Category Archives: Agents

Getting them, having them, loving them

Loving Your Literary Litter

Here’s the truth of it: The manuscript you first write may not be the exact same manuscript that convinces an agent to represent you. The “I-got-an-agent” manuscript may not be precisely the same manuscript that the two of you sell to a publisher. The “I-got-a-book-deal” manuscript will likely not be the manuscript that eventually ends up as a book on a proper shelf in a proper bookstore.

These manuscripts will be similar. Oh, yes. They will be similar.  Many of the words will be the same. The narrative structure might even be the same. Of course, the living, beating heart of the story that gave it a chance in the first place will be the same. But as the manuscript evolves, what initially seemed like one beautiful and stalwart dog…

Golden

becomes more like a litter of puppies. Where-to-get-a-golden-retriever-puppy

I hereby give you permission to love them all. You may love the brand-new one, all sweetly damp with its eyes sealed shut. You may love the one that snores while it sleeps with its tummy full of milk. It might not be the liveliest, but it sure is cute! You may love the one that’s starting to show some personality, that scampers around and nips just a little too hard with its razor-sharp puppy teeth. You may and you should love them all.

But unless you’re going to be some kind of puppy hoarder—which doesn’t serve you or your plentiful puppies—

puppy attack

You get to keep only one. That’s right. One.

You’re not going to make this choice by yourself. Others will be involved. The potential puppy’s vet. The potential puppy’s trainer. They will look at all the puppies in the litter, tumbling about and tearing the place up, and they will help you decide on one.

Wait. We’re not talking about a *real* puppy. We’re talking about YOUR BOOK. The others involved will be your trusty agent and editor.

Secret Agent

But back to puppies.

Bit by bit, the right puppy will emerge. It will distinguish itself from its littermates. It will mature, develop manners, learn not to jump on guests. Its essential sense of self will be cultivated, its strengths enhanced. It will be groomed until it shines like a shiny, shiny show dog.

Groomed

(Dog geek alert: I’m pretty sure this is an English Toy Spaniel. The muzzle looks too pushed-in for a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Feel free to weigh in.)

It will be ready to strut its stuff in front of the whole world and make you proud. Griffon

And your puppy-love will deepen into true love.Jenna Marbles

Remember, none of this happens by accident. Without long walks, lots of attention, some sleepless nights, and consistent discipline, your book-puppy will never become all it’s meant to be.

And it’s meant to be nothing less than a champion.

Best In Show

I look back fondly at my many versions of BABYMOON. They still have all their puppyish charm for me. The earliest is spare yet lyrical. Later ones are more developed, with complete sentences and a more varied rhythm. The final, more nuanced version is quite different from its siblings, and yet it bears a strong resemblance to all of them. I guess you could say it’s the pick of the litter.

Enjoy the day.

Hayley

————————————————————————–

Gravatar

I write for young people and live to make kids laugh. My debut picture book, BABYMOON, is coming from Candlewick Press. Come hang out with me on Twitter @hayleybwrites, Facebook, or in the meadow: http://hayleybarrettwrites.wordpress.com

17 Comments

Filed under Advice, Agents, Colleagues, craft~writing, Creativity, Discipline, Editing and Revising, Editor, Publishers and Editors, rhythms, Uncategorized, Writing, Writing and Life

Taking The Leap

Because of the earth’s orbit and math, we sometimes get an extra day tacked onto February. Leap Day. It’s a sweet bonus, like those yummy after-dinner mints that (too rarely) come with the check. A chance to take a breath and look around. A chance to decide what’s next. Today’s one of those days, and it begs the question, what leap are you going to take in the year ahead?

Jump!

Maybe this year you’ll lift your chin and start to call yourself a writer. Fellow EMU Darcey Rosenblatt has some thoughts on that: http://bit.ly/1Lokayk

Maybe you’ll commit to devoting a chunk of your precious time to starting or upping your word count. You might attend your first conference. Join a critique group. Seek representation. Start submitting manuscripts.

To my knowledge, there is no way to do this work without taking the big, scary, chancy leap at some point. When is that point? I think it’s when your work is as good, as powerful, as irresistible as you can make it. You have to honest with yourself. Outside opinions can be valuable, of course, but what ultimately matters is you. Your inimitable point of view. Your voice. YOU.

As writers, we are the midwives of emotion. We are called to pull the heartstrings, to summon the tears, to tickle the funnybone. Out of words and our own vulnerability, we forge a profound and mysterious bond of togetherness with our readers. We say to them—you are not alone. We both find this funny. We both find that sad. We both see this particular beauty right here and right now.

When you believe you’ve approached that point of connection, that point where you’ve done all you can, you should do it. Take the leap.

Gravatar About Hayley Barrett

I write for young people and live to make kids laugh. My debut picture book, BABYMOON, is coming from Candlewick Press.

 

19 Comments

Filed under Agents, Colleagues, Creativity, Inspiration, Publishers and Editors, Uncategorized, Voice, Writing, Writing and Life

MOM SCHOOL! Interview with Ammi-Joan Paquette

To celebrate the launch of Rebecca Van Slyke’s MOM SCHOOL, we’re starting the week off with a bang. I snagged an interview with the stellar Ammi-Joan Paquette, Rebecca’s agent extraordinaire. Here we go:

Janet: Hi Joan! Since we’re celebrating Rebecca Van Slyke‘s MOM SCHOOL release, I’d like to start with how you met Rebecca.

Joan: Many of my clients come to me via referrals from one of my existing authors, or from other author friends. Rebecca actually came referred to me by three such authors: my clients Trent Reedy and Carol Brendler, and the fabulous Cynthia Leitich Smith, who knows a thing or two about talented writers. I’m so grateful to those who sent her my way!MOM SCHOOL cover

Janet: And MOM SCHOOL isn’t the first book of Rebecca’s you’ve sold, correct?

Joan: MOM SCHOOL was the first book of Rebecca’s which sold—in a two-book deal, actually; its companion title, DAD SCHOOL, is due out this time next year. Shortly after this, another of Rebecca’s picture books got a flurry of interest, and LEXIE THE WORD WRANGLER ended up selling at auction (another two-book deal!) to Nancy Paulsen Books. Another picture book, WHERE DO PANTS GO? is forthcoming from Sterling as well. Busy, busy lady!

Janet: The cover is darling, and Priscilla Burris is an ideal illustrator for the book, in my opinion. Did you have much input on the art side of the sale?

Joan: Nope, this was all the terrific team at Doubleday. I absolutely adore Priscilla Burris, and couldn’t imagine anyone better to bring these wonderful characters to life!

Janet: This is such a great concept – as a kid, I imagined my mom knew everything. Of course she would have gone to school! What’s your favorite of the charming images Rebecca conjures up for “mom study”?

Joan: You really expect me to pick just one? Impossible! I am in love with every bit of this book, from start to finish. 🙂

Janet: There’s a rumor that Rebecca’s secret dream is to become a penguin tamer. Do you have a secret dream that you’d, ahem, like to share?

Joan: I don’t know that I have any dream quite so jazzy as Rebecca’s, but if my secret future could involve an unlimited supply of buttery pastry, chocolate, and never-ending books, I’m not sure I could want for anything else.

And neither could we, especially when those books include something as delightful as MOM SCHOOL!

Find MOM SCHOOL at these retailers: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Indiebound

10 Comments

Filed under Agents, Book Launch, Picture books

Emmanuel’s Dream Launch Party Continues With Agent Ammi-Joan Paquette

We are having a wonderful week as we celebrate the release of Laurie Ann Thompson’s new book, Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah. Laurie has done an amazing job of telling Emmanuel’s inspiring story.cover

Remember to comment on any post this week and you’ll be entered to win a copy of Emmanuel’s Dream.

Ammi-Joan PaquetteToday we are happy to have Laurie’s agent, Ammi-Joan Paquette, on the blog to answer a few questions about working with Laurie.

How did you come to represent Laurie?
AMMI-JOAN PAQUETTE: I first started corresponding with Laurie in 2010, when Erin sent her my way as someone she felt might be an excellent fit for my list and interests. She couldn’t have been  more right! Laurie and I corresponded for a good year, during which time she did some terrific revisions and sent me a number of her projects to consider. The more time that passed, and the more I read, the more I knew that I had to work with her. The combination of passion for her subjects, a strong desire to make a difference, and of course incredible writing talent had me hooked!

What was it about Emanuel’s Dream that caught your attention?
AMMI-JOAN PAQUETTE: EMMANUEL’S DREAM (then under a different title) was actually the first project that Laurie queried me with! At the time I was looking for a non-fiction author to work with, and both this character and his story really compelled me. I was also impressed that when I sent Laurie revision notes, she dug in with zest and really transformed the project.–Not only that, but during this time of revision she actually met with Emmanuel Yeboah in person (and came out of the meeting with 18 pages of notes, which she then used to inform her next draft). EMMANUEL’S DREAM has changed hugely over the course of its polishing, submission, and later still further after acquisition. But the core story is still the same as it first was, and it has only gotten more glorious in the retelling.

Laurie’s book, Be a Changemaker: How to Start Something That Matters, debuted in September. Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah is a changemaker and did start something that matters. Does Laurie have other books on the horizon that highlight people who have changed the world?
AMMI-JOAN PAQUETTE: I guess you’re seeing a trend here, aren’t you? I can’t get into specifics here, but Laurie definitely has other ideas in mind spotlighting people who have changed the world. I love this side of Laurie’s passion and I’m eager to see how these next projects may come together!

We’re eager to see them too, Joan. Thanks for joining us for launch week and sharing about your work with Laurie.

*     *     *
 Remember to comment on any post this week and you’ll be entered to win a copy of Emmanuel’s Dream. Pick up a signed copy at  Secret Garden Bookshop (if you add your personalization request in the comments section, Laurie will sign it for you!) or check out IndieBound for a local bookstore near you. Of course, you can also find it on Amazon.com or BN.com.

8 Comments

Filed under Agents, Book Giveaway, Book Promotion, Celebrations, Launch

EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN: Agent and Editor Interviews!

Evidence of Things Not Seen by Lindsey LaneThis week, we Emus are absolutely thrilled to be celebrating the launch of Lindsey Lane‘s debut young adult novel, EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN! A twisty, turny, super-smart story about a teenager who goes missing and the people in his small Texas town who are affected, EVIDENCE is an unputdownable read that will be out in the world on September 16.

Here’s a more detailed summary:

When high school junior Tommy Smythe goes missing, everyone has a theory about what happened to him. Tommy was adopted, so maybe he ran away to find his birth parents. He was an odd kid, often deeply involved in his own thoughts about particle physics, so maybe he just got distracted and wandered off. He was last seen at a pull-out off the highway, so maybe someone drove up and snatched him. Or maybe he slipped into a parallel universe. Tommy believes that everything is possible, and that until something can be proven false, it is possibly true. So as long as Tommy’s whereabouts are undetermined, he could literally be anywhere.

Told in a series of first-person narratives from people who knew Tommy and third-person chapters about people who find the things Tommy left behind—his red motorbike, his driving goggles, pages from his notebook—Evidence of Things Not Seen explores themes of loneliness, connectedness, and the role we play in creating our own realities

Want a signed ARC of EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN, and a T-shirt? Just leave a comment on any post this week for a chance to win!

We’ll have a new post every day this week, delving into the fascinating world of this book, and today we’re kicking things off with interviews of two very important people: Lindsey’s agent, Erin Murphy, and her editor at Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Joy Peskin.

Interview with Agent Erin Murphy

Erin pictureTara Dairman: EVIDENCE is not your typical YA novel. What about it grabbed your attention when Lindsey queried you with it?

Erin Murphy: Well, first of all, Lindsey herself grabbed me. We’d met a few years earlier, when she was just going into the program at VCFA, and I really liked her then–her energy, her focus–but I felt she should wait to sign with an agent after she was through the program, because it can change a writer so much. When she approached me after she graduated, I appreciated how READY she felt. She sounded sure and steady.

And the manuscript itself–the concept was intriguing, in a could-fall-flat-or-could-blow-the-doors-off kind of way, and it blew my doors off. The different voices carried me away. It had incredible potential, and it was one of those situations where I had complete and utter confidence that the writer could take it to the next level. It certainly helped that while she was waiting for me to read it, Lindsey had time to step away from it herself and come back to it anew–and then she did something completely unorthodox: She read it through and wrote herself an editorial letter, and sent it to me to see if I concurred with her thoughts on what needed work. I did, although I had some thoughts to add to the mix, too. I loved that she did that. It showed me how hard she’s willing to work, how self-motivated she is, and how clearly she can see her own work.

TD: Did the unique structure and premise of EVIDENCE make it easy for you to decide which editors to submit it to, or more difficult?

EM: It made it easy. It went to editors I knew would fight for it despite the unusual form if they fell in love with the writing. (And how could they not fall in love with the writing?) I focused on editors who were known for taking chances to good effect, and who were well established. I think if new-ish editors had gotten a manuscript like this, it would have been harder for their team to trust them to have a vision for it–although if we hadn’t seen success on the first round, I would have definitely broadened my thinking about that. Joy Peskin at FSG read it quickly and fell in love with and had a strong vision for it, and worked fast to put together a preempt so we’d take it off the table elsewhere. She and Lindsey spoke and hit it off so well that it felt like we’d found the best possible home for the project, so we accepted the offer. I had thought that because of the unusual structure, we might find just one editor who was interested–the right editor, the one person who really got it. But it turned out that if we hadn’t taken the preempt, we would have had quite a lot of interest from others, too. Editors really are looking for something they’ve never seen before, something completely fresh and new.

 

joy peskin photo may 2013Interview with Editor Joy Peskin

TD: Most novels have one or two protagonists, but in EVIDENCE, there’s a new protagonist in every chapter. How did this affect the editorial process?

Joy Peskin: That’s a good question. Lindsey’s skill with the range of protagonists is one key thing that drew me to this book. Oftentimes, authors struggle to give multiple narrators (even just two!) distinct voices. But Lindsey was able to create this wide cast of characters and each voice was immediately different. I never got one character confused with another. One thing we did work on in the editorial process was lengthening the book, because when it came in it was a little short. And the way we did that was to weave in a few all-new characters and also to elaborate on some of the stories of the existing characters.

For example, in the original draft of the manuscript, the chapter called “Ritual” didn’t exist. The main character in that chapter, Tara, showed up in the chapter called “Lost,” but she played a minor role. Lindsey decided to give Tara her own chapter, and to tell more of her story, and we ended up with one of the most powerful chapters in the book. So the wide range of characters gave us a unique way to extend a manuscript. Instead of telling more of the story overall, we looked for supporting characters who demanded more of a starring role.

TD: One of the most striking aspects of EVIDENCE, to me, is that some chapters are in first person, while others are in third. Was that something that changed during the editorial process? How did you and Lindsey decide which POV was the right one for each chapter?

JP: Lindsey decided to put each chapter that comes from someone who actually knew Tommy in first person—his classmates, friends, parents, etc.—and to put each chapter that comes from someone who finds something Tommy left behind in third person. I think that worked out really well. I imagine the first person chapters almost like monologues, which makes sense because Lindsey is a playwright. I also imagine that the characters in these chapters are talking to an investigator who is off the page. And the third person chapters are almost like short stories. You may begin reading one and think, “Wait, what does this person’s story have to do with Tommy?” But then you keep reading and see the character find something that belonged to Tommy, and it makes you think about the seemingly random ways our lives overlap. As Tommy wrote, “We leave pieces of ourselves everywhere,” and part of the thrill of reading this book is seeing who found all the pieces Tommy left behind.

TD: What do you think really happened to Tommy?

JP: I hate to say it, but I think something bad happened to Tommy. Maybe he was abducted? It actually really bothers me to say that, because I like Tommy so much, and I wish I could say that he slipped through a wormhole into another dimension. But in my heart of hearts, I don’t think it’s possible.

 ***

Thank you so much, Erin and Joy, for taking the time to give us all some behind-the-scenes insight into this incredible book. And congratulations, Lindsey, on your debut!

You can get your own copy of EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN from your local independent bookstore (find one here), or order it from your favorite national or online retailer such as FSG, BookPeoplePowell’sB&N, or Amazon.

Please comment here–or on any post this week–to be entered to win a T-shirt and a signed ARC of EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN by Lindsey Lane!

16 Comments

Filed under Agents, Book Promotion, Editing and Revising, Interviews, Launch, Publishers and Editors

Hold on Tight and Enjoy the Ride . . . or Why I Love my Agent

large coaster

Imagine yourself on a roller coaster—not some wimpy one with a few repetitive twists and turns, but an unpredictable, double-looped, eighty-mile-an-hour roller coaster. Having fun yet? Great!

Now . . . remove all safety devices. Lap belt, gone. Shoulder bars, gone. In fact, you don’t even have handles to hold on to.

I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t like that ride.

flying coaster peopleI’m convinced that this is what my publishing experience would feel like without my agent. She keeps my head, arms, hands, feet, and legs inside the vehicle at all times. She does all she can to make the ride an enjoyable one. Sure, I might scream my lungs out sometimes and think I’ll never make it off this crazy ride alive, but in the end, I’ll jump out of the cart and race back to the end of the line to do it all over again.

But only because I feel like my agent will keep me from serious harm.

Yep, I’m a play it safe sort of girl. I love the thrill of a fast, bumpy ride, but I want to know that in the end, it will be all right. Having an agent is about even more than that though.

Through a series of fortunate and unusual events, I was able to get an offer for my debut novel without an agent. But I took the advice of several wise friends who told me I should try to acquire one anyway, and thank heaven I listened!

My agent not only negotiated better terms for my contract, but she was also able to explain what the contract terms even meant. I would’ve had no idea what I was signing without her. Boilerplate contracts don’t have to be predatory—though some of them are, so author beware—to make you regret the terms later. A good agent protects you from agreeing to unreasonable clauses. He or she will also work to make sure your terms are the very best they can be.

initial hereAnd even after my contract was agreed upon via email and phone calls, my agent went back through it word by word to ensure that everything that had been discussed was carried through. I could barely comprehend what the papers were saying to begin with, so I certainly wouldn’t have known if the contract had been amended correctly or not. I would’ve just signed it (because, OMG! I have a contract from a major publisher in my hands!!!).

Once the editing process began, I loved having my agent copied on the emails. I’ve been lucky because my editor shared my same vision for the novel, but I know—for sure—that my agent would have had my back if I had needed to fight for something in my novel that my editor and I strongly disagreed over. And if the novel would’ve been better my editor’s way, my agent would’ve been a second voice to guide me in my editor’s direction. And it would’ve been a lot easier for me to make a significant change.

Also, just weeks after turning in my revision based on editorial notes, my editor left for another house. I was heartbroken. I was afraid of being “orphaned.” But both my agent and my new editor made it an easy transition, preventing my novel from slipping through the cracks. I’ve been very well taken care of.

Had I not been . . . guess who would’ve made the important phone call to The Boss? Not me, that’s for sure, because I have a difficult time going after what I want. But my agent would’ve been all over that like ants on a watermelon.

It’s also a comfort to know that my agent is copied on all of my emails involving the sales and marketing side of publishing. For example, she watched over and participated in the creation of my cover and jacket copy. There was a lot of back and forth about both of these important steps, and she was there for all of it.

She’s also told me when it was time to ease off and trust my editor and publisher with particular tasks. She’s told me when I should feel comfortable asking for a bit more support. I trust her implicitly.

She also trusts me. She lets me make the final decisions. She recognizes that this is my career, and my dream, and my name going on the cover of my books. She’s my biggest cheerleader and champion.

Another thing I love is that she doesn’t push me to just “pump out books.” She recognizes that there are other important facets in my life that I often need to pay more attention to (my three kids, in particular). I’m also not the most productive author in the world because I’m an incredibly cautious writer. I need a story to truly feel right to me before I share it with anyone else. That’s just how I work. But my agent doesn’t see me as just another cash cow on her bestseller-producing ranch, and that allows me to give the best of myself, not just the most of myself (which hopefully won’t end up in the dairy section).

I know this sounds like the most shameless commercial ever for my agent Erin Murphy, because she really is the best agent on this entire planet, but last I heard, she isn’t taking on new clients for a while. My actual purpose for writing this is to give those of you who are questioning whether or not you should pursue an agent, a very strong nudge in that direction (check out the fabulous agents at EMLA first! All three of them are the best possible agents any writer could dream up. Now that’s a shameless commercial).

I used to think that having an agent was all about negotiating a deal—which just about any agent can manage—but I now understand that it’s much more about having someone by my side during the entire publishing process.

My best tip for seeking out an awesome agent of your own is to research them like crazy. Get to know their personalities through social media, check out the types of books they represent—do you like them too? And above all things, listen to how other authors talk about their agents. (By far the most common thing I hear published authors complain about is their agent’s lack of enthusiasm or interest in them. Emails aren’t answered, concerns aren’t addressed, and personalities clash.) Pay close attention when authors are raving about their agents in more private situations. Get the name of their agent and begin your research! There are a lot of great agents out there, and one of them surely has YOU on their wish list. Get to know them, and then submit when you feel you’ve found a good fit.

Then hold on tight and enjoy the ride!

 

(PS. In a future post, I’ll tell you why EDITORS are so important, and in particular, why MY editor is beyond amazing. How lucky can a debut author get, huh? I love my team!)

_________________________________

IMG_0723-2Amy Finnegan writes her own stories because she enjoys falling in love over and over again, and thinks everyone deserves a happy ending. She likes to travel the world—usually to locations where her favorite books take place—and owes her unquenchable thirst for reading to Jane Austen and J.K. Rowling. Her debut novel, NOT IN THE SCRIPT, came about after hearing several years of behind-the-scenes stories from her industry veteran brother. She’s also been lucky enough to visit dozens of film sets and sit in on major productions such as Parks and Recreation and Parenthood. You can follow Amy on Twitter @ajfinnegan, or Facebook (Amy Finnegan, Author).

21 Comments

Filed under Advice, Agents

No’s Job, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Rejection

     “Dear Author,
Thank you for your recent submission to XYZ Publishing Company. I regret to inform you that …”

Does this letter look familiar to you? If you’ve ever tried to submit a manuscript for publication, chances are you’ve gotten a response similar to this at some time in your writing career. I remember the first one I ever got. I was in college, and my professor had suggested that I submit the dummy that I had done for his literature class to his publisher. Finally- FINALLY- I would be a published author! And at such a young age!

I sent it in. I waited. After a week, every time I went to the mailbox I was sure that this would be the day I would get my SASE back with a contract in the mail. I began to think about changing my major from teaching to writing.

After a few more days (okay, six months), my SASE came back! I pulled out my manuscript dummy and… a tiny postcard that began, “Dear Author…” I was crushed. I cried. I sent it out again in a massive simultaneous submission to every publisher that did picture books.
I got a massive simultaneous rejection.

But I kept writing. I kept learning. I joined SCBWI. I went to conferences, joined a critique group, and took classes. I kept submitting, but I submitted smarter. (Turns out that some publishers only publish certain kinds of books! Who knew?)

I got a LOT more rejection letters.

But. While each rejection letter still felt like, well, a rejection, I noticed that after a while they changed. I was getting some letters that began, “Dear Ms. Van Slyke.” There would be a reference to my actual manuscript, like they had read it. And sometimes the editor would tell me why it wasn’t a good fit for them.

I started to look for an agent. And- oh, goody!- NEW rejection letters came pouring in!
I eventually did get an agent. Unfortunately, it was, shall we say, not a happy match. The rejection letters stopped coming to me. But, as I later learned, that was most likely because no manuscripts were going out. I came to the decision that an unproductive agent was worse than no agent, so we parted ways.

Fortunately, I did get another agent, and manuscripts began going out again. As proof, I started getting rejection letters again. By this time, though, either because my writing had improved or (more likely) my agent was matching them more closely to the right editor, the rejections were very specific. And they started coming with offers to look at more of my writing, or even to look at a manuscript again after a few changes.

Now, after a few sales, I’m still getting rejection letters. LOTS of rejection letters. But I look at them differently now. Instead of focusing on the “No,” I look for themes. Does a manuscript get rejected because it’s weak or because the publisher already has a pirate book on their list? Do I see several of the same comments on the same manuscript? Perhaps it’s time to try another revision based on that feedback.

Most of all, though, rejection letters mean that I’m doing my job: writing. Submitting. Revising. Submitting again. Writing new manuscripts.

Because sometimes instead of a no, there will be a “Yes.”

14 Comments

Filed under Advice, Agents, Anxiety, Editing and Revising, Editor, Education, Panic, Patience, Publishers and Editors, Rejection, rejection and success, Uncategorized

The 12 Days of a Book Contract (Fa la la)

sled_stop_at_snowman_1922

Well, tinsel my snowflakes, friends, it’s that time of year and I am deep in the trenches of the holiday concert season. It always tends to go something like, “Yay!!! Holiday music!!!” then, “Yay. Holiday music,” then, “OK, how many performances do I have left?” then, “SING FROSTY AT ME ONE MORE TIME AND I WILL CUT YOUR FACE.”

Luckily, it’s only the first week of December, so I have plenty of festive cheer and good will toward men and Emus left in the tanks. This blog attempts to capture that special, fleeting time between contract and launch — much like those 30 magical seconds between Thanksgiving and Black Friday — and in the spirit of the season, I’ve decided to reflect on the gifts large and small that a book contract has offered me. Sing along at home!

bells_with_red_ribbon

On the First Day of Signing, My Contract Gave to Me . . .

1. Excitement!!!

YAY!! Like, you guys!! MY BOOK! It’s going to be a BOOK! Like for realz!! OMG SO HAPPY!! I have never, ever been this happy about anything ever.

myhead

On the Second Day of Signing, My Contract Gave to Me . . .

2. Deadlines

Wait, I had my entire life to write this book in the first place, and now I have to revise it and write a whole other one? By a date?

On the Third Day of Signing, My Contract Gave to Me . . .

3. Money

me&ferrari

I have some friends who are professional folk singers, and they say, “You want to know the secret to making a million dollars in folk music? Start with two.” Writing is like that. No one should go into writing for the money. But when you’re Ramen noodle poor (. . . or would that be Ramen noodle rich?), a little advance money goes a long way. More importantly, it’s a major psychological boost to have someone say, “I like what you’re doing so much I’m going to give you money to keep doing it.”

We as consumers have the power to say this, too, by buying books or recordings or art. Pretty awesome.

On the Fourth Day of Signing, My Contract Gave to Me . . .

4. Crippling anxiety

So, yeah. Surprise! I’ve always had a penchant for hyperventilating in Wal-Mart, but lately any amount of drama or the slightest hint of conflict has sent my brain into overdrive and curled me up into a shifty-eyed ball. Don’t get me wrong — in my shriveled, black heart, I am still deliriously happy about selling a book. But some days I just want to shove the whole thing back into my head and hide it under a squishy pink lobe where no one will ever see it, ever. Then no one will be able to give it bad reviews or say mean things about it on Amazon.

What’s worse is that there’s no escaping it. Every book ever written has been on the receiving end of bad reviews and mean comments, especially in the cold, prickly expanse of Internet. Joyce’s Ulysses has 3.73 stars out of 5 on Goodreads right now. Really. Go look, I’ll wait.

Right? 2,924 people to date have given this book one star. One reviewer claims it “ruined a week at the beach.” Ruined a week at the beach.

horror

There’s nothing wrong with 3.73 stars or 4.9 stars or 2.14 stars or .08 stars. As my mom says, nothing people say about a book changes even one word of that book. But the fact that I know the hate mail is coming has made my circuits go haywire. 

On the Fifth Day of Signing, My Contract Gave to Me . . .

5. Red Bull

photo-23

Why did I take this picture?

On the Sixth Day of Signing, My Contract Gave to Me . . .

6. Fantasy Math

I’ve never done so much math, and I used to teach math. Little fantasy maths here and there. How much money I would make if my book sold 10,000 copies. 100,000 copies. A million copies. How much money my publisher would be in the hole if my book didn’t sell any copies at all. How many words I need to write every day between Now and Then in order to have This Many Words. How many words I’ve averaged per day since This Date. How much more disposable income I would have if I ate the cats.

IMG_0290

Think of what I’d save on exorcisms alone.

On the Seventh Day of Signing, My Contract Gave to Me . . .

7. Blog interviews

As Tolstoy famously said, “The writing community rocks the house.” I’m so excited to be bouncing around to different blogs, keeping up with other writers and spreading the word about my own upcoming release. It’s super crazy fun, and writers are awesome. The strangest interview I’ve done so far was on a blog where the questions are standard, so even though it’s technically the blog interviewing you, you’re kind of interviewing yourself, and in mine you can totally tell. It’s a bit amusing and informative and lonely and weird all at the same time.

On the Eighth Day of Signing, My Contract Gave to Me . . .

8. Sudden Limitless Capacity for Strong Opinions About Minutiae

It’s funny, my editor came to me with a couple kinda big things copyedit-wise, like the name of my protagonist, and I didn’t really care. But HOLY CATS, when my ellipses came under fire, I was ready to take a red pen to the freaking Supreme Court. And don’t you look sideways at that comma on page 9 or I will mess you up.

On the Ninth Day of Signing, My Contract Gave to Me . . .

9. Hygiene

The best thing about writing is that it doesn’t have to involve leaving the house, or even the bed. It doesn’t require socks, showers, feeding yourself, or ever changing out of your purple polar bear pajamas. Did I say, “the best thing”? Maybe I just meant, “the thing.” Anyway, I’ve been making more of an effort lately to be presentable, because it’s not just me I’m representing at launches and conferences and workshops, it’s partially The Book as well, and The Book is made up of a lot of people. Some of whom are attractive and sophisticated.

photo-24

The Book sings Disney duets at karaoke night instead of “It’s Raining Men” because Classy.

On the Tenth Day of Signing, My Contract Gave to Me . . .

10. Fear

The topic of Fear is a popular one here and elsewhere in the writeosphere, so I know you know where I’m coming from, my friends. The unknown is one of the scariest things there is, and getting a book deal (not to mention just writing in general) is like being handed a big fat bag of unknown. Some of the unknown is good, like excitement and anticipation. But the remainder is fear, of disappointing readers, letting my awesome publisher down, failing my awesome agent Joan, screwing up so badly that I destroy my career and possibly the future of publishing in general. We don’t need to dwell on this, but it may be helpful to hear it again. Yep. Writing is scary.

On the Eleventh Day of Signing, My Contract Gave to Me . . .

11. Shorter Conversations About What I Do

Writers write. It’s a pretty easy definition that doesn’t include the word “contract” anywhere at all, and I’ve already written a whole post about this on here. So this one isn’t fair, but there it is. I’ve found that it’s much easier to get to the end of the, “So, what do you do?” conversation if you can say you have a book coming out. The world appears to understand that.

On the Twelfth Day of Signing, My Contract Gave to Me . . .

12. New Friends

As we’ve established, the writing community rocks.

Tolstoy

“Launch party at my place. Gonna be epic. Bring your beards!”

Especially, dare I say, the kidlit/YA lit community. Seriously, guys. Everyone is all so nuts and fragile and worried and strange and delightful, and it’s the support of this huge extended writer family that gets me from one sentence to the next. Agent Joan is a total rockstar. St. Martin’s Press is a marvelous place to grow a book. And, of course, I am particularly fond of my fellow Emus, pictured here at an impromptu gathering at an SCBWI conference:

Emus,_Wilsons_Promontory_National_Park

We are a sexy, sexy bunch.

Fa-la-la-la laaaaaaa, la-la, la, laaaaaaaa! 

snowflake_gold

When I was soliciting ideas for this post at my parents’ tree decorating yesterday, my mom’s two glasses of wine shouted, “Remainders!” and then giggled uncontrollably. NOT YET, MOTHER. IT HAS TO COME OUT FIRST.

What about you? What gifts, welcome or otherwise, has the writing life given you? 

____________________________________________________

About Me

30 Comments

Filed under Agents, Anxiety, Blogging, Book Promotion, Celebrations, Colleagues, Guilt, Happiness, Helpful or Otherwise, rejection and success, Reviews, Writing and Life

The Secret Formula for Getting Published

secretformulaYears before I was even offered a contract, new writers started asking me if I would tell them how to get published. Some have asked if I would connect them to an agent or an editor. Others have wanted to know how to write a surefire query letter.

These are the same questions I asked established writers when I was new, and every question is a good one. Every one of them is important if a writer wants to eventually work with a respected, traditional publisher. But—trust me—if I knew a quick-and-easy secret formula, I would’ve used it a long time ago.

If there *were* a step-by-step process, however, it might look a lot like this:

1. Blood

2. Sweat

3. Tears

4. Repeat

But since we’re talking about the Children’s market, rather than the Stephen King method of getting published, perhaps I should use the ABCs to impart the best advice I have to offer:

A: Attend Conferences and Workshops

You don’t need to attend conferences and workshops, but I’m telling you, I would’ve never been published if I hadn’t made the investment in a good education. And I’m not talking about my college English classes.

Writing and selling a manuscript is tough stuff. The good news is that many brilliant authors have done it before you, and especially in the Children’s/Young Adult market, they are more than willing to share their knowledge and experience. At conferences, you get the opportunity to learn from their presentations, ask them questions, and even benefit from their critiques of your work.

Editors and agents are often in attendance as well. Not only does this give you an opportunity to get a feel for what type of manuscripts they’re looking for, but in most cases, you’re then given the okay to submit to them directly. And this is a big deal. Every major publishing house I know of is closed to open submissions, meaning that you need a reputable agent to submit the manuscript on your behalf. And more and more agencies are closing their doors to open submissions, too . . . which means you need to have an “in” with them as well.

So how do you get that “in?” By attending a conference where that agent or editor is presenting.

As far as conference costs are concerned, it’s important to do some serious research. There are workshops aplenty—many of them very beneficial—that are less than $100. And there are also several that are over $1000. Some are even $2500 and beyond. Personally, I’ve never seen a workshop in this later category that looks worth the price (in fact, I think the majority of these highly-priced workshops are predatory). So definitely look into the details, find some conferences or workshops that meet your needs, and decide if the price seems reasonable.

For the Children’s market, you’ll find an excellent array of upcoming events at www.SCBWI.org. And my personal favorite week-long conference—for cost, improving craft, networking, and its impressive track record for connecting writers with their future agents or editors—is called Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers. You can find more info about it at www.wifyr.com  (I’m not paid for recruiting, I swear! I’ve just attended it several times and love it).

B: Be Active in the Writing Community

Form genuine relationships with people who can both formally and informally mentor you. Learn as much as you can about the business from them. BUT keep in mind that it generally makes an author uncomfortable when you ask them to hook you up with their agent/editor. If you are genuine friends with an author, then he or she has likely read some of your work, so if they feel it’s a good fit for their agent/editor, they will likely tell you. Otherwise, do your due diligence, just as they did, and query the editor or agent yourself.

Where do you start if you want to get more involved in the community? Thanks to the internet, the world has become a very small place. Technically, there’s no need to even travel away from your laptop when it comes to making new friends, so get out there and make some. Start following writing blogs, Twitter feeds, and Facebook pages, especially those by successful authors. Then just . . . absorb. Listen in, and eventually jump into conversations.

Another critical step for a beginner is to find a critique group. And make sure you connect with writers who write for your same genre, or your experience will likely go sour. For example, if you write picture books, then join a group with PB writers only. Even the best novel writer in the world could steer you wrong with their advice for writing a picture book (which are totally different animals!) And vise versa. It takes some effort, but if you seek out like minds, you will eventually find them. And don’t be afraid to leave a critique group if it’s just bringing you down—killing your confidence. Critiques are usually beneficial, but what’s the point if you’re not being productive? Sometimes a writer just needs to step back and take some time to sort things out on his or her own. But keep in mind that if you continue to hear similar comments that particular issues aren’t quite working in your manuscript, then they aren’t quite working. Editors and agents will see these same problems as well, so figure out how to make the issues work, then revise the manuscript. (Like I said: Blood, Sweat, Tears, Repeat.)

Let’s go back to conferences and workshops because they’re the best way I know to do some critical networking. Some people claim that it’s who you know in this business that can get you a book deal, and guess what? They’re often right. But it might not be what you’re thinking. It’s more like who you know, and what they can teach you. Or . . . who they know, and what they tell others about your manuscript.

I landed my first major book deal last May, and it was the direct result of one Important Person in the industry—who had read my entire manuscript—telling another Important Person (during a typical morning commute in NYC) that she felt my manuscript might be a good fit for Bloomsbury. And it was. So very good things can come from simple networking, which often results in forming genuine friendships.

C: Create a Quality Manuscript

Attending conferences, networking with other writers, and joining a critique group will also teach you a lot about craft. And nothing you do will be as important as writing a quality manuscript.

For new writers, especially, it’s easy to get caught up in the logistics of selling a book (how to write a query letter, how to get connected with agents and editors, etc). But no matter how well you know the publishing business, it won’t mean a thing if you don’t know the craft of writing.

And . . . no pressure . . . but you have to know it well enough to stand out in a sea of millions of others who want a contract just as much as you do.

This will never happen if you’re only doing networking, or seeking opportunities to meet editors and agents, and certainly not if you spend the majority of your time dreaming about how you’ll spend the money from your first book deal. Writing a quality, deliciously-marketable manuscript—that an editor won’t be able to pass up—only happens when you:

1) HAVE YOUR BUTT IN A SEAT

2) YOUR FINGERS ON A KEYBOARD

3) YOUR MIND ON THE STORY

That’s the real Secret Formula, my friends. Now, stop reading this and get to work! You have a book to sell!

_________________________________

IMG_0723-2Amy Finnegan writes Young Adult novels and is a host at BookshopTalk.com. Her debut novel, NOT IN THE SCRIPT, will be published by Bloomsbury, Fall 2014. You can follow Amy on Twitter @ajfinnegan, and Facebook (Amy Finnegan, Author). She is represented by Erin Murphy.

20 Comments

Filed under Advice, Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Agents, craft~writing, Editing and Revising, Editor, Education, Publishers and Editors, Writing, Writing and Life

Waiting by Rebecca Van Slyke

Waiting

Lord, please grant me patience. And I want it RIGHT NOW!

 

Last month I wrote about getting The Call. As with most deals, I had to wait until it was official to be able to share my joy with my family and friends. When I could finally announce something, I got the same reaction over and over: “That’s WONDERFUL! You certainly have waited a long time for this to happen!”

Yes.

Yes I have.

I’ve been waiting to be a “real author” for a long time. When I was four years old, I discovered that books were made by real people. I wanted to be one of those magical people called “authors” and “illustrators.” So I wrote stories on my Big Chief notebook and drew pictures on typewriter paper.

Skipping ahead to college, I took an educational literacy class where the professor offered us this choice: write a research paper, or write a children’s book. That was a no-brainer for me. I spent happy hours writing and illustrating a picture book. The professor liked it so well that he gave me an A… and passed the book along to his publisher. Unfortunately, they did not publish picture books, but it was all the encouragement I needed. The next thirty-mumble years were spent sending manuscripts out. I started with the first story, but gradually added others. I made mistakes. Lots of mistakes. I joined SCBWI. I learned. I wrote. I sent out new manuscripts. I read. I went to conferences, to classes, to lectures. I learned more. And I waited. Every time I sent out a manuscript I knew that this could be the time.  And it wasn’t. Again and again it wasn’t.

I just went back and re-read this last paragraph and realize how pathetic it sounds. Good gravy, what was wrong with me? Why didn’t I give up? Thirty years without a nibble? That right there is some special kind of stupid.

Except I was making progress, I could tell. I finally took the plunge and decided to do more than take an occasional class. By now I was a teacher, and I did what teachers do. I went back to school. I got a master’s degree in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. That led to getting an agent. Now I was guaranteed to get an offer.

But the offers didn’t materialize. I watched classmates sell a book. Or several books. I had several near-yesses. I tried not to be jealous. I kept writing. I kept waiting.

A quote from Anne Lamott’s book, BIRD BY BIRD helped:

“I heard a preacher say recently that hope is a revolutionary patience; let me add that so is being a writer. Hope begins in the dark; the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.”

You wait and watch and work. You don’t give up.

So while I waited, I watched and I worked. I cheered on my published friends. I became more involved in my regional chapter of SCBWI. I started giving talks on writing. I critiqued. I mentored. I didn’t give up.  And the dawn DID come. I switched agents, and, after still more waiting, I got The Call in June.

So now that the excitement has settled down, what am I doing? Waiting. Waiting on revision notes, decisions on illustrators, opinions and decisions on new projects.

I have several friends who are waiting to get The Call. They’re close, I can tell. I know because they’re showing up. They’re waiting, and watching, and working.

Some of you reading this are in “waiting for The Call” mode. I need to tell you not to quit. Keep waiting, but while you’re waiting, keep watching for the next opportunity. Will it be a class? A conference? A chance to help someone else on the journey? Keep working to improve your craft. Write. Read strong literature. Illustrate. Study. Read craft books. Show up. And never, never, NEVER quit. Because The Call could be waiting just around the corner for you, too.

11 Comments

Filed under Advice, Agents, Anxiety, Education, jealousy, Rejection, rejection and success, Thankfulness, The Call