Monday, December 24, 2012

Take Two: What Christmas Means to Me

I know a lot of you were around two years ago when I blogged about this the first time, but it's a story worth repeating. As I explained in this post, the river near our home flooded a few days before Christmas back in 2010. (A few miles upriver, it actually carried whole houses off their foundations and dashed them to pieces not far downstream.) That part was horrible, but what came just after was anything but. It perfectly captures the true spirit of Christmas, so I wanted to share it with you one more time on this Christmas Eve.
Tonight we celebrate the birth of a baby in Bethlehem, a baby who, I believe, was and is the Savior of the world. He died that we might be forgiven of our sins and return to live with our Heavenly Father, but He also lived that we might have an example, a way to follow.

The past few days have given Christmas a completely different spin this year. As you may have guessed, the picture at the top of the post is a picture of our house on Tuesday afternoon. Our neighbors took this from their front door just before they skedaddled. The water level was actually higher than this at one point--it made it past the palm trees and all the way up to the sandbags in front of the garage.

But this picture doesn’t tell the whole story. About fifteen minutes before we narrowly escaped, our friend from the nearby mesa showed up. He was there to aid in the rescue efforts, and he helped Honey Bear get the last of the sandbags in place. As they were sandbagging, he said something like, “You know you can always stay at our house, right?” Honey Bear thanked him for the offer and said we’d probably take him up on it.

Here’s the thing, though: We beat our friend to his house, which meant he probably hadn’t spoken to his wife before we showed up on their porch. But when she saw us climbing out of the car, she met us on the doorstep and asked, “Do you guys need a place to stay? We’re not really ready for company, but we can be in five minutes!”

As I sat in their living room that night, staring at the twinkling lights of their real, live Christmas tree, a few verses from Matthew came to mind:

“For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

“Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

“Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

“When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

“Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

“And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

When we showed up on their porch that wet and lonely afternoon, I felt like “one of the least of these my brethren.” My pants and shoes were soaked, my spirits even more so, but our dear friends didn’t hesitate. They gave us a place to stay. They gave us hope.

That’s what Christmas means to me this year. It means living the kind of life that precious baby lived--the kind of life our friends lived Tuesday afternoon--so that, when He comes again, we will be like Him and so abide the day.

Merry Christmas, everybody, and thank you for all your thoughts and prayers. I really think they made a difference. May you and yours have a beautiful holiday.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Agent Sisters

Once upon a time, I sent Amy Sonnichsen an e-mail. We were unagented, and since we'd gotten requests from Kate Schafer Testerman in the past, I allowed myself to imagine that she offered to both of us. Our writing styles were similar, I thought; it didn't seem too far outside the realm of possibilities. So we'd become agent sisters, and Kate would sell both our books, and we'd go on book tours together and sit side-by-side at those little folding tables and foist each other's books on unsuspecting bystanders.

I'm absolutely THRILLED to report we're a third of the way there.

So hop over to Amy's post and congratulate her on signing with the indomitable Kate. I don't know if we'll ever go on book tours together or foist each other's books on unsuspecting bystanders, but hey, it's fun to dream. And as they say on South Pacific, "You've got to have a dream. If you don't have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true?"

(For the record, I loathe that movie and especially that song, but it does make a good point:) )

Friday, December 14, 2012

Bullies, First Days, and Magical Realism

After poring over Pitch Wars applications for the last couple of weeks, I had a few thoughts I wanted to share with you. Keep in mind, I was reading applications for MG manuscripts only, so I don’t think these points necessarily extend to writers in other categories (except for the definition of magical realism, of course).
On the whole, I was quite impressed with the MG applications in this contest. Of the 49 applications I received, I ended up hanging on to about 25% of them, kicking another 50% into the “Up for Grabs” folder, and flagging the other 25% as not quite there yet. I can’t remember the last time I thought 75% of the queries I read had potential, so that’s quite a feat in and of itself. And now for a few more trends I noticed:
1. A TON of the opening pages involved bullies or first days of school (or both), so if you’re going to use one of those motifs, you shouldn’t rely on it to be your hook. I’m not saying you can’t have a bully or a first day of school in your first chapter; in fact, several of my favorite applications involved bullies or first days of school in one way or another. Just know that, if you do, you’re not alone, so you’re going to have to do something special with it.
2. A query needs more than a paragraph-long summary. I know a lot of websites, including some prominent agency ones, encourage writers to use this query formula: one paragraph for business (title, category and genre, word count, etc.), one for summary, and one for bio. But I found I didn’t get a very good sense of the plot if the summary was only a paragraph long. Specifics are the lifeblood of a query, and you don’t have enough room to cram very many into a single paragraph. So I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the summary in a query should be at least two paragraphs and, in some cases, maybe three or four. So long as everything fits on one single-spaced page (and you haven’t overly adjusted your margins), you’re good.
3. No one really knows what magical realism is. I’m not sure I do, either, but I feel like I have a better handle on it than I did even six months ago, so I wanted to share some of the ideas that have been bouncing around in my brain. I’m pretty sure none of the magical realism applications I received actually fit within that genre, so hopefully, this will help.
The problem is, magical realism is a misnomer; magical realism is NOT a realistic story with magical elements. Well, it is, but the definition has more to it than that. In general, magical realism involves an Unexplained Phenomenon--hereafter known as the UP--that actually exists outside, not inside, the story. Put another way, the UP creates a frame for the story that affects the main character’s perspective while leaving everything else unchanged. Here are a few other characteristics of magical realism:
--The main character is usually the only person who can even tell the UP is happening. She could try to explain it to the people around her, but since there’s no evidence of the UP outside her own head, they probably wouldn’t believe her.
--Even though the main character can tell the UP is happening, he can’t control it. By the end of the story, he understands it no better than he did at the beginning, though he’s probably learned something from this change in perspective. That’s one reason why magical realism is a really tough genre to write in: because you have to get your readers to completely suspend their disbelief without ever finding out why or how the UP was occurring.
--If your story involves an object, a creature, a physical transformation, or superpowers, it’s probably NOT magical realism. Contemporary and/or urban fantasy, certainly, but not magical realism.
By those criteria, the best examples of magical realism I’ve encountered are Lauren Oliver’s BEFORE I FALL and Gayle Forman’s IF I STAY. And that old movie with Bill Murray, Groundhog Day. I saw it again on TV a few weeks ago, and I was like, “Holy cow! This is magical realism!” :)
That’s all I’ve got. Hope you have a great weekend!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Pitch Wars Pit Stop

Just popping in to remind you that the Pitch Wars teams are up on Brenda's blog, so definitely head over there and check those out.

Also, I wanted to let everyone know that I kept notes on all the applications that were sent directly to me, so if you'd like a little feedback on your query and/or first five, feel free to e-mail me at kvandolzer(at)gmail(dot)com with your name and manuscript title. (If your application was one of my favorites (that is, if I contacted you last week), you don't need to e-mail me again. I already drafted you an e-mail and will send it as soon as I wake up:) ) I do plan to share some general thoughts on the applications I received (nothing specific, mind you, just overall trends I noticed), hopefully within the next week, so keep an eye on the blog for that.

Last but not least, to those of you who were selected, congratulations! And to those of you who weren't, keep in mind that this was only one contest, one moment in time. During one of the rounds of "An Agent's Inbox" last year, I posted an entry that I absolutely fell in love with, even though The Agent that month didn't particularly care for it. A few months later, it showed up again in Authoress's Baker's Dozen Agent Auction, where it received multiple bids from multiple agents. A few weeks later, the writer was fielding multiple offers from those agents (and others), and a few months after THAT, the writer was signing a contract with one of the Big Six Big Four. So one day, one contest, doesn't tell the whole story. You never know what might be waiting just around the bend...

Monday, December 10, 2012

Interactive Interview with an Agent: Jennie Goloboy

We’re starting the week off in grand fashion, with another interactive installment of “Interview with an Agent.” Today’s interview features Jennie Goloboy of Red Sofa Literary, who also posts regularly on her agency’s blog. Check out her answers to the blogging-agent questions, then meet me down at the bottom for details on the interactive part. Enjoy!

KV: How often does a query intrigue you enough to request the manuscript?

JG: My procedure is to request the first three chapters, and if I like those, I will request the full. I request the first three chapters for about one manuscript in ten, but I am much more stringent about requesting the full. I read everything that I request.

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

JG: I request the manuscript because the idea seems innovative and appealing, and because the query was well-written. I just did a whole series of blog posts at the Red Sofa website about queries I see too often, some of which surprised me! (Girls with magic necklaces?) At the moment, I'm especially interested in history that would appeal to a broad audience, and in innovative epic fantasy for adults. I particularly like funny manuscripts.

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

JG: One comment I frequently give to authors is that I didn't connect with the protagonist. I want to know your hero inside and out; I want your hero to have problems that I care about. I don't want your hero to be fate's hand puppet.

Also, your hero should almost never start the manuscript by waking up, unless he's waking up with a gun to the head.

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

JG: If I think it's not perfectly ready to go, in general, I'll request revisions first. I want to be sure that my clients react well to criticism, and can fix a manuscript according to editorial suggestions. If they don't, I'd prefer to find that out before I agree to represent them!

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?

JG: How do I fit in with your current clients? In general, where do you plan to send my book? I'm not going to tell you names of specific editors, but I'd be happy to discuss my  strategy.

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?

JG: Unfortunately, that's still top-secret--please keep an eye on!

KV: Is there something you haven’t been seeing lately in the slush pile that you wish you were? What are you tired of seeing at the moment?

JG: I've never been a big fan of dystopias (unless they're funny dystoptias), and I get a lot of them!

I never get enough truly funny manuscripts, and I would love to represent more non-fiction that isn't a memoir, or a thinly fictionalized memoir.

KV: What’s the best way to query you?

JG: Send a query letter via e-mail to, please!

KV: How do you feel about a writer’s including a few sample pages at the bottom of the query? Do you find that more assertive or obnoxious?

JG: While I don't ask for it, it has often helped me quickly decide whether I like the writer's voice, which is very important to me. I think it's led to more quick rejections than requests.

Thank you, Ms. Goloboy, for these answers. Funny books are always on my radar, too:)

And here’s where you come in! If you have a question for Ms. Goloboy, feel free to leave it in the comments below. She’ll pop in a few times throughout the day to answer any questions she finds down there, leaving her answers in the comments also. We’ll wrap things up at 5:00 p.m. EST (or 2:00 p.m. PST), but until then, have at it!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Pitch Wars: The Agents

And here are the agents who will be cruising the finalists’ entries and requesting their favorites! If you have no idea what Pitch Wars is (and if you don’t, I’m willing to bet you’re not on Twitter), definitely check out last week’s post for more information. WE MENTORS WILL BE ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS UNTIL 8:00 P.M. ON WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 5 (which gives you twelve more hours than we previously announced; we’re just piling on the time, aren’t we?), so get those applications in!

Jordy Albert (@bluedragonfly81) of The Booker Albert Agency

Jordy is on the look out for Romance (contemporary, historical/Regency, and paranormal). YA contemporary/historical or dystopian, sci-fi/fantasy with romance elements. She's also open to YA GLBT within those genres. She'd love to see unique, well-developed plots featuring time travel, competitions, or travel.

Elise Capron (@EliseCapron) of Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency

Elise is interested in serious character-driven literary fiction, well-written narrative nonfiction, and short story collections. (Note: She is not interested in Fantasy, young-adult/middle-grade, picture books, romance, and sci-fi.) She aims to work with writers who have a realistic sense of the market and their audience.

Drea Cohane of The Rights Factory

Drea is currently seeking: fiction, memoir, crime, non-fiction and YA. Her roster consists of British, American, and Canadian clients. International talent is welcome.

Natalie Fischer Lakosil (@Natalie_Lakosil) of Bradford Literary Agency

Natalie is looking for commercial fiction, with an emphasis in children’s literature (from picture book-teen), romance (contemporary, paranormal and historical), and upmarket women’s fiction. Specific likes include historical, multi-cultural, paranormal, sci-fi/fantasy, gritty, thrilling and darker contemporary novels, and middle grade with heart.

Louise Fury (@louisefury) of L. Perkins Agency

Louise is seeking teen Sci-Fi and Young Adult horror. She's also on the hunt for deep, dark contemporary YA and select Middle Grade fiction with a literary feel--it must be realistic and thought provoking and the characters must be authentic and original. Louise loves horror and romance, especially Regency and Victorian.

Brittany Howard (@brittanydhoward) and Michelle Johnson (@MJsRetweet) of Corvisiero Literary Agency

Brittany and Michelle are teaming up to look for Adult, YA, and MG manuscripts.

Victoria Marini (@LitAgentMarini) of Gelfman Schneider Literary Agents, Inc.

Victoria is looking for literary fiction, commercial fiction, pop-culture non-fiction, and young adult. She is very interested in acquiring engaging Literary fiction and mysteries / suspense, commercial women's fiction (romantic suspense, sci-fi, fantasy), and Young Adult (contemporary, sci-fi/fantasy, thriller and horror ).

Jennifer Mishler (@literarycounsel) of Literary Counsel

Jennifer is seeking Young Adult Fantasy, Young Adult Contemporary, Young Adult Literary, and Young Adult Historical.

Jodell Sadler (@picturebklunch) of Sadler-Caravette Children’s Literary

Jodell is interested in YA, MG (especially funny) , fiction and nonfiction, book proposals, and picture books. She will also coach writers wanting to self publish. She simply loves a well-paced story that moves her between joy and tears.

Katie Shea (@AgentShea) of Donald Maass Literary Agency

Katie specializes in fiction and memoir, especially women’s fiction and commercial-scale literary fiction, and realistic YA. She is most interested in coming-of-age stories and stories of unique relationships.

Jessica Sinsheimer (@jsinsheim) of Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency

Jessica is seeking Literary, Women's, Middle Grade, and Young Adult Fiction.

Andrea Somberg (@andreasomberg) of Harvey Klinger, Inc.

Andrea's looking for the following categories: Fiction; literary, commercial, womens fiction, romance, thrillers, mystery, paranormal, fantasy, science fiction, young adult, middle grade.

Kerry Sparks (@Kerry_Sparks) of Levine Greenberg Literary Agency

Kerry is looking for Young Adult and Middle-Grade fiction, both commercial and literary. She tends to shy away from werewolves, zombies, faeries, and the like, but she’ll read anything with a fresh voice and compelling characters. She is particularly keen on contemporary YA, quirky MG, books with a strong cinematic element.

Suzie Townsend (@sztownsend81) of New Leaf Literary & Media, Inc.

Suzie represents adult and children's fiction. In adult, she's specifically looking for romance (historical and paranormal), and fantasy (urban fantasy, science fiction, steampunk, epic fantasy). In Childrens' she loves YA (all subgenres) and is dying to find great Middle Grade projects (especially something akin to the recent movie SUPER 8).

Pam van Hylckama Vlieg (@BookaliciousPam) of Larsen Pomada Literary Agents

Pam represents young adult and middle grade children’s book authors, and adult romance authors.

P.S. You’ll have to forgive me for not having the links set up this morning. ’Tis the season to be busy, and time just got away from me…

Friday, November 30, 2012

Agent-Author Chat: Mandy Hubbard and Sarah Henson

Hey, look, another interview! Today’s installment of “Agent-Author Chat” features Mandy Hubbard of D4EO Literary Agency and one of her newest clients, Sarah Henson, who is a Team Krista alum. (Woohoo!) After--or perhaps during--“The Writer’s Voice,” Ms. Henson wrote DOOR NUMBER FOUR, which caught Ms. Hubbard’s eye right off the bat. She’s a great example of the advice she shares below:)

As always, Ms. Henson’s query and responses will appear in orange, Ms. Hubbard’s in blue. Happy reading!

Ms. Henson’s Query Sixteen-year-old Dot Parker has forty-eight hours before the government kills her dad.

Her father invented the cube, an electrical system that harvests energy from emotions. Thanks to Dot's dad, for the last ten years the country has been powered by love. But the system is failing, and now the government wants to switch to a more efficient and controllable emotion: fear. A shift that can only be activated with a password.

And the password only exists in Dot's head.

Alone, broke, and on the run from the same agents who took her dad, Dot has two days to scramble from her home in Alabama to the government facility in California. The string of numbers in her brain is the only thing keeping her dad alive, and she has no intention of turning it over. Not until she sees her dad in one piece. And definitely not until she learns how to destroy the cube system.

Because Dot has been behind Door Number Four. She's experienced how the government plans to illicit fear, and she has the torture scars to prove it. Her dad knows the system, Dot knows the password, and only together can they stop the switch--and the torment of millions of innocent people. If the agents catch her first, though, Dot's going back behind Door Number Four, and this time there will be no escape.

DOOR NUMBER FOUR is a 60,000 word YA Speculative Thriller. Per your submission guidelines, the first five pages are below. Thank you for your time and consideration.

KV: Ms. Henson, how did you first come up with the idea for DOOR NUMBER FOUR?

SH: Honestly, I dreamed it first. I have the strangest dreams ever, but most my ideas start there. I wrote it down the next day and started musing on how you could get energy from emotions. After lots of wacky conversations with my electrical engineer husband on how to make this thing plausible (he was super helpful with the technical details that were way over my head!), the plot started to take shape and the characters began to reveal themselves. I wrote a first chapter and the words just started flowing. It’s a far cry from my initial dream, but I’m really in love with this story!

KV: Tell us a little bit about your query-writing process. Did you work on it here and there as you were writing the manuscript, or before, or after? How many times did you revise it? And how did you decide what order to put things in?

SH: Oh, the query-writing process! I’ll just let it be known that I hate writing queries. I love helping others with theirs, but it’s so hard to step back and boil your own story down.

I usually write the query first, but this time I put it off until I finished the manuscript. It honestly gave me fits. I revised it at least five times, posted it on two different forums, and appealed for help from my CP and from the good folks on Twitter.

After a couple revisions, I ended up moving the big reveal to the beginning, which increased the tension throughout the query. That little switch made all the difference! After that, I added a first sentence I found enticing and the rest flowed from there.

KV: What was the hardest thing about writing your query? What was the easiest?

SH: Figuring out how to start is always difficult. There’s a lot of pressure on that first sentence and it took a while for me to get it right.

I think the hardest part, though, was deciding how much of the plot to pack in. There’s a love interest and a romance that’s a pretty big chunk of the story. I ended up throwing that out of the query to keep the tension up and the plot simple. (It also led to me revising the manuscript because it showed me something that just wasn’t working.)

The easiest part was adding voice.

KV: Ms. Hubbard, when you first read Ms. Henson’s query, what caught your attention?

MH: Sometimes it's as simple as a killer first line making me go WHOA, and then slow down and read a query more carefully. Sarah did just that--her first line was, "Sixteen-year-old Dot Parker has forty-eight hours before the government kills her dad."

I definitely perked up there! And then as I read, she raised the stakes with these lines:

“But the system is failing, and now the government wants to switch to a more efficient and controllable emotion: fear. A shift that can only be activated with a password.

“And the password only exists in Dot's head.”

Now we know that Dot is personally at risk too. It was a great way to introduce the conflict in a relatable way, and I loved the premise, so it was a slam-dunk for me.

KV: How quickly did you read DOOR NUMBER FOUR? Is that pretty typical of your response times on requested material, or do those vary?

MH: I requested the query just a few hours after she sent it. Normally the interns sort things into a folder and it takes me longer, but I had glanced at it on my phone and jumped at the chance to read it. She sent it over on Friday, October 12, and I sent her an e-mail on Tuesday, October 16, asking if she'd be open to an exclusive revise-and-resubmit. She replied saying she was "definitely interested," and I sent her notes that night. So from query to me sending her six pages of notes, it covered five days.

My typical times are definitely longer. (Most queries are responded to in two to four weeks, most full MSs in three to six weeks.)

KV: You ended up asking Ms. Henson for a revision before you officially signed her. How do you decide whether to request revisions or offer representation?

MH: Well, to be fair, it's one of THREE options--reject, revise, or represent. A reject is for those projects I'm not connecting with, or I don't think I can sell, or the characters aren't working, etc. To me those can be "fatal flaws" because it's not like I can simply say, "I don't like your main character, make me a new one." It's not that simple or clear cut. It could just be my personal opinion.

As to whether I ask for revisions or make an offer, it can vary from book to book but there are some consistent things that push me one way or another. I revise with ALL of my clients, but the ones in which I would offer would be those that are 90% ready, ones that I could send out as-is and feel confident, but I just want to polish them up a bit first. Often the changes involve cutting a scene or two, or tweaking the ending.

Most often, those books I ask for revisions on are those in which I love the characters and writing, but the plot needs work. Believe it or not, plot is the easiest thing to ask for revisions on--I can tell them where things need to go, and then wait to see if they can pull it off. If the changes are substantial, and throughout the entire MS, I often just ask for the first 100 or so pages to be revised and make my decision based on that. I realize authors are doing SO MUCH work for me, and I don't want to ask for more than necessary without giving them MY commitment too. Sarah aced the first 85 pages, and now we're working together on the rest.

KV: Obviously, the revision met--or exceeded--your expectations. What did you love about DOOR NUMBER FOUR?

MH: Sarah has a very natural, fantastically flowing voice that's easy to connect with, but beyond that she's really great at relationships--between the MC and her friends, her parents, and the love interest.

In fact I didn't even think the love interest would BE a love interest at first because she did such a great job of making the MC despise him! And not in a "he's so hot and arrogant and infuriating" way, but in a "My god I can't stand this douche," and before you know it you totally love him! There are so many layers to him that you get to see later in the book. Any time a writer surprises me like that, I'm sold.

KV: Ms. Henson, what tips do you have for fellow writers as they work on their queries?

SH: For starters, the writing community as a whole is amazing and SO supportive, so I recommend diving in on Twitter and on forums. What helped me the most was getting involved in writer forums like Absolute Write and Agent Query Connect and reading/critiquing other people’s queries. It’s amazing how much I learned by doing that! Reading successful queries, reading bad queries, and seeing what works and what doesn’t was immensely helpful.

After you write the best query you think you can write, let other writers read it. I can’t stress this enough. Other people can see problems and plot holes that you just can’t. It can be a harrowing and frustrating experience but, at least for me, made all the difference in the world.

KV: Same question to you, Ms. Hubbard. What query-writing suggestions do you have?

MH: Focus on the book. There's nothing worse than reading three paragraphs about an author and only ONE about the novel. You could be spongebob square pants, and I don't care, I just want to know if I love your book. (Although if you ARE spongebob square pants, my daughter would like to meet you, so e-mail me.)

KV: Any last words of advice or encouragement you’d like to share with us?

SH: If your query just isn’t working, then maybe it’s not the query’s fault--it could be a problem with the manuscript, but don’t fret! You can always revise.

Also, keep writing. I can’t tell you how many times I felt like it would never happen for me, how many nights I cried after getting a rejection and thought I just wasn’t good enough. Each rejection made me stronger, though, and more determined to write a better story. I learned from every failed manuscript and from every query attempt. It really is a matter of writing the right story at the right time and getting it to the right agent, so don’t give up!

MH: I'll just repeat what I said on twitter yesterday--never apologize for not having experience or be SO humble that you seem like you're begging an agent to just "take a chance." If an agent is open to queries, they ARE taking changes on writers every day as they read material. 90% of my client list are writers who I did not know, who had never been published, and I signed them because the writing rocked. So be confident in your abilities and make the book great, and it won't matter who you are.

Wonderful words of wisdom, ladies. Thank you so much for sharing these insights with us, and good luck with DOOR NUMBER FOUR! It sounds like an exciting read.

Monday, November 26, 2012

My Pitch Wars Profile

Welcome to Pitch Wars! If you missed the post with all the details, definitely check that out. It includes important dates as well as submission information (which I haven't repeated here because this post is already too long). Also, you should know that YOU CAN SUBMIT YOUR APPLICATIONS ANYTIME BETWEEN NOW AND 8:00 A.M. EST ON WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 5, so hop around and check out all the mentors’ profiles, then get those applications in! (You can find the other mentors’ profiles through the widget at the bottom of this post.)

What I’m Looking For

I’m looking for all things middle grade, so if you’re shopping an MG manuscript, I want to hear about it. But here are a few more thoughts on the kinds of things I really love:

--The most important characteristic of any manuscript is voice, but I think it’s especially important in this category. It’s got to sound authentic or kids will see right through it, so voice is the number-one thing I’m looking for.

--I tend to gravitate toward more emotional MG reads. Favorite recent releases include Katherine Applegate’s THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN, Sheila Turnage’s THREE TIMES LUCKY, and R.J. Palacio’s WONDER. They span a lot of genres, but the one thing they all have is HEART.

Why You Should Send Me Your Application

I’m sure most of you have already decided which mentors you want to submit to, but if you’re still up in the air, allow me to try to sway you:)

--When I’m reading a manuscript, I focus on the total package: character arcs and storylines, transitions and pacing, even grammar and punctuation. I plan to provide my teammate with general and chapter notes as well as make a bunch of comments in the text itself. That said, your manuscript is your manuscript, so in the end, it’s totally your call. I just want to help you see your story from a new perspective.

--My team won the inaugural round of “The Writer’s Voice” in May (which means my teammates’ entries received the most agent requests), so I know how to get an entry query- and contest-ready.

--Not only did my team win, but my MG teammates’ entries did particularly well. All three of my MG teammates received three agent requests (out of eight possible), so I know how to spot the kinds of manuscripts MG agents are looking for.

If You’re Looking for a YA Mentor

There are some awesome, awesome mentors looking for YA, so you YA writers are going to have a tough time narrowing down your lists. I do know a few of them personally, so if you’re having a tough time deciding, you might consider these great ladies:

--Elizabeth Briggs is one of my agent sisters and an all-around great writer. Not only is she represented by the best agent on the planet, but she interns for a pretty great agent, too (Jill Corcoran of Herman Agency, Inc.). She also reads A TON of books, so she has a great feel for what’s marketable.

--Monica B.W. was one of my fellow coaches in “The Writer’s Voice,” and since then, she’s become one of my very good writing friends. One of her teammates, R.C. Lewis, went on to sign with Jennifer Laughran of Andrea Brown Literary Agency, who then sold her manuscript--the manuscript Monica plucked out of the slush pile--to Disney/Hyperion for six figures. So Monica definitely knows how to pick ’em.

--Cupid was also one of my fellow coaches in “The Writer’s Voice,” and I was really impressed with her coaching skills. She took one of the entries the rest of us overlooked and turned it into the most-requested entry in the whole competition, so Cupid knows how to polish an entry to really make it shine.

That's it from me. Leave any questions you might have in the comments, then get those applications in anytime between now and 8:00 a.m. EST on Wednesday, December 5!

The Mentors

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012


I’m thankful for a thousand things--literally, a thousand--but since listing all of them would make for an overly epic blog post, I want to focus on just one.
Really, we have so much of it. When you think about all the days and hours and seconds we’ve lived, our time is almost infinite. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
It seems like, in the publishing industry, we want everything to go so fast. We lament that books take two years to hit the shelves. We wish that agents would respond more quickly. We wonder why these manuscripts take so freaking long to write. But I realized not long ago that I’m grateful for the time I’ve had. My writing is so much better now than it was three or four years ago, and I imagine it will be even better three or four years from now. Yes, perseverance and hard work are crucial, but both of those things take TIME. Time is what we really need. Time is what makes all the difference.
I used to want everything to happen right away--I wanted to be the next Stephenie Meyer--and there are still days and even weeks when I wish SOMETHING would happen now (or at least sometime in the next two months). But I’m not as frazzled as I used to be. I’m not in any hurry. Life will happen as it happens; I just have to learn how to enjoy the ride.

P.S. If you have a second, check out my interview with Kristina Perez of The Madeleine Project. I thought she asked some really interesting, non-writing-related questions.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Interview with an Agent: Holly McGhee

Very pleased to share another installment of “Interview with an Agent” with you. This one features Holly McGhee of Pippin Properties, Inc. Pippin is one of the premiere agencies for children’s literature in this country, so all you children’s writers out there, get ready to add another agent to your lists!

KV: How long have you been agenting, and how did you get into it?

HM: I grew up in farm country, and even as a teenager I knew I wanted to live in New York City, so I did an internship here during college for one semester at the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines. I knew I had found my people--both in terms of New York City and publishing--I just felt like myself.

I opened the doors at Pippin in 1998, after being an executive editor at HarperCollins for some time. The reason was simple: I wanted the chance to bring any project I loved into the world, without having to ask permission from a committee. Plus, I’d loved making deals since I was a kid--there’s beauty in a perfect deal, and a deal can be perfect for many and varied reasons--no two negotiations are ever the same, either.

KV: Quick note: If you’d like to know a little more about Ms. McGhee’s background, check out the short bio* at the bottom of the post. Okay, back to the interview!

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

HM: My personal and professional life are pretty much integrated--and I expect the same level of commitment from my authors that I expect from myself. I see the relationship as a journey--there has to be freedom--freedom to explore every kind of book an author dreams of making--picture books, middle-grade, young adult, graphic, adult--freedom for the author to define themselves--to disregard any perception the audience may have about who they are…and that same freedom is core to my relationships--we must trust one another and speak our minds, and get to the essence of what’s meaningful to a particular author--that’s where the good books come from.

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

HM: Kathi Appelt’s The True Blue Scouts of the Sugarman Swamp is in Advanced Reader Copies already (ARCs). It’s her funniest novel to date, but don’t let her fool you--there’s plenty to consider underneath the humor. When Kathi approached Pippin several years ago, she had the dream of writing a literary novel, and what drew me to her writing was a scene she had written about the death of an old, old loblolly pine tree--it hit me hard, and that’s all I needed to read to know she could make her dream come true.

And next fall comes Jon Agee’s Little Santa--I was immediately smitten by a picture of a chubby young Santa in a full-body hooded red snuggly!

And with Sally Cook and her adult baseball book with Ray Negron, Yankee Miracles (published September 3, 2012), well…Sally was the author of the first book I sold in 1998. Not only do I love baseball but I was moved by the story of this teenage boy who was caught spray-painting a Yankee Stadium wall by George Steinbrenner, and was allowed to repay the damages by becoming a batboy--he’s now been with team for the past four decades--that one was a no-brainer for me.

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

HM: Our primary focus is on children’s books of all kinds: picture books, middle-grade, young adult, and graphic. But we follow the authors: we’re the experts, they’re the bosses--if a story starts out or becomes an adult book in the making, that’s how we pitch it. I also have a special affection for books that are honest and portray the world as it really is--no pussyfooting around--be brave! Think David Small’s STITCHES too, which was an important book for me personally and professionally.

That said, it’s impossible for me to shut the door completely on any category--saying absolutely no is not in my DNA--I’m too curious!

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

HM: I do not like super large art attachments on the e-mails at all--just send us a link to the work or a few chosen images.

To Whom It May Concern shows a lack of research, and that laziness will in all likelihood show up in the work too.

More than three paragraphs in a pitch just isn’t necessary--if I get bored with your query letter I’ll be bored with your work too, probably.

Remember this: The World Owes You Nothing; You Owe the World Your Best Work. You only get the chance to make a first impression once. Would you show up for a dinner date with spinach on your teeth--not if you can help it! Show us your best right out of the gate.

And my worst pet peeve: an unnumbered manuscript. If you want to hear a scream cry from East 38th Street, just send me an unnumbered manuscript. I mean, COME ON PEOPLE!! No excuse for that.

KV: What are you looking for in a manuscript right now? What are you tired of seeing at the moment?

HM: I’d like to see a story that is as funny as Conan O’Brien, or as riveting as The Secret Life of Bees, or as honest as Mary Karr’s LIT. My son, who’s seven, can’t get through a day without reading Tin Tin, Bone, or Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Something like that would be just fine too--I love graphics. Most important, I’d like to see a book that matters.

KV: What’s the best way to query you?

HM: Via e-mail--go to the Submissions tab on our website:, and follow the directions. The tips on the left-hand side of the page are important too. We are honored to be given a one-month exclusive as well, and we typically read those queries first.

Thank you, Ms. McGhee, for these insightful answers. I hope this interview sends at least a few books that matter your way.

Have a great weekend, all! I’m out!

*Holly McGhee opened the doors of Pippin Properties, Inc. in 1998, after a twelve-year career with positions ranging from assistant to advertising manager to executive editor. Although being an agent started out as a hobby, it quickly became a passion and it remains that to this day. Among Holly’s celebrated clients are Kate DiCamillo, David Small, Doreen Cronin, Jandy Nelson, Kathi Appelt, Harry Bliss, Peter H. Reynolds, Sujean Rim, Jon Agee, and Holly’s very own big sister, Alison McGhee. Holly lives with her husband and three children fifteen miles west of the Lincoln Tunnel, and she also writes under the pen name Hallie Durand.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Pitch Wars: The Details

I’m teaming up with Brenda, Cupid, and Monica again--and a bunch of other agented writers and industry interns--to bring you Pitch Wars, an event that’s just as much about the manuscript as it is about the pitch. Each team will consist of 1 agented writer or industry intern and 1 querying writer, and the mentors will offer feedback on pretty much everything, from their teammates’ 3-sentence pitches to their full manuscripts.

Here’s the timeline:

November 26: The mentors (listed on the widget below) will post which category they plan to coach (either MG, YA, New Adult, or adult) and which genres within that category they want to consider. Querying writers will hop around and decide which mentors best fit their manuscripts.

November 26 - December 5: Querying writers will submit applications to their 3 top choices to brendadrakecontests(at)gmail(dot)com from 8:00 a.m. EST on November 26 to 8:00 p.m. EST on December 5. YOU MUST SEND 3 SEPARATE E-MAILS, ONE ADDRESSED TO EACH OF YOUR 3 TOP CHOICES.

December 5-10: The mentors will read the applications and pick their teammates. THE MENTORS DON'T HAVE TO PICK SOLELY FROM THEIR APPLICATIONS. If a mentor passes on an application but thinks the project has potential, it is then up for grabs. Another mentor may choose to snatch it (so long as the applicant agrees).

December 12: We’ll announce the teams and include instructions to the applicants as to how to send their work.

December 12 - January 16: The mentors will read their teammates’ manuscripts and provide their teammates with as much or as little feedback as they choose. The mentors will also help their teammates get their pitches and first pages ready for the agent round.

Note: The material for the agent round will be a 3-sentence pitch and the first 250 words of your manuscript. THE MENTORS WILL READ THE FULL MANUSCRIPTS AND QUERY LETTERS ONLY ONCE. It is then up to the writers to use their mentors’ notes to revise their manuscripts and query letters. While they’re doing that, the mentors will critique the 3-sentence pitches and first 250 words, going through them with their teammates as many times as they deem necessary. In no way should writers expect their mentors to read their manuscripts or query letters more than once.

January 20 (my birthday!): The mentors will submit their teammates’ polished pitches and first pages to brendadrakecontests(at)gmail(dot)com.

January 23-24: The agents will read the entries and make whatever requests they choose. (It is likely that not every entry will get a request.)

January 25: We'll announce the team with the most requests. The winning mentor and writer will receive Amazon gift cards.

The Rules

1. To enter, your manuscript must meet two conditions: First, it must be COMPLETE AND READY TO QUERY, and second, it must be in one of the genres the mentors are considering. (But since the mentors are considering pretty much every category and genre on the planet, that shouldn’t be a problem.)

Note: You’ll notice I didn’t say it had to be polished, since we mentors are planning to go through a round of revisions with you, but you’re going to get a lot more out of this experience if you’ve taken your manuscript as far as you and your beta readers can take it.


3. All applications must follow this format:

Subject line: “Pitch Wars Application: [Mentor’s name]: [TITLE]” (Example: Pitch Wars Application: Krista Van Dolzer: THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN) (Oh, man, if you’ve written the next IVAN, I want you to be my teammate!)
In the body of the e-mail, your name
The genre of your manuscript (including the category)
The word count of your manuscript
Your query letter, single-spaced, with no indentations and a space between each paragraph
The first 5 pages of your manuscript, single-spaced, with no indentations and a space between each paragraph
KEEP IN MIND THAT YOU CAN SEND AN APPLICATION TO UP TO 3 MENTORS, so check out the widget below and figure out who you’d like to submit to.
The Mentors
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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

How Did I Never Know I Was So QUIET?

This is a book recommendation, technically, but it’s more of a oh-my-gosh-how-did-I-not-realize-what-kind-of-person-I-am post. So you’ll have to indulge me if I wander a little:)

I’d classify Susan Cain’s QUIET as popular nonfiction along the lines of Malcolm Gladwell’s OUTLIERS or Ben Sherwood’s THE SURVIVORS CLUB. It takes an interesting and often misunderstood subject matter--introversion--and looks at it forward, backward, and upside-down. And somewhere along the way, it completely changed the way I saw myself.

See, I’ve always thought of myself as an extrovert. In high school, I would have used words like outgoing, talkative, and confident to describe my personality. I liked speaking in public. I was one of those kids who commented often in class--well, in the classes I cared about--and never had a problem being the center of attention. (Case in point: I once entertained a hallway full of kids I didn’t know with an outrageous British accent they must have known was fake.)

On the other hand, I’ve always been a homebody. In high school, most Friday and Saturdays nights found me at home in the basement, writing. I liked going out occasionally, but these forays into the outside world always left me feeling drained (though I usually enjoyed myself). I knew how to work a room and often did in social settings, but I probably would have preferred to hang out on the sidelines and talk about cool stuff with Honey Bear or another close friend (though I didn’t have many). Now just the thought of working a room thoroughly exhausts me.

As it turns out, I was--and still am--a high self-monitoring introvert. Not all introverts are self-monitors, and some self-monitors are extroverts, but all self-monitors pay attention to social cues and adapt accordingly. (This paying-attention-to-social-cues leads me to believe a lot of writers are self-monitors, since we’re students of human nature.) So self-monitoring introverts know how to look like extroverts, and they do so when they think the situation calls for it. Like when I was stuck in that hallway with a bunch of other kids and needed to come up with a way to pass the time.

On almost every page, I found another character trait to latch on to, another quality I could identify with. But QUIET isn’t just for introverts. It’s also for the spouses, parents, teachers, and casual acquaintances of introverts, which means it’s pretty much for everyone:) (How’s THAT for one of those overarching marketing statements we’re never supposed to use?)

Check out Susan Cain’s QUIET. It’s well worth a read.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Interactive Interview with an Agent: Carly Watters

Welcome to another interactive installment of “Interview with an Agent”! Today’s gracious subject is Carly Watters of P.S. Literary Agency. I’m a little rusty at this, so even though Ms. Watters maintains an uber-informative blog, I totally forgot to ask her the blogging-agent questions. *smacks forehead* Luckily, you guys get to ask whatever questions you want, so perhaps all is not lost...

As always, details on the interactive part are at the bottom. Enjoy!

KV: How long have you been agenting, and how did you get into it?

CW: I have been an agent at the P.S. Literary Agency since 2010 and was an agency assistant at the Darley Anderson Literary, TV and Film Agency from 2009 to 2010.

Once I knew that I wanted to have a career in publishing I started to research the different aspects of the industry and fell in love with the idea that I could do a job that was a combination of all the things I loved about publishing: editorial, licensing rights, sales, marketing, and working closely with authors. During my MA in Publishing Studies degree at City University London, I worked as an agency assistant and started to learn the ropes. I've been head over heels for it ever since.

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

CW: My agent philosophy and style is one of a project manager. I like to be in the loop on all conversations from editorial to production to promotion. I like to be hands-on when editing client manuscripts. I'm proactive, resourceful and available to my clients every day of the week. I closely manage my authors' career with their best interests at heart. I want to be the person they can lean on for everything from writing proposals to crafting first drafts to making decisions about cover design.

I expect my author-agent relationships to be a partnership built on trust, full of two-way communication, and having my vision for my clients' careers match their own.

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

CW: In the spring THE HOLDERS by Julianna Scott is coming out with Angry Robot.

This is an author who I have sold multiple projects for. Julianna Scott is a wizard at coming up with commercial plots that have great depth of emotion and draw readers in. This YA series is about two teen holders of supernatural powers, pawns in a rivalry between the good and evil of their kind, and the fight for knowledge, love, and their own lives set against the backdrop of their Irish boarding school community. I love its romance, drama, and suspenseful intrigue!

In the summer FOREVER, INTERRUPTED by Taylor Jenkins Reid is coming out with Atria/Simon & Schuster.

FOREVER, INTERRUPTED is an amazing women's fiction story by the talented Taylor Jenkins Reid. I describe FOREVER, INTERRUPTED as P.S. I LOVE YOU meets THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING. It's an emotional novel about a young widow struggling with how to grieve the loss of her nine-day marriage and forge a relationship with a mother-in-law who doesn’t know that she exists. The novel has been sold in Italy, Germany and the Netherlands already. It's connecting with women all over the world and had me hooked (and teary eyed!) from the beginning. Part love story, part women learning how to forge new friendships--it's a clear winner and I can't wait for the release.

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

CW: Fiction: picture books, young adult novels, women's fiction, contemporary romance, memoir, literary mysteries and thrillers. Non fiction: health, wellness, lifestyle, and select humour projects.

I don't represent middle grade novels, history, politics, poetry, or screenplays.

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

CW: Avoid taking your time getting to the hook. I like to know the elevator pitch, word count and genre right at the top of the query.

Avoid telling me about your gender, age, pets and other information that doesn't help me make a decision about your query.

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

CW: I am looking for emotionally gripping women's fiction, memoirs, and YA. I want to be whisked away from my desk and planted in the story. I want characters that are compelling and complex. I want to read a story that I will fight to represent and can't wait to tell my editor friends about.

I am looking for topical and original non fiction. I look for non fiction authors with terrific platforms and who are experts in their field: comedians, TV hosts, chefs, journalists, and more.

KV: What’s the best way to query you?

CW: Please query me via e-mail only, no attachments, at query(at)psliterary(dot)com with the subject heading: QUERY: BOOK TITLE. Our agency does not accept queries in the mail.

Thank you, Ms. Watters, for these helpful responses. I don’t read much women’s fiction, but FOREVER, INTERRUPTED sounds bittersweet and beautiful. Can’t wait for next summer!

Now it’s your turn. If you have a question for Ms. Watters, feel free to leave it in the comments below. She’ll pop in a few times throughout the day and answer any questions she finds, leaving her responses down there as well. I’ll cut questions off at 5:00 p.m. EST, but until then, ask away!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

(Work-in-) Progress Reports: Bonnie and Clyde

Word count (to the nearest thousand): 64,000 for Bonnie, 43,000 for Clyde
Status: Wrapping up Clyde’s latest round of revisions and Bonnie’s first draft
Attitude: Focused

It occurred to me a few weeks ago that, in the seven-plus months since I signed with Kate, I’ve written well over 100,000 new words and (almost) completely revised one full manuscript. That’s the most writing I’ve ever produced in a seven-month period BY FAR.

I suspect the reasons for this are twofold. First, I had two ideas come to me at about the same time. I feel pretty strongly about releasing a debut and a follow-up that will appeal to roughly the same readership, so I already knew I wanted to write another MG. But not long after I started Clyde, another shimmering idea came to me that simply refused to be set aside. So I started Bonnie, and I’ve been juggling both ever since. (At least they’re both contemporaries, right?)

Second, now that I have an agent, I kind of feel like I have this obligation to write that I didn’t have before. Don’t get me wrong--Kate is supportive and chill and never makes me feel like I have to work harder. But I WANT to work harder because I know I’m not the only one relying on my efforts anymore. And because this lifelong goal seems so close I can practically touch it. I just want to get there, get there, get there!

Besides, I’m in this for the long haul; I want to sell many, many manuscripts over the course of my lifetime. And if that’s going to happen, someday I’ll have deadlines and multiple books under contract, so I figure this is good practice:)

How go your works-in-progress? Anyone out there juggling more than one project, too?

Friday, November 2, 2012

Agent-Author Chat: Taylor Martindale and Anna-Marie McLemore

I couldn’t be more excited to share today’s installment of “Agent-Author Chat” with you, not only because Anna-Marie McLemore is a finalist from “The Writer’s Voice” and a member of Team Krista, but also because she and her new agent, Taylor Martindale of Full Circle Literary, represent a direct success story for the contest and our team. Woohoo!
Feel free to check out Ms. McLemore’s entry, then come back here and find out the rest of the story!
As always, Ms. McLemore’s answers will appear in orange, Ms. Martindale’s in blue.
KV: Ms. McLemore, how did you first come up with the idea for THE COIN DIVER?
AM: A few years ago, I visited Hearst Castle at night, and I kept wandering off the tour to go look at the fountains. Those fountains stuck with me, how the globe lamps reflected off the water and how the coins glinted at the bottom.
Later, when I thought of writing about Hearst Castle, I didn’t picture it from the point of view of a Golden Age actress or a politician’s glamorous wife. I wondered what all of it might have looked like to an outsider, one who knew those fountains but had never been inside the house.
KV: Tell us a little bit about your query-writing process. Did you work on it here and there as you were writing the manuscript, or before, or after? How many times did you revise it? And how did you decide what order to put things in?
AM: I always write the query before I write the novel. It helps me figure out what the main focus of the story is. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t change before it goes out, and in fact, this one changed a lot. I rewrote it during my first round of revisions. My critique partners’ feedback inspired me to make some major changes in the story, and distilling it down to a few sentences helped me figure out where I was going.
My writer friends also helped me get the frame of it in place. They encouraged me to start with the time period and the setting. That’s when the order of things started to click. Then Cupid was nice enough to put it up on Cupid’s Literary Connection, and the comments helped me get it prepped for the first round of The Writer’s Voice contest. During coaching for The Writer’s Voice, Krista took me through a few rounds of revision. She was really patient and persistent in getting it where it needed to be.
KV: How did Ms. Martindale come to request your manuscript?
AM: She voted for it during The Writer’s Voice. I was lucky enough to be part of Team Krista. :) I’d never entered a contest like this before, and I was a little nervous about putting myself out there, but it was a great experience.
KV: Ms. Martindale, when you saw Ms. McLemore's entry in “The Writer’s Voice,” what caught your attention?
TM: When I saw Anna-Marie's entry, I was immediately struck by the unique style she had, the way I was instantly transported into the scene. Her choice of language, and most importantly her voice, created such vivid images. I could see the dim light in the room, the gilded wall sconces, and I could feel the way her too-heavy dress dragged on the floor. I was captivated.
KV: Popping in to say that, months later, I remember all those details, too, especially the coins sewn into the hem of that dress:)
Obviously, the manuscript met--or exceeded--your expectations. What did you love about THE COIN DIVER?
TM: I love so much about this book! I love how unique it is, how Anna-Marie presents such fresh perspectives and characters. I love the element of magical realism that is woven throughout the novel, as it adds such mystery and depth to the story. Anna-Marie has a very literary style, one that always keeps my attention and constantly surprises me. I found myself savoring her writing, rereading sections just to see the flow of words again.
KV: How quickly did you read Ms. McLemore’s manuscript? Is that pretty typical of your response times on requested material, or do those vary?
TM: I think it took me roughly a month to read THE COIN DIVER, which I would say is average. Sometimes it takes me longer, and sometimes I'm able to respond much faster.
What was unique about this novel was that I wanted to read much faster but I kept forcing myself to slow down and read small sections at a time. I didn't want to read through in just a few nights because I wanted to savor every word. As soon as I realized that I couldn't stop thinking about the novel (which was early on), I knew I wanted to work with Anna-Marie.
KV: Ms. McLemore, now that you’ve reached the querying finish line, what do you wish you had known when you were back at the start gate?
AM: That every manuscript makes you a better writer. There were manuscripts I didn’t query at all because I knew they weren’t ready, and a couple I queried that got close but weren’t there yet. I wish I’d realized it didn’t necessarily mean I wasn’t good enough. It meant I was learning a craft (still am; I don’t think that ever stops). Sure, that first manuscript may be like the prom picture I hope no one ever finds, but without it I wouldn’t have grown.
KV: Ms. Martindale, what querying tips do you have?
TM: I'm sure you've all heard these tips before, but they're great things to keep in mind.
First, make sure that you're researching each agent personally and targeting them intentionally.
Second, don't query too soon. I've seen a lot of submissions recently that just aren't ready yet. Make sure you've revised and sent your manuscript to critique groups/ beta readers.
Finally, use your query to highlight the strengths and unique elements of your work. The query is your opportunity to let your work shine and capture an agent's attention.
KV: Any last words of advice or encouragement you’d like to share with us?
TM: Keep putting yourself out there! Absorb as much as you can from conferences, contests, agent feedback, etc., and keep strengthening your book. When agents are looking through queries, we read with excitement and anticipation because we love our job. We can't wait to fall in love with your manuscript. :)
And last but not least, a big thank you to Krista for hosting this blog and your various contests! You're creating wonderful opportunities for everyone and are much appreciated.
AM: Make sure to say thank you! I’m not suggesting writing an Emily Post-worthy note to every form rejection. More like tweet a thank you to the agents who answer questions during #askagent. Thank your critique partners for giving you that note that helps you make your manuscript better. Thank your significant other for understanding why revising thousands of words reduces your conversational skills to monosyllables. There are so many people involved in a writer’s journey, both in the publishing world, and in a writer’s personal life, and it never hurts to show gratitude.
Speaking of which, thank you to my amazing agent for participating in Agent-Author Chat with me and to my fabulous coach for having us on Mother. Write. (Repeat.)!
My pleasure, Anna-Marie! Thank YOU for sharing these behind-the-scenes details with us. I love learning more about great projects, especially great projects I already love:)