have your ms that there is an offer on the table and they have a week to read and either withdraw or throw an offer on the table as well. My agent cautioned me that the rejections would fly in pretty fast once she’d communicated that to the other editors. Funny enough, we heard nothing from the other editors until a week later when other offers started rolling in. Just goes to show that agents can’t predict everything. :)

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

Write. Seriously. Write something else completely unrelated. It is the only way to stay sane. Also find a support group of other writers in submission hell. But mostly write. Writing another story was the only time I felt peaceful relief from the anxiety of being on submission. I wrote a whole other novel in the time I was waiting for my first book to sell.

Thank you, Mary Elizabeth!

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Posted April 2014

Query.Sign.Submit. with Carmella Van Vleet

Carmella Van Vleet

Carmella’s debut middle grade novel, ELIZA BING IS (NOT) A BIG FAT QUITTER, is now available from Holiday House! She is represented by Marie Lamba of The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency.


Eliza Bing

Connect with and learn more about Carmella . . .



literary agent and authorNow for Carmella’s insight on querying, signing with an agent, and going on submission.


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

What I remember most is how disheartening the whole process could be. Every time I’d feel like I was making progress or getting closer to an offer it would fall through and I’d have to start all over again. Or I’d hear a story about someone who landed an agent right out of the gate, and I’d think “Why can’t that be me?” I’ve been writing professionally for over fifteen years; I have a pretty thick skin. But it still got to me at times.

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

That you never know just how close you are to your “Yes” or having all the stars line up. In my case, my agent wasn’t an agent yet. I guess I just needed to wait for her to show to the party, so to speak!

Had you queried other books before the one that got you your agent?

Yes. I’d queried numerous agents with other projects, including a couple of picture books and a young adult novel. I was getting good feedback but no offers in the end. My agent has since sold one of those other projects as well as the book I queried her with.


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

It may sound cliché, but it was a gut reaction. From our first phone conversation, I felt like I’d known her for a long time. She was new to agenting and I was the first person she’d offered representation to. That might scare some writers, but I embraced it. I felt like we were taking a chance on each other and getting to do something special - start our careers together. (The fact she was working at a respected, well-established agency also helped convince me.) And she was a writer herself. I knew she’d really understand what it was like in the trenches.

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

Marie is very editorial. And, because she’s a writer herself, I expected that. Like most writers, I have strong feelings about my work and I sometimes “process out loud.” By that I mean, I talk out ideas or explain why I did something I did. Marie is good about respecting that. I make changes when I feel they improve the work and stand my ground otherwise. There’s a mutual respect, I think. And that helps. Your agent can’t do a good job of selling your work if they don’t genuinely like it or believe in it. That’s my opinion at least.

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

Marie left that decision up to me. I tend to prefer waiting until a manuscript is finished. Maybe I’m afraid of jinxing myself or maybe I’m just not comfortable showing something before it’s ready! But either way, I wait until something is in at least reasonably decent shape before sending it in Marie’s direction.


Do you see the feedback from editors?

When we started submitting, Marie asked me what I’d prefer - to see feedback or wait until an offer. I felt okay about seeing feedback. In most cases, it was actually very encouraging because I could see that it wasn’t necessarily a problem with the writing but the market. For example, the publisher had a similar title or whatever.

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

Write another book. Read. Paint your living room. Take up running. Seriously, keep yourself busy. If you’re waiting by the phone (or computer), it’s going to be a long, stressful process. There’s nothing you can really do, so let it go. Put it all out of your mind.

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

We knew that the book was making the rounds with everyone at Holiday House. (The editor told Marie as much.) But we suspected there’d be requests for revisions first. It was a surprise when they offered a contract straight out.

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

That night, my daughter and I went out to get a giant, decorated cookie. I also treated myself to some fancy nail polish. My main character gets herself into big trouble because of nail polish and the irony didn’t hit me until I was half way to the check out counter!

Thank you, Carmella!

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