Wednesday, April 16, 2014

You Asked For It...

At least someone did.

I've had a request for another writing contest!

Here are the details:You need to write a short story (100 words or less!) using these five words:


Bonus points if you can use this phrase: New Leaf

Post your story in the comments of this post by 11:59 pm on April 22nd.

What do you win?A pack of amazing spring New Leaf releases, including:


Your choice: either a first page critique or a query critique--good for you or a friend if you're feeling generous.

Can't wait to see what you come up with!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Ask Me Anything: On Offers of Publication

Here's the question:

Hello, Could you advise what subject line and content should go into an email when a new, un-agented writer has received an offer of publication directly from a publisher and has not yet accepted it but is looking for representation. Also, are inquiries of this sort welcomed or does it annoy an agent that the writer went direct to a publisher (knowing that the writer has not accepted the offer yet). Thank You.
Here are my thoughts: 

If agents have your manuscript already, I would follow up within the original thread and let them know you received an offer of publication from X publisher and could they respond to you by X date.

If agents don't have your manuscript. You can query and put "QUERY--OFFER OF PUBLICATION" in the subject line. Pitch the book and let them know where your offer is from. Let them know that if they're interested in reading, you'd love to send them your book, but you're hoping to get back to the publisher by X date.

In terms of response date, find out how long you have to respond to the publisher. A few weeks should be totally fine.

NOW, here's the tricky part and there's no easy way to say this so I'll go for blunt.

If you have an offer from a major publishing house (Big 5 or even not Big 5 but still a big deal--ie Scholastic for instance) this is awesome. As an agent, I will read your manuscript faster because of this.

But on the other hand if your offer is from a small press or an ebook only press, your offer doesn't actually help you. First of all those contracts are a ton of work and honestly not for much money and that leaves an agent signing you with two options--take the deal and hope it works out or turn down the deal and shop the book elsewhere and run the risk of not being able to sell it. Neither one feels like a winning situation.

I often get queries where an author tells me they have an offer from X publisher--but the publisher is someone I've never heard of. Unless it sounds like the most amazing life-changing book ever, I usually just pass.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Ask Me Anything: On Word Count

I get questions about word count a lot--manuscripts that are too long or too short.

Here's one from tumblr:

My first novel is an epic fantasy of 225K words. I often see this length on the retail shelves, but internet wisdom indicates over 150K is an automatic no for a debut author. Is this true? Would this length mean this book is best pitched in person than via query letter?
My first reaction reading this is: gah!

As a rule I would say 225K is too long.

Of course…there are always exceptions to rules if a book is good enough.

The problem is that a lot of what you see on retail shelves are not debuts. Or they were debuts ten years ago when the market wasn’t quite as flooded.

In this case, what I would suggest you do is revise with pacing and cutting in mind. So you’re not cutting words for the sake of getting your word count down, you’re specifically looking for places where perhaps the story can move faster.

I read/heard somewhere that Stephen King has his wife read his books and he makes a note of where she pauses (if she gets up to go to the bathroom, if she decides to make a snack, etc) because if she’s pausing, the story isn’t holding onto her as tightly as possible and perhaps the pacing as slowed down. This is brilliant IMO.

What you need is someone who is a good reader (who reads epic fantasy and can be a good critique partner) to read and mark places where they got bored or lost or didn’t feel grabbed.

Then you want to read through your manuscript and make sure everything you have is moving the plot forward and developing the characters at the same time.

About a year ago, I read a brilliant fantasy novel as a submission. It was a pdf and didn’t have a word count so I read it. At the end I knew what I had read was brilliant and that the writer was superbly talented, but I also felt it was too long. I knew there were scenes in the middle that didn’t need to be there and I knew that there were long passages of description about the world that were always beautiful writing but also not always necessary to the story.

When I looked up the word count (by transferring it to a word doc) I realized the book was probably 68k words too long. I worked with the author and she cut about 50k in a round of edits and then when the book sold, the author and editor cut out a little more. It was that good. Even though it was long, it was so amazing that I didn't care. And of course, the author was willing to revise and tighten and cut in order to make the book better.

This book is RED QUEEN by Victoria Aveyard by the way and it is amazing.

* I'm back from Bologna and London and up to answer more questions: Ask me here

Monday, March 31, 2014

Ask Me Anything: On Dead Genres (continued...)

I've talked about this before, but it seems to get a lot of questions in different forms. Here's the specific question from tumblr:

I'm sorry you keep getting questions about YA dystopia genre and I'm now just adding to it, but I've had a YA dystopian idea for a bit and I've shuffled it back because of the issues with dystopia being dead. However the couple of people who have heard the basic premise have been really enthusiastic about it and pushing me to write it despite me warning them about it. Is it worth it to work on it now or wait like I've been doing because of the market?
Unfortunately I can’t answer this specific question.

I also can't answer what subgenre someone should write or what is the kind of book that would be most likely to sell. 

The truth is it's hard to sell books. A lot of people are writers and it's hard to get published. It's not easier if you're writing picture books than adult science fiction or vice versa. It isn't the genre that gets a book sold, it's the book itself.

I am of the opinion that writers should write because they love it. If you keep writing and keep trying to get published it will happen—eventually.

If you are passionate about a ms that is in a dead genre, write it. Who knows how long it will take before you finish? When you finish revising and it is ready for the eyes of agents, query. The worst thing that can happen is that no one will offer representation, but you will learn from both the writing and the querying process. It will make you a better writer.

When you finish writing this ms, WRITE SOMETHING ELSE. This is my advice no matter what a writer is working on. Writers should always write something else. The more writing you do, the better you will become. And putting all your hopes and dreams into one project is a recipe for heartbreak. (Even if it does grab and agent and get published). You should always have something else.

Also, I cannot predict the market. There are always some things that surprise us. I can say that I’m sick of dystopian novels. I can say that editors tell me “no more dystopian novels” but I can also tell you that people said that about angels right before Laini Taylor wrote Daughter of Smoke & Bone which was clearly a huge exception (albeit it’s an exception because 1. It’s Laini Taylor 2. it’s unique and 3. OMG the writing).

All of this is to say, you have to make your own decisions about what you want to write.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Ask Me Anything: Submitting on Proposal

Here's the actual question:

What's the deal with submitting on proposal? Does this only happen with a book option? Or can a previously (traditionally) pubbed author submit on proposal to anyone after their first book? Or does it depend on the agent + editor?
It actually depends more on the author. For a few reasons.

Here’s the easy/obvious one. If a previously (traditionally) published author wants to submit on a proposal, the better their sales record, the more likely a proposal is sufficient.

For instance, Stephen King can submit on proposal. (Actually Stephen King can write a line on a napkin and probably get an offer. Or even just call his editor and say “I want to write another book, how about it?” This is because Stephen King is a well-known and well-established brand. I mean, he's Stephen King, he has a huge track record. His name sells books.)

But other bestselling authors who are not quite at Stephen King level can also submit on proposal. Authors who have won big awards (think the printz or the national book award) can very easily submit on proposal. Authors whose book sales are on an upward track can submit on proposal. Authors who are submitting to an editor they already worked with can submit on proposal.

Whereas authors who have not published in a long time or have “midlist” sales—they could submit a proposal, but the chance of getting an offer is going to be higher if they had a full ms.

The other reason is depends on the author is let’s face it: some authors are better at synopsis writing than others. I have some authors that can write a really engaging synopsis full of tension and great characterization. And I have some authors who really struggle with that—partly because they’re not big outliners—and their synopses can make their story sound convenient or unrealistic or just not that interesting. 

As an agent I can help them edit their synopsis and try to fix it but sometimes it might just be easier for them to write more of the book so that they know where it’s going. Again—this is a bigger factor with authors who are newer and perhaps not as established sales-wise.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Ask Me Anything: If a MS Needs Revision, How Much Is Too Much?

Okay, this was the question from Tumblr:

If you like a MS, but it needs work/revising, how likely are you to offer? Or would it be more likely you'd ask for a R&R?

Here's the problem with this question: "If you like a MS..."

If I like a ms, I’m not going to offer.

Here’s a mythbuster: there are not a lot of TERRIBLE manuscripts that come across my inbox. 95% of what I read is decent. It’s okay. But let’s face it, okay isn’t good enough. It has to be great. I have to LOVE it.

I recently had lunch with Alexis Bass and her editor Rosemary Brosnan and I was telling them that when I read her manuscript (pulled it out of the slush pile!), LOVE AND OTHER THEORIES, I read it in one sitting. I couldn’t stop! Then I emailed her to say how much I liked it and that I wanted to talk to her. And then I was freaking out because she didn’t respond right away. I kept checking my email and refreshing and worrying if my email didn’t sound enthusiastic enough.

That I was that obsessed with the ms told me that I HAD TO WORK ON IT. I loved it that much. And Alexis and I did do some revising before I sent it on submission, as I do with almost all of my clients.

What separates and offer from an R&R is the level of work. I ask for an R&R if I love an idea and see a lot of potential. If I have a really great vision for a book but it’s so much work that I’m not sure if the author can make that happen then I’m not going to offer yet.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Ask Me Anything: The Submission Process

Recently I got a question on tumblr about submissions and what the process is like. It's a rather lengthy answer so I figured I'd talk about it here.

Once a writer signs with an agent--and after they go through any revisions, be it a polish or a more lengthy edit--the next step is going on submission.

In short, this means their agent will submit the manuscript (fiction) or proposal (non-fiction) to editors.

What this means...

I can only speak for myself, but the process actually starts when I first sign a new client. During my first read, before I've even decided whether I should represent a project, I'll be thinking about submission. Obviously, if I'm thinking ahead, I'm thinking how much I love the story, but I'm also thinking about which editors will love the manuscript as well.

After I sign an author, I make up a spreadsheet. It looks a little like this:

RazorbillGillian Levinson
ScholasticMallory Kass
HMHAdah Nuchi

(This sheet is blank because it's fake, and I'm using these editors because I work with them on recently released books--Nightingale's Nest by Nikki Loftin, A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd, and A Death-Struck Year by Makiia Lucier).

I think about what imprints are the right fit for the book and what editors at those imprints would fall in love the manuscript like I have. (One of the things I have to keep in mind is the different rules of submitting to each house--like you can't submit to two editors at the same imprint and some house you can submit to multiple imprints and some you can't.)

Then when the manuscript is all ready and polished, I pitch the manuscript to each of the editors on the list. Pitching could mean calling or talking to them in person if we have drinks or lunch or if I know them really well and we've worked together before, I might send an email.

After I pitch the project, ideally an editor will be as excited as I am and ask to see it. In that case I'd send them the manuscript with a written pitch (sort of like a query). If the editor isn't interested (maybe they just signed something similar), I would call and pitch to someone else instead.

Once the manuscript is with everyone on my list, it's officially on submission.

But that isn't the end of the process.

I'd love to say that I always hear back within a few weeks but that isn't true. Just like writers wait for agents to respond at the querying stage, we agents have to wait for editors to read and respond. Sometimes it happens quickly (there are times when I've gotten responses in a week or less!) but other times it takes weeks even months.

This is where following up comes in.

I follow up with editors (how soon after submission is based on the project or if there's any news and also based on what's happening in life or in publishing). This reminds them how much I love the project and makes sure the ms doesn't slip through the cracks.

When responses come in, I usually ask the author how they want me to handle it. Do they want to see the responses or do they want me to just tell them about it or do they only want to hear from me when I have good news, etc.

Once the book is on submission, there are a variety of different possible outcomes:

An Auction: This is where multiple editors are making offers.

(It's not like an auction at an auction house or anything. It's largely done over email). I'll set a date and a time, and ask every editors to get me their first bid--or offer--by then. Once all the bids are in, I'll go back to all the under bidders and ask for more and that will keep going until we have the best bid from each house. I've had auctions with two houses that last one round and I had an auction once that was seven houses and a different auction that lasted a week long.

Auctions can be stressful for everyone involved, but they also leave room for a lot of choice on the author's part. It's about more than just advance. Royalties, pub schedule, rights granted, the editor's vision for the book, etc--all of these are factors that I'll discuss with an author before the author makes his/her decision about what offer to accept. (I'll give my opinion/advise, but it's always the author's decision).

A Pre-Empt: This is where an editor makes a "offer you can't refuse."

Sometimes the editor might be the only editor to see the project. Other times they're just so excited about it that they come in with an offer before anyone else. Pre-empt offers are often higher or better than a first bid for an auction, but that doesn't mean that all pre-empts are huge. A quiet literary middle grade for instance isn't going to get the same advance as a huge commercial YA novel. But the reasons to accept a pre-empt are usually that it's the best offer including advance and terms and the editor's and publisher's enthusiasm.

An Offer

This is the most common positive outcome--it only takes one!

In all three of these cases, as an agent, I'm doing a lot of negotiation. And again, the advance is one of those negotiating points but royalties, publication schedule, subrights splits, rights granted, etc are things that I'm asking about. Sometimes I'm even asking for specific language to be in the contract a later date.

No Offer

Hopefully this isn't the outcome, but it does happen--more than you'd think. We all announce the manuscripts that do sell, but we don't announce the ones that don't. If there isn't an offer, I usually work with the author to revise and do another round of submission or I work with the author on their next project.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Happy Release Day, Chelsea Fine!

Chelsea Fine's amazing new adult novel, Best Kind of Broken, is available today!

This amazing and beautifully written novel made me laugh out loud, swoon, and even weep a little. It's funny and poignant and romantic and even downright steamy at times. 

When I first offered Chelsea representation, she had published both Sophie & Carter and Anew by herself. The books had been so successful and done so well that she had a film option for The Archers of Avalon trilogy and the producer optioning the rights suggested her to me. 

I'm indebted to him for that.

Because I read Chelsea's novels and new that I had to work with her. She's fiercely talented and I knew that not only would fans love her, but that we'd definitely be able to sell her future projects into traditional houses if that's the route she wanted to go. 

Best Kind of Broken sold at auction and it's an insanely beautiful novel.

Here's the description:

Pixie and Levi haven't spoken in nearly a year when they find themselves working--and living--at the same inn in the middle of nowhere. Once upon a time, they were childhood friends. But that was before everything went to hell. And now things are...awkward.

All they want to do is avoid each other, and their past, for as long as possible. But now that they're forced to share a bathroom, and therefore a shower, keeping their distance from one another becomes less difficult than keeping their hands off each other. Welcome to the hallway of awkward tension and sexual frustration, folks. Get comfy. It’s going to be a long summer.

Happy Release Day, Makiia Lucier!

Congratulations to the fabulously talented Makiia Lucier. Her debut novel, A Death-Struck Year, is out today!

Two summers ago, I convinced Sarah Goldberg to be my assistant. It was just for the summer because she had to go back to Columbia in the fall for her doctorate (that slacker). I definitely got the better end of the deal. 

Sarah read the query for A Death-Struck Year and new she needed to request it for me. Then she read the novel and told me that I had to read it. She was, of course, right.

This novel is truly amazing. It's beautifully written and incredibly poignant. 

Here's the description:

In the grip of the deadly 1918 flu pandemic, not even the strong survive.

The Spanish influenza is devastating the East Coast--but Cleo Berry knows it is a world away from the safety of her home in Portland, Oregon. Then the flu moves into the Pacific Northwest. Schools, churches, and theaters are shut down. The entire city is thrust into survival mode--and into a panic.

Seventeen-year-old Cleo is told to stay put in her quarantined boarding school, but when the Red Cross pleads for volunteers, she cannot ignore the call for help. In the grueling days that follow her headstrong decision, she risks everything for near-strangers. Strangers like Edmund, a handsome medical student. Strangers who could be gone tomorrow. And as the bodies pile up, Cleo can't help but wonder: when will her own luck run out?

Riveting and well-researched, A Death-Struck Year is based on the real-life pandemic considered the most devastating in recorded world history, and leaves readers asking: what would I do for a neighbor? At what risk to myself?

Monday, March 3, 2014

Happy Release Day, the Sequel Edition!

I have two fabulous sequels coming out tomorrow!

Mindee Arnett's The Nightmare Dilemma, which might be even better than her debut (The Nightmare Affair) is out tomorrow.

As is Kara Taylor's Wicked Little Secrets the follow up to the fabulous Prep School Confidential (and let me say that Anne Dowling is my fictional best friend.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Happy Release Day, Natalie Lloyd!!

Okay so do you remember that amazing query I told you about? 

Well the time has come where the book is here.

I am so honored to work with Natalie and on this amazing debut novel. It made me smile and it made me tear up and it gave me chills and it tugged on my heart. 

A Snicker of Magic is the kind of book that will stay with me forever. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Happy Release Day!

Nightingale's Nest by Nikki Loftin is out today!

This is Nikki's follow up to The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy. While she was writing this novel, she confessed that it might not be a book that anyone wanted to read. Of course, I read it and disagreed--vehemently. This is the kind of book everyone should read. It's magical and heartbreaking and it will stay with you long after you close the book. 

This is a special book. I'm not the only one who thinks so.

I'm so honored to be part of this book's journey. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Happy Release Day!

I'm so excited to share this book with you. Rebecca Behrens' debut novel, When Audrey Met Alice, is out today. 

Now, Rebecca queried me with Fumped several years ago and I loved her writing style and humor. We didn't sell that manuscript, but after working together, I suggested she write middle grade. 

She had a great idea that I felt would be well suited for that audience. Clearly, I wasn't the only one who thought so. When Audrey Met Alice is a beautifully written blend of historical and contemporary settings joined together by two girls who have so much in common even though they lived in completely different times.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Happy Release Day!

Today you can finally learn more about Jackson Hunt! Seeking Her by Cora Carmack is out today!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Happy Release Day, Lisa Desrochers!

This book.

It's out today.

It's Lisa's third new adult novel and in my opinion, the best one yet.

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Five Random Things About Suzie

1. I drink so much orange soda, it's probably running through my veins. I've been known to go through a twelve pack of diet sunkist in a day.

2. I'm legitimately nocturnal (or a vampire). I will be so exhausted at two pm that I'm falling asleep standing up - it has happened before, at Six Flags no less - but as soon as the sun goes down I'm wide awake.

3. I have a gorgeous unused $6000 Reem Acra wedding dress hanging in my closet, and it showed up on my doorstep the same day my (now ex) fiance broke up with me. And thank God for that. I wouldn't have wanted to waste that dress on him.

4. Social anxiety plagues me daily. I write a script and practice in front of the mirror when I have to make a phone call, but most people who interact with me have no idea how nervous I am (or perhaps they lie) because I've worked so hard to try to overcome it.

5. I'm actually worried that I will never love my children (when I do have them in the far off future) as much as I love my dogs. I just like animals better than people - they're sweet and innocent and soft and furry - is that so wrong?