Monday, August 30, 2010

(Work-in-) Progress Report: Bob

Word count (to the nearest thousand): 66,000 (and rising)
Status: Incorporating feedback from my latest batch of betas
Attitude: Fluttery

Fluttery because I’m excited. Fluttery because I’m nervous. Fluttery because I’m fast approaching Bob’s first birthday and I can’t believe it’s been a YEAR.

This week, I plan to put together what I hope will be my last revision outline, and then I’ll only have to pretty up each chapter according to said outline. (Well, I also plan to try that dreaded out-loud read again, but as we all remember how well that went a few months ago, I’m still kind of ignoring it…)

My first batch of betas caught the major problems with my plot and story construction, and my second batch uncovered some issues with characterization and world building. That’s just how it should be, I think--the first batch found the biggest problems, and the second batch the second biggest problems. Interestingly, none of my second-batch betas brought up the same major issues my first batch did, which (hopefully) means I fixed those plot problems. Phew.

Depending on how I feel about this fifth draft once I finish it, I may decide to give Bob to a third round of beta readers, but for now, I’m thinking these two will be good. Which means I’ll probably be ready to query by late September.

Wowsers. Querying by late September.

And that’s why I’m all fluttery.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Interview with an Agent: Liza Pulitzer-Voges

Children’s lit writers, get ready--I’ve got another one for you. Today’s interview features Liza Pulitzer-Voges of Eden Street. Happy reading!

KV: How did you get into agenting?

LP: I was “in the right place at the right time!” I was working for a textbook development company that also represented artists; those artists worked primarily in elementary textbooks. My job was to build a list of authors in the trade children's book field, exposing the artists to new markets and helping this company get into trade books. I worked there for 25 years, then started my own agency and took all my clients with me after they closed. I do only children's books.

KV: How would you summarize your personal agenting philosophy? What do you expect from an agent-author relationship?

LP: I tailor my agenting to an author’s goals, working closely together to reach them. We usually agree on these goals; if not, then it wouldn't be a very good relationship. My expectations are openness and loyalty and professionalism. They can expect the same with me.

KV: What client work do you have coming out soon? What drew you to those writers and/or projects?

LP: A wonderful YA novel from Gloria Whelan, which is contemporary, thus a departure from her historical fiction, and then a wonderful historical novel from Gloria that is fantastic!

Dan Gutman has a new middle grade series, THE GENIUS FILES, coming out as well as a new MY WEIRD SCHOOL one coming in 2010.

Alyssa Capcuilli's BISCUIT is celebrating its 15th year in 2010, and lots of excitement comes with its new licensing program that is launching around the series as well as new books in her KATY DUCK line at S&S.

Keith Graves, illustrator extraordinaire, has branched into writing for middle grade and YA, and his debut novel is due out with Chronicle in Fall 2011.

A first-time author Rachel Wildavsky's novel debuted on the Abrams list in Spring 2010. And I could go on and on...

These projects are all fresh and reflect each author's willingness to grow and try new things! Good writing and new ideas make these attractive.

KV: What genres do you represent? What genres do you definitely NOT represent?

LP: I represent all genres! Well, I haven't done any paranormal, so I guess I'm odd that way, but I don't find the need to jump on any bandwagon.

KV: Are you interested in picture book writers who AREN'T illustrators?

LP: Definitely!

KV: What query pet peeves and/or pitfalls should writers avoid when querying you?

LP: I post my requirements on my website, so I get truly annoyed when I get e-mail submissions! I just delete them! And I don't represent adult, so that too is a pet peeve.

That said, my unsolicited pile is large at the moment, and I admit I'm behind with it, but be patient--I will get to each one. I'm open to SCBWI members of course. But most of my clients now come from fellow clients or come recommended by an editor. I look forward to doing some writers' conferences, and then I am open to those writers' manuscripts.

KV: What are you looking for in a manuscript right now?

LP: I love mysteries as an adult reader... I'd love a really good mystery series, hope that it will have some fun humor too! And naturally, great writing, strong voice, and setting.

KV: What’s the best way to query you?

LP: The best way to query me is to read the guidelines on the website, Send a picture book in full; middle grade and YA require a letter, synopsis, and three sample chapters. Also include a SASE.

Thanks, Ms. Pulitzer-Voges, for these responses. And good luck to everyone who decides to query.

Have a wonderful weekend, all!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

And Bob's Official Title Is...

…At the bottom of this post:)

Aw, you guys are awesome! Five hundred words isn’t a lot to go on, but you came up with 249 titles. Like I said, awesome.

Before I announce the winners, I have a brain fart to confess. I should have mentioned how I planned to handle the word “The” in the contest post, but since I didn’t even think about it until I was judging all the entries, I guess I’ll mention it now. I decided to treat entries with and without “The” as separate entries, so TOOTHLESS and THE TOOTHLESS are, in fact, different. (Which actually makes sense in the context of the story, because TOOTHLESS can refer to the condition of being Toothless as well as the group of people who are, whereas THE TOOTHLESS is most definitely the group.)

My short list was pretty long, but here it is:

Honorable Mentions

BITE THE HAND by Ryan Z Nock
TOOTH FOR A TOOTH by Joseph Adams
THE TOOTHLESS by Gwendolyn Conover
WINGTOOTHER by Christauna Asay

I liked a lot of things about these entries. For instance, I loved SETH TUCKER AND THE SHARK ZOMBIES and SETH WINGTOOTHER AND THE STREAM BREAKERS, but both of these felt more middle grade than young adult to me.

THE LAST WINGTOOTHER sounds great, but it follows a too-common pattern. (You can blame THE LAST SAMURAI and THE LAST AIRBENDER for that:) ). And while I love the idea of using THE WINGTOOTH CHRONICLES as a possible series name, I’m not as wild about it for a single book (which Holly already pointed out).

Because I thought these titles were so great, I’M OFFERING THE HONORABLE MENTIONS A PRIZE AS WELL. I’m not an agent, but I’ve spent the last two years trying to get one, and I think I’ve learned a thing or two about writing queries and first pages. So honorable mentions, if you’re looking for some feedback, feel free to e-mail me at with your query OR first page. I’d love to learn a little more about the stuff you’re working on.

Third Place THE ASSASSINATION OF MARVIN HERMES by Diana. Love this title. Really love this title. But if anybody’s name is going to be in the title, I’d rather it were Seth’s.

Second Place FEED DEAF by Too Cute (Penelope Wright), which I am taking the liberty of changing to STREAM DEAF. I didn’t mention it before, but sometime between now and when I first set up this contest, I actually came up with two titles I really liked. STREAM DEAF was one of them, so when Honey Bear read this one off, I just about snorted my ice water. I figured it was a sign:)

First Place WHOSE TEETH ARE AS SWORDS by Ben Spendlove. I honestly couldn’t decide between STREAM DEAF and WHOSE TEETH ARE AS SWORDS, but I decided to give WHOSE TEETH the win because it was the one title I couldn’t get out of my head. The phrase comes from a scripture in Proverbs (Proverbs 30:14), and that verse couldn’t be more applicable to Bob.

Congratulations, Ben, Penelope, and Diana! Please e-mail me at so we can work out prizes. And everyone else, thanks again for all your help. Bob has needed a title for a long, long time, and now he has one.

Bob, I dub thee WHOSE TEETH ARE AS SWORDS. Or maybe STREAM DEAF. I can’t quite make up my mind.

Next stop--agents’ inboxes! (And Ben (or maybe Penelope), no one is rooting for you to win that Kindle as much as I am:) )

Friday, August 20, 2010

Interview with an Agent: Emmanuelle Morgen

So excited for today’s interview, which features Emmanuelle Morgen of Judith Ehrlich Literary Management. Enjoy!

KV: How did you get into agenting?

EM: I grew up reading anything I could get my hands on, from Grimm’s Fairytales to Nancy Drew to Stephen King, and from an early age I remember wanting to work with authors and be a part of the book production process. In college I interned at Penguin and eventually I went to work as an editor at Fodor's, the travel arm of Random House.

After several years I made the switch to agenting so I could work with stories of all kinds, fiction and nonfiction. I’ve worked in publishing more than ten years now and currently represent women's fiction and romance, historical fiction, urban fantasy, YA, memoir, and select how-to titles.

KV: How would you summarize your personal agenting philosophy? What do you expect from an agent-author relationship?

EM: My job is to guide an author’s career and maximize the financial return for their work, which also means helping them reach the widest audience possible. I’m constantly thinking about the best way to publish my authors’ creative output in all formats: print, digital, audio, visual, etc.

As for the relationship, I like my clients to be good communicators, and since they’re all talented and fantastic writers, that’s usually the case. :-) I can’t say enough good things about my authors. They’re all wonderfully proactive and professional, getting to know their markets and actively seeking publicity opportunities, while still maintaining busy writing schedules.

KV: What client work do you have coming out soon? What drew you to those writers and/or projects?

EM: I’m thrilled to have three debut romances published this fall!

FORBIDDEN, an erotic historical romance by Christina Phillips, will be out in September, and I’m very excited about it. It takes place in the unusual setting of Cymru, or ancient Wales, with a druid princess named Carys as the heroine and a Roman centurion named Maximus as the hero. Their people are lifelong enemies, so it takes a miracle to bring them together. And it just got a four-star review from RT. :)

LORD LIGHTNING, a Regency romance by Jenny Brown, will be out also in September, and it’s the first in a 12-book astrology-theme series in which every hero will have a different sign. Lord Hartwood, known to the town as Lord Lightning partly for his temper, is, of course, a Leo, and he falls in love with a modest, little astrologer named Eliza. Jenny’s knowledge of astrology is surpassed only by her knowledge of Regency-era history, and I love how she has put the two together.

ENEMY WITHIN, a futuristic paranormal romance by Marcella Burnard, comes out in October, and it’s a fast-paced story about a female starship captain whose brush with death and psychological torture by an enemy race resulted in armor so thick, no one will ever get close to her again, until a certain pirate commandeers her ship. The sequel, ENEMY GAMES, will be out in the spring.

KV: What genres do you represent? What genres do you definitely NOT represent?

EM: I represent romance, historical fiction, urban fantasy, high-concept women’s fiction, thrillers, young adult fiction, and select memoir, narrative nonfiction, and how-to projects.

I don’t do cozy mysteries, picture books, cookbooks, or health guides.

KV: What query pet peeves and/or pitfalls should writers avoid when querying you?

EM: I recommend that writers stick to the hook and the plot of the book, plus a little information about themselves personally. If they do that and they query about a genre I represent, then they’re doing everything right.

KV: What are you looking for in a manuscript right now?

EM: I’m looking for a great read I can’t put down by an author with many more books in them! I’d love to find women’s fiction with depth and meaning, plus a hook that makes me say, “I HAVE to read this.” I’m also looking for beautifully written historical fiction, along the lines of Philippa Gregory or Sarah Dunant; a thriller series; YA; and more romance.

In nonfiction, I’d like to see well-researched narrative nonfiction by journalists with platform and reach.

KV: What’s the best way to query you?

EM: Via e-mail at, with the first chapter in the body of the e-mail.

Thanks again, Ms. Morgen, for these responses, and good luck to everyone who decides to query. Hopefully, that’s a lot of you, as her interests are so diverse.

Happy Friday, everyone! (And don’t forget to enter my “Help! Bob Needs a Title” blog contest. It closes at the end of the day on Monday, so you still have a little time.)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The "Help! Bob Needs a Title" Blog Contest

Hooray! It’s the day we’ve all been waiting for! (Okay, maybe I'm the only one who's been waiting for it...) The “Help! Bob Needs a Title” Blog Contest is here!

As many of you know, I’ve been calling my work-in-progress Bob for almost a year now, and while it’s an affectionate nickname, it’s not a very useful title. I’m thinking you can come up with a better one.

To enter, simply read Bob’s query and first page below, then leave your suggested titles in the comments section of this post. You’re welcome to include feedback in your comment, but make sure you clearly identify your entries so my trusty sidekick (read: Honey Bear, my husband) doesn’t miss them.

I plan to judge the entries blindly, meaning I won’t know who submitted what. My trusty sidekick will transfer all the entries into a separate document, no names attached, and I’ll make my picks from there.

The Rules

1. Anyone may enter.

2. Everyone who enters may submit up to seven entries. (You don’t even have to do anything to get those extra entries--I just don’t want you to have to choose between several equally good titles.)

3. In the unlikely event that the same title is entered more than once, every entry but the first will be disqualified (although the disqualified entrants may submit other entries).

The Prizes Four lovely agents have agreed to offer query and/or first-page critiques to the winners:

Amy Boggs: Query plus first-page critique
Sarah LaPolla: First-page critique
Andrea Somberg: Query plus first-page critique
Marissa Walsh: Query critique

I plan to name three winners, so the first-place winner will get to pick two of these prizes, the second-place winner will get to pick one of the remaining prizes, and the third-place winner will receive the remaining prize.

And here’s the kicker: If I like the first-place winner’s title enough to actually use it AND this manuscript lands an agent, the first-place winner will also win a fifty-dollar Amazon gift card. In addition, if said agent likes the title enough AND the manuscript lands a book deal, the first-place winner will also win a Kindle (or another comparable e-reader of his or her choice).

The Query The 2046 International Biomedia Conference is the most celebrated event for high school students on the planet. But when Seth receives an invitation to attend, the last thing he wants to do is celebrate.

Seth hates biomedia, especially his Wingtooth, the tooth-shaped implant that links his brainwaves to the Stream. The too-smooth voices give him headaches, and he’s never found much use for a Camera that takes pictures with his eyes or a Music Player that blasts its sounds straight into his brain. His parents, though, are less concerned about his health than they are about his chance to meet Marvin Hermes, the industry’s reclusive founder. He has to go--and use his Wingtooth, which he hardly ever does.

Not ten minutes off the shuttle, Seth introduces himself to the most beautiful girl he’s ever seen by accidentally dumping his breakfast on her. Worse, the girl is Toothless, part of the recession-ravaged class unable to afford Wingteeth, and probably took the dumping as an insult. Little does Seth know that wearing his breakfast on her sleeve is the least of Adair’s concerns.

Ever since her mother died in an overcrowded Wingtooth factory, Adair and her father have been masterminding a Toothless takeover. Their plan is simple: Shut down the Stream, assassinate Marvin Hermes, and make the whole thing look like an accident. Then install one of the Toothless as chairman of the board. But their plan collapses when Adair doesn’t go through with the assassination--and when shutting down the Stream leaves the city’s Wingtoothers unable to think or even eat for themselves.

Now Seth and Adair are the Wingtoothers’ last hope. Seth will do anything to save his parents, but Adair isn’t so eager. Can she really abandon the cause she’s worked so hard for? But is she willing to let the Wingtoothers just die?

The First Page The principal’s office was bad, but the principal’s office waiting room was much worse. Seth shifted in his toothpaste-colored seat and tried to concentrate on his homework (Problem number eight. Find the limit as x approaches e of the natural log of x, b-Reader droned inside his head), but his own thoughts were so loud he could barely hear the words.

What could Ms. Mahoney possibly want with him?

The secretary looked up, almost like she’d read his mind. “Sorry for the wait.” She flashed him a phantom grin. “But I think you’ll find it worth your while.”

Problem number eight. Find the limit as x approaches--

Seth pushed the words aside, out of thought. “What do you mean?”

She cupped one hand around the corner of her mouth. “Don’t tell her I said anything, but … congratulations.”

Problem number--


“Not so loud!” The secretary leaned over her laptop, bleached blond curls bouncing stiffly, like she was going to say more. But then something on the screen caught her attention, and she forgot all about him.

Problem number eight. Find the limit as--

Seth closed the calc book with a thought and exited b-Reader with another. But that only made way for a new flood of sounds and pictures, which burrowed into his brain with almost no thought at all. In the quiet of the waiting room, without his homework to distract him, Stream Surfer’s smooth-talking voices were impossible to ignore.

Phew. I think that’s everything. The contest closes on Monday, August 23, at 11:59 p.m. PDT. The winners will be announced no later than Friday, August 27. Good luck, and happy titling!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Interview with an Agent: Mandy Hubbard

Howdy, all! Today's installment of "Interview with an Agent" features Mandy Hubbard of D4EO Literary Agency. Ms. Hubbard writes a fantastic blog full of information about her agenting philosophy and querying tastes, so this interview focuses on several issues beyond the query. Hope you enjoy!

KV: How often does a query intrigue you enough to look at the included pages? And how often do those pages intrigue you enough to request the manuscript?

MH: I would say I read the included sample pages about half the time. I get a lot of queries for genres I don't even represent (adult fiction, for instance), queries that are just too much of a mess, and queries for a book with something I'm not interested in (such as talking animals). In those cases I just don't need to read the pages.

I request a full manuscript for about 7% of my queries. From there, oddly, I have about a 7% rate for offering representation. (I guess 7 is my lucky number!)

KV: What are you looking for in a requested manuscript?

MH: A voice that hooks me, tension, and characters that leap off the page.

KV: What are some of the most common problems you see in the manuscripts you request?

MH: Characters that fall flat, or plot lines that seem to meander rather than build. When a story arc builds like it is supposed to, it's a beautiful thing. :-)

KV: When you come across a manuscript you really like/love, how do you decide whether to request revisions or offer representation?

MH: Well, if I "really like" it, chances are I won't offer. I may ask for revisions. But in truth, if I don't fall totally, hopelessly in love with it, I'm not going to be your best advocate. I see plenty of stuff that will probably sell, and I know that even when I'm rejecting them. And a number of authors I've rejected went on to sign with other great agents.

Now, if I love it, whether or not I offer first or ask for revisions first (becuase even if I do offer, we'll probably do revisions after I sign you...) depends upon the size and nature of the revisions. If we're talking about cleaning up some plots points with the ending, I can discuss those ideas with you on the phone, and if you're on board, I'll probably offer. But if we're talking about a flawed character arc or bigger issues, I will have to ask that you fix those first.

The smaller the revisions, the more likely I'll offer and revise with you as my client.

KV: When you do make that Call, you’re probably going to ask the writer if she has any questions. What sorts of questions should she ask?

MH: It's important to know what an agent's vision is for your novel--what kind of revisions she will want. So make sure you have a clear understanding of how she sees your novel and what she might want changed.

Beyond that, there are many sites that provide lists of questions (try or The main ones are: how often does the agent communicate? How long does it take the agent to read your partials/fulls? How does she handle submissions? Is there anywhere specific she has in mind for your project? What commission does she charge? Does her contract require a 1-2 year commitment, or a simple 30-60 day notice to part ways? How does she handle subsidiary rights? What are her sales/clients?

KV: And now for a few quick questions from the normal interview. What client work do you have coming out soon? What drew you to those writers and/or projects?

MH: My first agented book hits shelves Fall, 2011. It's called VIRTUOSITY, is written by a debut author, Jessica Martinez, and published by Simon Pulse.

KV: Now I can't ask about your clients' work without asking about yours:) Tell us a little about your latest release, YOU WISH.

MH: YOU WISH officially hits shelves on August 5, though it's shipping a little early from B& It's about a cynical teen who gets all of her childhood birthday wishes, one every day, starting with a life-sized My Little Pony.

KV: Is there something you haven’t been seeing lately in the slush pile that you wish you were?

MH: Contemporary/Realistic YA romance. Dying for a really well executed one! Would also love a great YA thriller/suspense. And some more great middle grade--adventure, humor, or just a cool girl friendship/coming of age MG (but with a hook!).

KV: What’s the best way to query you?

MH: Query letter plus five page sample, e-mailed to

Thanks again, Ms. Hubbard, for all this great information. I'll be checking out YOU WISH shortly, and I'm sure I'll give VIRTUOSITY a read, too, once it comes out next year.

Best of luck to all you queriers. I'm out!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Just wanted to make you aware of a few ongoing or upcoming contests. First, KarenG of Coming Down the Mountain is hosting an awesome blog contest. Submit the first three chapters of your manuscript to an editor at WiDo Publishing, an independent publisher based in Salt Lake City, Utah, and you could win a full request/critique from the same. The best part is, every entrant will receive some kind of feedback on their chapters, so scurry on over there and find out more details. The contest closes on Saturday, August 21, so you have a little time. Good luck!

Also, I'm excited to announce that I'll be hosting my second blog contest next week. Bob is in desperate need of a title, and I'd love to get your ideas. To make it worth your while, I'm offering query and first-page critiques from four awesome agents--Amy Boggs of Donald Maass Literary Agency, Sarah LaPolla of Curtis Brown, Ltd., Andrea Somberg of Harvey Klinger, Inc., and Marissa Walsh of FinePrint Literary Management--to the people whose title ideas I like best. So make sure to drop by next Tuesday, August 17, for all the details.

Any other contests going on around the blogosphere that you think everyone should know about? Maybe you'll get an extra entry in those contests if you leave a notice in the comments...

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Interview with an Agent: Sean McCarthy

Happy Thursday, everyone! Glad to see you back for another dose of “Interview with an Agent.” Today’s interview features Sean McCarthy of Sheldon Fogelman Agency. See you on the other side.

KV: How did you get into agenting?

SM: I took a circuitous route into agenting. When I graduated from college with an English-Creative Writing degree, I had absolutely no idea how to use it in the real world. So instead I went into non-profit accounting for a couple of years (it seemed to make sense at the time) before realizing that I'd rather be working with books in some capacity. I landed an internship with a small publisher through Craigslist because my supervisor happened to have similar taste in music (not the first time that indie rock has saved my life). When the internship ended, I moved on to the agency where I'm still employed four years later. When I first started at the agency, I had no idea what a literary agency even was, so I've been very fortunate to be able to grow with my position.

KV: How would you summarize your personal agenting philosophy? What do you expect from an agent-author relationship?

SM: My primary responsibility is to be a tireless advocate on behalf of my clients, and to help them build a long-term career in publishing. That means playing many different roles over the course of a week, whether it's negotiating, pitching, consoling, brainstorming, etc, but always with a larger goal in mind.

These days, publishers expect a project to be near-perfect before it reaches them, so I like to take an active role in revising the work before it's sent out to editors. It's a significant (though exhilarating) commitment to start working with an author in terms of time and energy, so I expect my clients to be completely dedicated to their craft and professional in their approach. And while I might be just a tad biased, I think I have the best clients on the planet.

KV: What client work do you have coming out soon? What drew you to those writers and/or projects?

SM: On the picture book front, Hyewon Yum's gorgeous THE TWINS' BLANKET will be coming out in Spring 2011 with FSG/Frances Foster, and be sure to also check out Hyewon's THERE ARE NO SCARY WOLVES in October for a unique, surreal take on a young boy's first steps towards independence.

Although I didn't work on the project, I'm very excited for Zachariah O'Hora's debut STOP SNORING, BERNARD! that features a sleep-deprived otter who's unable to find a cozy place to rest.

For older readers, I'm looking forward to Hillary Homzie's THE HOT LIST (March 2011/Aladdin), which is a fun, saucy take on popularity and friendship for the tween audience.

Although I'd be hard-pressed to draw too many similarities between a snoring otter and a spurned suburban teenage girl, I think these projects all share an original voice and a fresh approach to storytelling.

KV: What genres do you represent? What genres do you definitely NOT represent?

SM: I work on all genres within children's books, from picture books to middle grade to young adult (and anything in between). I also work with illustrators, although it's gotten much harder to find work if you're not an author-slash-illustrator, unfair as that may be.

I'm probably not the best match for high fantasy or Southern Gothic, but I'm especially drawn to projects that are character-driven and expertly plotted.

KV: Illustrators who aren't writers are tough to take on at the moment, but what about the inverse? Are you interested in writers who aren't illustrators?

SM: Sadly, the inverse is also true. In order to consider a picture-book writer, I'd like to see at least three manuscripts, or work in different genres (e.g. middle grade).

KV: What query pet peeves and/or pitfalls should writers avoid when querying you?

SM: I know it's hard to keep up and track queries, but a little personalization in the cover letter will go a long way with me. I'd much rather be addressed as "Dear Sean" than "Dear Agent," and I'd also like to know why you think I'd be a good match for your work. Form query letters tend to get form rejections.

In terms of pet peeves, I'm not a big fan of query letters that pose too many questions about the work (please just tell me what happens).

KV: What are you looking for in a manuscript right now?

SM: For all juvenile genres, I think the most important aspect of any project is the strength of the lead character. There might be similar stories out there in the market, but your characters are wholly yours, and they'll help to set your work apart.

Generally speaking, I'm drawn to off-beat humor, quirky personalities, and sparse text in picture books; boy-friendly adventure/mysteries in middle-grade (especially if the reader can solve the puzzles along with the characters); and edgy, flawed protagonists w/ dry humor for young adult. I'm also on the lookout for dystopian stories, and I'd love to find a fractured young adult novel that features an athlete w/ a concussion.

KV: What’s the best way to query you?

SM: The best way to query me is to mail your submission to my attention. All of our guidelines are located on our website,

Thanks again, Mr. McCarthy, for these responses. Snail-mail-only agents can be great opportunities for querying writers. They tend to receive less queries than their e-mail-only counterparts, and as is the case with Sheldon Fogelman, they often want to see the first three chapters of the manuscript right away.

Good luck to all you queriers. And have a wonderful weekend, all.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Few Thoughts on Beta Readers

Bob is the first book I've written that I've had betas read, and I must say, I've found the feedback invaluable. For instance, one of my beta readers caught every single one of my slips into third person omniscient (there weren't many, mind you, but enough to make me blush), and another pointed out the overall lack of tension in the first third of the manuscript. Like I said, invaluable.

So I've been thinking a lot about beta readers the past couple of weeks. Here are a few thoughts I've had on the topic.

Being a beta reader is as important as having one. It's just good karma to give more than you take. Besides, the more I revise (my own or someone else's manuscript), the more my revision skills improve, and that benefits me more than it benefits anyone.

The best beta readers are (probably) writers. A lot of people read, and quite a few people aren't bad at turning words into sentences and sentences into paragraphs. But there's a lot more to writing good novels than that. Writers think about things like story construction, character development, and escalating tension every day, so they're going to notice those things--and problem with those things--in my manuscript.

You need more than one beta reader, but less than a hundred. All right, all right, so the number's kind of arbitrary. (I picked it mostly because it sounded nice in the sentence.) But the principle still stands. There are only so many things I can do to improve my manuscript, so after a while, the feedback I get will either be redundant or--let's face it--ridiculous. I don't need a million and one people's advice; I only need the suggestions of a handful of people I trust. (For me, that number is somewhere between six and ten.)

On the other hand, I do think everyone needs more than one beta reader. What are the chances a single person is going to catch every trouble spot in my manuscript? And how do I know the problems that person does catch are actual problems with the story and not just personal preferences? Also, if I only have one beta, I'm only going to get one clean read. After two or three read-throughs (or eight or nine), that beta's objectivity on matters like world building and clarity is going to be just as fuzzy as mine. I need fresh eyes for every round.

(Which isn't to say I can't ever come back to my earlier betas, of course. Betas who have already read the manuscript are great resources for brainstorming and such, but they're probably not going to be the best judges of how well I fixed the problems they raised, because they can't help but bring back a certain amount of understanding about my world, my story, and my characters.)

Having some betas read shorter chunks of the manuscript is helpful. When betas have less to read, they have more time to focus on the finer details. I've found it useful to have several betas read only my first fifty pages or my first chapter or even my first page. I can always apply the feedback they give me to the rest of my book, and the truth is, the beginning is probably the most important part of the manuscript, anyway.

How do you use beta readers? And what points about betas did I miss?

Monday, August 2, 2010

(Work-in-) Progress Report: Bob

Word count (to the nearest thousand): 65,000
Status: Finished with the fourth draft
Attitude: Uneasy, a little

Well, Bob is off to his next batch of beta readers, and I'm feeling, as I said, a little uneasy. I have more concerns about this draft than I had about the last one, which doesn't make sense, because shouldn't Bob 4 be better than Bob 3? Maybe I'm afraid I didn't fully resolve all the issues my first two betas raised. Or maybe I realize I'm getting ready to buy another ticket to Queryland and I'm a little nervous about that.

I've never been nervous about querying in the past. (If anything, I've been a little too un-nervous.) But Bob feels different somehow. I've spent a lot more time on him than I spent on the first two projects I queried, and I've grown a lot as a writer since I've been working on him. Does that mean I think the universe owes me an agent and a book deal? Of course not. But it does mean I have a lot more invested in Bob. It does mean that if this one doesn't work out, either, I'll have to take a long, hard look at myself and my writing.

It does not mean, however, that I'm going to quit. As I mentioned in a previous post, I refuse to give up--for two reasons. First, I simply can't quit; I'm too addicted to these stories, these words. Giving up writing would be like giving up sanity, and those of you who write to stay sane, to have something grown-up to do every day, know exactly what I mean:)

But I'm not planning to give up my pursuit of publication, either, because my writing's still improving. As long as my knowledge of the craft--and my ability to execute that knowledge--is increasing, there's no reason to quit. (Thank you, Honey Bear, for pointing that out.)

So I'm not going anywhere. No matter what happens with Bob, I'll still be right here, writing away, inflicting my musings on you. But since you're perfectly welcome to inflict your musings on me, I guess it's a fair trade:)

How are your works-in-progress coming along? And what do you know now about yourself or your writing that you didn't know when you started your most recent project?