Monday, December 12, 2011

How to Survive WAITING

…and waiting. And…waiting.

Before you ask - oh yes. Agents wait too. Sure, we may be relatively calm about it - we resist the urge to pick up the phone and eagerly ask…well?? Resist the “just checking in!” emails until a reasonable amount of time has passed. Don’t DM our editor friends just PLEADING for an update.

But we are equally as excited about the work we put into the submission world as any writer – and we go equally bat s**t crazy with stalking urges during the “waiting to hear back” process (well…I suppose I shouldn’t speak on behalf of ALL agents…maybe I’m just terribly impulsive and impatient and oh god what if it really DOES suck and I’m just kidding myself here and would it REALLY be so bad just to email NOW or maybe I should start submitting some more just to even out the numbers again but what IF I get an offer and I guess I can wait one…more…day……)

Sound familiar?

Regardless of who you are in the writing world, waiting sucks.

So here are my tips on how to keep you SANE:

1.Start a new project. NOW.

Getting excited about something new will help ease the tension; it gives you something to look forward to, regardless of the outcome at the end of the waiting.

2.Talk to others going through the same process (NOT to others you’re looking to get an answer from, like agents, editors, etc).

It helps to realize…you’re not alone. Just because you’re waiting doesn’t mean it won’t happen.

Word of caution: keep any griping private. Don’t post on your blog about how frustrated you are. Don’t bitch out on that writing forum you think is so safe and anonymous. Keep any correspondence and social networking appearances professional; don’t let it be obvious that you are completely eaten up inside about the waiting.

3.Scour the Internet for inspiring posts about others who survived.

I can’t say this enough: just because it isn’t happening NOW doesn’t mean it will NOT happen. It just may take a while. Listening to the heartache others had to go through will remind you it WILL end…if you persevere and continue to grow.

Here are a few posts to get you started:

Mandy Hubbard
Jessica Souders
Kristin Welker
Stephen King
J.K. Rowling
Dr. Seuss et al

4.Be Proactive.

Another fabulous “P” of publishing. Use your waiting time productively and positively – by being proactive. Research a new list of agents or publishers to submit to. Attend writing workshops and brainstorm revisions. Get involved in other writing community events, like contests, book review blogs, or social networking to build up exposure to yourself and your writing (ahem – phase one of the PR plan!)

Word of caution: DON’T JUST GIVE UP. Don’t fall victim to an “easy way out”; i.e., don’t just choose to e-publish because you’re frustrated with lack of progress. ONLY go those routes if it’s the way you WANT and are PREPARED to go. Sending out masses of new submissions may also be a temporary fix – but it will quickly turn to more frustration and disappointment if you aren’t reflecting on any feedback and possible new directions for yourself and your manuscript first. It may be best, in the waiting phase, to make LISTS of opportunities…and act later.

5.Finally: Allow yourself to be INSPIRED.

Pepper your writing space with inspirational posts to keep you going. Keep an open mind during your waiting process; you’ll be surprised where it will lead you. Don’t substitute griping for growing – ALWAYS think ahead to a next step; don’t get stuck on the bottom rung.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

And the Debate Goes On...

I am very glad for the responses to my last post, and I can appreciate where everyone is coming from.

But I want to add some more things to chew on, as I'm curious what the responses will be to them:

1. Are people taking into consideration the sheer volume of submissions agents receive now, in comparison to when agents first started? Our agency receives up to 150-200 per DAY via email; four years ago, paper only, my old agency received up to 100 per WEEK.

2. Are people also taking into consideration that agents are paid on commission? Which means that to answer all those submissions, roughly 1,000-1,400 per week, is unpaid time?

3. AND, that of those 1,400 submissions...almost half aren't even things we'd represent, i.e., things sent without reading our guidelines and interests?

I know how much time I spend per week answering unsolicited queries - about 5 hours, and personally, I don't mind. I'm a younger agent; I have the time to do it, and I believe in our agency's policy to do it. But...does everybody?


4. Many agents are working two, if not THREE jobs, to be able to keep agenting - because commission takes a few years to start paying any bills. We work 24 hours a day - no joke. Reading, reading, reading at night - pitching, editing, negotiating, taking calls back and forth, smoothing bumps and feathers and possibly even stuffing a Happy Meal or two during the day.

Some agents just may not HAVE that extra 5 hours. Doesn't seem like much, I know...except, keep in mind that that is the time spent ANSWERING only - not including all the reading. Life as an agent isn't really all that glamorous. It's full of rejection, stress, and lack of sleep.

But...I posted this, and my last post, because I'm honestly curious to know the responses to these things (and I should add: I'm directly debating the no response=no policy to unsolicited submissions; I do think requested submissions deserve a response).

Do any of these points justify the action? At least make it more understandable? Enough not to throw insults, at least, while entering the debate?

And, whether they do or not: IS there a happy medium to be made...or is there just no pleasing everybody? (Because trust me, even though we respond, THAT is not even enough for some people).

Like I said before: I'm an agent. I'm biased. I'm going to defend the agent side. None of this will change our current policy at the Bradford Agency; this is all on me, not representative of my agency or employer at all.

The reason I'm still prodding this snarling beast of an argument is the same reason I blog: to provide more dimension to this side of the fence. And if I'm going to do that, only fair to open up the floor for others to provide more dimension for me as well.

So: thoughts?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

No Response=No Debate

I'm sure many of you have heard more than enough on the no response=no policy and SCBWI's open letter to the industry causing all the hullabaloo lately.

I’m disturbed by this debate, but not because of the topic – rather, because I don’t feel like it’s stemming from the issue itself. I feel like people are frustrated in general with the industry, and blowing a lot of that frustration into this steamy argument.

We currently live in a time where there is already doubt on NEEDING an agent OR publisher; not responding is seen as an act of selfish authority, when authors are questioning if agents and editors should even HAVE a leg to stand on to enforce such authority.

Additionally, though SCBWI’s open letter addresses both agents and editors – most blogs I see seem focused on the AGENY side. I would argue that only shows more that this debate is being used as a front to express frustration with the industry – because, since more and more publishers are closing to unsolicited submissions, agents have become the ultimate “bad guys” who “make or break” a career.

Writers are focusing on the “guilty” party, in other words, who is the “most” responsible for not getting what he or she wants - which is a publishing deal.

Now hold on – before you explode at me that it’s the morality of it all, an issue of respecting everyone’s time and that, even if everyone got offers, it’s still not right to leave people hanging - let's put it all into perspective:

When people submit job applications - do they always get a response to let them know the application has been received?

When called in for an interview – is there a guarantee the potential employer will call back, regardless of the decision made?

Does that mean we should enforce regulations on employers to provide auto-responses to applications, and form letters to interviewees, so potential candidates aren’t left sitting around for months and months agonizing on whether or not they’ll get The Call?

In truth: submitting a manuscript is EXACTLY this process. I know it’s hard to hear, because writing is so very personal, but the process of publishing is business, not personal. And just as a “sorry, we went with someone else” is absolutely no help in the rest of the job hunt process, except to assume there was someone better - are we REALLY helping by sending that form letter? Or are we justified in thinking that, with all the writing resources out there, these people we don’t respond to should really be moving on and searching elsewhere, while at the same time looking at how to improve their WORK, not the rejection process?

In other words: should people spend less time worrying about those not responding...and more time trying to help those not being responded to?

Easy to lay blame, after all, rather than take responsibility.

I’m biased; and I can understand that people don’t like being left with loose ends. To be honest, if the shoe were reversed, and publishers started saying no response=no to AGENTS…boy, would I not be happy.

I am personally in favor of auto-responders for agents who have a no response=no policy, so writers at least know their work has been received - but that doesn’t mean I’m going to vilify an agent who disagrees.

We live in a time of change in the publishing industry; there are more ways to be published and submit than ever – which makes the competition steeper than ever – which makes the frustration higher than ever.

But maybe we should stop focusing on ways to fix others...and focus on how to make our work impossible to ignore.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Giving Up

I did an #askagent recently, and someone asked: at what point do we (agents) "give up" on a project that’s been on submission and just isn’t selling?

My immediate response was: never. I will never give up. I may pull a project based on poor market timing or to go with a new book, but always with the thought that the original book could work down the road.

Ahem. I want to take a moment to retract and amend that statement – because I was wrong.

It’s tempting for me to want to be fierce and loyal and beat my chest and say NEVEEER!!! But really, the actual answer is that sometimes, you just have to. But giving up on one book does not mean we're giving up on the author.

Yes, sometimes, there is enough solid feedback from editors that we can re-work the manuscript or the pitch and go for another round. Sometimes the response is: we LOVE it…but we’re just not looking for this right now. Sometimes there are tons of nibbles, but no bites…sometimes we get SO CLOSE…

And sometimes…it’s just time to put a project to bed.

To quote agent extraordinaire Jennifer Laughran:

“There are only so many editors. I am not going to sell work to a shady or bad editor, or to a house that I think is not reputable, just so I can say "we sold it." My goal is to sell the project WELL, not just sell it.

Not every single thing that every writer writes is going to find an awesome home - it just isn't, especially if they are prolific. So, sometimes projects end up going on the back burner for a while. If you do go forward with a new project and it sells, you might very well realize that the first one was flawed. People TEND to get better with each book -- I've found that I'm generally better off looking forward, not backward.”

To expand on this, I’ll quote the fantastic Mandy Hubbard – who brings to the table an agent AND author perspective:

“I saw the difference in rejections between my first agented project (The Jetsetter's Social Club) and my second (Prada & Prejudice). I wrote them just months apart. My agent thought the first would be the easier sell. It was obvious immediately that P&P was stronger. We went from vague/quick rejections to revision requests. Now, I would never want to see the first project on submission. It's not as good. I'm the same writer, and wrote them the same year. But sometimes you have to give up on a project-- just not the writer.”

So yes – sometimes, I will have to give up on a project – most often, because the only responses I’m getting are vague, or I’ve exhausted the list of editors to send to (if one editor at an imprint passes, that’s typically a pass for all at that imprint. And even two different imprints may have the same publisher, or boss – which means, the same boss says yes or no for both, and so it would be silly to get a no from one imprint and send to the other next when the same boss would see it again at the next), or I think a newer work will be much stronger and I want to focus on that one.

Sending something out endlessly, even to lots of smaller presses, might indeed land a sale - but if I think my client can do better…I’d rather wait and send out a new project for a chance at a better deal (and by better deal, no, I’m not just talking money; distribution, editing, marketing, cover art, communication, contract terms, etc. Some small presses are fabulous, but not all are created equal, and no way would I want my client's NEXT work tied up in an option with a non-reputable press!).

But I don’t sign clients because I think that ONE book is it – I sign them because I think I can sell their work, period.

So authors: don’t give up on yourselves – don’t let rejection bother you. Just keep writing and developing – because that’s what we’re counting on you to do. We can only help you succeed if you continue to write!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

My NaNo Post

I’ll be perfectly blunt: as an agent, I hate NaNo. But - ONLY because it means that December…will be full of projects that I really, really should not be seeing until MARCH.

So side from that agent aversion, I do think it’s a fabulous event in the writing community and a fabulous tool for writers to really get on track and feel accomplished.

That all said, I know that everyone and their mother is going to have (er, ALREADY has) a post with tips and motivators and all sorts of amazing links to help with NaNo…so I’ll keep this short and simple.


I promise if you send a query letter before January that says it’s a NaNo book, you’ll be shooting yourself in the foot. And no, that does not mean you just shouldn’t put it in your query (although really, you shouldn’t) – it means you really WILL be shooting yourself in the foot because there’s no WAY you’ve had the time to make sure it is ABSOLUTELY ready for agent eyes!

The worst thing you can EVER do in a submission: send it out before it’s ready.

Now GO ON – stop procrastinating by reading blog posts and write already!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Why I?

I got an interesting question at a recent conference I attended: “Do all YA’s have to be in the first person?”

I was a little surprised by the question; I immediately wanted to answer no.

But then I thought about it – and I realized that the asker had a good point; because from all the examples out there, it certainly does feel like first person is the norm.

But why? Going even deeper into this question – why is YA most often in first person…and adult genre fiction most often in third?

The first part of my answer to this relates back to my post on YA vs. Adult – voice. There is a definite ego-centric (less reflective of the world/life, less put into perspective, a world through the teen lens alone), emotionally vibrant and raw quality to YA voice that is best served in first person to hone in on that narrowed focus. And, let’s face it, YA authors are often pulling from their inner teens - so the I voice really is coming from the "I" of the author.

But that is not the only reason. The second layer to my answer is about how relatable the characters, situations and worlds actually are.

A cheating boyfriend, new kid at school, alcoholic mom - things featured in reality we can relate to and understand. But a snarky miss toting from one glamorous ballroom to the next, swept away in an elegant waltz…and then diving out the window in chase of a jewel thief? Not so much easy to relate to.

Let's look at some more examples:

  1. Contemporary YA deals with themes and situations that are directly relatable – and it’s almost always in first person.
  2. Lest you think all contemporary should be relateable, however: contemporary romance, despite being set in our world, often features a situation we can't relate to at all - love at first lust (...ok, sight), and a clean, happy ending. We are reading these stories HOPING we'll have it...but we can't really relate to it.
  3. Adult genre fiction is often pure fantasy (not something we'd likely have happen in real life) - and it is most often in third person.
  4. Genre YA, too (more commercial, fantastical novels) tends to feature more third person – again, I'll argue, because they are harder to relate to.
  5. However, again, lest you think all fantasy is not relatable: Dystopian YA, despite being far from situationally relateable, draws on many of our own fears – we can directly relate to what is going on, because so many of us have felt the same way - and so it’s not hard to see why so much of it is written in first person.

There's clearly no hard and fast rule. But my take on it is that a voice in first person allows the reader to actively be a part of the story in a directly relatable way; a voice in third person allows the reader to be just as absorbed - but like watching a movie rather than playing a virtual reality game.

Quite simply: if you’re reading I in a novel, you’d better be able to put yourself in I’s shoes.

So, what to take away from this?

If you’re debating whether or not your novel suits better in first or third – ask yourself what your end goal is. If you want your readers to have a more direct and intimate experience, first would be a better fit.

But if you want your readers to truly escape, release all inhibitions and disbelief grounded in our reality, give third a try.

You can always find and replace it back.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Tips on Marketing Your Novel

Below is a helpful list I compiled (using the brilliant “phase strategy” author Jessica McCann -- All Different Kinds of Free -- put together way back when I sold her debut) of the best tips on promotion I could find and think of.

I strongly encourage any author reading this post with any more tips and ideas to share – nothing is ever going to be comprehensive, but that’s really the fun part of marketing: finding new, fun and proactive ways to reach your audience!

AND – you’ll notice that there is a phase for all the pre-published out there too – oh yes: that DOES mean you need to start…NOW!

Pre-Sale Phase

•Get INVOLVED – not just with book signings and conferences, but with online groups and review sites. The biggest term to remember here: PAY IT FORWARD. NETWORK is a very close second.

•Go to and tweet when you’re reading a book; if someone is having a book birthday, congratulate them; if someone makes a sale, congratulate them; if someone is having a contest or wants others to post their book title as their twitter icon, participate. Get EXCITED for others sharing your journey and help them too – even if a fraction of them help you back, you’re better off than NONE of them helping!

•Join online writing groups such as , Romance Divas, YAHighway, and chat groups such as #YAlitchat on Twitter.

Immediate on Sale Phase

•Post news and update profiles: Twitter, LinkedIn, professional website, etc.

•Email announcement to friends, family and colleagues

•Email blogs (relevant to your genre) with 500+ followers to ask if you can guest post to share your success story (hopefully you FREQUENTED these sites during your pre-sale period)

•Announce to your social groups/network

•Start thinking NOW about potential guest blog post topics you could cover (i.e., if you had a historical fiction, you could write about how to research historical fiction; navigating career transition from X to novelist, etc.)

•Create a blog; if you’re skittish on venturing out on your own, get a group together, such as the ladies over at Let the Words Flow.

Top tips for blogging:

1.Keep the content useful and unique
2.Pick a reader-friendly layout – simple and eye-catching
3.Link to other blogs and posts when YOU post (it helps you get higher in the search rank for sites like Google – as does posting frequently!)
4.Add a personal touch
5.Post regularly (at LEAST once a week)
6.Use tags and keywords
7.Use images as much as you can – keep it visually stimulating!
8.Keep your titles simple and catchy
9.Get it out there – tweet/announce via website, etc every time you post!

Buzz-building Phase

•Media: Pitch local author profile to local magazines/papers

•Media: News release to local publications

•Online: add sample chapter to your author website, tweet link (check with your publisher before doing this to make sure it’s ok)

•Online: periodic genre and book-related Tweets (pub news, trivia, quotes from book, etc.)

•Syndicate your content so your ONE update appears in as many places as possible (here's a how-to guide)

•Online: periodic updates to LinkedIn profile with book news

•Online: Continue with current social media strategies to build followers & make connections overall (I love this chart on how to stay active and visible)

•Check out how well your efforts are doing – check your blog stats per post, for example, to see what’s resonating and working, and what is not. Other status checking sites: Clicky, Tweetmeme, YouTube statistics. Look at how many comments you get per post – are they interesting enough TO comment on OR retweet?

Pre-release Phase

•Book stores: contact any local independent stores that may want to stock copies

•Online: post book trailer to website and tweet link. Join and post to YouTube.

•Online: add "buy the book" links to website

•Print: Create bookmarks, postcards, flyers featuring cover art (mail to
personal/professional contacts, hand out at any events/conferences)

•Email: send update to personal/professional contacts

•Print: If possible, write guest posts and/or newspaper/magazine articles on ANY topic, and include your book title/release information in bio

•Online: Host book give-aways on Twitter (e.g. RT for chance to win advance copy)

•Join relevant conversations and chats to your topic – link relevant posts from other authors or bloggers to your website and accounts.

Release and Beyond Phase

•Book release event – book a local B&N or bookstore to host your event. Focus on stores that report to bestseller lists such as NYT (you can always ask an independant if they do or not, if you can't book B&N; here's a post detailing the bestseller lists, and a story/how-to on reaching the NYT list.)

•Book club meetings via Skype - conference in on misc book club meetings to discuss your book (promote this online – perhaps have a sidebar on your blog or website that announces your availability to join in on book club meetings)

•Compile list of local booksellers to approach; offer to sign print copies they stock, provide signed bookmarks to give away

•Submit your title for awards/contests for published novels

•Try Podcasting tips or other fun facts to supplement your novel (an audio recording): How to Create a Podcast (A Step-by-step Tutorial from


•Let everyone know it’s out - email friends and colleagues, post on your blog/website/facebook/twitter – and add a link to where they can buy it!

•Explore other social media possibilities -- Facebook page for novel, Amazon author page, Goodreads

•Consider getting URL (build simple site with book club questions/ideas, trivia/factoids, links to relevant info, etc. -- see for an awesome example)

•Guest blog opportunities (use your list generated early on!)

•Blog book tour

•Advertise any events on the Facebook/website

•Twitter: Profile picture will be cover of book, can host a Q&A session (#BOOKTITLE)

•Facebook/Website/blog: Profile picture will be cover of book, add author bio, news, blurb of book w/description of contents (link to where to buy, list other titles), host give-aways, contests, host a guest author – continue your networking! – with a tie-in subject, Facebook ads

Potential Events

Just because you’re published doesn’t mean conferences aren’t for you – they certainly are! Give workshops to gather attention to yourself and book (though don’t necessarily focus on YOUR book as the workshop – maybe an angle you used to write it, to help others out). WORD OF MOUTH spreads!

Put together a list of any local events to attend, including bookfairs you could set up a booth/table at, and reach out to conferences and offer to do critiques or workshops.

The most important thing is to keep it lively and fun!

Finally: create brilliant marketing plans your agent wants to share to give yourself an extra promo boost. ;)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

What I Like…and Why I Like it

I honor of my re-opening to submissions, I thought I’d do an in-depth explanation of what I love to read and what I'm craving to represent. Below is a list of all the books I read over the two weeks of my honeymoon, and what I specifically liked about each one; the list is only fairly comprehensive in terms of my reading tastes, but should give some great examples:

Some Like it Wild* by Teresa Medieros (Historical Romance)

What I Loved: The yummy yummy Scotsman. I really could not wait to get back to the delicious hero in this book every time I put it down! What is more, is that I loved the characters; the heroine is spunky and she’s not Venus come to life or some nonsense; her beauty and passion are sparked purely in the eyes of the hero. I love that kind of book because it makes the romance feel so much more private and personal. It’s also an extremely well-executed book, and the level of passion is just what I like.

One of my all-time favorite Highlander books is Temperance by Jude Deveraux

Queen of the Dead* (Ghost and the Goth, book 2) by Stacey Kad (Contemporary Paranormal YA)

What I Loved: Whenever I dive into this series I am always struck by how smart the heroine is. She’s the stereotypical blond cheerleader – with brilliant people-reading skills. I love characters that break the mold like this; this character acts the same way that stereotypical cheerleader would, but she’s given depth and dimension which make her entirely likeable. I also love the dry and sarcastic voice; a must-have for me in any contemporary! I do love me ghosts, too…

One of my all-time favorite ghost books is The Mediator series by Meg Cabot

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Science Fiction/ Dystopian)

What I Loved: This was so amazingly gritty and relentless; and so real. The world building was so well done; for a dystopian, this is crucial: I knew the food dishes they ate, the politics, the fashions, the history, the technology, everything. All the little details that make up a world were explained which made it read so vividly. The main character’s thought process , working things out with me as she went, also drew me in as a reader; nothing was told to me – I lived this with her.

The Heiress* by Lynsay Sands (Historical Romance)

What I Loved: The blunt heroine. This story had a holy mother of a complex plot, but really, I was drawn in by the fresh, sassy heroine. This hooked me with the unique plot, and kept me reading for the feisty heroine.

My three all-time favorite historical romance writers: Julia Quinn (witty and sexy), Lisa Klypas (passionate and delicious) and Johanna Lindsay (fiery and passionate)

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver (Dark Contemporary w/ Fantastical Elements)

What I Loved: if anyone has ever wondered what “beautiful dark” means in my bio – this is it. Beautiful writing with such a dark and tortured subject. The heroine was so real and vivid – her memories and moments bubbled up to me like snapshots, giving me a 360 view of each and every character in this chilling and morbid situation. To quote the book, “so many things become beautiful when you really look” (343); not only her life, but my life, came into focus as I read.

Atlantis Awakening* by Alyssa Day (Paranormal Romance)

What I Loved: to be honest, I was a little hesitant to post this one up – because it’s a vampire book. A shape-shifter, werewolf, vampire book – and I do NOT (repeat: do NOT) want any vampires or wolves. However, there were also some very unique elements to this story – the warriors of Atlantis (who isn’t fascintated by Atlantis?) and the “gem singer” – a woman whose witch powers include being able to sing emotions and power through gemstones. Loved that. Call me a sucker for a glittery jewel, but any kind of “gem speak” is up my alley. The hero was, admittedly, a little too animalistic in his possessiveness of her heroine, but I appreciated how spunky and fiery she was in the face of it.

When it comes to paranormal, I’m really looking for fresh; I’m open to time-travel as well – one of my favorite books in that category is Remembrance by Jude Deveraux.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (Dark Contemporary – Issue Book)

What I Loved: I know I’m like ten years late to the party on this one, but this truly is such a powerful and heartbreaking book. Another beautiful dark for me; the heroine’s emotional journey was so gritty and raw – I could feel every ounce of her shame, frustration, the injustice of it all – and above all, was so incredibly inspired by her courage as she grows and finds her voice. The “issue” was very secondary to my connection to the heroine; that’s how I like “issue” books – more about the emotion and the character/s than the issue or message.

I didn’t read a fantasy or a gothic-inspired ghost book, but I’d love to have those too – especially creepy, dark and chilling ghost (or fantasy) YA.

The only kind of picture book I’m really looking for is along the lines of Square Cat* by Elizabeth Schoonmaker – short, funny text, preferably character-driven (650 words or less) – and I’m being VERY very selective on PBs.

I also didn’t read any middle grade, but I particularly love middle grade with heart, along the line of The Higher Power of Lucky* by Susan Patron, and middle grade with fantastical, paranormal, or sci-fi elements.

There’s more in my bio, but this is what I’m particularly craving right now.

Be sure to take a look at the “For Writers” tab in my blog to make sure you submit the best possible manuscript. Here are tips on revision…and finally, how to write a hook to knock me dead!

Submission guidelines are here.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

It's My Blog...and I'll Post Pics of My Wedding if I Want To!

As some of you may know, I was MIA for the past two weeks (oh who am I kidding...past six MONTHS) for my wedding and honeymoon.

I'm very pleased to announce that I am officially now Mrs. Natalie Maya Lakosil!

I had some AMAZING pictures taken by Stephanie Dana, which I wanted to share with all of you. A few snips below, but for more thorough "storybook" feel, you can visit here to get a feel for what my big day was like.

More *ahem* actual agent-y posts to come, but for now, enjoy!

Natalie M. Lakosil

Sunday, August 21, 2011

What Exactly...Does an Agent DO?

I recently took a research survey in which I had to reflect on just that question.

I found myself feeling as if I was writing a “help wanted” ad for Craigslist as I described the job skills:

An eye for good writing, an eye for marketability, current market knowledge, editorial skills, personal connections to editors and other industry professionals, ability to negotiate and read a contract, multi-tasking skills, self-driven and motivated, a thick skin, perseverance, an excellent memory, speed-reading, and a sugar daddy or three jobs for the first 3-5 years.

But what it all boiled down to was: an agent…is our clients’ best advocate.

Publishing is changing. The duties that agents are taking on are changing. But the role of the Literary Agent will never change; we will always be our clients’ best advocate.

I think all writers should mull over what that really means. Because it does not mean that we should be limited to certain duties; and it does not mean that all we need to do it pitch and sell a book. We have to be our clients’ best advocate – we have to believe in that client, period, and do whatever is necessary to aid their career…traditional or otherwise.

It may be the case that some agents have lost sight of this. It may also be the case that authors are misinterpreting recent moves and decisions that some agents take as selfish instead of client-friendly.

But in this agent’s eyes, that’s all anyone needs to know about me: that I adhere to this standard.

Regardless of the fact that sadly, I do not have a sugar daddy.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Update! Open Meetings Ahead! Come Meet Me!

Hello Adventure-ites!

I know I've been so completely slacking on my blog (and online presence in general) lately; I'm sort of in the whirlwind of wedding planning (all the pieces are done but ah...putting them together...yeah, that part is harder than I thought it would be).

Anyway, I've decided I'll definitely be heading up to LA this coming weekend for SCBWI's Summer Conference in LA (not faculty, just going to hang out).

Since I'm not officially a part of...anything at the conference, really, and my mind has NO room to try and book appointments with editors/authors/friends/whathaveyou, I'm just going to set myself up at the Starbucks here on Saturday, August 6, from 10am-12:00pm and whoever wants to stop by and chat...can!

I'm not expecting pitches, brilliant conversations, or even bribes of kittens; even if you want to just say "hi" and dash away, that's fine by me!

TBD what I'll be wearing...but I'll post that up so you can find me (maybe I'll just dress like Where's Waldo. That seems appropriate...)


Thursday, July 7, 2011

If You Show an Agent a Contract...

I wrote a little diddy the other day, punch-drunk from exhaustion as I dealt with one crisis after another (aside from wedding planning - 2 months away!! - I had a death in the family AND moved, so yes, I did disappear for a while, and yes, I did spend part of my time writing a ridiculous little poem). Just a little fun to highlight some of my adventures as an agent.


If you tell an agent about a contract…
She’s gonna want to see it.
And if you show the agent the contract
She’s gonna want to negotiate better terms.
And if she negotiates better terms
She’s gonna want 15%
And if you give her 15%
She’s gonna want you to sign an agreement
And if you sign an agency agreement
She’s gonna want to see your next book
And if you show her your next book
She’s gonna want to do some revisions
And if you revise for her
She’s gonna want to sell it
And if she sells it
She’s gonna need a good advance
and in order to get a good advance
She’s gonna need to kick negotiation booty
And to kick negotiation booty
She’s gonna need to have some leverage
And to have some leverage
She’ll have to have sent it to other editors who want it
And if other editors want it
She’s gonna need some coffee
And if she gets some coffee
She’s gonna need a muffin
And in order to get the muffin
She’s gonna need some money
And to get some money
She needs to close the deal
And in order to close the deal
She needs to have an auction
Except someone wants a pre-empt
-where’s the damn coffee???

Monday, June 20, 2011

What AGENTS Are Doing with Self-Publishing for Their Clients

Now, the last thing I want to do is start a debate.

So I'll join one.

I really didn't think I'd end up commenting on this blog post. A fellow agent brought it to my attention when she emailed me and a bunch of other agent buddies to glean our reactions to the whole self-publishing thing.

I'm still not really going to - I have plenty I COULD say, but really, eh. What I'm mostly concerned with is that a lot of agents (myself included) are getting a little more than frustrated with all the flak out there regarding agents who represent self-published authors - they're being called "thieves" and "useless" and all sorts of nasty, irrational and impulsive things.

Personally, my reaction to that post was to flat out laugh. Maybe my head is in the sand; but whenever I hear someone rant about how useless agents are these days and what CAN we really provide that an author can't do themselves, well, I say good luck to you then. I'll represent those who DO appreciate what I do. I have no wish to stand here and argue when your face is already blue.

Which is exactly why I haven't commented much, save my own feelings on self-publishing, on the role agents are/should/will take.

I don't plan to either. It's sort of a moot post to make, since it changes every .001 second.

But I do have a few things to say, maybe to add to the conversation as a whole, that came up while chatting with fellow agents Laura Bradford and Taryn Fagerness today.

1. Ok, so you say it's a conflict of interest for an agent to self-publish a client's work - an agent can't be publisher AND agent.

I say: so, you'd rather have an agent lie to you for their own self-interests?

Think about it; all this yelling at agents to stick with the traditional roles is really backing us into a corner of only being ABLE to offer traditional roles to clients...who may actually benefit from self-publishing. Take a mid-list author, for example, who has a NY publisher, but isn't necessarily happy with the cut they're getting. They are an incredible self-promoter, are already seeing great ebook sales...and perhaps they could make it bigger if they stick it out with the publisher, or really, just continue to flounder on the mid-list doing ok. An agent isn't going to want to shoot themselves in the face by walking away from a guaranteed advance. But this author...might REALLY make more, and become far more profitable, from e-publishing. The author may even be...happier!

The limits of ebooks and e-publishing have yet to be established - and an agent who is backed into a corner of "either you're a good agent, and keep your client in NY, or you're a bad agent, and plop a book on Amazon and take a cut of the ebook money" isn't going to be able to completely lay out the pros and cons. They're going to tell the client...what is in THEIR best interest as an agent, whether to save face or hey, to pay the bills, but not necessarily what is in the CLIENT'S best interest.

3. What if an agent signs a client, edits the book, goes out on submission, and can't sell it - is it fair game then to self-publish that *edited* manuscript without any compensation to the agent?

True, traditionally, this IS a risk agents take - we only get paid when an author gets paid, so any effort we put in CAN be for null. But DOES it still count under that traditional structure for self-publishing? After all, the author is, then, getting paid. Even if the agent doesn't do any of the self-publishing...what's the right thing to do, in terms of all the work we DID put in?

Right now, there's no standard for that - should it be a flat fee, since we DID technically serve as an editor? Should we take commission? Should we just say oh well??? That's what my agency is currently trying to figure out (and we haven't reached a conclusion).

2. So what CAN an agent offer clients that they can't do themselves, anyway, when it comes to e-publishing?

Simple: foreign rights. Do YOU have publishing buddies in Germany and Italy ready to read your book? (Ok, neither do I, but I definitely know who to go to who does). Know how to apply for double tax exemption, if you DO decide to start submitting to foreign publishers and/or self-publishing overseas? (THIS, I DO know). Know if it's even POSSIBLE to self-publish overseas?

Even simpler: access to OUR knowledge of professional cover designers, copy editors, and publicists - people we KNOW get results, who are WORTH the money you spend. After all, we meet these people at conferences too - not just editors. You can be sure I keep their cards, just in case.

And even SIMPLER: we can literally take the hassle of knowing the where and how to put your book online - and even have ins, like to OverDrive, the nationwide library ebook distributor, that YOU don't have, and can't get.

Do YOU know how to purchase an ISBN and register copyright? Know what to do with it, how much it's going to cost? Know how to format your manuscript for Kindle, Sony, or Nook? Thought all that was automatic...or starting to think that maybe it's a little more complicated than write book, pu button, see on screen??
Obviously, my view is going to be biased. And it certainly doesn't answer anything; these points, like I said, may be moot tomorrow anyway, and I'm far, far from having an answer on how the agent-author self-publishing relationship should work. If you're curious, here is a post on what a few agents ARE doing with self-publishing - and read a success story here about a client of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency that self-published with them.

But food for thought.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Everything YOU Wanted to Know About CONFERENCES and the NY TRIP

Alrighty, so there were some fabulous questions asked of me from the last post. Not surprisingly, of course, most of you wanted to know about conferences!

Here are my answers:


Is it something you'll have to do regularly, or doesn't it make much of a difference whether you're an agent in San Diego or NYC? I've always been curious about the logistics of being an agent outside of New York.

It's something I plan to do once per year. This was my first official trip out, and thus (I'm hoping) the craziest logistically. But, to answer your other question, no, it doesn't make a big difference - as long as I'm still attending conferences where I meet MANY editors and emailing, twittering, and talking on the phone to editors to know their tastes. It's just so much fun to finally meet in person and get some face-time with someone you've been corresponding with for over a year! It is also nice to literally put yourself in front of these people and say, "Hey look, I DO EXIST!"

What did you learn in your meetings as far as MG goes? What are publishers looking for more of right now? What are they tired of seeing?

I think the biggest thing I took away from this trip was: SEND US MG!!!!!!!!!!! Almost ALL publishers are DYING for MG right now; there is a lot of room for almost any kind, due in part to the huge YA burst.


Why do agents go to conferences? What do they hope to get out of it? And do agents often get new clients out of them?

Well, for me, the biggest benefit is getting to interact with editors I only get to meet in person if I go to NY. But yes, we are absolutely also hoping to get clients out of these conferences - I have indeed signed a client from a conference (yes, I did say A client).

This is, sadly, rare; it's sort of a running theme for faculty to end up asking each other: "Soooo...have YOU ever signed someone from a conference?"

The answer is usually no. Why? Because a big majority of those that attend conferences are brand spankin new writers - which means they have a few betas and (possibly even) manuscripts to go before they really get everything down!

My advice, honestly, is: don't go just to get an agent. It doesn't matter if you meet me in person or not - your writing is what's going to sell you. SO, go instead to HONE YOUR CRAFT. These conferences are invaluable for learning the do's and don'ts, to gathering up the courage to start submitting, to re-igniting your momentum to keep going. You find partners in all your trials and tribulations, and are surrounded for hours and hours by people JUST LIKE YOU: WHO LOVE BOOKS AND WRITING. Who won't look at you slightly pitying and disgusted when you say: I'm writing a book.

Since you probably don't have time to write everything about the one in NJ, what were the high points for you? What were the high points for attending authors? Was there overlap between both sets of high points?

Biggest high point: seeing my clients, Jessica, Natalie and Charlotte. I also truly enjoyed meeting so many wonderful editors, and interacting with conference attendees...who just wanted to chat, not pitch me all the time! I love socializing and ESPECIALLY love sharing what I've learned along the way with others.

I have no idea what people get out of'd have to ask an attending writer! But, I imagine one of the same benefits I get - realizing these big, scary agents (editors) are just cool, approachable people, too. I'm the COOLEST, of course, but....

Any plans to attend the AZ one?

No. We have to be invited to these puppies. ;) You can see what I'm attending on my EVENTS tab.

Besides free books, what is the best sort of SWAG you like getting at conferences?

Bags - totes or otherwise. I SO do not need them, but I love them. Pens. Awesomely unique things that I won't just throw away - like a bottle opener shaped like an antique key with the title of your debut Steampunk *hinty hint*. BUTTONS - love fun ones that don't just have your title on them, but maybe a cute, spunky reminder that has to DO with your book or genre.

I have a post on SWAG, actually, you can read more on.

How often do agents go with clients, in person at least, to events like conferences? Or did the meet up just happen on the fly?

I'd say close to never. If I see a client at a conference it's because the clients live in the area I'm attending the conference at, or they decided to attend the conference too.

What do published authors do at these conferences? I understand why agents, editors, and hopeful authors go, but I don't think I've ever heard why established authors make the schlep.

Network. Exchange cards with other aspiring authors for blog/promo team-ups, blurbs, other marketing tips. Meet with editors and (possibly) publicists; it's ALWAYS good to have your name out there in the biz. Promote your book - these writers are eager to hear of your success stories, and a publisher author can often give a workshop or lecture about theirs or something helpful to aspiring authors (who are also POTENTIAL BUYERS). Word of mouth!

What is it like, from an agent's perspective, to hear a pitch from a very nervous aspiring author? What are you thinking as we chatter along? Do you see through our nervousness to the good idea?

Cute. And a little funny. As I've stated before, I literally look like I've just turned 12 and people are nervous to talk to ME. Very odd, but a little endearing.

If I can't see through the chatter, I ask questions to get an idea of what you're talking about - I almost always say yes to a pitch, because for me, it's the writing that decides, not how you talk about it. Which is why I also always say...don't use your appointment to pitch me - come with questions! Come prepared to chat and get to know me better. You can email me your perfect, non-chatty pitch later. ;)

Read more on my take on pitch sessions here, and then go write the perfect pitch!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

New York and Beyond

Yup, that's right - I finally made the legendary agent-shlep out from San Diego to NY!

I figure, well, I don't really have much energy to think of something super helpful to write, so I'll just let you in on exactly what happens on these trips:


Lots. And lots. Of meetings.

Over 30 in three days kind of meetings. And that's a lower number.

Between navigating the streets of NY while trying to ignore the wafting breeze of...port-a-potty (yes, NY smells like a port-a-potty in the summer), realizing I'm heading Uptown but oh, whoops, I need to be going Downtown...on the B subway...not R, wretchedly holding my skirt firmly at my sides as I'm blown by the gale-force winds that is the Penguin and Scholastic area, and making it just in catch the sleeping receptionist, I had my hands quite full.

I had awkward meetings (blank stare across the can we do for you??) some drinking meetings (ah...martinis count as book talks, right?) some incredibly laid-back meetings (yeah, that was me you saw whose skirt flew over her head) and some formal, traditional book-chat meetings.

I could really go on all day about it; I could especially go on all day about the conference that capped it all off (SCBWI NJ).

Instead, I will share some pictures:

My client, Jessica Souders, whose debut RENEGADE will release in Fall 2012, and me

My clients, Natalie Zaman and Charlotte Bennardo, whose debut, SIRENZ just released June 8th, and me

And shall open up the floor to all of you - any questions about my NY trip or the conference? Let me know what you want to know!

*questions posted on and before Friday, June 10th will be answered*

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Ponder, Polish, Perfect: How to Successfully Revise

As I've been promising for some time now, I'm finally getting around to posting my talk from the SCBWI Newport Beach Agent Day on revision. And yeah, I totally stole some snippits from previous posts. Deal with it.


When I had planned to give this talk, I'd originally titled it re-Invision. One of the conference coordinators, Beverly, was smart enough to call me out on that and double check...did you mean re-Envision?

She showed me the definitions for Invision and Envision:

Invision: noun (and possibly also a made-up word) Want of vision or of the power of seeing.

Envision: verb. to picture mentally - used with an object.

I promptly changed the title of my talk, because she was absolutely right; I did mean Envision (and not just because Invision is quite possibly made up) because revision is an action. A process. An ongoing development. Not a WANT, not a THING in itself. It it USED with the thing. NOT the thing. It is a MENTAL RE-Imagining of your work.

I come to the topic of a revision having experienced it from both the writer and agent's perspectives. I started as many in the industry do - thinking I was going to write historical romance bestsellers (wait, that's just me?...). As an author my agent would send me notes and I immediately snatched them up like some sort of test. I thought the goal was to get them done as QUICKLY as possible; I wanted to be the BEST author EVER who POWERED through revisions in no time at all!

As an agent, let me step back now and say: revision is not a checklist you can power through.

If I had a client who had a turn-around as quickly as mine was, I'd seriously take pause. Because, like I said, revision should be a RE-IMAGINING of your work as a whole - not individual bits and pieces. It isn't a process of "receive notes and execute," but rather a process of "receive notes, mull, brainstorm, tweak, and execute."

This is a good thing to keep in mind when you get conflicting advice. Not every agent thinks the same; not ever reader will have the same notes. If you ever find yourself as a writer with two sets of day and night notes - don't panic. Mull. Think how EACH set helps YOU to RE-ENVISION your work AS A WHOLE (can I say this enough?).

Now, onto the good stuff:

I'm going to go over a few ideas, which I certainly hope you will take and expand on and adjust for your own use. These aren’t things that will work for everyone, just tools to help you re-envision your work. They are certainly not comprehensive (this was a blasted 50 min talk, give me a break) but below and throughout are links to some very in-depth checklists and step-by-step processes you can go through and look at later.

1.Take a break - and start with fresh eyes
-brainstorm, mull; don't TOUCH it for at least three days after getting notes (or two weeks after you finish). Scribble down ideas if you must, but take a break!

2.Start from the beginning
-GET fresh eyes on it - use your critique partners! See where your weak spots are per reader - any similarities?

-Think of the WHY not the WHAT: tackle the REASON behind the emotional impression.

Pro tip: Cheryl Klien, an editor at Scholastic (who has, by the way, the BEST post on revision I have EVER seen), says:
I read through the manuscript and make notes of my impressions every step of the way.
o I’m bored
o Love this
o Where is this going?
o Hmm
It allows her to pinpoint exact spots that work, don't work, and might need tweaking.

-create a story-board, scene by scene. Then start taking scenes out. See what you can do…with cutting. (This will help you write a synopsis, too). Post-its are a must.

-play the "what-if" game - for example, take a problem your character is confronted with. Come up with possible outcomes, including completely outrageous and bizarre ones; it'll help you think outside the box

one of my favorite examples has absolutly nothing to do with publishing. A husband and wife were having problems because the wife was tired of doing taxes every year. They brainstormed all sorts of outrageous ideas: Not file and go to jail. Run away to the Bahamas. Etc. In the end, they hired someone to do it. Maybe not the most dramatic solution, but the point is, it opened up an dialogue between them to find a solution.

You can do the same with your plot. Where do these outrageous ideas lead? How does that change the outcome of your story? Is it more dynamic?

-cut first three chapters – keep a scrap document, an original, etc. Just play.

4.Focus on voice
-One of my favorite recommendations on voice revision comes from Kim Griswell of Boyds Mills Press: highlight all the sensory details in your manuscript a different color. See what you’re doing, what you may need to add. Too much dialogue? Enough sensory details? Too MUCH of one sensory details (like sight)?

-voice is the quality that allows the reader to forget about the author. It has place – a taste of where you came from, what’s shaped YOU, the author, in life, and sensory details. The best voices reveal a piece of the writer – what YOU notice because of who you are -- which, I’ll add, makes sense; as humans we’re going to connect the most to real human voices, because it allows a character to seem real, which allows us to forget that they were written.

5.Focus on conflict
-what is your central plot arc - is it clear? Is it fresh, original? Take a look at your synopsis. A lot of the time, the synopsis highlights the heart of the story, and will pinpoint exactly what the important details you should have – and what you shouldn’t have – are.

6.Focus on characterization
- I loved Nathan Bransford's take on this (and his revisioon checklist!): Does the reader see both the best and worst characteristics of your main characters? What do your characters want? Is it apparent to the reader? Do they have both conscious and unconscious motivations?

-It is very important to make your character believable and relatable (there’s a reason so many characters have no boyfriends and no lives and are so poor – the majority of us are like that too). If your character has un-likeable aspects, make sure there are still flaws, too. Sarcasm is great; whining is not. Think cheeky and feisty rather than arrogant and violent. Inner strength should shine through the voice, even if not in the action.

But I've always heard it's what you do, not what you say, that counts!

Ok. Let me explain:

Scenario one: Greg jumps the fence and slays the evil dragon.

Scenario two: Greg is afraid of heights but he jumps the fence anyway and gets close enough to the evil dragon even though he's allergic. It was easier for him to overcome his fears and allergies because he hates the color green, like the dragon, so much.

In both scenarios we understand that Greg's the hero...but we understand his strength of character from the second, because we have a voice to understand him and his conflicts and personality. Get it?

6 1/2. Focus on peripheral characters
- Avoid black/white characters

What I mean here is: avoid blanket good/bad stereotypes. Yes, sometimes these blanket characters pop up; epic stories usually have them. But the gray area is always so much more interesting and heartbreaking.

A great example of this came to me when I (re) watched (for the millionth time) Pirates of the Carribean. Captain Barbosa is clearly a bad guy…right? But that last scene, when he dies, and the bright green apple falls from his fingers…you definitely feel heartbroken for the guy, don’t you? That little detail, those darned apples, were a beautiful plot device for making him more dynamic. They were a physical representation of his motive. He wasn’t bad for the sake of being bad; he was in pain. Yes, he also gets a chance to explain his motive to us, but it’s the apples that really drive it home.

-Ask yourself: Are these characters just tools to an end?

Part of what may make a character seem less dynamic is if they only exist to drive forward the plot. Yes, yes; back to the epic fantasy example, sometimes it’s unavoidable to encounter these “extras.”

-Their motivations are going to have to come through via interaction with the hero and/or heroine, if you don’t have multiple POVs (which I never recommend). So go back to pivotal scenes, and give them a voice! A great exercise for this is to write a piece of the book in each of your character’s perspectives. You don’t have to include this; but see what they have to say.

7.Focus on Pacing
-First: count your adjectives and adverbs per page. Are you waaay overdoing it? Can they be cut and simplified? How about any of your sentence structures?

-This is where the earlier experimenting will help:
Cut your prologue, dream sequence, and first chapter.Why? Too much back-story upfront really drags pace, and too many tiny, unimportant, menial things like sports games, day-to-day activities, talking to mom/sister/great-aunt also really slow pace. You don’t need to tell me when your character goes pee or brushes her teeth. In other words, don’t summarize events; realize them in the plot.

-Alternately, do you jump too quickly into the action, and not give ANY hints as to what's going on?

I love to consider why people love mysteries: beacause they figure out what happens WITH the main character. But they can't do that without clues! Think of your characters like the mystery: make sure there are enough clues scattered in there to allow the reader to piece together the puzzle of their personality...without you having to actually tell them.

-Of course, the best way to improve pacing is to go back and snip snip snip from your finished manuscript; ask yourself: why is this scene really here? Does it actually serve a purpose to the plot? OR DO YOU JUST LOVE IT BECAUSE YOU THINK IT'S THE BEST WRITING YOU'VE EVER DONE AND YOU SPENT TEN HOURS ON IT?

8.Some other important things to keep in mind:
Be aware of your writing tics, such as repeated words and phrases or facial expressions (does your main character pale and purse her lips ten times a page?)

-Read, read, read in your genre, know the expected word counts, and the standards of what is acceptable and what is not

To quote Ms. Klein again: An action novel needs a tighter plot than a coming-of-age story. A moody YA needs more character development than a middle-grade series.
• You want to figure out what your book’s personality is and how to enhance that, but, it's ALWAYS good to know what IS an isn't appropriate, regardless of if you hit the mark on your impression

For example, if someone blushes in the subway because they're reading your steamy YA, maybe that's exactly what you want...but is that appropriate for the age group?

And lastly:
-Save your drafts

-Don't cherish anything (although it's perfectly ok to be upset about having to cut anything; again, just think about WHY you're upset about it - because it really belongs, or because you're just really connected to it and don't want it to go to waste?)

-Trust YOUR gut

CC by SA 2.5 at

Check this out for a PLETHORA of other revision posts and, if you're craving another checklist, go here.

Happy revising!

An Ode to the English Language

by Eugenie A. Nidia*

We'll begin with a box, and the plural is boxes,
But the plural of ox becomes oxen, not oxes.
One fowl is a goose, but two are called geese,
Yet the plural of moose should never be meese.
You may find a lone mouse or a nest full of mice,
Yet the plural of house is houses, not hice.

If the plural of man is always called men,
Why shouldn't the plural of pan be called pen?
If I speak of my foot and show you my feet,
And I give you a boot, would a pair be called beet?
If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth,
Why shouldn't the plural of booth be called beeth?

Then one may be that, and there would be those,
Yet hat in the plural would never be hose,
And the plural of cat is cats, not cose.
We speak of a brother and also of brethren,
But though we say mother, we never say methren.
Then the masculine pronouns are he, his and him,
But imagine the feminine: she, shis and shim!
Let's face it - English is a crazy language.
There is no egg in eggplant nor ham in hamburger;
neither apple nor pine in pineapple..
English muffins weren't invented in England .
We take English for granted, but if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square, and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

And why is it that writers write, but fingers don't fing, grocers don't groce and hammers don't ham?
Doesn't it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend?
If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?

If teachers taught, why didn't preachers praught?
If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?
Sometimes I think all the folks who grew up speaking English
should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane.

In what other language do people recite at a play and play at a recital?
We ship by truck but send cargo by ship...
We have noses that run and feet that smell.
We park in a driveway and drive in a parkway.
And how can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same,
while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites?

You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language
in which your house can burn up as it burns down,
in which you fill in a form by filling it out, and
in which an alarm goes off by going on.

And in closing, if Father is Pop, how come Mother's not Mop.??????

*From internet research, it seems that this poem first appeared in the EFITA Newsletter in January 2006... The original title is “Pluralities.”
However, I have also read also that it dates back to the mid-1800s...
The EFITA newsletter lists as the contact; however, the email address doesn't work.
So. Who knows. If YOU do, tell me!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Perseverence: The Hardest P

Today I have a very, very special guest post by Literary Agent Laura Bradford of the Bradford Literary Agency. I'll let her explain the whats and hows of the post itself, but in sum, and why this post means so much to me (and why I want to share it with all of you) is that it demonstrates one of the HARDEST of the P's of Publishing: Perseverance.

I realize that I haven't actually gotten around to having a whole post on these P's yet, but in sum, the P's of Publishing are the P words that are all you need to make it in Publishing, such as:


The list could go on and on. I'm going to try and put together a few posts on these P's, starting with this very special one. Take it away Laura!

Alrighty, so a couple of months ago my lovely new assistant, Natalie, asked me to write a guest blog post for Adventures in Agentland. I said of course and then did what I always do and started to stress about not being able to come up with anything interesting to say. I suggested to her that she should give me a deadline and a topic or else I would probably drag my feet forever. Skip ahead a few weeks and we were at the Romantic Times conference and for some reason or another I was relating a story about one of my author’s recent sales and how it was a super EXTRA special one. She told me THAT is what I want you to blog about. Tell THAT story. And here’s your deadline. (Natalie is an excellent listener.) So here we are.

About a year ago I had an author who lost her publishing contract. And by lost I mean she had finished her contract and her publisher decided not to re-option her. This kind of thing does happen from time to time, and I think given the recent economic downturn and the publishing climate of late, this probably happened even more than usual in the last year. It happens to good people and good writers. We all know perfectly well that sometimes good books get lost in the marketplace and even with excellent reviews and covers sometimes readers just don’t respond and open their wallets. And publishing is a business so we all understand that sometimes a publisher has to make a hard decision and let an author go. But it totally sucks. Sometimes the author can see it coming, sometimes it comes as a surprise but I think no matter what, the news brings the author a certain sense of upheaval, self doubt, anger and sadness. Why did this happen? What will I do now? Is this [genre, series, pen name] lost to me forever?

My author had been writing science fiction romance which is one of those romance sub genres that people either adore or REALLY don’t care for. Like time travel. It just isn’t quite as mainstream or considered as widely appealing as say…a demon hunter theme or vampires. The author loved writing paranormal romance and while I AM fairly biased, I think she is very skilled at it and it made sense for her to pursue another contract in paranormal. But after she lost her SF romance series, she discovered just how much of an outside-the-box author she was. She wanted to write about all the things that NY was not really interested in…her ideas were risk-taking in a market that had become increasingly risk-averse. So where did that leave her? Questioning A LOT. In a situation like this, does an author choose to write something that doesn’t interest them in order to please NY? Do they choose to go another route entirely and move to epublishing where greater risk-taking is allowable? Do they find a new genre and try it on for size? In my author’s case, after a lot of soul searching she decided to try something completely different. She might fail spectacularly but at least she would be writing something that made her happy and we would work out the future as we went.

So she made the leap from very, VERY sexy science fiction romance to young adult historical romance with steampunk elements. There are some similarities between the two genre types but really they are more different than the same. And writing for young adult is TOTALLY different than writing for adults. As an agent who handles YA, I see a lot of YA manuscripts and if there is anything I have learned, it is that writing a truly authentic YA voice is VERY hard to do. Many, MANY more people fail than succeed at it. There is no shame in that. Not every writer is skilled at writing every type of thing and that is okay. If it was easy, everyone would do it. My author told me the story she had in mind and it was really pretty awesome. I told her to go for it. And she did.

In fairly short order she sent me the 1st 30 or so pages of the new story and I was thrilled to take a look. This is what happened: I didn’t like it at all. It just didn’t work. The voice was wrong…it didn’t feel age appropriate…the pacing was off. The hook was solid and I knew the plot twists were very cool but at the end of the day, with YA, if the voice isn’t there, the most compelling plot in the world can’t make it work. And it is my job to tell the author this. We brainstormed some ideas on how to make it work better and she tried again. This is what happened then: it still didn’t work. The voice was not right. Not just a little not-right. A LOT not-right. And if it wasn’t right, it wasn’t going to be sellable.

Now I am an editorial agent, so my response to a manuscript one of my clients sends me will almost never just be NO. I think it is my job to help the author make their work better, to make it appealing, to make it sellable. To make them money. I WANT to be encouraging. I BELIEVE in their skills and talents. And I do not like to hand out news that will be disappointing. But as I said before, not every writer is good at writing every kind of book and that is okay. And I am not doing my authors any favors if I continue to encourage an endeavor that may never be the right fit for their skills…when the result might ultimately be a lot of time spent without a sale to show for it. It is hard to know in these cases what is the right thing to do. Should I suggest the author keep going? Should I suggest they hang it up and try something else? I told the author what was not working with the piece. I told her what it needed to be in order for it to have a chance. I gave it to her straight. I didn’t sugarcoat. I also did not expressly suggest that she try it again. I left the decision to her to decide whether to continue working on the piece. And she decided to hang it up. She’d known all along that the project was far outside her writing comfort zone. She agreed that the voice was not right. And she understood that she might not ever get it right. And that it was okay.

Though she was very nice about it and kept a stiff upper lip, I think this decision was really quite upsetting. She LOVED this YA story. It was cool and romantic and fresh and adventurous. It made her happy. It was what she wanted to write and like the SF romance, it was turning into something else that she loved that she might not ever get to publish. And now she would abandon it in search of something else that might please that fickle bitch, NY (even if it didn’t please her).

I didn’t hear from her for a few weeks after that and I gave her some space. I knew she was planning on finding some mainstream paranormal idea to work on in an effort to get back into the romance game. It was probably for the best. Then she emailed me and told me that after she’d decided to set aside the YA, it just would not let HER go. And she couldn’t help but to give it one. more. try. I thought: oh, boy. If this doesn’t work again, this is when the break up (the author and the story) is really going to hurt. This is what happened: I LOVED it. It was fantastic. All the issues with voice and pacing were gone. It had turned into everything that we had wanted it to be. It turned out she DID have a YA voice in her repertoire. I don’t know if the author had needed that time away from the story for that intangible thing that was missing to crystallize but whatever had triggered the change, it was a great thing and I told her to hurry up and write the full. She did. And it was awesome. Then this is what happened:

Kristin Welker’s YA debut, THE CLOCKWORK KEY, a clockpunk romantic adventure set in Victorian England about a girl who unravels the secrets of a mysterious society of inventors and their most dangerous creation, to Anica Rissi at Simon Pulse, for publication in Fall 2012, by Laura Bradford at Bradford Literary Agency (World English).

So what was the point of this rather long and ramble-y story? Everybody did their job, especially the author and her job was the most difficult one of all (and I don’t mean writing the book). My job was to support my author and tell her the truth. And I did exactly that. Even when the truth wasn’t nice or pleasing. Those earlier drafts DIDN’T work. The author’s job was to believe in herself. To believe in her story. To dig deep and to risk failure. And boy did she do that. If it had not been for her belief in herself and her abilities, a gut deep knowledge that she had the chops to write the story she had dreamed of, she would not have a hardcover YA debut coming out next year. She’d been prepared to leave the story behind and I think that decision broke her heart a little…but then that determination and grit way down deep made her try again. It wasn’t MY encouragement. It wasn’t that anyone had told her she could do it.

She knew it. She believed. And she did it.

Monday, May 2, 2011

HOOK 'em in (in three seconds or less)

What is it?
The hook is the one-sentence core element of any pitch, logline, or query letter. It is incredibly handy to have memorized for any impromptu meeting with an agent or editor (or nosy family friend…) in a situation with limited interaction time (like an elevator).

Essentially, it answers the question: so what is your book about? In a way that intrigues the reader in exactly three seconds (because that is approximately how long you have to catch his or her attention).

Helpful Hook TipsFiction

Version One:
X genre in which/When X happens, X must do X to X/otherwise X

If you need help getting started, answer these questions (one sentence answers) and plug them into the formula (and tweak from there):

1.What is your age group and genre?
2.What happens?
3.How does your main character react?
4.What are your main character’s options?
5.What does your main character do?
6.What happens if he or she doesn’t get through it?
7.What are the larger consequences of this?

Version Two:
A specific frustration or situation one of your characters has to deal with that illustrates a key theme or problem (that is ideally unique) in the novel.

Non fiction

Why THIS book NOW? (Be prepared to follow up with: why YOU?)



Version One:
*A sci-fi trilogy set in a dystopian future in which a 16-year old girl offers herself as a "tribute" in a series of deadly war games to save her family

Using the help tip:
What is your age group and genre?
YA contemporary fantasy
What happens?
Two girls become sirens
How does your main character react?
freak out
What are your main character’s options?
become a bird or finish the task and return to normal
What does your main character do?
attempts to finish the task
What happens if he or she doesn’t get through it?
they will belong to Hades
What are the larger consequences of this?
they will lose their freedom

Plug it in:
YA contemporary fantasy in which when two girls become sirens they must lure a man to the underworld to be set free or they will belong to Hades and lose their freedom.

Tweak it:
YA contemporary fantasy about two girls forced to work for Hades as sirens luring individuals to the underworld unless they want to belong to Hades forever.

When you’re finished, it should be easily recognizable as a SPECIFIC book.

Version Two:
*It’s hard to fall in love with the boy next door…when you don’t remember who he is.

*Becoming a goddess would be pretty awesome…if it didn’t involve death.

This version is more vague, a pure interest piquer.


*Star Potential is the first astrology how-to guide written exclusively for high school girls ages 15-17 that will capitalize on the teen obsession with astrology-related titles such as the bestselling Star Crossed (Running Press Kids, 2010) and The Star Shack (Sourcebooks Fire, 2010) at an all-time high, and the constant popularity of the horoscope section of teen magazines.

Look at the listings in Publishers Marketplace; these descriptions stem from hooks, though they tend to also be vague.


Other Helpful Tips: – index of helpful writing tips

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


So I realized I haven't posted anything in a while now. Which means not only am I woefully behind in reading, twittering, and email...I'm also woefully behind in blogging.

Let's just say that last week, I looked at my calendar, spit out my wine and said:

"Oh SHNIZER! I'm getting married in FOUR MONTHS!"

And a flurry of appointments, panic-moments, and frantic organizing began.

And then Easter happened.

And then my phone went kaput.

And then a meteor crashed into my bedroom and turtles started dancing and flowers were somewhere over there and the old spice man was at my door with apples and oranges and...

Well. Enough excuses. Please accept this picture of my cat as an apology:

Or stay tuned for a LOAD of upcoming AWESOMENESS, including:

-a post on how to write and perfect your hook (logline/elevator pitch)
-a VERY inspiting guest post by the lovely Agent Laura Bradford
-possibly...the news on when I'm re-opening to submissions...(yes, it has been decided...but not announced...)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Why I'm Scared (to self-publish)

I started this blog post today after pondering the sentiment many people have that “your days are numbered, agent. Why should I get a publisher or pay you 15% anyway when I can just put it up online myself and get a 70% royalty?!”

I wanted to show that no, really, agents are pretty much awesome. I mean, you can just read this and know that right?

Research commenced. I found out exactly how to self-pub:

“With Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) you can self-publish your books on the Amazon Kindle Store. It's free, fast, and easy. Books self-published through KDP can participate in the 70% royalty program and are available for purchase on Kindle devices and Kindle apps for iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, PC, Mac, Blackberry, and Android-based devices. With KDP, you can self-publish books in English, German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian and specify pricing in US Dollars and Pounds Sterling.”


You just have to price your book between $2.99 and $9.99 to get that 70%; otherwise, you get 35%, which is the rate you will generally get (if not better) from a traditional indie pub.

If you want to be available on more than just the Kindle, you'll need to put your book onto a site like Smashwords.

Awesome. Know thy enemy and all that.

Then came the time to throw the wrench into this eeevil plan.

USA Today writes: “This January [Amanda Hocking] sold more than 450,000 copies of her nine titles…. Novelist J.A. Konrath…has sold more than 100,000 self-published e-books.”

Wait, what?

"The Beanie Baby Handbook by Lee and Sue Fox sold three million copies in two years and made #2 on the New York Time Bestseller list."

And on and on and on. There's even a self-published book on self-published hall-of-famers!

Boy. Self-publishing ebooks sure doesn’t sound so bad, does it? Sounds pretty lucrative, actually.

The biggest decision you seem to have to make is whether or not to protect your ebook with Digital Rights Management(which, by the way, isn't a clear option you have to do anyway, so it's probably not even something you would think about).

So what can I really say against it?

Nothing. Except that I would never do it.

At the end of the day, self-publishing is incredibly tempting: I have several unpublished manuscripts lying around. I have over 2,000 twitter followers. I’m sure if I priced the sucker at $.99 people would pay to see just what this agent’s got. So why the heck not?

Well. I suppose because there’s no guarantee. Yes, it could be some easy, quick cash; but that’s not the point of publishing, is it? Even Amanda Hocking ended up with a traditional publisher.


Part of it, I think, is because to make it in self-publishing, you have to constantly promote yourself. You become a business, and any business needs full dedication in order to succeed and grow. Sure, if you make enough money you can hire a promotional team, but you will constantly have to keep proving yourself, constantly have to be everywhere.

But most of it? The big, glaring elephant in the room that is why most writers are afraid (yeah, I said it) of self-publishing?

Because that means that you’re saying you’re good enough.

You’re saying you don’t need anyone else to tell you you belong on bookshelves; you don’t need a deadline or an editorial team backing your every word.

But like I said – there’s no guarantee. There’s no guarantee that even if you take the risk, decide you don’t need anyone else behind you but you, that you will succeed.

The USA Today article mentioned four authors doing the impossible. PublishAmerica boasts over 50,000 authors. Lulu boasts nearly 20,000 titles a month.

Hmm. Ok. Lulu's official stats claim 1.1 million authors, so...4...out of 1,150,000 is...well, ok, let's throw in the ones from the recent list, too, just to be fair, so...37 (heck, let's do 38) out of 1,150,000 is .000033%.

I’ve already spoken to the dangers of self-publishing if you don’t succeed; and honestly, though I love me a Cinderalla story and love me easy cash…I really, really don’t have the time, energy, or confidence, to take this risk.

So while I agree whole-heartedly that self-publishing is very tempting, and can be very lucrative if done well, and if done right, as an agent, it holds about the same pull to me as the million-dollar-jackpot.

Only this isn’t a dollar I'm gambling. It’s my career.