Deadly Ever After

The Writing Adventures of The Undead Duo–Julie Hutchings and Kristen Strassel

Archive for the tag “querying”

The Joy of Not Playing Well With Others by Julie

TODAY’S BREW: End of April Vacation Quadruple Shots

By Julie

It’s been a very long time since I gave attention here, and I’m not sorry.

What I am is pleased with myself, overwhelmed and afraid in the best way, and focused, and that means eliminating things that draw my attentions away from THE THING. And THE THING is all-encompassing, my path has a solid plan that relies on pretty much all ME. What I didn’t expect is that taking control of my publishing career by myself with the extreme helping and guidance of Kristen, is LESS overwhelming than publishing traditionally. Sure, there’s lots to do–but I control it, I choose who helps me, who I outsource, the direction we all take.

It lets me be the leader I am while being the artist I am, and it brings a calm that no amount of THINGS TO DO can undermine.

I separated from Books of the Dead Press in January, taking back my rights to RUNNING HOME and RUNNING AWAY. Another publisher tried harder than hard to buy out those contracts, but Books of the Dead wasn’t having it. Now that I’ve taken them on my own, I find that I don’t want to go through a publisher with them–I want to do it myself. I wouldn’t finish the trilogy because of my displeasure with my contract, and now? I can. CRAWLING BACK will be coming out the end of the summer. I’m making it happen. And that doesn’t have to be the end of that world, I can do whatever the hell I want with it.

WAIT I CAN DO WHATEVER THE HELL I WANT PERIOD THE END OH MY GOD.

And that was when I decided that I was going to stop shopping around for agents with my YA, THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS, which had a lot of success as far as querying goes, being requested in full by a lot of agents that made me go EEEEEEEEEEE, but it was never quite right for them. I harbor ZERO resentment for that, by the way–I have long since said, since the start of writing, that getting an agent, publishing, is a business. Whether or not an agent feels the connection with me, with my books, is crucial to their ability to sell it. If they can’t sell it, what the hell is the point?

Confession: I hated from day one pandering to agents. The minutia of knowing their likes and dislikes personally, the confines of it all…it’s doesn’t sell books for me to know how many cats the agent has. These are representative of some of the reasons I left retail. It reminds me of regional manager visits: HURRY THE HELL UP, THE STORE LOOKS GOOD FOR ME BUT THE REGIONAL MANAGER LIKES A DIFFERENT SCENT CLEANER AND ALL THE BRA STRAPS TO FACE LEFT I KNOW THE LAST ONE LIKED THIS SCENT BUT THAT SCENT IS DEAD TO YOU NOW YOU HEAR ME MINIMUM WAGE WORKER THIS REGIONAL MANAGER LIKES LEMON GODDAMMIT AND THE COMPANY WILL FAIL IF WE DON’T DO WHAT SHE LIKES.

I don’t like that. I do not.

Aaaaaanyway, the fact of the matter was, even with agents still reading THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS, I started planning on releasing it myself. It will be out on Halloween of this year–the birthdays of the five witches that this book is about, and I cannot wait for you all to love them. Not to toot my own horn, but my early readers like this book a lot. Like, a lot. (side note: if reviews roll in when I publish saying THIS BOOK IS THE WORST THING, THESE CHARACTERS ARE EVERYTHING I HATE IN LIFE AND I HATE EVERYTHING, I will still stand by it being a damn good book. It’s the way I want it. This is why reviews and rejections have never bothered me. I only put out the book as I want it. The end.)

I’m sick of goddamn waiting. I don’t write to play by someone else’s rules, I write for readers. I write for me. I write to connect with that person who needs my special brand of soap-box-standing, I do not write for an agent’s cat or an editor’s preferred scent of cleaning materials. You know what I mean.

I say this still having a book with a publisher. (You all may remember mention of a book I couldn’t get enough of writing, THE HARPY? Yeah, it’s still not out.) Have I mentioned that I’m tired of waiting? HINT HINT TO ANYONE WHO MAY BE READING.

Publishing traditionally is the dream. It is for every writer, I don’t care who you are. You dream of the phone call with the big contract news, the interviews on talk shows, the movie deal. You do. But for me, my dream changed. I control it now. The thing about self-pubbing that I love, that became the new dream for me, is that it means I believe in my ability to do it. It has RISK. A couple of years ago I wouldn’t have dreamed of putting out money for my own cover, my own editing, my own formatting. What if I didn’t sell a single copy and never made a penny back? Now? I know that just plain isn’t going to happen to me. I believe in my ability, my voice, my potential, my plan, my determination, my vision, my stories, my power. It doesn’t require a backup plan. THAT is my dream.

So now, yes. I undertake all the things that have frightened me in the past about putting out my own work. Formatting? What? Terrifying. Cover artists? There are so many, and what the hell do I know and how do I narrow it down to them? Algorithms? That sounds like math. Mailing lists? I thought people hated that. But now I choose what works for me, I choose the timeline and I give work to freelancers that I want to support. It’s all me, bro.

Of course, because I’m me, I do nothing halfway. I have planners that detail every second of my publishing path (which, by the way, I plan time for to update and mold every month, because nothing goes according to plan), I read every book that I love, every indie author’s advice (which I then pick over accordingly), all while still editing for clients and writing books and being Mom and Scholastic chairperson, and reptile owner. It leaves little time that I want to dedicate to other stuff, and I’m perfectly fine with that.

However, I do miss the following things:

  • haircuts
  • eye exams
  • physical exams
  • the gym
  • meals

(my next post will be on self care and how I try sadly to do it and fail.)

In conclusion, I’ve been absent because I’ve changed my path, and with that comes a change in ways. And I’m so happy about it. But I want to include you, and now I feel like I have enough of a handle on things that it can be done. So thanks for sticking around, because you guys. I have good stuff on the way. My plan? My end result? By the end of the year, I’ll have out a minimum of 5 books.

  1. RUNNING HOME as I wanted it to be. (June 30th)
  2. RUNNING AWAY and you’ll actually be able to hold it in your hands. (July 31st)
  3. CRAWLING BACK which has been withheld from you for so long (August 31st)
  4.  THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS (October 31st)
  5. THE DEPTH OF OUR DARKNESS Book 2, The Wind Between Worlds (November 30th)

And this doesn’t account for THE HARPY which frankly, I have big plans for that may not come to fruition until 2018, as well as a couple of novellas in the RUNNING HOME series that I want for my mailing list folks. When I make a mailing list.

I am not without fault, folks. Mailing lists SCARE ME. (All mailing list advice welcome.)

The cool thing is, this is all going to happen, people. It IS happening. Thanks for supporting me and my books, and I promise not to let you down.

 

Not Giving Up Saves Lives …by Julie

TODAY’S BREW: Are popsicles coffee?

By Julie

I’m not quite sure how to start this, even though I wrote an outline, because I FEEL it so much. I feel all of the obstacles lying flat beneath my feet, the signs all pointing the way I led everyone to go, and this is what not giving up is about.

Sammy has made so much progress recently it’s unbelievable. Truly unbelievable. A few things have gotten us here: the right diagnosis, the right medication, the right commitment, the right amount of help and the right kind, and a child that lets nothing put him down. All over the past month or so, Sam has gone from NEVER using the potty, to ALWAYS using the potty. He’s learning to separate himself when he feels angry and asking for quiet moments with me reading when he’s ready. He’s speaking really, really smoothly, with zero to minimal jabber, or “word salad.” His attention span is spectacular. This child is a miracle, and he made himself that way.

I hear an awful lot that most mothers would not go this far to support their child. I’ve suffered a lot–but we have suffered a lot. And I cannot let my child suffer. I don’t have the ability. I don’t have the ability to quit some things. Growing, helping, loving, teaching my children is one of them.

Because if I teach my kids that there’s a time to quit, they’ll see nothing but the limits to reach.

If I teach them that their happiness is negotiable, what chance do they have of pushing limits to find it?

If I teach them to stop the harder it gets, I’ve taught them that what they’ve pushed through was unnecessary.

If I teach them to give up, have I taught them anything at all? I’ve only taken from them. Taken their light at the end of their own personal tunnels, taken the depth of their feelings and made light of them, taken their ability to ask “what if” and think of all the other boxes to think outside of and break through. I’ve taken their ability to stop at nothing because I’ve shown them that something can stop me.

We’ve been watching a lot of America’s Got Talent, and I love these people that will stop at nothing, no matter how unconventional their dream. For some people, the dream is just to be happy. But this one made me cry harder than the rest.

I saw this when Sam was just sitting beside me, playing a building game on my tablet, something that would have been too dangerous (yes, dangerous), he wouldn’t have had the ability to sit and do anyway. Pato, because of his OCD, was unable to leave the house, couldn’t ask for help, resorted to begging for money to support himself. To make it where he has is incredible, but all I could think was, my Sammy will never have to experience that because we fought to combat OCD. First.

It’s easy to yell at a child who dictates who goes in what order up the stairs when you’re carrying armfuls of groceries and he’s been making your life hell all day. But seeing what the alternative does to him makes it non-negotiable for me. Imagine that such a trivial thing could throw a child into a wild-eyed sobbing episode for an hour, that he’d remember this moment for days. Imagine facing that every day, having to fight not only himself, his own brain, but to fight for understanding, too. When he can’t understand it himself. Can barely tell us what he wants.

How do you not help that child? How do you not put his needs first?

Because we did this, because I knew what Bipolar Disorder looked like when I brought him to the pediatrician at barely four, because we treated what we could then–OCD and Hyperactivity Disorder–and we were “on watch” for a mood disorder, because we knew what was happening when that mood disorder became real, because we didn’t stop, Sam has every chance of not going through the hell that so many other people have. We got this. That is what not giving up is.

NOW ABOUT ME. ME ME ME ME ME ME.

This summer so far was not about me and my needs, and I knew that going in. I had a strict timeline of what I wanted for Sam, what I needed from professionals, what I needed to see in changes due to behavior therapy and medication, and I needed to see what I could do having him home during such immense changes. July 15th was my deadline for a lot of things. I also was doing editing for clients and trying to have FUN with the kids, because I refuse not to have fun. (We have had so much fun.)

Now is the time for me to focus on my work. What *I* need. So as not to stretch myself too far, I had to suspend working on my own writing because I don’t want to hurt myself (think nervous breakdown, ulcerative colitis, debilitating panic attacks), and I refused to do my best I could do without it being my best.

I made all the right choices.

I have a new list of agents to pitch THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS TO….a book whose query is now a shining thing of magnificence that begs for reading, and a book that I am now finally able to finish the sequel to! I’m halfway through the sequel, and have a good start on the prequel and had to stop in May to concentrate on other things. My time has come.

Wait, weirdo, you’re writing a sequel and a prequel to a book that isn’t even being published yet?

YES I AM BECAUSE I DON’T STOP AND THIS BOOK WILL NOT GO UNNOTICED.

I don’t write because of what anyone else wants. I write for what I need. And every moment of my life is teaching something to these two amazing kids. They will see that my passion is what drives me and I drive it right back. That I give all I have to get more, and what I want is dependent on nobody but myself. There is no magic number of rejections, no “almosts” in my world. There’s always another way. There’s always more roads to travel. I’ll dig relentlessly making my own if that’s what it takes. And because this is who I am, it is now showing my kids who they are. What they can do and what won’t stop them on their way to it. It’s why Sam remembers little things I say like, “You like what you like. If you like the Alice in Wonderland tea set and you want to offer tea to everyone while doing ninja moves, then hey. You like what you like. Nobody can stop you.”

Be you, everyone. Stop at nothing to be who you want to be. Define your own happiness. Make your own rules–they’re just ideas anyway. Rules about publishing, rules about how young a child can be to show a certain illness, rules about what to say and who to say it to, rules about gender, rules about love, rules that we make for ourselves…. Reshape your world to be what you need. That’s what not giving up is about.

 

Kelly Charron Shares Your Querying Feels

TODAY’S BREW: The Julie Jam, 8 O’clock Coffee, Hazelnut in a hazelnut colored mug.

By Julie

Author Kelly Charron, in her own words “loves to write about murder, mayhem and magic.” Her amazing list of works is enough to make me ache to hold all the paperbacks ever in my hand. (Look here: http://kellycharron.com/?page_id=12) But she also has been through the querying wringer, and she knows all too well how it feels. This is a reminder, from Kelly’s mouth to my blog to your face, that we all do this together. Art doesn’t have to be solitary. Now I’ll let Kelly tell her story and I’ll shut up.

Querying is exciting and nerve wracking. A part of me is hopeful and basks in the magic that each time I hit send could mean an agent will fall in love with my book and then me. I will sign my glorious contract, she or he will sell my all my books to the Big Five publishers and I will wait, luxuriating in a field of flowers as the cheques come rolling in.

 

This is not what happened. (At least so far- but I’m still hoping.)

 

Always an eager student, I wanted to absorb everything I could before I even started the process. All the do’s and don’ts. All the agent likes and dislikes. I wanted to make sure I didn’t make any mistakes that could thwart my success. I learned to always research the agent, tailor the query to the agent (never using generalizations such as Dear Agent or Dear Sir or Madam), and to actually write a decent query. I had many beta readers and author friends read the various reiterations, eventually giving me the coveted thumbs up. I learned that it was good practice to send out five to ten queries at a time so I could apply any valuable feedback to the manuscript before sending more out and possibly ruining a chance. And so I did this.

 

I was ready! Soon they’d be calling!

 

This is not what happened. (At least so far- have I mentioned I’m still hoping?)

 

I waited and waited and waited some more and soon the rejections came trickling in. That’s okay, I told myself. Everyone gets rejections. I’ll have a great story later of having 30 or 40 rebuffs before I found my agent.

 

Soon it became cleat that five to ten queries every two to three months could take a very long time so I began to query a bit more widely. The trickle of rejections began to pile up. That’s okay. It’s only my first book, I told myself. Many authors don’t get agented on their first book. It’s my learning manuscript. Time to write book number two!

 

And off I went completing the first draft in six weeks. I loved this book. My writing critique group, beta readers, indie and Big Five published friends loved this book––“way more than your first book” they cried in unison. “This is the book! This is the one to get you an agent!” they all told me.

 

I wanted to believe them.

 

It has not been the book. (At least not yet- have I mentioned I always have hope?)

 

I received ten full requests and an additional seven or eight partials and was told that my writing was “really good,” “you clearly know your craft,” “I love this concept, but it’s going to be a hard sell,” and “great idea, but not for us. Please send us your next manuscript.”

 

These are all amazing rejections! They liked my writing. They thought I had a decent story. They saw potential and wanted to see my next book. These are all wonderful things to hear, especially from very busy agents who took time out of their hectic schedule to write me specific feedback and I am grateful.

 

But I discovered something I wasn’t fully prepared for during this process.

 

“Getting closer” is not necessarily easier. It can be more heartbreaking. If you run a race and you come in last, your expectations wouldn’t likely be high. You know where you stand in the competition. You might think, wow that was fun. If you come in third or second all you can ruminate on is how close you came. You have worked hard for this. You can taste it, you can feel it, you’re almost there and then you don’t quite make it.

 

It can be disappointing. I’ve lost hope from time to time. I’ve allowed myself to pout and whine (temporarily of course) until I gain perspective because I believe that it could be the next book, or the one after that. There is no one way to get published. No magic formula or series of TEN EASY STEPS! for getting an agent or book deal.

 

I’ve spent a lot of time asking agented and published writers what the secret to their success is and their answer is always the same: they kept going. Kept writing and querying new books. For some, book number two was the lucky one, others needed five, some found success at number seven or eight.

 

I don’t know what the future has in store, but I am happy we live in a time where traditional and indie publishing co-exist. I have been writing for ten years. I have written four novels. I continue to work on my craft. I have 140 odd rejections, but I know that if I keep going, one way or another, my time will come. YES!!

kelly charron

 

Kelly Charron is the author of horror, psychological thrillers and urban fantasy novels. All with gritty, murderous inclinations and some moderate amounts of humor. She spends far too much time consuming true crime television (and chocolate) while trying to decide if yes, it was the husband, with the wrench, in the library.

Follow Kelly on Twitter https://twitter.com/KellyMCharron

 

 

Relishing Rejection with Julie

TODAY’S BREW: Target brand anything. It’s my favorite morning coffee.

By Julie

This week begins the dreaded querying. This is the process by which a writer boils down the book they’ve poured their heart into for a bunch of months into a letter that is one part storytelling, one part ass kissing, one part making yourself sound like you somehow enjoy writing query letters.

Yet, this is not what writers seem to overall hate about querying. That actual letter, that is the thing that makes me cringe. For most others, it’s the inevitable wait of six to eight weeks as you watch a thousand other books be born, all to be told nine times out of ten (or more appropriately 59 times out of 60) that:

  • while your storytelling is unique, I didn’t quite connect with the character
  • the story seems too much like XYZ book
  • in a crowded genre, the story and character would not stand out enough
  • it sounds wonderful but isn’t the right fit for me at this time
  • I wish you the best of luck

Rejection is the reason why writers generally hate querying. It’s disheartening to say the least. It’s not only a matter of “I didn’t like your book,” it feels like, “I don’t like YOU.”

I feel like a jerk saying that rejection doesn’t bother me. It really doesn’t and it never has since I began querying RUNNING HOME years ago. I’m not bragging. I hope to give you some of the same outlook for when you get that sonofabitching email in your box. This is my mindset:

I expect it. Rejection is part of the game. Just is. It’s low-level hazing. But know this as the rejections continuously roll in…..it only takes one agent to love it.

I wrote the strongest possible book I could write. This is more helpful when it comes to getting reviews. I just got a one star review a week ago. I harbor zero resentment. It wasn’t that reader’s cup of tea, but it is mine. If I wasn’t confident in my book, I’d hurt over every bad word said against it, but I love the book, know that it was the best book I could have put out then, and that’s why I write. Not to please everybody else. (Sorry, everybody else.) Now, when it comes to querying to agents, you really want them to love the book. Not just any ol’ reader but this specific person who you’re trusting with your life’s work. With that in mind, I submit the strongest book I can, and I listen to alllllll the feedback I can get. I take what works for me and I apply it. And what I don’t find useful for me, I discard. This isn’t a yes/no test. You won’t ever just GET IT RIGHT. There’s always something that can be tweaked in a concept, the delivery, the writing style….it’s evolution for every writer. But in the end, same rule applies…..the book is YOURS. Make it to suit you, nobody else. Be confident in what you’ve done and that means knowing when to listen to how it could be better as well.

Querying is a process of elimination. This is the most important element for me. This is the one thing I remember above all else, to the point now that I don’t have to remember it, it just IS.

MY BOOKS ARE COMING OUT. ONE WAY OR ANOTHER. REJECTIONS JUST MEAN THAT IT ISN’T THAT WAY WITH THAT AGENT OR PUBLISHER.

The agent is round one. If I don’t pick up an agent, or if I don’t find the right one for me, I go to small press. If I don’t find a small press (highly unlikely, as I love small presses and one in particular WINK WINK), I will self-publish. The book is coming out. All of the books.

BE DETERMINED TO GET YOUR BOOKS OUT WHEN THEY’RE UP TO YOUR STANDARD, AND REJECTION BECOMES PART OF THE PATH, NOT THE END OF IT.

Having an optimistic outlook doesn’t just mean that you think, “This is the agent that’s going to love me and they’ll land this publisher that I’ve wanted all my life and I’ll get the biggest deal and I’ll be on the red carpet in two years.” That’s the dream, and don’t get me wrong, LOVE THE DREAM. FANTASIZE ABOUT THE DREAM, STRIVE FOR THE DREAM. But I don’t make my dream my measure of success. If it happens, it will be the most lovely thing that I can ever, well, dream of. But success comes in steps and it comes in hard work. It comes with mistakes. It comes with burnt bridges. It comes with trouble and sadness and small victories and excitement and exhaustion. To me, success means I worked for it until I was absolutely satisfied with what I’ve made and I feel as though I’ve grown. Rejection can’t touch that feeling. The best part? You can feel that over and over and over again until you achieve the dream, or the dream changes.

Don’t reject yourself. Looking at that rejection letter, do not take the words “not for me” and make them in your tired little mind into “not for anybody.” Don’t turn “crowded genre” into “not a chance in hell, little person.” Don’t make “characters I couldn’t connect with” become “I couldn’t connect with YOU and nobody ever ever will.” Be honest with yourself IN BOTH DIRECTIONS….if the criticism is that the characters seemed one dimensional, ask yourself if it’s true for you. Do you think they could be deeper, really? If it’s not quite a standout concept, is there something you could do to make it MORE STANDOUT? But also, be honest in your own favor, too. Maybe the characters are deep enough by your standard. Maybe the concept is solid enough, and this just isn’t the right agent or publisher for you. Be a good friend to yourself. Be honest.

The triple bitch. I use this in everything that has to do with a book. IF I HEAR THE SAME CRITICISM THREE TIMES, I WILL FIX THE PROBLEM. If I hear it once, unless it really rings true, I don’t change a thing. I made the mistake before of listening to EVERY opinion and catered to them. It violated my honesty rule: I didn’t honestly think the changes made the book better and so I ended up going back to my original plan. And yeah, the majority can still be wrong, you could still feel absolutely the same about the way you did whatever the thing is that nobody likes. Again, be honest with yourself….would it hurt you to change it to be more appealing to the masses? Maybe. Maybe you want it your way and you’ll defend it. Or maybe it’s a little thing and if you change it, it might mean one less rejection and it didn’t affect the story or the characters for YOU in a bad way. I might be repeating myself here, but THE BOOK IS YOURS. MAKE SURE YOU’RE HAPPY WITH IT OR YOU’LL NEVER BE HAPPY WITH WHAT HAPPENS WITH IT.

Now get out there, writerlies. Be brave. Be ready. Be awesome.

Making Rejection Easy With Your Host, Julie

TODAY’S BREW: Target brand Candy Cane. It was less than $3.

By Julie

Writers put themselves through the ringer. We beat ourselves to hell getting words on paper to give to critique partners and welcome their line by line shredding. Then we do it all over again. And as if finishing the book isn’t enough, now we have to put it out into the world and seemingly beg for rejections. From advanced readers, from agents, from editors and publishers, and eventually readers. This thing that you’ve bled into, and you’ve sent it out to be

REJECTED

I watch writers sob, question their talent, their self-worth, all of their choices over ten or twelve pints of ice cream and booze after those rejections start rolling in. It kills me to watch. I have to say that one thing I am wildly proud of in myself is my ability to handle these rejections. I never let them get me down, and can count on two fingers the number of times I’ve cried over them. This is how:

    • I prepared to be rejected. Rejection is part of the process. Not everyone is going to love your work the way you do, and querying takes practice. You’ll think that your query is perfection and look at it in a month and think what in hell crap is this that I’ve conjured up? Knowing that, I didn’t query my dream agents first. I had practice agents, if you will. So when those rejections showed up, they were part of the plan. I felt in control. Those first queries are the pawns in this game of chess. I viewed that first wave of rejections as Step One, and I checked off that I’d done it. Easy.
    • I don’t give my work ultimatums. I of course have dream agents and dream publishers. But if they don’t like my stuff, or if they do but can’t sell it, I refuse to see it as the end for my book. I stand behind my work unfalteringly, and have had this attitude from day one: My books are coming out, one way or another. So shoot for the stars, the dream agents and publishers, but don’t hit the ground if they don’t catch you. Write what you want and if you believe in it, it will find its way out into the world.
    • Don’t take the rejection as a personal blow. Sure, some of the rejections baffle me. I have publishing houses on Twitter that follow me and rejected my books. But it isn’t ME they don’t connect with, it’s that they don’t think the project is safe enough for them to make money off of. That’s okay. Watch Shark Tank. Those folks like a lot of people and products but know when they can’t do the project justice and pass on it.
    • See the thing that gets you rejected and make it your point of pride. I’ve got a list of these bitches. Vampires. Paranormal. Abrasive female characters. Risky. Too cerebral. “Dangerous.” Well hell yes! All of this sounds like my favorite stuff. So if I do this to the point that it overtakes the tone of the book, then boom, I’ve done exactly what I wanted and you’re scared of it. I’m not. This is the voice I want to see in the world; mine.
    • Have backup plans from the start. This is important part for me, so listen, because I feel like it’s helped me keep my sanity. I’ve known from the first day I started querying that my book was coming out because I’d make it come out. The dream was everyone’s: Get an amazing agent, have said agent sell you to an amazing publisher, become famous. But this was the dream. And dreams can come true, but if they don’t I plan on creating my own reality that looks pretty damn close. I queried a million agents, and I knew that if I never landed one, I’d go to small presses. If small presses wouldn’t have me, I’d self-publish. My safety net was that the book was coming out.
    • Don’t let them tell you anything you don’t already know. I got rejected by all of my dream publishers, even the one that I was really sure would love me. But all of these big press rejections told me something I already knew and I took great pride in it: my work is too different and unsafe to be a sure thing. So when those rejections came, it was just what I needed to show me that indie was probably best for me anyway. If they’d come back saying the writing was poor, I would have been surprised. But I looked at my work from every angle and knew that it might just not be right for traditional publishing as it is right now. They more or less agreed with me. Know your work well enough to not get any surprises.

So this is all my stuff. Rejection is a sure thing in the publishing industry. Know you aren’t above it, and you’ll learn to work around it. But always remember: Write what you have to write, and that will show through in the manuscript. A book like that always finds its way into the world.

Dry those tears and make a path for your work. Look past the trees to see the forest.

5 Ways To Dodge Missiles In The Querying Trenches with Emmie Mears

TODAY’S BREW: Coconut crème in a can. It comes in a can, it’s so awesome.

By Julie

My delightful buddy Emmie Mears gave me the extreme pleasure of doing a guest post today, and she’s so smart it makes me look a little dumb. Please, enjoy her insight. Following this, buy her book. Go.

5 Ways to Dodge Missiles in the Query Trenches

Most writers going into querying know that rejection is involved. They even realize that it’s ubiquitous; a badge of honor among writers because it happens to everyone. Even so, when many writers start out, they don’t realize that they’re stepping onto a minefield whilst wearing snowshoes.

 

Here are five ways to ensure you’re not going in blindfolded as well.

 

5. Know what you’re up against.

 

The average agent gets between 100-1000 queries…per week. Yeah, you read that right. Per WEEK. Agent Suzie Townsend, when she used to do weekly query roundups, regularly reported between 500-900 queries each Friday. That’s just her. Not her whole agency. Because of that, agents read queries really quickly, which means you have to do a few things. At a bare minimum, you have to not immediately turn them off. Then you have to hook them. The former is simple enough; the latter can be tricky. The biggest thing to wrap your mind around as a new querier is that no matter how life-changing you think your book is, it’s competing against thousands of others.

 

4. Know what you have.

 

My debut was “Adult urban fantasy, complete at 88,000 words.” That one sentence told agents a lot that they needed to know. Which category (adult), which genre (urban fantasy), that it was indeed finished (it MUST be finished), and the word count (not 500K). If you can’t wedge your book into a statement like the above, you will need to assess why. While sometimes genre-bending books will sell huge and quick, the more common reality is that agents and editors all know that booksellers have to shelve books somewhere. If you’re going traditional, there are word count norms for each genre that new authors especially ought to keep in mind.

 

3. Know who you’re querying.

 

This ties into the whole “not immediately turning agents off” thing. This means doing your research. There are fantastic resources out there, from Query Tracker to the Absolute Write forums and blogs as well as Writer’s Digest’s Guide to Literary Agents. Once you know what you have, make sure you research agents who are looking for just that. My own agent has told me that she gets a huge percentage of queries each week that just aren’t things she represents, like middle grade when she only reps YA and adult.

 

2. Follow directions.

 

Agents will all have submission guidelines. If they ask for the first five pages in the body of the email with the query, send exactly that. Don’t send an attachment unless they explicitly tell you to. Follow exactly what they say to do, because your query is the very first impression they have of you. If you’re querying agents, it’s because you probably want a traditional publishing deal. Going against guidelines tells them that you either didn’t care to read them, or that you read them and ignored them. Neither of those things make a good first impression in this business.

 

1. Write an excellent book.

 

Then do it again. The best way to be successful in querying is to write a fantastic book. Write something fresh and unique. That means knowing what’s out there in your genre so you know yours has a place and doesn’t retread the same paths other books have taken. It means learning your craft and being willing to revise and rewrite. It means being willing to take criticism and rejection. It means trying each day to be better.

 

Once you feel confident that the book you’re going to query is the best it can be, it’s time to write the next one. When I got my agent, I not only had the book in hand that she signed me for, but I had another manuscript finished (well, technically, three other manuscripts). When we got the offer on my debut, we were able to immediately start subbing my other manuscript. I have another one in the wings now. If you want to make noveling your career, you have to keep doing it. Sometimes first books don’t sell. Often, actually. And when they do, you want to have something else ready.

 

While the advice here might seem simple, any agent will tell you that a huge number of queriers don’t follow it. Simply doing these things sets you apart from thousands of writers in the query trenches — and means agents will associate your name with professionalism and respect, even if they pass on your manuscript.

 

Bio:

Emmie Mears was born in Austin, Texas, where the Lone Star state promptly spat her out at the tender age of three months. After a childhood spent mostly in Alaska, Oregon, and Montana, she became a proper vagabond and spent most of her time at university devising ways to leave the country.

Except for an ill-fated space opera she attempted at age nine, most of Emmie’s childhood was spent reading books instead of writing them. Growing up she yearned to see girls in books doing awesome things, and struggled to find stories in her beloved fantasy genre that showed female heroes saving people and hunting things. Mid-way through high school, she decided the best way to see those stories was to write them herself. She now scribbles her way through the fantasy genre, most loving to pen stories about flawed characters and gritty situations lightened with the occasional quirky humor.

Emmie now lives in her eighth US state, still yearning for a return to Scotland. She inhabits a cozy domicile outside DC with two felines who think they’re lions and tigers.

 

You can preorder THE MASKED SONGBIRD here (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00JD7TWZK)! Released in a box set, you get four great paranormal and urban fantasy books for less than $4!

 

Follow Emmie on Twitter @EmmieMears and join her on Facebook!

 

 

Emmie Mears

 
 
Author of THE MASKED SONGBIRD (Harlequin 2014)

How I Got My Agent: The Hutchings Way

TODAY’S BREW: More champagne! This is getting to be a habit! Okay, it already was.

By Julie

So, um, it looks like nobody has figured out I’m a hack yet, because I HAVE A LITERARY AGENT. It’s not just any literary agent. It is ERIC FUCKING RUBEN, ESQUIRE. He’s an Esquire, for the love of God and we belong to each other now.

You want to know how I got an agent? (I do love phrasing it this way; I “got him,” like he’s some sort of disease or large fish.) All right, I’ll tell you but you might not like it.

I WAS MYSELF.

I didn’t formulate a query that appeared to be made by the hands of angels and deliver it to him with a manuscript that I claimed would save the world. I didn’t suck up, chase down, play by a bunch of stupid frigging rules to do it. I was me, and we connected. I always knew I wanted an agent that I connected with on a personal level, or I couldn’t really be me. And yes, Eric was the dream agent.

I DESPISE the rigamarole of querying. Trying to tell each individual agent what makes them bright, shiny and special for you when you’ve queried 43 of them that day, and they’ve read 9887 queries is superficial and senseless. Catering to the individual tastes of an agent who you don’t know from a hole in the wall when you come right down to it, is just plain kissing ass. It has nothing to do with your ability.

My queries flopped, every one of them. I had my query read out loud on a projector in front of dozens of other authors and agents and Donald frigging Maass. I live pitched by phone, I did it all. But it wasn’t until I put my work out there in snippets and made a buzz for myself the way I knew how, the way it worked for me, that I caught the attention of the few agents I truly WANTED, and Eric in particular. Being genuine is still the best way to do business.

If you’re looking for tips, I will give them to you. I want you to know that there’s more out there than writing the Golden Query. There’s more than yapping to any agent you can find all day on Twitter. So here are some things I did that made this not a happy accident:

  1. MAKE YOUR BLOG OR WHATEVER IT IS HAVE PURPOSE.  Deadly Ever After was a business plan. We commit to having it say something about us. We watch what our readers like and we post accordingly. If your readers don’t care about your day at the farmer’s market, why do you write a post about it every week? Show that you understand your audience. And plan the thing. If your blog reads like a phone call to your mother, what reason does anyone have to believe that your novels read any better? Also, ASK PEOPLE TO BE ON YOUR BLOG. Writers you know, writers you don’t quite know. Not only have these people become some of my most dear friends in the universe, but I learned from the way they write, and each and every one of them was there for me when I needed help to promote Running Home, which helped to catch the attention of my new agent. All from reaching out and asking them to help out on the blog.
  2. WRITE THE BOOK YOU HAVE TO WRITE, NOT WHAT YOU THINK AN AGENT WANTS TO READ. Don’t tailor yourself to fit into a niche. Write what you have to write, and make the niche fit you. You are the niche. You have the product. Don’t make it what someone wants, make it what you have to give them, and it will stand on its own.
  3. TWEET LINES FROM YOUR WORK. There’s plenty of #amwriting, #waswriting, #hadbeenediting, #willbeoutlining, #editedthenrevisedthenwroteandamwriting hashtags. TELL US WHAT YOU’RE WRITING. Give us something. Trust me, make it the right thing, and it catches the right eyes. I have a habit of making one line at least in every writing session that’s strong out of context, and tweeting it out with the hashtag of the novel’s title and #amwriting. THIS WORKS, PEOPLE.
  4. DON’T ASK QUESTIONS AT #ASKAGENT JUST TO MAKE AGENTS SEE YOU’RE PAYING ATTENTION.
  5. 5.       ASK PEOPLE TO READ YOUR WORK. Don’t make it top secret. I tweeted out that I had just written the grossest thing I ever wrote, and my good friend, Jessie Devine, one of Eric’s clients, wanted to read it. It was just a chapter, out of context, but it caused a stir on Twitter with a couple of the right people, and before I knew it the man himself was asking to read it. TRUE STORY.
  6. 6.       FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS HOLY, BE YOURSELF ON TWITTER. This does not mean be the ugliest side of yourself consistently. Don’t tell us forty times how much you hate Monday. Don’t complain constantly. Don’t be dull. You swear? Go ahead, swear. Give us a little of the person that throws themselves into that manuscript and comes away feeling like they just made magic. BE THAT PERSON ON TWITTER. Make people listen.
  7. 7.       GET INVOLVED. Eric was speaking about the state of publishing at a Mystery Writer’s meeting. So we crashed it. And we took notes, and spoke to him. We treated him like a regular, awesome guy, which he is. Be the face that’s remembered if you have the opportunity, and learn something along the way.

 

I hope this helps all of you looking for that perfect agent to find them. Know the rules of querying, but know when you fit outside them. Know that there’s more than one way to skin an agent. Figuratively.

 

 

 

Welcome Back to Vampire Week 2.0!

Today’s Brew: Julie is swilling some something out of a can with a mean looking pumpkin on it, and I am drinking water since I have to be up at ass o clock.

by Kristen and Julie (bear with us as we change POV)

TWO VAMPIRE BOOKS, AN UNDEAD DUO, AND A DREAM

Picture it. Last year at this time, Kristen’s living room, which was still a hotel room at HoJos.  Shark Week just ended, and we came up with the idea to do vampire week on the blog. We wanted to make it an annual tradition, and you know we are good to our word.  Vampire week is back.

A lot has changed since last year’s event.  Julie and I had just started querying, and God, were we bad at it.  We’d just started meeting people on Twitter.  We didn’t know what to do about this vampire thing, since apparently, they were the literary equivalent of Mom Jeans.  I mean, we thought they were cool, but everyone else….meh.   So how the hell were we ever going to get these things published?

10 months ago, during Hurricane Sandy…yup, DURING, not after….Kristen and I went to Backspace Writer’s Conference to pitch our vampire books. Well, not really. Kristen had already landed herself an agent (and couldn’t believe someone wanted to represent a book about vampire rockstars! and was excited about it), but she DROVE THROUGH A HURRICANE FOR ME ANYWAY so that I could do the same. That’s a different story. When we got there, we were the girls trying to find any way we could to mask that we had written vampire books. Vampires books were the Voldemorts of publishing. The market had been saturated, vampires had been done too many times. My query got ripped to shreds in front of a room full of people, including Donald Maas and a handful of amazing agents. But I kept my chin up, that was what I was there for, and I learned something. Something that had me scribbling wildly at lunchtime about Japanese mythology: DO YOUR VAMPIRES, BUT DO THEM DIFFERENT. MAKE THEM UNIQUE. MAKE THEM SOMETHING THAT NOBODY ELSE COULD FUCKING DO. Then make all those people who turned their nose up at your vampires eat their words.

In May, I attended the New England Chapter RWA conference and chatted with a couple of editors from publishing companies.  One of them was really into the concept of my book.  I asked her if the vampire thing was a problem.  Her reply?

You can never be too rich, too thin, or publish too many vampires.

Whaaaat?  In a span of six months, that happened?  It just shows you how quickly things change and how subjective the business is.  Books are like music.  Not everyone likes it all, but there’s something out there for everyone.

We might have mentioned a few times that Running Home is now available, and now Because The Night is coming soon. But we have more news.  If that is possible.

Julie has an agent!  Not any old agent, but THE Eric Ruben, Esq.

Kristen has another book coming out. Soon!  Seasons In The Sun, the prequel to Because The Night, is coming from Fast Foreward Publishing this fall.  Release date to be announced soon.

Point being, WRITE THE BOOK YOU NEED TO WRITE, and vampires are fucking cool. No matter when it is or where, vampires are icons, steeped in history, and there is more to be made.

Kristen and I look forward to making vampire history.

Taking Myself Out of a Teeny Tiny Little Box

TODAY’S BREW: Chocolate Hazelnut. Or “The Kristen Killer.”

By Julie

 

Stuff has been weird! After finishing The Animal, I had a countdown until the day when I would open it back up to start editing, 2 weeks later.

THIS IS NOT A BREAK FROM YOUR MANUSCRIPT.

This is waiting for the moment when you can admit you never really wanted to finish it in the first place. This does not give you clarity of thought with which to face the second phase; this is never really finishing the first phase.

I only realized this when I picked up Running Home  again, which I have been allowing to collect dust for a few months. No revisions, no edits, no reading of excerpts, no querying. Just sitting while I focused on the very demanding Trent Dixon.

Querying is my arch nemesis, or at least it had been for Running Home, and I didn’t even give it that much of a chance, being able to count on 2 hands the number of them I sent out. But I just couldn’t feel the query, couldn’t make it work the way the storyline did, couldn’t capture my voice in it.

It was not until I gave myself this long break, wrote another novel, wrote countless short stories and blogs that I understood I did not even know exactly what my voice was to write the query. If I was asked what my writing style was like, I couldn’t have accurately answered. That’s all changed and changing now. I needed some more experience. And I needed to beta read for some other people, to make comparisons.

So, sitting down on our Monday drinking night with Kristen and a batch of homemade brownies, we took a fresh look at the query for Running Home. I surprised myself by realizing that it wasn’t a hard novel to write a query for. I was looking at the structure of the story as some convoluted mess of conflicts, which is ridiculous when I know better than anyone that it is about a series of events caused by my characters’ decisions in a world where there may not be any real choices.

All in all, I was too close to the frigging thing, and I am probably still too close to The Animal  to do it justice, too.

Now I am toying with the idea of leaving The Animal alone for a month to pursue a different project, as yet TBD. There’s no set time limit that’s right to let your work alone. For me, it has to feel like it went away to camp. Like I sent it off somewhere, missed it, didn’t know I missed it, but was really happy to see it come back.

Time to open up my mind and take the unplanned path again. Time to be a creator, and know that in creating new things, I will see a different side of my finished works. It’s a learning process. So, Trent, sit back for a while. Be ready to be ignored.

 

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