Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The False Sale

I know it's very easy to exaggerate.

"If I've told you once, I've told you a million times!"

I'm guilty of it myself.
Hyperbole makes for good stories.

"And then I was swarmed by a thousand bees!"
(there were three)

I've come to expect it from my kids - but I'm going to issue you a warning where you should never, ever, ever, ever exaggerate.

In the publishing business.

I knew a writer who I hadn't seen in a while, and when I asked her how things were going, she went on and on about how she was working with an editor on her Middle Grade novel, and how she had a development deal with a major publishing house on another idea - and how things were going super duper fantastic for her.
I was impressed.

Until - I asked her what publishing house her editor was at, and she balked. Not just balked, but she actually tried to avoid giving me an answer. Now that seemed weird to me at the time, because usually authors don't announce they're working with an editor until after the publishing deal had been signed, so I initially thought that maybe her deal hadn't been announced yet, but when I asked her if that was the case, this turned out to be not true either.

She was working with a freelance editor on her Middle Grade. This is all well and good, I've had many friends do this, but she had left that part out of her initial sentence in an effort to sound more impressive, and being the skeptical bitch that I am, I did a little digging and caught her in the lie.

Oh, and that development deal she had with the major publishing house? The conversation I had with her was TWO YEARS ago and nothing has shown up in Publishers Marketplace, so I'm willing to bet that deal fell through, if it even existed.

Now, when my agent or editor or writerly friends meet this person and ask me what I think of her, what do you think my response will be?
Positive?
Or negative?

Or, how about when I meet an author who brags about his multi-book publishing deal, his sales at Barnes and Noble, his thousands of Twitter followers - and then OFFERS ME ADVICE on how to market a book - and when I go home, I do a little (not even a lot!) bit of digging and find out his multiple book deal was with a vanity press, that his book is being sold at Barnes and Noble.com (not the stores), and that I have more Twitter followers than he does…

NOW - don't get me wrong.
I love Barnes and Noble.com, my first book came out with a vanity press, and I don't even have 2k Twitter followers - I am not judging the truth of this man's accomplishments.

I'm judging the sales pitch.
The lying, really.

Just tell me the truth - why are you trying to make yourself sound more successful than you are?
You're just making yourself look bad!

Case in Point: 
My 2 book deal is with Harlequin's digital first imprint Carina Press - YAY!

If either one of those other two writers had shared the same news with me, they would have had a multiple book deal with Harlequin - which is a whole other type of deal - and it would have been part truth, but mostly a lie.

Just stop with the false sales.
Just stop!

Don't oversell.
Don't overreach.

Tell the damned truth and be proud.
Because by lying, you are only shooting yourself in the foot.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Anne's New Book Deal

WOOT!

I am super excited to announce I have just signed a two book deal with Harlequin's digital first imprint, Carina Press, under editor Rhonda Helms, for my New Adult speculative fiction series, THE LINE.

Book 1: CARRIER will be out June, 2014!
With Book 2: WALLED following behind!

Thank you to all who helped make this deal possible!

To my beta readers:
Robin, Lisa, and Henny

To my sweet Meredith for her encouraging words!

For my writers group who convinced me to query this book!

To my fabulous agent, Bree Ogden of D4EO Literary for never giving up and putting up with my obsessive emails! And to Bob and Mandy, for all your help polishing the corners!

Mwah!

Love you all!
Let's go celebrate!!

But not too hard - because - OMG -


DEADLINES!!!!! ;)

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Don't Fall Victim to These Three Common Chapter One Mistakes

I've been interning at a literary agency for a few months now.
I do not claim to be an expert at anything, but I thought I'd share the most common mistakes I see in the first chapters of writing submissions.
I hope this helps.

Mistake #1) Too much telling.

Someone, at some conference, at some point in your writing career, has told you that the first chapter of your manuscript needs to be full of action in order to grip the reader's attention straight away. Many writers have interpreted this as dropping the reader into the middle of an action sequence, like running for his/her life, or in the middle of a car chase - or something like that.

But that's not exactly what I would say is the right way to interpret this bit of advice.

What I would suggest is this:
- Show the main character DOING something. It can be shopping with a grumpy parent. It can be sitting at a diner eating a stack of blueberry pancakes. It can be whatever you like, but have your main character DOING something, anything really, other than TELLING the reader what has happened.
In other words, be in the moment. THAT moment. Doing something.

DON'T DO:
Virginia was a precocious child, one of seventeen, and never once got to have a leg of chicken. No matter how aggressively she would tackle her siblings when Mother set the platter of chicken parts down onto the supper table, was she able to snatch herself a leg, or even a thigh.

Virginia was small. Tiny, in fact. A half-sized person. And her larger, stronger, and more formidable sisters and brothers always beat her in the battle for food.

Virginia hated wings.

DO:
The moment Virginia caught the smell of fried chicken, she immediately formulated battle plans.
She sat at the supper table a full hour early, in order to get the best strategic spot for when Mother placed down the platter.
She cracked her knuckles, and popped the vertebrae in her neck in an attempt to stay limber.
This was the day she would succeed.

She would get a leg, even if she had to beat every one of her seventeen brothers and sisters in a brawl.
A thigh would do in a pinch, but a leg was Virginia's ultimate goal.
She'd get a leg, if it was the last thing she'd do.

Virginia hated wings.


I hope you can see the difference. The scene of her preparing for chicken battle is much more compelling. I think that's the best way to hook a reader off the bat. I'd want to keep reading to see if Virginia got that leg. But, if you had only told me that she never got a leg before, it's not as much as a draw to pull the reader forward.

Mistake #2) Too much exposition

Along the same lines as showing me that your character is doing something, also don't bog the reader down with a ton of past history.

A reader should be interested in what is happening in the story RIGHT NOW, and not what happened before the story even started.

If the reader needs to know what happened before, in order for the story to make sense (like world building), then add small descriptive clues (every three or four paragraphs give a single sentence of information), but save the world explaining and detailed past history for Chapter Two and Three.

Hook us first, THEN give me details. And even then, don't dump it all at once.

DON'T DO:
In Virginia's world, getting food was tricky. Not because food was scarce, but because there were so many other mouths in competition.

Virginia had seventeen brothers and sisters. She was the youngest. A mere shrimp to a whale of her eldest brother. The whale's name was George, and he often smelled like chicken feed. The Thompson family lived on a farm, and it was George's job to feed the chickens.

Virginia's job was easy by comparison. She was in charge of weeding Mother's vegetable garden. It was a large boxed garden complete with green beans, cabbages, carrots, and Virginia's personal favorite: squash.

DO:
Refer to the 'Do' paragraph above.

None of this information in the 'Don't' sample above is relevant right off the bat. Have patience. The reader will learn all about the world you have created! But give them time to learn it piece by piece. Don't toss them into the middle of Mother's vegetable patch, even if it is one of the most important places in Virginia's world.

Slowly. Ever so slowly SHOW the reader Virginia's world, one active scene at a time.

For example, after missing out on a chicken leg for the 800 billionth time, Virginia gets so mad she stomps away from the table and hides in the garden.
There.

See how easy that was?

Mistake #3) The mix and match

Think you've found the solution?
Let's have your character DOING something, and then every paragraph or so, she or he sees something which reminds them of part of the back story, and then you explain what that memory is, and then whoops - back to the action scene.

I've used the mix and match before, absolutely. But I use this method in Chapter Two and Three when I am world building and explaining back story in detail. Not in Chapter One. Not if I can help it.

Yes, use the mix and match!
But wait until AFTER the reader is hooked, and don't do this in the middle of a car chase, or a life and death situation.
I sincerely doubt when running from a pack of wolves in the Siberian tundra that your hero or heroine will be musing about running through the fields of wheat in their childhood.
Really - when your character is afraid for their life - that's all he/she is thinking about.
Life.
Death.
Not wishing they were back home, running her palms across the tops if the budding sunflowers in that field behind their farmhouse that smelled like sunshine and was oh, so peaceful.
Look out, man-eating wolves!

See how jarring that is?

Make sure when you mix and match, you are not doing it in the wrong place.
And Chapter One, when you are showing your main character DOING something, is not the time to explain past memories. At least not ones that last longer than one sentence in one page.
It's just not.
Don't do it.


Now, I will remind every and all writers out there, that this world of writing is completely, 100% subjective, and you are free to disagree with everything I've written above.

I'm just letting you know what I view as mistakes, and maybe, just maybe, you can take my two cents worth of advice, and make something of worth out of it.

Good luck!





Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Writing to Trends

If you've ever been to an SCBWI event, chances are one or more of the speeches included the advice, "Don't write to trend."

Writing to trend means that once Twilight hit big, all of the sudden every other YA wanna-be was writing about vampires and werewolves, and indeed, there were a slew of vampires and werewolves books that came out immediately after Twilight that were able to benefit from the trend, but the problem is that now several years later, there are still books getting pitched about vampires and werewolves, and the agents and editors are completely sick of them.

NEWS FLASH: They are onto the next trend.

I was at an SCBWI event once where an agent's panel went on to elaborate about how a writer should "be aware" of the trends, but to always write what they love.

I agree, and I also disagree.
I am nothing, if not practical.

The truth of the matter is, if you want to sell in the current market place, if you want to be one of those sales you hear about that take place at auction, then you most definitely need to have a full, polished, and ON TREND manuscript.

I don't care if you are a brilliant writer, more than likely if your book is behind the trend, getting an agent, much less an editor, to take the time to request a full submission, or even read a partial, will be difficult.

I can't even tell you how many fantastic manuscripts are behind trend, and lay languishing on someone's hard drive, waiting for the trend to come back around in a decade.

Want to sell now? What's a writer to do?

Well, here's my advice: take it for what you will.

A) Write faster

- I know several writers that are brilliant, and have been writing and rewriting the SAME book for several years.  They rewrite, query, get a little far, but not far enough.  Rewrite, re-query, get a little bit farther, but not quite far enough, and the cycle continues.
The problem is that by the third rewrite, the book is already behind trend, and no matter how brilliantly you've rewritten the book, the trend is gone and agents and editors are onto the next best thing.
There was the curve.  You missed it!

- So?  It's time to put that manuscript to bed and start the next one, and the next one should not take more than 6 months to finish.  And I'm not talking the first draft in six months.  I'm talking a full, complete, polished manuscript ready for submission in six months.
Can't pull it off?
Then you're going to be in a never ending cycle of disappointment, because chances are, you'll always be slightly behind the curve.
Find a way.

B) WRITE TO TREND but make it yours

- This goes against every piece of advice any speaker at SCBWI has ever given me - but I have to say - take a moment, consider the types of books that are selling in the market, make a list, read them - and write to trend.

- Out of all those currently selling books, which ones are at the beginning of the trend?  If there is ONE book of a genre that's just sold thousands, then that's a safe bet, versus if there are now three unicorn books out - then you can safely bet that trend is about to end.

- Find the beginning of a trend, and make it your own.
This is the tricky part.  I'm not saying to write a trend book just like the others that have already been published.  Don't do that.  I want you to spin it, change it, up the stakes, make it different, make it yours.

For example, if the books out in the marketplace are about good and fluffy and pretty unicorns, write one about killer, monster unicorns.
If there are books about evil and horrible ghosts, write one about a good, misunderstood ghost (just don't name him Casper).

Find a new trend.
Make it your own.
Write fast.

I know it is almost impossible to hit this just right, and I'm desperately trying to do this myself, but if you manage to pull this off, you have a better chance of selling in today's market than the wonderful, brilliant souls who work the same gorgeous, and out of date, manuscript for five years.

Just saying...



Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Truth About Queries

You want the truth about queries?

They suck.

There's the truth.

But even though queries suck to write, suck to read, and suck in every general way, they are a necessary evil of suckiness if you wish to be a traditionally published author.

If you want an agent to represent your book to the BIG publishers, you must A) write a book, B) write a query, or two, or ten, or fifty, or (in my case), seventy eight.

There are a few short "rules" to writing queries.
I am only going to give you the highlights.
If you want the true and complete skinny on queries, take this class: http://litreactor.com/classes/the-art-of-the-query-letter-with-literary-agent-bree-ogden
It's taught by an actual literary agent, who reads a million queries, and can tell you what to do, what not to do, and how to do it.

I highly recommend it!

BUT -
If you're so slick and think you know everything, here are just a few query tips to get you started.

1) Spell the agent's name right

2) Know your genre

3) Query only agents that represent your genre

4) Follow the agent submission guidelines

5) MOST IMPORTANT TIP OF ALL TIME:

HAVE AN AWESOME SUMMARY PARAGRAPH

 - Not a whole synopsis, not a two paragraph long description of how your book is better than Harry Potter and will sell more books that Twilight (tsk, tsk), but an intelligent, succinct, PARAGRAPH (and only 1 paragraph!!) describing your MAIN storyline, without giving away the ending.  Not the many subplots, not the scenery, not a description of your main character's feelings, but a paragraph teaser (in present tense!) like what would be written on the back of your book if it were in a book store.

Example:
"The Book Thief"
By her brother's graveside, Liesel Meminger's life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow.  It is The Gravedigger's Handbook, left there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery.  So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordion-playing foster father, learns to read.  Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor's wife library, wherever there are books to be found.  But these are dangerous times.  When Liesel's foster family hides a Jew in their basement, Liesel's world is both opened up and closed down.

- This is the main character, this is their main conflict, this is what could go wrong...The End.

That's it.
I'm not joking.
It is the MOST IMPORTANT part of your query, so if you blow the paragraph, I don't care if you're as eloquent as a dignitary, no agent is going to ask for a full, or even a partial submission.

And that's the truth.

I highly urge anybody who wants to learn more to follow the above link and take the class about queries.

It could literally change your life. [pun intended]

In the meantime, good luck to my querying friends.

XO,
--A.