As of 7:11 pm, Friday, August 31st, I'm caught up on queries. I answered the 214 queries that were in my inbox. If you queried me this week and didn't get a response, double check the submission guidelines and send off the query again.

This was a strange group of queries. There are some exceptions, but there were a lot of queries that had me scratching my head. At the risk of preaching to the choir:

  • Make sure your query actually names your main character. (Don't just say, "This novel tells how the main character...")
  • Rather than paste in a paragraph excerpt, tell what the novel is about then paste your first pages in below the query.
  • I don't want to read your "best scene" in those 5-10 pages below the query. I want to read from the beginning just like an editor and a reader would.
  • Start with your main character and the book, not what inspired you or how much money you will make me

Of the 214 queries...

I regrettably passed on 2 manuscripts that sparked my interest at first

A contemporary YA with a really cool title sucked me into the premise, but the voice didn't grab me
A historical adult ms with romantic elements. I liked the query and the beginning a lot, but as I kept reading the pages it started to lose me. I didn't connect with the characters so I passed.

I requested 3 manuscripts

A YA epic fantasy that had a great query and a catchy voice
YA contemporary with a really good query, good pages, and an offer (already!)
MG historical with a really cool premise and great writing
I opened my email this weekend and found a question from a writer--one that a lot of people are probably asking.

I am a follower of your blog, an avid science fiction and fantasy reader, and a hoping-to-be-published-one-day-in-the-future writer, who has a question that I thought you might answer for me. I was wondering, if a writer is writing something that is currently popular, e.g. a vampire-human love story or a dystopian youth fantasy, should the writer just give-up on their manuscript now, because a currently selling trend is a dying tend by publishing standards? Or is it worthwhile to keep pursuing the idea, as long as the work is sufficiently different, i.e. it doesn't feature a sparkling, suicidal vampire or a media-driven teen death match? I ask, because I've been writing a young adult dystopian story, a story I had the idea for, long before The Hunger Games (although I will admit that I'm a Hunger Games fan), but I'm worried that by the time my manuscript is ready for me to query an agent, everybody will think dystopian is dead, and won't give my story a genuine chance. My story has no resemblance to The Hunger Games: no teenagers fighting to the death for entertainment, no reluctant heroine with the skills of a warrior, no sweet and gentle baker with a tender affection for our heroine, but, as with most dystopia, it does involve societal upheaval. I'm worried that given the latest interest in dystopian fantasy that I'm wasting my time with this story, and should, perhaps, pick-up another idea, one that's a little less 'now', and run with that idea instead. I thought this might be a good question for you to answer on your blog as I'm sure that I'm not the only writer wandering through the internet concerned that it's too late for her sub-genre of interest.

Now, this is a tough one. There are a lot of different ways to approach this.

Here are my thoughts.

On one hand, you never want to "write for the market." As a reader, the books that are coming out were typically sold between a year and two years earlier. Which means you're always going to be behind the curve and therefore at a disadvantage. (Unless of course you are a psychic and can predict what's next--in which case, I'd love if you could give me a call...) But seriously, if you look at the books that have become successful, they're books that came out at a time when they were the only thing out there.

I was teaching when Twilight first came out and I saw my students roll their eyes at the idea of a girl who falls in love with a vampire. That was so not cool...until other people read it and raved about it, and then they read the series as well as several other vampire series as well.

I also firmly believe you should write what you love and what you're passionate about. This industry is tough and if you don't love the writing, the business and the publicity and the ups and downs will absolutely drain you.

That said, there's a point where the art of writing and the business of publishing have to meet. And in the business Dead Genres do exist. (I think dystopian is already pretty dead). There are queries and manuscripts that I reject solely on the basis that it's paranormal or it's dystopian--because they're not selling.

So if you're writing a YA dystopian novel, where does that leave you?

I don't want to tell you to give up. If you love the novel you're writing, write it, finish it, gain the experience from the process. Even query it--write the query, revise it, send it out, make connections with agents. And then while you're querying, write something else--something different, something that will challenge you and make you better at your craft.

Do this because even if the manuscript doesn't get you an agent and/or doesn't get published, you will learn and you will become that much closer to the agent and/or the sale. And that will help you when your next manuscript is finished. Do this also because who knows, you might get lucky.

Here's why, just a few weeks ago, I requested a YA paranormal from my queries. It was literary in style and totally weird and different in comparison to what I'd seen out there. In the end I didn't offer representation, but I sent some notes on the ms (and also told the author that actually instead of doing those notes she might want to just set the ms aside and work on something else) and I said I was really interested in seeing her next project. (Agents don't lie when we say that and we don't say it to everyone.)

I have also taken on a few projects that I knew in my heart weren't "commercial." They weren't going to be an easy sell--in fact, I might not sell them at all. But I loved the manuscript and the writing, and I had faith in the author, that even if this first manuscript didn't sell, one of his/her next manuscripts would and that investment was worth it.

Another thing to keep in mind--dead genres don't say dead forever. If you can't sell that YA dystopian right now, that doesn't mean you won't be able to sell it down the road. I've told clients this. There is no shame in putting a manuscript aside, telling yourself "it isn't the right time for this one," and then planning to come back to it in a few years with a fresh perspective.

And I'd say this is good advice for everyone, no matter what you're writing--put everything you have into the manuscript you're working on. Query it, and then write something else. And keep doing that until you find an agent, until you sell your first book, and then beyond.

Be patient, it doesn't happen overnight for anyone.
You may have already heard, but on August 30th, an awesome event with five amazing authors is happening at Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville, IL (outside of Chicago).

5 Good Reasons to Read YA
Veronica Roth, Erica O'rourke, Dan Krokos, Susan Dennard, Leigh Bardugo

Here's what you haven't heard yet...


The Details:

Hello Readers!  We have a fantastic opportunity for you to be one of the first to read *Exclusive* SECRET CONTENT by each of these 5 awesome authors!  We have 240 booklets of *Exclusive* SECRET CONTENT that we want to give out to YOU.  Here's how to get it:

1. Purchase 2 or more books by the authors participating in this event through Anderson's Bookshop.  Here is a link to more information to the event: (scroll down to Thursday, August 30)

2. If you are ordering online and do not plan on attending the event, you can still receive one of the 240 booklets. All you have to do while processing your order through the Anderson's Bookshop website is include this message in the Comments section of your Order Check Out: "5 Good Reasons to Read YA – August 30 Event, I'd like my books signed!"

And that's it!

**Remember, you must order these books through Anderson's Bookshop where the event is being held, otherwise your purchase won't qualify.

There are only 240 booklets, and they will be provided ONLY to the first 240 purchases of 2 or more books from the event.  If you purchase only one book, you won't receive a booklet, but you will still get a signed copy from an awesome author!

Now…what is this *Exclusive* SECRET CONTENT you might ask?  Well, it's a secret!  But we can give you a few hints. The booklet includes:

- an alternate beginning scene

- the first printing of original poster + a must-read folktale

- an important scene from an alternate point-of-view

- the first 5 pages of the next book in a thrilling series

- 2 secret scenes from a trilogy

Can you guess which ones belong to which authors?

Be one of the first 240 people to order 2 books from this event to find out!

Happy Release Day to Nikki Loftin!

The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy is out in stores today.

Today's roundup is going to be a little different. I'm pressed for time and a little bored with saying some of the same old things. So...

As of 1:13 pm, Friday, August 17th, I'm caught up on queries. I answered the 127 queries (light week!) that were in my inbox.If you queried me this week and didn't get a response, double check the submission guidelines and send off the query again.

I requested 1 manuscript. It was a YA horror with a really cool concept and excellent writing and (to my dismay, I mean, good for the author!) it already has an offer.

My best advice for everyone querying is to take your time and revise. I read a lot of queries that don't grab me. I've told you that. Here's one reason they don't--there's no voice to it. A lot of queries that I read are a little dry. They must list who the character is and what the book is about, but the tone of the book is missing, the personality of the character isn't there. That's what's going to make your query stand out--and I know it's easier to say "do this!" than to actually do it, but that's what revisions and input from other writers is for.

And her are some other random thoughts I had while reading queries. (My examples are inspired by real queries but not taken from them).

Where are the pages? If you have a great concept, that's awesome and part of the battle, but it doesn't mean you can write, which is why I want pages. If I can't see the writing how do I know if I want to read more?

Don't ask me terrible rhetorical questions! What would I do if the whole planet was suddenly attacked by giant slugs? Die. I would most likely die and then I wouldn't be reading any more queries.

Don't ask me if I ever anything. The answer is most likely "No" which isn't want you want any agent thinking when you're also asking, can I send you my novel. Have I ever drowned and come back to life? No. Have I ever killed the man I loved? No. Have I woken up in my apartment with a pile of vomit on the floor and no idea how it got there? Not any time I particularly want to remember.

Don't tell me to "Imagine..." I don't want to do the work for you. Make me imagine it by showing it in your query.

If your query doesn't have a character in it, it's a problem for me. I can't read a manuscript that has no character.

Please don't tell me you've been rejected everywhere or that I'm the 88th agent you've queried. That just isn't good "sales."

I'm just not sure I can do exotic hybrid were animals like half werewolf half unicorn. I don't know if the world is ready for that, but I'm probably not.

Your seven book series that's all complete and "ready for publication today" scares me. For two reasons. 

I can't read anything in Czech so I don't even know what this email says other than "query"

No, I do not want to go to your website and read your novel there. I know it's demanding but I want you to send me a query and your pages.

Your 398,238 word novel is just too long. I'm willing to make word count exceptions if the query and writing seem exception worthy but this is three or four books not one.

If you can't tell me your name because you don't trust me or if you're going to threaten me with legal action if I don't delete your query or if you want me to sign something so I don't steal your idea, we're probably not the right match.

One sentence about your book and two pages about you is not the best way to sell me your book.

This is a really exciting week for me. I have two books releasing this week!

False Memory by Dan Krokos is out tomrrow! A YA thriller set in Cleveland, False Memory features Miranda, a 17-year-old who finds herself in a mall with no memory. While trying to understand who she is, she discovers she's been genetically altered and trained to be a weapon of mass destruction, and she's about to be auctioned off to the highest bidder if she doesn't do something to stop it. 

It's an intensely awesome book with some sci fi elements.

The Treachery of Beautiful Things by Ruth Frances Long is out on Thursday, and it is as beautiful and romantic as that cover suggestions. A dark and romantic original fairy tale, The Treachery of Beautiful Things features Jenny, a 17-year-old girl whose brother was swallowed by the trees when she was younger. Now, she's lured into the trees where she finds a magical realm with stunning beauty and treacherous evils if she wants to get her brother back.

It's a lovely, lyrical, and beautifully written original fairy tale.

As of 2:36 pm, Friday, August 10th, I'm caught up on queries. That means I have gotten the query inbox down to 0. If you queried me this week and didn't get a response, double check the submission guidelines and send off the query again.

This week there were 206 queries in my inbox!

Of those...

The most common genre this week--I saw a lot of YA this week

Why I rejected most queries--I'm not grabbed
Like the past few weeks, most of my rejections stem from not feeling grabbed. This doesn't mean it's bad, just that nothing stands out or really jumps out and says UNIQUE! What is it about your character and this concept that are going to lure me to the edge of my seat and want to know what happens next. I really need that shown in the query.

Queries I regrettably passed on--1

YA mystery--really great query, but I wasn't grabbed by the voice in the pages

I also passed on a few things this week, that specifically mentioned the POVs. I love a good alternating POV (Shiver, Gone Girl, need I say more?), but when a query tells me a manuscript is told from 7 POVs I get nervous. That's a lot of POVs and if we're looking at a straight forward plot with one main character--at least from the query--it seems like too much. Similarly if you're writing a YA novel and you're alternating between your main character and an adult, that's a really tough sell. Now the POV wasn't make or break. I wasn't grabbed by these ideas anyway, but something to think about when you're writing and working on your query. Even if you're writing the next Game of Thrones I probably don't need to know at the query stage that you've got

Manuscripts I requested--3

YA fantasy--awesome combination of weird, beautiful and literary. Reminds me of Leah Bobet's Above in style
YA sci fi--interesting query and great voice
YA mystery--great concept, really great voice
As of 2:14 pm, Friday, August 3rd, I'm caught up on queries. That means I have gotten the query inbox down to 0. If you queried me this week and didn't get a response, double check the submission guidelines and send off the query again.

This week there were 159 queries in my inbox!

Of those...

The most common genre this week--I saw a lot of middle grade and a lot of paranormal romance (YA and adult) in my query inbox this week.

No matter the genre, it's important to convey somehow in the query that this project is unique from what's already out there. So if you have a middle grade novel about a kid who discover's he's a wizard and goes to a school for other wizards, you have to make sure you're emphasizing to plot and the character development that are unique rather than the elements of the story that are going to make me think "I've read this before..."

But this is especially important in genres that are "dead" or "dying." If I'm queried with a YA vampire romance or an angel romance, I'm very quick to think this isn't going to work. It's also what editors are going to quick to think when I try to pitch them. Which means, you need to be extra clever with your pitch. Emphasize what's new and different about your manuscript. (And by emphasize, I mean show. Don't just tell me it's different--that's not very convincing).

Why I rejected most queries--I'm not grabbed
Like the past few weeks, most of my rejections stem from not feeling grabbed. This doesn't mean it's bad, just that nothing stands out or really jumps out and says UNIQUE! What is it about your character and this concept that are going to lure me to the edge of my seat and want to know what happens next. I really need that shown in the query.

Queries I regrettably passed on--2

YA fantasy--the query was a little confusing, but it seemed like there might be a great premise in there, but as I read the pages, I realized the world building problems in the query also seem to be problematic in the pages
YA fantasy--great query, but the pages lack voice

Manuscripts I requested--3

Adult mystery/romance--really cool concept and great writing. I'm interested to see where this goes
Adult urban fantasy--a manuscript I previously requested. It's not been revised. Still a great premise!
Adult science fiction--writing (in the query and manuscript) that's completely swoonworthy. I actually sat up straighter and leaned into my computer after reading the first line.