Just. Hit. Send.

I know sometimes it can be terrifying. You just finished writing your query. You’ve pasted the whole thing into an email. You’ve addressed it to your dream agent. You’ve read the email a dozen times, skimming for errors, rewording things you know worked to begin with. Your finger hesitates over the SEND button…

And you re-read it again. Or SAVE DRAFT for later.

I went through something like that yesterday. I’m “finished” with Immortal, Beloved. I attached it to an email to my agent, said a prayer (PLEASE OH PLEASE LET HER LOVE IT AS MUCH AS ENEMY, BELOVED), or…okay, maybe I said two prayers (PLEASE DON’T LET IT SUCK) and STILL I hesitated over the SEND button.

It’s just so…so…definite.

Once you push that button there’s no going back. There’s no changing something you noticed wrong later. A lot of the pressure from the writing/publishing industry stems from the feeling that you get one chance to make it happen. One chance to make it or break it–publish your work or bury it beneath your bed. Or at least that’s how it feels to me.

I think Eminem said it best in “Lose Yourself”:
Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted-One moment-
Would you capture it or just let it slip?

You have one first impression with your dream agent. Once you have a Fantabulous agent who loves your first work, you have to impress them time and time again with each manuscript you write after the first. Mr. or Mrs. Dream Agent could easily say “No, this sequel isn’t for me. Go back to the drawing board, keep the characters, and write me another.” Listen, I just spent one month plotting Immortal, Beloved, four months writing that 350 page book and another month editing it.

I. Feel. Pressure.

As I hesitated over the SEND button, I thought back to when I was querying agents with Enemy, Beloved. It felt darn near close to the same feeling. Did I get everything right? Did I cross every T and dot every I? Did I close up every single thread? Did the characters arc as they should’ve?

Then I did it. I hit send.

You should to. What are you waiting for? Take the time to make your manuscript as good as you can get it, then send that puppy. You’ll never get an agent/editor/critique partner if your computer mouse keeps hovering over the same email.

As for me, another waiting game has begun. (Did I mention I’m still on submission with Enemy?) The publishing industry is a s..l…o…w… road to walk folks. But that’s okay because the people you meet along the way are happy-writer-lovers, supportive and make the steep legs of the trip not seem as daunting.

Speaking of supportive happy-writer-lovers (I love that phrase–sums everyone I’ve met in this industry *perfectly*)…I did an interview with Kaitlyn over at Nocturnal Readings. She’s also posting a review of Dark Tide Rising tomorrow. So if you’ve got the time, between hitting that send button, stop on by!

How I Landed My Agent

I got an email the other day from a blog reader (love love love those). She said she’s on the agent prowl for her urban fantasy novel and asked a ton of questions about how long it took to find my agent, The Call, my path to submission after signing, etc. I thought this information might be a useful blog post–after all, I love reading other “How I Landed My Agent” stories.

I wrote Enemy, Beloved in the Spring of 2010. I edited, critiqued with a handful of writers and readers and rewrote problem scenes. I wrote my query letter. I revised my query letter. I revised it some more and asked friends to read it and tweak it. I wrote my synopsis. I revised my synopsis. (See a pattern here? You’ve got to nail all three!)

Around May of 2010 I sent out fifteen queries. Of those queries I received two partial requests and one full request. The full request led to an offer of representation.

I signed with that agent. I revised about a month on his suggestion to make the novel “darker and hotter.” I did. He sent Enemy, Beloved to one NYC publishing house. I received a rejection about a month later from that house.

This past September I parted ways with my agent due to his opening of an e-pub. I had already contracted my romantic suspense with The Wild Rose Press, and didn’t want to sign my paranormal Enemy, Beloved, with another. It’s not that I have anything against e-pubs, it’s just that I have a *feeling* (or hope against hope) that this one will go further.

So (against Husband’s advice) I sent out another ten queries right away. (He thought I should take some time, revise some more and finish writing the second in the series. I was angsty and roaring to go!) Of those ten queries I received two partial requests, both of which led to offers of representation.

The Call came on Halloween–BEST HALLOWEEN EVER!! Nalini Akolekar of Spencerhill Associates and I talked about dogs, writing, home life, Dark Tide Rising, etc. It was very comfortable right away–a great fit. I asked a few questions. (I was so nervous!) I asked for a day to consider her offer. (Although I knew at that point she was the agent I wanted to represent my book.) I called the next day and accepted her offer.

Since then, Enemy Beloved has gone on submission with three houses. I haven’t heard back yet, but it’s the Holidays and with that comes being patient as all heck. I’ve heard that the publishing industry comes to a screeching halt the month of December. They weren’t kidding.

So that’s where I stand. If you’d like to read the query letter that got the requests, it’s pretty much the blurb found under the “Books” tab above. On the actual query, though, I had the genre, word count, correct salutation and brief bio.

I would absolutely love to hear other “How I Landed My Agent” stories, so if you’ve got one, please share! Hope that answered your questions, blog reader! If you have another, don’t hesitate to comment away or send another email! *grin

Letting the cat out of the bag

Meow! I promised I’d post my query blurb today and I don’t want to disappoint…Here it is!

ReVamp’s hottest Vampire Rehabilitation Specialist has been burning moonlight looking for a cure to what’s ailing the blood supply in Crimson Bay, California. The mysterious infection is causing vampires to hit the streets and act like…well…a bit like Dracula when he’s cranked out on venti mocha vamppuccinos. Neither her arranged marriage on the blood-smudged horizon, nor the threat of shutting down her clinic can tear DYLAN’S eyes off the prize–proving once and for all vampires aren’t blood-lusting primal creatures. The last thing she expects while prepping a newborn for coven induction is to be spun for a wet and wild loop by the bronze-skinned, muscle bound vampire she finds beaten to a pulp and sprawled out on her bed.

Little does she know, the shape-shifting goon squads dead set on oppressing vampiric rights have a dark trick up their flickering sleeves. They’ve sent a sheep to sleep amongst the wolves…

Shape-shifter by birth, assassin by rank, and vampire by damned unfortunate circumstance, SLADE just wants to penetrate the coven of leeches, complete his risky assignment, and high-tail it out of there. Everything he’s been taught tells him to keep his distance from parasites, especially dead sexy ones hell-bent on proving the blood-sucking species is inherently good. Despite himself and shape-shifting law, he’s fired up; ready to take Dylan six ways from Sunday….with a Blood-Blasted cherry on top.

When Slade’s next target is unveiled to be Dylan, the one who‘ll ultimately save the vampire race, he must make a choice: complete his task and assassinate the love of his life, putting an end to the vampire uprising or die a traitorous death at the hands of his shape-shifting brothers and kick-start all-out war.

*In other fantabulous news, I’m now officially represented by Robert Brown of Wylie-Merrick Literary Agency! I’m absolutely thrilled about the possibilities…stay tuned!

By faith, persevere

I went to church yesterday and heard a great sermon that spoke to writers, artists, and dreamers of all sorts. Believe it or not, it was the story of Moses. I’m not going to get into a religious debate here or relay the entire message because…well let’s be frank, (okay, you be Frank, I’ll be Dan) (because really Dan is a much better name than Frank) (oh, calm down Franks of the world I’m only joking)…where was I before I was attacked by parenthesis? Oh yeah, I’m not going to go over the whole message because it’s in the Bible and if you’re interested that’s where you should start…and grow.

Hebrews 11:27 states “By faith Moses left Egypt, not fearing the Pharaoh’s anger; he persevered because he saw Him who is invisible.” Moses, despite being the son of Pharaoh’s daughter and having the power, prestige and treasures of Egypt at his disposal, wanted more–he wanted to follow a Godly life, believing in that which he could not see. In choosing that life he was mistreated along with the other people of God.

How might this play into the writers’ hand, you might wonder?

Plain and simple. If you’re committed to a cause (getting published), you’ll have to pay a cost. The road won’t be easy–it’s riddled with query hurdles, bottomless pit slush piles and many nights alone sitting in front of you computer screen. But if you really put your nose to the grindstone, you’ll get there. I firmly believe it.

The sermon got me thinking about my college years and the journey to my BA degree and then my MA and then my teaching credential (all before I was 27 years old). I knew I wanted to teach junior high English since I was a freshman in high school. My goal was set in stone. I was going to get there. And believe me, you haven’t seen stubborn, ironclad will until you’ve met the likes of me.

I studied my arse off in high school so I’d have good enough grades to get into college. I didn’t party as much as others. And that’s an understatement. Instead, I dedicated myself to sports and clubs that would look good for my “college resume”. I was making myself marketable, even then. I went to Humboldt State University and lived the same type of life. While others where drinking and smoking, I was studying. I spent hours and hours in the library, stayed up many nights writing papers, and didn’t make many friends. (Let me tell you though, the friends I did make are ones for life.) Don’t get me wrong…I had the time of my life. College years were the BEST. It’s just that the short term headaches were minuscule because I had my eye on the prize. The cost didn’t seem so bad because I was so committed to the goal. And I got there in a very short amount of time. (I entered my first classroom of 9th and 10th graders on my 22nd birthday. Talk about speedy.)

The same philosophy goes for writing. Put your head down, work hard, don’t lose sight of the prize. Nora Roberts has said to complete a book you just “you sit your behind in that chair and type”. Sounds easy. Anyone who has actually finished a book knows otherwise.

If you up the ante on your commitment level…if you give yourself no other option than finishing this book…if you dive into the writing world and submerge yourself in the business, the cost of toiling and fuming over mistakes, character flaws, editing, etc, etc, etc, won’t seem so steep.

There’s a great article about breaking into the publishing world here. And how else do you break into the world other than writing that dreaded query letter? The article goes over agent query insight and ways to make yours better. According to the article 80% of people say they have an idea for a book. Approximately 2% actually start it and far fewer than that actually finish. I wonder if the statistic dove deeper how many of that 80% actually reach the end goal?

The more important question is where are you in the writing process? What’s holding you back? Is the cost worth the prize in the end? Can you see the goal?

I can tell you where I am now that I’ve committed myself to being a published author–I’m in the same place I was in high school and college. I’m busting my behind working toward a writing career. The journey is long and bumpy and the learning curve is steep, but I’ll make it there eventually…hopefully sooner rather than later. I’m currently deep editing BOTH of my manuscipts; one for a small press, the other for an agent.

I honestly believe if you have FAITH (maybe a little like Moses) and persevere to the point that you’ve extinguished all doubt, you’ll make it! (Care to weigh in, Mo? Go you!)

And here’s a little comic to jumpstart the morning writing session…

Top Ten Things Not to Say to an Agent

Another Top Ten Tuesday! Woohoo! This one’s going to be fun. Let me first say that I’m unagented, searching for representation for my last romantic suspense and my recently finished (Yippee!) paranormal romance. I obviously haven’t figured out exactly what agents are looking for, but I’ve learned a lot of things from people in the industry about what agents are NOT looking for. (This info comes from agents, editors, or published authors I’ve met and personally talked to.) I thought it’d make a hilarious Top Ten Tuesday post. Please, people, for the love of all that is Holy, don’t think for a second that I would’ve tripped on one of these hurdles. Some things are common sense…

…then again reading some big named agent tweets, maybe not..

Top Ten Things Not to Say to an Agent in a Query

10. “Email me if my log line sounds interesting enough to query you.” *I mean, really? Agents get thousands of queries a month. Do you really think that your log line is so unique, so “have to have it” that they’re going to take time away from their existing clients to contact you? No. They’re not. Query the story right away. Don’t ask permission. And follow their guidelines!

9. “I’m the next Nora Roberts.” *Okay, I haven’t heard an agent say they’re read this one, but I couldn’t imagine it would go over well. Don’t say you’re the next Nora Roberts…prove it. Knock ’em dead with your work. (And remember Nora Roberts wrote three novels before getting an agent. So if you feel the need to say this one, keep working.) **Side note: I don’t feel there’s a single thing wrong with wanting or striving to be the next Nora Roberts…

8. “I’m the New York Times Bestselling Author you’ve been searching for!” *Well, gee, I’m sure they appreciate the heads up, but this is their profession. They’re able to judge from your work alone whether or not you can get there. Just a thought. It’s kind of like a baker needing a sign differentiating between bowls of sugar and flour.

7. “To whom it may concern,” *And with that single opener, you’ve earned yourself a rejection. Agents don’t want to be lumped into a massive query submission of four hundred random agents and editors you found online. They want you to pay attention to them and their submission guidelines and rightly so…aren’t they going to pay attention to your and your career when they sign you? Pay them the same respect.

6. “Confetti and candy are included in this box. You can thank me by email.” *I had fun with this one. I’ve heard from an agent who came to speak at SFARWA a few months back that she once received an unsolicited manuscript in a giant box with candy, rose petals and confetti. She said the second she opened the box, her office was a disaster. Not the first impression you want. If you have to sugar coat your book with bells and whistles, write another book.

5. “I’ve queried everyone in your office and they all rejected me, but I think this one is right for you.” *Oh boy. First, most agents say that once you query one agent in their office and receive a rejection, it’s the same as getting a rejection from the whole office. They work closely together…don’t waste valuable time by parading between them. No means no.

4. “I have three manuscripts I’ve written over ten years. I’m going to query all three.” *First, I think if all you’ve written over ten years is three books, you’re not going to have a solid career. Agents and publishing houses want to publish writers who are going to continue writing at a steady enough pace that they can build a following. Three in ten years won’t cut it, I’m afraid. Second, you shouldn’t query three books at once. Pick your best one and query that one only.

3. “I’ve attached the whole manuscript for your convenience.” *This one may not sound like a no-no, but it is. You need to read agent submission guidelines either from their website or Publisher’s Marketplace. Sending a manuscript when they didn’t ask for it insults their intelligence…and yours. And most agents won’t even open attachments. Period. Can you imagine the kind of computer viruses they get on a daily basis?

2. “I’ve CC’d this query to my lawyer so there is no chance of copyright infringement.” *I wish I could say this one is a thrown-in phony, but it’s not. I picked up this example from an agent’s tweet this morning. (It’s actually the inspiration for today’s post.) How could a writer wanting to build a career really think this idea is a good one? Do you really not trust the agent you’re querying? Do you really think they’re going to try to steal your work? Come on. If they like it enough they’ll want to sign you, not steal your ideas and pimp them out to other writers. I’ve heard the saying before and I’ll repeat it now. “Agents don’t steal ideas, Writers steal ideas.”

And the number one thing you should never say to an agent in a query is…

1. “I have an idea for a book and I was wondering if it was something you’d represent before I started writing it.” *Simple answer: No. Write the book. Query when you’re finished. Agents bounce ideas with clients, not writers who may or may not even finish the book. Why waste the time?

I hope some of these made you cringe and some made you laugh. A few of them were written in jest, but most of them were *sadly* real examples from agents who open our queries. Now go forth and query your book! But please, please, don’t do any of the Top Ten. It’ll save you some headache.

So that’s all from CouchBoredomLand. Wish I could say I’m breaking out of this fabric hell sometime soon, but I think there’s a few more days ahead of me. Oh the joy! *disappearing grin

Success x 4

The Fire in Fiction workshop was AWESOME yesterday. Insightful. Clever. Mind-blowing. All the things a workshop should be, rolled into one great day.

First success: I got my 10 seconds to shake Donald Maass’ hand. I politely reminded him who I was and that the book we plotted together was in his email box. He asked me to briefly remind him what it was about. When I told him the basic premise, his eyes lit up. He said he remembered it and that he’d get to it ASAP. Very cool.

Now, he may very well have been blowing smoke. But it didn’t look that way to me.

Second success: He also said to send the next 50 pages of what I’m working on, even though you’re not suppose to send an agent another work if they already have one on submission. This is not a normal response, so I’m counting my blessings.

Third success: My brain was officially mush by the time I was done. It was a miracle I found my way home…oh, wait…I didn’t. I actually got lost in Palo Alto. Oops. Told you. M-U-S-H.

Fourth and final success: I got home after a very long, very dark scenic route and checked my email. There, sitting nice, quiet and unread was a response from a query I sent out last week. I opened it. And it read, “Thanks for the query. Sounds great. Go ahead and send the whole novel as an attachment.”

Overall, this was a great day. Getting lost, not so much. But I’ve got my foot in the door to this big publishing world…and I keep inching it in. 🙂

Openings

Hi. My name is Kristin. I am a writer. I want to be published.

You’d think that’s the way to start a query letter to an agent, wouldn’t you? Not the case actually.

They want a hook. A well delivered line to make your letter stand out amongst the piles they receive any given week. (Some agents state they receive upwards of two hundred letters a week! A WEEK! Makes my eyes hurt just thinking about it.) But more than a hook, they want a reason to keep reading past your letter. They want to be gripped by your story enough to want to read your book. Don’t we all?

Find your favorite book. You know the one with the worn-out binding and the cover with rippled edges from hard use? Mine happens to be right here. REBECCA.

Got yours? Good. Now open to the first page. Read the first line.

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”

Just like that, I’m hooked. If this was my first read (instead of my sixth), I’d instantly want to know where Manderley is and why it’s chasing her into her dreams. I read further.

“It seemed to me I stood by the iron gate leading to the drive, and for a while I could not enter, for the way was barred to me. There was a padlock and a chain upon the gate. I called in my dream to the lodge-keeper, and had no answer, and peering closer through the rusted spokes of the gate I saw that the lodge was uninhabited.”

It really doesn’t get any better than this for me. I can SEE Manderley. And I know she is someone who once lived in this place. I immediately want to know why she no longer has access, and why it’s what she wants more than anything. (It wouldn’t be haunting her dreams if she was okay with their parting.) And listen to me, one paragraph into the book and Manderley has come to life again.

This is the goal of a writer. This is my goal. I will create another world with my writing. One that will enchant and thrill and mesmorize and make the reader want more like I want more.

What about your old favorite? Did it come to life for you too? Why?

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’m going to dive into DuMaurier’s world again…

Good Dreams

I had a great dream last night. Must have been the monster storm rolling through California that lulled my logical mind into deep slumber.

In my dream, I got my Golden Heart Contest score sheets back. I don’t know a lick about the judging process, or how I’ll receive my scores. But in my dream the sheets came by mail in the form of about 20 small papers with random pencil scratchings. Yeah, I guess in my sleep I teleport back to the 1950’s.

Anyway, I flip through the sheets and see my manuscript received a solid 50 across the board with all judges. I didn’t win the contest, but I definitely finaled. I was ecstatic. So ecstatic in fact that I just kept flipping through the scoresheets over and over again to make sure my eyes weren’t deceiving me.

When I woke up, I was a little disappointed that my hands were clutching the pillows instead of small scraps of paper with an awesome score of 50 printed on all of them.

And I have to wait until March 31st for my scores? Bummer. Looks like this is the first of many anxiety dreams.