Tuesday, March 26, 2013

All About the Query

If you want to go the trad pub route you're gonna want to sell your baby. No, not your human baby (makes shifty eyes), your WIP baby. And before your baby ever appears in print, on the shelves, or on the web you'll need to get the interest of an Agent. All of that to say: You must query.

And not just any query letter will do. You must stand out among the slush. And there's a lot of slush out there. Some Agents report getting upwards of 150 queries a day.

Since you're thinking about querying you probably already know that it's one of the most dreaded parts of the publishing journey. Tying to summarize your 80k words in three little paragraphs seems impossible. You might even feel like going off the deep end, like Darkwing Duck here:

Before you thrash your WIP with a cuppa joe, there is a TON of great advice on the interweb for aspiring writers.

Including general advice, formulas, and insightt into the query letter (including Query Mad Lib), by the brilliant author and former agent, Nathan Bransford.

Advice on Perfecting the Query by Lynette Labelle.

You can even find Examples of Successful Query Letters from GalleyCat.

Or even 6 Ways to Ruin your Query letter.

So now that you're educated on the purpose of the Query letter it's time to plan your approach. Rumor has it that most people give up too soon. I've read somewhere that Beth Revis, author of the Across the Universe series said she queried 100 agents for each of her 9 WIP's before she got an agent on her 10th MS. That's more than 900 rejections.

Remember that post I did a while back about taking criticism? Could you have taken 900 rejections and kept on fighting? You better think long and hard about it because this industry is not for the faint of heart.

If you are ready to query your baby take the time to prepare your list of 100 Agents. You can use Twitter, Publishers Marketplace, or Query Tracker to find agents that rep your genre. Do yourself, and the busy Agents of the world, a favor - only query those Agents that actually rep your genre.

So you've finished polishing your WIP, writting a kick ass query letter, and researched a boatload of agents. Before you go charging into the breach, dear friends, hold on. Do. Not. Email your query letter to all 100 of your targets at once. Gmail will probably suspend your account and you'll miss the opportunity to revise and correct your letter throughout the process.

My goal is to query beginning next month.*gasps* I can't believe I said that out loud. *hyperventilates* Here are the steps I've taken to prepare my query for submission:

1. Let me CP's weigh in on the letter.
2. Let the freelance editor I hired review the letter.
3. Throw out my letter and start over.
4. Submit my pitch to contests on the web and use the feedback to improve my letter.
5. Submit my letter in a contest to win a query crit from an Agent.
6. Participated in an auction to win a query and first page crit from an Editor.
7. Post my query letter on WriteOnCon forums and use the feedback to improve my letter.
8. Let my CP's weigh in on the new version of the letter.
9. Let my CP's weigh in on Synopsis.
9. Enroll in a Writers Digest Query Webinar and use the feedback to improve my letter.
10. Enroll in a Litreactor class and perfect my letter and first pages.
11. Get membership to Publishers Marketplace to review current market activity.
12. Setup account with Query Tracker to manage my list of targeted agents.
13. Repeat steps 8 and 9.
14. Pass out from exhaustion like this:

Now, by no means do you have to take all of these steps before you query. Just don't jump into the query trenches too soon (and don't give up too soon).

What steps have you taken to prepare your query? What advice did you find helpful?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Conductors: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

In Aubrie Dione's Playing The Maestro, Wolf Braun, the new guest conductor of the Easthampton Civic Symphony comes across as a big time jerk. He’s arrogant, haughty, way too talented for his own good, and makes sour faces when the violinists play out of tune.

Just the prickily, leading man we swoon over. I had the pleasure of reading an early version of this story and I loved it for two reasons: 1. Because I was a band-o growing up so I'll always have a soft spot for stories about music; and 2. Because the Maestro, Wolf Braun, is dreamy.

Those of you who know Audbrie (follow her on Twitter) know that she's a musician. I just had to know:

Are conductors really like that?

Some of them are, and some of them aren’t. To tell you the truth, I’ve played for both. I’ve played for conductors that have stared me down, made my fingers shake, and shouted. And, I’ve played for conductors that smile when they cue me in, encourage me with compliments, and hang out with the orchestra after the concert. Sure, you always want to play for the nice ones, but if you really want to make orchestral playing your career, you have to play for them all.

I have this one memory of a time when I came in to sub for the principal flutist just for a rehearsal last minute. They were playing Night on the Bald Mountain by Modest Mussorgsky. There’s this big flute solo at the end. Well, I played the solo just fine, but I guess I took too much rubato, or slowed the tempo, because when I looked up, the conductor-who-shall-remain-nameless was beet red and pounding his downbeats, staring at me like I was an idiot. Note to self- look up more.

Only when I became a conductor myself did I realize the things that really annoy conductors and how much they really can see up there on the podium- which is A LOT. When I conduct, I can see every single conversation going on, even if I don’t address all of them. I can see the person texting, the one hiding a book up on the stand, the people goofing off in the back, and the one who relies on their stand partner to come in. It’s actually pretty funny. But, it makes me wonder just how much my youth orchestra conductors saw of me!


Thanks for sharing Aubrie, and thank you for stopping by the blog today. I see a lot of similarities between a career in music performance and a career publishing.

To learn more about Aubrie, visit her on twitter or on her blog.

A blog tour wouldn't be complete without a contest. Check this out:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Have you had a good or bad conductor? Share your stories:

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Day Job Can Make You a Better Writer: Villains

It is a truth universally known that a good-girl in possession of a Day Job must be the target of senseless bulling. No matter what stage of life or career there will always be a villain or two lurking in the shadows, plotting your destruction. Like this guy who haunted me during my turn at McD's:

Even if you have a cush DJ at a grocery store you never know when an evil panda might strike, like this:

Most of us don’t have to look far at any Day Job to find pricks, gangsters, and goons. Sometimes you only need to look in the mirror.

Whether your DJ villain is your boss, your know-it-all coworker, or yourself, conflict drives every plot forward. Heck, we wouldn't use conflict to propel our character arcs forward if it didn't ring true-to-life.

So get inspired by real life – even the frustratingly ugly parts. Take it on the chin and then get to work. Whether you slay the dragon in real life or on in your next novel is up to you. As writers, we can use our DJ villain as fodder for the next WIP. We get revenge with pen and paper. Use your DJ angst to fuel your writer-fire. It's a hell of a lot cheaper than professional therapy.

Have you ever based a Protag off of a real life villain? Have you ever used a work conflict in a WIP?

Need more on how our Day Jobs can make us better writers?

Check out this post about taking criticism.

Or this post on Stability and Creativity.

Or this post on Discipline - you gotta have it.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Day Job Can Make You a Stronger Writer: Stability

Day Jobs can be a burden, let's be honest. They can flat out suck. But there are many reasons why a DJ can make you a better, stronger, writer. Whether it's world building or skin-thickening the DJ has it's purpose.

Most recently, I'm happy to report that the DJ is helping me become a better writer because it provides something so simple, so necessary, that it's probably overlooked. STABILITY.

Or as Mel Gibson might say: Freeeeeeeeeedoooooooooooom!

Many writers have said it before me: The DJ is the platform that allows you to write. Most recently, my DJ provided me the opportunity to pay off a great deal of debt. And when I say 'great deal' I don't mean like I got these shoes for a steal at Macy's. No. I mean huge. Stinking. Piles. of debt. School debt, car debt, credit card debt, and the list goes on and on. And it' my DJ that is slowly enabling my family to get one step closer to financial freedom.

So let's raise a glass huge-freaking-goblet of wine and toast to the DJ for the relentless way it kicks us in the ass, pushing us ever forward. Don't know how? Just follow the example set by these two mustachioed gentlemen. *Cheers*

What reasons do you have to be thankful for your Day Job? How has your Day Job helped you become a better writer?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

8 Awesome Writers You Should Follow

I recently had the pleasure of taking a LitReactor class about Writing and Selling YA. The class was lead by none other than Mandy Hubbard. If this sounds like a once in a lifetime experience, you'd be right. I was very lucky to have this opportunity. Not just because Mandy Hubbard is a famous author and agent. I was lucky because the people in class were amazingly talented aspiring writers. Here are 8 writers from that class you should follow:

1. Kat, aka @ekatwrites - She's a writer . teacher . She ♥'s YA & hopes to publish her novel. A member of #scbwi. She has an exceptional voice and her work will definitely be in print some day soon.

2. Ellie Moreton, aka @ByEllieMoreton - She write YA Epic Fantasy, devours books and downs coffee. Follow her blog for more fun and insight into her writing journey.

3.Courtney Duff, aka @courtneysthird - She's a writer and head editor at @parable_press. She's fun if not a bit surly. Her fun tweets will keep a smile on your face.

4. Cherylanne, aka @CA_Corneille - She's a YA Writer, lover of Travel, a runner, an a Geek with a capital G. Originally from the wild west she's now living in sunny Florida where she tweets about her writerly exploits.

5. Colleen M Albert, aka @colleenmalbert - Her name is near and dear to my heart. There aren't many of us Colleen's in the wild. CM Albert is a YA & children's book writer who loves a good villain & is a sucker for everlasting love. She's a Grammar Babe and is very active on Twitter. You can also follow her blog for more fun.

6. JA Ward, aka @JAWardWrites - She's a lover of good books, grilled cheese & anything cat-related. Music connoisseur. YA author seeking an agent soul mate. Contributor to @writerdiaries

7. Steph, aka @pictorialpoet - She's a YA fantasy writer but that's not all. She's a photographer, designer, and code monkey.

8.Megan Peterson, aka @season141 - She's a writer, reader, wife, sister, daughter, and friend; addicted to coffee and pizza. In other words, she's just like you and me.

There are many more classmates who have been a joy. I hope to post them soon.

Do you follow anyone who shares helpful information?
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