Jumping The Gun by Candi Wall

September 19, 2011

Hopefully everyone’s had a wonderful and productive summer.

Mine wasn’t overly productive, as far as writing goes, but with work and kids out of school for the summer, I planned ahead. Or rather, I told myself to prepare for limited computer time. I’ve been working on the Agent Shop schedule though, and hope you all remember to check back and see who we’ll be having as our guest agents for the rest of the year.

Today I wanted to mention a topic that comes up often in discussion with agents and editors alike.

Premature submitting!

Jumping the gun!

Hitting that send button too soon.

I’m sure we’ve all been there.

It’s exciting – and scary – and that dream agent you’ve been keeping your eye on just opened back up for queries – and her tweets say she looking for just what you’ve written – and – and – and…

Yep, you got it. All that time spent writing, and the opportunity is there. You’ve poured yourself, your time, your heart, blood and tears into the manuscript. How can you let this opp go by??? You talk yourself right into it.

I’m here to tell you – STOP YOURSELF!

A rejection is hard enough to take, but one that tells you you’ve got a great idea but the writing just isn’t there…brutal. I’ve heard agents and editors both say they see this A LOT and many times, it’s because the author didn’t give themselves the time or the edits needed. Unless your work has been through the following AT LEAST, and probably much more, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.

  • First round edit
  • Crit partners
  • A month where you don’t even LOOK at it
  • Read it out loud
  • Second round edit
  • Contests are great at this stage too!
  • Beta readers 2 or more
  • VICIOUS edit (be brutal on yourself. If the sent makes you go ‘hmmm’ get rid of it or fix it.)
  • A good dose of ‘this is crap, it’s great, it’s crap, it’s great’ limbo. (Okay, maybe that part was just me. But I find chocolate helps.)
  • Final edit (and I highly suggest a final beta read)
  • Make it shine
Quick and simple today. I have insanity clogging my to do list this week.
Happy writing, editing, revising, submitting or any stage in between!
UPDATE: I’m still waiting on confirmation from our guest agent this month…. Concerned that e-mails were lost in cyber space or spam…

Pitching – The Job Interview

July 14, 2010

Song of the Day: Break Your Heart by Taio Cruz

If you popped in last week, you’ll know the do’s and don’ts of submitting masterpieces to coveted agents and editors. If you didn’t, scroll down. Go ahead, we’ll wait.

To give you a quick recap, Scott Eagan of the Greyhaus Literary Agency came to my “home” Romance Writers of America chapter, Northwest Houston RWA, gave us an eye-opening quirky presentation on submitting and pitching.

This week, I’ll share with you the scoop on pitching pointers à la Scott.

Treat a pitching appointment like it is a job interview because in all honesty, there is little difference. You walk into the appointment to sell yourself. Now for all you degenerates out there, and you know who you are, I don’t mean bribery or prostitution. This interview is about you and your resume. Resume = manuscript. Just as in an interview for employment, you are not there to chit chat and yuck it up. You have limited time. Use it wisely. Ask questions, take notes. Keep in mind I’m not referring to items like word counts, genres, and the like. You would know that from your research, right? And I don’t mean advances and royalties, either. That’s putting the cart before the horse and the horse just walked away. Questions that might arise may be more like how your book might fit into the current market.

By now you know that writing is a business. The cool thing about that is you can work at home in front of your computer wearing your PJs, not having showered in days, and entertain the cat with unkempt hair that rivals Edward Scissorhands. No so for a pitching session (or for anytime leaving the house). Dress accordingly. Business casual will be perfect. Sound professional. Act professional. Be intelligent. This falls in line with knowing the business and having confidence about yourself and your work. Let the agent or editor know you are ready to move to the big league.

When going on a job interview, you should know a little something about the company. The same applies to pitching. Do your research. Know what the agent / editor wants and what they like or dislike. Does the agent accept romantic suspense but not women’s fiction? Do they love historical tales but despise time travel? Are they partial to comedy? Do they represent all genres of romance but are only accepting young adult at the moment? Maybe they are really into vampire cowboys. Tailor your pitch to them. Scott put it best; one size does not fit all.

Be prepared. There are several points to this. Don’t pitch if your story is not complete, polished and ready to send immediately. Understand that there is a really good chance the agent / editor will ask questions. Know the answers. Be able to produce your manuscript. Consider keeping your book on a flash drive or stored in a secure web account. That way when you are at a conference and an agent / editor requests to see your manuscript, you can hustle back to your room, do your happy dance and fire off your magnum opus from your laptop. If you don’t have your materials with you, don’t fret. Just be sure to get them what they asked for as soon as possible.

Lastly, let’s talk about pitching no-no’s. Do not dress in costume. Please don’t dress up as a character in your book. That’s frightening. Don’t slide money across the table expecting favors. Avoid auditioning for a stand-up comic gig. Don’t shove a business card under their nose before your pitch session begins. Don’t apologize. And, if you know what’s good for you, don’t argue!

Next week: The Pitch! How to give them exactly what they want!


Hunting Agents

June 30, 2010

Song of the day: The Promise by When in Rome

Shh…I’m hunting wascally agents.

Christie Craig and Faye Hughes give key tips on the right and wrong way to meet an agent at conferences in this cheeky video.

I am fortunate to call Christie a good friend. She is a constant inspiration to me and I will shamelessly plug her books.  Please check out her latest sexy, fun suspense,  Shut up and Kiss Me, just released this month.

Also released this month is Christie and Faye’s Wild, Wicked & Wanton –  101 Ways to Love Like You’re In A Romance Novel. With a title like that, need I say more?


GET BACK ON THAT HORSE!

December 28, 2009

Agent Shop is over for December and I’m happy to say there were TWO requests this time around from Ms. Lyon.

For the authors who received requests – WHOO HOO! And make sure you let us know how you made out. There is an open invite to anyone who pitches to come back for an interview if our little corner of the cyberworld in some way helped you find your agent!

For those of you who didn’t get a request – GET BACK ON THAT HORSE!

This tidbit of advice is near and dear to me right now. Many of you might know that I was entered in Dorchester’s Next Best Celler contest. ‘Was’ being the operative word here.

As of Dec. 11th, the final five contestants were chosen and I’m happy to announce that I wasn’t one of them…

“Happy?” you say.

Certainly. When faced with such talented writers, months of grueling promo, a huge new network of authors and readers, and some great new friends along the way, how couldn’t I be happy?

Sure, I would have loved to continue on, that was the purpose of entering after all, but rejection comes in every form in this industry. We either roll with it, learn from it and move past it, or we stop writing. Since quitting isn’t an option for me, I’m chalking it up to more experience under my belt, a great time, and some serious exposure!

There are so many ways we can receive rejection.

As aspiring and published authors alike, we learn to shield ourselves and our feelings from:

Harsh critiques
Form rejections
Agent rejection
Editor rejection
Contest scores
Bad reviews

Ugh, there are any number of ways we could potentially lose faith in our ability to write, not to mention our want to write.

But not giving up is what takes us back to that old saying,
“You’ve got to get back on the horse.”

It’ll throw us over and over. Just like life, just like work, the same as any other venue of our life, but we keep plugging along. As it should be.

  • Use what you learn from every rejection to strengthen your ability as a writer.
  • Don’t take everything to heart. Opinions vary, so look out for repetitive issues that are pointed out and see if that is truly a weakness.
  • Read what’s current and in the genre you write. That doesn’t mean you have to follow a trend, but it keeps you informed on what’s hot, what’s not and where your writing would fit in the grand scheme.
  • Sign up for classes and workshops – ‘Nuff said.
  • Join writer’s groups & critique groups – So many people are willing to share their knowledge. Utilize it!
  • Beta readers can be wonderful! They read for pleasure and are usually very willing to let you know what didn’t work for them.
  • Network, network, network! This is a wonderful way to keep current on industry news and events as well as support.
  • Do your research. Not just for your story, but for your agent/editor. There’s enough rejection out there without submitting to the wrong agent/editor, which will just bring you the rejection you hope to avoid.
  • READ, READ, READ and read some more.

 

Don’t let the set backs get you down. Keep on keepin’ on.

Even the most popular authors had to go through the same rejection. But they didn’t let it stop them. They got back on the horse and I guarantee, they’re happy they did.

Happy writing for the coming year!

Candi Wall


Golden Heart Diaries: Strike Up The Band

June 10, 2009

Golden Heart Diaries: The Great Agent Search

 Song of the Day: Crawling in the Dark by Hoobastank

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With a title like Golden Heart® finalist, I began to realize something magical had happened. People started to take notice of me. Now those of you who personally know me are probably rolling their eyes and thinking “Phssh, well duh. Kinda hard NOT to notice Miss Brassy Pants.” Yet, I have been amazed and humbled by people’s reaction to my newfound accomplishment.

Some of the attention may have been overlooked had it not been for a few special friends of mine I like to dub my Horn Tooters. Everywhere I go, the wind section of these pals blow shiny horns, announcing my final and subsequent requests. After the rousing musical introduction, flags are raised, flowers are thrown and I am expected to do my very best Queen of England hand wave to the adoring crowd. Bless my merry band of Horn Tooters.CopyofElizabeth

Once the delirious fog of my pirate historical Upon a Moonlit Sea actually making it in the finals lifted, I set to work to capitalize on the Golden Heart® name. I generated a new query and promptly sent it out to ten acquiring agents and sent follow-up emails to those who had my manuscript fermenting in their slush piles. Some of these agents had already sent their beloved, unsigned standard rejection letters. But, hey, why not give them a second chance at greatness, right?

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The response blew me away. Eight of the ten asked for a partial or full – one within TEN minutes of me pushing the send button. Imagine, if you will, my giddy excitement; the falling to my knees, the tears of joy, the shameless bowing to my ornate agent shrine. Perhaps giddy isn’t the right word.

Now, this is where an old eighties rock tune pops into my head. “Sometimes high, sometimes low, easy come, easy go.” That sound you hear is the escaping air from my high flying balloon. I have received almost as many rejections as requests, deflating my ego at an alarming rate. Feelings of inadequacies burrowed deep and no amount of horn tooting or elegant hand waving would help. I confirmed that Moonlit Sea wasn’t at its best. Nausea had set it.

So why did I only send out ten queries? Surely the more agents I send to the better chance I’ll have of landing one. The proverbial iron is hot, after all. I should be hitting up every agent in the known world and beyond. The short answer is that I was scared. I hadn’t read my manuscript since last summer and I have come light years as a writer from where I was those months ago. Moonlit Sea needed a good buff and I knew it.

I didn’t want to send it out to anyone else until that sucker shined. But I fashioned a self-imposed deadline that I had to meet. I wanted, no, I NEEDED to finish my second pirate historical, A Kiss in the Wind, before I could move on. There were only a few chapters left. No way could I abandon the story, even for a month. My salty main characters would probably string me up on the gallows. Arghh.

I’m happy to report, I’ve met my goal and I’m done.  Now, I am feverishly working to blind agents with Moonlit Sea with crisper authenticity and trumpettighter phrasing. Though there is some head slapping at the little mistakes I’ve come across, the nausea is starting to abate. Bring me my Horn Tooters!

Yes, there is a smidgen of regret for sending out my manuscript so soon to those agents. With the story not at 100%, I can understand receiving the rejections. However, I’m reminded that if I didn’t have a great story, I wouldn’t be a finalist. Before long, I’ll be flooding the agent market again, hopefully with equally exciting results.

There has been a lot of success from other Golden Heart® finalists finding great agents. Congratulations to them all! With any luck, I’ll join that bandwagon soon. I believe in my pirates. I believe in my story. And the iron is still hot.

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In my next installment of the Golden Heart® Diaries, I’ll prattle on about preparing to wow DC, dress anxiety, and any new agent developments.


Is it my writing, or just bad timing???

January 16, 2009

Bitch Track: Why in the world would a perfect stranger lean over my shoulder and start a thirty minute conversation about what I’m writing??? At the public library???
Okay, I’m NOT anti-social, but I was ready to tear my hair out!

Bliss Track: My eight year old is doing a physical fitness project at school. He has to walk to Tahiti! Okay, not really, but he has to log in enough walking/active/physical time to equal the trip there and back. It’s amazing how much talking you can get done while walking around the indoor track at the local YMCA. Gotta love bonding!

Is it my writing, or just bad timing???

Little by little we work to improve and strengthen our writing. We’ve all done/seen the lists of potential ways to become a good writer.

There’s having natural talent
Taking courses / classes
Joining writing / crit groups
Finding a good WP(s)
Hooking
Keeping the flow
Not head hopping
Smooth transitions
Good grammar
Correct spelling
MS structure
Sentence variation
Dumping repeated words
Losing overused phrases
Utilizing senses
Dialog tag use
There’s highlight editing
Deep editing
Reading out loud
Continuing to write…

As you probably all know – we could keep adding to this list – for a loooooooong time.

So, we’ve learned all these things, and tackled the feared synopsis and query letter. The e-mail /letter you’ve dreamt about comes. An agent/editor wants a partial or full. Yes!!! Celebrate. There’s been rejections to tear up over and the doubts have already set in on numerous occasions, but finally – A CHANCE!

The wait to hear back varies from one industry specialist to the next and when it comes we all cross our fingers and pray. It’s a road well traveled by most of us. Some have moved on to publication while others still wander the trenches.

I’ve been in the query trench for four months and just received a very kind refusal from my dream agent on a ms that I am very proud of, and has received great reviews from both my online crit group and my great writing partners John, Marie-Claude, and Jenn. The rejection came in the mail and I read and reread it several times. I was disappointed – sure.

But the thought that stuck in my mind was:

Was it my writing or the personal preference/needs of the A/E that landed me this rejection? I did my research on her, edited the ms to within an inch of its life, followed all submission rules, and sought the advice and constructive criticism of others in my profession. Hmmm, what went wrong? I know, I know – there’s no real answer to that.

BUT – Anyone follow agent/editor (A/E) blogs? Mercy, it’s like a huge database of confused wisdom. And I say this in the nicest possible way. One agent’s wants and needs are different from another. However if we do our research and read their lists we can cut back some of the rejection we bring upon ourselves.

Having said that, the thing that I notice – is that they are human. They get into moods, likes, dislikes. They have family crisis, and toothaches and dogs that die. They get to work late or miss the morning bus, or have children who are sick with the flu. They read umpteen hundred query’s hoping that one of them will stand out enough to pique their interest. One agent said she even swore to herself that the next historical romance that came in – she would request. I don’t think she meant it, she was just frustrated with the abundance of other sub genres she’d received in that day. I guess I have to remember that they are human.

But without feedback from the Agent/Editor, how do you decide to edit more, or stick with what you’ve got? Share your thoughts…