Want to see the query that landed me a contract with Turquoise Morning Press? I’m sharing it today over at Aussie Owned.
Recently I asked you, our readers, what you wanted to see. The answer I received was about querying successfully, how to do it, and examples of successful queries. So today, I have the ladies here, at AOaR telling their stories.
First off, I should warn you that the query letter contains a minor spoiler for the book. (There was also a bigger one in there, but I’ve deleted it from the example; I don’t think it’s strictly necessary to illustrate the point.)
There are a few reasons why I think this query was successful. I followed a basic when/then structure in the pitch (the first two paragraphs). When Isla’s life starts to spin off the rails, then she must discover the truth about who she is and what she can do. It also outlines the stakes: Isla’s father is in danger and needs rescuing. (He’s such
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On Tuesday over at Aussie Owned and Read, I wrote about the various writing-related ways I distract myself from going crazy while I wait for writing-related things. 🙂
I’m an impatient person. (I will pause here while you express shock at this statement… WHY AREN’T YOU EXPRESSING SHOCK?) I’ve always been that way, and it’s something I’ve had to learn to manage over the years. So, as I’m sure you can imagine, writing and publishing books is a special kind of torture for me.
The publishing industry is a slow-moving beast. Even if you disregard how long it takes me to draft a novel in the first place—I’m jealous of you speedy NaNoWriMo types—so much of publishing is waiting. Waiting for beta feedback. Waiting for responses to queries. Waiting for edits, and covers, and publication dates. And now Isla’s Inheritance has finally been released into the wild, I’ve discovered a new thing to wait for: reviews.
It’s possible to be waiting for all these things AT THE SAME TIME. If you’re a writer, you have probably discovered this…
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There’s a special Easter tradition throughout central and northern Croatia – making Easter nests. On the afternoon or eve of Easter Saturday children go out into the garden and collect leaves, grass, twigs, flowers and then make a “nest” for the Easter Bunny – that’s where he places his Easter egg presents. The children go to bed that eve wondering if the Easter Bunny will like or love their nest, because the best nest gets the best and biggest eggs!
NestPitch is based on this idea where an author’s ‘pitch’ is the nest and the Easter Treats are the Agents requests.
The submission window opens on 1st April.
Once Submissions are closed, firstly the SLUSH BILBIES will go through the submissions and pick the top 100-120. Then the NEST BLOGGERS will each pick eight of their best and brightest NESTS and post on their blogs.
After that, the SECRECT AGENT BUNNIES will jump from blog site to blog site and leave their Easter treats.
Why am I telling you all this? Because I AM A SLUSH BILBY! (A bilby is an adorable, long-eared, endangered Australian marsupial. You can of course see the resemblance…right?) You think I’d have learned from the madness that was Pitcharama how hard it is to choose between a whole bunch of awesome pitches. But no, apparently not.
If you’re wondering why the mix of Croatian and Australian, that’s because the host of the contest, Nikola Vukoja, is exactly that. Running these sorts of contests is hard, so show her the Twitter love here, mkay?
And if anyone wants to send me masses of chocolate on 1st April, I’d appreciate it. 🙂
Today’s guest post is by Emery Lord, whose first contemporary YA novel is out with Walker/Bloomsbury next April. I’ve had a few posts on indie publishing and small presses, so I’m really happy that she and Amy (whose post will go live on Sunday) have provided us with the other side of the coin.
Hi y’all, I’m Emery! Cass was kind enough to invite me to talk about what I wish I knew before my book deal.
My biggest Wish-I-Knew? That the querying process was giving me tools I needed for the rest of my publication path.
(Just for clarification, I’m going to be talking about the way I pursued [traditional] publication: wrote a book, revised it a lot, queried agents, signed with one, revised some more, went on submission to houses, sold. Also, add in some rejection, angst and brownie-gobbling during and between every step. 😉 )
I guess I thought of querying as a wall—a tall gatekeeper set up on the road to publication. For some people, it’s a glass wall, easily demolished with a few thrown query-rocks. For others, it’s a brick wall that is chipped away at over years. It can be laborious and time-consuming and sometimes disheartening. I think it’s easy to wish that an agent would magically pick you from on high, before you even struggle through the querying.
But the querying process isn’t just a way to get an agent. It’s a way to get vital practice for what’s waiting down the publication road. If I’d known that at the time, I think querying might have felt a bit easier to handle!
When querying, you write up a few-paragraph pitch, maybe a synopsis, and possibly a one-line “elevator pitch.” Learning how to describe your story with brief but distinct details is vital once you sell a book. Plus, your agent may actually pull from your query text to create the submission pitch! So, all that time laboring over my query and synopsis? I now see it as a training ground for a skill I needed to start learning.
It’s so hard. But waiting is a reality of every step of traditional publishing. It’s good to learn your coping mechanisms sooner. (Mine: whipped cream straight from the can, shoe shopping, and diving into a new project.)
It happens with editors much the same way it happens with agents: inevitably–some quickly, some slowly. You might get feedback; you might get a generic ‘not for me’.
These are hard messages to receive, but I’m glad I’ve gotten a taste of that. Because writing is so personal … but publishing makes it public consumption. There will always be rejection or disinterest from someone, and that’s okay. It’s still worth it. (Can you tell I’m trying to emotionally prepare myself for the 1-star Goodreads reviews…? 😉 )
Sometimes you get feedback from agents you queried; sometimes you don’t. Same goes for editorial submissions. I learned not to judge that feedback from my first week’s reaction to it. Sometimes it rang true once the sting wore off. Some agents (and likewise some editors) will give you an R&R (revise and resubmit). Even if they don’t ultimately sign you, they’ve given you experience in revising with/for someone, which is a huge part of the post-book-deal process!
So, there you have it: the fruitful moments I wish I’d recognized when I was in the querying trenches! Happy writing to all of you, and thanks to Cass for having me!
Emery Lord is a 20-something American girl who writes stories about high school and best friends and weird families and the crushes that make you feel combustibly alive and also more awkward than you thought was possible. If you’re not sure how to pronounce Emery, try slurring the name “Emily,” and that will get you really close. Her first book, OPEN ROAD SUMMER, will be out in Spring 2014 with Walker/Bloomsbury.
The Pitcharama first-round selections were announced today over at Aussie Owned and Read. There are some great pitches there, although I’m sad we couldn’t take everyone through to the final round. (However, as I said yesterday, it’s not too late: the pitch-a-mate round opens tomorrow. Keep an eye on the blog for details.)
My three selections (in the order they were submitted) are:
- No Such Thing by Sarah Glenn Marsh
- Off Campus by AJ Albinak
- Barely Imagined Creatures by Pete Catalano
You’ll see that I chose two young adult manuscripts (both urban fantasy) and one new adult (an m/m romance). There were a few things that influenced my decision.
1. I love urban fantasy.
I write it, I read it—it’s hardly surprising that I would lean toward choosing it. This should give you an idea of how subjective this process really is.
2. Word counts were a big factor.
YA can run from 50k to 80k (or up to 100k for fantasy, but better to keep it lower than that for a debut novel). I chose pitches for manuscripts in that ballpark. If you want to read a great blog post on word lengths, this is the one I use as my rule of thumb.
Some of the digital-only presses may care less about word count, since they don’t have to pay the larger cost of producing a fat novel. I don’t really know much about that, though, so I assumed the normal conventions would apply in this case.
3. I looked at the participating publishers’ preferences.
We have several presses looking for romance (at least one of which publishes m/m—I checked!). We have several that publish paranormal, UF and dark fantasy. So I tried to choose pitches that I thought those presses’ acquiring editors would be interested in, to give “my” three authors the best shot.
This, by the way, is the same process you should go through if you’re pitching to presses or agents directly: look at what they buy or represent. Look at their website to see what they’re after. Most of them are pretty upfront about it, and it saves you from wasting your time and theirs. And, even better, saves you from the heartbreak of a rejection you could have avoided.
Anyway, that’s it. Looking back over the post, it doesn’t seem like rocket science to me, but maybe it’s helpful to someone out there. A big snuggle-y thanks to everyone that has participated thus far!
I’ve got a new-found respect for agents.
Those of you who’ve been reading my blog for a while know that I highly rate pitching contests. They are a great way to hone your pitch, query or first pages. And, just as great, you can get in touch with what I’ve discovered to be a supportive community of fellow writers, many of whom have great advice to offer or are just happy to be a cheer squad. I wouldn’t be here now if it weren’t for Pitch Wars (if you want to know why, I blogged about it here).
And if you’ve been reading my blog for only a little while you’ll know that Aussie Owned and Read has been hosting its first pitching contest, where people can submit a 250 word blurb for their young adult or new adult manuscript. In the first round, the eight bloggers at Aussie Owned choose their favourites to progress to the final round. That is where we have eight small presses (nine editors) who will swing by to request the ones they’d like to see more of. (In the second round you can pitch your friends—that starts on 20 June so if you missed the first round it’s not too late!)
The first round closed last night and choosing three pitches from those that entered was SO HARD IT HURT MY BRAIN! Not in a bad way but in an “aaaah, I can’t choose” way! My original shortlist was 50 per cent of the total. I loved them all, and wanted to take them home with me. Like, really. I have a newfound respect for people like Brenda Drake and the writers who help her; she runs Pitch Wars and Pitch Madness. Our humble contest is only in its first year so we didn’t get nearly the number of entries she’d see in one of hers. (Not that I didn’t respect her before, but Oh. My. Gods!)
And that’s why I also have a newfound respect for agents. In a way they have it a bit easier than we did in choosing our pitches, because most of them request at least the first five pages, which gives them an idea of the voice and execution. But in another (much bigger) way, they have to read thousands upon thousands of queries a year. And they don’t even get paid for that part of their business, not until they choose a client and then sell their client’s work.
Wow. Just wow. You seriously have to love books, love stories and tales well told, to dedicate that amount of time to it. Because while all the pitches we saw were good, the same cannot be said for agents’ slush piles (or so I hear).
Agents, I doff my hat to you. Or I would if I was wearing one.
I doff my imaginary hat to you.
One more thing. If you’re reading this and you entered Pitcharama, I also wanted to say that, whether you’re one of my final choices or not, I respect the courage it takes to put yourself and your work out there. I know how stressful it is. Don’t give up.
Got a completed manuscript? Want a chance to put your pitch in front of the eyes of eight small press editors? Now is your chance. Go go go! (NOTE: If you don’t have a blog but want to enter anyway, post your pitch here in the comments section of this post on my blog as per the original requirements, and then link it here on the linky list.)
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s the time you’ve all been waiting for… Pitcharama is here! *Insert trumpeting fanfare*
We are so excited to offer you this opportunity to have your manuscript seen by some of the world’s top independent publishing houses. See who they are here.
Sign up your blog with our dear friend Mister Linky Tools below and then post the following information on your blog:
Age group: (YA/NA)
250 word blurb:
Quick, do it now! The Aussie Owned and Read team will stop by and select our favourite 24 queries to go through to the publishers round over the next four days and then, AND THEN, we will share them on our blog on the 28th when the big guns stop by. Don’t worry, though; you will know who made the cut on the 19th, when we announce our top 24.
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If you’re a writer of young adult or new adult fiction, and you have a completed manuscript that’s ready to go, there’s a fantastic opportunity this month over at Aussie Owned and Read!
Eight publishers will be participating – we’ll announce who in the next few days, but they are all open to submissions internationally, so this isn’t just an opportunity for Australians. If I hadn’t just signed with Turquoise Morning Press I’d be really disappointed, because I’m not eligible to enter! :p
I interviewed Lauren over at Aussie Owned and Read.
Space cat. Enough said.
Lauren Spieller is a literary agency intern who has read more queries than the rest of us even want to contemplate. She has kindly agreed to answer a few questions about her job.
First off, let me say THANK YOU for having me! I love talking about querying and writing, so this is a treat.
We’re glad to have you! You’re an editorial intern at a literary agency. Can you tell us what that involves?
I’ve had two internships. The first involved reading the slush—a lot of it—and deciding which queries to forward on to the agent. I loved doing this because it a) taught me how to get a feel for a manuscript from only a few pages, and b) helped me hone my editing skills.
My current internship—with P.S. Literary Agency—is a tad more editorial, which is fabulous. So far my focus has been on reading…
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