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Lisa is a young adult author and her debut, Resurrecting Sunshine, is now available from Albert Whitman & Co./AW Teen! She is represented by Brianne Johnson of Writers House.
Connect with Lisa . . .
Get the book . . . (available in hardcover & paperback)
What resources and websites did you use when querying?
For researching agents, I used both QueryTracker and AgentQuery. But I didn’t use those exclusively. I think it’s also important to visit each agent’s website before querying, for specific guidelines on submissions and what they’re looking for, as well as to make sure that they’re currently accepting submissions. I also never submitted without checking Preditors and Editors, which is a great resource to make sure you’re submitting to legitimate agents and agencies. And don’t miss Manuscript Wishlist, which is an amazing resource for finding potential agent matches for your manuscript. Also, I can’t recommend Twitter enough for querying writers. It’s a great place to interact with agents and other publishing professionals in an informal environment. You can get a solid idea of agent likes and dislikes, as well as a taste of their personalities before you query them formally. (Just please don’t query on Twitter!) By following the right people, you can also get news about pitch/query contests, as well as some excellent advice on querying from agented writers.
Had you queried other books before the one that got you your agent?
Yes. RESURRECTING SUNSHINE was the fourth manuscript I’d queried, but my first YA manuscript. In fact, after over seven years of querying I’d collected nearly 200 rejections. So don’t stop!
Are there any conferences you attended that really helped you move forward as a writer during this stage?
Yes! At the time our local SCBWI chapter announced their upcoming conference, I’d just embarked on something like the billionth round of revisions on RESURRECTING SUNSHINE. I was frustrated and exhausted and so close to calling it quits for good. I really wanted to attend the conference, hoping for a little pick-me-up, but couldn’t afford the registration fee, so my significant other made me a deal. If I got through at least three chapters of my revision by the registration deadline, he’d pay not only for me to attend the conference, but for a critique as well. So I did, and he upheld his end of the bargain. I ended up getting critiqued by a wonderful editor who told me, “You can write” and that she loved my beginning and wanted to see the whole manuscript. I emailed it off to her, making sure she understood that revisions were in progress. We subsequently exchanged several emails, wherein she rejected my manuscript but said she hoped to see it again post-revision, that she thought I was on the right track. So with renewed enthusiasm I continued with the revisions. Those revisions ultimately led to signing with an agent, and the editor in question did indeed get to see the manuscript again, this time when it was formally on submission. And while she ultimately rejected it as not right for her imprint, I have her to thank for giving me the motivation to continue on at a time when I wasn’t sure I had it in me.
What was the week surrounding your offer(s) of representation like for you?
Nobody else was home when “The Call” came. My family was away on vacation. My significant other was at work and unreachable. So I shot off a text message to my significant other, then an email to my critique partner with about a zillion exclamation points in the subject field, and then I danced with my dog. Yes, seriously, I danced with my dog and then fed her way too many biscuits. (She didn’t complain either about the dancing or about the biscuits.) The rest of the week was a blur, though I do have a vague memory of a celebration dinner with my significant other. In some ways, I found myself filled with more uncontainable excitement over signing with my agent than I did when I actually sold my book. I think it was because I’d spent so many years querying, whereas submission was a matter of months.
How did you know your agent was the right one for you?
I’d just returned from walking my dog that Friday to find an email with the subject heading: time to talk this afternoon? It was from the agent I’d been corresponding with over the last few days. In the email she said she was headed to Book Expo America for meetings shortly, but that if I got the email within the next hour to please give her a call. So without any time to prep (or to get myself too worked up), I dialed her number. Now I’m not much of a phone person, but I felt an instant click with Bri. Her enthusiasm for my book was incredible, and so were her ideas for revision, but more than that, it was how easy the conversation was for me. I felt instantly that we were on the same wavelength, and I pretty much knew right away that she was the agent for me. I had other offers of representation that week, from other terrific agents, and I gave them serious consideration…but I knew deep down that Bri was the one.
How editorial is your agent? Is it what you expected?
My agent is very editorial. Right after signing we went through a major revision/expansion of the book. I don’t know that I had any specific expectations since I’d understood that some agents were editorial and others weren’t. Personally, I like having an agent who is so editorial because I feel that the manuscript eventually going out on submission is by far a stronger manuscript than I could have put together alone. But I do think for a relationship with an editorial agent to work, you really need to trust her skill and her judgment, which I do, 100%.
Do you see the feedback from editors?
Yes. At the time we went out on submission, my agent recommended that she save all feedback until we finished the first round of submissions. She said that this way we could look for common threads and make a more educated decision about possible revisions before we embarked on a second round. I actually enjoyed getting feedback from so many editors and found it overwhelmingly encouraging rather than discouraging.
What is the next step if an editor shows interest?
It varies. I had two editors interested in my book. One went straight to acquisitions. The other wanted to have a phone conversation with me first.
What do you suggest a writer does while out on submission?
This may sound like a strange suggestion but I’d say: enjoy it! I know a lot of writers find the submission phase to be stressful and unpleasant. But I think there’s another way to look at it. Personally, I look at it as a period of possibility and potential. Yes, there were days when paranoia would take over and I’d stress out over the waiting, or over the prospect that the book wouldn’t sell and my agent would abandon me and I’d be done before I even started. But more often I would wake up feeling like today could be the day…the day that my life changed forever. And I loved that feeling.
Did you know there was interest in the book before you got an offer or was it a surprise?
Yes. My agent sent me an email to tell me we had interest from an editor, and that my book was going to acquisitions. My agent also explained not to get too excited, that things can very easily fall apart during that stage. The next day, I got another email telling me we had a second house interested.
What is the best thing about being a debut author?
It’s hard to pick one thing. Mostly, it’s the realization that something I’ve worked towards my whole life is about to be a reality, that all my hard work has paid off. But it’s also seeing readers respond to my book, to my characters. It’s the moments when someone posts a review of my book that just says, “Wow.”
What do you wish you had known about being a debut author?
I wish I had known that as amazing as it could be, it would also be terrifying, that I would hit a point where just about everything I did would be out of my comfort zone. I wish I had known that there would be times when I’d give anything to make the whole thing stop…and that it was pretty normal to feel that way, and that it would eventually pass.
What advice would you give to writers who are working hard to get to their own debut year?
What we do…trying to get a book published…it can be brutal. At times it can seem impossible. You might feel like you’re never going to get there. You’ll receive criticism…sometimes harsh criticism. There will be people who will go flying past you. There will be frustration, disappointment, insecurity, jealousy. But there are also amazing moments. When you find a critique partner you click with. The very first time you query a newly polished manuscript. The first time you get personal feedback from an agent. The first time you get positive personal feedback an agent. Full manuscript requests. My advice is to embrace the good things. Enjoy those moments and let them fuel you to move forward. And don’t be afraid to step away if you need to. Just always come back.
Thank you, Lisa!
It started with the idea of writing a story based around one event, from multiple points of view, with seven middle grade authors. Some of us were already friends (we all are now!), but the main connection was that we all have books out with Aladdin/S&S. And on August 15, 2017 we’ll have a book out in the world together.
We were thrilled when we saw the adorable cover, perfectly capturing each character’s personality. My character is Jade, in the upper right corner, and she’s ready to cause some trouble.
About the book: Love Actually meets Adventures in Babysitting in this hilarious novel written by seven authors about seven classmates who are preparing for a crazy night at their middle school dance.
Lynnfield Middle School is prepped and ready for a dance to remember, including an awesome performance from Heart Grenade, the all-girl band who recently won a Battle of the Bands contest. Seven classmates—Carmen, Genevieve, Tess, Ryan, Ellie, Ashlyn, and Jade—intend to make the most of the night…or at least the five of them who are able to attend do. The other two would sacrifice almost anything to be there.
One thing’s for sure—this entire crew is in for one epic night! Rachele Alpine, Ronni Arno, Alison Cherry, Stephanie Faris, Jen Malone, Gail Nall, and Dee Romito have created a charming, hilarious, and relatable novel that’s perfect for anyone who can’t wait to dance the night away.
We’re giving away a set of seven books—one from each author.
I’m also part of another giveaway where you can WIN A $220 AMAZON GIFT CARD! (Ends today!)
A new author has so much to learn. I confess that, despite reading, networking, and educating myself on the publishing process before I sold, most of the "behind the book" stuff on THE RAT PRINCE came as a complete surprise to me!
For example, I wasn't sure what to expect from copyedits...or how a book's cover and/or illustrations were created...or how many rounds of edits my manuscript might require...or how far in advance of release I might be hearing from the in-house publicist...and many more things.
On each and every one of those issues, I needed counsel directly from my editor, Margaret Ferguson, or my agent, Eric Myers.
At first, I couldn't help feeling kind of ashamed that I didn't know these things already. Why, after so much diligent study of the topic, was I so ignorant about it? I was embarrassed, in spite of my agent and editor's reassurances...until I finally realized something I want to share with you right now, to spare you the trouble of worrying:
You can never know all the ins and outs of your personal publishing journey beforehand, because the details of how a book gets from manuscript to finished product vary widely, not only between publishing houses, but between editors-- even at the same house.
Let's look at just a few concrete examples, so you can see what I mean. I gathered these from the collective experiences of my 2016 debut group, The Sweet Sixteens.
*Different publishing houses might refer to the same documents as "galleys" or as "first pass pages"; or they might refer to bound uncorrected proofs differently, as "ARCs" or as "Bound Galleys".
*Some editors use Word documents with "track changes" for revisions; others prefer to do it on paper, by hand, and will send you successive versions in package form.
*Some copyeditors use a light touch, correcting only grammar, alignment issues on the page, spelling, and factual details (such as your hero driving a car that wasn't manufactured until 10 years later than the setting of your book). Others take a broader editorial approach, and may return your manuscript with comments about theme or plot development!
*Some editors will ask for authors' input on cover art, and even incorporate some of the author's suggesions. But it's far more standard practice that authors are not involved in the cover design process.
*Some editors are involved in promotion and publicity, tweeting their authors' milestones and helping suggest and brainstorm marketing opportunities; but this is not part of their job description. It's a matter of personal style. So if your editor doesn't happen to do those things, it doesn't reflect a lack of commitment to, or enthusiasm for, your book!
This is just a smattering of the ways in which your book's creation can differ from anyone else's.
So it's worth repeating what these examples demonstrate: Each publishing house has its own internal culture. And within those separate cultures, each editor has her or his own way of getting things done.
Add to this the fact that like any business, publishing is subject to random change, and to the ebb, flow and crash of market forces. Editors move on to other presses. Publishing houses are acquired by larger conglomerates. The market for a certain genre could dry up overnight. So ultimately, no one at your publishing house can predict what will happen. Not your publicist, your editor, the head of your imprint...no one. (Not without a crystal ball, anyway.)
What, then, is a newly sold author to do? Give up before s/he gets started? (You know the answer is "no", don't you?)
I'm certainly not an expert, but here are two things that really worked for me:
**Don't be afraid or ashamed to ask in a professional way about things you don't understand. Just follow ordinary business protocols, be considerate of your agent and editor's time, and respect any working parameters that have been set between you.
**Network and find author friends. Many of the shifting grey areas in publishing can be explored by a group of caring, confidential connections. There are a variety of ways to build a network with other debut authors, but be sure to earn and verify two-way trust before you get to a deep level of sharing, particularly if you met these connections via social media. You'll want to be certain that you connect with folks you feel genuinely comfortable with... in terms of their core belief systems, as well as the things they write about, and how they write them. Proceed with caution in the beginning, and don't commit to supporting someone's work until you've read it. Once you've established a network you can feel sure of, make sure to be a contributor to, as well as a recipient of, support. Respect and reciprocity are the keys to any good networking relationship.
So, why does publishing seem somewhat mysterious to outsiders, and even to insiders? Because it is, in fact, somewhat mysterious.
Let's all embrace the mystery together.
Bridget Hodder was an archaeologist, then an autism specialist, before she became an author. She bakes triple layer cakes, makes vanilla pudding from scratch, and gives her home-made fudge and toffee as holiday gifts.
Connect with and learn more about Bridget . . .
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Goodreads
Picture it: Thanksgiving morning you wake up and get a lovely email from Jennifer Bardsley, aka "The YA Gal," telling you that you won $220 to spend on a book buying shopping spree on Amazon. Wouldn't that be fun? That lucky person could be you!!!
I've teamed up with twelve YA and KidLit authors to cosponsor a raffle. The grand prize is a $220 USD e-gift card to Amazon. There are multiply ways to enter the giveaway. You can sign up to follow author newsletters, follow them on Twitter, or add a new release to your Goodreads TBR pile. Click here to enter!
Would you like to know more about the authors involved? Check out their websites to find your next favorite book.
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A PURCHASE DOES NOT IMPROVE YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. 1. Promotion Description: The '$220 Amazon Gift Card!' ("Sweepstakes") begins on 11/09/2016 at 06:00 PM (Pacific Time (US & Canada)) and ends on 11/24/2016 at 08:00 AM (Pacific Time (US & Canada)) (the "Promotion Period"). By participating in the Sweepstakes, each entrant unconditionally accepts and agrees to comply with and abide by these Official Rules and the decisions of ("Sponsor"), which shall be final and binding in all respects. Sponsor is responsible for the collection, submission or processing of Entries and the overall administration of the giveaway. Entrants should look solely to Sponsor with any questions, comments or problems related to the Sweepstakes. 2. Eligibility: Open to legal residents of USA, Australia, Canada, England who are Must be 13 years or older or older. Void where prohibited or restricted by law. Sponsor and their respective parents, subsidiaries, affiliates, distributors, retailers, sales representatives, advertising and promotion agencies and each of their respective officers, directors and employees (collectively, the "Promotion Entities"), and members of their immediate families and/or persons living in the same household as such persons, are ineligible to enter the Sweepstakes or win a prize. 3. Winner Selection: The winner of the Sweepstakes will be selected in a random drawing from among all eligible Entries received throughout the Promotion Period. The random drawing will be conducted by 48 hours by Sponsor or its designated representatives, whose decisions are final. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible Entries received. Winner will be notified by email at the email address provided in the Entry Information on or about 48 hours after the random drawing. Potential winner must accept a prize by email as directed by Sponsor within 48 hours of notification. Any winner notification not responded to or returned as undeliverable may result in prize forfeiture. The potential prize winner may be required to sign and return an affidavit of eligibility and release of liability, and a Publicity Release (collectively "the Prize Claim Documents"). No substitution or transfer of a prize is permitted except by Sponsor.
Have you read THE BFF BUCKET LIST yet? Or maybe you’d like a copy to give to a friend or family member. Enter the Goodreads giveaway by November 15 for your chance to win a signed copy.
Head over to Goodreads to enter!
As a fiction writer, I think one of the best things I can do to keep my imagination active is to travel to other countries and explore landscapes to learn what makes them unique and beautiful. I’ve been blessed to travel to over 50 countries, and I think that has helped me to make my stories richer and more distinctive because I have a variety of experiences to pull from.
However, most working writers don’t have the time or ability to travel to a location that proves to be an ideal setting for their work. And there’s only so much you can learn from an online image search. You might be able to put buildings in their proper places and talk about architecture, but you might miss out on adding details like the way fresh crepes smell like cinnamon and melted butter as they’re made right in front of you in the shadow of Notre Dame or how getting pelted in the face with wet lotus blossoms by a monk in Cambodia as a blessing might be mistaken for a bug hitting your face if you’re not expecting it. Or you might not know to add in that in some countries like China and Peru people with blonde or red hair aren’t seen often by people in more rural areas, and locals might want to take their picture, which could work into your plot in multiple ways- everything from a germaphobe hating to be touched to someone running late and getting stopped constantly to the kid who never stands out at home finally getting some attention.
In essence, it’s all about the details – the experiences, sights, sounds, and smells, like how the scent of Bulgarian rose oil infused products lingers on clothes and in suitcases long after being removed or what it sounds like to have dozens of hummingbirds zip around you in the Ecuadorian rainforest – that you can’t always get from photographs alone.
There are an unlimited number of ways that setting, and the people that exist in that setting, can affect your plot. I’ve even found that learning about a specific location can spark something in my mind when I’ve got writer’s block.
So how can you make sure you’re getting the most out of your setting if you haven’t been there? Here are a few resources:
· TripAdvisor (https://www.tripadvisor.com/)
Most people probably only use TripAdvisor for planning a vacation, but it can be so much more than that. People write reviews of prominent places and restaurants for what feels like virtually every city on earth! Use those reviews to shape setting and plot -everything from how to describe a certain museum to how that museum being closed on a certain day caused the main characters to get into a fight. Additionally, people also often post their personal photos, so you can explore those to get a feel for the place.
· My blog! (https://anniesullivanauthor.wordpress.com/)
I offer a free service to writers who contact me either through my contact page on my blog or who find me on Twitter (@annsulliva) and ask for help. I have a list of countries that I’ve visited here: http://bit.ly/2cteV0o I’ll do my best to send you whatever photos and information I can.
· Photo Apps
Check out photo sharing websites and apps like Instagram to also see if you can find candid shots of the location (or the locals!) where you’re setting your story.
· Do you know someone who lives there?
Ask relatives, friends, coworkers, and fellow writers if they can put you in touch with a local.
· Google phrases like “What to know before traveling to….”
Searching this will help make you aware of cultural difference that might be different from your own and that may need to be respected and represented in your story. It can be everything from how to act, what to wear, and what hand gestures might be considered obscene. (Pro tip: Don’t give people the thumbs up in many countries outside of the United States.)
· Watch movies set in those locations
Get a feel for what things are around, how people dress, how people get around, and what they might carry with them from watching how it’s depicted on screen.
· Talk to Travel Bloggers
Chances are that travel bloggers have been there, and they’d probably love to tell you about the place in question as long as you reach out to them in a respectful way (and according to how they wish to be contacted, which can often be found on their website.)
· Check government and tourist websites
Government websites can often give you a feel for a country, their laws, and what you’re getting into. But don’t just visit other countries’ websites. Don’t overlook resources like the CDC website which tells you which vaccinations you’ll need if you’re going to certain counties, which could play a big role if your protagonist didn’t get them or if they lost their Malaria pills while in the middle of the jungle! (Side note: Malaria pills can have all sorts of side effects that could also be worked into your plot!)
As you can see, there are many ways you can insert yourself into the scene so that you’ll know what your character might encounter and how that could affect the plot! So go out there and start exploring- whether that’s virtually or physically- so you can truly make your settings come to life.
Connect with Annie . . .
Visit Annie’s blog - https://anniesullivanauthor.wordpress.com/
(Or click here for the post about her free setting advice service)
Follow Annie on Twitter - https://twitter.com/annsulliva
And click here to read about how she got her agent while in Antarctica!