Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Agents’

After waffling back and forth for ages over whether or not to include information about my books on this blog, I decided to go ahead and take the plunge.  You will now see a shiny new page on the blog called “Books.”  On this page, I included the titles and pitches of my two completed children’s books.  For one of the books, I included the first two stanzas.  I was hesitant to include part of the text, but because that book is rhyming and agents so often say they don’t want to see rhyming manuscripts (read: bad rhyme), I wanted to demonstrate that I do in fact know how to rhyme well.

There are three main reasons I took this step:

  1. These two books are completed.  They have been written, revised and revised and revised, vetted by countless fellow writers, published authors and even editors and agents.  I am actively seeking representation for them, and you never know who might wander over to the blog one day and take a look.  I know it’s unlikely, but it could happen.  Plus, my pitches have been polished to a shine thanks to WriteOnCon.
  2. I want to show that I am a serious writer.  I don’t just write about writing, I actually write.  Sometimes I even finish things.  🙂
  3. It makes me feel more like a “real” writer.  Real writers have information about their writing on their websites.  A LOT of work went into these books, and I am proud of the finished products.  Therefore, I want to share them.  Just like real writers.

In addition, I revised my “About Julie” page.  My focus has changed since I started writing the blog, and after reading umpteen posts about how important the ABOUT page is, I decided to dust mine off.  I’ve made a mental note to check it every quarter or so.  Things do change, and that page should reflect the most current me it can.  If you have time, check it out and let me know what you think.

Where do you stand on the “To Writing Sample or Not To Writing Sample” debate?  There are good reasons for both, so I’m curious to know how other writers have made their decisions on the subject.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

*ETA – This list is a compilation of my thoughts after reading loads of articles and dozens of draft queries in different venues (including critiques of my own queries).  It is NOT based on any one particular query I may have seen in a particular venue.  🙂

That’s right.  I couldn’t stop at ten, so fifteen it is.

I’ve been thinking nonstop about queries lately, both because of WriteOnCon and because I am at that stage with a couple of my manuscripts. After reading many “how-to” articles and draft queries on countless blogs, forums and writing boards, I’ve come up with my own list of don’ts.  Some of these are common sense and you’ve probably seen them elsewhere.  Some of them are my own.  Keep in mind that querying is personal and subjective.  You may disagree with some of these or be able to point to examples of queries that led to contracts even though they made use of a “don’t” on this list.  That’s fine.  Always trust your gut.  These are the ones that work for me.

  1. DON’T misspell the name of the agent/editor.  Most agents say a misspelled name is not a deal-breaker for them, especially if their names have an unusual spelling.  Still, I say no excuses here.  Check, re-check and check again.  This information is readily available online.  You only have one shot to impress this person, and misspelling his or her name is not the way to do it.
  2. DON’T make any spelling, grammar or punctuation mistakes. Unlike #1, most agents are not as forgiving about careless mistakes.  If you make them in a one-page letter, they’ll assume you’ve made them in your manuscript too.  These people work long, long hours and read thousands of queries every year.  They are looking for a reason to reject you.  Don’t hand it to them on a silver platter.
  3. DON’T mention the fact that you are unpublished (if applicable).  They’ll assume you’re not if you don’t include pub creds in your bio.  If they love your writing, it won’t matter to them.  So why point it out?  Instead, focus on the credentials you do have that relate to your writing (writing associations, critique groups, awards, etc.)
  4. DON’T say “so and so” was the inspiration for this story unless it is a nonfiction biography.  The reason?  They don’t really care that your daughter said this cute thing one day and the rest is history.  They care about the story.  You’re wasting precious real-estate in your query letter to convey something that isn’t important to them.
  5. Likewise, DON’T mention anyone who loved your book unless that person or organization is highly respected and well-known in the industry.  Of course your kids love your book.  So might your second-grade class.  And your mom.  Unfortunately they don’t make publishing decisions, so their opinions don’t count for much (sorry!).  On the other hand, if you’ve written a book of poems for kids and Maya Angelou loves it and is willing to go on record and help promote it, then by all means…
  6. DON’T say how long you’ve been working on the manuscript.  Doing so is almost certain to hurt you either way.  If you admit it’s been ten years, an agent will wonder why it took so darned long and if you will ever be able to write a book again.  If you say it took ten days, they may assume you haven’t taken it as seriously as you should or you are querying prematurely.
  7. DON’T send gifts of any kind with the query letter.  Seriously.  Just don’t.  It’s creepy and it will make you stand out in all the wrong ways.
  8. Don’t say your story will be an instant best-seller or make any other promise that you don’t know for certain you can make good on.  Not only with the agent/editor not believe you, they probably won’t believe anything else you say about your manuscript either.
  9. Don’t say your book is awesome/thrilling/a page-turner.  This is similar to #8, but more nuanced.  Here you’re not making a claim about potential sales, but you’re breaking another cardinal rule of writing – “show, don’t tell.”  Your query needs to show the editor/agent how great your story is.  If you simply tell them it is, they have nothing to base it on but your opinion.  And I hate to say it, but you’re not exactly unbiased are you?
  10. DON’T use the words, “I believe…”  In my previous job, I did tons of persuasive writing, and using the words “I think, I believe, I hope you will find…” is the number one mistake writers make when they are trying to be convincing.  As writers, we are supposed to project confidence.  You want your readers – in this case agents or editors – to trust you.  Make sure they know they are in good hands.  Why should they believe what you say about your story if you’re not even sure yourself?  Luckily, this error is easy to fix.  Before:  “I believe this story is timely because the World Cup will take place in Brazil in 2014, which will spark interest in Brazilian culture.”  After: “This book is timely because the World Cup will take place in Brazil…”  Which one sounds stronger?  I know we’re all trying to be polite and respectful in these query letters, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be sure of yourself when it comes to your story and your writing.
  11. DON’T use a question in your pitch.  I once made this mistake in a query of mine, and when I got a critique from the awesome query-ninja Elana Johnson, she called it “weaksauce.”  When I asked why, she said something to the effect of, “People will either know the answer or not care, or maybe both.”  Example: “Will Prince Fancy Pants slay the dragon and make it back to the castle in time to save the princess before the hourglass runs out?”  Answer: “Yeah probably, but now I know how the story ends so why bother reading the book?”  MANY of the agents and editors commented on their distaste for questions as pitches during WriteOnCon, making me eternally grateful that Elana gave me this advice more than a year ago so I could stop making that rookie mistake.
  12. DON’T send form letters or mass mail.  The “Dear Agent” letter doesn’t work and it’s just plain lazy.  If you can’t come up with a reason why you want to query that specific agent, why would even want to be represented by that person?  Another reason to avoid mass mailing is that you also give everybody the opportunity to mass reject you.  Then what?
  13. DON’T discuss your ideas for marketing tie-ins like plush dolls, toys, etc.  Don’t we all wish our writing would lead to a TV/movie/retail franchise?  It’s not going to happen to most of us.  If you spend your precious space in a query letter going over all of your great ideas for just such a campaign, the agent will be left to wonder how important the writing is to you.  Here’s the other thing: the only stories/characters that turn into a franchise are from books that are bestsellers.  See #8 if you’re starting to think it’s a good idea to back up your marketing plans with the statement that your book will be a bestseller.
  14. DON’T lie or stretch the truth.  Just because you met one of your prospective agents’ clients or colleagues at a conference does not mean that person is a reference.  Don’t say, “I got your name from…” or “I was referred to you by…” unless it was crystal clear that person intended to refer you.  Otherwise, you will burn bridges both with the agent and with the author or colleague (because they will follow-up).  Unless a person actually says the words, “You can use my name,” or s/he makes the introduction for you, it is not a referral.  I once wrote a query where I mentioned that I had worked with one of this agent’s clients on the specific manuscript I was querying (true).  That was how I personalized the query.  I also made it very clear that I was not implying a referral.  Although that query was rejected, it came with a personal response and an invitation to query other projects.
  15. DON’T let all the dos and don’ts of querying paralyze you into never sending out any queries.  This is the most important and probably the most difficult “don’t” on the list.  It’s hard enough trying to decide when a manuscript is “finished,” much less add in the stress of writing the perfect query letter.  At some point, you just have to go for it.  I still get butterflies every time I hit the “Send” button on a query, but I also know the work isn’t doing any good sitting on my hard drive.  Sure, if I don’t send any queries, I’ll never get rejected.  But I’ll never get accepted either…

Now for a bonus round.  If you haven’t heard of the Query Shark (Janet Reid from FinePrint Literary), get thyself over to her site at once.  These two titles came from her and gave me a laugh (even though they’re based on actual queries!)

“Don’t quote rejection letters in a query.” Uhh.. okay?  *scratches head in bewilderment*

“Don’t query if you’re dead.”  I will surely try not to.  If I’m dead, I might have bigger problems than the fact that I’m unpublished.

And here’s an article worth reading from the title alone…

25 Reasons Your Query Letter SucksWrite It Sideways

Finally, some query resources you can’t afford to overlook:

Agent Query

Query Shark – The Shark does bite, but only if you deserve it.

Query Tracker

Writing a Query Letter – Posts from the aforementioned Elana Johnson, who is also the author of an e-book on the subject called From the Query to the Call.  I own it, and I can tell you it’s very helpful.

And a couple of my own posts on the subject:

How to Write a Winning Query – notes from Elena Mechlin’s (Pippin Properties) conference talk

A Good Query Letter is Like a Skirt – from Andrea Brown’s talk at Big Sur in the Rockies

And now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go compulsively check my inbox every five minutes check my email to see if I have any responses yet…

Agree or disagree with my don’ts?  Any other resources you want to share?  Let us know in the comments.

Read Full Post »

I am very late to the promotion game with this one, but just in case you are a children’s book writer and you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple of months and weren’t aware that WriteOnCon starts today, now is your chance to get on over there and register.  Three full days of online sessions led by bestselling authors, top agents and editors.  Topics range from perfecting the craft, how to write a query, seeking an agent, and marketing and promotion.  And MORE!  There are sessions on picture books, middle grade and YA and critique forums for each.  All of this is provided by the lovely organizers for the incredible cost of — FREE!

Finally, if you enjoy the conference, consider making a donation to WriteOnCon of any amount so they can continue to bring us this unsurpassed opportunity to learn, grow, and make amazing contacts.  Even $5 makes a big difference.  You can go here to donate.

As for me, now you know why my blog will be silent for the next three days…

P.S. Many of the agents participating in WoC also accept work for the adult market, so I would encourage all writers to check it out even if you don’t write for the children’s market.

So, are you going to be there?  Let me know so I can look you up!

Read Full Post »

FOODOO, my entry for Brenda Drake’s Show Me the Voice Blogfest, was selected as one of the 20 semi-finalists whose entries will be given to agent Natalie Fischer.  She will now choose three who will win critiques from her.  THANK YOU to everyone who provided comments and encouragement.  I have been working on this manuscript for a long time, alternating between loving and loathing it and suffering many crises of confidence along the way.  Getting positive feedback on the piece at this stage is a balm to my writerly soul.

Agent/author Mandy Hubbard wrote a great post last week about celebrating the small (and big) victories along the path of a writer.  She keeps a large vase on her desk, and whenever she gets good news – a book deal, sells foreign rights, etc. – she pops open a bottle of champagne and writes what she is celebrating on the bottom of the cork.  Then, when things aren’t going so well, she can go to the vase and remind herself of her accomplishments.

Since it is so easy to get discouraged in this business, I thought the “vase of corks” was a great idea.  So I am going to christen my own vase this weekend by celebrating this little milestone.  I am unpublished and unagented, so getting an agent to look at my work in any capacity is most definitely something to celebrate.  Next time I want to shred FOODOO, I’ll pull out that cork…

Congratulations to everyone who entered and to the other semi-finalists.  If you haven’t already done so, go read the entries.  They are amazing!  Thanks, too, to Brenda Drake for hosting such a fun contest.

P.S.  I just love how I can Google “Mandy Hubbard” and “champagne cork” and find the post I was looking for.  What DID people do in the days before the Internet???

Read Full Post »

Thanks to everyone who commented on my original entry for the Show Me the Voice Blogfest.  This is the revised version (of the first 250 words) that I submitted:

Title: Foodoo

Genre: Picture Book Fiction

Ginny McMaudy loved all kinds of thrills,
Like riding her bike over towering hills,
Smacking a cannonball into the pool,
Swashbuckling swords in a pirate ship duel.

Turning a cartwheel with balance and grace.
Fooling the pitcher and stealing third base.
But one thrill that Ginny still wanted to try?
An amusement park ride with a track to the sky.

Brian rode last year while she circled ‘round
On kiddie rides barely four feet off the ground.
This year she knew she would conquer that ‘coaster.
This year her brother would not get to roast her.

She raced Brian down to the Beck’s County Fair,
And waited in line for the ‘coaster called DARE.
Brian said, “Shorty, you won’t get to ride.”
“Just watch me,” said Ginny, and shoved him aside.

Ginny flushed red when she got turned away.
Worse, she watched Brian ride ten times that day.
Denied her first ride… what a whale of a bummer.
She grumbled, but vowed to grow tall by next summer.

“I might need to try an enchantment or two,
Or whip up a potion of TALLESTNESS brew…”
Ginny tried every known type of elixir.
Not even one of them managed to fix her.

She chanted a growth spell while waving her arms.
She dug a deep hole and buried six charms.
She danced round in circles; her head got all buzzy.
She read books on tallness; Her eyeballs went fuzzy.

One book advised, “To grow tall like Paul Bunyan,
Try bathing in fruit juice or suck on an onion…

I’ll find out on Thursday if I’m one of the 20 finalists who will get a chance to win a critique with Natalie Fischer.  Good luck to everyone who participated.  I had a great time reading the entries – lots of talent out there!  Thanks again for your help and support!

Read Full Post »

Hi everyone,

No Gratitude Sunday post today because I am participating in Brenda Drake‘s Show Me the Voice Blogfest.  (btw, Happy Birthday Brenda!)  Here’s how it works: Participants post the first 250 words of a completed mss.  Blog followers and other participants can provide critiques (keeping them helpful and focused on voice) in the comments.  On March 22, we will incorporate any changes from the critiques and email the final 250 words to Brenda.  A panel of peer judges will choose the best 20, and will then forward them to agent Natalie Fischer, of Bradford Literary Agency, who is always on the lookout for writing with great voice.  Natalie will then choose three winners, who will win critiques of their mss or queries.

Here is my entry.  For full disclosure, I must tell you that I am both under the weather and on a spring break ski trip with my kids.  Therefore, I may not get to provide as many reciprocal critiques as I otherwise would.  But I promise to do my best.  Thanks in advance to anyone who takes a crack at this!

Name: Julie Hedlund

Title: FOODOO

Genre: Picture Book Fiction

Ginny McMaudy loved all kinds of thrills,
Like riding her bike over towering hills,
Smacking a cannonball into the pool,
Swashbuckling swords in a pirate ship duel.

Turning a cartwheel with balance and grace.
Fooling the pitcher and stealing third base.
Just one kid matched Ginny for courage and pluck —
Her brother, advantaged by height and good luck.

Ginny thought, I can do anything Brian can do.
But deep down inside she knew this wasn’t true.
Because one thrill he’d had that she wanted to try?
An amusement park ride with a track to the sky.

So she raced Brian down to the Beck’s County Fair,
And waited in line for a ‘coaster called DARE.
Brian said, “Shorty, you won’t get to ride.”
“Just watch me,” said Ginny, and shoved him aside.

Ginny was crushed when she got turned away.
Worse, she watched Brian ride ten times that day.
Denied her first ride… what a whale of a bummer.
She grumbled, but vowed to grow tall by next summer.

“I might need to try an enchantment or two,
Or whip up a potion of TALLESTNESS brew…”
Ginny tried every known type of elixir.
Not even one of them managed to fix her.

She chanted a growth spell while waving her arms.
She dug a deep hole and buried six charms.
She danced round in circles; her head got all buzzy.
She read books about tallness; Her eyeballs went fuzzy.

One book advised, “To grow tall like Paul Bunyan,
Try bathing in fruit juice or suck on an onion…

So, lay it on me.  What do you think?

Read Full Post »

It’s getting late, but I couldn’t let the day go by without tipping Cat’s hat to the legendary Dr. Seuss.  Happy Birthday to the one and only.  Here is my own poem in his honor.

Ode to the Agent Search

Would you like to read my book?

Come on, take it! Have a look.

You can read it in the car.

In your bed or at the bar.

Read it with a glass of wine.

Tell me now you won’t decline.

Would you? Could you?

Represent?

I will give you

Ten percent.

You could sell it in your sleep.

You could sell it in a jeep.

For I’m sure you can deduce

I am the next Dr. Seuss!

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: