Friday, July 31, 2009

Spreadsheet is a Success!

Tip of the day: For a chance to win a number of YA novels (in ARC form) which I brought home from ALA, please go to my personal blog and read about a Reader Appreciation Contest I’m having. You get one entry simply for following me at twitter, and there are other ways to get entries as well. Details can be found here: But hurry, the deadline is tomorrow, August 1st, at midnight EST!

So, last week I said I was going to try the spreadsheet for tracking my WIP and report on how I’m liking it.

Guess what!? I love it!

Right now it only has basic information – word count of each chapter, who is in each chapter, what day of the week the chapter falls on, whether the chapter is action-oriented, dialogue-oriented, etc. But once I finish my first draft, I plan to go back and add columns so I can see some things I’m curious about. Like I think I’ll add a column for smells and maybe one for sounds. How many times in each chapter do I talk about a smell or a sound? If none, maybe I better see if I can add something, to make the chapter richer in sensory details.

I use spreadsheets every day at my day job. I can’t believe I never thought of how a spreadsheet could help me with my writing!

Since I wrote you last, I’ve written two chapters, and just like I thought, it’s very satisfying to click over to the spreadsheet when I’ve finished a chapter and add it to the sheet.

This novel I’m working on is something very new for me. I think it’s a bit of an urban fantasy, but there is lots of mystery to it. I’m having a ton of fun writing it! Who knows if it will sell, but sometimes I think we just have to write something because we really want to. And sometimes, those books end up being the best anyway, because there is no pressure. Just writing for the fun of it – which is what it should be like all the time, I know, but sometimes, it isn’t.

I hope to get some more writing while I’m on vacation next week, before I take off for the SCBWI conference in LA. If you are there and see me, I hope you’ll stop and say hi!

~Lisa, Miss Crafting a Career

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Three Months Out

Tip of the Day: Back-to-School shopping is exciting (or maybe that's just me) but if you can hold off until after school starts, everything goes on sale a week or two in. (Exp. Target usually has all their backpacks, lunchboxes etc. 50% after labor day.)

I'm three months out now until the release of my first book. Eeeeeee! So I've been trying to figure out what I should be doing at this point to prepare. Here's what I've got:

Meet with publicist. Now is about the time when authors hook up with their publicist and talk about things like interviews, booksignings, events, media (if you're lucky!) etc. I have my first call with my publicist today.

Reviewers. I've also been getting a lot of requests from online bloggers to review my book. I've forwarded these to my publicist as I have no more advance copies to pass out.

Promotional Stuff. It's also time to get some promo items. I'm still deciding what I really want and what I really need. I like the business cards with the book cover on one side and the info on the other that I picked up a couple of weeks ago and I've been handing them out to people when they ask me about my book. I think I'll get more of these because they're so convenient and fit in my wallet. And I've ordered bookmarks (I'll do a separate post on these when they come in. And I might get postcards made. I hear it's a good idea to send post cards to independent bookstores to let them know you have a book coming out.

Think about launch. Do I want to do a signing? A party? An online contest? I need to start thinking about this stuff now.

Start filling out interviews. I'm part of a 40+ person blog tour with the 2009 debs and I've been getting interview requests from bloggers so I really need to get going with answering all these questions.

Web site. Alright, this one is all up to the hubby. He's been working on it though and I'm hoping it'll be cute!

Facebook Fanpage. My publisher set me up with a cute facebook fanpage and it has a great What Coffee Drink are You Quiz that I love. I'm so happy they thought to do this!

And...that's where I'm at. There might be more that I should be doing right now but I'm also working on that new book I mentioned last week (yes, I got back into gear!)

Any suggestions from you professional authors out there? Should I be doing something else at the three month pre-pub mark?

Kristina, Miss Delighted to Debut

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Subjectivity the Second (Subjactivity: The Activity of Being Subjective)

Tip of the Day: Throwing a baby carrot towards a cute wild bunny in your yard will not attract it to you.

Piggybacking on my post from last week, I want to talk about how one's very own agent can be subjective about her own client's work.

I queried my agent bc her bio online said she was interested in historical fiction, and YA. My historical YA was: (a) really an MG, and (b) also paranormal, which her bio didn't say she wanted. Yet despite all that, she said she was attracted to my characters and setting. She has also since said that she's not into paranormal, yet that story got her attention.

Since we signed on together, she's read another realistic MG of mine, which she liked, and a YA contemporary paranormal, which she said needs work. My CPs love my YA contemp paranormal, and I can see where my agent is coming from, but again, subjective.

So don't worry if your agent isn't into every single one of your works. Are you into every single work that she's sold? Probably not. Instead of worrying, just talk together on what you can do to the manuscript to make you, your agent, and your test readers happy.

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Revision Requests

Tip of the Day: swimming can be nice and relaxing on a warm, summer day :)

We've talked about requests and rejection from agents, but what about that in-between area called revision requests? The agent doesn't reject it outright, but they don't accept the manuscript or you as a client either.

Do to the current publishing environment these seem to be popping up more and more (at least that's what it feels like in the blogosphere). How on earth are you supposed to handle these requests?

I've been asked for revision requests twice in my career already. I'm not sure I handled either correctly, but I did gain some insight in the process.

  • Read the request several times and let it sink in as long as possible. I imagine the request is similar to an editors revision note, so it's best to let all the information soak in. This situation is a bit more unique because you don't have any guarantee that if you make the suggestions revisions that anything will come of it with this agent. But what in this business is a 100 percent guarantee anyway?
  • Determine if the agent's comments fit with your vision for the book. If you disagree completely with what the agent says then maybe it won't be the best fit. But if you are on the fence or agree with them, it might be wise to try the revision. Yes it may take you several months to complete, and again there is no guarantee. But wouldn't you always wonder "what if" if you didn't do the revision?
  • Take your time with revisions. Make sure they are done right. If an agent takes the time to send you notes they are seriously considering your work. You don't want to blow it by not taking your time to do the proper revisions.
Personally, I'm not a huge fan of revision requests. Maybe it's because I've had bad experiences with them. But I think if an agent sees potential in your work then it's in his/her best interest to take you on as a client (so they don't get burned in the future by putting all this work into your project and you going elsewhere with it) and work with you to get it ready for editors. But I see why revision requests happen before agents take you on as clients, and they aren't all bad for the author either.

Both of my revision requests ended differently. One of them came from an agent known to make such requests on a frequent basis and then not follow up with them. I was aware of this before hand and took this in to consideration when deciding to revise for them. The remarks were actually quite brief and I agreed with them, so I went ahead and revised the first 50 pages or so based on the request. As a result, the agent requested the full manuscript, but I never heard anything back from the agent even after several follow-up emails.

The second revision request was much more extensive. It involved a three-page revision letter that highlighted three main components the agent wanted to see changed. I decided to make the changes because I thought it would better the book by slightly changing the age of the main character and some of her personality, motivations, etc. It took me a little over a month of really hard work to make the changes. There was a bit more back and forth about specific changes, all of which I incorporated in one way or another. Some of it finding out what needed to "really" be changed and then solving that problem.

The agent loved the changes, but wanted to see one more big change. This time it involved changing the entire mystery plot of who and why he/she committed the crime. I wasn't sold on the change 100 percent. I could see the agents point of view, but I could also see my point of view. I was willing to try the changes, but part of me also wanted some guarentee that putting this much work into it with not being 100 percent sold on the changes that they would take me on as a client. This was awhile ago and I wasn't as knowledgable about the industry and I was so eager for that first contract. But I was also working on two other newer projects I felt strongly about and had limited time to work on stuff. I also knew this agent was a new assistant at a reputable agency and the person had told me they needed another agent's approval before taking on clients. I knew that if I invested all this work into something I wasn't completely sold on that the other agent could just reject it in the end for completely different reasons. So I asked if I could revise a partial, have the other agent look at it, and then discuss further changes or taking me on as a client.

In the end, the other agent wasn't completely sold on the concept of the project combined with the lighter tone of my writing (stuff which I could have never changed even after 100 revisions), and that was the end of it. Period.

So did I do the right things? I'd like to think so. Everytime I did revise the project got better, and it's still a project I would like to sell in the future (possibly with more changes incorporated after thinking about it for two years). I tried to keep an open mind, but at the same time I also knew my project, my vision for it, and my abilities as a writer. I think those are all important things to keep in mind if you do get a revision request.

Anyone else have good/bad revision requests stories? Sometimes they work out, sometimes they don't.

--Emily, Miss Querlicious

Monday, July 27, 2009

Help me Google! Give me strength!

Tip of the Day: With newspapers slashing their comics lineups, why not read your favorites online? The Houston Chronicle has the best online selection.

Thank you Darby Conley for pointing out the separation of Google and State. Meanwhile, I've converted to Google Chrome. Now if only I could win more converts away from Internet Explorer, I wouldn't have to worry about partisan websites who give download and print instructions as if everyone believed in Microsoft.

You know what else Google does well? Google Groups. My online critique group uses Google Groups for our critiques and discussions. Anyone can set up an online critique or writers' support group with Google Groups. A group will contain places to post documents and a discussion area that works like a message board such as the Blue Boards.

My online crit group tried a few online venues before settling on Google Groups. Our group is private, meaning we have to approve anyone who wants to get in online. That's because we post our writing there and we discuss our submissions and fears. That was one of my top concerns in deciding on an online crit venue: privacy.

Here are some tips for using Google Groups for your writing group:

1. Have more than one administrator. Otherwise, you won't be able to give a new member access if your one administrator isn't available.

2. Come up with a file naming system. You'll be able to find your critiques and save them to your computer much faster.

3. Post the group rules. Groups can be more or less formal, but if you have a word count cutoff for submissions, for example, it's nice to always know where to find it.

4. Set your discussion option to "Digest." You can set up your Google Group to email you once a day with any messages posted to the Group.

Does anyone else use Google Groups for writing? Yahoo Groups seemed a little less flexible, but perhaps I'm wrong about that. Go ahead, try to convert me!

-- Kate, Miss (Internet Nerd) Perfecting the Pages

Friday, July 24, 2009

The first draft blues

Tip of the day: The internet can make it really hard to write. If you have a Mac, consider downloading macfreedom which will disconnect your computer from the internet for a specified period of time so you can write without that distraction.

So, I've got the first draft blues. I'm at that halfway mark where you start to question everything and wonder how in the heck you're ever going to get to the end, and not only get to the end, but do so with a plot that makes sense, interesting and real characters, and on and on.

The middle is hard, no doubt about it. So I was thrilled to find THIS POST by Justine Larbelestier titled "How to Write a Novel." The best part of the post? The idea that when you get halfway into your novel, you create a spreadsheet to help you see what you have so far. She shows us an example, but also says we can add columns that let us use symbols - is it an action chapter, is it a dialogue chapter, is it a sitting-around-thinking chapter? It gives you a visual of what your book looks like, so you can see how much action you have, and if you don't have a lot, you know you better be stepping it up!

I think we can each take this idea and make it our own. Want to keep track of how often a secondary character shows up? Make a column and check a box when he/she appears in a chapter. Want to keep track of sensory details? Make a column for that, and see where you need more. The possibilities are endless!

I also love the idea that once the spreadsheet is created, from now on, when you finish a chapter, you add the chapter to the spreadsheet! I am one who does well with little rewards along the way, so I think this will work well for me.

I'm going to go and make my spreadsheet right now. I'll report back and let you know if it's helped me and how my word count is going next week.

Those of you working on first drafts right now, how's it going? Any tips you'd like to share?

~Lisa, Miss Crafting a Career

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Switching Gears

Tip of the Day: Use to set up a radio station that only plays songs you like to hear.

I'm feeling like an old rusty bike chain these days. Reason why? I'm having the worst time switching gears between projects. I finished the first round of line edits on My Fake Boyfriend is Better Than Yours a couple of weeks ago. And I haven't done a bit of writing since. I know, I know, I need to get back at it-- and I actually have the first three chapters of a book I love ready and waiting for me to get back to. But I'm resisting for some reason. Like, I just don't want to completely change my brain and turn it on to that book when I know I'll have the next round of edits for Fake Boyfriend coming back any time.

So, I'm trying to think of ways to turn my mind onto my newest WIP.

1) Make a playlist of music for the book.

I see that a lot of authors do this for their books. I'm not really that into music though so I don't think this will help me.

2) Set up my writing environment to reflect the book.

This I could probably do. My newest book has pumpkins in it so I could see burning some pumpkin candles or making pumpkin bread or getting a pumpkin spice latte to drink while I work. (yes, any excuse to get coffee!)

3) Make a collage.

This could be fun. I did this when I was writing Boy Swap. I can find old magazines and cut out pics of things that represent my book. And then tape it on the wall when I'm writing.

Um...okay, I'm stuck.

Oh wait, new e-mail. It's my editor. She overnighted edits for Fake Boyfriend again. Yes! Forget everything I said. No, wait, don't. Just in case this happens again, leave me your ideas for switching between projects in the comments. Thanks!

Kristina, Miss Delighted to Debut

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Subjet of Subjectivity (or What She Said)

Tip of the Day: For an impromptu day-long writing retreat with your in-person CPs, see if there's an office space for rent by the day. There are great deals to be had!

On my livejournal, I write quick reviews of every book I read. I also write quick reasons on why I didn't finish reading other books. There's a post somewhere on my LJ that says something along the lines of "Don't be offended if I didn't finish reading your book; it's a subjective business. There are simply some stories that are good but not for me."

I finish reading far more books than I give up on. This is bc I only pick up books that call to me for one reason or another: the subject is of interest, the author is a favorite, it got great reviews, the cover is fantastic, the online buzz got through to me, etc. But every so often there's a book that I pick up for one of these reasons, and I can't finish it.

The place where this most often happens for me is in the fantasy realm. I'm not a huge fantasy reader. In fact, I've only read books 1, half of 6, and all of 7 of the Harry Potters. I've read none of the Tolkein books.

BUT -- I LOVE the Harry Potter movies, as well as Lord of the Rings on film. And I'm a huge Star Wars geek. I think this is bc on screen, I don't have to try so hard to understand the magic/world/descriptions that sometimes take too much of my brain power to make reading the same story an enjoyable experience for me.

Yet, I will recommend the same books I stop reading after chapter 1 to the teen readers at my library. I'll also rec books I've never read (simply bc the genre is not a fave of mine) to teens who DO enjoy that genre. If a teen comes in looking for a new author to start reading and they like fantasy, I'll point them to Tamora Pierce -- despite the fact I haven't ever read her books. And I'll say, "I haven't read this, but it's about this, and everyone who read it loves it."

In fact, I'm more likely to rec a book that I stopped reading based on a genre mismatch for me than a book that I read completely and only so-so liked.

Will you recommend books you stopped reading but know someone else will like?

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Rejection is Inevitable

Tip of the Day: get a rejection recently? Don't forget to send out another query letter!

There might be one or two people out there who've gotten published without receiving one rejection letter, but for the most part it's a natural part of the publishing process. Not everyone is going to like your book or think they are the one that can sell it. Recognizing this is a business helps those rejections sting less. Don't get me wrong, it still stings, but maybe not as much.

So how exactly do you handle a rejection?

  • Don't take it personal. A rejection just means the person doesn't think your book is the right fit for them.
  • Take the construction criticism if there's any given and apply it to your book. If you are lucky enough to get a personal rejection letter, don't just throw it away without reading what the person said. Is there anything you can take from the letter to improve your work? If so, try it. You never know how it might improve that book.
  • Move on. The best way to deal with rejection is to just move on. Whether that be sending out another query letter or working on a different book.
During my publishing journey, I've received a fair number of rejections. Some are worse than others, some aren't written very nicely (though most are), some help, some don't, some make you want to cry, some make you want to give up, and some make you want to prove the person wrong.

Rejection stings no matter what, but it's how you react to rejection that separates the published from the unpublished.

--Emily, Miss Querylicious

Monday, July 20, 2009

When Is a Good Book a Good Movie?

Tip of the Day: The Percy Jackson trailer is online. I'm looking forward to this one!

With any luck, as this blog post publishes, I'm on vacation in sunny North Carolina. My mom lives in NC and I'm looking forward to going to the movies with her and my daughter to see Harry Potter 6. Yeah! Finally!

I'm going to make a small confession here. I love all the Harry Potter books, but I think I like the movies better. Although the movies highlight a few plot holes (I always get hung up on why they can't use the Time Turner to save Cedric), they also make a few plot improvements. Like Cho Chang should have been the traitor to Dumbledore's Army, the way it happened in the movie. That's more elegant, I think, than her best friend selling out Harry in the book.

I know, we book people usually like the book better than the movie. Let's face it, Hollywood has chopped up some of my favorite books in painful ways. The City of Ember was not being devoured by giant animals or why would they have wanted to go aboveground where there were more animals?! Yeesh. And I can't even look at the DVD cover to HORTON HEARS A WHO without bursting into tears of rage.

So what does it take to write a novel that would make a fun movie? I love physical comedy on screen. It's fun to picture my main character getting clocked in the head by a locker door, for example, but it's not quite as funny when I type it out. Verbal humor seems to work better for me in print, which is probably why I loved reading HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY and A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS and didn't enjoy their respective movies. I'll keep working on writing physical comedy, but man, it would work better if I could draw pictures, I think.

You know what I'm really hoping for in Half-Blood Prince? Learning the music to the "Weasley is Our King" song. I know, I know, I'm not going to get this wish. The song was in The Order of the Phoenix book. But I've heard there's a lot more Quidditch in this movie, so maybe ...

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages

Friday, July 17, 2009

Some days are harder than others

Tip of the day: If you ever get a chance to go to an ALA conference, go! It’s so much fun to meet librarians, authors, publishing peeps, etc. and get free books!

Yes, I’m back from ALA where I got to meet Tina, one of my Author2Author blog buddies, for the first time! It was so much fun hanging out with Tina for a couple of hours.

I’ll be posting a blog entry about my thoughts and observations from the conference next week on my agent’s blog -

So, today you get what is on my mind in the day and life of a published author.

And here is what’s on my mind.

It is hard being an author.

I know, those of you who are trying desperately to get published, you’re pulling out your violins to hit me over the head. So let me explain.

It’s hard because you constantly compare yourself to other writers and your books to other books, even though you don’t want to and you try very hard not to. Through those comparisons, there’s only one thing that happens. You decide most everyone is better than you.

It’s hard because people have certain expectations about your books and sometimes, those expectations aren’t met.

It’s hard because even though you know and understand that not everyone will like your books and you are truly fine with that, once in awhile, a negative review really stings. After all, we’re human. And although we try very hard to develop a thick skin, sometimes something gets through. And it hurts.

And finally, it’s hard because when one book is done and gone to print, it’s time to look ahead and think about what’s next. But as a published author, it’s not simply coming up with a book idea you’re excited about and want to write. It’s coming up with something you think your editor might like, your readers might like, the marketing folks might like, etc. etc.

Recently there was a big discussion on a message board and in blogs about confidence. Here’s my take - just like body hair, confidence is one of those things that some people have more than others. I wonder, can we change the way we think? Can we, over time, become more confident and comfortable with who we are as writers? Maybe. I try very hard to replace the negative thoughts that pop up with positive affirmations. To remember the good things people have said about my books. And to be grateful for the publishing experience that has been mine.

But I do think there will always be a small part of me who longs to have the kind of talent Laurie Halse Anderson has. To be able to write the kind of books she writes.

In the end, that’s probably a good thing. Because ultimately, the wishing and longing push me forward. Make me work harder. And hopefully, help me write better books.

~Lisa, Miss Crafting a Career

Thursday, July 16, 2009

ALA Re-Cap

Tip of the Day: Become a fan of THE ESPRESSOLOGIST on facebook and take the What Coffee Drink are You? quiz!

ALA, in one word, was AWESOME! This wasn't just my first author event it was also my first conference EVER. And I loved it. And now I want to do it every weekend. Forget house cleaning and mowing the lawn, I want to go to giant halls full of booths with lots of books and tons of cool librarians, authors, bloggers, and every other kind of book lover to hang with, every weekend!

It started with Friday night at the FSG/Roaring Brook party. I put on a cute dress and some makeup

iphone self pic

(The kids were in shock. Four Year Old: "Mommy! You're beautiful! Quick, go show Daddy!!") and headed for Grace O'Malley's in Chicago.

The party was in a big room on the second floor and as soon as I got there I felt a wave of nerves. I met the marketing director (who was lovely) and the Macmillan publisher (who was so nice!) right away and I was feeling a little in awe of the people that were going to be at this party. But right away I spotted super cool YA authors Brenda Ferber and Jenny Meyerhoff, and totally relaxed. The party was really fun. Some FSG people spoke

and they introduced us authors (I think there were 7 or 8 in all there) to everyone and then we mingled for the rest of the night. There was lots of yummy looking food and drinks but we were busy talking and signing books to sit for long. The party was supposed to end around 11-ish but we didn't actually get to our cars until around midnight.

Sunday morning I woke up super early to get ready for the YALSA Coffee Klatch and was in my car heading back for Chicago by 6:30am. I thought I had plenty of time to get to the Marriot on Michigan where the event was held but I drove in circles for at least a half an hour on Michigan. I couldn't find the Marriot!. Turns out it is a small sign behind a big tree and impossible to see from the street. I eventually just parked somewhere and walked down Michigan until I found it. And I was only a little late.

Once there, I went right to the green room and was just about ecstatic to be in a room full of SO MANY fabulous authors!

Richard Peck was sitting a couple of seats away from me and Sarah Dessen and E. Lockhart were at the table next to me. It was WILD. Here I met Lisa who is just as sweet in person as she is online

and we had fun chatting with the rest of the amazing authors in the room. Soon we went into the coffee klatch area, which was HUGE and watched Elizabeth Bunce receive the Morris Award and give a great speech.

Then the speed dating began. And it rocked! Who knew I would love talking to so many people in 5 minute bursts?

I loved the questions the attendants asked and I invited everyone to come to my signing a half an hour after the coffee klatch ended. When we were done all the authors grouped together for a picture. There was much too much awesomeness to get in one shot so we have two.

After that, I shared a twenty-minute cab ride with Katie from FSG marketing and Julie Halpern and Margarita Engle to get to McCormick Center and the conversation was great-- Julie and Margarita are both so interesting and talented.

When we walked into the conference area and toward the FSG booth Katie said something like oh wow-- you have a line. I thought she was kidding. But there really was a line. It was SO COOL! And the first person in line was a friendly face from LiveJournal, Robin Prehn.

I sat down and began signing books and discovered that I really like this whole book signing thing.

Definitely must do it again! :-) Everyone in line was so nice and I got to meet more authors, and book reviewers, and lots and lots of librarians! Many that I just speed dated at the Marriot! I was so glad they did come over for the signing too!

When I ran out of books to sign I was free to go explore the hall and joined up with Lisa, Tammi Sauer, Cindy Pon, Cynthia Liu, and Darcy Vance. We snagged free ARCs from various booths

and then had a crazy expensive lunch in the cafe area and then back to arc snagging. We stood in line for Maggie Steifvater's Shiver signing

and then met author Sarah Ockler and then headed for the BBYA teen book talk to rest a bit and hear what teens thought of some of their favorite books. It was awesome to hear such honest thoughts. After that I walked the hall a bit more with Cindy Pon and then headed for home. ALA was such a truly cool experience and I'm hoping I get to do it again next year!

Kristina, Miss Delighted to Debut

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

What Economic Downturn? (or Turn That Downturn Upside Down!)

Tip of the Day: Want to drop 25 pounds in 6 months without even trying? Cut gluten from your diet! (Not me, the manpanion.)

In case you didn't realize, editor response times are slow. Some of my peers say slower than ever. I'm not surprised, and I don't blame those hardworking book lovers -- many of them are doing more work with less staff after the layoffs at this past year.

So what can we do to kill waiting time while subbing for pubbing? First, step away from your PC, laptop, iPhone, or whatever device you have that connects you to your email. (After you read this blog.)

Second, try some of these ideas (and no, I'm not going to tell you to write your next piece; you know that already -- right? :-p ):

1. Take a day trip to a beach, lake, amusement park, or nearby city. Walk the streets, paths, sand, or shore and take in the details: sights, sounds, smells. Make note of the tidbits you have to include in a future work. Rich details can be close to home if you look for them.

2. Visit your local library. Observe what books kids and teens are excited about reading this summer. Scope out the children's and teens' areas to see what's on display -- and what's completely checked out. Take home a stack of books for yourself why you're there.

3. Interview an older friend or family member about a part of their life that now seems outdated. What was important to people when your F&Fs were kids or teens? What stories does your family have to share about your ancestors that may inspire a new novel?

What do you do to pass the time while subbing for pubbing?

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Bring on the Requests!!

Tip of the Day: don't forget to celebrate all your accomplishments during your writing journey. It will make those rejections sting less!

It's been fun talking about queries for the past few weeks, and now I'm going to move onto talking about what to do after you get a request or the dreaded rejection. But let's start with the positive!

So you've slaved over your query, got it perfect, sent it out to agents, and now you have a request. What do you do then?

No. 1: Celebrate. This is a big accomplishment. Agent Jennifer Jackson lists statistics of what she requests. This past week out of 163 queries she requested 0. In the last three weeks out of 439 queries, she's requested 2 partials or full manuscripts. For those not good at math, that's less than 0.4%. As in less than 1%. As in OMG it is REALLY HARD to get a request.

Now this is only one agent, but my point is that if you get a request, you have sparked interest with someone with your book's concept, your writing, and your credentials. Don't forget this. Sometimes the rejections seem to overshadow the fact getting requests means you are doing something right. Because of this, I think it's important to celebrate. Even if it's something small like smiling, treating yourself to chocolate, or something else you do to reward yourself for all your hard work.

No 2: Don't Panic. After seeing stats like that it is hard not to panic. Not only before you send the query, but also after you get the request. You think, "wow, he/she likes the book concept, but what happens if he/she doesn't like my writing?" Well, that can happen, but don't let thoughts of that get in your way.

No. 3: Re-read your work. It never hurts to re-read your work. Now by this stage, you should have already revised it to death, incorporated feedback from critique partners, and done all you can to make the manuscript sparkle. But for some reason, I think sometimes the added "pressure" associated with a request gets you to see that final one or two mistakes you missed.

At the same time, don't keep revising it and revising it to stall sending the manuscript in. Be timely about it. You don't want the excitement the agent had while reading your query to be lost in the time it takes you to respond to his/her request.

No. 4: Send it off and then, here's the kicker, try to relax and not think about it for awhile. If it's meant to be, it's meant to be. There's no sense wasting time worrying about getting feedback or checking your email five-million times to see if they have responded yet. While you will still probably do this, it's also important to move onto writing the next book, sending out more queries, and other things to help your career move forward. Sometimes responses come within hours, but most often it takes days or months to hear back. Be patient and keep working on something else.

Next week, we'll discuss those dreaded rejections.

--Emily, Miss Querylicious

Monday, July 13, 2009

Things I Had to Learn, Year One

Tip of the Day: If you're playing Skee Ball with a six-year-old, stand way, way back. And then take another step away.

I've been blogging this summer about when I first started writing YA on the regular. There was so much to learn! Fortunately I had Deena to guide me through the wonderful world of resources for writers. Here's a short list of the first few things I had to pick up:

1. Word count. How much is too much? lists page counts; just scan down the book listing. The Host by Stephanie Meyer is 619 pages long. Meanwhile, Far From You by Lisa Schroeder is written in verse and clocks in at 368 pages. I was greatly reassured after I researched a few books written in a style similar to mine.

2. Did I want an agent someday? A reputable agency's website will list sales. There are lots of agent blogs and interviews online, where agents confess what types of books they hope will cross their desks. Casey McCormick has an agent spotlight on her very useful blog, with interviews and lots of linkage. Reading agent interviews taught me what they do. (Any questions on an agent's reputation? Check out Preditors and Editors.)

3. What the heck is a query letter? Yeah, I really didn't know. I didn't have Em to explain it to me back then in easily digestible blog posts. Instead, I read through Miss Snark's archives. Her cover letter crap-o-meter contest is the perfect drill on the query letter.

4. Should I take a class or something? I had no idea how many online writing classes there are that focus on YA and MG writing. Once you find an interesting class, google the instructor and get his/her bio. A great resource for finding writers who have already taken a specific class is the education board on Verla Kay's Blue Boards. Actually, the Blue Boards are a great resource for me for most of my writing questions.

Sometimes in the blogosphere, you read people's complaints about slush. How can so many submissions be so inappropriately written and targeted when there's so much How-To information on the Interwebs? But I think everybody starts out--has to start out--totally focused on the writing. The business skills always come later. Who would be a writer otherwise? If you're fortunate like I was, you'll find a writing friend you can talk to. Then you'll be able to discover the questions you need to ask. After that, answers are easier to find!

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages

Friday, July 10, 2009

Let's talk web sites!

Tip of the day: The best way to figure out what kind of web site you like is to look at lots and lots of author sites. Take notes of things you like – colors, layout, design elements, etc. and share sites and those specific likes with your designer when you start working on your own. Here’s my web site:

I’m in the process of working with my web designer on redesigning my site, so I thought I’d talk about author web sites today.

I find it interesting that in various interviews I’ve read with marketing “experts” they all say one of the most important things for an author to do marketing-wise is to have a web site. Everyone seems to agree that in this day and age, a web presence is vital for an author. And so, most authors, once the book deal is underway, begin the process of getting a web site up, either by doing it themselves or hiring a designer to help them.

First question I want to address: How fancy does the web site have to be?

I’m going to go out on a limb and say, it really doesn’t need to be very fancy. It needs to be easy to navigate, professional, and look nice. And no spelling errors or things like that! I understand some authors want really fun ones or really beautiful ones or whatever, and of course, each author can do whatever he or she desires and whatever the budget allows. Designer prices go from a few hundred to a few thousand, and even more. Personally, my goal is to stay as close to the lower part of the range as possible, and I do.

Currently, I’m averaging about 50-60 visits a day on my web site (this is different from my blog). People come to my web site from a variety of places. What do they want to know when they get there, regardless of how they find me? That can be the hard thing to determine.

So the next question to address: What’s the purpose of an author’s web site?

First, you need to give information about yourself. Yes, I know, the last thing you want to do is talk about yourself, but really, people do want to read about YOU, the author. So come up with a bio of some kind, serious or funny, whatever you want to do. Next, people want to read about your books. So you need to have a page designated for your books. Put covers on there, short summaries, and review quotes once you have them, at a minimum. If you give links for people to follow to purchase the books, I suggest linking to indiebound as well as Amazon, because we always need to be supporting our independent bookstores. Beyond that, the sky’s the limit. Think about your books and the kind of people who may be stopping by, and tailor pages to meet their needs. If your book is going to be have classroom tie-ins, you definitely need a page for teachers, with study guides to download or what have you.

I do think having a page that links to your blog is a good idea too. For people who want to come back for more, a blog is updated with new information frequently, whereas most parts of an author’s web site won’t change day to day or even month to month.

Personally, my favorite page is the “Contact Me” page. I get so many great notes from readers through this page. Yay for fan mail!!!

I’ll let you know in a month or two when the new site is unveiled!

In the meantime, is there anything you specifically like or don’t like when it comes to an author’s web site?

~Lisa, Miss Crafting a Career

Thursday, July 9, 2009

ALA Time!

Tip of the Day: Two tips today! #1 Come to my first signing on Sunday, 10:30-11:30 at ALA (McCormick Center West, booth 1811). #2 Check out the list of authors at ALA this weekend.

I was trying to think of what to blog about this week but all I can think about is ALA!!! It starts tomorrow in Chicago! I don't know if you can tell from all the !!!! but I'm very excited!

This is my first authorly event EVER. I've been to lots of events as part of the audience but now I'm on the author side! I will be one those people with a magical badge around her neck that opens doors to...well, I'm not sure. I've always wondered what those badges let authors get into. I'm thinking it's a pass to a super fancy cafe on the 100th floor of some building where there are fountains of iced latte in every corner. And I have a really big cup.

Like I said, it starts tomorrow night for me with a dessert party hosted by FSG and Roaring Brook. I'm soooo excited because I'll get to meet people from my publisher and other FSG authors. Then on Sunday I'll be at the YALSA Coffee Klatch meeting TONS of librarians. The coffee klatch is like a speed dating type of thing and we (look at the list (Scroll down to Sunday) of AMAZING authors going to this thing! I can't believe I get to be there with them!) spend five minutes at each table of attendants talking about our books. I'll also finally get to meet Lisa (Miss Crafting a Career) in person since she will also be doing the coffee klatch. Yay! Right after that I'll be signing arcs at the FSG booth (1811) from 10:30-11:30. I spent a chunk of time on Friday hunting down the perfect pens so I think I'm ready.

And the last thing I'm SUPER excited about? MY COVER!! I have the official, real thing now and it's awesome. Check it out:

If you are attending ALA, stop by the FSG booth on Sunday morning and say hi (and snag one of my arcs!)!

Kristina, Miss Delighted to Debut

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Writing Redux (or What Have I Done With My Life?)

Tip of the Day: Splurge on massages to keep your neck nimble during all those hours hunched at your desk or laptop. Totally worth it.

In last week's post, I mentioned that I was rewriting my first of seven MG and YA novels that I've written. I know you're all just dying to know: "What happened to those other six manuscripts?" Well, you're in luck -- I'm dying to tell you about all 7!

MS #1 -- YA originally known as TUYEN. Completed in 2004. Completed again in 2006. Shelved in 2006. Resurrected for complete rewrite in 2009.

MS #2 -- YA HIDING UNDER THE BED. Completed in 2005. Completed again in 2006. Shelved in 2006.

MS #3 -- MG 24 HOURS TO POPULARITY. Completed in 2006. Heavily revised many times, latest 2009. Currently with my agent and awaiting submission.

MS #4 -- YA originally known as AURA BOREALIS. Completed in 2006. Heavily revised in early 2007. Shelved in late 2007.

MS #5 -- MG SOMETHING STRANGE ON STAFF ROAD. Completed in 2007. Signed with my agent based on this ms in early 2008. Subbed to editors in 2008 and collected kind rejections. Heavily revised in late 2008, back with my agent in 2009 and is with a handful of editors.

MS #6 -- YA SURVIVING LAKE NEADE. Completed for NANOWRIMO in Nov 2007. Huge revisions in 2008. To my agent in mid-2008. She gave me more revision suggestions in early 2009. I still love this book, and have a great idea to "fix" the MCs' ages (make them younger). Not sure when I'll jump into revisions.

MS #7 -- MG originally known as WHEN BETH CAME TO STAY. Completed in 2009. Revised and sent to agent in 2009. I am awaiting agent feedback.

As you can see, though I haven't YET sold (I will!), my books are not at all dead in the water. In fact, I'm really into MS #7 and feel like each book I write is better and better and shows my growth as a writer. I mean, how can anyone resist the story of a tween girl whose parents' bakery is tanking so she sets out to save it with the help of her new friend who struggles while her own family copes with cancer? Exactly! :)

How many mss are in your arsenol?

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Who to Query?

Tip of the Day: try listening to music or going to a concert if you want some writing motivation. You can't help but get pumped up about life, art, and more when at a concert.

Continuing on in our Querypalooza, today leads us to the topic of deciding who to query. Now that you have a sparkly query letter and have waited a sufficient time, how on earth do you figure out what agents and editors to send the query to?

I think some people (cough, me, cough) get it in their head Dream Agents and forget that sometimes the awesome agents other authors have might not work as an Awesome Agent for you. So it's important to keep an open mind when querying. Still be smart about it and do your homework, but try not to limit yourself on who you query.

Some good places to start when making a list of agents you want to query are:

  • Figuring out who represents books/authors you like. Often these people are mentioned in the acknowledgement section of the books. Or has a nice feature called Who Reps Who that lists authors and their agents.
  • Searching for agents by your genre. The easiest way to do this for me has been using and just browsing by agents that rep "young adult" books. Sometimes putting in multiple genres helps narrow down the search further to find agents that might be interested in "mystery" and "young adult" or what ever genre you might write. Another way to do this is by looking in books such as Writer's Market or Jeff Herman's Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, and Literary Agents.
  • Browsing agents on message boards. Depending on what you write, there's usually a message board for it. One of the most popular ones for Middle Grade and YA writers is Verla Kay's Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Board (or the blueboards and they are still most commonly called). The Agent Response board is members-only I believe now. But posting on these boards and becoming a member is so valuable it's worth it, and figuring out agents that might be a good fit is an extra-bonus.
Once you find a list of agents, the best thing to do is research every possible thing you can about them. Do they have a blog? If so, read it. Do they mention their client's books? If so, read it. Or at the very least figure out what the books are about. Do they have a Web site? You better go and look at their current submission standards.

Basically google them as much as possible.

And then submit!

Good luck, and don't forget that just like when trying to find a prince you might have to query a lot of frogs along the way to finding the right agent for you.

--Emily, Miss Querylicious

Monday, July 6, 2009

Get Out of Town!!

Tip of the Day: Travelling? Call the hotel ahead of time and find out if the rooms have WiFi or you can ask for an ethernet cable for your laptop at the front desk.

I hope you all had a great Fourth of July weekend, especially if you're in the U.S. of A. It's a big travel weekend here, and my fam and I hit the road to visit Hamilton, NY. We travelled with four of my husband's siblings, their spouses, and their kids--including ours, 13 kids. And we all stayed in the same hotel. Doesn't sound like I got any writing done, does it? Well, I didn't. BUT ...

1. My husband lured me to his hometown with the promise that I could visit Colgate Bookstore, the largest independent bookstore in Central NY. It's owned by Colgate University and the profits go to student education there. Look at how beautiful it is. What a great selection. I was won over when I walked in and saw the huge Sarah Dessen display. They had a great graphic novel section, too.

2. I explored my husband's old school, which is K through 12. Yup, really. There's nothing like seeing a totally different high school experience than my suburban Long Island experience to give me new story ideas. Walking on the football field (that didn't even have bleachers), I could vividly imagine a boy sitting in the grass by himself and noticing that the field lines weren't straight. I could imagine a girl sneaking off behind the maintenance shed to smoke cigarettes. I got home and made notes for a new story. Hmm, maybe I will do NaNo this fall.

3. There were tons of gliders out for the weekend. You'd never get me up in a plane without an engine! But it was just the twist my new story needed. What kind of person would be a glider fanatic? An interesting one!

Travelling, to me, means reading books in the downtime. It means seeing new landscapes, talking to new people, and collecting ideas. Nothing stimulates new ideas like new places. Every time I go away, I come back with a new story idea. Not that they're all good, but hey, the law of averages says some of them have to work, right? So the more travel, the more ideas, the more chances to hit a good one!

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages

Friday, July 3, 2009

To Write or Not To Write Every Day

Tip of the day: Have a safe and happy fourth of July!

I’m guessing most people are off making potato salad or cupcakes or something else equally delicious, preparing for the big day tomorrow, so I’m going to make today’s post short.

I still haven’t written anything new in quite a long time. Honestly, writing in the summer is hard for me. I love summer. Summer time in Oregon is beautiful, and the sun and warmth pull me outside, even if it’s simply to sit on my patio reading a book.

There was a time when I would beat myself up if I didn’t write every day, no matter what. Well, not anymore. As I get older, I realize, life is short. I do love writing, but I also love a lot of other things too. Some day, a few months from now, the rain will return and I know it will be much easier to go to the computer, open the document, and dive in.

I’ve learned over the years that I write in spurts. I’ll have a couple of months where I go full-speed on a manuscript, writing every spare second I have. Then, I’ll have a few months where I don’t write anything.

This works for me. And that’s the important thing. I truly believe we each need to find what works well for us and not worry about what others are doing.

So for now, I’m not writing. And I've realized I’m perfectly okay with that.

What about you? Do you write every day no matter what, or does your writing go in waves, like mine?

~Lisa, Miss Crafting a Career

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Real or Fake?

Tip of the Day: Check out this fabulous list of YA authors on Twitter.

Nah, I'm not talking about boobs. Something else has been bugging me. Something I struggle with in my writing-- and I'm trying to figure out what's the right and wrong way to handle this kind of thing. Maybe you can help.

How do you, as readers, feel when a real person, place, show etc. is mentioned in a book? Do you prefer real people not be mentioned? Take Miley Cyrus. If I want to say someone looked like Miley Cyrus should I not do that? Or is it bad if my character went to a Miley Cyrus concert? Should I say a Micky Disdale concert instead? (Micky being a made-up character). What about mixing things up and your character hanging up a poster of real celebrities (Jonas Brothers?) but getting to meet a fake group backstage at a concert (the Wayne Boys?). Should you only use real celebrities (stores, shows etc.) in your book, only fake, or can you mix the two?

I've been trying to spot this kind of thing in other YA books because it helps me to see what other authors have done. I noticed in Meg Cabot's new book, Being Nikki, she does have fake models (Lulu and her MC, Nikki) and briefly mentions a real model (Giselle), and talks about a fake product (Stark underwear) and a real product (Victoria Secret underwear). So I'm leaning toward this kind of mix thing being okay. I can see where editors might not like it, however, because it could seem like you're endorsing a product or company or that you're dissing a company (and we don't want to do that). I said something not-so-nice about the quality of another coffee company's coffee in my book and I had to change the name of the company to a fictional one. Looking back, this was probably a smart move. I don't want to insult an entire company right?

And mentioning real products/people etc. could date your book. So then we're making judgments a to whether or not something will still be popular years down the road. Say Twitter. If I have a character using twitter in my book is twitter going to suddenly fizzle out in 2011 and readers are going to say, "OMG, I can't believe her character is on Twitter. No one tweets anymore!"

See what I mean? Thinking about this stuff makes my head hurt. Weigh in-- what's your opinion?

Kristina, Miss Delighted to Debut

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

My WIP and Me (or Second Time's the Charm?)

Tip of the Day: Marshmallow squares made with Rice Chex are not only gluten-free, but are even more addicting than marshmallow squares made with Rice Krispies. Yes, it is possible.

My current WIP is my first ever WIP.

Allow me to clarify: 7 novels later*, I'm rewriting my first ever YA novel. And I'm excited about it!

After not reading this novel (in its 4th title iteration of KEEPING SISTER SECRETS) for over 3 years, I had a brainstorm: a new, edgier, angstier voice for the MC. I couldn't ignore the nagging feeling that rewriting this novel was worth a shot. After all, it was the first story that ever came to me in such hardcore certainty that I had to write a 200-page novel about it. I mean, it had some pretty OK rejections years ago when I was barely the writer I am now, so why not take it up a notch, make it the book I wanted it to be before I had the skills to make it so?

Do I see the wisdom in shelving manuscripts? Hell yeah! But do I also see the wisdom in ressurecting them a couple years later and giving them a whole new spin? Hell hell yeah! Or at least, that's what I'm saying now in my state of first draft euphoria. Wanna read a snippet?

I knew you did!

Lockers slam up and down the hall. Emo music pipes through the loudspeakers from our high school radio station. The shouting voices of my classmates echo off the concrete walls. I stand alone at the pop machine in the foyer, wondering where the hell my little sister is. She knows I hate waiting, especially alone.

“Hey, Mel!” My best friend Kasey skitters up to my side, relieving me of my solo panic.

“Where is she?” I ask Kasey, as if she’d know.

Kasey shoves a piece of gum into her mouth. Around us our fellow students
book for the exit at the end of the school day.

“Maybe she’s with that dude she went to the ball with,” Kasey says, chomping on her gum. “That roided out guy?”

“Then why did she ask me to walk home with her?” I ask, kicking the pop machine. Annie’s always late and waiting pisses me off. She knows it, too.

Unless something’s really wrong?

And if all goes well with this rewrite, I may go back to my second ever ms and rewrite that one....

Has anyone else successfully rewritten an "old school" ms?

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing

*Yes, I've written 7 novels and none are published -- yet!** Use me as an example of someone who keeps writing to write and will never give up.

**Stay tuned for a future post on Where They Are Now!