Tag Archives: Literary Agent

D-O-N-E (For Now)

Oh man, if I could count the number of times I’ve said I was done with my book in the past 6 months, well, I guess I would feel like a liar. But, seriously, this time I mean it!

Six full times through on my own, seven readers, eight if you include myself. 69,536 words. 184 single spaced pages. D-O-N-E.

I’m not allowing myself to read it again right now.  I’m of the opinion I could make subtle changes to my words for centuries. I’m ready to ship this bad boy out and get started on something fresh, something new.

So, in the spirit of publicly decreed focus, here is my remaining to-do list:

1. Format the sucker. You know, double spaced, indents, all that fun crap I should have been doing from day one of Nanowrimo.  You live, you learn.

2. Write my generic query letter to be tweaked per agent. Oh yeah, and I guess write a synopsis too.

3. Enter my last line edits from my two superstar remaining readers.

4. Send the beast out, (starting with the 31 agents I compiled last May).

5. Wait, hope, wait, start something new.

There you have it, a plan, a little excitement, a little trepidation, a little self-doubt, a little self-congratulations. A little of everything really.

I know in reality, if it’s ever going to be read by a larger audience, it’s not done, it will have more editing, more rewriting as it moves through the various states of either traditional or self-publishing. But at least for today, it’s D-O-N-E.

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Why E-Publishing Calls My Name

Let’s be honest.  We all prefer traditional publishing.  You know, a real, hard copy of our books available in bookstores nationwide, worldwide even.  Just the idea of holding my book in my hands, tangible, validated by some credentialed person who does not know me, gives me that funny, excited feeling in my stomach, butterflies. However, I keep getting the same little message presented to me by the universe.

If I can’t get an agent, at least e-publish and put it out there.

A coworker friend is married to a writer who just finished a non-fiction book.  They live in a local university community and are friends with people that are both published and publishers.  Instead of querying agents, her husband plans to simply e-publish and hope he can build an audience before approaching or being approached by the necessary people.  His strategy is not unusual.  I read about authors almost daily that e-published, found readers, then published traditionally.

Then, of course, there are all the agent blogs that criticize e-publishing.  A few try to suggest it’s a viable option for some, but the undertone is always condescending, like it is still some kind of vanity press.  My friend pointed out that of course they feel this way, e-publishing diminishes the value of an agent.  Numbers speak to publishers for themselves.  This recent Forbes article sums up the indie publishing debate quite nicely.

Still, I would be thrilled to have an agent fighting for my book.  I’m planning to query the little list of agents I assembled in the spring, thirty some-odd people that represent successful works similar to mine.  But, when I reach the end of that list, rejection rite of passage likely complete, I will be left with the choice to e-publish and put it out there, so perhaps, some people who like it will find it in the sea of other novice, e-published authors.

If you have e-published, how did you decide to price your work?  What platform(s) did you choose?  With what success?  I’m inclined to charge just a dollar or give it away for free, because really, my goal is not so much to make money, but rather to begin the foundation for a lifelong career.  Other books will follow.  I know this is a debated topic, so I am curious to hear your thoughts.

Of course, the goal is this, but maybe in the beginning, it’s better to start somewhere than nowhere at all? (And, yes, this is a recycled pic from my leftover pile of summer reading I wish I had time for!)

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How do you really feel about your writing?

I’m halfway through rereading my book.  I’m moving slowly because life has taken back over. Teaching, family, friends, my smelly dog.  While the pace is frustrating, I’m trying to relax and just accept that it will all happen with time.  This is my first book.  The hurry is self-created.

R-E-L-A-X.

A couple questions keep resurfacing, that I am very curious to know how others feel.  The first, do you ever really love your writing?  I want honest answers.  It won’t sound arrogant to me to hear yes, or self-depricating to hear no, I’m just curious because I bounce all over the place, even within the same piece.  While I love to write, I’m not sure I love what I write.

Some days I think it’s good, others I recognize I still have room to grow.  Probably, it is some mixture of both good and need for growth, I get that.  I just wonder whether writers commonly like their own work or continue to be critical of it even after they finish.  Other than reading for flow and mistakes, I’m done with this book.  I want to move on, I feel like I will do better with a fresh story.

To be clear, I’m by no means saying my story is bad or that I’m giving up on it, I just don’t know if it’s unusual to feel so mixed about my writing.  I’m proud I did it, I think it’s readable, I like the plot, I just know I’ll also get better as I go.  I’ve decided that if I can’t get an agent/publisher, which I know is highly possible, I want to e-publish just to share it, to put it out there, to help me grow.

So, here are my questions for writers:

How have you felt about your writing when you’ve finished?  Confident, unsure, both?

What e-publishing communities have you enjoyed the most?  I spent some time on smashwords and amazon today.  Not sure what’s the best option, although as usual, I’m a couple steps ahead of myself because I still need to finish and at least submit it to some agents for the ritualistic rite of passage.

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Query Secrets: Knowing Your Characters at the End of Your Book

In fourth and fifth grade, when we want to add on to something someone else has already said, we begin with sentence starters like, “I’d like to piggyback off what so-and-so said,” or “I concur with so-and-so because…”  In the same spirit of properly acknowledging other people’s thoughts, today I would like to piggyback off what Descent Into Slushland shared recently about the importance of knowing your characters when writing your query.

Basically, he suggests that writing a good query hinges on knowing your characters instead of attempting to outline the plot.  He has some great points and examples, so instead of trying to recapture his ideas, I recommend clicking the link above and reading his post yourself. Interestingly, his points inspired me to make a list of the characteristics of my two main characters, Kristen and Jake.  We all think we know our characters, but sometimes we need check-ins to keep ourselves honest, or at least I do.

What I discovered was actually amazing.  I found a small hole in my book that I was able to fill with an additional short chapter, adding another 1,000 words to my word count in the process and helping to create a fuller understanding of my characters and their relationship with each other. Sure, I outlined my characters before I began my book, but they changed through my writing, creating slightly different people than the ones I started with.  Instead of tweaking those original descriptions, I just kept my evolving ideas of who they were in my head, which ended up leaving a gap between who I thought they were and who I wrote they were.

I can tell my query is going to be a lot stronger as a result of this reflection too, although I still refuse to give it my full energy until I finish my final read of my book, (here is my pitch as it stands now).  I guess what Descent into Slushland helped me realize is that written check-ins with your characters throughout your writing are important, not just in the beginning or middle.  Of all the advice I have read on query writing, this has been most useful for the way my own brain works. Thanks Descent!

I wanted to share how informal and quick these check-ins can be. Instead of agonizing over finding beautiful words or painting an entire picture, I just typed in a stream-of-consciousness, errors and all.  What I discovered was a small hole in my book and a good foundation on which to base my query.

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Little Blog Renovations

I know I shared the same young literary agent’s blog last week, but she has some more great advice today about making sure you’ve covered your bases with linking social media on your site.  Amanda points out that everything should occur above the page break, which can be a little tricky if you’ve selected a WordPress template that will only allow widgets in the footer, (like me!).

My solution was a quick fix– I just created some new pages (or tabs) for contact, follow, Expecting Happiness, and my own little favorite, be brave.  Had to share because I know many of you are also aspiring writers trying to get your foot in the door with agents.  Amanda’s Thursday blog updates are always great!

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How did you pick your writing tagline?

I get that for some of you writers out there, your genre is pretty darn obvious.  You write romance, or scifi, or horror.  But what about the rest of us, just writing books about life?  What do we call it?

I’m not self-important enough to claim that I write literary fiction, maybe someday, but not there yet.  Neither is my work popular enough to call it popular fiction, (heck, I’m not even published, so much for popular).  And, I hate the term chick-lit, because really, why alienate half the planet with that label?

Labels, labels, labels.  I like what John Updike said, “The category of ‘literary fiction’ has sprung up recently to torment people like me who just set out to write books, and if anybody wanted to read them, terrific, the more the merrier. But now, no, I’m a genre writer of a sort. I write literary fiction, which is like spy fiction or chick lit.”
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So, I guess that leaves me somewhere in the range of contemporary, modern, commercial, or mainstream fiction.  But, which one is it?  Aren’t they all the same thing?  Today I received advice from a young literary agent whose weekly blog posts I really enjoy.  She suggested I create a new tagline on this page, something that better describes my writing.  While I agree with her, I have trouble picking the right words.  Somehow calling myself a writer of contemporary fiction does not say very much. Writer of modern adventures, perhaps?  Even that may be promising a thriller instead of just a story about life.  If you write in the sphere of literary or contemporary fiction, how did you decide to label yourself?
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Even Powell’s blue “literature” room is a catchall for the books that do not fall under the traditional genre umbrellas. But, how does calling something literature describe it?

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