Thursday, May 31, 2012

May Conferences: FAQ

It's been a great month of talking about nothing but Conferences. If you missed any of my posts, please look at the doo-dad over there --> with this month's posts to catch up (remember, I've been doing topic months since January so there might be some other good stuff you missed too). To wrap up this month's topic is my Frequently Asked Questions post. If you have any more questions about conferences, please leave them in the comments and I will update the post as they come in.
  • What is proper email etiquette for an agent who has requested a partial? Query format? Conversational? With attachments or without?
    • See my recent post on just this subject. The note can be conversational (I was the person wearing the British hat that we were joking about at dinner), but mostly in a query format. You must mention that they requested it from which conference. And always include your query for reference. Attach only if the agent has specifically asked for an attachment (you can send the note and query and ask the agent's preference if you honestly can't remember).
  • During my pitch, the agent asked if I brought in any pages with me. I didn't and am personally glad not to have, because I'd rather talk to somebody than have them read over my work. But is this standard practice and should I plan on bringing the first few pages with me in the future? 
    • You certainly can if you'd like to be prepared. It's not standard and I, personally, will never request pages at a conference. If you have a really long pitch session (say 30 minutes--yes it's happened) then plan on bringing material just in case. You never know what sort of nuggets of wisdom you might get with that extra time. But I'm in the same boat, I don't like reading in the moment. Also, it is good practice to have a few pages on hand--if you learn something awesome in a session about first pages you can apply what you learn then and there before it flits from your mind.
  • If I realize my manuscript isn't ready to send out because I learned things at the conference, should I email the agents who requested it and let them know I won't be submitting it for a few months?
    • No. We don't expect you to send it out right away. You can take five years if you need to, or you can choose not to submit at all. An extra email like that in our inbox is just clutter.
  • Do you know if there is a good resource online listing conferences and linking to information for individual conferences? I've been hoping to find a writing conference within driving distance of my house, but I haven't been able to find one. I live in a relatively major metropolitan area (halfway between DC and Baltimore) and I've been surprised at the lack of writing conferences around here.
    • Google it! Also check out local writing associations. I just Googled it and found the Maryland Writers' Association and the DC Writers Group. Likewise, there is a Baltimore Writers Conference. If you're looking specifically for SCBWI or RWA, they usually have chapters by regions listed on their website, as well as meetings, writers groups, and extras throughout the year. My best advice (besides using Google) is to get involved in a local writing chapter or find a local writing group--they are a wealth of information and between the lot of you will know the upcoming conferences. 
  • What is the protocol for conference queries? Would you give extra attention/feedback to a query you'd received via a conference?
    • I definitely try my hardest to give a query from a conference (say a writer didn't have the opportunity to pitch me while there) extra attention. But if the query simply isn't my genre, there isn't much I can do. If a writer did pitch me and I requested the query and/or sample pages, I'll try my best to give the writer extra advice. But when I'm getting a hundred additional queries after a conference, I have to pick my battles.
  • Is it common practice to send a Thank You note to agents (if say they took some time with you or gave your good advice during a pitch or at dinner) even if they didn't request any material from you? 
    • I'd say no. Again, it's clutter. It seems callous, but it's our job at conferences to help you and I probably won't remember you. It's a kind gesture (and there are some writers who I've requested to keep in touch with me because we hit it off and they were a person I wanted to keep in my pocket) but in all likelihood, it'll end up in the trash. It isn't like a job interview in which a follow-up is expected.
Questions added:
  • If an agent requests sample pages PASTED into the email, should we reformat the text in "email format" (i.e., no indents, single-spaced, extra space between paragraphs) -- or does it work to cut and paste the text directly from Word, including the first-line indents and double-spacing? I'm confused on this! 
    • I think you're over thinking this. I've never encountered the problem before. You should be able to copy and paste from word (it works for me). Everything should translate just fine (double-spacing and indents included). If you're worried, test it. Send it to yourself or a second email address or a friend's address who has a different email provider to see how it turns out. As long as it's not too wonky, we don't really care.
If you have any additional questions, please ask in the comments, and I'll update the post.

Happy conferencing!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Wednesday Reads: The Girl is Murder

The Girl is Murder by Kathryn Miller Haines. Historical mystery, set in 1942 combines a lot of great historical elements and a bit of mystery--with a lot of growing up, very real, true to history characters, and humility. Think Veronica Mars for the historical set.

It's the Fall of 1942 and Iris's world is rapidly changing. Her Pop is back from the war with a missing leg, limiting his ability to do the physically grueling part of his detective work. Iris is dying to help, especially when she discovers that one of Pop's cases involves a boy at her school. Now, instead of sitting at home watching Deanna Durbin movies, Iris is sneaking out of the house, double crossing her friends, and dancing at the Savoy till all hours of the night. There's certainly never a dull moment in the private eye business. 

First Line:
"September 1942.
Pop's leg was across the room when I came downstairs. I didn't ask him how it got there. Its location made it clear that the prosthetic had been hurled at some point, with enough force to bring down the photo of Mama that used to sit on the Philco radio."
You start with an unexpected scene, yet very normal in the life of Iris. If you're writing historical, pay close attention to this passage (and all passages in this and other historicals)--just look at these couple sentences and you'll see two things that paint it historical (besides the date)--to some degree, the prosthetic, and the Philco radio. Also, to some point, "Pop" and "Mama".

Brownie Points: I love how real Iris is. She is an entirely fallible character, but heart warming and every time she screws up--which is often--you want to sit down with her for some hot cocoa and talk about her problems. Too many times in historical, authors try to create a character who is ahead of her time. While it makes for controversial drama, it's not true to the time period. Iris is so deliciously 1942, as are each and every character--especially their Polish landlady who makes halupkies (best food ever!!! I grew up with halupkies--pigs in a blanket--which come from both sides of my family, both the German and Czech sides. Smothered in tomato sauce and sauerkraut... drool).

Recommendation: For mystery and/or historical lovers, this is a fantastic read. Or if you're a Veronica Mars/Nancy Drew fan, also a great rec. Like I said, Iris is a wonderful character, fallible and lovable, and the world is wonderfully built.

Would I represent it? I'd love to find a historical as rich as this one. With, like I said, true-to-the-time-period characters.

Happy reading!

Friday, May 25, 2012

May Conferences: The Follow Up

So you went to your conference. You pitched some agents. They requested.


Now what?

Firstly, cool your jets. You don't need to send those pages over ASAP. You definitely don't need to send it that night (like they request it on Friday and the conference goes until Sunday, ya the agent won't see it until Monday at the earliest).

And we completely understand if you need a few weeks/months/years to revise/rewrite/tweak your ms. Conferences give a lot of information. A LOT. And more often than not I'll hear writers say, "I thought my ms was ready, but I have a dozen ideas of how to make it better!" Do it. Take the time to revise before you submit. Because once you submit, there is no going back. No do-overs. I've heard stories of people getting a submission five years after they originally requested it. Wow.

Next, I hope you took notes of what the agent wanted. Twenty pages? Fifty pages? Full ms? Synopsis? Author bio? They'll usually tell you exactly what they want. And note "attached" or "pasted." Most likely, especially if it's a higher word count, they'll want it as an attachment. And, generally, they'll tell you to put "requested" and the conference name and title in the subject line. (always look up the agent/agency's submission guidelines)

Ex: Subject: Requested MS- NESCBWI- Wishing on a Star

I see the conference name and immediately know from what conference I requested it. Those go to the top of the slush pile.

Bonus tip--unless the agent specifically says not to, if you were unable to pitch an agent at the conference you can query them and mention you missed them but wanted to take the opportunity. Same thing, put the conference in the subject line along with Query. So: Subject: Query- NESCBWI- Wishing on a Star.

And what do you put IN the email if an agent has requested pages? Start with something about the agent requesting pages from the conference. If there was something memorable about your pitch to them (if you used a hook) put it in there to jog the agent's memory. If you discussed something the agent would remember (we joked about putting staplers in the jello at dinner) or if you yourself are memorable (I was the only fifteen year old there), mention that. We talk to a lot of people at conferences--A LOT--so don't assume we'll remember you.

After that, include how many pages you've attached and any other material the agent had requested. Below that, include the query letter, even if the agent didn't request it specifically. It's a great refresher and I like having it for reference (plus then I can gauge your query-writing skills which are way different than pitching-skills).

Dear Agent,

I met you last week at the NESCBWI conference. It was wonderful meeting you (I would totally provide the getaway car should you ever be taken with the notion to kidnap John Green again). You had mentioned interested in seeing my YA contemporary romance Wishing on a Star--a mix between a modern day Cinderella and Gangs of New York, if either featured a vegan Goth girl, world champion baton twirler. Oh, and she has a penguin for a pet. As requested, I've attached the first 50 pages, synopsis, and author bio. The query is pasted below for your reference. Please let me know if I can provide anything else. Thank you for your time.


[closing signature]

And remember these helpful posts from back in February about requested manuscripts. You'll be following the same guidelines, just slightly different at the beginning because your pages were requested via conference rather than query.

The Note.

The Return Email.

Formatting your Email.

The Nudge.

And the always useful: How to Format your Manuscript. (just to make it look pretty, especially for those of us who read on an e-reader)

Happy writing!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Speaking of pitching...

There's such thing as Twitter pitching! It's completely difference than your query, verbal pitch, etc. It can be similar to your hook though or a quick one liner. And no, you can't just send Twitter pitches to agents whenever you feel like it. That's not what Twitter is used for. But developing a Twitter pitch "just in case" is great practice for you to look at your ms differently. If forced to use 134 characters (minus six for the hashtag and space), can you describe your ms better than using 300 words? I bet you can, and you'd be amazed at how much information you can convey.

Keep all the same info in mind as you would when constructing a query or verbal pitch. You need character (with the "why we should care" in there too) and conflict. But in 134 characters.

For example, if I were to pitch whatever book in sitting on my desk, which happens to be Cinder by Marissa Meyer (it should be on my bookshelf, but it's too pretty to put away), it might look something like this:

#WVTP In a steampunk twist, Cinderella, a cyborg mechanic, catches the prince's attention; only she can save him from the evil moon queen

(Give me a break, I came up with it in two seconds)

You'll notice I'm not using chat speak. I consider it cheating, so steer clear as much as possible.

Here's a great post about constructing your Twitter pitch (more in depth than I'm getting), with links to more help in the post. I think I might have broken like five of her rules--especially with the vagueness.

And what is this #WVTP you might ask? Apparently you haven't been on Twitter lately. If you've seen anything about The Writer's Voice that was going on all this month, this is a related event. Tomorrow (Thursday) you can pitch via Twitter using this hashtag (which stands for Writer's Voice Twitter Pitch). If one of the lurking agents (myself included) likes your pitch, we will request it. If you get two or more requests, you get to choose one of us to submit to (a twist on The Voice).

Find out more info here on one of The Writer's Voice contest coaches, Brenda Drake's blog (including time the pitching opens and closes--so if you do it wrong, I know you didn't actually read it) as well as which agents you can expect to see lurking.

What's the point of Twitter Pitching rather than querying? Well, you can certainly query. But this is fun! Plus, it gives you a chance to try out Twitter pitching, hooks, one-liners, etc. If you don't get any bites, you know your pitch needs work. If you get a bite, you know you have something great. Instant gratification of sorts.

Otherwise, just come and hang out at the hashtag (if you don't think about it too hard, it doesn't sound so nerdy). Us agents might be flinging poo--er, trash talk--around.

(PS, no Wednesday Reads this week. I'm pacing myself since I'm reading less lately. June is still scheduled as a hiatus month, so no Wednesday Reads then either--I'll have one more Reads for you before I go on break though)

For a little (more) fun, and practice, Twitter pitch me your favorite book (not your own) in the comments. Let's see if yours is better than my Cinder pitch--and I welcome Cinder pitches too. Show up the agent!

Happy pitching!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

May Conferences: The Verbal Pitch

One of the great things about conferences (at least from my POV) is the verbal pitch. Before you say, "I'm not signing up for the pitches. Too scary!" consider what a pitch actually is.

What is a pitch?

It's a quick "about" your ms.

So your new BFF you met during breakfast asked you what you write and you say, "I'm writing an Adult Cozy Murder Mystery about an erotic book club that gets caught up in the murder of the local strip club owner."

Congrats. You just pitched. A rather captivating hook, I might add.

In other terms, you don't have to talk to an agent in order to pitch. Every person you ever talk to about your book will be a pitch. Friends, editors, yes agents, and most especially prospective readers.

If your BFF asks for more info--or if you're in a pitch session with an agent--you'll need to expand on your pitch.

Character (remember, we need to care about this main character): Raised in the deep south by a conservative gun toting mother, Mary is qualified to do three things, fetch drinks for her husband, plan a party, and shoot a dime from fifty yards. So when her husband leaves her for the local strip club owner, Mary's lost. That's when her mother inducts her in her book club to loosen her up--it's an erotic book club and the women aren't shy about their opinions, at least not when they're drinking "ice tea" at ten in the morning.

Conflict (make it unique): When her ex's new squeeze, the local strip club owner, is murdered, fingers point at Mary as the culprit. She'll need all the help she can get from her new friends to find the killer, clear her name, and steer clear of the sexy detective who looks way too much like the main character in the club's latest read.

Set this baby in the deep south and you've got a winner I can't resist. (and in my head, this is a cozy--meaning closed door "romance" if there is any at all. I'm having too much fun with making stuff up)

Okay so you have the basics. Hook. Character. Conflict. You need your own credentials--the author bio part. Word count if asked, genre, comparables, etc.

That sounds like a query!

No kidding!

It has all the same dynamics. But it isn't a query.

You heard that, right?

Your pitch IS NOT your query.

Your query will have intricate sentences to include information and flow and demonstrate your writing capabilities. Your pitch needs to be easy to swallow. In other words, if you're having a hard time memorizing it, throw away the paper. Pitch everyone. Pitch the air. Until you can talk about your ms smoothly without memorizing complicated sentences. Try pitching your favorite books to your friends--you'll find that you're not repeating the back cover blurb word for word.

If I were pitching the above erotic book club murder mystery, I'd use that as my template. To myself I'd think "hook, character, conflict" and stick to those guidelines. Then practice pitching it until I find something that flows well and is easy to say (I do the same thing with projects I'm pitching to editors, and family, and friends, and colleagues--I'm constantly gauging interest and the best way to capture attention). 

For example, pitch The Hunger Games. "It's set in a futuristic world where the government punishes the districts--like states--for a rebellion in the past. They draw a lottery in which one girl and one boy from each district between twelve and eighteen have to compete in a televised event where they have to kill each other. The last person standing wins and gets money and prestige." That's the very quick pitch, and usually no one needs anything more because it's so cool! But of course, in a real pitch you'd talk about Katniss and her sacrifice and struggles and whatnot. But the point here is, Don't memorize your pitch. And for the love of Herman Melville, don't read it. I'll allow it, I won't kick you out of the session, but put the tiny bit of effort in. It goes a long way.

Your know your ms better than anyone. Talk about it. Without rambling of course. Stay within the confines of a query, without quoting your query. A pitch should be less than 90 seconds. A quick pitch should be less than 30 seconds.

So what's the point of a pitch? Why can't I just send the query? Because I usually get more out of a face-to-face pitch than I would from a query. I can ask questions. Get info out of you I won't get in a query. And if your query/pitch isn't working, you can ask for advice and I'll give it to you. That's why I'm there, after all. And if there is something about your pitch I like, I'm more likely to request than if I were just going through my queries (my rejection rate in queries is way higher than at conferences).

Remember, I'm collecting FAQs about conferences.

Happy pitching!

Friday, May 18, 2012

May Conferences: Etiquette

  • Talk to people you are sitting with at dinner or sessions, standing next to in the hallway--you never know where and when you'll find advice that'll change your career or people that'll become life long friends
  • Take copious notes
  • Pick an agent/editor/published author's brain when appropriate: during free time, meals, spare time in a pitch or consult session
  • Ask what other people are writing, sessions they are attending, things they've learned
  • Get involved in extra events, readings, and workshops
  • Volunteer to be "the example" in a session--if an agent is teaching a workshop on pitching and asks for people to practice, do it;  you get not only the attention and advice of an agent but the audience is your sounding board (applies to first sentences, titles, character names, you name it)
  • use the opportunity to find a critique group--you'll usually find a board where people will post "looking for' ads
  • If you know you have to duck out of a session early to get to a pitch or consult, sit near the back on an aisle. Leave quietly. The presenters won't be offended.
  • Likewise, if you arrive at a session late due to another appointment, save certain questions to yourself and concede you've probably missed some important info. Ask a peer or the presenter at the very end if there were handouts or someplace you can find the lecture notes. Or ask a friend/neighbor/your new besty to look at their notes.
This is totally my own opinion. I'm not at all a germ-a-phobe, but I don't actually care whether or not you shake my hand. I'm not going to not look at your work if you don't shake my hand. The thing is, I shake so many people's hands at conferences that I carry sanitizer with me and make frequent trips to the bathroom to wash my hands. I often get sick after conferences from a combination of stress and germs. Don't make a big deal out of not shaking someone's hand. But this is utterly up to you and I won't turn down a hand shake. (when will fist bumps become an appropriate formal greeting?)

  • pitch agents in the bathroom
  • Use the question and answer portion of a panel or session to ask narrow, personal questions that won't benefit anyone else, or to pitch--you can get a consult session for that or track someone down in their freetime to ask
  • make everything about you
  • drink too much
  • Take five minutes minutes to describe your book if another writer/agent/editor asks what you're writing--a quick elevator pitch will do, or to another writer, the genre and basics (YA timetravel to ancient Rome)
  • Take five minutes to pitch an agent when he/she is obviously in a hurry/on the way to the bathroom
  • Confront an agent about a rejection or rejection by a colleague
  • Bring materials and expect an agent to critique your ms or query during a pitch session
  • Ask questions in a Q&A if you've arrived late that have most likely been answered already--a question about query basics if the session is about queries
  • Be that "doom and gloom" person who always has to talk up the e-book apocalypse and/or bash traditional publishing--keep questions polite and educational for all

I cannot stress this enough: When in a session and the speaker asks for questions, don't take that as an opportunity to pitch an agent or ask for such narrow advice that will apply to only you. Make it broad enough that many more people will benefit from the answer--you are taking their precious time as well as the speaker's.

Are there any conference pet peeves you've developed over the years?

Happy conferencing!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Wednesday Reads: Blood Magic

Blood Magic by Jennifer Lyon. Awww, a great Paranormal Romance. And by "awww" I mean mmmm, yummy witch hunters. Good mix of world, character, and steam. Just the kind of mix I like.

In the days when powerful witches used their magic to shield humanity from demons, their allies and guardians were a group of men gifted with preternatural abilities of their own–the witch guardians. But when a band of witches traded their humanity for demonic power, the ancient bond was broken, and the guardians became the hunters.

Darcy MacAlister knows nothing of demons or magic. But this beautiful young woman is about to discover the truth about her past . . . and her future. For she is a witch–not just any witch, but the key to breaking the curse that has plagued witches and the men who hunt them. For if a hunter kills an innocent witch by mistake, the price is no less than a piece of his soul.

Axel Locke, gorgeous leader of the Wing Slayer Hunters, has sworn never to shed the blood of the earth witches who have resisted the temptation of demonic power. But when his sister is cursed by a demon witch, he discovers that Darcy MacAlister may hold the cure–if she can master her newfound powers in time. When the chase begins and Axel and Darcy come face-to-face, this hunter must weigh his soul against his honor–and against his heart.

First Line: "The whispers were nothing new." Starts with Darcy's mother's funeral. Which is great insight into Darcy, how she felt about her mother, life in general, the people around her. Especially since she's a funeral director. I do love women who don't weep at their own mothers' funerals. Er.... that sounded a little strange, didn't it? Oh, and of course, you can't have an opening scene without the mc's life being threatened. So there's that.

Brownie Points: Just one of those great ParaRoms. I especially like the magic--blood/earth magic--and the curse that causes the men (big, hulky men) to crave witches blood. They're trying to protect the witches while still wanting to kill them. Gotta love a hero.

Recommendation: If you love ParaRom and need another good series, try this one. Amazon has it listed with Thea Harrison's The Elder Races or Gena Showalter, and I agree. (and I know you all went out to read it after I rave reviewed Thea) These are the type of books that, if you're writing ParaRom, you have to read. They're formulas for success (boy meets girl, boy wants to kill girl, girl saves boy's soul, boy and girl mate happily ever after).

Would I represent it? I'd love a ParaRom like this one. World building, character arcs, blood, smut. (I do need a departure from YA, you know.)

Happy reading!

Friday, May 11, 2012

May Conferences: Prep Work

You've decided you want to go to a conference.

Now what?

Firstly, find a conference. Google it. Check out your local RWA, SCBWI, etc conferences or local writing associations for their annual conferences. Ask your writing buddies. Stalk local agents and see where they're heading. If you have a writing group in other parts of the country, set up a fun getaway with them and visit them in their home town or make a group trek.

Okay, you've signed up for a full weekend of fun, fun, fun!

You need to know the who's who of the conference. Who is the Key Note speaker? Are their books in your genre? Read them. Check out who the faculty is--agents, editors, authors. If you plan to pitch the agents, note their genres, their clients, visit their agency websites, Twitter, and personal blogs. Same goes for the sessions, lectures, and workshops you plan to attend--know who is speaking.

Will you need to bring anything? Lots of paper and a pencil sharpener. You'll be taking notes. Lots of them. Business cards, if you have them, to share with your new friends. It's a great place to network (more on that later). You don't need a copy of your ms, unless you're attending a workshop in which you'll need it. Note the materials the sessions/workshops ask you to bring and bring them (agents will not ask for your ms or any hardcopy--more on that later). If there is an opportunity for on-site consults with editors/agents for mss or query letters, take advantage, and note the deadlines or if you need to bring your materials. If you're able to sign up for it there, bring the materials in case you're able to get an appointment.

By the way, if an agent you're eyeing is doing ms critiques, it's a great opportunity to show them your work and garner interest--at the very least, if you revise and submit to them at a later date, they'll know the quality of your edits and how much you've improved.

Oh, right, one more thing. Preparing your pitch. Most conferences will have a "How to Polish Your Pitch" sort of workshop the first day (post on that later). Attend it. Prepare as much as you can before hand. You won't just be pitching agents. Every time you meet someone new, they'll ask "what do you write?"

Anything else? Yeah, prepare to kiss your old life goodbye. It's gonna be a wild ride.

How do you find conferences? Do you find that you need anything else to prepare yourself for a conference (besides a babysitter and a Costco box of 5 Hour Energy)?

Happy conferencing!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Wednesday Reads: Cinder

I am going to do my very, very best not to squee like crazy during this post. I'll just state it right here.





Cinder by Marissa Meyer. Two words. Cinderella. Steampunk. Eek! (that was not a squee!) It's the first fairytale retelling in the Lunar Chronicles. (I'm not at all excited for the rest of the series. teehee)

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

First Line: "The screw through Cinder's ankle had rusted, the engraved cross marks worn to a mangled circle." Not only is this line so unexpected, it is reminiscent of Cinderella. Because everyone knows the story of Cinderella and there is something to do with feet and shoes at the end--but no. In this one, we start right at the beginning knowing she has a mechanical foot. She's a cyborg. (You know exactly where that whole steel foot is leading, don't you?)

And because I love how it immediately sets us up in a world of futuristic/steampunk/technology not with the world itself but with Cinder's own body parts, I have to give you a feel for the first few.

"The screw through Cinder's ankle had rusted, the engraved cross marks worn to a mangled circle. Her knuckles ached from forcing the screwdriver into the joint as she struggled to loosen the screw one gritting twist after another. By the time it was extracted far enough for her to wrench free with her prosthetic steel hand, the hairline threads had been stripped clean.
"Tossing the screwdriver onto the table, Cinder gripped her heel and yanked the foot from its socket. A spark singed her fingertips and she jerked away, leaving the foot to dangle from a tangle of red and yellow wires."

Brownie Points: Gah! Other than being an awesome new imagining of the Cinderella tale? Two things, actually. Both odd. One. The setting. They're in New Bejing, or The Commonwealth. I'm not brushed up on all things Asia and whatnot, but I think (think) the world is kinda a mash of many of the Asian cultures. And it's flavoring of the world, not so engrained that people can't relate to it. Plus, my nerdy side is happy with the connection back to the origins of the Cinderella tale, which came out of China.

Spanish cover
Two. I'm not sure why I'm noticing it so much right now, but the POV. I'm, just a little bit, a little tired of 1st person. This is in 3rd and occasionally jumps over to Kai's POV as well--also 3rd. In the beginning-middle somewhere, we also detour into the doctor's brain (yes, there's a doctor, and that's all I'm saying about that). He is a very important character, fascinating/crazy mind, and though this is YA and he is an Adult, I felt the jump to him fit well. It's not something you often see. And something you must consider carefully before attempting.

Recommendation: For all YA lovers, scifi/steampunk lovers, and fairytale retelling lovers. Ya'll might know I adore Gail Carson Levine's Ella Enchanted--this might have surpassed that one. The mechanical foot won me over, what can I say?

Would I represent it? Other than the obvious YES, I'm not officially looking for fairytale retellings. Because they are so incredibly hard to do. If, however, they fall into one of the other categories I'm looking for (historical fantasy, scifi, steampunk, as of now unknown mash-up category), I'm willing to take a look. It has to be impeccable though, because I'm a bit of a fairytale retelling snob.

(PS, read it!)

Someone get this mic away from me.

Happy reading!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

May Conferences: Intro

Conference season is upon us! First time? Seasoned pro? This month I'll be covering the basics and hopefully some advanced tips and tricks to help you navigate this wondrous new world.

You may be thinking, "I'm an awesome writer. Psssh, why do I need a conference? I don't like people."

I may be thinking, "Unless you're guaranteed to make me lots of money, please play nice with others."

But also, conferences are just fun. I have several lined up and, from the agent side at least, love them. And I've heard from my fair share of writers how much conferences help them. It's a great place to meet other writers, network, find or form a critique group, perfect your pitch, learn valuable info, and yes, meet agents.

While I always hope to find a client at conferences, it's not the reason I'm there. Of the, say, dozen conferences I've been to, I've signed one client from the hundreds that have pitched me. I am always looking. But the main reason I go to conferences is to teach, to network as well with other agents, writers, and editors.

Conferences are, at the very essence of their existence, a place for writers to learn. Attend as many sessions, classes, lectures, pitch sessions, critiques, and workshops as you can. When the presenter asks for questions, ask them. If you're in a pitch session with an agent and have extra time, pick their brain.

You're there to learn. We're there to teach you.

But why should you attend a conference? Can't you get all that good learning online? Yes, probably. But there is something about a conference, a big gathering of like minded people in one place, at one time, that cannot be substituted. Try it. Just once. My bet is you'll love it.

Besides, we're all in the business of imagination. Get off the couch and create your own adventure. You might get some inspiration.

Please, as with all my topic months, leave questions here. I'll answer what I can during the month and leave all the rest for my FAQ at the end of the month.

Do you have a conference success story? Find an agent there? Your best writing buddy? That one final push to polish your ms? The inspiration to scrap your ms of 15 years and start anew?

Happy writing!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

April Offers--FAQs

Hi guys! No doubt you've noticed my absence all April long. And yes, I realize it's May. I'm going to answer all of your April Offer questions here in this post, then continue with my planned May Conference series. Also, I'm armed with books, and not afraid to use them. I will be doing Wednesday Reads again (maybe not weekly, but hopefully at the very least, bi-weekly).

  • What's it like from the agent's perspective? Do you get nervous when you make an offer or worry that they will choose not to go with you? 
    • Mostly I get excited. Because finding a project that I love enough to offer on is few and far between. Of course there's always the worry that the writer will choose someone else, but it's all part of the business. For every one writer who doesn't choose me, another writer will choose me over someone else. I used to obsess way more in the beginning, but it's a roll with the punches (and have a glass of wine) sort of thing now.
  • When an author gets an agent offer should they nudge everyone they have a query with or just the submissions?
    • This is up to you. Personally, I want to get nudged even if I've just received the query. There are times when queries sit for a few weeks before I can get to them, and I greatly appreciate the opportunity to read it. I hate getting to a query only to find out the writer has accepted rep without informing me, or at the very least withdrawing the query. (Here's a post of mine on the subject)
  • When an agent offers representation, what are the most common questions you get asked by your newly acquired clients? What do you feel are important and necessary questions that should be addressed during that initial phone call?  
  • I've heard that some agents still do verbal contracts (for the agent-author agreement) - is that true? 
    • If you come across an agent who does verbal contracts, run away. Far, far away. I don't know of any agents who would want to do verbal contracts--it's as much a risk to us as it is to you. 
  • When an agent offers rep, is it Standard Procedure to ask for a week's period to decide, during which you inform the other agents who have a) fulls/partials and/or b) queries? Is there a good protocol for requesting this period, or will an agent expect to hear it?
    • An agent expects that you will take a week or two to let other agents know there has been an offer. Unless that agent is your dream agent, in which case you can accept and withdraw queries/manuscripts from other agents.
  • If you offer revisions and the author writes you back with newly revised novel, how often is that you take that writer on as a client?
    • Maybe half. On second reading, I have to love the ms even more than I did the first time around (because I will have to read it again, and again). The revisions have to not only be spot on, but I like to see the writer going above and beyond, doing not just my literal revision suggestions, but doing it with their own style.
  • Is "The Call" really necessary if the author lives abroad? Is e-mail correspondence enough?
    • "The Call" is not a necessity. We will definitely do it over email if that works best.
  • What if an author's future works aren't part of an agent's preferred genre (e.g. author has a steampunk novel in the works besides the previous work s/he queried, but while agent likes the queried MS, s/he doesn't like steampunk)? Will agents still rep them for these works, or would another agent for those works be the better choice?
    • It varies by agent. If we've had success with your first novel, we'll probably stick in there with the second. Independent of genre, an agent should always know a good story and character, enough to fudge the rest. If the agent really doesn't want to rep that genre, or doesn't think it's right for your career (and if you disagree) you can find an entirely new agent or the agent may ask for help within the agency. Generally, you won't have an agent for say Women's Romance and another for SciFi, or one for YA and one for MG.
  •  I'd love to know how much time I can ask an agent offering representation for to make my decision. I've heard everything from a week to two weeks is acceptable to decide to accept an offer. I don't want any other agents still reading my manuscript to feel like I didn't give them enough time to make their own decisions, but I also don't want the offering agent to think I'm a flake! :)
    • Seven to ten days, even fourteen, is acceptable. The offering agent may offer their own time restraints, which should stay within that window. If the offering agent gives a time frame shorter than seven days, ask for more--you want enough time for yourself to be sure you're getting the right agent. If you give other agents too little time, they'll think you're not actually interested in them and back out immediately.
  • If you request a partial, and we give you the eight weeks wait, and then ping you with that reminder you've written about--how long after that until we write again/assume it's a no-go? 
    • If the agent is being flaky about it, taking eight weeks, and another eight weeks, and another eight weeks, you may just want to find another agent. Do you want to work with someone like that?
  • This is more about the lack of offers, but I'd love to hear any advise you might share on what to do when you're not receiving any offers or feedback from your agent submissions. I know conferences might be one way to go (not possible for me personally what with where I live), but are there any other ways? My current project might just not be marketable... but if there's some other more fixable problem with the book, I'd really like to know. If nothing else, so I can learn for the next novel. :-) I've already had the novel workshopped by an eclectic bunch of writers and readers that I trust--both in their judgement and their honesty--and the novel has greatly improved from their feedback. They like it, I like it--and I'd really like to pick an agent's brain to discover what they're seeing that I'm missing! But, since agents don't have time for that sort of thing, is there something else I might do?
    • You can hire a freelance editor. You can find an agency that has consulting or editing on the side (separate from the agenting side). You can enter online contests that give agent feedback as a prize. You can start your next project and revisit the first when you've had some space. (Here's a post of mine on the subject)
  • Could you give us an example of how we might word an email to an agent who's reading requested material to let them know we've had an offer?
    • Dear Agent, I've had an offer of representation from another agent. I'd love to know if you're still interested in my manuscript Title which you requested page number of on date / which I sent you the query of on date. I will make my decision by date. Please let me know if I can send you the full ms or any additional materials. Thank you, closing signature
  • Also, do agents generally ask to see an author's previous unpublished works when taking on a new client?
    • Maybe once in a while. Generally, the agent concentrates on the one ms before anything else.
  • Is there one resource you would recommend for authors on the basics of contracts? I'm looking for a place that outlines what is customary in a contract and what to watch out for. Great topic. Thanks!
    • I'm assuming you mean agency contracts, not publishing contracts (for which an agent is the best way to navigate that). For agency contracts, just start Googling it. Many agent blogs have question and answer posts for specific questions which may be a good place. #askagent on Twitter is limited in lengthy answers. Asking fellow writers always yields good results, especially the ones who have been there, done that. Query Tracker forums won't steer you wrong either. Thanks to Thea Harrison for this link to a sample Agency contract here.
  • I've sent my query letters but got only passes from agents. Now I've had some requests from small presses. If one should make an offer, should I go back to agents with an 'offer on the table' query or would it be a waste of time?
    • Only if an agent still hasn't responded to/rejected your query or ms.
  • (cont) I'd still like to get an agent and submit to the large publishers. Would a small press be enough enticement to get an agent's notice?
    • If you want an agent/big publisher, I'm not sure why you're querying small publishers when you don't plan to accept their offer (seems a waste of time for both of you). You can inform an agent of your offer, and they will look at it more quickly, but their answer will not change from a no to a yes just because you have an offer. And if you have an offer on the table, agents who might have given you helpful/constructive feedback or asked for a revision request, won't give it, so you're shooting yourself in the foot in that regard. (Here's a post of mine on the subject)
  •  If you are querying and you get no no requests/offers, does it help to get offers if you attain a publication deal? I mean, if you get a pub deal, but don't accept it, and then query. Do agents not offer representation for these people? Or do they offer rep, and then shop around the MS to other, bigger publishers?
    • I'm assuming you mean you've rejected an offer from a small/e publisher. Generally, an agent won't submit to these publishers, concentrating on the big six and medium presses, but always inform your agent of who you've submitted to. If you shop it around to the big/medium publishers and have been rejected, that leaves little options for the agent. The only thing submitting to and rejecting a small pub offer achieves is your own self satisfaction. An agent knowing you've rejected a pub deal won't make them want to work with you. It's still all about that ms and whether or not they like it (or want to work with you--and if you're playing games like this and the agent catches on, they may be wary).
  • Is there a time limit to respond to an editor's offer? Will they get offended and walk if they don't hear back right away?
    • Just like with an agent offer, there is always a window--a courtesy both parties adhere to. And, just like with an agent, if you string them along too long, they will doubt your seriousness and move on. I don't want to work with you, if you don't really want to work with me (and vice versa).
Questions added 5/9/12
  • If you got an offer from a medium to large publisher, is it worthwhile to approach an agent who has rejected, but with positive feedback? 
    • It wouldn't hurt and it'd probably make the agent's day. Make sure it's an agent you'd really want to work with, and you can probably conduct a few interviews to hire the agent you want. I've personally never heard of this actually happening, so if you do see another agent or author discuss the subject first hand, please let me know.
  • If someone wants to notifying an agent/publisher of another offer on the table, what kind of subject line will get their attention considering the volume of email they are already dealing with?
Happy writing!