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Query.Sign.Submit. with Ali McDonald

Ali_McDonald

Ali represents children's literature from board books through new adult (ages 0-18+).

“I'm afraid I can't always respond to all queries because of my hectic schedule, but no response just means I haven't had a chance to get to it yet. Queriers should always feel comfortable nudging me if they haven't heard back within a month, and should update me with any offers of representation or publication.”

To connect with and learn more about Ali, visit . . .

The Rights Factory
Twitter

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

QUERY

What advice would you give to querying writers?

The best advice I can give to querying writers is to do your homework! Be sure to visit the agency's website, get a feel for their company culture, study sample catalogue copy and tailor your query. The queries that catch my eye address me personally (getting my name right!), adopt the casual, but professional style of our firm, model their pitch after my own (with comp titles, introduction to the plot highlighting the hook and the emotional core of the story, and brief bio), adhere to my submission guidelines, and show personality!

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

Not always. I'll stop reading immediately if my name is misspelled or incorrect, or belongs to some other agent entirely (which happens more often than one might think!). Generic salutations, such as "Dear Agent" turn me off. I can live with a weak title, but misrepresented genre and audience get my goat (e.g., autobiographical sci-fi; middle grade YA; realistic paranormal; romantic-tragic-paranormal-comedy-fantasy-science-fiction). Other missteps that will cause my eyes to glaze over include: multiple and repeated typos or grammatical errors; a wall of text; a synopsis instead of a pitch; or comp titles that are vague or overused (Harry Potter, Twilight, Fifty Shades, etc.). A query that is outside my area of specialization (children's literature) is automatically deleted. And the rest is subjective, based on current trends, market interests, and personal taste. For example, in this moment in time, I likely wouldn't read a query for paranormal romance all the way through—it's not a genre that interests me as an agent or reader and the market at present is over saturated. I'm not generally one for trends, having just taken on a profoundly moving teen novel with a vampire protagonist at a time when "vampire" is considered a bad word throughout the industry :)

What would you love to find in the slush pile?

Because I'm primarily interested in debut authors whose writing careers I can help launch and grow, I'm always looking for that exceptional new talent in my slush pile. For me, part of the great fun of being an agent is digging in my inbox for buried treasure. And while you never know what you might find, I have my heart set on an early reader centered on an inseparable friendship; a chapter book series about summer camp, horses, or adventure, or a combination of all three; some dark and gritty YA along the lines of Law & Order: SVU for teens or the story of a young Hannibal Lecter, and anything set in the South.

SIGN

Are there any specific questions you’d recommend that a writer ask when talking with offering agents?

Sure. Signing with an agent is a big decision. When fit is everything, it's important to ask the right questions to define the shape of your future relationship:

  • Ask agents whether they are interested in your work on a project-by-project basis or for the length of your writing career.
  • If you write across genres and age groups, be sure to find out what areas the offering agent represents, and what happens if any of your projects fall outside of their scope. Will you be encouraged to find another agency for those projects? Or will another agent at the firm represent them?
  • Get a sense for the company culture: is it big or boutique? Formal or more casual? Does the agent have personal relationships with their clients?
  • What is the agent's style of communication? In-person, phone, video-chat, email, etc. How often can you expect to hear from them? What is their approximate timeline for getting back to you?
  • How will they manage your rights? Do they handle their own foreign rights? What conferences, trade shows, fairs, etc., do they attend?
  • How many clients do they have, and where do you fit on their list?
  • Be sure to confirm they work on industry standard commission rates (15% domestic and 20% foreign or film/TV), and that you understand additional costs such as disbursement fees or billing for supplies.
  • Try to get a handle on where the agent is in their career: Are they new to the business, or close to retirement? How many deals have they done in your area? How well established are they in the industry? How long have they been with the agency? What other agencies have they worked for? Do they also write books?
  • And always ask about their submission policies and the specific strategy for your work.

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

Once a writer has signed with me, the next step is editorial. We have a fabulous network of skilled readers at our agency that provide invaluable feedback and editorial comments for our authors. Additionally, we do both substantive and line-by-line edits, often over several drafts, to ensure that when we submit, we are sending out the most polished product possible.  While the authors are editing, we're building their submission lists. I've found it's in my authors' best interests to submit broadly to editors in each market.

How do you get to know editors and what they’re looking for?

We love our editors! Our agency travels extensively in order to cultivate and grow these relationships. Personally, I attend the Frankfurt Book Fair, the Bologna Children's Book Fair, and make several lengthy trips to New York throughout the year. We meet editors at our table at the fairs, at their offices, over breakfast, lunch, dinner, or cocktails, to chat about books and the literary life. But the best thing we do for our editors is send them exciting projects!

SUBMIT

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

I want to hear about my clients' ideas whenever they are ready to share them with me! The earlier the better, because I love to be involved and support the work in any way I can. Sometimes clients wait and share full manuscripts and other times we pass chapters or drafts back and forth as they are being written. We decide together with our authors what is the best approach for them and the particular project.

Do you forward editor feedback to writers?

Once out on submission, I let my authors dictate what level of communication they'd like moving forward. Some authors want all the feedback verbatim, in which case I forward passes and interest along to them directly. Others only want an ongoing list of editors who are still reading and those who have passed. And others still only want to hear offer news. We like to customize for our authors' needs!

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

I always encourage my clients to start working on their next project while on submission. It's the best way to focus your energy! And because the publishing cycle is so long these days—sometimes more than two years—you need to keep writing away to maintain your momentum in the marketplace! Ideally, to build an author, publishers want to be putting out titles year-over-year at a minimum.

Thanks, Ali!

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

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

8 Scrivener Features You Just Might Love

Tools for Writers 
Whether you’re new to Scrivener, or have been using it faithfully, there are probably some features you haven’t even discovered yet.

Here are eight of them to get you started. :) (Full screen mode is best.)

To learn more, check out our Scrivener tutorials under “Tools for Writers” to the right.

And sign up for a FREE SCRIVNER WEBINAR with Scrivener Coach, Joseph Michael! Click here for more info and to register.

Query.Sign.Submit. with Katie Grimm

Katie Grimm agent

Katie represents middle grade, young adult, and adult, fiction and nonfiction.

She responds to all queries, and you can follow up if you haven’t heard back in 4-6 weeks.

 

To connect with and learn more about Katie . . .

Don Congdon Associates

Twitter

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

QUERY

What advice would you give to querying writers?

Have patience – not just when it comes to the process, but don’t forget to be patient with yourself and your own writing. It’s a personal business, and it’s hard not to get frustrated when a project or query just isn’t clicking or you compare yourself to other authors. Remember you’re the only one that can create your success so try to channel your efforts productively and take breaks if you have to. It’s also easy to dash off a query letter before a manuscript is ready just to get it off your plate, but it wastes my time and yours for me to respond to your manuscript with exactly what you already knew wasn’t working. Every successful writer has had a different path to publication; don’t be afraid to allow yourself to have that freedom too!

What WOWs you in a query?

When I’m reading through my inbox, it can feel like treasure hunting. I’m looking for that “aha!” moment where I think, “How has this not been done before?!” or “Who is this author and why aren’t we already best friends?” I can turn into a bit of a Gollum – “This is amazing! I must have it all for myself! It’s MINE.” It’s hard to sum up in one line, but I’m looking for smart authors who present stellar ideas with professionalism and respect – show me you’ve taken the time to research and craft your ideas, regardless of the genre or topic.

What is your process for reading a query and sample pages?

I won’t read the sample chapters if the concept in the query isn’t something I’m excited about or comfortable pitching to editors (because it’s boring or I don’t know anything about it) or if the letter itself is poorly written (because I doubt your ability to write an entire manuscript). I also often jump around the letter – sometimes authors have a tendency to give me too much summary, so I’ll skip down to the author credentials, and if they have appropriate credits for their topic, I’ll go back to the top. If the idea is so out-there I can’t imagine what the first chapter will be like, I’ll jump down to the sample pages right away, but that’s not always a good thing! It’s rare that turn into a Gollum and I request a manuscript as soon as I read the query, but it does happen. More likely though, I’ll read the query and the chapter once or twice and request if it’s stayed with me a few days later.

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

I try to read in order, but I don’t always respond in order. I’ll often whittle down the 300 queries in my inbox to 50 maybes in one afternoon, and then I’ll request the 10 that are still working for me a few days later. I do this because sometimes I know my head isn’t always in a place to be open to reading 20 (or 100) sample chapters at once, so I’m trying to give the writer my best mind-frame. There’s probably a more efficient way of doing this though, and that’s why I ask for patience from writers! In any case, we always respond to queries we get, so feel free to follow up if you haven’t heard from us in about 4-6 weeks.

Is it okay for a writer to nudge concerning queries or partial/full requests?

Always. I am never annoyed about nudges within reason (I’ll probably rue the day I said this, but I said within reason!). If it’s too soon, I’ll respond when I was intending to originally, but I’ve been nudged by authors when I’ve never actually gotten their manuscript…6 to 9 months later! There’s never a reason to wait that long to find your manuscript was lost to an email glitch.

Do you ever offer a Revise & Resubmit? When would you do so?

I offer R&Rs when a manuscript is far enough away from line edits or when there are a lot of directions the manuscript can go in and I want the author to decide what’s best for him/her. If I know the one fix for the book I’ll probably take it on, but I’m not so cocky that I think I’m always right. The most important part is that the author and I are on the same general page editorially and if he/she is willing and capable of editing.

What does it take for you to offer representation?

If I’m still gnashing my teeth in the middle of the night muttering, “my precioussss,” I’m going to email that author the next morning to set up a call. But it’s not always that immediate. Sometimes I read a project and think, we need a few more edits, and a week or two later I think, “Eureka! I know how to fix this!” Or I float a few ideas to an author and they come back to me with something much cleverer, and I think, “Eureka! This author is a genius!”

What would you love to find in the slush pile?

The beauty of the slush pile is that I don’t always know what I’m looking for until I find it. That said, I am always looking for MG and YA projects that read like an instant classic – give it to a boy or girl 10 years ago or from now and it would still have a hook that makes sense to them and an emotional punch that will resonate. This also means that I like my fantasy that’s rooted in history and sci-fi that is less focused on the gadgets and more on moral quandaries. I also represent literary fiction, which I realize casts a wide net. I’ve been telling people lately that I’m looking for something for my book club – we’re more WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN than EAT, PRAY, LOVE though. The idea behind this is I want there to be enough plotting and momentum that 5-10 busy women will be able to get through it in three weeks AND the character development or dilemmas are complicated enough that we could talk about it for an hour. In fiction and non-fiction though, I’d say my tastes can run a bit dark – I’m interested in shining a light on the darker parts of human history and nature.

SIGN

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

They call them agent beauty contests for a reason – you primp and prepare for the call, trot out your best editorial ideas and you try to sound intelligent when you get to the Q&A. It can be pretty nerve-wracking! In the end though, it’s up to the judges…I mean the author…to choose the best agent for him/her.

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

I am a career agent through and through. I look to the relationship Don Congdon had with Ray Bradbury, and I’d be thrilled to grow my career with my authors for a lifetime too! It helps that I represent a wide range of projects so I can hopefully accommodate an author who wants to write in several genres or age groups. However, it’s something to discuss with an author before we sign as there are areas I’m not familiar with, and I don’t want to hinder an author who wants to go in that direction.

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

Depending on where the manuscript is, I’ll provide a general editorial letter and/or specific line edits and notes in track changes on the manuscript itself. I often ask for more outlining or plot or character studies. We’ve probably already discussed it a bit before we sign, but I also ask a lot of personal questions about the author themselves – I want to know where the author is in terms of craft and eventual marketing so we can identify strengths and areas of improvement early on.

How editorial are you?

Very. To the point of driving my authors crazy, I’m sure. I hate the mentality, “But isn’t it good enough?” Would you really go up to a child and hand them your book and say, “Here, this book is… good enough”? No! I try to set a realistically high bar – while the editor I place it with will take it from there, it will only benefit all of us to get as far as we can beforehand.

SUBMIT

Do you forward editor feedback to writers?

Most of my authors do want to see editor feedback, but I ask a new client first before sending. I don’t want my authors to get discouraged, but sometimes (not always) the responses can be instructive.

At what point might you suggest making more revisions?

Related to the above, if you’re getting a general consensus about a certain element of the submission, it might be worth revising between rounds. After we get the 10 or so responses from the first round, we’ll have a call on how to problem solve what everyone else is seeing. We might get totally different comments though (one editor loves the world building, the other editors hate it), so we ultimately choose what to filter out and what to follow. Again, you have to be patient about this part of the process – I’ve certainly sold projects on second rounds if we did revisions or not, so best not be discouraged.

What kind of feedback or response do you hope for after sending a manuscript to an editor? A book deal, of course, but what kind of feedback is a good sign?

When the editor does not respond with an offer for many millions? I suppose I’m looking for responses or passes that have helpful suggestions. I do this when I reject manuscripts, so I favor editors that take the time to respond to me in a thoughtful way that’s instructive about their tastes and the manuscript’s weaknesses.

What is the next step if an editor shows interest?

I’ll inform the other editors who have the project that I have interest. If multiple editors are interested, I’ll decide how to set up an auction and arrange calls with editors, depending on the situation. Sometimes only one editor bites, but he/she is the perfect one for the book!

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

Same as what they do when they’re not on submission – read everything they can get their hands on and write when they’re not reading (sleeping and eating is okay too, I suppose). Whether this book sells or not you’ll need to be writing another, so might as well get started.

Thank you, Katie!

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

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

Making a Timeline with Timetoast

Tools for Writers

Whether you need a timeline for a historical or want to keep track of time passing in your manuscript, Timetoast is a great place to do it.

It’s easy to get started. Just create a free account, go to your dashboard, and click “Add a new timeline +”.

Enter your title and upload an image if you’d like, then click “Go”. You’ll get this screen.

new timeline

Fill in the title of your timeline, and then choose a category and add an image if you’d like. Click “Go”.

You’ll see three buttons at the bottom where you can choose to add an event, add a time span, or edit the title and picture.

add event

Let’s look at adding an event. Click “Add Event” and you’ll see this . . .

New Timeline screen

Input your details and add an image if you’d like.

Once you have everything in there, this is what it will look like. (Thanks to cyoungy01 for this timeline example from Divergent)

Div timeline

Hovering over the blue dots will allow you to see each of the events.

You can also look at it as a list. To do this, choose “Text View” at the bottom. “Timeline” will switch it back to the view above.

Div timeline list

When you go back to edit it later, go to your dashboard, choose the timeline you want, and click “Edit Timeline” in the upper left-hand corner.

Or, click “Actions +” under your timeline and choose “Edit timeline”. Here you can decide if you want it to be hidden or visible on the web.

actions

There is also a database of completed timelines if you’re looking for something specific. Maybe you need one with the history of baseball and well, there it is all ready for you. (Thanks Martiser001 for this one)

baseball

That’s it. Go have some fun with your timeline. :)

Query.Sign.Submit. with Jaleigh Johnson

Jaleigh Johnson

 

Jaleigh is a YA author and her novel THE MARK OF THE DRAGONFLY was just released from Delacorte Books for Young Readers! She is represented by Sara Megibow of the Nelson Literary Agency.

 

 

1804817





Connect with Jaleigh . . .

Website
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads




 

 

 

 

literary agent and author

QUERY

How did you keep track of your queries?

I went with the old pen and paper method, and I actually used a day planner that I bought back in 2004 when I was querying for one of my first novels. Of course, 2004 was long gone by the time I started querying THE MARK OF THE DRAGONFLY, but by then I’d collected so much information on agents and submissions in it that I just kept on using the planner. I still have it.

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

My usual method is batches of ten. When a rejection comes in, I send another query out.

SIGN

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

It was around Christmas time, so very busy. I remember I was out Christmas shopping with my parents and brother when I noticed that I had a new follower on Twitter. When I saw it was literary agent Sara Megibow, I started to freak out a little bit in the middle of the mall. I told my dad: “My dream agent’s following me on Twitter!!” And he said, “That’s great! What’s Twitter?” Not long after that, I got The Call from Sara. Best Christmas present ever.

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

I’d been following The Nelson Agency blog for several years, learning all I could about the querying process. I knew they were a great agency, and I also knew from my research that Sara and I share a love of certain fantasy novels. I thought if anyone would get what I was trying to do with THE MARK OF THE DRAGONFLY, it would be her.

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

Career.

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

For me, it was submission. We went out on submission with THE MARK OF THE DRAGONFLY at the beginning of the year 2013. Best New Year’s present I could have asked for was the offer from Delacorte Press.

SUBMIT

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

Sara kept in close contact, letting me know which editors she was submitting to and their responses when they came in. I was never left hanging or wondering what was happening.

Is there anything you learned while being on submission that you didn’t know before?

Seems like it would go without saying, but I learned that everyone’s experience truly is unique, so expect the unexpected.

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

My husband and I went out to dinner, and he gave me my Valentine’s Day present—a new purse—early. It was still January. Funny how I measured all the steps in the process with holidays.

Thank you, Jaleigh!

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

Posted March 2014

Want to Read this Later? Try Instapaper or Pocket.

instapaper iconpocket icon 



 

 

If you’ve come to this post wanting to read it, but find yourself without the time, then you do need to read this. :)

Meet Instapaper and Pocket, two services that let you easily save blog posts, articles, and even You Tube videos, to read or watch later.

So, which one should you use? It’s totally up to you. A search for “Instapaper vs. Pocket” will get you plenty of detailed comparisons if you want them, but I’ll keep it simple.

INSTAPAPER 

instapaper icon

Instapaper is mainly for reading, and if you want to save a video or other link, you can do that. You can download to your Kindle or as an epub and it’s also integrated into third party apps like Tumblr and Twitter. There  are a lot of options for changing the fonts and colors with this program. The app (not the web version) has a small fee.

Untitled
Above is a screen shot of the Instapaper interface with a list of posts I marked to read later. And below is what it looks like when I click on one to read.

instapaper screen

POCKET

pocket icon 
Pocket gives you both text and video in a visual format so you can see everything you have in one place. You can sync it with other services (it’s integrated into over 500 applications), like Twitter and Flipboard. The web version and app are both free.

pocket view

Above is a screen shot of the Pocket interface with posts and videos I added to read or watch later. Or you can make it look like this –>

pocket

And here’s a sample of what it looks like when you go to read one.

pocket screen

With both Instapaper and Pocket, you can put a button on your toolbar that easily sends any blog post, article, etc. right to your account.

So you might still be wondering which one you should go with and honestly, it’s a matter of preference. Does the idea of sending it right to your Kindle sound good? Maybe Instapaper is the option for you. Do you prefer the more visual interface of Pocket? That might be the best choice. Or open up both accounts and try them out. They’re free to use.

Either way, you’ll create a space to save those things you want to go back to.

Psst . . . Once you set up an account, come on back and try it out with some of our posts. :) There’s even an Instapaper share button below.

Query.Sign.Submit. with Erin Niumata

Erin_Niumata

Erin represents commercial nonfiction, from prescriptive and practical to narrative and memoir, as well as a select list of fiction including romance, mysteries, psychological thrillers, and commercial women’s fiction.

Erin is currently open to submissions of women’s fiction and romance (no supernatural, no time travel, etc.) until the end of April. When closed, she does not accept unsolicited queries, so be sure to check. She responds to all queries when she’s open to submissions.

To connect with and learn more about Erin . . .

Folio Lit
Twitter

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

QUERY

What WOWs you in a query?

Unique and BIG storylines. When I read a query and leave wanting more – that’s huge. I really adore great dialogue and when I can feel the chemistry between two characters. If the story is well written and I can’t put the manuscript down – I’m in heaven.

What should writers NOT do in a query?

Tell me how much all of their friends/mother/husband/daughter love it. Of course they do! Just get to it, state the case and leave it to me.

Is there anything you see way too much of in the queries you receive?

Paranormal. I’m not big on paranormal but people love to send it anyway. I don’t dislike it but I get more paranormal than anything. I’m over vampires, werewolves, time travel and fantasy.

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

In order – it’s the only way I can keep track of them!

Do you ever offer a Revise & Resubmit? When would you do so?

When I think something has potential but it’s not quite there I provide notes and the option to resubmit.

SIGN

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

I prefer to help build a career. I’m not into one-hit-wonders. I prefer to keep my list with career writers.

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

Rewriting!

How editorial are you?

I was an editor for 20 years so I’d say that makes me rather editorial.

How do you put together a list of editors to send to?

I’m thinking of which editors are right for the book right at the query stage. I go over my list carefully rereading notes I have on each editor (I update my list all the time). I make sure the editors I submit to are actively publishing that particular type of book.

SUBMIT

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

I make calls, send the manuscript and update the writer. Once I hear feedback from editors I call or email the writer to let them know. I’m up front with everything.

Do you forward editor feedback to writers?

Always. On occasion I will edit the responses if I don’t like the tone or what they’ve said. But the gist of the message will always be clear.

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

Get busy on the next book!

Do you send weekly updates or update as responses come in?

I send updates when they come in or at least once a week.

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

Always.

Thanks so much, Erin!

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

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

Teen Speak – They’re All Different

Ambro - freedigitalphotos

I may write epic fantasy, but I am also a reader and I am still a teenager (nineteen, so I guess not for too much longer, but there are still a few months until I’m twenty). And something that’s come to my attention while reading some Young Adult fiction is the lack of realistic teenage characters. Don’t get me wrong, there are many authors who are so close to perfecting their teenage characters, but there will always be room for improvement because teenagers are tricky.

When it comes to writing YA, there are three ways to go when constructing how your teenagers talk and think: Trying too hard, trying too little, or getting it just right. It’s a careful balance that takes a lot of work, especially when coming from someone who may have been a teenager several years ago. Times have changed, and one of the things I—and my sisters, and my friends, and most likely anyone else in their teenage years—hate hearing from adults is, “Well, when I was your age…” Because when you were my age, chances are, things were a LOT different.

I could go on about this forever, but I won’t. There are other things to talk about, especially when it comes to how teenagers are not all the same. We’re not cardboard cutouts, we don’t fit into molds, and even we’re not sure who we are yet. But there is one thing I know to be true: We’re all different.

Take a friend of mine, for example. She has a very different personality than I do, especially when it comes to swearing. She drops F-bombs like nobody’s business, whereas I only ever blurt them when I’m driving and some jackass hops in front of me. My sixteen-year-old sister is in the same boat: Her best friend has a thing for swear words and only cleans up when around adults.

On the other side of the spectrum, though, is my fourteen-year-old sister. She hates and refuses to say words like “crap” or “hell,” yet there are other eighth graders who have a wider vocabulary of swear words than I did when I was their age. I have a friend who hates swear words so much she slaps people who say them.

One thing I think writers of YA fiction should do is take a day or two or twenty to listen to how teenagers talk and observe how they behave. But don’t just stop with one group of teenagers; they are only one sample. Spend time with the nerds, the cheerleaders, the brainiacs, the so-called “populars,” the girls and guys who sit in the library at lunch but aren’t really losers. (Believe me, there are people my age who sit in the library at lunch and AREN’T losers or loners. Sometimes, it’s nice to just get away from everyone else with a good book.) More likely than not, you’ll be surprised by the variety you discover.

Examples of YA authors who have teenagers down pat (and of course there are more, but I only included a few): Miranda Kenneally, Ally Carter, and Stephanie Perkins.

Photo courtesy of Ambro/freedigitalphotos.net

 

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

Twelve Days of Twelve Steps

0-12Days-1

Woo hoo! Today I get to help celebrate Veronica Bartles’ upcoming release, TWELVE STEPS! And how cool is it that her kids picked her book for their public library’s Teen Tech Week Book Trailer Contest? Watch the trailers below. :)

TWELVE STEPS

Sixteen-year-old Andi is tired of being a second-class sibling to perfect sister Laina. The only thing Andi’s sure she has going for her is her awesome hair. And even that is eclipsed by Laina's perfect everything else.

When Andi’s crush asks her to fix him up with Laina, Andi decides enough is enough, and devises a twelve-step program to wrangle the spotlight away from Laina and get the guy.

Step 1: Admit she’s powerless to change her perfect sister, and accept that her life really, really sucks.

Step 4: Make a list of her good qualities. She MUST have more than just great hair, right?

Step 7: Demand attention for more than just the way she screws things up.

When a stolen kiss from her crush ends in disaster, Andi realizes that her twelve-step program isn’t working. Her prince isn’t as charming as she'd hoped, and the spotlight she’s been trying to steal isn’t the one she wants.

As Laina’s flawless fa├žade begins to crumble, the sisters work together to find a spotlight big enough for both to shine.

) )

Like the trailers? Voting is open until 5 PM Mountain Time if you’d like to help these talented kids out. :)

Vote here!

Veronica Bartles grew up in Veronica_1544_croppedWyoming and currently lives in New Mexico with her husband and four children. As the second of eight children and the mother of four, Veronica Bartles is no stranger to the ups and downs of sibling relationships. She uses this insight to write stories about siblings who mostly love each other, even while they’re driving one another crazy. When Veronica’s not writing or lost in the pages of her newest favorite book, she enjoys creating delicious desserts, exploring new places, and knitting with recycled materials.

TWELVE STEPS is Veronica’s first novel.

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Character Wounds – Guest Post by Angela Ackerman

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Why Is Your Character’s Wound So Important?

Character wounds hold incredible power, steering a hero’s motives, actions, and beliefs. They damage their sense of self worth, filter how they view the world, and dictate how they interact with other people, making it harder for them to achieve their goals. So what exactly is a wound?

A character wound is a painful past event so emotionally damaging that it changes who your character is. This negative experience triggers a psychological reaction: the need to protect oneself from further emotional hurt. This need is so great that behaviors change, new traits (flaws) form as the character dons emotional armor to create a wall between himself and others. The idea of experiencing this kind of emotional trauma again becomes a fear, one he will do anything to avoid.

Because wounds are a deep emotional blow caused when one is in a vulnerable state, they often involve the people closest to the protagonist. Family or caregivers, lovers or friends. Betrayals, injustice, neglect, isolation or disillusionment are all common themes that lay fertile ground for hurt, mistrust and the desire to avoid situations where that same pain might reoccur.

Like in real life, characters suffer many different smaller wounds throughout their lives, but the “wounding event” that factors into your character’s internal arc should be symbolic of the false belief they must reject in order to become whole once more. This false belief is known as “the Lie” the character believes about themselves as a result of the emotional wound. Let me show this through an example.

Let’s say our main character is Tim, a teenager who was turned over to Foster Care at age ten (Wound). His parents were alcoholics and neglectful. As a result, when he enters the foster system, he is mistrustful, uncommunicative and moody. Because of his parents’ abandonment, he believes that he’s defective, that he’s not worth loving (The Lie he believes about himself because of the wound).

Tim stays with families who provide the essentials to live but no love or affection. This suits him after what he went through. He keeps his emotional armor on, keeping people at a distance, because he’ll just be moving on in a month or year, and getting attached means getting hurt. However, as Tim is fostered out for the fourth time, something changes. His foster family shows genuine interest in him and they work at trying to pull him out of his shell. There is another child there, a foster child who was adopted the year before. Hope enters the picture...could this somehow be different?

At this point, Tim must make a CHOICE (as all protagonists must.) If he continues to keep his emotional wall in place (using his flaws of mistrust, moodiness and an uncommunicative nature to keep people from getting close) he will not forge a bond that will make him part of the family. But if he is able to move past his wound (fear of neglect/abandonment) and open up to this family to receive and give love, he might at long last get his happy ever after.

This is what character arc is all about: growth. Learning to let go of the past, learning to see The Lie for what it is, and moving forward free from one’s fears. Once a character can let go of the past, they can find the strength to achieve their goals, finding happiness and fulfillment.

Do you know your character’s Emotional Wound? Let me know in the comments! And if you need a place to start, check out this list of Common Character Wound Themes.

angela_ackerman

ANGELA ACKERMAN is the author of the bestselling writing guide, The Emotion Thesaurus, and most recently, The Positive Trait and Negative Trait Thesaurus books. Centering on the light and dark side of a character's personality, these new resource books help writers create layered, compelling characters that readers relate to and care for. Visit Angela's website, Writers Helping Writers for friendly support, description help, free writing tools and more!

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*Image at top courtesy of marin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Query.Sign.Submit. with Liz Czukas

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Liz is a Young Adult author and her debut novel Ask Again Later is now available from Harper Teen! She is represented by Laura Bradford of Bradford Literary Agency.

 

 

 

 

Ask Again Later

 

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

QUERY

What advice would you give to querying writers?

Don’t rush it. No one is going to take your place at the publishing table, I promise. Rushing a book to market equals rejections, plain and simple. It’s so hard not to feel like every other unpublished writer is breathing down your neck, but trust me they’re really not. You’re not in competition with anyone except your own writing skill.

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

Google is your best friend. One of the things I always did when looking at an agent was type in Name + Interview. You can learn so much more about what an agent likes and looking for in an interview than in a short bio or on the potentially out of date ones from other sites. There were a few agents I thought would be great fits based on the “stats” like what genres they represented, but after reading an interview I’d find out they can’t stand stories about prom, or really like sci-fi better than anything else. Obviously not the agent for me after all.

What resources and websites did you use when querying?

Apart from Google, I was a huge fan of QueryTracker. I paid for the premium membership and it was totally worth it. So much easier than keeping your own spreadsheet. Plus, the comments under each agent’s listing can be pure gold!

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

Yes, absolutely. At least three I can think of. And Laura (my agent) rejected me on at least two of those. They weren’t ready. I know that now. But I was feeling those other writers breathing down my neck. (Not happening.)

SIGN

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

Because I was a little scared of her at first. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s true. I asked all the agents who offered representation what they envisioned for my career as a writer, and what kind of schedule they’d expect me to keep. Laura was totally honest; she talked about starting with one contract and working my way up. She said it would all be based on my production as a writer, and that some of her clients wrote four books a year. My knees went weak, but I knew for sure she meant business. I wanted someone who wouldn’t coddle me. I wanted someone who would work hard for me and push me to work hard.

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

For me, it was a short round of revisions and then we went out on submission. And let me tell you, if you think you check your email a lot while you’re querying, you’ll wear your Refresh button out when you’re on sub. Even when you know there’s not possibility of a reply coming in. Writers are slightly nuts, aren’t we?

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

I usually send 3-5 chapters and a 2 page (roughly) synopsis. We talk about any major issues she sees in the pages and then I write the entire manuscript based on that discussion. Although when we’re working with an editor I’m already contracted with, sometimes we just send those chapters and synopsis to the editor.

SUBMIT

Do you see the feedback from editors?

Yes, absolutely. My agent always shows me their responses and I really appreciate that. Even if it’s not always the most positive feedback, I learn from it.

What is the next step if an editor shows interest?

Panic! No, seriously. If you’ve still got manuscripts out with other editors who haven’t replied yet, your agent will contact them and let them know you’ve got an offer on the table and give them a deadline to get back to her. It’s usually a week, so for the next seven days you’ll jump out of your skin every time the phone rings or a new message arrives in your inbox. Will it be a rejection or another offer? SO NERVE-WRACKING!

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

Write another book. This is seriously the only thing you have control over. Get your mind off the submission and be ready with the next project. You’ll either need it if your current project doesn’t get an offer, or you’ll need it when your editor asks what else you’re working on after you sign the current project. You want to be a professional writer, right? You’re definitely going to want more than one book on hand. Write one, write another one, write a third if you have time. And you might. Submission can take a LONG TIME.

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

Total shock. It came faster than we expected. So fast there wasn’t even time to get a hint of interest before the offer. After that, I got a few hints that other houses might be interested as we slogged through the week until deadline. But it’s never a sure thing until the offer comes in. Publishing is not just an editor’s decision and things can fall apart in a few places along the way.

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

Champagne, laughing and crying simultaneously, and swearing. I do that when I’m happy.

Thanks so much, Liz!

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Posted March 2014

Tribute to a Friend

ca. 2001 --- White Daisy --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Yesterday the world lost an amazing woman. Catherine was one of my very first writing friends and her wit and talent with both words and art have always inspired me.

If you have just a couple minutes, please consider hoping over to read one of her Jotter Girl posts. Because maybe, just maybe, she’ll hear her words making someone laugh today among all the sadness.

A few of my favorites, although they’re all funny or moving . . .

30 Second Story . . . Mother McNeal suggests you cross your legs

30 Second Story . . . Seats for Tommy and Joey

30 Second Story . . . Something Borrowed

Open Letters

Big hugs to all my friends out there. *HUGS*

Query.Sign.Submit. with Janet Gurtler

Janet Gurlter

Janet is a young adult author whose books include I’m Not Her, If I Tell, Who I Kissed, and How I Lost You. Her latest novel, 16 Things I Thought Were True is now available from Sourcebooks Fire! She is represented by Jill Corcoran of the Jill Corcoran Agency.

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Connect with and learn more about Janet . . .

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

QUERY

What advice would you give to querying writers?

Don’t query too early. Make sure your work is ready!

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

Basic research is essential! Make sure the agent represents what you write.

What resources and websites did you use when querying?

I’ve had an agent for a few years now, but when I was querying I used query tracker.

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

I’m not the most patient person but I did the small batches method. That way if things need to be tweaked you can still go ahead and do so.

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

I never had a revise and resubmit for an agent, but I did for a couple of editors. I absolutely went ahead and did so because they were suggestions that I felt made the story stronger. Neither got picked up, but it was an amazing learning experience and another step closer to the ultimate sale.

I would say that you really have to trust yourself in a situation like this. If it’s not a change you are comfortable and agree with, it’s probably not the best thing to do. Ultimately your name goes on the book so you should probably like what’s going out there!

SIGN

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

Well, for me, my current agent signed me on a partial (unusual yes, but I had already sold one book) So I had to finish the book (I’M NOT HER) When it was completed and edited and revised my agent started the submission process and then….waiting happened.

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

My agent was a little more editorial when I first signed with her, but then I got a three book contract and the relationship of editing is now more between me and my editor. With a contract I have to write books on a deadline. My editor wanted proposals to approve rather than full books. The approved proposal then becomes the outline for the next contracted book.

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

Yes! Ultimately it always comes down to the writing, but relationships can get you looked at more quickly. Plus if someone knows your work, they know that you’re capable of the revisions etc. involved in the final stages of a book.

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

Again, my situation is a little different because of the contracted books but when my contract is over (I’m currently writing the final book in my 3 book contract) I will probably write a proposal for the next book I hope to submit.

SUBMIT

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

The book goes in and usually there’s some fast responses and then more waiting. In my case with I’M NOT HER, I had some interest right away and then we had to wait for the book to go to acquisitions.

Do you see the feedback from editors?

Sometimes. I like to see it if it’s feedback that is constructive and can help me with revisions. I don’t like to see the feedback where the editor points out the reason why it’s not for her/him. One has to remember that sometimes when the writing is at a certain level, the decisions become quite subjective.

What is the next step if an editor shows interest?

Depending on the seniority of the editor and the publishing house, the book will usually have gone to acquisitions. I actually got to see the acquisition room at Sourcebooks where I’m published. You’d think there’d be strobe lights and drum solos and guitar riffs, but it was just a plain old boardroom.

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

Try to stay as busy as possible and not stalk the editors you’re on submission with online.

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

My agent would send me feedback as she got it.

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

Absolutely.

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

Chocolate cake. Huge chocolate cake.

Once you have a book published, how does submission change for an author?

Depends. Usually you have a clause that lets you publisher look at your next (similar genre) book first. They’ll usually have a certain amount of time to accept of decline. But if it’s an entirely new publisher the submission is similar. Your agent queries and the editor asks to see the book or not.

Have you written companion books? How do you decide what the next story will be and how it will connect to others?

My books are all stand alone. I think there’s a similar style or feel to them but they’re not connected. For my books on contract, I subbed several proposals for the next book and my editor chose the book she wanted me to write. There’s a deadline and stages of revision.

Thank you, Janet!

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Posted March 2014

Query.Sign.Submit. with Renee Ahdieh

Renee_Ahdieh

Renee is a Young Adult author and her novel THE WRATH AND THE DAWN, a reimagining of The Arabian Nights, will be released from Penguin/Putnam Fall 2015! She is represented by Barbara Poelle of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency.

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

QUERY

What advice would you give to querying writers?

I remember reading a few horror stories when I first began researching agents, and I promised myself I would be smart about this. Yeah. That died a pretty quick and epic death. The rejections, the waiting, all of it—they start to make you feel as though you’ll take whatever you can get. And I can’t caution a querying writer enough: NO AGENT > SHMAGENT. Any semi-literate nutjob can hang a shingle by his/her front door. How can a writer tell the difference? ASK QUESTIONS. Check online for reputable sales. Newer agents should be working at agencies with clear track records of success.

The other thing I found most helpful was the simple advice of a published friend: You spent a long time writing your book. You took your time. Dotted every “i”; crossed every “t”. Why would you do any less for querying? Take your time. Don’t kick in the saloon door and fire off some buckshot, utterly blind to your target. Be deliberate. Be smart.

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

Querying reputable agents is just one part of the process. You need to make sure you’re querying the right agents for you. If you write YA, query YA agents. It sounds like a no-brainer, but so many agents say the vast majority of queries they receive are for genres they don’t represent. Don’t do this. Every rejection hurts, and this kind of rejection is completely avoidable.

Secondly, you need to determine what you want in an agent. Do you want someone who’s very editorial? Do you want someone who represents clients on a book-by-book basis? Do you want someone who reps an array of genres, just in case you might want to write gnome erotica in the future? Again, be deliberate. Breaking up with an agent is like breaking up with a significant other. Don’t put yourself in this situation if you can avoid it.

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

I started with five queries—a mix of “reach” agents and up-and-comers. With every rejection I received, I fired off two more revised queries. I called them “revenge” queries. Probably not the healthiest attitude in hindsight, but it definitely helped me deal with the rejection in an active way.

Because binge-eating Doritos is not healthy, even if they’re Cool Ranch.

This was a slow process, but it did work. When it came down to making a decision, I had ten fulls/partials out and three offers of representation.

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

I queried one other book. And I made every mistake you can imagine. The first query I ever wrote was in second-person. Oh yeah. Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

SIGN

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

Sweaty. Ha, no but seriously . . . I was a nervous wreck. After having so many people say, “Eh, not so much,” it’s very strange being in a situation where three terrific agents want to work with you. I received the first call on a Wednesday, and I was talking to agents all the way up to Sunday night. I really, really loved one of the agents I didn’t choose, and it was kind of agonizing telling her I went with someone else. Not at all glamorous or exciting. Really, I think I should have been mainlining Xanax the whole week.

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

My agent actually called me off my partial first. No warning. No email. She just called, and I almost dropped the phone. Honestly, from that first phone call, I was pretty sure she was it. Her feedback was incredibly detailed, she was direct and honest, and she didn’t shy away from using four-letter words. When she called to offer rep, I loved how smart and in-your-face she was. She knew my work inside and out, and her career-minded feedback was right on target for me. I kept thinking, if she’s like this when she’s offering rep, how awesome is she at championing her clients?

I was so right.

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

She’s very editorial. Her notes encompass not only plot points, but character consistency and overall theme, as well. If something isn’t working for her, she says so and identifies the exact reason why. Of course, it’s my job to fix it, but she is always there to water down my crazy and make sure the decisions I make moving forward fit the intended goal for the book.

It’s exactly what I expected. Again, my agent was very open and direct about her approach, right at the onset. I will say this, however; if you aren’t open to criticism, this will not work for you. And I don’t mean that theoretically.

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

I usually share a kernel of an idea early on, just to make sure she thinks I’m not straightjacket material. This has really worked for us, mostly because I’m deathly afraid of writing an entire novel of seemingly epic proportions, only to have her say she already sold something like that last month.

SUBMIT

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

Pavlovian. As in, my hand and my left eye started to twitch the second I heard my phone’s email notification warning go off. It gets easier as time passes, but the first few days are tough. I think writers can be very, very annoying, too. I know I was. I emailed way too much, asked way too many inane questions, and tried too hard to come across as cool . . . to the point where my behavior belabored the objective. Bless my agent, though. She patiently answered every single one of my stupidass questions.

What is the next step if an editor shows interest?

It depends on the house/imprint. If an editor loves a submission, he/she will usually take it to a few colleagues for second reads. If there’s some sort of consensus, the editor will then approach the acquisitions board or the editorial board of that particular imprint. P&Ls will be drawn up, and the book will be discussed in open forum regarding how it fits into their line-up and whether or not it’s in competition with something that’s already been acquired. Again, the entire process differs from publisher to publisher, but the important thing I’ve learned is that, most of the time, a single editor loving a project is only the beginning. There are many hurdles that need to be cleared before an offer is made.

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

I knew there was interest. When my agent called to tell me several houses were moving forward to second reads/acquisitions, I didn’t sleep for . . . like, three nights? True story.

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

Ha! I didn’t react at first. I honestly didn’t believe it. When my agent called to tell me what happened, I just sat there, asking her to repeat herself. Then I cried, and it was really ugly. I’m talking snot-nosed and sniveling. That night, my husband took me to dinner, but, before we arrived for our reservation, he stopped by a Barnes and Noble, and we went to the Young Adults Fiction section. I will never forget when he looked at me across a table of New Releases and said, “Your book will be here soon.”

That, right there, was a moment.

And it was so worth it.

Thank you, Renee!

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Posted February 2014