Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Molly Marie Tibbets 1997 - 2012

First, I would like to wish all my loyal readers a very Happy Happy Holidays!

I am in the midst of holiday preparations here at home, but I would like to take a moment to honor one of my loyalist of pals, my pooch Molly Marie, who has been with me for fifteen years.

Molly came to live with me in 1999, at one and a half (although, my husband and I were suspicious that she might have been older).  When visiting our local vet to care for my husband's old and ailing cat, we saw a flier on the vet wall advertising a "German Shepherd Mix" in need of a good home, and seen as how we had just purchased our first house, and I am a sucker for all things furry, I begged Hubby to allow me "just a look" at the homeless dog.

From the moment they brought her out I was a lost cause.  Molly, who was called Mama by the vet staff due to the fact that she had just given birth to puppies, had the biggest and brightest brown eyes I had seen on a dog, and she pranced out and came straight to me, ignoring all the other dogs as they walked behind me, and stuck her nose right at mine.

Molly was found alone and abandoned on the streets of Los Angeles, a Mama Dog with no puppies.  The vet staff suspected that someone had taken her puppies and let her loose, and some nice lady had scooped her up, but since she had had no place to keep her, brought her to the vet's office in hopes someone would adopt her.

I wanted to take her home immediately, but the vet staff had to get permission from the "adoptive mom," so we went home without her and waited to hear.  A few hours later, after the vet staff had gotten permission, we went back and brought Mama (who we renamed Molly because I couldn't imagine standing at the back porch and calling, "Mama!") home, and she has proven to be a gift to my entire family.

The first day Molly was with us was a Saturday, and she rewarded our generosity by eating a plate of ground turkey that was defrosting on the kitchen counter for dinner.  After being scolded, Molly slunk off and has not misbehaved once since.

She's been a constant companion to my two daughters, even allowing them to crawl all over her and pull her hair and ears when they were babies, and she never complained an ounce.
She's never bitten a soul.
She's never jumped up or licked a single solitary human being.

In her youth she would bark when the doorbell rang, and often volunteered her dog food to another stray we adopted several years later, Mocha, may Mocha rest in peace.

Molly endured a move to two more houses, the loss of two cats, the addition of another (from our local shelter), and the loss of Mocha (who I believe was truly her best friend), and then the addition of Bella Lugosi, our latest stray doggy family addition, who is rambunctious and hardly gives Molly any peace.

Molly, now fifteen-ish, has severe arthritis in her back hips, a skin infection that will never heal that results in patches of fur and skin falling off at odd places and times, a slew of hot spots and medications, surgery on her butt to remove a tumor, several teeth extractions and cleanings, car rides (which she hates), kids, and grumpy cats who always seemed to push her around, a temporary puppy friend who used to bite her lips until they bled, and an owner (me) who never seems to get her nails clipped often enough.

She has never complained once, and spends her days sleeping beside the kitchen island because her food is stored inside that island in an old popcorn tin.  She doesn't remember to ask to go outside when she needs to go potty.  And her sensitive stomach often leaves her nauseous.

Molly will go to be with the Lord this Friday at noon.
I find myself riddled with extreme guilt for having not cared for her better in her years with my family, as she's always been a great dog and a great friend to my children, but I can no longer allow her suffering to continue.  My last gift to her is freedom from pain.  I wish it felt sufficient.

I urge all my readers to seriously consider adopting pets from shelters, they are truly the most appreciative and loving creatures, and are worth every ounce of trouble.

Farewell to Molly.  As I've always said, "If she were hairless, she'd be the world's most perfect dog."

Monday, September 10, 2012

How I Got My Agent the Old Fashioned Way

Someone asked - and I shall provide...

A few years back I was querying agents off a list I found on Query Tracker, but since the book I was querying broke several "unwritten" rules of YA (ex. 12 y/o protag, novella length), none of the agents wanted to touch it (understandably).

Flash forward a year later and I had written the first half of a YA Speculative Fiction.  I entered it in an SCBWI Writer's Day content and won 2nd place.  I was totally blown away.  I went home and finished it a few months later, and tried to query a few more agents, 10 total, but all of them passed.

I gave up and resigned myself to thinking I would digital publish the spec fiction like I had two previous works, until I got together with two writer friends who encouraged me to try again.

One of them actually said,  "How many agents did you query?"
When I said, "About a dozen," she almost spit in my face laughing.

I went home and thought and thought about it, and figured, what the hell?
I accumulated a list of agents based on Writers Market, writer friends, Twitter feeds, and QueryTracker.  I only looked for agents who repp'd my category of YA, and ones I liked personally.  You can find this information on their biographies on their agency websites, and by Googling their name.  Scads of interviews and articles pop up.

It would take me an hour of reading and searching before I decided to query that particular agent.  This served to help me out once the responses came in.

Truth be told, I figured I had nothing to lose.  So in my query, I was as brutally honest as I could be.  I didn't use flowery impressive language, I didn't blow smoke up the agent's ass.  I readily admitted in the query that I tend to write dark, edgy stuff that doesn't necessarily follow all the "rules" of YA, but I had won 2nd place in an SCBWI Writer's Day contest, and wouldn't they like to read it?  That way, if the agent didn't want dark and edgy stuff that broke the mold, they'd pass right off the bat and save us both time and heart ache.

Funny enough, this approach got a good response.
Whereas with the previous book I got exactly ONE request for a partial (out of 115 queries), this particular book was receiving requests for partials and fulls about half the time (78 queries total).  I had to create a spread sheet to keep track of where it was and when.

Then, when agents passed, I'd send out another batch of query letters so I always had 10 in circulation, plus the fulls and partial submissions (at one point I had 12 full subs out).

I received one nibble (got contacted by an agent who wanted the outlines for book 2 and 3 and then passed), and another who said she'd offer rep if I rewrote the whole thing, changing to concept completely.  And I actually wrote several revisions for another agent who was non-committal, but gave such great notes I kept doing the revisions just to see if I could indeed make the book better.

When the time came that I received my first offer of representation, I took the time in order to contact every agent that had the full or partial and gave them a deadline of one week.  Most of them backed out.

But two more agents made offers after that, and one legendary agent actually sent me a long email giving me advice on the re-write, which she didn't have to do, but did anyway, regardless of the fact she wasn't going to offer rep.  She apparently "liked" me.  Huh!

I guess my point is this: honesty.  I didn't mince words.  I used a paragraph teaser instead of a full summary, and I told them right off the bat I had two other books previously digitally published, so if that scared them off, it would do so early.

All said and done my agent is absolutely the right fit for me personally and professionally, and I think this was because I didn't try to impress the agents, I didn't try to trick them with smoke and mirrors - I just told the truth.

"Hey, this is me.  Take it or leave it."

For more about the querying process visit this previous post: Query Letters for Beginners

And for those morbidly curious, here's my query letter:

Dear [Insert Name of Agent],

At an SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) Los Angeles Chapter Writer's Day in April, 2011, my YA Speculative Fiction entitled, "The Line" won 2nd place in the writing contest.  I can't tell you how much this shocked me. I wrote "The Line" breaking every "rule" about YA I could think of, and in so doing, I somehow got recognized.  I found this both odd and encouraging at the same time.

"The Line" is controversial, it's racy, it uses the F-bomb, and it's unlike anything I've seen in YA; so I understand if it's not your cup of tea, but since my book to film agent Joel Gotler of Joel Gotler Associates recommended I obtain a Lit Agent for it, and  [insert reason why this agent would like it], I'm wondering if you would consider representing it.  

'The Line' Teaser:
The Line is a government institution where unwanted girls are sold into slavery. When Naya is retired off The Line, she is given a choice.  Find someone to replace her, or they will take her unborn babies.  Not much of a choice for a former sex slave.  Hundreds of years in the future, the world does not offer many opportunities for a seventeen year old with no skills, no friends, and no memory of her birth family.  Naya finds a girl willing to take her place on The Line, but finds she isn’t willing to turn her over.  Plan B.  Only after meeting a young man, Ric Bennett, and his team of resistance fighters, does Naya understand what she needs to do.  Now, Naya will risk everything to break The Line.

'The Line' is currently 73,000 words. Below you will find the [insert specs] of "The Line" to help with your consideration.

A little about myself:
I'm an Indie author of a Young Adult Fantasy novella The Beast Call with small but steady sales.  After years of writing for children's television, I now work part time editing for a digital publishing company and am currently writing the sequel to the novella. I blog, I Tweet, I FB and I am a self-promoting fiend.  I need a champion, however, in order to get my work deeper into the mass market, and I'm hoping you might be [s/he], and I further hope the book to do it is "The Line."

If this interests you, please let me know.
I appreciate your time in reading this email and I look forward to your response.

Anne Tibbets


Monday, August 6, 2012

Query Letters for Beginners

So, you have a manuscript and you want to get it published...What do you do?

Some might tell you that you should self-publish it - you get to keep more of the royalties, it happens lickity split, and there is the immediate satisfaction of seeing your words available for download and/or print-on-demand paperback.

HOWEVER, unless you want to spend the next year of your life doing nothing but begging people to buy your book, I suggest you try the traditional approach, which involves literary agents, publishers, a lot of waiting, with only the chance of seeing your book on sale in a Barnes and Noble.  Mind you, you'll still be begging, but you won't be the ONLY one begging.  It helps, if only a little.

Me personally, I've tried it both ways.  This post is for those of you determined to break into traditional publishing.

The first step, after writing and rewriting and taking notes from your writer friends and rewriting your manuscript again and again, the FIRST THING you need to do is write a query letter.

Query letters are sent to literary agents.
Literary agents will then work with you to rewrite your manuscript again and then they will submit the manuscript to editors at publishing companies, who will then read it and IF they wish to buy it, they will spend the next six months to a year helping you rewrite it again.

SIDE NOTE: If you haven't noticed, I'm hitting the "writing is rewriting" point very hard, and this is because you never ever truly finish writing a novel.  Never.  You just decide you've rewritten it enough, and then abandon it.  That's the truth.  To get published traditionally YOU WILL REWRITE your book multiple times.  And YOU SHOULD REWRITE it multiple times, and gladly - good lit agents and editors know their biz, listen to them!

Alright, the query.
There is an industry "standard" of what should be in a query, but every agent is different.
Write a template that you will then be able to change and manipulate to follow the individual specifications of each agent - because heaven forbid they should all want the same thing.

Step 1: Know What Your Manuscript's Genre Is
That's horrible grammar, but you get the idea.
Is your book a Young Adult novel?
For example's sake, let's say it is.  That's great, but WHERE in the Young Adult genre does it fit?
Contemporary (Otherwise called Realistic Fiction)?
Romantic comedy?
Science Fiction?
Magical Realism?
Historical Romance?

If you don't know, find out - or your book is a combination of a few, then combine no more than two.
For example, "I would like for you to consider reading my Historical Romance, Martha Washington's Corset."  Paranormal Romance (Twilight). Action/Adventure Dystopian (Hunger Games).  If you don't know what your genre and sub-genre are then the agent is going to know you are a newbie, and above all else agent's want to deal with professionals.  Know your stuff.

Step 2: The Summary Paragraph
Some agents like a beginning, middle and end in their summary paragraph.  Some just want a teaser.
I have had personal effectiveness with a well written teaser.  What would the back cover paragraph of your book be like? Write it.  Try several drafts.  Set up the story, complicate it, then tell the reader what the main character's main objective is, and stop.  Leave out details.  Just give the broad strokes.
Chose your words carefully.  It should not be longer than one paragraph.  No more than five sentences.   Agents are busy.  They read thousands of paragraphs a week. Don't waste their time.  Get to the point and get to it quickly. Then stop.

In your query you should mention WHY you are querying this particular agent.  You should not be blindly sending out queries to every agent listed in Writers Market - you are just setting yourself up for multiple rejections if you do that.
Find a list of agents, either in Writers Market or on QueryTracker.com.  Pick a name.  Then go to that person's agency website and read their bio.  Agents will explain what they love, what they are looking for, what they want to represent.  Don't send them a romance if they say, "I love action adventury thrillers."  If they are looking for something different, they'll say so.  Don't presume to know what they want more than they do.  "Gee, she doesn't have any historicals on her list, maybe she'd like one." NO! If she wanted a historical, she'd list it.  Then, Google the agent's name and read any interview, article, or Tweet they may have given.  Find out what they are like.  If they're snarky and a bit harsh and you are sensitive and cry easily - find someone else.  I'm not joking.  You will be working with this person on your book and taking notes from them, if they have a nasty sense of humor and you're uptight and take offense then look elsewhere.  It's just common sense.
Ok, so you've read their bio, you've read their Tweets and interviews, and they like your genre and sub-genre...THEN and only then should you send them a query.
It used to take me an hour a query - and not because I was writing a new one for each agent, but because I was checking to see if the agent I was researching was a good fit.
Take the time.
Believe me, it's worth it!!

"Dear Agent, I am contacting you in hopes you would like to consider representing my Historical Comedy, Mark Twain's Underwear.  Since you represented Benjamin Franklin's Kite G-String, and requested historical comedies on your agency biography, I thought this would be right up your alley."

Step 4: Your bio.
Short.  Sweet.  Relevant.
Don't list out every award you've ever won since the 6th grade.  They want to hear about your writing, and not much else.  Any recent writing awards, yes - list those.  Truthfully, however, they don't want your life story.  Limit your bio.  Again, a short paragraph, no more than five (5) sentences.  Less, if you can manage it.

"I began my writing career in college where I edited the university literary magazine.  I am a member of SCBWI and received second place in the writing contest on Writers Day, Los Angeles, 2011."
--Something like that.

Step 5: Stats
Agents want to know the word count.  NOT THE PAGE COUNT.  Word count.
They also want to know you've included exactly what they asked for.
99% of agents do not open attachments on emails, so include the first 10 pages (only if they asked for it!) in the bottom of the email, under your query letter.

"John Adams Goes Bald is currently 75,000 words.  Per your submission specifications, I have included the first three chapters and a one page summary in the body of this email."

If they ask for ten pages, send ten pages.
If the page ends in the middle of a sentence, they EXPECT you to include the end of that sentence, no more, no less.

Step 6: The Send Off

"Thank you for your consideration.  I look forward to your response."

Do not call their office.  Do not email once a week and ask if they've read it yet.  Don't bug them at all. In fact, if you don't hear from them in 12 weeks, consider it a "No" and don't bother them again.  If they lost your query, you don't want to work with that agency anyway!

Sign your name and include the links to your blog, Twitter account and Facebook page (if you have one) - and if you don't - you should.

Step 7: Organizing Your Query

Some queries start with the summary paragraph.  Some start with the bio.  Some start with a funny line or comment about the agent and/or agency.  Whatever is your strength, lead with it.

For example, I had a manuscript win 2nd place at an SCBWI Writers Day in April, 2011 and this totally shocked me because I had written a YA Dystopian that was so different than anything I'd seen in YA, I wasn't even sure people would classify it as a YA.  I didn't question the manuscripts genre in the letter, but you can believe I started my query with the fact it had won an award.

If your summary is spectacular, start with that.  If you've been a journalist in your life and you're writing a book about a journalist, lead with that.  Put your best foot forward, you want the agent to read your first paragraph and then be so interested, they keep reading.

Step 7: Hit Send

My method of sending out queries was this: I always had ten letters in circulation.
I sent out ten to agents I had either met, or heard speaking at an event, and waited.  When they got back to me either with a no or a request for pages, I then sent out more alphabetically off QueryTracker.com so I always had ten floating around.

To find my query stats look here:http://writeforcoffee.blogspot.com/2012/05/my-agent-search-stats.html

If you have any questions, or I missed a BIG part of querying that is escaping my brain at present, comment below!

I hope this helps and good luck!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

My Agent Search Stats

78 query letters
Rejections: 35
Requests for partial manuscript submission: 4
Requests for full manuscript submission:15
No responses: 30

Queries and/or full submissions pulled back after offer: 12

3 offers of representation

I realize the numbers don't all add up, but most partial requests resulted in a full submission request, and then some read full submissions and rejected - so they were counted more than once.

I'm pleased to announce that I have officially signed on with Bree Ogden of D4EO Literary Agency.

If you are a writer in search of an agent, my advice to you is this...
1) Have a killer query
2) Be professional
3) Research agents before sending a query so you know who you are asking! Don't ask a romance agent to represent your action/adventure - get the idea?
4) If you are getting NO requests for fulls, at all (!) then there is something wrong with your query
5) Don't give up

Sunday, April 22, 2012

New Website

When smart people give you advice - you'd be wise to take it.

The advice I heard yesterday?

Have your own website under your actual name.  A cutesy blog title will not cut it.

Therefore, I stayed up last night and activated www.AnneTibbets.com and have even set up a temporary site until a dear friend and computer whiz sets me up in style.
It's good to have good friends.

And it's good to listen to them when they give you sage advice.

Here's the link if you'd like to check it out: www.AnneTibbets.com

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

How to Query Book Bloggers for Reviews

I took the day and instead of writing, worked on accumulating more YA book blogs for querying when the time comes for SHUT UP to go live.

For those of you who are YA authors, there's an incredible list at http://yabookblogdirectory.blogspot.com/p/ya-book-blogger-list.html - but some of the blogs are down, some won't take submissions, and some will only read a certain type of genre - so an author who is looking to give away complimentary copies of a book hoping for a review must visit each site individually and figure out what's what.

1) Are they accepting submissions?
If yes, proceed to question #2

2) What genre will they read?
If it's the genre you hope for them to review, proceed to question #3

3) What format?
Paperback? E-book?
Make note of it and proceed to question #4

4) What's the contact information?
Some have an email. Some have a contact form on their website. Some forget to list it.
Make note and proceed to question #5

5) What's their name?
Some list their real name, other list a "pen name," some don't have any listed.

After all this information is accumulated, and your book is available as an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC), write a lovely query letter to the blog and hope for a response.  Like querying agents, if you don't hear back, it's a 'not interested.'

In the query include:
1) How you came across their blog, and something specific you liked about it
2) Your name
3) Your book's name, genre, release date & publisher (if applicable)
4) A brief (brief!) paragraph about you
5) The paragraph from the back of the book
6) (optional) A .jpeg of the cover
7) Links to all your social media sites (ie. Twitter, blog, website, Goodreads.com, Facebook, etc.)
8) Offer a Guest Post for their blog, an author interview, or offer up autographed copies of swag (bookmarks, tee-shirts, handbags, etc.) or copies of the book for giveaways

If your book is not available as an ARC, then you will have to wait until after the book is launched.

Coordinating free e-book copies with your publisher can be tricky, unless they provide you with the various electronic versions.
Kindle = .mobi, or .prc (they both work)
Nook & iPad/iPhone = .epub
Also, be sure to have a .pdf because some Bloggers will ask for that.

Smashwords.com offers free coupon codes, but can only be ordered from the Publisher, and the blogger can then download any version they need from there. But some publishers will not supply a coupon code.
If you are an Indie Author, it can be a little easier obtaining one of these coupon codes.

Coordinating free paperback versions is easier, but more expensive.
Despite what the world thinks, authors do not have unlimited copies of their own books to give away. Yes, we receive a few complimentary copies (usually about 10), but the rest we pay for ourselves.

If the Blogger asks for a paperback, and you don't have any, order one off Amazon.com and ship it to them as a gift.  You'll pay full retail - but figure you'll get at least part of that back in royalties (eventually) and even more so if the blogger posts a positive review which results in sales.

Side Note:
It costs us money.
There's nothing free about it.
Besides, this is how authors make a living.
Support your friend, and buy a copy.
It's just courteous.

Ok, I'm off my soap box now...

If you receive an email response from the Blogger, be sure to send them the format of book that is specified on their blog.
Even then, this does not guarantee they will read it.

Some Bloggers won't post about books they didn't like.
Some Bloggers you won't hear from again.
Some will review and send you the link.
Some will review and not send you the link and you won't find out until it hits Google Alerts.

In my latest run, I personally sent out over 400 Blogger queries, and got a 10% response. This does not include the review requests I received via my PR firm.

I wish you all luck!
Any way you look at it, a good review from a respected Blogger can go a long way to getting attention on your work.
And ultimately, that's all any author wants.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Loglines with Jessica Brody

Apparently, I need to post more often because my blog has dropped off the Google List when you Google my name...That's bad.  I want my blog to be the first thing on the list and not a negative review of The Beast Call (the only negative review!) from a Fantasy blog in the UK.

Um, no.

So I'm going to blog tonight even though I'm coming down from a caffeine and adrenaline high, in the hopes it'll be higher up on the Google list.

I got to meet Jessica Brody.  For those of you unfamiliar with her work, she wrote My Life Undecided amongst others, and no joke, has sold about 9 books to varied publishers, so she knows her stuff.

She taught a class about writing loglines, and how to use a logline to create a "Killer High Concept" that sells itself.

Now, I've been to many a writer's event and was a little skeptical.  Most writers events, in my limited experience, is an author explaining how they made it in 'the biz' which usually has little to no helping value to anybody else, since each person gets their break differently, but a writer friend was going, and I thought, 'What the hell. Maybe I'll hear something new.'

I am so very thankful I went!  There is always something new to learn, and I'd forgotten how very exciting, exhilarating and electric it is to be in a writers room.  That's the 1 thing I miss from my TV days, the writers room.  Spitballing ideas, cracking jokes off each other's punch lines, growing and expanding on each other's ideas...So. COOL!

Anyway, the fact I got to spitball with Jessica Brody made all the difference in the world.  She had clear, concise advise on how to improve my book idea using the logline, was smart, funny, etc. etc., and holy buckets I wish I'd taken this class LAST YEAR because it would have been a hill of beans helpful when I was working on The Line.


So there you have it, I have been stewing about a new YA contemporary idea, and while in the room with all these writers I figured out how to make it sell-able.

So. Darn. Cool.

Now I just need to write the thing.