Category Archives: Getting published

To Pay or Not to Pay

I recently discovered a great new resource, written by a published author: Jody Hedlund. She offers wonderful advice on everything from plotting to querying, but I was most intrigued by her post about the benefits of paying a freelance editor to critique your work.

Early on (probably too early, as it was my first draft) I had an editor critique my manuscript and I found the feedback to be invaluable. Along with a lot of other great tips, he basically told me to ditch the first act and start my story on page 79 (I was the queen of telling, not showing). He also suggested I join a critique group, hence the Restless Writers.

I was considering having the first fifty pages of my mss critiqued by a different editor, but unsure if I was simply procrastinating on the inevitable rejections that come with querying. But as Jody’s post points out:

It also gives us the ultimate critical and objective feedback we need. An editor tells us like it is, minces no words, and doesn’t tip-toe around trying not to hurt our feelings.

It sounds similar to a writing conference in that there are no guarantees that an agent will result from it, but it is an investment in my growth as a writer.

What do you think? Have you paid an editor to critique your work? Was it worth it?

To the comments!

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Filed under Getting published, Starting up, Trials and Tribulations, Writing resources

Let us write! Let us write! Let us write! (sung in a falalalala kind of way)

Holiday meetings are the best.

Our writing group held its final meeting for the year and oh what fun it was! There were pretty gifts and sprinkled cupcakes—and heck, even prosciutto-wrapped cantaloupe. And PAGES; yes, we managed to consume treats, whilst still making time for each of our critiques.

We worked through 2 queries (1 rated PG-13; 1 rated G), 1 red carpet synopsis, 1 alien picture book manuscript, and 1 sleep-inducing essay (or not) for the insomniacs among us. We were also fortunate to receive personal feedback from LD’s 6 year-old son, aka the Simon Cowell of children’s literature, who we lured a critique from with Lindt chocolate Kinder eggs.

All in all, it was a productive meeting, with ‘minutes’ to boot, albeit recorded on a yellow sticky note (the jumbo kind—with lines). It was a terrific meeting, stuffed full of encouragement and advice (and a party dress exchange?) as we journey the road together to that paranormal place called publication.

And so, for the record, here are the sparkly business bits.

Restless Writers commitments for 2011:

  • LD: to tweak her query & synopsis for sending to agents in January
  • LD: to do a proposed table of contents for her humour non-fiction project
  • LD: to submit a story to Chicken Soup for the Soul
  • MM: to revise her sleep essay for submission to the Globe & Mail
  • MM: to clear her plate of indexes (for good, this time)
  • BJ: to revise her picture book and send the baby to agents
  • BJ: to continue querying her middle-grade fiction

HAPPY HOLIDAYS to all! May you have the time, the wine, and the gusto to write your pants off this season.

BJas

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How I survived my first call with an agent

I feel like the luckiest writer on the planet right now.

I am currently querying three projects: a Middle Grade Novel, a Children’s Picture Book, and a Non-fiction Proposal; and this week, I was freakishly fortunate to receive a call from a literary agent (Squeee!). I’m thinking the solar flare this week had something to do with it—that, or maybe the countless months of hard work.

It kinda went down like this: Can you hear me? Yes. Yes. Followed by some giddy small talk (aka: personality test, no doubt); the writing (well, obviously); and next steps. End. Crash (this part was presumably, just me).

The opportunity to win the attention of an agent for an entire hour feels a bit like winning the lottery. It also somehow authenticates that hey, I might just be a real writer. I have graduated from queries to…CALLS! This particular agent was fan-friggin-fantastic; she was kind, complimentary, helpful, and attentive. She believes we are a writing community and should help each other out wherever we can. Afterall, we are in the business of promoting the importance of literacy.

Because this experience is all new to me (and I knew when the call was coming), I did oodles of research in a short period of time. And I’m sharing it with you IF and WHEN you get a call, or even “the” call.

7 things to do BEFORE you get a call from an agent:

  • Research the Agency, the Agent, & her clients. 
  • Read: “Getting THE CALL” (Rachelle Gardner’s Rants & Ramblings Blog).
  • Read: “What to Ask an Agent” and prepare a list of questions.
  • Review the status of your manuscript submissions: who has it & who has expressed interest (be prepared to talk about it).
  • Think about marketing your book & how you would bring it!
  • Think about your future plans & next projects (you’re not a one-hit wonder, are you?).
  • Relax (Yeah, I tried that. It was pretty much impossible).

Okay, so you’re wondering if she offered representation, right?

Status: she’s looking at all my projects, has offered some incredible feedback and has asked that I do some revisions and resend. She would like to continue the conversation, but has not offered representation…yet.

Beckie

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Filed under Getting published, Success stories, Writing resources

Author Denise Jaden chats with the Restless Writers

If you’re a writer and you want to get published, listen up. Author Denise Jaden has some advice for you!

I first met Denise at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference and I must say, this girl has got it goin’ on. She is smart, savvy, and one talented author.  LOSING FAITH, released by Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster in September, has been named a best book of 2010. I read LOSING FAITH and could not put it down. The characters jump off the page and into your heart. A great read for teens!

Thank you Denise, for being our first author interview on the blog and for talking to us about writing and the writing life.

Tell us about the moment you got to first hold your book and see your name in print. Did you do a happy-dance, or better yet, a Polynesian-happy-dance?

What I did was not nearly as dignified as Polynesian dancing! Lots of jumping up and down, and screaming. When I first received my ARC’s, I only got two of them, so I treated them like precious jewels for the longest time. Anyone who wanted to touch one had to wash their hands with soap first. This may seem a little over the top, but seriously, after so much work and waiting, it does feel a little like a baby.

What inspired the story of Losing Faith?

I lost a close friend when I was sixteen. I think there’s a lot to explore with losing someone close at a young age, and especially when your questions about what happened to them are not clear.

What exactly is a blog tour, how did you organize it, and was it worthwhile?

To be honest, I didn’t really know what a blog tour was when I began organizing mine. That may be the reason that mine’s probably not typical. From what I understand, a blog tour is a string of guest posts, interviews, or other promo surrounding a central theme (i.e. the release of a book) during a condensed period of time. I’ve seen blog tours that run from anywhere between one week and two months, but I really didn’t want it to lose momentum, so I went with two weeks. I think next time I would try to condense it all into one week, actually. As bloggers and other writers asked me for interviews or guest posts, I kept a schedule and asked each one if I could fit them into my official blog tour. They were all happy to be a part of it. Then I added extra prize packs to encourage people to follow along on the tour. I think it was worthwhile. It didn’t cost me anything except time, and it really did get word out on the internet about LOSING FAITH.

What other marketing strategies would you tell authors to do upon publication and down the road?

I tried to say yes to almost everything that came my way. It’s hard to know what is useful, and I think some marketing ventures may be totally successful with one person and not at all with another. I kind of enjoy marketing, but if it was a real bother, I wouldn’t have done nearly as much. As far as what I recommend, I guess I’d say do what you enjoy. If you enjoy handwriting postcards and sending  them to bookstores, go for it. If you enjoy hanging out on Twitter and coming up with fun ways to get people talking about your book (because hopefully you won’t be doing all the talking-up yourself – that’s no fun to read) then do that. Bookmarks have been a great thing to have on hand, and I use them in place of business cards now.

Do you outline before you begin a new piece of work or just make it up as you go?

I’ve done both, but I’d say that I prefer outlining now, even if it’s just a loose outline. I try to write a new book (a first draft) each November, and it’s difficult to sail through and write a book so quickly without some guidelines of where you’re going.

Do you have a set writing schedule/word count goal every day or just try and cram in whenever you can?

During Nanowrimo, I try to write 2500 word per day. Other times of the year, I stick to a time schedule. I usually work for about an hour to an hour and a half a day without interruption (not even Twitter!)

How do you balance time to write vs. everything else in your life?

Very badly. Haha. But seriously, it’s not easy. I homeschool my son, which is time consuming, plus I do bookkeeping for my husband’s business and I’m a professional Polynesian dancer. It all keeps me very busy. I don’t let anything get in the way of my one hour of writing time each day, but I still haven’t really found a logical place to fit things like blogging, marketing & promotion, and returning emails. Those get done eventually, but usually under duress. LOL.

On your website, under advice for writers, you say “Writing can be lonely, but it isn’t a lone process.” Do you have a support group that you turn to for critique, advice and motivation?

Yes! And I could not be a published author without them. And you can’t have them! I’ve met my writing friends from various places—many I made on Critique Circle and one is a long-time friend who I’ve known since before either of us were writers. It took me years to nail down a solid group of people who I work well with—I enjoy their writing and can help strengthen it in ways they can understand and vice versa. We don’t work as a group—just all as individuals—and we usually swap full manuscripts via email. I don’t have anyone local that I work with, so this has all been done via online networking.

For those of us querying our pants off and getting partial/full requests, can you tell us how many full requests you received for “Losing Faith”? And how long did you query before you got “the call”?

Oh gosh, this is hard to remember! From what I can see in my past emails, I think I queried about 30 agents over the course of about four months. I had at least 8 full manuscript requests and I’d say another half-dozen partials. I started querying in July 2008, stopped querying to revise in October, and then when it went back out I got a really high request rate and had several agents interested by November. I signed with Michelle Humphrey (now at ICM) in November, 2008. I also queried two other manuscripts unsuccessfully before LOSING FAITH, so I’ve racked up my share of rejections, and know all about the pain and suffering!

If and when an agent contacts you, what 3 questions should a writer ask before hanging up the phone?

I’ll assume first of all that you know the basics: make sure you’re querying reputable agents who aren’t charging you money other than a percentage of any sales. One of the most useful things I found out during the author agent interviews was how the agents felt about the premises of other books I had written. I wanted an agent for the book I was querying, yes, but I also wanted a career agent—someone who hopefully wouldn’t turn down my next book, because that leaves an author in a very awkward and unfortunate position. I’d also ask about their communication style. How soon can you expect to hear back from them on questions? How many other clients do they have? Do they have any editors or imprints they have in mind to pitch your book to? How many will they send out to at once? Will the agent be working with you editorially on your books? What is their sales history in your genre? Okay, that’s more than three. But really, you should not be afraid of this phone call. Most of it will be the agent telling you what he/she loves about your manuscript. Let the agent carry the conversation, and if they don’t cover any of the above questions (which they probably will) you can ask them as you feel more comfortable. Agents are in the business of sales, so they’re generally pretty comfortable carrying a conversation.

What’s the one thing you would tell yourself about writing/getting published if you could go back in time?

It’s very exciting and I’m enormously thankful for where I’m at, but self-doubt does not disappear with a publishing contract. In fact, it probably increases, as people will feel free to tell you exactly what they think of you and your writing once you’ve gone “public”.

Do you have a favourite writing snack?

Sugar snap peas – the crunchiness helps me think!

For more about Denise and other fun stuff, please visit her website. And while you’re there, watch the book trailer for LOSING FAITH.

BJas

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Filed under Author Interviews, Diablogue, Getting published, Success stories

Ask an Author. Answer a Dream.

It’s Friday and I need your help.

I am going to try something new on the blog, and not just because @restlessmaria’s new favourite word is “diablogue.” But because we, Restless Writers, made a lovely new friend at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference and she has oodles of intelligence to share with writers. And well, I/we want to know everything when it comes to getting published—in this lifetime.

I am talking about YA author Denise Jaden (LOSING FAITH) and she will be visiting our blog next week to answer YOUR QUESTIONS. I am prepping my must-answer-list for Denise and would love to include your questions in the interview.

But first, a quick introduction to Denise Jaden by way of 6 random factoids:

  • She is a professional Polynesian dancer
  • She once was a mushroom farmer
  • She is one tough cookie and can kick your ass
  • She just passed the 43k mark on her NaNo novel
  • She brought the biggest bottle of wine to our Hotel Tweet-up
  • Her debut novel, Losing Faith has been named a Best Book of 2010!

So, if you are living in the world of query mayhem and manuscript submission (like me), and you have burning questions on how to get published—post your question in “comments” and check back to the blog next week for a response.

 Stay tuned!

 Bjas

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Listening to the Woo Woo

The manuscript is complete. Edits are finalized. Query letter is as perfect as it’s ever gonna get. Agents have been researched. Submission guidelines followed to a T. So why haven’t I sent a single one? Because the shamanic astrologer told me to wait.

No, seriously. I met this fella and he gave me a two-hour reading. Part of that focused on my writing and apparently the stars, etc. are suggesting I hold off for a month or so before approaching agents. Now I love a good psychic and even read tarot cards myself, but I also spill salt with abandon and break the odd mirror without a second thought.

Why am I listening this time? Maybe because Halloween is around the corner. Or it’s an excuse to perfect my procrastination skills. Whatever the underlying reason, I figure if it’s taken me this long (“this long” being three years) to get this show on the road, what’s another month?

LD

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What’s in a Name?

I started my women’s contemporary fiction manuscript when my daughter was three-months-old. We celebrated her third birthday this past summer and I’m still doing final edits. The changes are minor, except for two big ones: the title and a main character’s name.

Reading this character’s name makes me want to punch the monitor and I can’t decide if it’s because the character is kind of a jerk, the name is vile or I’m just sick of reading my manuscript. It’s a weird thing to change the character’s name, because it makes me look at him differently. It also feels like I’ve given him a nose job or similar – he’s the same guy underneath, but on a superficial level, he’s changed.

The title of the book is another thing I’m wary of changing. It feels stale to me now. I’ve grown as a writer these past three years (which is why I scrapped the first third of the novel last year) and I feel the current title doesn’t do it justice. But again…am I just suffering from novel fatigue?

I’ve lived with this thing as long as I’ve lived with my kid so I fear I’ve lost some perspective. Luckily for me, I have my fellow Restless Writers to offer some perspective. Ladies?

Lori

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Filed under Books and stuff, Getting published, Writing ideas

Perfectly published

One of my stories, “A Perfect Envelope,” was published today on Every Day Fiction, a must-visit flash fiction site. I’m seriously excited. Here’s a link:

http://www.everydayfiction.com/a-perfect-envelope-by-maria-h-mcdonald/

If you like it, rate it! And I’d love to hear your comments.

And if you want a new story in your inbox every day, sign up at www.EveryDayFiction.com.

Maria

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Write short to build publication credits

Participants at yesterday’s “How to Get Published” seminar in Hamilton, led by Brian Henry, heard some advice about how to move from writer to author. Brian said that many agents and publishers are more likely to read your submission if you’ve got proven writing skills—and that means publishing credits. Up your odds of acceptance by writing and publishing articles and short stories.

There are more and more markets for short story writers popping up every day. And you needn’t look any further than your local newspaper.

I’ve been enjoying the winning stories from the Toronto Star’s Short Story Contest for the past three weeks (it sounds like it took a long time, but the Star published one per Sunday). Today’s Sunday Star featured the first place entry, “Take One Down” by Zach Leger. Congratulations to Zach. GTA-area short-story writers should consider entering this contest next year. Your short piece could net you the $5,000 first prize plus the tens of thousands of readers who pick up the Star.

For more contests and markets for your short pieces (and news about future seminars), visit Brian’s blog, Quick Brown Fox.

Maria

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An “unsentimental education” for writers

Are you a first-time novelist, ready to shop your book around to publishers?

Geoff Pevere, the books columnist with the Toronto Star, has some advice for you: educate yourself about the industry, and be willing to look at your own writing critically.

“Take another look at that pile of paper,” Pevere says. “If you can say to yourself, with complete and ruthless honesty, that it’s a good pile that someone out there is definitely going to think it’s as good as you do, then it may be time to let it loose in the world.”

Maria

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