Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Amy McNulty On Getting Through Submission

If there's one thing that many aspiring writers have few clues about, it's the submission process. There are good reasons for that; authors aren't exactly encouraged to talk in detail about our own submission experiences, and - just like agent hunting - everyone's story is different.

I managed to cobble together a few non-specific questions that some debut authors have agreed to
answer (bless them). And so I bring you the submission interview series - Submission Hell - It's True. Yes, it's the SHIT.

Today's guest is Amy McNulty, author of Nobody’s Goddess (Book One in The Never Veil Series), coming April 21st, 2015 from Month9Books.

How much did you know about the submission process before you were out on subs yourself?

As much as I could possibly find out! I usually feel better about things I have little control over when I exert at least some level of control, and keeping informed was about the only thing I could do at that point. I scoured the Internet for any author submission experiences and that’s actually how I found this blog. (This SHIT series is easily the most informative on the web!)

We’re told to be careful about saying we’re on submission because an editor might like your manuscript a year into the process, google you and discover some tweet or blog post from long before about you starting submissions. Then she realizes a.) she was far from your first choice and b.) lots of other editors have probably said no to you at that point, so maybe the book isn’t as hot a property as she thought. So it’s hard to find out much about submissions until an author has been through it all, and even then, the author can’t exactly air all of the details. Still, I had a general idea.

Did anything about the process surprise you?

I guess the need for secrecy did. Obviously, I know authors can’t share details while editors are considering the manuscript and contracts are pending, but it really hadn’t occurred to me that an editor who might be interested could be discouraged from buying your manuscript because she discovered you’d started submissions long before she read it. There are so many factors that need to come together to get an offer, and that’s about the only thing the author has any control over. (Besides writing a great book and finding a good agent, of course!)

Did you research the editors you knew had your ms? Do you recommend doing that?

I wanted to know what imprints my agent was contacting and which ones requested it, but I didn’t feel the need to know names at that stage. (I would just spend too much time researching those editor’s deals if I did.) My agent did share some of the names when we heard back with positive comments or got rejections. With the ones who seemed hopeful, I sure did research their names, looked at what they bought and how often they bought titles, and found interviews with them. (Like after I got an R&R, I found an interview with that editor saying she rarely offered that, and an R&R meant she was really interested, so I got my hopes up!)

It helped me feel a little more involved, but at the same time, it made it harder when the eventual rejections came in, so if you can handle that, sure, do some research. Your time is better spent working on the next manuscript, of course. (But be honest, it’s harder to write when you’re distracted with the thought of an email maybe appearing in your inbox that might change your life—or send you back to square one.)

What was the average amount of time it took to hear back from editors?

My agent managed to get some really fast replies, in my opinion! I’d say on average, we heard back within two to three weeks. (The outright rejections came in quickest.) I probably waited no longer than two to three months for any response, other than ones who wound up being no-responders.

What do you think is the best way for an author out on submission to deal with the anxiety?

I know I’m supposed to say write the next manuscript and I do believe that. Sometimes it’s really hard to write in that frame of mind, though. So if you’re not going to be writing, get away from your email inbox as much as you can and have fun! Distract yourself with hobbies and friends.

If you had any rejections, how did you deal with that emotionally? How did this kind of rejection compare to query rejections?

Maybe it’s just because you passed the first hurtle, but I found that editor rejections were often more detailed than query rejections, which was nice. They were almost unilaterally complimentary and kind, pointing out what they liked as well as what didn’t work for them, so that really cushioned the blow. The worst were the rejections that came after an R&R or after at least after expressing some interest or saying they were getting second reads. I got a couple of those right before I went to an ALA con (as a member of the public, not a librarian), about a year into the submission process and after a couple of major rewrites. I found myself surrounded with books and authors who’d accomplished my dream and I almost started to cry before remembering the fact that I was there as a reader, and I was there to cheer other authors on. I eventually did start focusing on my next project, thinking I might have to shelve my first one, and that’s when we finally got an offer!

If you got feedback on a rejection, how did you process it? How do you compare processing an editor’s feedback as compared to a beta reader’s?

We got a lot of feedback, but there was almost nothing that was the same from one editor to the next except one thing that a few editors mentioned—the one thing I refused to budge on. (Eventually I made the inclusion less jarring thanks to my editors’ help, but part of the reason I went with Month9Books is because they got the manuscript and didn’t think an integral part of my novel needed to be replaced with something else.)

As for the rest, I chalked it up to individual tastes. I think when I got feedback from my beta readers, I was more apt to change things, especially when it came to clarification. However, when I started getting feedback from many people and what they liked and didn’t like clashed with each other’s opinions, I felt like there was no way to satisfy them all, so I had to just go with my gut. Between that, my agent’s guidance and doing our own big revision after the R&R failed, I think we got the manuscript to a good place. (It’s since been through a few more revisions post-offer, of course!)

When you got your YES! how did that feel? How did you find out – email, telephone, smoke signal?

I was at the airport with my boyfriend on my way to NYC to visit my boyfriend’s family when I checked my email and my agent told me Georgia McBride of Month9Books shared it with her team and there was positive feedback and she anticipated an offer was forthcoming. That wasn’t quite the same thing as an offer—and by then, I’d been close before and I was worried something would fall through (even though this was the owner of the imprint saying this, who wouldn’t have to get approval from higher-ups!)—but I almost felt like I left my body. I was euphoric all day, and it helped me not have to deal with my usual travel anxiety. I saw my agent during that trip and we discussed the idea of going with Month9Books, and when Georgia officially offered a few weeks later (another email moment, once I was back home with my feet on the ground), we accepted!

Did you have to wait a period of time before sharing your big news, because of details being ironed out? Was that difficult?

Yes! It was really hard! We finalized the contract and made the official announcement a little over three months after the offer, four months after that first “anticipating an offer” moment. Oh, boy, was it hard to keep quiet! Of course, I told my loved ones I could tell in person, but I had to settle for rewarding myself with an extra cookie after dinner while I kept quiet.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Saturday Slash

Meet my Hatchet of Death (or, some other colorful description RC Lewis and I come up with at any given moment). This is how I edit myself, it is how I edit others. If you think you want to play with me and my hatchet, shoot us an email.

We all know the first line of a query is your "hook." I call the last line the "sinker." You want it to punch them in the face, in a nice, friendly kind of way that makes them unable to forget you after having read the 300 other queries in their inbox.

If you're looking for query advice, but are slightly intimidated by my claws, blade, or just my rolling googly-eyes, check out the query critique boards over at AgentQueryConnect. This is where I got my start, with advice from people smarter than me. Don't be afraid to ask for help with the most critical first step of your writing journey - the query. My comments appear in green.

A girl who’s memories were made for her. A boy who’s choice nearly cost him everything. Double check who's vs whose And a death that no one saw coming. Your hook is a little vague, I'm curious how someone's memories can be made for them, but a choice that cost "everything" is a bit cliche.

Three months ago, Tara Shock died in a tragic car accident that stunned her small town of Red Hawk, Colorado. No one took her death harder than her boyfriend, Nash Adams. But now, Nash is ready to try to regain some sort of normalcy in his life...until the day that Tara shows up at his baseball game. This is good, succinct and to the point. Work on getting this kind of voice into your hook.

However, the girl that Nash sees isn't actually Tara: She's Natalie Grey, the sassy new girl who’s not exactly happy with small-town life....and just happens to look exactly exactly echo like Tara. But there’s just one thing Natalie can’t quite figure out: Besides herself and Nash, no one sees Tara when they look at her. Like, no one else thinks the two look alike? Or Natalie literally appears differently to everyone else? Enlisting the help of Red Hawk’s somewhat deranged golden-boy Nash Adams, this sentence feels like you're introducing Nash all over again, and like it's been inserted from a different version of the same query. Natalie searches for clues to the mystery that’s plaguing both their lives.

Meanwhile, Nash is still trying to come to terms with what happened to himself "him." Also... what happened to him? The car crash? last September--- and reconciling his relationship with his former best friend would be a bonus, too. Why are they at odds? Does it have something to do with the crash? Answers are hard to come by in this secluded town, but that’s exactly what Nash and Natalie need if they’re going to unravel the supernatural and personal secrets that Red Hawk is housing...

Told in alternating points of view, AFTER SHOCK is part contemporary and part paranormal, totaling at 86,000 words. In this e-mail, I have attached a brief sample of my novel, so that you can examine my writing style. My entire novel is available for review. Also, I am submitting my work to other agents. I attended the AWP Conference in Seattle, Washington, in 2013.

No need to mention that it's a simultaneous submission, it's to be expected. Also if the writing sample is specifically asked for by an agent in their submission guidelines, it's fine to paste it after the query - but most won't accept attachments. It's also assumed that since you are querying that the novel is finished and therefore available for review -- no harm stating these things, but you don't necessarily need to either. If you don't have much of a bio, don't worry about it -- just let the work stand on its own.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Book Talk & Giveaway: PRETTY GIRL-13 by Liz Coley

My book talks are coming at you from a librarian, not a reviewer. You won't find me talking about style or craft, why I think this could've been better or what worked or didn't work. I only do book talks on books I like and want other people to know about. So if it's here I probably think it won't injure your brain if you read it.

Angie is walking down the street, holding a bag of clothes she knows doesn't belong to her. She just wants to go home after a Girl Scout camping trip. When she walks in the door and non-chalantly says "Mom, I'm home," she doesn't understand why her mother drops to the ground in tears... or why the person in the mirror is three years older than she's supposed to be.

Missing since she was 13, the now sixteen-year-old Angie goes through therapy to find out where those lost three years went to, and what she was doing during them. But there are some secrets you can't even tell yourself, and Angie's mind has built walls that turned into people. One was meant to please her captor, one was made to cook and clean, one was made to work for survival... and one was born for vengeance.

Urged by her parents to undergo a new treatment that will erase her multiple personalities and restore Angie to her full self, she must first decide whether she wants to know what each one has endured for her sake... or not.

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Thursday Thoughts

Thoughts lately...

1) I'm in a longterm relationship, but not married so I don't wear a ring. This causes some confusion for males when they try to make an approach. I have to wonder how much more confusing it would be for them if I didn't have a ring finger at all. I can make up a wood chipper story and leave it at that.

2) People are funny about statistics. When there's a very low probability for a positive thing to happen, they like to point out that it does in fact, happen. When it's a very low probability for a negative thing, they discount it out of hand.

Example: "People win the lottery. It happens."

Example: "Sometimes people get bit by sharks and hit by lightning at the same time, but it's just not going to happen to me."

3) If I suddenly see something moving in my peripheral I may attack. Just be aware, and don't take it personally.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Debut Novelist Tatum Flynn On Social Media For The Love Of It

Todays guest for the SAT (Successful Author Talk) is Tatum Flynn, who lives by the sea in England with a cat called Friday and too many hats. She has a soft spot for the word ‘ramshackle’, and a vagabond past which involves piloting lifeboats in Venezuela, playing poker in Las Vegas, shooting rapids in the Grand Canyon and almost falling out of a plane over Scotland. Her debut, THE D’EVIL DIARIES, will be out from Orchard/Hachette on the 2nd April 2015, with a sequel, Hell's Belles, to follow January 2016

Are you a Planner or Pantster?

Mostly a planner. For me it’s like a road trip: I like to know where I’m starting and vaguely where I’m ending up, and at least a few places I’m going to stop at in the middle, but, you know, if I suddenly see a sign for Dollywood or a monster truck rally or all-you-can-eat pancakes I can always swerve off  and take a different route for a while. (Yes yes I’m English but I heart American road trips :)

How long does it typically take you to write a novel, start to finish?

My first two (one trunked, one my debut) took me about 3 months to draft, and around another 3  to revise and polish. My WIP (Evil Sequel) took me a little longer, around 6 months for a first draft. All books are different and it doesn’t surprise me that some come easier than others.

Do you work on one project at a time, or are you a multi tasker? 

The nature of publishing (so I’m learning, and it was expected) is that you’ll be writing one book while doing copyedits or proofing for another. But I don’t think I could *write* two different books at the same time like some people do; my brain would feel like a TV tuned to two channels at once, and probably all I’d end up with would be static.

Did you have to overcome any fears that first time you sat down to write?

Nope :D After all, the first time I sat down to write a novel, I didn’t have to show it to anyone if I thought it sucked. I didn’t even know if I could finish it. So it was just pure fun in the beginning. Plus I’d had articles in my student magazine way back when and have also worked on a travel magazine, so it wasn’t the first time I’d have the world see my scribblings. 

How many trunked books (if any) did you have before you were agented?

One, an MG historical adventure. It had a bunch of fun stuff in it, so quite possibly one day I’ll sit down and rewrite it.

Have you ever quit on an ms, and how did you know it was time?

You mean quit in the middle of writing it? Not exactly. I often write copious notes and a couple or even several opening chapters just to see if an idea will ‘take’ – if it’s something I want to spend the best part of a year on. But I see those as possible ideas for future, that maybe need further mulling over, not abandoned stories. I’ve got a few of those.

Who is your agent and how did you get that "Yes!" out of them? 

I’m with the Blair Partnership (JK Rowling’s agency, which is still fun to say). I queried traditionally, pretty much (see next question), ended up with three offers, and picked them. (Although – I can’t believe I’d forgotten this – I did enter an agency’s writing contest as well, where I was runner-up and which led to my first offer. So competitions are good too!)

How many queries did you send? 

I sent OVER A HUNDRED queries for my debut. Yup, just that one book. I liked it and wanted to leave no stone unturned before moving onto another book. Still, I was on the verge of giving up when I got an email from my current publisher asking me to come in and meet them. (I’d met the acquiring editor at a SCBWI retreat where she’d read my first chapter and asked to see the rest.) That was a very good day. (And it didn’t hurt that I was in Paris at the time!) Agent interest followed :) 

Any advice to aspiring writers out there on conquering query hell?

Alcohol. Cake. Writer friends who understand what you’re going through or even better are querying at the same time as you. I was extremely lucky to have my CP, NK Traver, querying at the same time as me. We then got agent offers around the same time, and then a book deal around the same time, which was hugely fun. I’d probably have gone nuts if it weren’t for her :) 

How did it feel the first time you saw your book for sale?

My book isn’t out until April 2015 so I haven’t seen it in a bookshop yet, but it has been fun seeing it for sale online. And I did grin massively over the page proofs. I have no idea how I’m going to feel the first time I actually get to hold a print copy. There’ll probably be a tiny bit of screaming.

How much input do you have on cover art?

My editor is incredibly sweet, and showed me a couple of early iterations of my cover. I got a little input and they did a few tweaks based on comments I made. But… see next question…

What's something you learned from the process that surprised you?

What surprised me was that I got to have lots of input regarding my illustrations (The D’Evil Diaries is illustrated throughout). Some characters were changed completely at my (and my editor’s, we were very much on the same wavelength) behest, and I asked for and got a bit more of the setting put in. So that was immensely cool, and I’m so thrilled with the way they’ve turned out. The artist, Dave Shephard, is super talented. (And actually, what surprised me even more was that I got to have illustrations at all! Like most writers I have a pretty vivid imagination, but it hadn’t even crossed my mind that my publisher might want to have the book illustrated. Such a huge bonus, like getting 25 covers all at once!)

How much of your own marketing do you do?  

I spend way too much time on Twitter, but I can’t help it cos I love it, it’s full of fascinating and hilarious people. I also have a Tumblr, a Goodreads page, and a Pinterest for my books. Oh yes and a website where I blog occasionally. 

So far the only marketing I’ve really done is having a presence on those sites (which I’m on because I enjoy them anyway), which has led to meeting a few book bloggers who’ve become interested in my book, one of whom kindly did my cover reveal. I’m also about to get some bookmarks printed up to hand out to libraries and bookshops etc, and once the book is out I’ll look into doing school visits, and maybe even festivals or conference panels (if anyone will have me!). 

When do you build your platform? After an agent? Or should you be working before?

Personally I don’t think of it as a platform, but instead (especially Twitter) as a way to find your tribe, so you’re not isolated and clueless. I’ve met so many lovely writers and other bookish types online, and not only will you meet nice people and learn all kinds of stuff about writing and publishing, but you’ll also stumble into opportunities and lucky occurrences. For example, it was through Twitter I found out about the SCBWI writing retreat I went on that led directly to my debut being bought! It also led to my meeting in person some lovely MG/YA authors in my hometown and elsewhere. And I met all my fantastic CPs online too. It’s a pleasant sort of accidental networking.

Do you think social media helps build your readership?

That, I have no idea, since my book’s not out yet. I hope so, at least a little, but I suspect the best thing you can do to build your readership is just to write damn good books. Social media is probably the icing on top that helps sell a tiny handful more, for 99% of writers anyway, although as I said above, sometimes opportunities can come your way that might help your career, if not your readership directly.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Lauren Oliver's VANISHING GIRLS Tour & ARC Giveaway!

Dara and Nick used to be inseparable, but that was before—before Dara kissed Parker, before Nick lost him as her best friend, before the accident that left Dara’s beautiful face scarred. Now the two sisters, who used to be so close, aren’t speaking. In an instant, Nick lost everything and is determined to use the summer to get it all back.

But Dara has other plans. When she vanishes on her birthday, Nick thinks Dara is just playing around. But another girl has vanished, too—nine-year-old Madeline Snow—and as Nick pursues her sister, she becomes increasingly convinced that the two disappearances may be linked.

In this edgy and compelling novel, New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver creates a world of intrigue, loss, and suspicion as two sisters search to find themselves, and each other.

I'm very excited that next month I get to participate in Lauren Oliver's VANISHING GIRLS tour!

There are eight stops scheduled across the the country, with two in my own state of Ohio. I'll be at both of those, along with MY HEART AND OTHE BLACK HOLES author Jasmine Warga.

Stops are listed below, and be sure to scroll to the bottom to enter to win an ARC!
Tuesday, March 10th @ 6PM
Barnes & Noble, Tigard, Oregon
With Laini Taylor
Wednesday, March 11th @ 7PM
Barnes & Noble, Huntington Beach, California
With John Corey Whaley
Thursday, March 12th @ 7 PM
Blue Willow Bookshop, Houston, Texas
Friday, March 13th @ 7PM
Tattered Cover, Denver, Colorado
Monday, March 16th @ 7PM
Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Cincinnati, Ohio
With Mindy McGinnis and Jasmine Warga; also an Epic Reads MeetUp! with Margot Wood
Tuesday, March 17th @ 7PM
Fundamentals, Delaware, Ohio
With Mindy McGinnis and Jasmine Warga
Thursday, March 19th @ 7PM
Barnes & Noble, Market Fair, Princeton, New Jersey
With Gayle Forman
Tuesday, March 24th @ 7PM
The King’s English, Salt Lake City, Utah

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Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Saturday Slash

Meet my Hatchet of Death (or, some other colorful description RC Lewis and I come up with at any given moment). This is how I edit myself, it is how I edit others. If you think you want to play with me and my hatchet, shoot us an email.

We all know the first line of a query is your "hook." I call the last line the "sinker." You want it to punch them in the face, in a nice, friendly kind of way that makes them unable to forget you after having read the 300 other queries in their inbox.

If you're looking for query advice, but are slightly intimidated by my claws, blade, or just my rolling googly-eyes, check out the query critique boards over at AgentQueryConnect. This is where I got my start, with advice from people smarter than me. Don't be afraid to ask for help with the most critical first step of your writing journey - the query. My comments appear in green.

Eternity is a long time to dodge enemies, and after living for centuries, Carla Dubrov knows sooner or later, everyone dies. Good hook, I like it.

In the 1800s, Anthony, the man Carla loved, is killed on her father's demand. Their forbidden love starts a war between Carla’s kind and Anthony’s We definitely need to know what kind of creatures they are, and why the love would be forbidden. Now, two hundred years later, she can finally repay Anthony’s sacrifice by saving his eighteen-year-old brother Jason from his reckless self. What does that mean? So are both kinds immortal? Is Carla still young? How young? And is Jason also immortal or just born way later? His blatant search for Anthony’s murderers leads her father’s assassins to his hometown, Lake Forest, Illinois.

Jason resents Carla from the moment they meet Why? Does he know Anthony was murdered because of their relationship?, but when their lives are threatened, they overcome their differences and protect each other. They both have their reasons: Carla owes it to Anthony to keep Jason alive, and Jason knows Carla is the only one who can tell him what truly happened to his brother.

As her father’s assassin closes in, Carla understands she is the ultimate target. Why? How does that make sense? Her survival instinct tells her to run, but she knows that in order to save herself and Jason, she must stay and fight. As her feelings for Jason grow stronger than they should, Carla grows more determined than ever to have a future — but first she must conquer her past.

SHADES OF DARKNESS: THE LIGHT is a young adult urban fantasy novel with series potential, complete at 83,000 words.

You definitely need to clarify what the creatures are, and why their love would be forbidden. Also why does the focus switch to Carla being the target? Has Jason been searching for Anthony's killers for 200 years, or is this a new thing for him? There are a lot of questions being raised by the query, and you need to address them before you can more forward.