Tag Archives: Mandy Hubbard

Getting published– even if you’re a “nobody.”

23 Mar

by Mandy Hubbard

~~~

There’s a big misconception in publishing that a writer has to “know somebody” or have substantial writing credits in order to get an agent, and thus, get published.

So here’s the truth– keep in mind I’m talking about fiction here– Non-Fiction has a lot to do with platform so things are different in that field.

MYTH: You need to spend months or years trying to amass writing credits.

TRUTH: Most agents gloss right over that stuff. Just because you wrote an article for a magazine doesn’t mean you can write a whole book. Sure, they can be nice. Go ahead and freelance if you like it or want to try and earn $$. But don’t think it’s the only path to publishing novels. It’s not.

MYTH: You need to get a referral or some kind of “in” in order to get noticed.

TRUTH: The stats can be scary– most agents request 5-10% of the queries they read and only offer rep to a scant few. But guess what? There are some pretty awesome stats out there proving that SLUSH WORKS.

I conducted a poll on twitter– I simply asked agented writers to respond and tell me if they snagged their agent via a cold-query (no connections) or if they had some kind of a referral, publishing credits, etc. And guess what? 58 people had NO credits or connections whatsoever. Only 6 people got their agent via a referral from a client or impressive credentials. Yes, you read that right– MORE than 90% of those writers snagged an agent with the tried-and-true query letter.

MYTH: Your work doesn’t fit the trends, so no one is going to want it.

TRUTH: To be honest? Books that are totally outside the trends often stand out the most, because when I’m reading slush it’s like FANTASY FANTASY FANTASY REALISTIC FANTASY FANTASY. (And by fantasy I am lumping in paranormal, UF, etc).

MYTH: You need to hire an editor before submitting your work.

TRUTH: I actually don’t know any one who paid a freelance editor before beginning submissions/being published. Find critique partners at the same place in their career and swap manuscripts. I learned as much from critiquing as I did from receiving critiques, and I made lifelong writer friends. (This is not to say freelance eds aren’t awesome in their own right. But don’t despair over the $$ needed if you don’t have it.)

MYTH: You need to spend a lot of $$ going to conferences because that’s where most agents find their clients.

TRUTH: Again, the slush works. If you can’t afford conferences, skip ’em! They can be fun for socializing and you can learn a lot, but it really and truly does not cost a dime to be published (with the exception being postage if an agent wants material snail-mailed.)

So, I hope this helps dispel the myths that you need to know someone, or pay a lot of money, in order to be noticed. I know dozens and dozens of debut authors– some who sold in major deals (over $500K) who had pretty unassuming day jobs and knew NO ONE in publishing before snagging an agent and a book deal.

The writing is the only thing that matters. Write a damn good book, and it’ll rise above.

Mandy

Agent, D4EO Lit

Author, Prada & Prejudice (2009) You Wish (2010) But I Love him (May 2011) and RIPPLE (July 2011).

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On Trends in the Slush Pile

14 Dec

by Mandy Hubbard

~~~

I haven’t shared the trends I’ve been finding in the slush pile in a while, and I thought it would be fun to share them with the LTWF crowd. Before I dive into the stuff you *really* want to know, I need to provide some context.

For starters, you should read my two blog posts– the first on whether you should chase trends, and the second on what editors told me they were looking for (hint: It’s pretty much everything, as long as the writing is awesome).

All that said, no matter how many times someone says not to worry about trends, people are forever fascinated by them. And I do think there is some power in knowing where you stand– whether it’s in the midst of a saturated trend or if it’s something wacky and left field.

So, I quickly flipped through the last fifty queries I’ve received, and here’s the breakdown:

A type of project I don’t represent: 8

Number of above who queried because they thought it was YA and it was adult: 2

Realistic YA or MG: 19

Breakdown  for *some* of above

-Adventure: 2

– Dark or Issue-based: 5

-Coming of age (MG): 3

-Romance: 4

-Modern retellings of a fairy tale or classic: 2

Historical (w/no fantasy elements) realistic YA/ MG: 3

Total number of speculative fiction/SF/Fantasy queries: 31

Break down of this:

-Urban Fantasy: 6

-Magical Realism: 4

-Dystopic or Post-Apocolyptic: 4

*Paranormal Creatures:

-Vamps: 2

Comparisons to twilight: 1

-Ghosts 1

-Devils, Demons, or Angels: 3

-Mermaids, Sirens, or other water creatures: 1

-Banshees: 1

– Steampunk: 1

-Dreams or Dreamworld or Visions as the leading paranormal element: 3

-Teens or Middle-graders discovering special abilities: 2

-High or Epic Fantasy: 4

-Fantasy-esque retellings of a fairy tale: 1

-Based upon Lore/Legends/Myths: 3

-Time Travel: 1 (MG) 2 (YA)

-Historical w/fantasy elements: 2

-Other realms/parallel worlds: 1

So, by the above, it’s a little tough to see any particular saturated point. If I had done 100 or more queries, I think stronger patterns would emerge. I *can* tell you things I feel like I see a ton of: Ghosts/After life, Angels/Demons, books based on Greek, Roman, or other myths (Often the main character discovers she is a goddess reincarnated), girls who dream up a boy and then he’s there– in real life (Gasp!) Post-apocolyptic based on realistic fears (water running out, viruses, global warming) and books that are “Like Twilight but with X.”

In the end, as I always say: Be aware of the trends so you understand where you fit, and can better decide who to query. If you’re torn between writing two novels, perhaps the market dictates which one you choose. But otherwise: Write the novel in your heart. Write it as well as you can. Kick-Ass writing almost always sells, trends be damned.

Good luck!

~Mandy

~~~

Mandy Hubbard is the author of Prada & Prejudice and You Wish (both now available) as well as the forthcoming RIPPLE and BUT I LOVE HIM (both coming in 2011). She’s also an agent at D4EO Literary, where she represents authors of middle-grade and young-adult novels. Visit her at www.mandyhubbard.com

LTWF Anniversary…What A Year It’s Been!

7 Oct

By

 

Sarah J. Maas

 

~

Looking back to last year, it’s hard to believe how far this blog has come in just twelve months.

When I got the idea for Let The Words Flow, I had very few writing friends—fewer still from FictionPress. The FP friends I did have didn’t know each other—didn’t know that there were others out there, struggling to make the leap between FP and publication.

The only proof I had that you could make the jump was embodied in Mandy Hubbard, our resident rock star, who supported this group from Day 1. I knew that if Mandy was on board, we’d have a degree of credibility—Mandy, with her multiple book deals and oodles of success, was our poster child for all that we could accomplish.

But there had to be more of us out there—there had to be other FP people with book deals, or agents, or querying agents. So I looked. I looked and looked, browsing through the profiles of other FictionPress “Greats.” And I found a few—enough to start a blog, if they would only join Mandy and me.

I still remember the terror and anticipation of sending out those initial emails to potential contributors—I remember praying that any of them would respond to me.

After all, very few of us were friends—in fact, most of us had been fierce rivals on FictionPress. We never talked, and if we ever came across each other, it was in fan-run contests that did nothing but increase the tension between us. We were all islands surrounded by a sea of adoring fans.

You can’t imagine my surprise when all of them not only replied to me—but they all accepted my offer to join LTWF.

The biggest surprise came from Savannah J. Foley not only accepting the offer, but being absolutely thrilled to join the group. She’d been one of my biggest rivals on FP—QUEEN OF GLASS and WOMAN’S WORLD were always matched up against each other in contests. But it was our similarities, not our past differences, that bonded us: we both had agents, and had both started submissions to editors. Though she had a ton of potential, I had no idea—none—that she would become not only a close friend, but also the solid foundation upon which LTWF would be built.

I will admit, initially, I was swamped. I managed a lot of features on the site, and would often bolt upright in the middle of the night to realize something needed fixing. We only posted three days a week, but it was enough to keep us all busy. We survived the initial few months, and our readership grew more and more every day—we actually had readers! We had people who were interested in our journeys, people who were having journeys of their own—people who were interesting and brilliant and oh so lovely.

One of those people was Biljana Likic. A long-time friend of mine from FP, Billy is a bit of a child prodigy—though she was only 17 at the time, her writing was  (and is!) incredible. At the risk of sounding like an old person, Billy showed a tremendous amount of potential. She’s also wonderful person—funny, kind, and clever, and she brought a much-needed burst of humor and fun to the group dynamic when she joined in January of 2010.

With Billy on board, we had enough members—and enough readers—to start posting more frequently. We dared ourselves to start posting five days a week. I fretted over that (when am I NOT worrying?), wondering if we could possibly keep it up, and how we could keep our readers interested. I also wondered if we had enough diversity in the group—there were plenty of aspiring writers in LTWF, but what about the other side of the desk? What about aspiring agents and editors?

That answer came in early March, in the form of Vanessa Di Gregorio, an aspiring writer attending a publishing course, but also an intern at a literary agency with dreams of working in publishing. The other side of the desk didn’t look so empty anymore. Of course, we had no idea that being on the other side of the desk would later be the way we got hooked up with prizes for all of our giveaways, or that she’d become the Grand Dame of our Saturday Grab Bag posts and book reviews. Or that she’d be the one to revamp our site and become the ghost behind our twitter account, taking it from 50 or so followers to over 450 followers (and counting)!

By that point, it seemed only natural to add Jenn Fitzgerald to our ranks in late March. Another aspiring author, Jenn spends her days living out one of everyone’s childhood dreams: working as an archaeologist. Her adorable MG novel brought a bit of a change from our usual YA fare, and her determination to keep querying and writing, despite digging all day long, made her an inspiration.

At this point, we found new members left and right. We had people applying to be in the group. That absolutely blew my mind.

In the group itself, the number of emails back and forth skyrocketed. Communicating with my contributors was no longer a daily thing, but an hourly one. Girls who I had once seen as my enemies were my confidantes and cheerleaders. I’ll never forget the joy of sending an email to them, announcing my book deal with Bloomsbury—and I’ll never forget crying in my car as their replies showed up on my blackberry. Sharing that moment with them was one of the best moments of my publishing journey thus far.

In the wake of getting a book deal, one of the congratulatory wishes I received was from a FP writer named Julie Eshbaugh—who sent me a message to say that LTWF had inspired her to keep querying, and that she now had an agent. She was so passionate about the group (and had received multiple offers of representation!) that we knew she had to join us. So, in early April of 2010, she did. And she meshed perfectly.

With so many members, we no longer had to worry about filling out the calendar. In fact, we were all so eager to post that we added another day of posting, and in May, we kicked off our Saturday posts.

Swamped with pre-wedding preparations, I had to step back a bit from my LTWF duties. I wondered if this group—which I had once managed all on my own—could function without me for a few weeks. Well, to my delight, it could—and it did. The site that I had struggled to maintain months ago was suddenly a well-oiled machine—people had assumed responsibilities without even my asking. Realizing that it had become a community-run blog was one of the proudest moments I’ve ever had.

One of the members who would later become a huge help was Kat Zhang. She submitted an application that blew us all away—not only was she querying agents with a wonderful manuscript, but she was also an amazingly talented spoken word poet. We had tentatively discussed not taking on any more un-agented new members, but Kat’s humor, kindness, and brilliance won us over. We knew it was only a matter of time before she landed an agent. And this September, she did. Kat claims she didn’t cry the day she got the call, but I think a few of us cried enough on her behalf to compensate.

After Kat joined, we had a dilemma: did we have too many members? Were our readers getting detached from the warm, cozy atmosphere of the site? It would take a truly incredible member to get us to change our mind. We found two.

Sammy Bina originally joined us as a month-long guest contributor, though by the end of week 1, it was pretty apparent that we had to have her forever. An intern at a literary agency, Sammy brought invaluable advice to our readers regarding all aspects of the querying process—and as an aspiring, querying writer, she was also a contributor our readers could connect with. More than that, Sammy was also a part of the wildly-popular Plagiarism Haven group, and many of her readers became LTWF regulars. If you attended our latest livechat, you’ll know that she’s a firecracker, and provides us with endless hours of entertainment (which is obviously the most important thing she could do!).

The last member to join our ranks was Vahini Naidoo—who came to us just days after accepting an offer of representation from an agent (after receiving multiple offers)! Not to mention, she’s still in high school (way to make us all feel bad, Vee!). Hailing from Australia, Vee took LTWF from a North American group to a truly international one, and her dry sense of humor melded beautifully with our group dynamic.

Had you asked me a year ago if I knew that the group would become so large, and so diverse, I would have laughed. When I started the blog, I had high hopes, but I never thought farther down the road than a few months. Now we think in years.

One of the exciting new features that we’ll be adding is our free online creative writing course, which will begin in February of 2011 (details soon to come)! We’re also planning tons of livechats (next month: querying!), adding some new members, and we have a few more surprises up our collective sleeve.

But we wanted to do one more thing—just to say thank you to the readers who have helped make this blog such a success.

In honor of our one-year anniversary, we’re going to be giving away nine gift baskets customized by each LTWF member! On Saturday, we’ll post the official contest announcement/sign-up, but gift baskets will include contributors’ favorite books, moleskine notebooks, and much, much more!

Because we owe it all to YOU. We never could have added new members—we never would have met each other—if we didn’t have readers coming back every day, asking us QOTWs, entering our contests, and turning this blog from a dream into a reality.

A year ago, that’s all this blog was—a dream. A dream that we weren’t the only FictionPress people trying to get published. And if there’s any moral to this post—to this blog in all its entirety—it’s that you are not alone.

I think that’s what took us all by surprise: despite years of rivalry on FictionPress, we are more similar than any of us realized. We are not alone. We are no longer islands.

Thank you all for proving that.

~~~

Sarah J. Maas is the author of several novels, including QUEEN OF GLASS, a YA fantasy retelling of Cinderella that will be published by Bloomsbury in late 2011. Sarah resides with her husband in Los Angeles. You can visit her blog here.

YOU WISH Release!

5 Aug

Guess what today is? The release date for YOU WISH!!!! We’re dedicating the day to our very own Mandy Hubbard and her new novel, YOU WISH (did we mention it just came out today?)!

[Description from Goodreads]

What if all your wishes really came true?

Kayla McHenry’s sweet sixteen sucks! Her dad left,
her grades dropped, and her BFF is dating the boy
Kayla’s secretly loved for years. Blowing out her candles,
Kayla thinks: I wish my birthday wishes actually
came true. Because they never freakin’ do.

Kayla wakes the next day to a life-sized, bright pink
My Little Pony outside her window. Then a year’s
supply of gumballs arrives. A boy named Ken with
a disturbing resemblance to the doll of the same
name stalks her. As the ghosts of Kayla’s wishes-past
appear, they take her on a wild ride . . . but they
MUST STOP. Because when she was fifteen? She
wished Ben Mackenzie would kiss her. And Ben is
her best friend’s boyfriend.

~~~

* CONGRATS, MANDY! *

To celebrate, we’re doing a few things.

1. Sarah is giving away a SIGNED copy of YOU WISH on her blog. So, pretty sure you should enter. Cause you know you want a SIGNED copy! And, you know, while you’re there, check out Sarah’s review.

2. Biljana has posted an interview with Mandy on her blog!

3. We thought we’d share 1 RIDICULOUS thing we would wish for.

4. And while we’re talking about wishes, we’ll also add what our MS/WIP protagonists would wish for!

Vanessa:

I’d wish for a unicorn. Just cause!

Danae would wish for a tanning bed – if they existed in her world. Okay, even if they did, she wouldn’t…. but living in those caves leaves one with rather pasty skin, and a serious lack of vitamin D!

Sarah:

I’d wish for super-fast metabolism, so I can eat as much junk food as I want and never have to worry about gaining weight. And a lifetime supply of Cheetos and cookie dough.

Celaena would wish for a Beauty and the Beast-sized library. And to go on a massive shopping spree. Oh, and freedom. 😛

Biljana:

I would wish for control of time, the kind where if it stops or you take a trip back your body doesn’t age.

Ingrid would wish for instant gratification. Not much patience, that one.

Savannah:

I would wish for a remote control that could let me pause life, but get to walk around in it. As my first order of business as Almighty Life remote Holder I would probably break into the Pentagon and find the files on aliens and Bigfoot.

The Poetess would wish for freedom, obviously. As a secondary concern i think she would probably wish to erase all the misery that Shae endured.

Kat:

I would wish for a big fat Undo button. Because we all need one of those sometimes…. 😀

Eva would wish for acceptance. And maybe a little privacy…

😛

Jenn:

I would wish for Chris Hemsworth.

Priscilla seriously wishes for a shark tank, and if there were friggin’ lasers in her world, she’d want them on the sharks’ heads, because she believes in standards.

~~~

So, what ridiculous/silly thing would YOU wish for?

&

What would your protagonist wish for?

My first year as a published author….

9 Jun

by Mandy Hubbard

~~~

I am not sure how I got here, but somehow… I am just two days away from the 1 year anniversary of Prada & Prejudice’s release date.

*scratches head*

I dont think anyone really knows what to expect when you have a book coming out. And maybe that’s because… your publisher doesn’t tell you. You could sell 100 copies a week or 1,000 copies a week and you have no idea if that is good or bad or if they are happy or not. You’ll get a huge mix of reviews and the good ones will make you happy for three minutes and the bad ones will make you mopey for three days. You’ll go to Barnes and Noble and wonder why your book isn’t face out, and you’ll rearrange half of the H section to make enough room so that you can do it yourself. After you’re done signing stock, you’ll put them away yourself so you can sneak one onto an endcap.

You’ll see your book in the catalog and then you’ll see the other books with their 2 or 3 page spread and you’ll despair. You’ll beg anyone in a 100 mile radious of New York City to go to BEA (book expo of America) just so they can see if your publisher is giving out ARCs of your book. You’ll set up google alerts for your book title. And maybe extra ones with various mispellings. And even though you have the alerts, you’ll still end up spending half the day on google anyway.

The first year as an author is a roller coaster, filled with so many ups and downs its hard to keep track of it all.

The highs I experienced:

My first ever fan mail–first, the totally random emails that could bring on complete and utter glee, and later, my first ever snail-mailed fan mail.

Seeing my book in a store. A Real. Live. Store. 

Seeing Prada & Prejudice mentioned in TIME magazine.

Selling foreign rights to countries I’ve never seen, to be translated into languages I can’t speak.

Connecting with other authors who have become friends– for life

Selling more books and realizing I might be able to do this more than once.

The Lows:

Finding out Borders didn’t want to stock Prada & Prejudice. Wondering if that meant my career was totally finished. (They changed their mind a week after it came out.)

Watching other books get more publicity, more glitz, more foreign sales, more INSERT ANYTHING HERE. And driving myself crazy comparing. Over and over. Crazier and Crazier.

Going to a book festival 2+ hours away. And then sitting at a table while people avoided looking at me and no one bought my book.

Realizing how much is out of my control. Learning to focus on the writing, the only thing I can control.

It’s still hard to fathom that a year has gone by. I was so focused on that magical date– June 11, 2009– that once it was over, the days just floated past me. It was more stressful than expected–but so much more exciting and gratifying, too.

So I guess what I am saying, in the end, is the roller coaster never ends– it just gets a little loopier and a little faster, but it’s always worth it. 🙂

-Mandy

Author, Prada & Prejudice

Agent, D4EO Literary

www.mandyhubbard.com

Battle The Voices of Doom….

18 May

Yesterday, I discovered my Harlequin NASCAR romance, DRIVEN (part of AT ANY COST) started shipping from Amazon.  It made my stomach flop over.  It is, officially, my second release, and it hasn’t gotten any less nerve-wracking. In fact, maybe it is MORE nervewracking because I’ve only seen one review so far (the Harlequin category lines are run a little different than a YA lineup– there were almost no Advance review copies…) so to have it just… hit shelves without any idea of what people think of it is, well, really scary.

There are many, many paths to publication, and everyone’s is different. But one thing is consistent: we all freak out. A lot.

When you’re ten pages into your first ever book, you’ll freak that it sucks and you dont know what you’re doing and you’ll never find enough time to write it all.

When you write THE END for the first time, you’ll stress that the whole thing is a mess.

When you query agents and get your first form rejection, you’ll freak that you suck and you’ll never find an agent.

When your first book hits shelves and its published by an awesome publisher and you have an awesome editor, you’ll still worry everything is a fluke and readers will hate you.

It doesn’t matter what stage you’re at– the feelings of suckitude remain consistent.

There ARE things you can do to help ignore the Voices-of-Doom.  Here are my tips:

1) Surround yourself with inspiration. I used to post quotes on a board above my computer. My favorite was, “Use what talents you possess. The woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best.”  I also posted my #1 writing rule: “Give yourself permission to write crap. Crap can be fixed.” Whenever I wanted to toss what I was writing, I just had to look up.

2) View it as a process. Remember that every book on shelves had a team of people helping it become what it is.  It went through revisions and copy edits and typsetting and yes, it’s very pretty, but it didn’t look like that when the author wrote it down.

3) Remember that NO book in the world is unversally loved and adored. Think about the last 5 books you read. Did you love and adore all 5? Probably not. But its a published book, so someone did. If you just got a rejection, it means that wasn’t the right reader for you. It’s okay to be rejected. Plenty of people love rocky road ice cream. I hate it. Does it mean it doesn’t have a place in the world? No.

4) Save praise; toss rejection. If your work is on fictionpress, and you’re getting reviews, move all the positive review alert emails into one folder. Delete the others. When you’re feeling down, open up that folder and read some of the good reviews.

5) Network. Commiserate. Misery loves company,  right? If you make friends with other writers, they will know exactly what you’re going through. They’ll talk you down off the ledge and push you in the right direction. I don’t know what I’d do without my writing friends!

6) Let yourself wallow…. but only for a little bit. It’s okay to take a day or a week or a month off. Sometimes you just need to live and let the stress evaporate on its own. Don’t burn yourself out because you think you have to have it now. Let yourself breathe and come back to your writing with fresh eyes and more energy. But don’t quit.

Anyway, I hope that helps… Happy Writing!

Mandy Hubbard

Author of Prada & Prejudice and At Any Cost

Agent, D4EO Literary

A Tongue-in-cheek guide to being an agent.

11 Mar

I was going to post something serious today, but I’m not in a serious sort of mood. So instead…. I bring you….

The tongue-in-cheek guide to being both an author and an agent.  As seen on twitter.

1. Make a really nice form rejection. ‘Cause rejections suck.

2. Be nice to the crazies. The crazies are the ones who will get on a message board  (as well as MY blog) and totally bash me.

3. Learn my lesson and turn off anonymous comments to my blog.

4.  Sign some awesomesauce writers.

5. Remind my awesomesauce writers on a near-daily basis that I’m still here. Becuase I remember sometimes wondering if my agent remembered me. Even though she just emailed me yesterday.

6. While my client’s work is on submission, I should just email themn so they don’t wonder if I died in a fiery wreck in a canyon somewhere. Not that there are any canyons around here. But they might wonder.  ‘Cus even though I told them I’d share any news the second I got it, they’ll still think I’m holding back.  And they’ll sit, their fingers poised over the keyboard, wondering if I will be annoyed if they check-in. (I won’t.)

7.  I should never call my clients unexpectedly, especially if something is on submissions. Becuase it will make them hyperventilate and/or sweat profusely. If I MUST call unexpectedly,  and it’s not THE call, I will say so immediately.

8. If their work is rejected (gasp!) I will immediately say such phrases as, “But I still love you!” and “damn it we are not giving up that easily! We’ll show them!”

9. I will send a questionnaire to all of my new authors with the following question: If you receive a rejection,  how would you like it soothed? A) Chocolate.  B) Wine C) Wine? Screw that, give me the hard stuff D) Joke about busting some kneecaps. Unless the editor was mean. Then maybe we’ll really…. no, no, we’ll just imagine it.

*grin*  

~Mandy

Author of PRADA & PREJUDICE

Agent, D4EO Literary

Exciting News!

4 Mar

Let The Words Flow is excited to announce that Lynn Heitkamp has signed with a literary agent for her historical romance, THORN OF THE KINGDOM!

We are so proud of Lynn for her hard work over these past months, editing and rewriting TOTK until it became a fantastic manuscript that was snatched up immediately!

Lynn is now represented by Mandy Hubbard of the D4EO Literary Agency. Mandy is also a contributor for Let The Words Flow, and we’re so glad these two were a perfect fit for each other, co-contributors aside.

Congratulations Lynn! We’re so excited to see where you go from here!

~~~

Lynn Heitkamp is the author of Thorn of the Kingdom, and several other novels on FictionPress.  She lives in Michigan, where she is a librarian and former journalist.

~~~

Mandy Hubbard is a literary agent with D4EO Literary Agency, and the author of Prada and Prejudice. You can follow her at her website: http://www.mandyhubbard.com/, or at her bBlog: http://mandyhubbard.livejournal.com/

~~~

Query Week Wrap-up

18 Feb

By Mandy Hubbard

~

Hi All! I hope this Query Week has been helpful! I know that querying can be thrilling, scary, tiring, gratifying, exciting…. and sometimes all of that all at once. As a writer, I’ve been there, and I know how you feel.

As an agent, it’s also many of those emotions, and more. To wrap things up, I thought I’d give you insight as to how I approach the inbox every day– what I think as I read queries, what will make you stand out, etc. I hope this builds nicely on what Vanessa posted yesterday!

First off, when it comes to queries, I always start with the oldest ones first. I approach them with nothing but hope— will this be the query that makes me sit up and take notice? Many writers see agents as mean ‘ol gate keepers that only want writers who have huge credentials or the most amazing high concept book known to man.

Not true! Some of the queries that just plain blow me away seem rather anassuming at first–but the writing is just plain good. That’s all I’m looking for. Really good writing! Everyone has a fair shake at it.

When I start reading, I’m pretty neutral– I do not go in expecting to be blown away, but I don’t expect to hate it. You’ve got a blank slate, so use it to your advantage– grab me from the get-go.  If your book is funny, showcase your humor from the first line. If it’s dark and emotional, make me care about the character so that I’ll want to follow her for the next 50,000 words.

For queries I just really don’t like, I don’t read the sample (My submission guidelines ask for the first 5 pages).  It might be something I don’t represent (I’ve seen some chapter book submissions and adult fiction subs) or it might be something that doesn’t suit my personal tastes (high-fantasy or deeply cultural).  Or it might just be a hot mess. I see those, too.

For Meh Queries, I move onto the sample. If I’m leaning toward a rejection, your first paragraph or two really has to reel me in. I’m not just checking to see if you’re a competent writer– I’m giving you a chance to change my mind. Most often, it doesn’t.

For queries I’m on the fence with, I read further. I’ll give it a full page or two– many times the whole 5 page sample, hoping to see that spark that tells me the book may be bigger and better than the query gives it credit for. These are the queries where the sample is most important, because it can tip me in the right direction.

If your book is a humorous book with a quiet concept, the sample is paramount. Humorous books are all about voice and making me laugh. If you don’t do that in 5 pages, I probably won’t want to see more.

Sample pages are your friend. As an intern I lost count of how many times I sent a query on to the agent saying, “yanno, the concept is kind of quiet, but those pages just  pulled me right in.”

For queries I love, I eagerly scroll down, crossing my fingers that the writing holds up. I often don’t need more than a page to confirm it, if I’m super excited by the query.

Because I ask for samples, I skip right from the query/sample to the full manuscript. If you were printing/mailing it, maybe I’d do partials, but I see no reason to have you create a new document just for me– I can stop reading at any time and it didn’t waste any paper.

Okay, so that’s my process for reading queries. When it comes to fulls, things go a little differently. For starts, I don’t read them in order. I know, that’s mean, right? But trust me, it’s a good thing. If your book is funny, do you want me in a grumpy mood when I’m reading? If your book is serious, and I want to laugh, I’ll open that humorous MG and save your dark/edgy YA for when I’m in that sort of mood. Just like different books appeal to you on different days. Further, sometimes I just get a manuscript with an exciting concept and I dive right in. On top of that, some books are Middle-Grades weighing in at 20K and some are urban fantasies at 100K. Depending on how much time I have, I may choose to read one over the other.

I read fulls a little differently– I go in with certain expectations. I know I like the concept and sample, so I am always hoping the rest holds up. You’ve got about 50 pages to really hook me.  If i’m at page 50 and I can put it down and go take my daughter to the park and I’m not thinking about what’s going to happen next, I’ll start leaning toward a rejection.

I do sometimes have 2 or 3 projects going at once, and if yours isn’t battling for attention in my mind, it’s not a good sign.

When I represent an author, I go in knowing I’m in it for the long haul. If we don’t sell it on the first round of submissions, I could be reading it and resubmitting it and working on revisions with you for months. That’s why I have to truly love it, not just like it.

So, I hope all this gives you a little insight into how an agent reads and what they are looking for.

Good luck to all those in the query trenches! And remember, if you write MG/YA and you have a project ready for submissions, feel free to send it my way. Send your query and the 5 page sample (both pasted into the  email) to mandy@d4eo.com

Thanks!

Mandy

Query Analysis

14 Feb

By Mandy Hubbard

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Hi Everyone!

Sorry for the delay in my query analysis post– things have been pretty crazy since the big announcement, but I’m settling into a rhythm now.

Let’s start with Sarah’s query. My comments are in bold/italics:

Dear Ms. Rydzinski:

What if Cinderella went to the ball not to win the heart of the prince, but to kill him?  In THE EYE OF THE CHOSEN, the first book of my fantasy trilogy, QUEEN OF GLASS, Celaena Sardothien is not a damsel in distress—she’s an assassin.  Serving a life sentence in the salt mines for her crimes, Celaena finds herself faced with a proposition she can’t turn down: her freedom in exchange for the deaths of the King of Adarlan’s enemies.

I’m definitely a fan of starting a query with the hook. I read dozens and dozens of queries in a week, sometimes spending a few hours in a row. If you can start your book with a sharp focus on the hook, it’s more likely to grab me right from the get-go. Likewise, if your book is humorous, get me laughing right from the start. It’s okay to start with, “I am seeking representation for________” but I prefer to save that for the end, near your bio.

Before she can complete her mission, she must first train within the glass castle in the capital of the empire. As training with the Captain of the Guard revives her muscles, encounters with the Crown Prince threaten to do the same to her heart. But Celaena soon learns that the King of Adarlan might have plans more sinister than assassinations.

Great! We have the hook, now we’re focusing in on the character. It’s important to have a good balance of  conflict and character.

An ancient queen’s ghost charges Celaena with an enormous task: to discover and destroy the mysterious source of the evil king’s power. Torn between her desire to win her freedom and a mission much bigger than herself, Celaena thus begins an adventure she never wanted, which will uncover her forgotten, magical past—a past more dangerous than any tyrant…

Sold. She’s got enough conflict, driven by the character, to carry a novel.

I am a 2008 graduate of Hamilton College with a degree in Creative Writing, and I have been published in Hamilton’s literary magazine, Red Weather. Because of your interest in fantasy, I thought you might be interested in my trilogy, which is centered on a retelling of the Cinderella legend through the eyes of an assassin. My completed manuscript is available at your request. Below, please find the first ten pages of my manuscript. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Though she skipped the word count (and I happen to know it’s because it’s the word count is slightly higher than normal, so this was probably a smart move), she has all the pertinent information. The closing is concise and to the point.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

Sarah J. Maas

So, is it a request? Definitely. Sarah’s query is well-written, with a great balance of character and plot. She gets right to the point up front. Even better, she’s added a commercial angle by showcasing that her epic fantasy is a unique take on a fairy tale.

Moving on to Savannah’s query:

I read on AgentQuery.com that you represent Young Adult fiction, and are particularly interested in edgy romance. I believe you will be interested in my 60,000 word gender-issue YA novel Woman’s World, book one of a completed trilogy.

Here’s how most people begin their query– genre, word count, etc. It’s professional, and it works. My PERSONAL (stressing the PERSONAL) preference is to begin with the hook, but Savannah’s opening works just fine. Further, she’s pinpointed the agent’s specific preference for edgy romance. If all you plan to say is “I see you represent YA so I think you’ll be interested in my YA book,” Then leave it out. All you’re saying is that you found them on a website or search engine. It sounds like you’d take any agent that reps YA. Moving on….

In a female-dominated society where men are kept as domestic slaves, one young woman must overcome cultural barriers as she grows closer to her new, abused slave -a romance that uncovers the secret history behind women’s rise to power in our world and leads to an exciting, apocalyptic revolution to restore gender equality.

Great! Here’s the hook, and Savannah tells it in an easy-to-follow manner. She also tells us who the main character is, which I assume she’ll elaborate more on…

When the famous and reclusive writer known only as the Poetess selects for her first slave a young man whose muteness makes him worthless in society’s eyes despite his great beauty, their journey towards trust and compassion in her isolated home sparks a powerful and forbidden romance. Torn with feelings deviating from strict religious and social dogma, and possibly dying from a cancerous illness that makes her shamefully barren, the Poetess struggles to come to terms with the love she feels for the slave she names Shaedyn, and her new, heretic belief that men deserve to be equal with women. Whispers of an underground equalist movement, and their tentative plan to use the Poetess as a political tool to sway the hearts of the nation, excite and terrify the Poetess until a near-deadly failing of health forces her to leave Shaedyn behind and travel to the East Hall, a technological metropolis and secret heart of the revolution itself.

Bingo! We know more about the main character, and Savannah has done an EXCELLENT job of balancing internal and external conflicts. She’s also set up the plot sufficiently that we get an idea of where the reader is going to be taken in the opening pages, but not so much it’s like one of those too-long movie trailers that spoils the movie. Remember, your query is to ENTICE AND INTRIGUE an agent,  NOT to explain away your novel! Savannah has done a great job of this.

At age 19, Woman’s World is one of five novels I have written. Originally posted online at Fictionpress.com, garnishing 61,000 hits, near 1,000 favorable reviews, and hundreds of registered fans, Woman’s World takes the female-dominant society stereotype to an intelligent and realistic place with a romance and characters proven to capture the heart of any reader. My other writing credits include a personal narrative in the November 2006 edition of literary magazine TeenInk, and an award from the Journalistic Education Association for Feature Writing. I would be happy to send you a complete copy of the manuscript for your review. I appreciate your time, and look forward to hearing from you.

In her post earlier this week, Savannah said she would have removed her age and her fictionpress background. I agree– in a normal situation you shouldn’t mention either of those. For me in particular, it might be of interest becuase I myself came from FP, so it’s something in common. But for your average agent, fictionpress will come off as amatuerish.

Regards,

Savannah J. Foley

The verdict? I probably would have requested this, too, although I would wonder if it were truly YA– it probably has a strong crossover into regular “adult” romance. I would have requested to see, though, because I’m a sucker for romance, and Savannah has made it clear that it’s the romance driving the story in this one.

I hope this was helpful! Please remember that these are my opinions only, and another agent could very well feel differently.

Mandy

Agent, D4EO Lit

Author, Prada & Prejudice