Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Collection of the YA YA Sisterhood & My Query That Worked

My agent search took me far and wide, high and low.  How far, wide, high and low? Let's just say I was beginning to worry my name might be code for "thatgirlwhowillnotgethepointnomatterhowoftenwetellherno." Luckily, it only takes one "yes," but the long trail of "no's" in my wake brought me into contact with some really awesome people, who know how to say "no" nicely.  So I've got a collection of YA agents here in this post, all of them helpful and professional.  Each listing has an email contact, their submission preferences, agency site, and - where applicable - their blog.  There is also a link for the Agent Query and QueryTracker listing for each agent.   Lastly, interview links to an immensely helpful site - Krista V's Mother, Write, (Repeat) blog.

My own agent escaped this post, because she's permanently stuck over in my right sidebar.  As a biographical side note, I want to add that Adriann has a lovely speaking voice.

Underneath the Agentinfopalooza you'll find my query that worked for NOT A DROP TO DRINK.


Bernadette Baker-Baughman has a MS in Professional Writing and has worked on both the editorial and marketing sides of publishing. As the Marketing Coordinator for Beyond Words Publishing/Atria Books, she headed up campaigns for two New York Times best-selling titles. In 2005 Bernadette co-founded Baker’s Mark Literary Agency where she discovered talent such as Farel Dalrymple, Faith Erin Hicks, Paul Guinan & Anina Bennett, Dan Elconin, David Axe, Carson Morton, and Zack Giallongo, among others. In 2010 Bernadette joined Victoria Sanders & Associates. Bernadette is currently interested in representing commercial adult, YA, and middle grade fiction, nonfiction, and graphic novels. In fiction she gravitates towards books with a wide audience access point—specifically books with cultural or contemporary touchstones (reimaginings, historical fiction, fiction based on legend or myth, fiction with fantastical elements that are part of the cultural collective imagination, Steampunk, etc). In nonfiction she is looking for image rich books, pop culture, art, quirky gift books, light sociology, and narrative nonfiction. In graphic novels she is seeking beautifully illustrated works of nonfiction, memoir, young adult or children’s fiction, high fantasy, funny character driven stories, and graphic literature. Bernadette is also willing to talk to writers who do not have art attached to their comic concept or illustrators willing to work with other authors. Bernadette accepts email queries along with the first 25 pages of the manuscript pasted into the body of the email here.
Victoria Sanders Site
Bernadette's Agent Query Listing
Bernadette’s Query Tracker Listing
Mother Write (Repeat) Interview

Eleanor Jackson joined the Markson Thoma Literary Agency in 2008. Previously, she was an agent at the Queen Literary Agency and at InkWell Management. She is a graduate of Colby College and the Columbia Publishing course. Her list includes bestselling authors of fiction and non-fiction in a wide range of categories, including literary, commercial, young adult, memoir, art, food, science, history and illustrated/lifestyle. She looks for books with deeply imagined worlds and for writers who are not afraid to take risks with their work.
Eleanor likes to get her query emails with QUERY in the subject line, with the query and first few pages or chapter sent here.
Markson Thoma Site
Eleanor's Agent Query Listing
Eleanor’s Query Tracker Listing

Weronika Janczuk at D4EO recently joined the YA fray. Her YA interests are all subgenres except for chick-lit-y/light-hearted girl-centric books and books with vampires or fallen angels and especially anything with a very strong voice and literary writing; genre-wise: romance, fantasy, sci-fi, (fresh!) dystopians, and sophisticated realistic/contemporary fiction
Submission Guidelines: Email query and first five pages of the manuscript in the body of the email, with QUERY in the subject line. Emails accepted here.
Weronika’s Blog
Weronika's Agent Query Listing
Weronika’s Query Tracker Listing
Mother Write (Repeat) Interview

Mary Kole of Andrea Brown Literary is passionate about exciting, high-concept story ideas and editorial work. With all of her clients, she uses her well-honed editorial eye to develop each project to its full potential. She especially enjoys traveling to conferences and SCBWI events to meet writers and actively build her list. Mary lives in Brooklyn and operates the East Coast office of the agency.
At this time, Mary is only considering young adult and middle grade novels and truly exceptional, funny, quirky and character-driven picture books (she especially loves working with author/illustrators). She's seeking fresh, unique voices and idiosyncratic characters who, by book's end, are more flesh than fiction. Her favorite stories are upmarket, high-concept, character-driven and well-plotted...featuring a mix of fast pacing, emotional resonance, and beautiful writing. In essence: literary spark with commercial appeal.
One of her favorite genres is magical realism: a story set firmly in our world, only with a twist—something that turns "reality" on its ear—to make things more interesting. Favorite themes include: family, home, unlikely heroes, discovering one's voice, and finding one's equilibrium after a big life event. Mary adores manuscripts that make her laugh, make her tear up or punch her in the gut. She also loves YA stories of friendship, romance, and betrayal; manuscripts full of those "first time" moments that make teenage life electric and unforgettable.
Submission Requirements: Send a short email query letter to that agent with QUERY in the subject field. (By putting "Query" in the subject line, you will receive an automated email, confirming that your submission was received.) Your query letter should include publisher submission history and previous publishing credits, if applicable.After your query, paste in a short sample of your writing. Your writing sample needs to be pasted into the email (we do not open attachments except in the case of illustrations). Send queries to Mary here.
Andrea Brown Literary
Mary's Blog
Mary's Agent Query Listing
Mary's Query Tracker Listing
Mother Write (Repeat) Interview

Sarah LaPolla began at Curtis Brown in 2008, working with Dave Barbor and Peter Ginsberg. Sarah is interested in literary fiction, narrative nonfiction, urban fantasy, paranormal romance, science fiction, literary horror, and young adult fiction. She loves complex characters, coming-of-age stories, and strong narrators. Sarah graduated from Ithaca College with a degree in Writing and English, and went on to receive her MFA in Creative Writing from The New School. She is always on the lookout for debut authors and welcomes email submissions here.
Sarah's Agent Query Listing
Sarah’s Query Tracker Listing
Sarah’s Blog
Mother Write (Repeat) Interview

Jennifer Laughran began her career in agenting after working as a long-time children's bookseller and buyer. She is also the founder of the extremely popular YA event series "Not Your Mother's Book Club". She joined Andrea Brown Literary Agency in 2007. Always on the lookout for sparkling YA and middle grade fiction with unusual and unforgettable characters and vivid settings, she is drawn to all kinds of books, whether realistic comedies or richly imagined magical adventures. However, the common thread in her favorite stories is an offbeat world-view. Jennifer adores simplicity, but she is not interested in the conventional, predictable, mechanical, gimmicky or ordinary. Jennifer loves funny books, thrilling books, romantic books, books that make her cry, and all-around un-put-downable books... and her true favorites are all of the above.
Submission Requirements: Send a short email query letter to that agent with QUERY in the subject field. (By putting "Query" in the subject line, you will receive an automated email, confirming that your submission was received.) Your query letter should include publisher submission history and previous publishing credits, if applicable.After your query, paste in a short sample of your writing. Your writing sample needs to be pasted into the email (we do not open attachments except in the case of illustrations). Send queries to Jennifer here.
Andrea Brown Literary Agency
Jennifer's Agent Query Listing
Jennifer’s Blog
Mother Write (Repeat) Interview

Kate McKean at Howard Morhaim Literary Agency. A native Southerner, Kate earned her Master's degree in Fiction Writing from the University of Southern Mississippi before starting her career as a literary agent. Her interests lie in literary fiction, contemporary women's fiction, paranormal romance, urban fantasy, mystery, young adult and middle grade fiction, narrative non-fiction, sports related books, food writing, pop culture, and craft. She is not accepting any epic fantasy, science fiction, or children's picture books. Submission Guidelines : Kate is accepting email submissions only. Please send a cover letter and the first three chapters of your novel, or the full nonfiction proposal. Attachments are fine. Send those queries here.
Howard Morhaim Literary
Kate's Agent Query Listing
Kate’s Query Tracker Listing
Mother Write (Repeat) Interview

Kristin Miller recently joined D4EO as a full time agent At D4EO Literary Agency. She interned at the agency for nine months, co-founded the young adult blog YA Highway and will be focusing on the agency's young adult and middle grade list. Send queries for Kristin here.
Kristin’s Blog 
Kristin’s Query Tracker Listing

Kathleen Ortiz began her career in publishing at Ballinger Publishing as an editorial assistant and interactive media designer for the young adult section, working to boost the magazine’s online presence through social networking. She then moved on to uwirepr.com as online editor for the features, art & entertainment sections. She has also taught high school classes as a visual media instructor.
Kathleen is currently Associate Agent and Foreign Rights Manager at Lowenstein Associates.
Kathleen is actively seeking the following:
Children’s, Adult, Young Adult, Middle Grade, Chapter books, Non-fiction, Romance (contemporary, urban fantasy and paranormal), Contemporary women’s fiction, Non-fiction (technology, pop-culture/entertainment, or women’s issues)
*All non-fiction requires the author to have a strong platform or be an expert in their field
While Kathleen enjoys everything from light-hearted and humorous to dark and edgy, she'd love to find an amazing YA romance from a male point of view or a steampunk with fantastic world building.
Lowenstein Associates believes with the continued demand for online marketing in publishing, a strong online platform is essential for today's authors. Kathleen uses her background in interactive media design to assist Lowenstein Associates’ clients with branding themselves. She maintains a blog on tips for querying and publishing at Neverending Page Turner and may also be found on Twitter.
Submission Guidelines: Please put the word QUERY and the title of your project in the subject field of your email and address it (the query) to the agent of your choice. Please do not send an attachment. Queries can be sent here.
Lowenstein Associates
Kathleen’s Blog
Kathleen's Agent Query Listing
Kathleen’s Query Tracker Listing
Mother Write (Repeat) Interview

Tamar Rydzinski worked at Sanford J. Greenburger Associates prior to joining the Laura Dail Literary Agency. She graduated from Yeshiva University in 2003 with a major in literature and a minor in business.
Tamar is not interested in prescriptive/practical non-fiction, humor, coffee table books or children’s books (meaning anything younger than YA). She is interested in everything else that is well-written and has great characters, including graphic novels. A fantastic query letter is essential – “you need to make me want to read your book, and be excited to read it,” she says, “with those first couple of paragraphs.” Tamar receives email queries, along with a short synopsis and the first ten pages here.
Laura Dali Literary Agency
Tamar's Agent Query listing
Tamar’s Query Tracker listing.
Mother Write (Repeat) Interview

Jessica Sensheimer is an associate agent at Sarah Jane Freymann Literary.
Send a query to Jessica here.
For more on her tastes check out this interview.
Sarah Jane Freymann Site
Jessica's Agent Query Listing
Jessica’s Query Tracker Listing

Rachel Stout joined Dystel and Goderich after graduating with a degree in English from Fordham University. Her interest in publishing began early in her college career as she sought to figure out where exactly she wanted her life to head, career-wise (and to ward off the all too common assumptions that just because she studied English, she inevitably wanted to become a teacher). An internship with LJK Literary Management solidified and strengthened her determination and introduced her to the agenting side of the publishing world. Rachel hopes that DGLM will further foster these inclinations and is looking forward to the time ahead.
After growing up on the South Jersey shore, Rachel now lives in Brooklyn and is interested in literary fiction, narrative non-fiction, and believable and thought-provoking YA as well as magical realism.
Rachel likes to get her query emails sent here. with the query, synopsis, 1st chapter included.
Dystel & Goderich Site
Rachel’s Query Tracker listing.

Suzie Townsend represents adult and children’s fiction. She is actively looking to build her adult list and specifically interested in romance (historical and paranormal), and fantasy (urban fantasy, science fiction, steampunk, epic fantasy). She also loves Middle Grade and YA novels (all subgenres, but particularly literary projects).
She’s interested in strong characters and voice driven stories: she’s particularly keen on strong female protagonists, complex plot lines with underlying political, moral, or philosophical issues, and stories which break out of the typical tropes of their genre.
She drinks too much diet orange soda, has a book-buying problem and a Starbucks problem (those soy chai lattes are addictive), and lives in Washington Heights with two dogs who know that chewing on shoes is okay but chewing on books is not.
Submissions Guidelines: In addition to your query, please include the first 5-10 pages (pasted into the body of the email - no attachments, please!). Don't worry about sending a synopsis - they're evil. Send that query here.
Fine Print Literary
Suzie's Agent Query Listing
Suzie’s Query Tracker Listing
Suzie’s Blog
Mother Write (Repeat) Interview

Joanna Volpe with Nancy Coffey Literary Volpe represents children's and adult books, fiction and non-fiction.
"I tend to go for projects with a strong voice and/or writing style. While plot is important as well, I'm all about connecting with the character and the writing. I don't have a particular type of character I like--it can vary from humorous to cynical to stoic to intense...it depends on the story you're trying to tell. What attracts me is whether or not they come alive off the page, if I feel like I know them, and if I'm thinking of the character long after I've finished reading."
Joanna's specific interests are - Children's: chapter books to YA novels
She is also interested in graphic novels for kids/teens, or novels with a high graphic element.
Adult: romance (historical, paranormal), fantasy (urban fantasy, steampunk), up-market fiction (dark drama, women's fic, magical realism, speculative fic), and commercial non-fiction (pop culture, environmental, foodie).
Some query guidelines from Joanna:
QT Guidelines: # Queries should be no longer than one page
# Do not include sample pages
# Add "ATTN: QUERY" plus the agent's name on the envelope
# For email queries the word "QUERY" must be in the subject line
# Make sure to include a paragraph about the story
# Only query us when your manuscript is COMPLETE
# Include all necessary contact information
Email Joanna here.
Nancy Coffey Literary
Joanna's Agent Query Listing
Joanna’s Query Tracker Listing
Mother Write (Repeat) Interview



Mindy's Query That Wouldn't Be Nearly So Awesome Without the Agent Query Community:

Lynn was nine the first time she killed to defend the pond. Seven years later, violence is her native tongue in a time when an ounce of fresh water is worth more than gold and firewood equals life during bitter rural winters. Death wanders the countryside in many forms: thirst, cholera, coyotes, and the guns of strangers.

Mother and Lynn survive in a lawless land, where their once comfortable home serves as stronghold and lookout. Their basement is a lonely fortress; Father disappeared fighting the Canadians for possession of Lake Erie, the last clean body of water in an overpopulated land. The roof offers a sniper’s view of their precious water source – the pond.  Ever vigilant, they defend against those who stream from the sprawling cities once they can no longer pay the steep prices for water. Mother’s strenuous code of self-sufficiency and survival leaves no room for trust or friendships; those wishing for water from the pond are delivered from their thirst not by a drink, but a bullet. Even their closest neighbor is a stranger who Lynn has only seen through her crosshairs.

Smoke rises from the east, where a starving group of city refugees are encamped by the stream. A matching spire of smoke can be seen in the south, where a band of outlaws are building a dam to manipulate what little water is left.

When Mother dies in a horrific accident, Lynn faces a choice - defend her pond alone or band together with her crippled neighbor, a pregnant woman, a filthy orphan, and Finn - the teenage boy who awakens feelings she can't figure out.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Treadmill of Death and Other Stories

So I have a treadmill now, despite a horrific accident roughly four years ago that resulted in my brother-in-law saving my life as I sped backward, and an awkward entanglement of limbs at family Christmas.  This treadmill is much less devious than that one, and since we've now established a relationship that doesn't require me casting a suspicious eye on it as I run, I'm free to indulge in listening to an audiobook, or... a podcast.

I found a great series - Meet the Author - on iTunes free podcasts.  There are some big names on there, in nice little one-sitting interviews that you can tune into while exercising, walking the dog, or lying comatose on your couch (as long as you prefer your comatose periods to be short lived).  It's free advice from people who know what they're doing - check it out!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Talent Crush and Some Librarian Humor

So it's really a Tuesday.  The kind of Tuesday that tries to convince you that it's Monday, and lovely Wednesday is not one sleep away.  And in the midst of this Tuesdayness, I get a big 'ol box of happy - in librarian speak - a book order came in.  And now I get to touch them, and smell them, tell them that I love them, and make them mine (with a stamp, lest you misinterpret).

Our box of - "What there's MORE in that series?
How did I miss that?"
Of course the one that is truly mine isn't here... it's out on submission, waiting to see if it will ever get to be here - or any other librarian's desk, for that matter.  And so, in paging through the pile of happy, looking for certain four letter words, body parts (euphemisms included), and always the word "bed" - 'cause any scene that has that word in the opening paragraph, I probably need to be aware of - I often come across some awesome writing that makes me go - DAMMIT!  Why didn't I think of that?

Stupid talent crushes, making me feel all inadequate.

Dostoevsky also makes me feel inadequate, but that's a given.

But I'm quickly saved from a dark mood of "Mindy Will Never Be Published, Her Inadequacy Knows No Bounds," by some really awful, quite terrible, librarian humor.  Ms. District Librarian and I have a bit of a competition going to see who can make the worst jokes... we're about nine years into it with no clear winner in sight, but many, many losers (those unlucky enough to be around when our flashes of humor get... uh... flashed).

Today's Bad Librarian Humor?

DL: I'm trying to talk a student out of attempting too broad of a topic.  He wants to write his research paper on both hunting and fishing.

BBC:  Doesn't he know they're two totally different animals?

Yarggity Yar!!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Interview with Tricia Springstubb - SAT WoW!

I'm lucky (or cunning) enough to have lured yet another successful writer over to my blog for an SAT - Successful Author Talk. Even more special - this is a WoW! Edition of the SAT - We're Ohio Writers! Yeah - cause we grow 'em here. SAT authors have conquered the query, slain the synopsis and attained the pinnacle of published. How'd they do it? Let's ask 'em!


Tricia's most recent novel, WHAT HAPPENED ON FOX STREET, was published by HarperCollins last year.  It received a number of starred reviews, and was on the best books of the year lists of the Washington Post and Kirkus.  A sequel, MO WREN, LOST AND FOUND, will come out this August.  A chapter book series for younger readers, called CODY (until she comes up with a much better title) will debut in September, 2012, with Candlewick.
Tricia also writes for adults, and has published award-winning fiction in numerous literary journals.  She's a book critic for the Cleveland Plain Dealer and a substitute librarian in the children's room of her local public library.  The mother of three grown daughters, she lives with her husband in Cleveland Heights, OH.  Contact Tricia through her website, http://www.blogger.com/www.triciaspringstubb.com where she writes a blournal (that's a cross between a blog and journal).


Writing Process:
BBC: Are you a Planner or Pantster?
TS: I’ve always got a map, with start and end points (pretty) clearly marked.  But the route in between is blurry and I get lost, retrace my steps, stagger around in circles, swim crocodile infested rivers, etc.  I’ve tried to plan, but always get too excited and begin to write before I really know what I’m doing.     

BBC: How long does it typically take you to write a novel, start to finish?
TS: FOX STREET took longer than I want to remember—probably six or seven years of on- and-off-again work. And that doesn’t count all the time spent thinking about it!  MO WREN LOST AND FOUND was easier, more like one year, though I had to write one whole, really appalling draft, and completely scrap it, before I figured out what I was doing.     

BBC: Do you work on one project at a time, or are you a multi tasker?
TS: I do a lot of reviewing, so I’m often working on an essay. When I finish a draft of a novel or story, I put it aside for awhile, and during that fallow time I tinker with other fiction.  But I could never work full tilt on two new creative pieces at once!  My brain would implode.

BBC: Did you have to overcome any fears that first time you sat down to write?
TS: I have more fears now, when I know an editor is waiting for my work.  In the beginning, I was just writing, la la la, with no expectations!

BBC: How many trunked books did you have before you were agented?
TS: I have three adult novels in my drawer, but no kids’ stuff.

BBC: Have you ever quit on an ms, and how did you know it was time?
TS: I’m too much of an optimist (or maybe too delusional) to ever officially quit—I just “put it aside”.  But when sitting down at my desk fills me with cold dread, I know it’s time.

Querying and Agent Hunt:
BBC: Who is your agent and how did you get that "Yes!" out of them? 
TS: My agent is Sarah G. Davies--the G. stands for Genius.  Her agency is Greenhouse Literary.  I saw her listed in my SCBWI bulletin and sent a query about FOX STREET.  She requested the full manuscript, then called me up. Sarah is very British and proper.  It was a Sunday night and she actually apologized for calling at such an odd time!  I forgave her.  

BBC: How long did you query before landing your agent? 
TS: I think I sent six or seven queries.  Sarah was the one who said that, though the book was quiet and literary, she loved it and wanted to take a chance on it.  Within two weeks we were getting nibbles, and eventually there was, if not a bidding war, at least a very lively skirmish.  Since then, she has helped me get five more contracts.    

BBC: Any advice to aspiring writers out there on conquering query hell?
TS: When I first began writing, which was many, many years ago, children’s writers were seldom represented.  You sent your work over the transom, and once you were published, you relied on your contacts at various houses to be read.  All that has changed.  Having a good agent makes all the difference in the world now.  Sarah easily sold a picture book for me—on my own I’d have been sending it out for months or even years, possibly without any response.  So, even though writing a query has only slight more appeal than getting a root canal, it’s really worth doing well.

On Being Published:
BBC: How did it feel the first time you saw your book for sale?
TS: I was thrilled, of course, but also felt kind of maternal and protective to see it out there on its own in the big world.

BBC: How much input did you have on cover art?
TS: My editor at HarperCollins, Donna Bray, is wonderful.  She shows me cover and spot art all along the way as it evolves. At Candlewick, my editor Liz Bicknell, also thoroughly involves her writers in the illustrating process.  I’m very lucky in this.

BBC: What's something you learned from the process that surprised you?
TS: How long it takes!

Social Networking and Marketing:
BBC: How much of your own marketing do you? Do you have a blog or personal site?
TS: I have a website http://www.triciaspringstubb.com/ It has a link to my “journal”, which is the closest I come to a blog.  I also have a Facebook fan page, Tricia Springstubb Author, as well as a regular FB page. I contribute to the wonderful, lively group blog for middle grade writers and readers, From the Mixed Up Files, and love being interviewed by other blogs (!!).  As far as marketing, I’ve sought out book fairs and some conferences.  I’m very lucky to work with publishers who have great marketing departments.

BBC: When should aspiring writers start building their platform? After landing an agent? Or before?
TS: I think it’s really useful to read and contribute to blogs you enjoy.  You can learn a lot about both the craft and the business sides of writing, and you won’t feel like you’re the only crazy person trying to do this stuff.  You make friends.  As far as “platforms”, I pretty much stand on the work itself.   

BBC: Do you think social media helps build your readership?
TS: My young readers e-mail me, but I don’t think social networking is a big thing for them yet (I may be na├»ve about that).  I hope teachers and librarians, as well as kids, seek me out through my web page.  For me, one of the biggest pleasures of social media has been networking with other writers—kid lit writers are the most generous, warm people on the planet.  When I went to ALA last year, I met Grace Lin.  “I’m Tricia,” I said.  “Oh you’re Tricia!” she said.  Now that was really, really fun.     

Friday, March 25, 2011

On Rejection and Scar Tissue

Even though the days of getting mail addressed to us in our own handwriting are (mostly) behind us, we're all familiar with that sinking feeling.  I was at a point not so long ago where I would open the RE: QUERY email from an agent last (sometimes even after ads for extending body parts I don't have) simply to delay the pain.  Heave the big sigh, record another rejection over at QueryTracker -where my stats were starting to depress even my dog - and delete the form rejection.  Chin up.  Move on.

That vast gulf of darkness was punctuated by little flares of brightness - a partial here, a full there, long periods of waiting while one or two hopes floated - but mostly, BLURG!  So I trunked it - take that vile ms!!  Sit under my bed, you disappointing sheaf of paper!  I ripped off a new YA ms, wrote a query that felt electric (with the assistance of my AgentQuery beta reviewers) and started opening those RE: QUERY emails first - 'cause they were making me happy.

I recently finished reading Women Who Run With the Wolves: Contacting the Power of the Wild Woman by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, and want to share this excellent quote:

"Although there will be scars, and plenty of them, it is good to remember that in tensile strength and ability to absorb pressure, a scar is stronger than skin."

It's an interesting thought, and one that buoyed me in the Dark Age of My Eternal Rejections.  It goes hand in hand with my favorite cliched bit of wisdom - "whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger."  It might sound like a farmer's daughter's tough-love, toss-off advice; but the funny thing about cliches is that they're often true.

So buck up.  Write the query.  Revise the query.  Send the query.  Get those rejections.  Revise it again.  Send it again.  And work on something new - 'cause every puncture in your writer's skin will teach you something.

And you'll heal.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do & The Introduction of the SAT

I've got a guest poster today!  Anita Howard (raven1 to all you QueryTracker users) will be ushering in the first of my (hopefully weekly) SAT's - Successful Author Talk.  She was kind enough to invite me to her blog for my own guest post regarding my successful agent hunt, and we found out how much fun it is to do each other's work! She recently made the move over to Blogger and her blog can now be found here. Her own experience being slightly more vast than mine, she volunteered to do a post for us today about the difficult choices writers are sometimes faced with after that initial success.

Mindy, thanks so much for inviting me to your wonderful blog! I’d originally thought about giving a rundown of my crazy and hectic representation story. But that’s been done here already … So, let’s do something different today.

A writer acquaintance recently asked about my experience of leaving my first agent. She assumed that said agent had dropped me because we hadn’t sold anything in our two years together. I wanted to address this concern.

Truth is most agents aren’t just in it for the money. The good ones … the BEST ones … are in it for love. They sign the author, not the book. And I was blessed enough to have that kind of agent (twice now—yay!). But sometimes, love just isn’t enough.

My First Ever Agent (FEA) is and was an awesome agent and person. And no, she didn’t drop me. She would’ve hung in with me forever. But I never would’ve been able to get published with her.

When I first got a request for a full from FEA, it was for a vampire fantasy. She couldn’t get into the story, but she asked what else I was working on because she loved my writing and voice.  I told her about my WIP, a love story about a deaf heroine, the ghost that only she can hear, and the mysterious viscount who’s in some way tied to the ghost’s death. FEA was very excited and asked to look at it when I finished.   That’s the book she fell in love with and signed me for.

Throughout our partnership, we tried to sell the MS as a single title romance. The editors kept complimenting the premise and the prose, but they couldn’t get past the first person POV and the duel heroes. That goes against every rule in romance. The book really needs to be shopped as a literary gothic love story, which is what my new agent plans to do down the road.

Anyway, while that book was being subbed, I wrote two other romance MSS, but they were both too fantasy based for FEA’s tastes. So, without any complaints, I trunked them. When I got the idea for my Alice in Wonderland YA, FEA had just added young adult fiction to her list and we both agreed I should write it.

Once I finished, she loved my YA's premise, the characters, and the voice, but again, the fantasy elements threw her.  I'm not averse to revisions, but this was a matter of subjectivity and artistic differences that kept popping up. I told her I thought we should part ways because we had different visions for my books and my career.

We were both really sad and stunned at the end of that phone conversation.  ;-( To make it worse, it was the first of December. What a great Christmas present, right?

Still, we parted as friends. She emailed after that phone call and said she'd always be my fan and to keep her posted on my successes. It makes me sad when I think of it. But, I did the right thing for both of us.

Leaving my first agent was the hardest and scariest leap I ever made. I treasured her immensely as a person, and depended upon her professionally. But we were never going to see eye to eye on any of my stories other than the one she signed me for.

If any of you are considering leaving your current agent, think carefully before you make that decision. If your agent loves your work, other than a few revisions here and there, and she has the connections to get your stuff out there and bought, it’s a no brainer. STAY. Most agents are in it for the long haul. And you should be, too.

But, if you realize you’re not ever going to see eye to eye on the things that are crucial to staying true to your growth as a writer and your stories, if you’ve “grown apart” and your voice would suffer for staying—leave, as amicably as possible. Loyalty notwithstanding, you have to do what’s best for you and your career.

Good luck to each of you, whether you’re seeking representation, or have found it already. I hope to see you upon the shelves very soon. :-)

Monday, March 21, 2011

A New Post, In Which Cholera Gets the Better of Me

OK, not really.  I appear to have contracted a virus that makes me want to nap and eat chocolate all the time, but I haven't been able to find it in any medical dictionaries.  However, cholera has nearly given me a very bad day, simply by not being something you can be inoculated against.

It's one of those things I thought I'd check up on in the ms, that slipped past the betas, that flew under the radar for the agent, and that I obviously wasn't bright enough to catch in the first place (not cholera, but the research slip - up).  The plot wants cholera to have a vaccination, but it doesn't necessarily have to be that way.  Some minor revisions tidy up the issue.

Really kinda glad that I thought I'd check on that just in case.  Would've been quite embarrassing to have an editor come back with - "Yeah, your author?  Clearly an idiot - MASSIVE FAIL!"

Friday, March 18, 2011

Reality, Get a Grip on Me!

As I wandered yesterday in a writing daze I managed to lose my car.  Yeah, really.  And I don't mean like in a big parking lot or anything.  I went to the bank, to do bank - like things, PARKED the car there, then WALKED over to the post office to do PO-like things, then walked out of the PO and into their parking lot, and stood there dumbstruck while I tried to figure out where my car was.

I was two seconds from reporting my car stolen when I happened to see it sitting in the bank's parking lot, right next door.  I imagine it was thinking, "Owner!  Owner!  Here I am!  If only I could draw attention to myself somehow - nevermind that fact that I'm hulking piece of machinery directly in your line of sight!"

Sigh... so what's your story?  Do you ever indulge in acts of idiocy while an awesome scene is playing out in your head?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

An Irish Factoid: The Wearing O' The... Orange

Just a little blurby today on something I learned not so long ago.  Technically, becuase my Irish roots have a Protestant base, I should wear orange on St. Patty's day, instead of green.  Protestants generally supported William of Orange, hence the assocation.  However, I usually don't get the chance to explain that before getting pinched, so I wear the green.  Plus, good luck finding an orange St. Patty's Day shirt in Ohio.  A random fun Irish history / genealogy page for to poke around today, if you're Irish, or even if you're just feeling Irish today:

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

From the Mouths of Babes (& Wrinkly Old Women)

I adore reading.  I do it constantly and voraciously.  In my exit speech for my English Literature seminar class I asserted that I want to die crushed under a bookcase full of good books.  Ten years later I'd like to amend that to being knocked unconscious first, so that the slow death of internal bleeding takes place while I'm off cavorting in fields of glee (in my brain, anyway).  Also, if those books could all be published titles written by me, that'd be pretty cool too.

I read across genres and I've noticed a lot of not so conventional wisdom being spouted from stock characters in my reading experience.  It seems that wide-eyed ethereal children and ancient minority women have a monopoly on cosmic knowledge and cleverly dialogued common sense.  For the record, I'm not tired of reading about these characters.

But just once, I'd like to see an overblown, pit - stained lawyer with onion breath be the voice of truth in a novel.  Wouldn't that be... different?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Success Tastes Like Starbucks

I only say that because there seems to be some kind of backlog going on with my stomach from this afternoon, which came in tandem with a message from Patrick over at QueryTracker that my Success Story Interview was up.

Reposting here, but my fellow writer-followers, get thee to QueryTracker.  I used it to keep track of all my rejections for a good long time - my nice long list is testament to the "it only takes one yes" theory!

An Interview with Mindy McGinnis
(A QueryTracker Success Story)
Mindy McGinnis has recently signed with agent Adriann Ranta of Wolf Literary Services LLC. Mindy, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Congratulations and good luck.

QueryTracker: Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?

Mindy McGinnis: The book that landed me representation is a YA dystopian about the lack of fresh water in the future. I adore dystopian fiction, but I'm really tired of post - nuclear, or highly technological worlds. I took a different approach and knocked humankind back about 100 years... eating what you can kill, subsisting on your environment and the work of your own two hands.

My inspiration came from a documentary I watched about the very real pending threat of our fresh water resources, and then I read a book about the history of water (yeah I'm a dork like that).


QT: How long have you been writing?

MM: Oh boy. Ten years.

QT: How long have you been working on this book?

MM: This particular book (right now titled NOT A DROP TO DRINK) pretty much fell out of my head this past summer. I coughed it up in about four months, I think.

QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?

MM: Hmmm.... uh, YEAH. I didn't spend ten years getting rejections and feeling awesome, I can tell you that. Ironically, one thing that helped me stay the course was a rejection. An agent who had my full (a different YA title) rejected me, but sent me the kindest, most complimentary rejection ever. That was around three years ago. I kept the email and revisited it periodically over the years when I needed a boost. I emailed that agent the day after I signed to thank her for taking the time to give that kind of personalization to her rejections. She responded to tell me how happy she was for me - agents are people too!

QT: Is this your first book?

MM: Let's ignore the four trunked ones under my bed and say.... Yeah, sure, of course it is!

QT: Do you have any formal writing training?

MM: Nope. Nada. I double majored in English Literature and Religion, so I've drawn on both of those to inform my writing, for sure. I personally think the best education a writer can get is to read - good books an bad ones - and see what's working, or not.

QT: Do you follow a writing 'routine' or schedule?

MM: I wish. I write what I can, when I can.

QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?

MM: Not many, for this one, but that's against my normal grain. I did two 'tough love' line edits on it, though.

QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?

MM: Yes - I had two excellent betas that I met over on AgentQueryConnect. We swap ms's, and are all at the same level / genre, so it's a wonderfully productive trio.

QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?

MM: Hip. I'm not a big fan of formality.

QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?

MM: Well, this book definitely went against the grain (again). I only queried it for a month and a half before landing my (awesome) agent. My other books... yeah, refer back to that ten year drought I mentioned.

QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?

MM: 25 - an incredibly small number.

QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?

MM: Research - constant and large amounts of it. I used QueryTracker stats (for sure), and visited some excellent blogs that do agent interviews to get a feel for who was looking for, and liked, what. QT user KristaG's awesome blog - Mother. Write. (Repeat) was a huge help to me, as well as Authoress' Miss Snark's First Victim blog. I'm styling my own blog -Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire - in their footsteps. I want to be an inspiration to those on the agent hunt, and help others get their feet in the door. Or their fingers. Or hair. Or teeth. Whatever it takes! The agent database over atAgentQuery.com was a great tool as well, plus the Agent Updates thread over on AgentQueryConnect.

QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?

MM: A few I did, not many though. When I did it was using 'foot in the door' techniques from visiting blogs like the ones I mentioned above. 'Dear Agent... I read your interview this morning on (blog name) and saw that you are looking for gritty YA dystopian. I think my title (blah blooh) will fit your tastes!' That kind of thing.

QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?

MM: Don't give up. Which probably is overdone advice, and Churchill beat me to it, but... my journey took a decade, so I can tell you there is a light at the end of the tunnel, but you've got to work for it.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

BBC's Query Tips: Knowledge Gleaned From Years of Stalking Agent Blogs

I've got a round of agent blogs that I check up on and read almost daily. From this I've learned a few things that should be basic starting points for anyone who is getting ready to jump into the world of querying, and also a good refresher for those of us who have been at it for years... and years.

1) DON'T tell the agent how awesome you are. Every single agent I've read who comments upon this agrees: A modest writer is a better writer.

2) DON'T mass email your query. Most agents won't even read a query that has multiple recipients or is not addressed to them specifically.

DO - double check your spelling of the agent's name. Also, be sure of their gender.

3) DON'T tell the agent that your grandma and your son's friends love your book. Why? Your grandma won't tell you if you suck.

4) DON'T even send that query if your word count is over a certain number. That number can be played with according to genre, but basic
guidelines will tell you that any unpublished, unrepped writer querying their novel that is over 100,000 words is sunk before they leave the harbor.

5) DON'T be overly friendly with your tone. A query is a business letter. You're approaching a professional about your hope for establishing a professional relationship with them. Opening with, "What's up?" isn't how to get your foot in the door.

DO - personalize in a professional manner. Do you follow their blog? Did they mention they're looking for a certain type of project
that your ms fits perfectly? Tell them that. The agent wants to know why you're querying THEM - and hopefully it's not just because
they're an agent and you're a writer.

6) DON'T make assumptions. Dear agent: I know your submission guidelines say that you only want a query, but my novel is so awesome I
know you'll want the full right off. So to save time, I attached it to this email. This goes back to DON'T #1 as well.

DO - follow their guidelines. Every agent has a different way they like to approach their slush pile. Some will want the query, some will want a synopsis as well, some will ask for sample pages. Always check the agency site, or agent blog to learn their preferences. Also, some agent's preferences do differ from the blanket preferences listed on their agency site. If in doubt, go with what the agent profile or blog specifies.

DO - when sending sample pages be sure to check specifications. The vast majority of agents will not accept attachments. Cut and paste into the body of the email.

7) DON'T hassle an agent. Ever. Did they read your query yet? Wait and see. Emailing them to ask if they read it will only irritate them and add your name to their mental list of people that annoy them. Not where you want to be when they do read your stuff.

DO - feel free to check in after a period of time if an agent has your partial or full. VERY basic timelines would be anywhere from four to six months on a partial, even longer on a full. Yes, that long. Also - a lot of agents post where they're at with their partial and full piles in their blogs. Check there before obsessing too much.

8) DON'T think that you're the exception. A query is one page. Period. A great query weighs in around 300 words. Yup, that little.

9) DON'T open up by saying that you're an author seeking representation. I have a hard time picturing an agent reading that line and dropping their coffee cup to yell over to the next office - "GUESS WHAT!!!! I've got an author here seeking representation!!!!"

DO - open with your hook. There is a debate about whether or not an agent wants to see the genre, title, word count first off so that they know what they're looking at. I personally always open with the hook, and it's served me well.

DO - make sure you include genre, title, word count in your query somewhere. I prefer mine at the end.

10) DON'T tease the agent. "Will Cheryl live to fight another day? Can Bob save Lucy from Mr. Villain Man?" The agent might wonder if you're writing a serial radio program from the 1940's, and that market is kind of over.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Chapter One, In Which I Become Agented

A minor Victorian literature shout out, as I kind of miss titled chapters.

I record that I am agented!  It's been a long journey, It began with tears - I'm not too proud to admit that the first rejection I received unmanned me completely (not terribly difficult, as I'm female) - and ended with me peeing my pants.  The result: a decade later I'm dehydrated.

So - why Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire? 

Because I'm writing fiction... and essentially that means I'm asking my readers to invest their time in fake stories about people who don't exist.  I'm a liar, and hopefully a good one.  Sure, *whips out the English and Religion degrees from behind her back* I'm tapping into the collective subconscious to reveal a deeper truth, but hopefully you don't feel that tap. 

Follow me, and I do promise I'll lead you somewhere strange and awesome!

Leave me a message, email me, and come back to the blog, which is sooooo a work in progress.  I've got some agent interviews lined up already, posts planned about the writing process, a really random contest in the works... and whatever else occurs to me.