Surviving Rejections: Keep Doing Stuff!

You know when you see that e-mail in your inbox from your agent or from that agent that was at the top of your “To Query” list? You know how your heart sinks when you see that word “unfortunately” or you read “it’s just not right for my list”….or it hasn’t been plainly stated, but you can read between the lines that your work hasn’t been chosen because the publishing world is just. So. Subjective? It’s out of our hands, people. So, what is the best way to get over rejection? Simple. Write, write, and write again. While we are in two different stages of our writing careers (querying versus submission), we both still feel the sting of rejection. We could wallow in said sting and tweet, post, or Instagram about every terrible thing that happens…instead we continue to write. This says it best:

Taken from: Writeathome.com

Taken from: Writeathome.com

So, what are we working on? We are revising a novel that we co-wrote…and there is a post that is coming on that. A post about what, you ask? You guessed it! A post all about our process of co-authoring a project.  Also, we continue to read (which is research for us writers, you guys know that!), we’re brainstorming new projects, and we’re revising old novels. Also, we’re working on new business endeavors with our Black Fox Literary Magazine partner, Racquel Henry, and we are trying to make connections by attending as many publishing events as possible. The point is, nothing comes from sitting around and “basking” in the self-pity of rejection. Yup, we thought we should share that. This has been a public service announcement.

So, what do you do to get over the dissapointment of rejection after rejection?

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Publishing Insight: Why Your Manuscript Might Get Rejected

Information taken from a panel at the JRWC 2014 featuring literary agents: Kaylee Davis from Dee Mura Literary Agency, Katie Grimm from Don Congdon Associates, Kimiko Nakamura from Dee Mura Literary Agency, and editor Stacy Whitman from Tu Books.

Ever wonder why your manuscript isn’t making it past either a.) querying b.) an agent partial/full request c.) publisher submission requests?

Industry insiders provided the following top TWELVE things that might make them say: it’s not me, it’s your manuscript.

# 12:  You’re not following directions . Come on…do the simple things–sending your manuscript (MS) to the wrong person who doesn’t represent that category/genre, etc.

#11:The manuscript doesn’t include enough conflict.

#10: Your dialogue is: not authentic, sparse, dense.

#9: Your manuscript is lacking causality. You should have a domino effect. Each action–> leads to another action.

#8: You should try to read more in your style/genre–easier said than done but FIND THE TIME. Use websites like Goodreads and go to Indie bookstores to find out what books are in your style/genre.

#7: Whatever you do…do not include ANY flat Stanleys! All of your characters should be well-rounded.  Create dynamics and relationships between your characters through dialogue and action. Write bios for every character–even if the reader doesn’t know all of that info, YOU should know.

#6: Beware the cliched beginnings. This speaks for itself (you know: waking up from a dream, protagonist staring at his/her reflection, etc., etc.) Rules, of course, are meant to be broken, though. But it should be GOOD if it’s gonna be cliched.

#5: You’re in everybody’s head. Try not to include too many POVs. If you are, make sure it’s clearly delineated (chapter breaks, page breaks, use the character’s name, etc.)

#4: The manuscript is boring. This is VERY subjective and there wasn’t much discussion here but…if you’re boring yourself and your beta readers, you’re probably gonna bore the agent/editor.

#3: You need to make sure the plot doesn’t plateau. Try to have enough going on. The rule of thumb is to try and to have at least 3-4 things happening in a novel and to resolve at least ONE thing by the end, leave some things up in the air.

#2:  You might have too much exposition–try to cut back and add a little more dialogue. But see # 10 🙂

And…

#1: Don’t bury the lead. Don’t try to trick the reader, unless of course you’re working with an unreliable narrator. If that’s the case, make sure the character isn’t flat and the others around them are amazing, too!

That’s all we got. What’s something that was left off this list?

Contest Winners AND An Interview with My Agent: Jennie Goloboy

Winning Song of the Day: “Jenny From the Block” by Jennifer Lopez

First off, thanks to all of you who entered the contest and who took the time to follow us on Tumblr and subscribe to our YouTube channel. We hope more of you will take part in our social media take-over later. In the mean time, we have some winners to announce!

So, that’s grammatically incorrect, because we have more than one, but you get the idea!!!

1. Leslie Wright!!!!
2. Melanie Conklin!!!!
3. Rachel Searles!!!!

Contact us at cuzwewrite@gmail.com and rank the prizes from one to three. Here are the prizes once more: Jennie’s query critique, Dawn Frederick’s query critique, or the ten dollar gift card. We will reward you all in the order that receive the e-mails.

In the mean time, why not learn a little more about my agent, Jennie Goloboy of Red Sofa Literary?

You are a newer agent, when did you start and what made you want to become a literary agent? (How many clients would you consider your “max” and where are you on that list right now?)

People who’ve known me for a long time say I’m a natural matchmaker, and that is what drew me to being an agent– the idea that this writer and that editor should know each other, and I can help by introducing
them! Currently, I am growing my client list, but I do know I plan to keep the list small so each of my authors gets special attention.

What kind of projects do you usually look for/gravitate toward?
Right now my practice centers on YA and MG novels and science fiction and fantasy for adults. Beyond that, first of all, I have to love your protagonist and care what happens to him or her. I love funny books (Terry Pratchett, Christopher Moore, and Fay Weldon are current favorites). I love fantasy with a realistic feel– either because it’s set in the real world, or because the world and its characters are fully imagined and credible. Romance is always a plus, as long as the romance doesn’t solve all the protagonist’s problems (especially in YA). And as a historian, I appreciate historical settings!

I also love it when my authors already have an audience ready and eager to read their books when they are published– for example, by starting a popular blog and running exciting contests…

(Tee hee, Oh Jennie :D) 

When do you usually stop reading a query or sample pages?
I stop reading queries if I can tell that the book is not something I’d represent (like a thriller or a memoir). I skim queries if I think I’ve seen the idea before, in case the author has promising credentials or an unusual twist on the idea. Currently I’m seeing a lot of novels about girls who have prophetic dreams and girls who
either are or are dating the grim reaper.

If I like the query, I generally let it sit for a while, and if it still looks good at a second glance, I will request the first three chapters. (I don’t ask for a synopsis– I like to be surprised.) I always read all three chapters. If I like them, I will ask for the full manuscript, which I will also read in full.

In general, if I’ve asked for it, I’ll read it.

How do you network with editors and other industry professionals with your office being located in Minnesota?

I have the benefit of Dawn’s years of experience in the industry and great track record. Beyond that, I love conferences! I’ll be speaking at three this year, one at the Loft Literary Center in late April (https://www.loft.org/classes-at-the-loft-literary-center/writing-conferences), one at the DFW Writer’s Conference (www.dfwwritersconference.org), and one at the Florida Writers Association
(http://www.floridawriters.net/Home_Page.html). I also plan to be at Worldcon again this year, as well as a couple of history conferences.

You are a writer as well. How do you balance your time between writing your own material and helping your clients get published?

Coffee. I also try to keep a daily schedule: Monday is for sorting through the mail, Tuesday and Thursday are for client needs, Wednesday and Friday for my own writing. Of course, if there’s an urgent issue
from one of my clients, I get to it right away!

As a writer, what advice would you give to others still working to get published?
This shouldn’t be a lonely business! Once you’ve written that book, you’ll need beta readers. You’ll need people to show you the next steps, and you’ll need people to help you commiserate and celebrate.
Go out and find some writer buddies!

Do you have any recommendations for writers on how to build their platform?
It’s not enough to write a great book, you also have to know the kind of book you’re writing, so it can find its proper audience. At Red Sofa, we’re big fans of Christina Katz’s Get Known Before the Book Deal, which has some great exercises to help you define yourself as a writer, and to publicize your work using social media.

What is your favorite book/author right now? What is your favorite book/author of all time?
Wow, that’s a hard question! The best book I read recently– the most creative, immersive, moving and satisfying– was Lauren Beukes’s Zoo City. Probably the book I think about most frequently is actually a
history book: Richard Bushman’s The Refinement of America. But when I want to reread a book, it’s usually one of Terry Pratchett’s Ankh-Morpork books, of which Thud! is my very favorite.

Random Questions!

Me and Pam are scared-y cats. We’re scared of clowns, mermaids, centaurs, and people on stilts… What freaks you out the most?

Mayonnaise. And yet, oddly enough, I love chicken salad, and I’m willing to make some to get it.

If it’s your last day on earth, what would you eat (all we think about is food)?

I’d head down to the North End in Boston and get pizza and an arancine from Galleria Umberto, followed by Italian rum cake from Modern Pastry (all I think about is food, too!).

“The Voice” or “American Idol”?
I’ve run out of time for most TV, but I always watch Mad Men, to see how Don’s messed up his life this week.

What would you do for a klondike bar?
For a Klondike bar? Not much. For a Good Humor Strawberry Shortcake bar? I’m embarrassed to say…

Thanks so much, Jennie!

And again, thanks to all of you who entered the contest (and even those of you who were THINKING about entering). If you want to query Jennie, find out more about her here:

Jennie’s Facebook
Jennie’s Twitter
Jennie on Querytracker.net

We’re Back…and in FULL EFFECT!

Social Networking Song of the Day: “LOL :)” by Trey Songz

You read that title right. We’re here and ready to stomp all over social media.  Not only are we back and ready to take the interwebz by storm, but we also are ready to hold another contest! I mean, we did cross 300 followers a while back.

We’re no contest virgins, but this time we wanted to offer a prize that’s a little different–we are going to give out, TWO, count them, TWO query critiques! Wanna know more??? Watch the following video:

Yep, you heard us right (that is if you could understand my words through all of my mumbling). My agent, Jennie Goloboy, and the owner of Red Sofa Literary Agency, Dawn Frederick, are BOTH willing to critique two query letters. Pretty awesome, right?

And if that’s not enough, we are going to throw one more prize in there–just for kicks. This isn’t mentioned in the video, but for those of you who are already agented, how would you like a TEN DOLLAR gift card to Barnes & Noble. We just keep making your life better, huh? All you have to do is fill out the form below and show us a lil’ love on our social media takeover scheme. Not hard. At all. Oh, and make sure you enter before Sunday March 18th, 8 PM EST!

‘Kay? Thanks, bye!

What the BLEEP is a Book Proposal???

Writing Song of the Day: “One Step Closer” by Linkin Park

Hey! You guys remember this post? The one where I was so excited that I got an agent? I was ready to delve into the next step. Getting published! I  mean, that’s every writer’s goal, right? We want someone besides our family and friends to read our words and love them. And believe me, after you write the book, there’s so. Much. More. Work. To do.

Hence the title of this post. After I got my lovely agent, Jennie Goloboy of Red Sofa Literary, I was so excited to sit back and wait for her to sell my book. But then I asked, what do we do next? And I got this response: Well, now we get some historians to check the historical validity (okay, that makes perfect sense), and then you need to start working on the book proposal.

My response: HUH? What even GOES in a book proposal? And do I HAVE to write it??? I mean, that’s a nonfiction thing, right? RIGHT? Please say, right!

Well, it turns out–no, it is not just a nonfiction thing. And my agency prefers for their fiction writers to pen a book proposal, as well. They feel as if this will persuade the editor to want your book even more.

So, back to the question at hand. What IS a book proposal??? Jennie directed me to the book, Write the Perfect Book Proposal by Jeff Herman and Deborah Levine Herman,  to help me figure this out. From flipping through this book and visiting various sites, I found out there are a couple of key elements that need to go into a book proposal.

Elements:

Overview: I pretty much used my query letter–just spruced it up some.
Author Bio: Speaks for itself 😀
Competition: Find books that publishers may be able to compare your book to. Then tell why your book would fly off the shelves.
Promotion: How will you promote your novel? Editors like to know that you’re going to put in some leg work to sale your novel as well. So, what kind of print media can you use to your advantage? What about online media, giveaways/contests, conferences, and appearances. Think about all of the ways that you can help sale your book.
Synopsis: We all work on these at some point when we’re writing our novels, anyway. I used the same one that I worked on for a year and changed a bit of it.

I know, right? After I read that, I looked like this:

Then I figured. What the hell? I’ll just go for it and see where it takes me. After I finished the first draft and sent it off to Jennie, I got a revised version from Jennie and Dawn Frederick (owner of Red Sofa Literary Agency). And then I looked like this:

But then I sat down and spent two days working on revisions and I think it’s A LOT better. Now I feel like this:

And my draft is in the capable hands of my agent. Now, I wait and see if there’s anything else to change.
I have to say, after I finished two drafts of my book proposal, it’s not as bad as it sounds. Sure, it’s a lot of work, but it’s also a good way to show that you know your novel like the back of your hand, and also that you are willing to work on the “business” side of the publishing world as well as the creative. Even if you do not have an agent yet, I’d say it wouldn’t hurt to do your own mini version of a book proposal. That way if you choose an agency that has their authors do book proposals– you’re already one step ahead!

Omigod…Quita has a FLIPPING Agent!!

Celebrating Song of the Day: “I Celebrate the Day” by Relient K

WOW–after two years of querying/revising/editing TWO manuscripts, I can FINALLY report that yes, the title of this post is correct. I HAVE AN AGENT!!! Over a year ago, Pam gave you this post on how she got her agent (the awesome Sarah LaPolla of Curtis Brown LTD), so I figured I’d do the same. If you’d like to hear my story…here it go!

I started writing at a young age. I gave you all a sneak peak of my first completed novel (that I wrote at age 15), but then I got practical. I realized if I wanted to make lots of  money, I needed to finish high school and go to college. So, I did…and then I got my degree and became a teacher. Yep, I thought I’d be rolling in the dough from that career. As my fellow educators know, no such luck. Anyway, I digress. Back to my writing journey. Me and Pam got serious about our childhood love of writing and applied for MFA programs. As Pam recounted on her post, we got in and she was told from a literary agent that she has a knack for teen voices…so why not write young adult? She told me and was like, “hey, you usually write in teen voices, too.” And from there we began our foray into the wonderful (and I mean, WONDERFUL) world of young adult. Then my first novel was born…

December of 2009: I finished writing a novel based on a screenplay that me and Pam wrote together. Said novel was not my best friend. I kept trying to stick to the screenplay. HOWEVER, I did get a full request from a literary agency with this novel. But, lit agency NEVER responded…

Jan/Feb. 2010: While waiting for news about other manuscript, I began to come up with ideas for a new novel. All I had was these few sentences: Syl Huston is a 15 year old living in Philadelphia in 1918. The year that the Great Influenza has hit the United States. His older brother 18 year old Ricky Huston has enlisted in the United States Army and is sent to fight in Germany- he sends home letters that open up each chapter.

Begins in September 1918- Syl is in school and is called to the principal’s office. There he learns that his aunt, who lives with him has just been taken to the hospital and is in severe condition.
April 2010: Finished my first draft of In Limbo (title was switched to Hysteria briefly). This draft consisted of just Syl–who gets sick and spends the second half of the novel in his bedroom while people visit him. In one word: LAME. Thanks to my alpha/beta reader, Pam, this was quickly changed.
August 2010: Finished second draft–still a little lame, but I felt it was ready to query. WRONG–nothing but rejections. I got a few partial requests, but NO fulls. Pam read again and suggested that I make the love interest black–something to change things up.
October 2010: New draft! And this time my love interest, SJ, is BLACK. And she and Syl have a goal. I also have another beta reader, Ann, read this draft. She loves it, but gives a few suggestions. I take them.
December 2010: Another new draft–this time Syl has religious issues (don’t ask where THAT came from…). I query again. I also began the first draft of my contemporary–convinced that agents do not sign debut authors with historical novels.
January 2011: I get my FIRST full request!!! And it’s from an agent who LOVES historical- woo hoo! Alas, she passes…
February 2011: I whine, whine, whine about not getting an agent. I do some work on the contemp and query that. I get a couple requests for the contemp and shelve In Limbo while my betas read and let me know WHY it continues to suck.
June 2011: Me and Pam attend our regional SCBWI Novel Retreat. There we get a moment of clarity–why not make In Limbo a dual POV novel??? That might up the tensions, the stakes etc. Pam also suggests that I have one of the couple really not like the other–after all they are interracial and it is the early 20th century. Sooo…I work hard on both of those ideas and send it off to my betas again.
July-September 2011: Feedback from betas and hardwork to get the manuscript JUST RIGHT.
Late September/Early October 2011: I re-query those agents who had slight interest in In Limbo, and I go to QueryTracker.net (QueryTracker, I HEART you) and search for all agents interested in historical YA novels. There’s quite a few…so I weed through them and find the ones who seem like they really, truly love historicals. That’s when I see the name…Jennie Goloboy of Red Sofa Literary Agency. Not only does she WRITE historical novels herself, she also has a freakin’ PhD in American Civilization from Harvard!! I queried her on September 27th, 2011–she answered a short six days later. She said she is intrigued and wanted to read the first three chapters. YES!
October 2011: I continued to query my contemp. and had a full & partial out for that, too. But Jennie got back to me on October 10th, saying she enjoyed it and wanted to read the full. OMIGOD!
Then on the 18th, Jennie wrote back and said she loved the manuscript overall, but had a few things she wanted me to look at and change. I agreed–so I worked on the revisions right away.
November 2011: On November 20th, 2011 I sent back the revised version of In Limbo. On the 30th, Jennie wrote back and said she really enjoyed the revise and resubmit…then asked if there was a time we could talk!!!
December 2011: WE TALKED! She offered–I wanted to accept right away. Jennie LOVES my novel, she loves history–what more can I ask for? But I had other material out. I had to give those agents a chance to read and decide if they loved my work enough. After all was said and done…I signed with Jennie on December 20th, 2011! 
AND NOW? NOW I have an agent!!! 
That was A LOT…and I don’t blame you if you skipped some parts. I can get a lil’ long winded sometimes. Sorry 😦 Anyway, I hope reading about my “journey” gives you all some insight into the work that it takes. In Limbo didn’t get agented until I wrote 10 (YES, TEN–granted some of the drafts had small changes, but still) various drafts of it. It takes work, people…lots of it.
Thanks for reading 😀

What Agents Want: To Be Taken to a Galaxy Far, Far Away

Querying Song of the Day: “So Far Away” by Crossfade
What Agents Want is a series in which we will research what trends/topics agents are looking for right now. We’ll give you information on the trend/topic and the agent that is looking for this specific type of project. The better to query with, my dears.
If you’re like me, when you hear science fiction you automatically think aliens, space ships, Star Trek, and Star Wars. I need to educate myself, and in the mean time–why not educate the few of you who also aren’t aware of the Sci-Fi (or “sf” to true science fiction lovers) genre just like me??
A lot of agents have been adding science fiction to their wish list. So, those of you who have already been wise to the genre and have written that fascinating science fiction novel, you’re on the right track! The rest of us??? Read on, you might already be working on a sf novel and not even realize it.

So, what the heck is science fiction?
Science Fiction is not a new genre by any means. However, it is becoming highly sought after in Young Adult fiction. So, what is it?
The SF Site describes it as: A genre that extrapolates from current scientific trends. The technology of a science fiction story may be either the driving force of the story or merely the setting for a drama, but all science fiction tends to predict or define the future.”

In laymen terms, a good science fiction novel should have the following elements:

* Technology
* Futuristic elements OR
* Predictions for what may occur in the future
* Explores What If questions
* Usually a new or exciting reality is the background

There are various subgenres and overlapping genres that lie within the realm of science fiction. These include: speculative fiction, dystopian, utopian, apocalyptic, time travel/warp, alternate and parallel universes, and cyberpunk amongst other things.

To learn more about the genre check out these sites:

What books can I read for research?

Across the Universe by Beth Revis
Uglies (Uglies Series) by Scott Westerfield
Girl Parts by John M. Cusick
Finally, tell me about one of the awesome agents in search of this galaxy:

Amy Boggs joined Donald Maas Literary Agency in 2009. She keeps a twitter account where she shares how much she loves science fiction YA. Amy Boggs is looking for novels (not just science fiction–she wants other genres as well) that include diverse characters–not just in terms of race, but religion, gender, sexuality, and disability as well.

If you are thinking of querying Ms. Boggs check out the sites below:
**DISCLAIMER** We are BY NO MEANS telling anyone to follow trends or to try and hurry to write novels based on these features. This is for people who have written, or have been thinking about writing, on the topic presented.

Were you thinking about writing a science fiction novel before reading this post? Or better yet, have you already started a WIP in this genre???