Friday, March 30, 2012

What I'd Like to See More of in Indie Pub

Tip of the Day: Nervous to give self-pub books a try? Don't be. 99% of the time Amazon allows you to download a sample. Try it before you buy it.

It's really hard to give a list of things I'd like to see in indie and/or self-pub books. As far as genre goes, I think we've got them all covered. Want an angel/werewolf/time travel adventure? It's out there. Want a straight-up YA vamp story? There's six billion to choose from.

What I love to see is originality. I want to read something that hasn't been done before. One recent release that did that is Spider Wars by Angela Carlie (full disclosure: Ang is one of my writing buddies, but she has no idea I'm about to promote her book).

Spider Wars is a YA novel that straddles the line between paranormal romance and horror. It's edgy. It takes risks. It gave me nightmares.

That's what I want. A book that sticks with me for a long time after I read it. And Angela's next novel is so original...I can't talk about it, but OMG...her books are what imagination is all about.

 I'd LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to see more middle grade novels from self-pubbers. Now that the Harry Potter ebooks are available, I'd say it's not long before MG explodes in ebook format. Are you ready? (I am...wrapping one up as I write this.)

And even though my novels are pretty dark at times, where's the ebooks for the bubble gum crowd? Not everyone likes darkness. Sit down at your keyboard and write something cute! NOW! (*disclaimer* - I wrote this post earlier in the week before the other A2A girls mentioned the same thing. I'm seeing a trend here...)

What else would you like to see from the self-pub/indie community???

Megg, Miss Enchanted ePubber

Thursday, March 29, 2012

I Miss the Light

Tip of the Day: Don’t lock up your teen books libraries! Adults read YA too! (Our public library doesn’t open the teen section until 3 p.m. daily. BOO!)

I’m with Deena. Yesterday she talked about what she’s looking for as a teen librarian so today I’m going to tell you what I’m looking for as a YA reader.

Look at this:

Notice anything? What the heck is with all the dark books?! Okay, I get it. Publishers want to make lots of $$$ so they chase trends. When Twilight was big (okay, settle down all you Twi-hards. :-) I know you feel Twilight still IS big. I mean more at the beginning of Twi-mania) there were 1.2 million vampire books released that year. I may be embellishing on that number but it certainly felt like that right? And now Hunger Games is a huge success so brace yourself for the onslaught of world ending, fighting for your life, I’m just trying to make it another day without being poisoned, burned, drowned, shot, stabbed etc. but my hair still looks cute books.

And that’s great and all for the occasional high adventure book. But what about everyday life? What about stuff that might actually happen to teens today? I want to read about what to do when your best friend suddenly stabs you in the back. Or how to deal with the fact that the guy you’ve been secretly in love with for years just fell in love with your best friend. I want some more realistic stuff on the shelves. And make it funny too please. There isn’t nearly enough funny stuff available anymore.

I’m not saying that there isn’t ANY. There totally is. But you’ve got to hunt it down because it sure isn’t getting the promo the doom and gloom stuff is. I’m currently reading Meredith Zeitlin’s Freshman Year and other Disasters which came out earlier this month and it's totally cute. 

And Kristin Walker (A Match Made in High School) has a new book coming out next month that’s super funny.  

But I miss the bigger selection of light funny books. There was a time that I would walk into the library and just check out all of the pink books. Not lying. I didn’t even read their summaries. But I just knew if it was pink it would be girlie and fun. And I was rarely disappointed.
And it not just me. I’m hearing this from teens too. I was skyping with a book club not too long ago and after we finished I asked them what kind of books they were reading. The teens were all excited about Hunger Games and the movie but they expressed that aside from the Hunger Games they were growing very weary of all the dark sci fi and dystopian. One teen said, “Why are all the books about end of the world, people dying, and all that awful stuff? Why can’t there be nice stories about things that really might happen?” She went on to say that was why they had read mine that month because they were looking for books that weren’t depressing.
And I get e-mails from readers all of the time about how much they like to laugh and relate to fun stories so there is a need there. Obviously I wouldn’t want the bookshelves to be all pink either but, hey how about we shoot  for a balance? Hopefully we’ll start seeing more fun romance YA around the corner.
Kristina, Miss Author in Action

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What I'm Looking For (or Show Me the Funny!*)

*with apologies to Jerry Maguire

Tip of the Day, Librarian Edition: The public library is not a social services office, but remember that sometimes it feels that way.

I'm not an agent or editor, but as a YA Librarian, I have a "wish list" of books I'd like to see on my shelves, too. While I can't sell or produce these types of books, I can buy them, talk about them to my colleagues, put them on library book lists for patrons, put them face-out on displays, and directly set them into the hands of readers. Here's my current YA wish list:

1. Realistic, contemporary books with boy main characters that are funny but grounded. (Examples: SETH BAUMGARTNER'S LOVE MANIFESTO by Eric Luper; FOOD, GIRLS, & OTHER THINGS I CAN'T HAVE by Allen Zadoff; NOTES FROM THE MIDNIGHT DRIVER by Jordan Sonnenblick) Girls will read these books, AND I can give them to boys who are looking for something humorous.

2. Teen books with tween appeal. (Exampls: THE GALLAGHER GIRLS SERIES by Ally Carter; JUST ONE WISH by Janette Rallison; THE ESPRESSOLOGIST by our Kristina Springer) Fourth, fifth, and sixth grade girls particularly will come to me while I'm working reference in the children's room and ask for some "more good books from the teen area." *PLEASE NOTE: This is very different than the PARENTS who come to me in this scenario and say that their kids are "very advanced readers" who need teen books since they've outgrown the middle grade novels -- but the books can't involve romantic relationships or kissing or or or....* These girls just want to expand their library and book horizons with more "innocent" titles that feature slightly older scenarios and characters.

3. Contemporary fiction with non-white characters on the cover -- that aren't stories about the hood/drugs/race "issues". I want Sarah Dessen with an Indian girl on the cover. I want Jordan Sonnenblick with a Chinese boy on the cover. (*Edited to add: YES! A Jordan Sonnenblick novel DOES already exist with a Chinese boy on the cover and the story is funny and the cover is great -- ZEN AND THE ART OF FAKING IT -- and I'd love more like this to put face-out on my shelves.) This wish is more to the publishers than the authors, although count me amongst readers who want to see characters from all over the globe in my books so if you can write them, bring it on! I have so many non-white teens in my town who don't see themselves on the covers of YA books -- but they read a ton, and when I give them a book that features a teen who is Fill-in-the-Blank-American like they are, they are so happy.

I have to throw some middle-grade wish list titles too:

1. True science fiction with boy and girl characters. (Examples: a "younger" ENDER'S GAME by Orson Scott Card; CHRONAL ENGINE by Greg Leitich Smith) I get this question from a lot of student teachers, and it's a good extension for all the kids who ask for Star Wars books all the time and are looking to expand their base.

2. Ditto (3) above in the YA section, but for middle grade fiction (non-white kids on the covers of just good contemporary fiction).

All right, who's gonna write them? :)

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Last query from our Query Clinic participants

Tip of the Day: even if you don't want to use it to track your queries, still has a ton of helpful info. My favorite bonus features are the list of New and Updated Agents and the comments section about all the agents' wait times, etc. 

Since we aren't quite done talking about queries yet, I'd love to post another query from those that submitted to the Query Clinic. This one is from Monica.

Dear Agent Awesome,

As a devoted reader of your blog and Twitter as well as a fan of your agenting style and clients, I believe that my young adult novel STAGE DIRECTIONS is something you would be interested in.

Lucy Miller is constantly trying to take care of everybody else, making detailed lists to keep track of her many commitments, and biting off more than she can chew. She just wants high school and the plays she’s a techie for in the drama club to go as smoothly as possible because, after all, if she doesn’t keep track of the little things, who will? But now in the final months of her senior year, she’s tired of how routine high school feels, so she impulsively tries out for the spring play and actually gets cast as an understudy.

Lucy didn't want to be bored, and it's a classic case of being careful what you wish for, just like her life-long best friend Colin warned her. Now she’s trying to learn her lines and how to speak with a British accent, figure out why her ex-boyfriend Todd is suddenly speaking to her after a year of silence, build sets, and be there for her friends (and sometimes, even her enemies). And since when does Colin’s smile make her tongue-tied and nervous?

STAGE DIRECTIONS is the tale of a teenage girl who tells it like it is when she finds herself onstage instead of backstage and starts to fall for her boy-next-door best friend. At 62,000 words,this story may appeal to fans of Maureen Johnson, Stephanie Perkins, and Sarah Dessen.

I am currently a teaching assistant in a high school library while also finishing my MS in library and information science from the University X. Coincidently, I work at the high school I graduated from where I was a four-year member of the drama club and I now assist my former director.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

My thoughts:
  • All and all this is a very solid query and well written. It's super easy to follow and I feel like we get a great idea of what the book is about and the characters involved.
  • It works very well that you start off with character info so we can get to know Lucy right up front and that she has a Type A personality. From the beginning it's easy to figure drama is going to ensue.
  • It might even be more impactful if you very briefly include what has caused her to be this Type A. Is her home life chaotic? Parent's divorce? External pressure to succeed? I know it can be a general personality trait that many of us have, but if there is a reason behind it, it might be beneficial to mention it along with the description of her personality. Especially because there's usually a reason why a teen takes on that much responsibility to "take care of everybody else."
  • The first sentence in the second paragraph of the book description: "Lucy didn't want to be bored, and it's a classic case of being careful what you wish for, just like her life-long best friend Colin warned her." might be a bit too obvious. I kind of like it, but I think you might be able to rephrase to get more impact.
  • Also, is there a main conflict in the novel? It's a little unclear from this query. The character conflict is nice, but there has to be something else that happens to escalate the drama. You don't have to include everything, but you need to at least hint at something larger.
  • Does she become more than an understudy? If so how? Is that important drama? If not, maybe just mention that she was cast in the play and leave out the understudy info for the query.
  • Your credentials are spot on and definitely highlight that you have the inside knowledge to deliver a believable book about high school drama clubs.
  • Also LOVE the name of the book.
  • And a general comment to everyone (because I have a feeling Monica does this when customizing the query): make sure you actually read the agent's blog or twitter pages if you comment about them. Pointing out something more specific to that agent that you enjoy about them and why you think they'd be a good fit might be helpful too. Also, specifically mention those client's books that you enjoy. But make sure if you include it that those clients aren't vastly different then you as a writer, or it might serve to confuse the agent more than anything. Also, if you compare your work to other authors (like Monica did), then you might want to just choose one location in the query to mention specific authors.
In summary:

The query is well written. I'd just like it too escalate with the drama a bit more in the second paragraph. Also, the plot itself doesn't seem too new, but I happen to be one that likes that and I know others do to. I'm a fan of predictability and just general light, fun reads. But I know it can make the agent search very hard, especially in today's market. So keep at it, because someone will be bound to love it! 

Thanks for submitting Monica and good luck in your agent search!

--Emily, Miss Querylicious


Monday, March 26, 2012

Frequently Used Query Phrases

Tip of the Day: Can't get enough queries? We're still talking about them! You'll also find great query letter critiques on Verla Kay's Blue Boards.

I read incoming manuscript for Rhemalda Publishing, and our query clinic got me curious. Which phrases crop up in queries again and again? So I analyzed a good chunk of queries I've read recently, and here are my most frequently seen phrases in query letters:

She finds herself having to choose between X and Y. This one isn't much of a surprise. We love to read about moral choices. Just watch that "she finds herself" construction, which is a little weak despite how commonly it's used. After reading a bunch of queries, I find I prefer a definite X and Y. "She has to choose between the possibility of love or the chance of a lifetime" doesn't tell me much. "She has to choose between the shark-infested waters or the pirate ship" is very telling.

Time is running out. It's hard to avoid cliches entirely in a query letter, but I was really surprised by how how many queries included this one. Again, we love to read a novel with a ticking clock aspect. But maybe find a more specific way to explain your ticking clock. That will at least give you room to use a much more telling cliche, like "Daddy's little girl." (I have a one cliche per query tolerance personally.)

She finds herself (irresistibly, increasingly) drawn to. This is mostly found in paranormal romance queries and YA queries, and we get a lot of both. Try to find another way to explain why the guy is so attractive. This one's been beaten into cliche territory.

To make matters worse. Most of the rest of my list is similar. "Things are bad enough when," "It was bad enough that." Look, the point of a novel is that things are going to get worse for your characters. I get that. You don't need to spell it out. Just tell me what happens.

Have you been reading our query letter clinic over the past two weeks? I guess we're in Week 3 since we're still talking queries. We'd love to know if you're finding it useful. Please let us know what you think of our query letter clinic. We really appreciate your feedback. Thanks!

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages

Friday, March 23, 2012

Query Clinic #5: Book Blogger Version

Tip of the Day: Want to win some Hunger Games swag? Check out Susan's giveaway!

It's my turn to take on the query, but this time it's for those authors who already have a book out, or one upcoming.

My guest today is Susan Kaye Quinn. Her novel, Open Minds, debuted last November and she's already breaking sales records (which is not a surprise to me because Open Minds rawks!).

But Susan had to start out just like the rest of us. As a debut, she had no readers beyond her circle of friends, family, and writers. She reached out to book bloggers with this letter (my comments in red):

Dear Lisa,
My name is Susan Kaye Quinn and I write novels for young adults. I see from your website Books for Company that you enjoy young adult as well as paranormal stories, and I hope you will be interested in my paranormal YA novel Open Minds (Book One of the Mindjack Trilogy). 
 I'm of the grab-em-by-the-throat-and-don't-let-go school. If it were me, I'd put the tagline and book description at the top of the letter. Putting 'Review Request' in the subject line of the email lets the blogger know exactly why you're contacting them. Not a huge deal, and some bloggers might want to be told at the beginning why you chose them. It certainly isn't enough to make a blogger stop reading. ;)
When everyone reads minds, a secret is a dangerous thing to keep.
Sixteen-year-old Kira Moore is a zero, someone who can’t read thoughts or be read by others. Zeros are outcasts who can’t be trusted, leaving her no chance with Raf, a regular mindreader and the best friend she secretly loves. When she accidentally controls Raf’s mind and nearly kills him, Kira tries to hide her frightening new ability from her family and an increasingly suspicious Raf. But lies tangle around her, and she’s dragged deep into a hidden world of mindjackers, where having to mind control everyone she loves is just the beginning of the deadly choices before her.

You totally want to read Open Minds now, don't you? Susan does a great job of drawing the reader in with the description of her book. This is the single most important piece of work you will write. If a reader isn't gripped by your book's description, they won't want to read it.
If you are interested in reviewing, I would be happy to send you an Advance Reader’s Copy in the format of your choice (Kindle or Nook).
 Here's a sticky part for indie & small press authors - we may not have paperback copies available for review. Sometimes this is a problem for book bloggers, sometimes it isn't. When I query bloggers, I check out their guidelines. Often they will list which ebook format they prefer. If they do list one, I say something along the lines of, "Per your preference on your website, I'd like to gift you a Kindle edition of ..." It shows them you really did your research.
 If you are not willing to give away a paperback, don't even mention it. For indies & small press authors, the cost of paperback copies can come right out of our pocket - something that can get very expensive over time. 
Open Minds releases on November 1st, and I’m coordinating a Blog Tour for Open Minds from Nov. 1-18. If you decide to review and can participate in the Open Minds Blog Tour, that would be fantastic, but a review before or after release would be wonderful as well. In addition, I’m open to sponsoring an e-book giveaway of Open Minds and would be happy to participate in any promotional events like guest posting or interviews. Open Minds is posted on Goodreads, and you can find out more about me and my previous books from my website. The Mindjack Trilogy has its own website, where more information about the upcoming release can be found.
Susan does a great job here of giving the blogger the option to join her tour. There's no pressure on the blogger to read the book by tomorrow (yes, some authors do make requests like that - and they shouldn't). The only thing I don't see is a date to contact her by if the blogger wants to participate in the tour. It's just a courtesy so both of you know what's expected and by when. A blogger emailing you to say they want to participate in your tour isn't the same as imposing a deadline for reading the book.
 In the past, I've had bloggers participate in my tours who haven't read the book yet. An interview or guest post is sufficient for some, with a review to follow in the near future. 
Thank you very much for your time and consideration! Please let me know if you would like me to send you a copy for review.
All the best,                 
Susan Kaye Quinn, Author
 Susan Kaye Quinn grew up in California, where she wrote snippets of stories and passed them to her friends during class. She pursued a bunch of engineering degrees and worked a lot of geeky jobs, including turns at GE Aircraft Engines, NASA, and NCAR. Now that she writes novels, her business card says "Author and Rocket Scientist" and she doesn't have to sneak her notes anymore. All that engineering comes in handy when dreaming up paranormal powers in future worlds or mixing science with fantasy to conjure slightly plausible inventions. Susan writes from the Chicago suburbs with her three boys, two cats, and one husband. Which, it turns out, is exactly as much as she can handle.

Susan has pictures of her other books here, but unfortunately I was unable to get them to upload properly. :(((
Life, Liberty, and Pursuit (a teen love story) by Omnific Publishing
Summer Breeze Anthology
Open Minds (Available November 1st!) on Goodreads now

All in all, this is a fantastic query letter. Susan really did her homework. She was thoughtful and considerate when presenting her work to the blogger.

Everyone needs to remember that bloggers need to be treated with respect, just like an agent or an editor. 

Megg, Miss Enchanted ePubber 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Query Clinic #4 - YA Sci-fi/Dystopian

Tip of the Day: Want to see how my trip to the Illinois Reading Council Conference went? Check out my blog.

Thank you Gwendolyn for sending us your query for your YA sci-fi/dystopian! Here it is:

Dear (name of person),
Ten months ago, seventeen-year-old Morgan left home to escape her abusive step-father. 
Six months ago, Earth was attacked by Scrappers, a cyborg species with black eyes and cold hearts that came without warning. 
Two months ago, the Scrappers stopped killing and started taking. 
None of the captured have been seen again. 
Now, within dead cities and abandoned highways, Morgan fights to stay hidden from the Scrappers’ search for humans. She travels alone and trusts no one but herself. The unseen scars left by her step-father haunt her every day. Morgan flinches from the help of strangers, and nightmares consume her during the night, unveiling fears of her dark past and the creatures who still hunt her. 
But when Morgan meets a boy named Jude with a metal arm, something only the Scrappers could have given him, she chooses to trust him despite her fears telling her otherwise. Not only was Jude taken by the Scrappers, but he was also the first one to survive them.
And now they want him back. 
STEEL HORIZON is a young adult science fiction novel, complete at 89,000 words. This is a post-apocalyptic story in a Terminator meets Book of Eli type world. STEEL HORIZON was the number one pick on Inkpop in November 2010.
Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

First, the stuff I love:

  • That you started with numbers, counting down to what happened. Grabbed my attention!
  • The idea-- especially how she meets a boy altered by the Scrappers.
  • The last line, "And now they want him back"-- very hooky! Makes me want to read. That whole paragraph about meeting Jude reads really well too-- I wouldn't change it.
  • That you gave an example of what else it was like-- Terminator meets Book of Eli. Awesome!
  • That it was the number one pick on Inkpop.
Seriously, this is very well written-- you did an awesome job! But I want to point out some things that could help make it even better.

Stuff you can work on:

  • I might shorten the first sentences to make them convey more of a sense of urgency. Like- "10 months ago 17 yr old Morgan escaped her abusive home." And then shortening the info on the scrappers in the next line. Like, "6 months ago the Earth was attacked by Scrappers." Weeding out lines like "that came without warning". That's implied when you say they were attacked. And telling us they have black eyes and cold hearts doesn't really add much at this point. You want to quickly grab the agents attention with your first lines.
  • Are you in love with the name "Scrappers"? Something about it kept making me think of a little league baseball team instead of something much scarier like you intend.
  • Some questions-- how many are taken? Is it mass abduction to leave the cities abandoned like you say in the next line? Because then you talk about strangers so it doesn't sound quite as abandoned.
  • Some of the stuff is repetitive like trusting no one but herself and flinching from the help of strangers. Also, "unseen scars left by her stepfather haunt her every day" and "nightmares consume her during the night, unveiling fears of her dark past..." This kind of thing can be tightened up. 
  • Really you could probably change that whole paragraph from- "Now, within dead cities and abandoned highways, Morgan fights to stay hidden from the Scrappers’ search for humans. She travels alone and trusts no one but herself. The unseen scars left by her step-father haunt her every day. Morgan flinches from the help of strangers, and nightmares consume her during the night, unveiling fears of her dark past and the creatures who still hunt her." to "Now, within dead cities and abandoned highways, Morgan fights to stay hidden from the Scrappers’ search for humans. And fights the nightmares of her past that consume her each night."
  • I would elaborate on what Inkpop is just in case the agent doesn't know right off and you don't want to make him/her google. I honestly didn't know at first. If you phrase it like this, "STEEL HORIZON was the number one pick on Harper Collins' Inkpop Writing Community in November of 2010." that sounds more official/clearer. And I went back and forth on whether or not to include the month/year. On one hand it lets the agent know exactly when you were #1 which is good. On the other hand, is the agent going to then think wow, you've been shopping this finished manuscript for over a year already? I'm going to pass too. What do you think readers?
  • Finally, I really like how you set up that last paragraph-- great job! Do you have any other writing credentials you can add in there? Program you've completed? Place you've published a short story maybe?

Okay readers, what do you think about Gwendolyn's query? Did I miss anything? 

Kristina, Miss Author in Action

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Query Clinic Submission #3 (or Good Things Come in Threes!)

Tip of the Day, Librarian Edition: Please don't get mad at the library if every copy of their children's biographies on Harriet Tubman are checked out when you know 50 kids at the local elementary school all have to do the same assignment of reading a biography about Harriet Tubman.

Thank you so much Julie for sending in your query for a critique! I hope this feedback is helpful to you and to our readers. I know the past two weeks of query crits have been helpful to me!

Here is Julie's query:

Dear Agent Name,

Aillie has the spirit of a wolf, even if her failing heart is weakening her human body. It’s no wonder her presence causes a stir when her father decides to take her home to live with his wolf clan in Scotland. They don’t tolerate women, and certainly not human ones.

When she tries to find solace and solitude in the hills above MacTire Loch all she ends up finding is a cocky member of the neighboring clan. Colin is all alpha and the future laird. He’s also her father’s worst nightmare. Or so he thinks.

Aillie's true enemies won’t be found in the rivaling wolf clan though. The ones who’ll stop at nothing to see her dead are much closer to home. Aillie and Colin will have to put aside their clashing alpha personalities to fight against history, myths and bitter old wolves if she’ll have any chance at life.

THE VOICE is a 47,000 word Paranormal YA.

This is a simultaneous query submission. Thank you for considering my manuscript for further review.


My [contact] info here

What is great about this query:

1. I get a nice set of the setting. Scotland! Cool!

2. There are multiple conflicts -- Aillie's failing heart, the disrespect from her clan, the tension with the rival clan, the people/wolves/creatures Aillie must battle to survive -- which keeps the tension high and makes me think the novel itself keeps moving at a good pace.

3. The writing is really good! I like the voice and the way the paragraphs flow together with great transitions, so it makes me think the writing of the novel is high quality as well.

What I would suggest:

1. Combine the first two paragraphs into a shorter intro one (while keeping the great voice!), and then elaborate on what the "real" danger is that Aillie and Colin must band together to fight. While the first two paras are the emotional arc of the story, the latter para is the important external quest and that is important.

Tangental YA Librarian ramble :) -- There are a lot of paranormal YAs featuring wolves out there now (besides TWILIGHT (Meyer) and SHIVER (Stiefvater), there's recent releases like the DARK GUARDIAN series (Hawthorne), RAISED BY WOLVES series (Barnes), NIGHTSHADE series (Cremer), SISTERS RED (Pearce), 13 TO LIFE series (Delaney), CLAIRE DE LUNE series (Johnson), etc. ). It doesn't mean this book doesn't have merit or its own twist! Just that the query will have to hit on its unique points (like Scotland!) and showcase them in order to get an agent's/editor's/bookseller's/librarian's attention so they don't think it's something they already have enough of on their list. In other words, those who are querying wolf (of vampire/zombie/dystopian/faerie) books now have to work a little harder to get attention.

2. The title THE VOICE now makes me think of that TV show "The Voice;" might want to consider a more unique title/something with pow or a Scottish feel to drive home that this is a MUST READ book. :)

3. Before the sentence about this query being a multiple submission, add something personal about yourself, even if it's not a publishing credit: that you like baking/biking/painting/running/etc., to give yourself some personality.

Overall, I think this query is a great start! Any feedback from our readers?

Thanks again to everyone for making our query clinic week a success!

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Query Clinic--MG fantasy adventure

Tip of the Day: most of you probably know this, but I'm the last one to figure out that lets you subscribe by email or RSS feeds to the Agent Updates. I always forget to look in that section, but it's very helpful!
Our next query comes to us from Nicole Z.
Dear Agent:

When a dying witch gives Princess Cassandra a mystical treasure map, the adventurous ten-year-old sets out to find it. Never mind an evil sorcerer also wants the map. And never mind that he killed the witch to try to get it. Okay, his coming after Cassandra is a little worrying...

Even so, Cassandra and Vance, her commoner friend, hope the treasure will persuade the kingdom's greedy healers to fix his lame leg. Vance insists on tagging along until a monstrous hailstorm seriously injures him. The princess must face the mythological creatures of the Enchanted Jungle -- a cranky old centaur; a vicious, two-horned yale; a hungry bear-dog; among others -- and search the Rainbow Mountains without her friend. It's up to Cassandra, her trusty horse, and a baby griffin she meets along the way to find the treasure before the sorcerer kills her and before her friend dies of his wounds.

THE PRINCESS'S TREASURE HUNT is a 30,000-word MG fantasy adventure standalone novel with series potential.

I am the author of a fantasy romance trilogy, Kingdom of Arnhem - Woman of Honor (2009), Knight of Glory (2010), and Champion of Valor (2011) published with Desert Breeze Publishing. Fifteen of my short works have appeared in various anthologies, including Mertales by Wyvern Publications, and many collections by Pill Hill Press.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

Best regards,

What I liked about the query:
  • I think the query is short and concise. It's very easy to find all the necessary information. 
  • The first sentence is great and pulls me in immediately. I also love a good treasure map story, so I'm definitely intrigued! Especially since it involves a princess fighting against evil.
  • As the query goes along, I think the suspense builds, which gives me a good indication how the book is likely to go. We start out knowing that an evil sorcerer wants the map so bad that he's willing to kill for it and then the intensity builds from there with many challenges along the way.

What I thought could use improvement and general thoughts:
There were a few parts that confused me and I thought might be unnecessary in the query itself. And other parts I thought needed more info. I've marked my reactions in red.
When a dying witch gives Princess Cassandra a mystical treasure map, the adventurous ten-year-old sets out to find it. (I wonder if there might be a word or two you could add to this to explain how she came in contact with the dying witch to help set the scene a bit better and maybe explain even in this first sentence why she’s compelled to search for the treasure. Also, maybe stating the dying instructions of the witch might help. Does she tell Cassandra to be careful? Does she reveal anything about what the treasure is? More specific info might help set up the rest of the query.) Never mind an evil sorcerer also wants the map. And never mind that he killed the witch to try to get it. Okay, his coming after Cassandra is a little worrying... (I think the last three sentences sort of lose their impact, since two of them start with “never mind.” I get what you are trying to do, but I think it would be much more impactful to combine the first two sentences into something as simple as “Unfortunately, an evil sorcerer also wants the map and killed the witch to try to get it.” And then lead into a bit more descriptive sentence on the journey to come. It’s implied by the description that the evil sorcerer would naturally come after Cassandra, so it loses a bit of impact by telling the reader that.)

Even so, Cassandra and Vance, her commoner friend, hope the treasure will persuade the kingdom's greedy healers to fix his lame leg. (Love that she has a commoner friend help on her journey, but I feel like I need a bit more info to make this journey believable. First can you tell us the name of the kingdom, so we know a bit more info about Cassandra? Also, if she's a Princess, wouldn’t she have access to lots of money? Why couldn’t she pay off the greedy healers that way to fix her friend's lame leg? Why is she willing to embark on such a dangerous journey instead? Or do they personally not know about the evil sorcerer yet? This really needs to be made more clear. I also had to read this sentence five times to understand how a treasure map could help fix a lame leg. After I got it, it was obvious, but something about the way the sentence is written made it hard to follow at first.) Vance insists on tagging along until a monstrous hailstorm seriously injures him. (As a side note: does the sorcerer cause the hailstorm? If so, I'd include that bit of info, because it adds even more intensity that he's trying to make her journey harder, so he can get the treasure himself. If not, this sentence could still be played up a bit more to increase the suspense, especially since we find out later his wounds are life-threatening—"seriously" injured doesn’t imply life-threatening to me.) The princess must face the mythological creatures of the Enchanted Jungle -- a cranky old centaur; a vicious, two-horned yale; a hungry bear-dog; among others -- and search the Rainbow Mountains without her friend. (Wow, sounds exciting and I'm not even a fantasy reader!) It's up to Cassandra, her trusty horse, and a baby griffin she meets along the way to find the treasure before the sorcerer kills her and before her friend dies of his wounds. (I'm in!)

Overall this is good and I definitely want to read it based on the story alone, since it sounds so exciting. But I think knowing a bit more specifics would help entice the agents even more. I'd also like a bit more info on Cassandra herself, so we have a reason to care for her. It's very telling that she's willing to risk her life for her friend, but without knowing a bit more about them as friends or people it's hard to find it believable. Also, how on earth could she be away from the kingdom at 10 years old with no one trying to find her? She's a princess. Does she use a disguise of some kind? Not sure if that's necessary to state in the query, but a little info thrown in here and there might help.

Thanks for submitting Nicole. Best of luck to you!
 So what do you all think?
--Emily, Miss Querylicious

Monday, March 19, 2012

Query Clinic Part 2: Introducing Your Queries!

Tip of the Day: Want a free query letter critique? We 're taking entries through this week. Email us your query at (at) gmail (dot) com.

This week, we are looking at query letters sent in by you, our readers. Today's query letter clinic features this query emailed to us by Annie McMahon:

As you represent children’s authors with a strong voice such as
[author's name], I would like you to consider my boy-driven MG
adventure novel, MEREDITH MOUNTAIN MIRACLE, for representation.  It is
complete at 21,000 words.

Because of his love for nature, fifth grader Emilio is the constant
target of Hans’s bullying, and he’s had quite enough of it. After a
failed attempt to get back at Hans, his life becomes intolerable.
Things go from bad to totally rotten when he gets lost in the wild
with his archenemy during a field trip. Alone in the forest, the two
boys battle against a humongous grizzly bear. They stumble through the
woods to find the trail and face more dangers along the way:  a snake
hiding in tall grass, sinking mud deep enough to engulf a boy as tall
as Hans, angry swarms of bees attacking them from all sides. Their
journey comes to an abrupt halt when Emilio injures his leg on the
rocky hillside. Will they make it back alive, now that Emilio can
hardly walk? Their only option is to get over their differences and
combine their unique abilities – Emilio’s knowledge of nature and
Hans’s athletic skills – to survive the many challenges they face in
the wild.

One of my short stories, Paradoxical Neighbor, has been published by
Nelson Education in a book for 10th graders called NELSON LITERACY 10.
I've been a member of SCBWI since 2009.

What I like about this query:
  • The genre and word count are clear and up front. This query is very clear on what kind of novel this is and what kind of reader will like it.
  • Wilderness survival is a popular topic for a reason. The stakes are high, and this query makes it clear that the stakes are life and death.
  • There are many specifics in this query. We don't just hear that they have to combine their unique abilities, we hear what those abilities are.
  • "He gets lost in the wild with his archenemy" is a great hook.
What the writer may want to reconsider:
  • The title of the novel. It's not very MG friendly and it doesn't match the tone of the query. No miracles seem to take place. I think something like ENEMIES ON THE MOUNTAIN would be more of an advertisement for the novel.
  • I think there are too many obstacles listed. We don't need to know every setback the boys encounter. The bear and the injury are the highlights. The rest could be summarized as snakes, bees, and a mudsink.
  • Bullying is a red-button word. If you use it, you need to fully explore it in the novel, and I don't get the indication that this is a deep character story about Hans's family background and psychiatric care. Bullying someone because they love nature seems to ignore what bullying is. I'd start right out with the hook: lost in the wild with his archenemy.
Thank you so much, Annie, for letting us analyze your query! Readers, please feel free to add your advice for Annie in the comments, and whether you agree or disagree with my conclusions. I'm sure you'll all keep in mind that critiques are civilized and constructive; we have wonderful, knowledgeable readers!

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages

Friday, March 16, 2012

Querying Book Bloggers

Tip of the Day: Want to name a character in my next book, Afterlife? Enter here!

Already got a book published? Whether it's self-published or traditionally published, you really need to get out there and query book bloggers. These amazing, wonderful readers can hold the key to your success and help spread the word about your book.

When I first started epubbing, I didn't query book bloggers. I assumed (making an ass mostly out of me...not that they would only read traditionally published books. NOT TRUE! Many bloggers will read any book that piques their interest.

But how to approach them?

First, head to their blogs and read their guidelines. Seriously. It's exactly like querying an agent or publisher. Make sure you're contacting someone who will actually be interested in your work.

You need to treat bloggers with the same respect you'd treat an agent or publisher. Crafting a concise query letter is the first step to success. Oh, and before anyone assumes I have no success with query letters since I'm self-published here's my quick story: As a former freelance parenting journalist I spent seven years successfully crafting queries for article pitches. In the short time I queried agents, I had zillions of requests for pages, so I do know a bit about this. ;)

FREE on Amazon - click to download
Dear Beautiful Blogger,

Forget prophecy. Make your own destiny.

Sheltered from the outside world with no hope for escape, slave girl Reychel dreads her fifteenth birthday - when her master’s symbol is burned on the back of her bald scalp. Her best friend disappears the night before, leaving her to face the branding ceremony alone. She soon discovers nothing is as it seems when people desperate for freedom beg for Reychel's help.

Can Reychel learn to believe in herself?

Would you consider reviewing my YA fantasy novel, Anathema? It combines a gritty fantasy world like Game of Thrones with the teen accessibility of Twilight. I can provide you with an ecopy for review from your choice of vendor: Amazon, Barnes&Noble, or Smashwords. Anathema has an average of 4.3/5 stars on and has been reviewed by many top bloggers.

Please feel free to visit me on my website,, or on Facebook, Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.


Megg Jensen info...

Now, this is a generic query. I always, always, always personalize my queries to each blogger. I mention something I find intriguing about their website, or a review of theirs I particularly enjoyed. It's not brown-nosing, it's common courtesy to show some interest in someone who you'd like to notice you. Often I will also mention that there is no hurry to review. Many bloggers have stacks of books that could fill a library. Don't pressure them or they'll probably just reject your book immediately. (This applies to regular reviews - not blog tours which is a whole other topic.)

Want me to critique your book blogger query? More info here on how to submit.

Megg, Miss Enchanted ePubber

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Query Clinic Week: The Espressologist Query Letter

Tip of the Day: I'm hanging out in Springfield, IL, at the Illinois Reading Council Conference for the next few days as a feature speaker. Are you there too? Here's my schedule. Find me and say hi!

I'm going to share my query letter for The Espressologist since it was my most successful one. A little background here: I started querying in early February of 2007, had lots of requests for partials and fulls, and had two offers of agent representation in April. I signed with an agent and in May had an auction with four large publishers, resulting in a two book deal.

Here it is:

Dear Ms. ______:

The Espressologist is In
 Fridays 6-10 p.m.
 Come in for a little latte and love. 

That’s the sign outside of a local Chicago Wired Joe's every Friday night when jerky boss Derek Peters finds out about 17-year old barista (and high school senior) Jane Turner’s unique talent to match couples based on their favorite coffee drink (which she calls Espressology). He decides to capitalize on it—turning Jane into the holiday promotion for the month of December. She’s never been wrong, sales are through the roof, and the line of people each Espressology night wraps the block. But can it be too much of a good thing? During an interview with a national talk show at the height of Jane’s fame, she is faced with a dilemma: lose her love or lose her credibility? Or possibly lose it all, including her best friend.

Light and a lot of fun, my young adult novel, “The Espressologist is In” is complete at 42,000 words.

In addition to my love for writing fiction (specifically YA), I am also a freelance writer and writing instructor at DePaul University in Chicago, IL.  I received my Master of Arts in Writing from DePaul and I’ve written for Writer’s Digest magazine as well a number of Web sites (including,,,,, and a weekly ‘Net Love column for the former for over a year).

I came across your name in my search for an agent with experience in the young adult market and I feel that you would do a great job representing my novel. Would you be interested in seeing a full manuscript?

Kristina Springer

Kristina, Miss Author in Action

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Query Clinic is Open! (or Help Us Help You & Help Us)

Tip of the Day: You still have time to email your queries for our Query Clinic next week! Send them to AT gmail DOT com, and stay tuned this week and next to comment on other queries.

So I was going to post the query that landed me my last agent in 2009. It's for an MG manuscript that we subbed to editors and got good responses from -- including a revision request -- but alas, we did not receive any offers.

That said, I still love this book and think it is even stronger after the revision I did on spec, so in case I ever try to sub it on my own or epub it, I'd like to share a new version* of this query for feedback. Between all the MG readers at my library who ask for more books like IT'S RAINING CUPCAKES and CUPCAKE DIARIES, I think I would have an audience.

*The reason I say "a new version" is because OMG, the original one that I queried agents with is waaaaay too wordy! So here's a pared down version of the pitch for BAKE, SET, MATCH. Thanks in advance for any input/advice!

Twelve-year-old Dana Hawthorne's best friend moved away, but she's not letting it derail her summer. She's working at her parents' bakery, making friends with new girl Beth, and playing on the junior tennis team. Sure, some things aren't perfect, like the fact that Beth's dad is really sick, and that one of the twins she beat onto the tennis team is out to get her. But overall Dana can handle it because she can handle anything.

Until things get worse. The twins spread rumors that pit Beth and Dana against each other and can destroy the bakery's already slow business. Dana has to save the bakery before her family loses their house, but without Beth at her side, she's not sure she can come up with a good plan let alone execute it. Then Beth's dad gets sicker and Dana needs to decide what is important: being right, or being there for her friends and family.

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Query Clinic Continues

Tip of the Day: don't forget to email us your query letters for our Query Clinic so we can post them to talk about. Even if it's just the "jacket cover" description and not a full query that will work. We basically want to show lots of examples of the "meat" of the query to help people in writing descriptions for their own book. 

Not sure if I've posted this specific query on this blog before or not. But it's still one of my favorite books, even though I haven't send this particular query out for more than 3 years.

I would like to invite you to read my 63,000-word contemporary young adult novel DON’T ASK ALLY and consider representing me.

Who said advice is better to give than receive? When 16-year old Ally Harrison inadvertently gives relationship advice to one-half of The Couple of the Century in a Robertsville, Indiana theme park, her face appearing all over the national tabloids as the “new Dr. Phil” is the least of her problems. After her misinterpreted advice causes the reconciliation of rock star Jet Michaels and Nicole Porter, Ally’s Jr./Sr. High School classmates build her a homecoming float and her best friend starts an underground relationship counseling empire from the school bathroom.

However, when Nicole Porter goes missing, Ally learns quickly that sometimes it’s better to keep your mouth shut and your advice to yourself. But can Ally keep her mouth shut long enough to figure out where Jet Michael’s girlfriend really is? And can she keep her mouth far enough away from the moist lips of her prime suspect: Luke Porter, the brother of the missing girl?

My previous writing credits include newspaper and newsletter articles, media releases, press kits, and advertisements for universities and non-profit organizations. I have a B.S. in Journalism, a M.S. in Public Relations, and currently work in a library as a teen program planner. 

I would be happy to send sample chapters or the entire manuscript upon request. Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.


Normally the first paragraph is customized to that specific agent based on what they are looking for. This query did receive a number of partial and full requests, mainly because of timing, since I was querying when teen chick lit was much hotter and easier to sell. I even did three revision requests for agents, but nothing panned out for a number of reasons. I ultimately stopped querying to focus my efforts on my other books, but would love to go back to this book and do a few more revisions based on some later comments to clean up the book further. Plus, this was my second book and it's amazing to see how much my writing has improved since that time and I think with more edits it could be a much stronger book and might do well as an Indie-pubbed ebook, because of it's combination of romance and mystery.

Before that happens I'd love a new title for it that fits more with the romance element of the novel. So any title suggestions are welcome in the comments section as well! And feel free to give me any suggestions. Even if I decide to epub the book a good description is still key.

--Emily, Miss Querylicious

Monday, March 12, 2012

Announcing Our Query Letter Clinic!

Tip of the Day: Email your query letters to (at) gmail (dot) com!

This week and next week, we're running a query letter clinic. We'll be looking at two types of query letters: the kind you send to agents and editors to get them to want to read your manuscript, and the kind you send to reviewers to get them to read your novel. We'll pick 5 random query letters this coming weekend and post them on our site one letter per day next week for analysis based on our experiences with querying. Commenters can leave helpful thoughts on why they might or might not request these manuscripts.

Are you daring enough to show the world your query? Then email it to us!

We'll start the ball rolling this week with our own query letters. This is a letter I sent to agents for my last completed novel. It received several requests for fulls and partials, probably because I had the letter critiqued by Saundra Mitchell:

My 55,000 word tween novel SEVENTH GRADE HEX QUEEN is about ahot-tempered girl who wants to stop cursing her uber-annoying classmates.

On the first day of seventh grade, Holly inherits her older sister’s power to hurt people by speaking curses out loud. First she curses theobnoxious boy who sits behind her in homeroom: temporary mouth sealant for Joshand sweet, sweet satisfaction for Holly. But now Josh wants to be a witchhunter, and Holly accidentally creates new victims every time she loses hertemper. If only she could shake Josh loose, nobody would suspect her. If onlyher sister hadn’t cursed Josh’s older brother with a permanently brokenkneecap, Josh wouldn’t be so close to the truth. Can Holly undo the damage herfamily has done?

I am a member of SCBWI and my publishing credits include trade magazine andnewspaper feature articles. In 2007, I attended the Highlights Chautauquaconference and in 2008, I was a panelist for the Young Adult Fiction CybilsAward ( On Mondays, I blog as a regular contributor to thegroup blog Author2Author (

I can be reached at . Thank you for your time and consideration.

I received comments back on my manuscript varying from "your writing isn't good," (yes, seriously, one agent told me that flat out); "I love your writing but humorous paranormal isn't going to sell right now," (I got a few of those); and "I love how you keep the story moving but the ending was confusing." I decided that I could do a better job integrating the ending with the beginning, so I stopped querying to rewrite the beginning. Which I actually haven't done yet because, well, by that time I was busy with a new novel and humorous paranormal still doesn't look like a good sell. But it's high on my to-do list. As a teen, I struggled with my temper, so this novel will always mean a lot to me.

So have at it! What do you love and hate about this query? Why do you think it got me requests even though those same agents said that this genre is not hot on the market?

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages

Friday, March 9, 2012

When Inspiration Finds You...

Tip of the Day: My books are on sale this week through Smashwords. Coupon codes are on the upper right portion of each book's individual page.

Since my son had his tonsils out last Friday, there hasn't been much writerly activity going on in my house (seems to be a common theme for the A2A girls this week). One morning, Luke and I cuddled up on the couch together. I flipped on the Science channel - one of my favorite time-wasters - and watched a really fascinating program on genetics.

Basically, in the 1980s there were quite a few hemophiliacs infected with the HIV virus due to the tainted blood supply. One man took infected transfusions, but never contracted the HIV virus. Scientists and doctors were stymied. What was going on with this guy and how could they harness his super-human resistance to a disease that was killing so many loved ones around the world?

Long story short, it turned out this man had a very rare gene. The scientists traced it back to the Middle Ages and the Black Plague. Yes, people with this gene also survived the largest plague ever to sweep through the human race. Fascinating, right?

Not sure if everyone knows, but my BA is in medieval history (with a minor in evolutionary anthropology). This episode sparked so much curiosity that a plot for a new YA novel practically handed itself to me. No, it's not a literal adaptation of the real-life story, but it is a warped concept from a tangential thought related to the episode.

Since I'm deep in edits for Afterlife and pretty much obligated to write the third book in The Swarm Trilogy next, I can't attack this new story right this second. I am, however, planting it in my subconscious. Over the next couple of months I'll let it grow, change, and blossom so by the time I'm ready to write it, I'll have the basic plot and characters living in my already crowded imagination.

Even though I can't write it today, I will be taking notes, mentally and on paper. This plot is too good to let go. If you ever get an idea for a book, don't dismiss it. Write it down. Let it grow. Trust me, I have far more regrets for not writing down ideas rather than writing down too many. ;)

Megg, Miss Enchanted ePubber