Tag Archives: Querying

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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Changing the Way We See Self-Publishing

This morning my perspective on self-publishing shifted. I had always seen it as a second phase, either the space you reach when you cannot find an agent (at no fault of your own, of course…) or the choice you make when you’re already established and want to regain control over your profits. Sure, I had read all kinds of success stories, but I had also scrolled through the sea of titles, lost in the myriad of choices, uncertain of the quality and dissuaded by the prospect of reading on an electronic screen.

However, this morning as I sat over tea at my favorite French bistro with my uncle and my husband, I was swayed a different direction. Suddenly, self-publishing was the indie choice I loved all along without ever realizing it, akin to making an independent movie instead of waiting for a big studio with its formulaic tastes to discover your project. I adore many independent movies. I don’t know why I never made this connection before.

In fact, this past weekend, I saw an indie flick at Tower Theater in Sac, the kind of place you sit and revel at moviemaking’s past, the crown molding and neon sign making up for the struggling air conditioning and sagging seats. We watched Frances Ha, a movie which at first makes you wonder if you’re witnessing a slow theatrical train wreck but eventually blossoms into a genuinely funny and touching film. Indie movies may have their flaws, but they also bring you into worlds more refreshing than those where everyone has a shiny new car and drinks Coca-Cola with the label pointed outward.

I see my book as kind of the same deal. It may lack some of the sheen of a blockbuster, but there is enough beneath the surface to make it worthwhile, especially if you stick around until the end. Likewise, I recently read my uncle’s first novel, a book which marries Dan Brown’s ability to create suspense with Pillars of the Earth’s timeless heroes and villains. It is exactly the kind of thing I would expect to see on the bestseller’s shelf at the local bookstore, yet he has not been picked up by an agent. Proof the old system is imperfect, overlooking true gems in the ocean of submissions.

So, as I left our little book meeting, I could see my novel self-published with an indie charm, no less meaningful without the mark of a major publisher on its spine. I’ve always been an acquired taste, as my father likes to say. It only makes sense I would find a quirky world for my words to thrive, an audience who appreciates this sort of thing, the kind of people who go to sit in Tower Theater instead of always opting for the comfort of the megaplex. The gatekeepers may bemoan the changes in the publishing world all they like, but it is about time the indie book market follows in the footsteps of its movie-making big sister.

Part of my late embrace of the self-publishing model is also learning to experiment with e-readers. So far, the borrowed kindle kicks the iPad’s butt and I’m coming around to the idea of reading my own words on one of these screens.

Part of my late embrace of the self-publishing model is learning to enjoy e-readers. So far, this borrowed kindle kicks the iPad’s butt and I’m coming around to the idea of reading my own words on one of these screens.

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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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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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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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