Tag Archives: Literary Agent

In other news, I see why it’s easy to reject manuscripts.

I just stopped by the pitch party over at Brenda Drake’s site and scrolled through dozens of pitches only to realize my attention span is quick– authors either had me or didn’t in the first couple lines and only a few got me to read their whole entry. Likewise, I realized I have distinct taste in what I will read and won’t, as some genres were an instant skip.

This is not to say the entries I did not read were bad, but rather I now empathize a bit more with agents. They know what they like/are looking for and if you send a query to an agent who doesn’t rep your genre, you’re wasting your time. If you write, I challenge you to go read through some of the entries, really puts everything into perspective to imagine an inbox full of pitches. It also takes a little of the burn out of rejections to recognize your own narrow interests.

The good news, there are a lot of different tastes out there…

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I Always Love a Contest to Pitch my Book…

As I wrap up my final re-read and contemplate how to move forward with self-publishing and a last round of queries, I can’t help but enter a pitch contest. You know, if it could really all be so easy as to submit a 35 word pitch and the first 150 words of my book and then kaboom– agent/published/hurray. I guess the little kid part of me knows it happens for someone, so it might as well be me.

Information on this latest pitch contest can be found here. Per usual, I’m not over-thinking my entry because I question whether it is worth much of an effort, however, I will share in hopes you will consider entering as well!

My 35-word pitch: 

After a jarring miscarriage, Jake and Kristen embark on separate journeys. Kristen departs for Europe in search of independence, while Jake sets off on a cross-country adventure. Torn between old and new, they must choose.

The first 150 words of my manuscript:

It began as a drop. One smooth drop of blood running down her pale thigh. She touched the moisture with her fingers and looked to see the crimson stain on the back edge of her beige, linen skirt. Aware of her coworkers in the neighboring cubes, she fought the urge to fall to her knees and cry in the small break room. She clutched her glass water bottle tighter, careful not to let it crash to the ground. Her heart ached. Dizzyness followed. She needed to sit.

The cessation of pregnancy symptoms left her in denial, the nausea gone, the sore breasts once again pliable. She read on the internet it could be a sign of miscarriage but did not know what to believe. She refused to call the doctor, unwilling to shatter the illusion. It made her happy to imagine a child growing inside her. A dull ache echoed…

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My Weekend Project: Querying a Graphic Novel on Behalf of an 11 Year-Old

For fun, I offered to query a book created by a student in my classroom about his struggles with anger management and ADHD. Thought I’d give you a sneak peak because I believe this book belongs in the hands of kids everywhere:

Dear Agent,

I discovered your agency while researching representation for my own writing. However, I am querying on behalf of my 11 year-old student. For his fifth grade project, he wrote and illustrated a 1,663 word graphic novel about coping with ADHD and anger management.

The book chronicles his real challenges in overcoming anger and focusing in school despite his difficulties with impulse control. Each page is illustrated with examples from his own life in how he went from a kid who punched someone for calling his brother gay to a kid who learned to take deep breaths and get help from an adult instead. The story is centered around the premise of becoming your own superhero and includes humor, such as his love for shouting out the words “hot dogs” in class.

My student’s family gave me permission to query on his behalf. I have been his teacher for two years and watched him transform from a student who transferred because he was getting in fights to a kid who diligently created this book to help others like him. His life story is truly remarkable, with a band of young relatives joining forces to raise him in the absence of his biological parents. If you are interested, I will leave it to his family to share more details, but rest assured it is a story that would melt any heart and give real credibility to the obstacles he has overcome to become his own superhero.

As a fourth and fifth grade teacher, I can vouch that this book would fill a real niche in education, particularly for students who struggle with similar challenges. At my school, this book has become famous, with students beyond my doors asking if they can borrow it for just ten minutes. I am certain that teachers and families alike would love to share this book with any kid who has ever felt angry. 

Thank you for taking the time to consider his submission. This is a multiple submission.

Sincerely,

Olivia O’Bryon

Cover

"You ever get so angry you just want to punch a wall?"

“You ever get so angry you just want to punch the wall?”

"Of course you have, we all get mad sometimes."

“Of course you have, we all get mad sometimes.”

"I got really mad. My hands got hot."

“I got really mad. My hands got hot.”

Each chapter is organized by idea, my favorite is chapter three, "The Last Straw."

Each chapter is organized by idea, my favorite is chapter three, “The Last Straw,” but the chapter “Results” is also pretty darn awesome.

"People like to play with me more."

The best result: “People like to play with me more.”

After all, you are your own superhero now. Go out and show everyone your powers!

“After all, you are your own superhero now. Go out and show everybody your new powers!”

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Big Dreams: Author Platforms, Twitter & Video Blogs (Oh my!)

Alright, I did it. I signed back up for Twitter. Maybe the third time is the charm? I still don’t completely get it, so if you’re into Twitter, you may have to give me some tips. You can follow me here. I’ll absolutely return the favor. To be perfectly honest, Twitter gives me a bit of anxiety.

I’m not entirely sure why. Maybe it’s the constant stream of 140 character or less messages. Maybe it’s the porn bot followers I always end up with. Maybe it’s the threat of one more online outlet to monopolize my thoughts and time… I have to promise myself it will be a quick afterthought. You know, five minutes a day, not hours drained into the frantic declaration of short thoughts against a puffy, clouded backdrop.

What sucked me back in? The answer is a compounding one. First a fellow blogger swore by it for getting book and agent attention. Second a different fellow blogger wrote me an email to share her success in building a bigger audience. Third I watched this video by Folio Literary Management and best-selling author Brendon Burchard, which swears Twitter is a must for every aspiring author.

Fine.

I’ll give it another shot. But seriously, not sure why my blood pressure increases every time I think about it…

In other, non-Twitter news, that link above is great for anyone who writes books. Got me motivated to push myself out there a little more in this whole platform-building process. I have become a bit complacent in recent months, happy enough with my little blog community, not pushing to expand.

However, I get that if I really want to traditionally publish my work, I need to keep pushing myself out there… So, I’m going to do it. I’m going to keep pushing, without being obnoxious to my core readers, I hope. One other thing the video convinced me to try, videos on my blog.

Yikes.

That’s another one of those things I have resisted because it feels so… I don’t know… Self-centered? Like, look at me! Watch me talk, I have something important to say that needs to be delivered in a video instead of a regular blog! I guess all blogging is at its core somewhat self-centered, so I’m willing to let that go if putting my voice out there helps to build an audience.

So, my lovely, true readers, here are Sunday’s big questions:

1. Do you have any Twitter advice for me? What’s the deal with hashtags? Do I need to put them everywhere, or what?

2. Video blogs… I haven’t caught any of you making them. Why don’t you? Or, alternatively, what in the world should I make a video blog about? I’m giving myself a week to come up with something, since I’ll need natural light to make a decent one and, well, that won’t happen during the week, (like my excuse in delaying this whole jump?!).

Happy Sunday.

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Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award: The Golden Writing Ticket!

Okay, I must admit, I felt a little like a child waiting for 9:01 to roll around this evening. I was determined to make sure my Amazon Breakthrough Novel submission was counted as one of the first 10,000. No idea how long it takes for that number to be hit, but I have to say it took an awful long time for my browser to load Create Space… As I waited, I felt like one of those kids hoping for a tour of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.

The good news, my submission is now complete! After a weekend of pretty much non-stop editing, I think I have earned a complete week off Expecting Happiness. Zero novel work will be done, which actually feels like a treat, (odd, I know, since I like writing, but the editing part isn’t my favorite).

What do I plan to do with all this time off, you ask? Sleep, yoga, weekend getaway with my mom. Read someone else’s book, perhaps? I feel like I’m on vacation even though I have to wake up for work tomorrow morning…

And, to top it all off, I have this lovely song stuck in my head. Fun for five minutes, annoying every second after. Wishing you good luck if you’re searching for that same golden ticket!

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Help me write a better pitch (Please and thank you)

Here is my revised pitch as it currently stands, (the old one can be viewed under the Expecting Happiness tab):

As Jake sits on the bathroom floor and holds his crying wife, he knows something needs to change. Stable jobs and a house are not enough. A child seemed like the answer, but Kristen lost the baby and now she locks herself in the bathroom to be alone.

Emboldened by their loss, they say, “Fuck it all.” They quit their jobs, sell their house, and embark on separate journeys. Separate because they want different things–

Kristen wants to face the world without Jake around to hold her up. She departs for Europe looking for independence but inches her way closer to an old friend living in Paris. His name is Gustavo and he makes her blush.

Jake, on the other hand, wants to find a place to start over, somewhere he can convince Kristen to begin a family. Of course, he also craves a little adventure. He sets off on a cross-country road trip but instead finds himself on another continent, a part of someone else’s family.

Even with new faces and changing scenery, life is not complete. Torn between the allure of the unknown and their unrelenting longing for one another, Kristen and Jake must ultimately choose which life holds the secret to greater happiness.

***

So, there you have it, months and months of painstaking tweaks… And still not quite right!

Here are a few questions I have grappled with:

Do I need to include physical descriptions of the characters and/or their ages? (Leaning toward no after my last post…)

Does my ending work?

How can I make this stronger?

If you have any thoughts, I would love to hear them. As long as feedback is offered constructively, I am very open. My goal, after all, is to make my pitch better and I know it’s not quite there yet. If you feel more comfortable offering input privately, feel free to email me at olivia@oliviaobryon.com. And, if you write, post your pitch and I’ll be happy to return the favor! (Cough, cough:: Kozo it’s your turn!)

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Who would you cast in the movie of your novel?

Okay, so I got a bit distracted this morning as I rewrote my pitch. See, I could not decide whether or not to leave in my physical descriptions of my characters. The Book Doctors suggest brief physical descriptions, but for some reason it still feels a little clumsy to me, (new pitch to follow soon).

This got me thinking about what my characters actually look like to me in my mind’s eye. Visualization is not my strength. I see fuzzy versions of my characters, not concrete people, which is not to say I don’t know my characters, but rather nailing down an exact picture in my mind is just not the way I think. I need to see the faces of real people.

So, I decided I need to cast my characters– a useful exercise that happens to also be fun:

Kristen: I imagined her with dark hair, blue eyes, someone who would fit the inspiration of the song “Galway Girl.”

Today I realized she would probably look like Olivia Wilde, which I assure you has nothing to do with her great first name. She’s classically beautiful but can also pull off a punk rock, peace activist college kid, which is important to Kristen.

Kristen.

Kristen. Photo credit: Pinterest.

Jake: He was a bit harder for me to cast. Does Paul Rudd have a younger brother with brown eyes? I imagined a guy that is attractive in a charming smile kind of way, maybe a bit goofy. In my book I describe him as lanky because I see him as athletic and charismatic, but in a real way. Today’s winner: Okay, Paul Rudd wins even if he might be a little older than Jake and maybe not into playing a role that is not purely comical… Guess I’m on the look-out for a younger Paul Rudd willing to mix drama with humor.

Jake.

Jake. Photo credit: Pinterest.

Or, on second thought, maybe Josh Radnor… He did a good job writing/directing/acting in HappyThankYouMorePleaseso he might also be a good Jake.

Other Jake?

Alternate Jake? Photo Credit: Pinterest.

Decisions, decisions… Of course there are half a dozen other characters to be cast, but I’m pretty sure it would take me two hours to pick them all, which seems like a case of diminishing returns. Focusing on my two main characters, however, worthwhile.

Have you cast your protagonists?

And, on a side note, do you provide physical descriptions of your main characters in your pitch? I’m conflicted, as usual.

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Shrinking Words & Other Writing Quandaries

Amazing how a couple months away can give new perspective. Allowing myself to move back through Expecting Happiness, stopping at each spot that bugs me, feels really good. The only thing that doesn’t feel so good is watching my word count drop a bit.

I blame NaNoWriMo for two things: 1. My obsession with word count, 2. A lot of extra words that don’t belong. I get that you go back and get rid of them later, or now, but I do think it results in writing that may be more repetitive than if you just go slowly and don’t worry about how many words you hit a day. Either way, it’s a year later and here I am working on the same book.

This leaves me wondering whether I need to add more words for the sake of having a full-length book… Right now I’m at 68,500, but I know it will drop a bit further as I continue. For any of you who have e-published, how many words were your projects?

My current plan is this:

1. Revisit each chapter with the same care I’ve given the prologue/Chapter 1 this week

2. Reread the whole thing to make sure it still makes sense/check for errors

3. Finish my queries/recontact appropriate contacts

4. If nothing comes of the second round of querying/contacts, I will e-publish and/or share on my blog. I’m not sure which approach to take yet. I just know I need to put it out there in order to move on…

More than anything, I am finding it much more sustainable to slow down and get the work done a little at a time instead of feeling like I need to use every moment of my spare time to write. That was burning me out in every aspect of my life, especially my day job. Slowing down these past two months has made a huge difference. Now it’s time to get serious and get this book done, even if it is just an hour or so at a time.

Happy balanced Sunday.

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Writers, Get Excited.

Chances are, all my writing buddies out there already know about this contest, but just in case you have not heard about Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award, I am sharing anyway. Beginning in January, CreateSpace is accepting pitches for a multi-round contest that ends in May with a $50,000 advance and a publishing contract. Four runners-up will also receive $15,000 and contracts.

Now, you know I like a good contest to put fire in my fingers to get some writing done. And, with a lackluster showing for NaNoWriMo, I am excited to get back to work on my original baby, Expecting Happiness. From now to January, operation finish this sucker. I know, I know, I said I was done before, more than once. Turns out a couple months off, some good reading on the writing craft, and additional input has left me with a list of things I am excited to improve. Plus, still have not perfected that whole pitch thing…

So, if you have a finished or near-finished manuscript, hope you’ll join me in this endeavor. Motivation in numbers… Right?

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Writing Crossroads

Help!

I’m standing at a writing crossroads and having a very hard time deciding which path to take. I don’t want to get stuck in one project, but I also don’t want to start more than I can feasibly finish:

Option 1: Put everything Expecting Happiness related on hold for the month of November, (unless of course some very enthusiastic agent wants to snatch me up…), and have fun letting the words flow for NaNoWriMo. This was my original plan. I figured I’d come back to Expecting Happiness either because of outside interest or after I played around with something new, learned some more tricks in the process, and was ready to revisit.

Option 2: Here is what I was not expecting. Reading up on the writing craft this month has left me more aware of the places I could strengthen Expecting Happiness. Likewise, I have received input/interest from two of the people I reached out to in my querying process and see that with a little guidance I might be on an even better track toward getting this thing traditionally published. So, my other thought is that I get this book truly done for good before allowing myself to explore something new.

I feel very torn between both options. I am so excited to be back in that first writing stage again where everything is fresh and you’re living inside the story. However, I also feel like I’m beginning to make some breakthroughs in how I understand my own writing, some breakthroughs that might make the difference…

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It’s Almost November… Which Means Nanowrimo!

The fall quilt is out, the leaves are… okay, still green. It’s 90 degrees here in Sacramento, but at least I have the autumn spirit. Something about the shrinking amount of daylight makes me increasingly focused on finishing old projects. I am seriously ready for something new. In fact, I’m darn-near ecstatic for something new to write. So. Close.

My first queries go out this Thursday. Just wrote a bunch of personalized letters and tightened up my synopsis to one page, (Hallelujah!). As much as I really hope something comes of this effort, I am even more excited for what’s next. I just ordered Self-Editing for Fiction Writerswhich I admittedly should have read earlier, but at least it will be a good, nerdy read before beginning my next novel.

Speaking of which– November 1, 2012, mark you calendars. Okay, really, only mark them if you’re also planning to participate in Nanowrimo, (National Novel Writing Month for the uninitiated). As much as I dislike some of the rubbish I had to wade through last time I spit out thousands of exhausted words after bossing around children all day, I still feel like this is the perfect place to get motivated and give yourself something warm and cozy to do through the cold winter months. So, seasoned writer or not, I invite you to join me as we cheer each other on with the hefty goal of writing a novel, (or the beginning of a novel), in one month.

Last year I only did 22,222 words… Which is nearly 30,000 shy of the goal, but it still encouraged me enough to feel like I could write an entire book, which shortly thereafter, I actually did. This year my goal is just to write well, in quantity, for the entire month, using November 1 as the launch for my new idea. We’ll see where I end up. I’m excited. Nanowrimo is like Burning Man to me, an annual celebration of intense artistic expression.

Will you join me?

Looks like I already have one writing buddy in my mess of papers today– could use some human ones as well… Add me as a writing buddy on the nanowrimo site!

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Getting There on My Own Time

I’m not the fastest thinker in the world. I need time to cook my thoughts, even if sometimes it takes weeks, or months, or years to find my answers. There is no hurrying the process.

Writing my pitch for my query letter has been like this. I chip away, a little at a time, gradually creating a more coherent, enticing product. Now and then, I impatiently check the oven to see if it is done. Still not there, but a little closer, maybe edible even. Small victories and trust that if I continue to follow the steps in the recipe, it will be ready soon enough.

For you seasoned query writers, a question: Do you write the synopsis before sending out your queries or wait to receive a request for one? Yes, that’s the impatient part of me asking. I fully expect the answer I don’t want to hear, but that’s okay, maybe I need it for motivation.

This week’s extracurricular activity: Query writing, oh the fun!

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