Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Ask Me Anything: The TWILIGHT Question

I got a really interesting question today:
I'm not trying to be rude with my question but why is it Stephanie Meyer can get away with rather simplistic writing but any new writer who wrote like her writing style (like over use of adjectives for one example) would be chastised. And I don't even mean with the fourth book you can see it in the first book. Is there a point where personal bias takes over and the agent is so in love with the story and characters they don't care less about how it's written?
Here's my answer:


The YA market is over 10x more saturated now than when Twilight first published, which is a good thing, but it does make it harder then to get published. So the comparisons to older books can be hard.

Not all writing quality is created equal. Not everyone can write like Laini Taylor. This is okay. Not all readers (particularly reluctant ones) want that beautiful experience (ok obviously I do).

But if the writing style is more simplistic or the quality of writing isn’t starred review worthy, the book has to make up for it with phenomenal storytelling. The trick is to get people to read the book and get so swept up in it that they don’t care about adjectives or whatever.

Also and I’m just going to be argumentative here, but I loved Twilight. I actually said to a (now ex) boyfriend when he kept trying to interrupt me while I was reading the last book “I’m reading the conclusion to one of the great love stories of our time, can we talk about this later?” It did get starred reviews--three of them. And given it’s popularity, whatever it’s flaws, people certainly got swept up in it.

Happy Release Day!!

Jennifer Ryan's next romance is out today!

I'm not going to lie. After reading this, I kind of want to go spend some time in Montana.

Happy Release Day!!

Renita Pizzitola's newest swoonworthy novel, Just a Little Flirt, is here!

I already know I'm going to need to do another reread on a night when I don't have to get up early. :)

Monday, March 23, 2015

On No Response Means No

It's always been New Leaf's Policy that "No Response Means No" which means that basically other than the bounce-back email, you'll only get an email when you get a request. If two weeks pass and there's no response, that means we're passing.

I've always responded.

Until now. I'm going to stop responding to queries as of April 1st.

This has been a really hard decision for me. If I was querying, I would want to know that my email didn't just get lost in the ether. I felt that it didn't take that long to respond to each query, so I should keep doing it.

But the truth is, I get a lot of queries, that response time adds up, and my first responsibility is to my clients.

To give you an example. This weekend I sat down at 3:30 on Sunday afternoon and started responding to queries. I had just over 200. I didn't finish until 6:06 pm. I could have read half a manuscript in that time.

I will continue to try to do a lot to help authors, answering tumblr questions and going to writing conferences. But unfortunately I won't be responding to queries anymore after this month.

Update: The bounce-back you receive upon submitting your query is a confirmation of receipt. Also, I will continue to respond to all manuscript requests per usual.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Happy Release Day!!

I'm not normally a gif person, but...

Because Lori M Lee's follow up to Gates of Thread and Stone is out today.

That's right. The Infinite is here. And it is amazing!

The cover is gorgeous and the book is even better. Ninurta is definitely on my places I wish I could visit list.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Happy Release Day!!!

I thought Nikki Loftin had outdone herself with Nightingale's Nest which is a book that changed my life, it was so powerful.

I was wrong. She wasn't done breaking my heart and putting it back together again. Her newest novel, Wish Girl, is out today, and it is briliant. It's pure genius.

I love this book so much. 

Midnight Release Excitement!

Jennifer Ryan's newest release At Wolf Ranch is here. I think this is her best one yet!

Monday, February 23, 2015

In case you missed it...

I did a post on Pub Crawl about what my day looks like.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Happy Release Day: The Something for Every Fantasy Fan Edition

I am beyond lucky. Clearly I used up some major karma points when I convinced these two fabulously talented writers to work with me.

I fought with several other agents for MarcyKate Connolly after I read Monstrous. (The whole office celebrated when I got it).

And thanks to a film connection (yay Hollywood) I managed to snap up Victoria Aveyard and Red Queen up before she even queried anyone else.

Now, both books come out today!

Top 3 things these books have in common:
(other than, you know, me loving them)

1. I read them both in one sitting.

I read Monstrous in an afternoon at my desk while ignoring everything else I was supposed to do that day. MarcyKate already had an offer and I was desperate to read and get back to her and begin the fight.

I read Red Queen on a Sunday afternoon and then paced around my kitchen after the ending, unsure of whether I should cry, scream, of laugh giddily that I had found this book. I think I did a combination of all three.

2. The covers are stunning.

3. They are both ageless fantasies. 

Forget the fact that Monstrous is middle grade and that Red Queen is YA. These are both books that any aged reader can love. I plan to read them both aloud to my dogs, and I guarantee they will love it.

So yes, I'll stop gushing now. Happy Release Day to MarcyKate and Victoria. I love you.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Happy Release Day!!

One day a few years ago now, Cat Hellisen sent me an email that said, "Hey I wrote this thing..."

I was very excited.

This thing was a beautiful reimagining of the Beauty and Beast fairytale where Beauty and the Beast did not live happily ever after, and the curse was hereditary.

I read it in one sitting and was floored at Cat's genius. (Even though I did already know she was a genius).

I am even more excited today, because it is now officially in print and on shelves!

Happy Release!!

This is another book I didn't sell but am very excited about!

I recently signed TJ Kline and she has a new novella out right now: Runaway Cowboy

Here's the set up:
Five years ago, Jen woke up with a ring on her finger and her fiancé nowhere to be found. She swore she'd gotten over the betrayal, but when Clay unexpectedly hires on with the rodeo for a week, she finds herself torn between passion and regret.
I love a good cowboy romance :)

Monday, January 26, 2015

Ask Me Anything: The Call

Here's the question:
I've seen a lot of articles about what writers should ask agents during, "The Call," but what do agents usually ask writers during "The Call?" Thanks in advance!
Ooh, good question and not one that I think I've seen before. I'm happy to lay it out. Just know that every agent is different and "The Call" can vary depending on projects and the author as well.

Anyway, here's how they typically go for me.

After we say hello, I usually try to exchange a few pleasantries. I'm excited to talk about the book, of course, but this is also my chance to get to know the author. I might ask about where they live, or talk about the weather (I know, but come on, this weather!), or ask about the author's day job if they mentioned it.

Then as we move to the book, I'll usually start with all the things I really love about it. 

Some of my book related questions:

What was your inspiration? or How did you come up with the idea?

When did you write it? How long did the first draft take you?

If I have notes, I'll also mention them, or if I emailed them to the author, I'll ask if he/she has any questions on the notes.

Then I move to bigger/wider scope questions:

What else do you want to write? What are some of your WIPs that you're hoping to work on next?

Have you thought about the kind of career you want? Are there other genres/age groups that you want to write in?

What are you looking for in an Agent?

If it sounds like we'll be a good fit, I'll officially offer representation and tell the author more about me, New Leaf, and next steps. 

Then I'll end with "What questions do you have for me?"

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Ask Me Anything: Go With My Gut vs. Pay Attention to Criticism

Here's the question:
I just got some harsh feedback from a freelance editor on the first three chapters of my book. I found some good suggestions embedded in the advice and revised it further. He made a strong comment about style & my main character (MC) that I don't agree with. Ultimately, I think his reaction to my MC was rooted in a personal issue. I've worked hard on this novel and finally feel like it is polished & ready to send out, but now I'm worried. Should I go with my gut or pay close attention?

This is a really good question.

I heard Steve Barry speak at a conference one time and he talked about his critique group and how one of the things he struggled with was determine which editorial feedback they offered was gold vs. not so gold.

I'm going to try to answer this by asking you more questions:

Who has read these chapters? You mention you and the editor. You're both at odds.

What about others? Do you have beta readers or critique partners? Have you entered any contests or gotten feedback from other writers? (And people other than family or friends or yes people).

There are times when one opinion might not reflect a majority (just check out some of the 1 star reviews for Game of Thrones and Hunger Games). But if you have multiple people offering the same critique (even if it isn't as harsh) then you might have a legitimate concern.

Who is this editor (or the person giving you the feedback)? Think about who it is that's reading the work and what their credentials and professional background mean to your work.

For instance, if the editor has worked successfully on books that would appeal to the same audience as yours, you want to pay attention. If it's your mom donning an editorial hat or someone who never reads MG (and your book is MG), then maybe you want to seek another opinion.

Another thing to think about is underneath whatever harsh notes or suggestions there are, what is the underlying issue? I have certainly sent notes to authors before and offered up possible suggestions that they didn't want to take. That's okay! But usually there's some kind of underlying issue in there, some reason that I stopped reading in order to write down a note. That's what has to be addressed.

I'm not sure what your notes said, but you mention that you think the reaction to the MC is rooted in a personal issue. Does this mean you think the editor doesn't like your MC? Perhaps examine whether the MC is likable or sympathetic or at least compelling.

In the end, you don't want to ignore your gut, but you also don't want to be stubbornly blind to any issues. I think getting a second opinion is going to be the way to no for sure, where you are.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Happy Release Day!!

The sequel to one of School and Library Journal's Best Books of 2014 has arrived!

Polaris by Mindee Arnett is out today!

It's no secret that I'm a huge Mindee Arnett fan. And this book is no exception. The writing is amazing. Jeth is amazing. The twists (!)... I just have no words. And of course, it satisfies my deep need for an awesome space opera in my life. 

If you haven't read Avalon yet. The paperback is out today too. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Example Query: MarcyKate Connolly

Okay, sit up and pay attention. This is quite a good one:
Dear Ms. Townsend, 
Most people remember their first crush, first kiss, and first day of school. Kymera remembers none of that. But she will never forget her first breath.

When Father recreates her from the parts of her broken body, the wings of a raven, the tail of serpent, and a cat’s razor-sharp vision, he gives her life without memories or pain.

But not without a mission.

Kymera knows who murdered her. A wizard in the city of Bryre who is sacrificing the girls of the countryside one by one. He is monstrous and now Father has created a monster to stop him.

Kymera sneaks into Bryre each night, rescuing the captive girls and doing her best to avoid the city’s human inhabitants. Then one night she meets Ren, the king’s page boy, and her resolve weakens. Her nightly missions take on a dual purpose—save the other girls and steal a few moments with the boy who has yet to see her without her cloak.

As she lingers each night, Kymera begins to overhear things: a snide remark about Father, rumors of a hideous beast, and whisperings of a black market dealing solely in live, human goods. Ever since that first breath, she’s known exactly who she is, but now she is forced to ask who is the real monster here—the wizard, her father, or worse, herself?

MONSTROUS, a YA fantasy complete at 85,000 words, is Frankenstein meets the Brothers Grimm told from the viewpoint of the monster as a teenage girl. I believe it will appeal to fans of Daughter of Smoke & Bone and Graceling. I have a MS in Arts Administration from Boston University and as the former marketing director of a professional theatre, I can actively promote my work. My futuristic YA short story “Connected” was recently published in the Spring Fevers Anthology by Elephant’s Bookshelf Press.

I understand you’re looking for young adult fantasy novels and I thought you might be interested in MONSTROUS. Per your submission guidelines, the first 10 pages are enclosed below. I would be happy to supply additional sample chapters or a full manuscript upon request.

Thank you so much for your time and consideration.


MarcyKate Connolly
There's a lot to love about this query.

What struck me first, admittedly was the fact that only two days after she sent me this query, MarcyKate followed up to say she had an offer. So when I read the query, it came with an offer. But I've passed on things with an offer.

This one I had to request because it sounded hauntingly beautiful. Right from the beginning.

One thing that can be hard to queries is figuring out what details are the right ones to include. Here, MarcyKate includes the exact right details. If you look at the first paragraph, those details about people remembering their first crush and first kiss, set up the undertone of romance as well as the loss. Kymera will never have those things.

The writing on a pure language level is gorgeous. This query shows that no matter what's going on plot-wise, MarcyKate Connolly can write. I mean, the way she describes Kymera: created "from the parts of her broken body, the wings of a raven, the tail of serpent, and a cat’s razor-sharp vision"! That imagery gives such a clear vision of our main character that makes her very unique.

The structure is also great. It builds in intensity. Not just within the whole query, but also within each paragraph. The last line in each paragraph adds some new piece of information that makes you want to keep reading.

I knew probably by "But not without a mission" that I was going to have to request this and read it overnight. And I did.

What's also crazy about this query and this book, is that MarcyKate breaks several rules. First, in the opening scene, Kymera wakes up--not just from sleep but on the first day of her life.

And of course, now it's a middle grade novel rather than a YA. But it works. This is an example of when you can be an exception to the rule.

Look for it Tuesday, February 10th!

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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?