All Star Week

That is right folks. I have declared this week to be all star week. I will be sending out my next wave of queries to the all stars of literary agents. The famous blogging agents. You know ’em, you love ’em you read their blogs religiously (if you are an aspiring writer anyway). This week I am sending queries to the following big name agents:

Janet Reid the infamous query shark herself

Nathan Bransford

Jonathan Lyons

Kristen Nelson

And I would send one to Rachelle Gardner but she isn’t interested in Science Fiction and Fantasy.

These wonderful people write fantastic blogs. Every writer should subscribe to them. They have helped me understand the publishing industry and I am excited about sending them queries. I don’t really expect to get much back. These people are the rock stars of the aspiring writer world (Janet Reid’s line at BEA Pitch Slam was at least twenty miles long) and get bombarded with queries and attention. I don’t know if my query is good enough to stand out. I do know that I owe these people a shot at my book, after all the help they have given me.




And the beat goes on.

So, my request for full wasn’t an exclusive request for full so after much debating I am going to continue to send out queries. This was a hard decision for me. I want to honor the agent who first sent me the request but I have to be realistic. This is a say no, ask questions later type industry. Odds are that I will get a rejection on my MS so I have to keep playing the field until I get a solid strike, if I don’t this could be up to twelve weeks of wasted time.

So I plan on sending out my next wave of queries this week. I am shooting for around six queries a month. My hope is that if I get any feedback I can use it and not have to re-query anyone.



Published in: on February 1, 2010 at 4:20 pm  Comments Off on And the beat goes on.  
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Done reading my MS

Meanwhile I finished re-reading my MS for submission. There is a world of difference between thinking you are ready for submission and knowing you have to submit. Reading my MS, knowing that an agent is going to be reading it shortly put a whole new light on my work.

I enjoyed reading my MS. It has been a long time since I’ve just sat down and read it, so I saw it in a different light than before. I liked it. No, I loved it. I am extremely proud of it. A novel is more work than anyone who hasn’t written one knows. A novelist has a lot to think about while he is writting. He has to have more than just the scene he is writing in his head. He has to work with the pacing and the plot for the entire novel in each sentence he writes. He has to be aware of the larger story, even when writing the smallest parts. Reading my story after so long made me realize that I accomplished that goal. The story works well, the plot unfolds with just the right amounts of twists to keep the reader guessing. That is no mean task. I finished reading my MS last night and had to smile. It was a lot of work, but a job well done.

Now if I can just make somebody in the publishing industry to see that.



Another Rejection

Jennifer Jackson sent me a really nice rejection letter. Much better than the first one, which simply said: Not interested thanks. Jennifer said that she wasn’t sure the book was for her and wished me good luck finding representation. Very nice. 

It helps that I have somebody interested to blunt the blow.

Printing it out and putting it in the file. Definately a keeper.



Published in: on January 26, 2010 at 11:23 am  Comments Off on Another Rejection  
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I received my first rejection letter yesterday. Bummer. The major problem with my current querying method is that I am really, really attached to the agents I am sending my query to. By the time I am done researching them I feel like I know them. I have read their bios, subscribed to and read their blogs and even followed them on Twitter. So it hurts a little bit more than some random stranger rejecting you.

Still, rejection is just a part of writing. A major part. I was almost excited about getting my first rejection letter…almost. I feel like it is a rite of passage that all writers must endure. I decided this morning to use the rejection to inspire me instead of depress me.

With that inspiration supercharging me I decided to tackle the biggest problem with my manuscript. It is too long. 125,000 words is too long for a first novel. I read it all over the place, nearly every blogging agent has posted about word count somewhere or another. All of them say the maximum is 120,000, several even put it down to 100,000. I decided I needed to get my MS down below 120k. That meant cutting 5,000 words (approximately 20 pages) off my story. That is a lot. I have been loath to do this because in order to cut that many words I would have to cut entire scenes. I have already gone through my MS to remove unnecessary adjectives, redundant descriptions, or any other little adjustments I could make. That wasn’t enough to get my word count down.

So this morning I went all Lizzie Borden on my MS. I pulled out my vorpal sword and went snicker snack. Hacking off scenes like a madman, I discovered that it was as bad as I thought it would be. After a few bloody moments I had a new and improved shorter manuscript. I am now at 118k! For those of you who have read my manuscript, don’t despair, I still have the original version (Saved As “Midnight in Vegas-the Director’s Cut”) just in case. I still like my longer version better than the shorter version but I think the shorter version still works and is more attractive to agents and publishers.

My big problem now is to find a reader who hasn’t read the original to tell me if the story still works. Anyone who has read it will automatically fill in the missing scenes and won’t have any questions on why this or that happened.

I need a fresh reader who has no idea what they are missing.

I need a fast reader who can get me some feedback quick so I can modify my query and submit my leaner and meaner MS.

Any volunteers?



Published in: on January 23, 2010 at 6:58 pm  Comments Off on Snicker-Snack  
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The scene in my head

Jennifer Jackson tossed her third Starbucks into the trash as she got into the elevator. Her hands were barely shaking anymore as she hit the button for her floor. Today is the day she thought grimly, the elevator lurching into motion made her jump a little. She had stopped taking query letters until January 15, 2010 and today was that day. She was sure when she got into her office the InBox would be full of hopeful letters sent by desperate fools. Her job was to sift through the muck and pull out the nuggets of talent and skill then process the raw ore into fine pieces of jewelry for the world to observe and enjoy. The only problem was that the nuggets were rarer than gold.

The elevator dinged and Jennifer jumped, she took a Red Bull from her purse and popped the top, she still wasn’t ready. Guzzling the can she walked into the front office of the Donald Maass Literary agency. Donald was there waiting for her. He was always the first one in the office.

“Well, it’s begun.” He smiled and handed her a coffee.

Jennifer took a deep drink before responding. “How bad is it?”

“Hundreds, maybe thousands, I lost count.”

Jennifer made a face. “Really?”

“Afraid so.” Donald took the now empty coffee cup from Jennifer’s trembling hands and replaced it with a fresh one.

“Anything good?” She asked hopefully.

“Actually, yes, the first one you received. I liked it. You should read it.”

“The first one Donald?”

“Sent at the stroke of midnight, and the funny thing is I’ve met the author.”


“At BEA last year. You know I usually don’t remember specific people from the thousands I meet at conventions each year, but I liked this guy. He came off really smart and funny too. I am happy to see he got his synopsis done. Of course I only talked to him for about five seconds but hey, some people stand out.”

“Well, I’ll have to read that one first.” Jennifer smiled. Perhaps today wasn’t going to be so bad after all.

I sent Jennifer Jackson a query last night at midnight her time. I hope reality matches what is going on in my head. I might be pushing it with Donald Maass remembering me, but who knows.



Some grim statistics and some boggling information

I am doing my homework and researching agents and I stumbled across a disturbing post by literary Agent Jennifer Jackson. Jennifer works for Donald Maass Literary Agency and represents some great authors (Jim Butcher). She isn’t currently accepting queries but I intend to send her one once she starts again. In her post she lists her query stats for 2009. She received 8004 queries last year and request more information from 47 of them. That’s right 1 in 170, that is long, long, long odds. Of course the odds for drawing a pair of aces as hole cards in Texas Hold’Em is 1 in 210 and I have seen pocket rockets more than once so don’t lose heart. There are a lot of other factors to consider as well, this isn’t putting a quarter in a slot machine and hoping for triple sevens. The agent doesn’t randomly choose which queries she answers it is about what she is interested in. Still, it is scary seeing the numbers.

The astonishing part of her post is that of the 47 that garnered the prestigious request for more information, 3 did not respond. Can you believe that? Why even bother going through all the pain, suffering and heartache if you’re just going to ignore responses. In a subsequent post Jennifer theorized why someone wouldn’t respond, but I can’t believe someone wouldn’t at least send a message detailing why they couldn’t or wouldn’t respond. Rest assured I will respond instantly to anyone who contacts me. Even if I’m trapped under a bus, I’ll have someone bring me my laptop to reply to the email.

This wacky publishing business really shows how crazy a world we live in. I just wanted to share.



Published in: on January 13, 2010 at 10:40 pm  Comments Off on Some grim statistics and some boggling information  
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Do your homework

I have two elementary school age children. They come home every night and I have to make them do their homework. They hate homework. It is a battle to get it done. I can’t blame them, I hate homework too. I even hate making them do theirs. It’s absolutely no fun. Especially when there are so many other wonderful things we could be doing. It is hard to sit down after a long day at school and do more work, but it is necessary. As a parent I know that the homework is important and my wife and I both sit down with the kids and make sure that it gets done.

It doesn’t take a huge leap of reasoning to apply that to my writing work. I have a very intense job, the last thing I want to do when I get home is do more work. Even writing a story, which is something I love doing, is sometimes the last thing I want to work on. Now put an un-enjoyable assignment in front of me, like editing, or writing a synopsis and I, like my kids, look longingly towards the television, or the Wii, or a paperback, or writing down a short story. I have to apply the same discipline to myself as I enforce on the children. I must do my homework. My homework right now is to research agents to send my queries off to. I have found this task nearly as onerous as long division. So while my kids sit at the dining room table scribbling down answers on worksheets I am sitting next to them reading agent bios on my laptop. None of us are particularly happy about it but it is important it gets done.

That being said, I have to get back to work.



Sending Out Queries

I am sending out queries for Midnight In Vegas. I am trying to find the best matches for my book. I have been using my Writer’s Market book in conjuction with and have come up with a good system.

I have already gone through my Writer’s Market book with a highlighter and bookmarks and identified all the potential markets I might query. I then added them to the MyMarkets section of it has a handy tool you can use to track your submissions.

Then I find the website for the market I want to query and read all I can about the agents that work there. There is a great deal of information posted online. There is more than the simple lists of what they are interested in or not interested in. After reading about the agents I determine if they would still be interested in my work. I am surprised to find out how many this eliminates. You might think that eliminating agents is a bad thing but it isn’t. I don’t want to waste time submitting my work to someone who is predispositioned against it (or waste their time either, I wish more authors did this it would probably help the query process immensely.) Instead, I am sending my work to people who express interest in the type of book I have written (and are thereby less likely to reject it.) I am also looking for people who have similar business/writing philosophies to mine. I see an agent as a business partner. It is important to find somebody I think I can work with. I hope to have a lasting relationship with this person. A business relationship is often like a marriage, I don’t want to get stuck in a bad one.

After I have read the bios and selected an agent I carefully read their submission guidelines. Since I am being selective it is important to make sure that I send my work in the proper format. Every agent and agency wants something different. I don’t know if this is part of a test to see if writers are doing their homework or just the personal idiosyncrasies of the people writing the guidelines. Whichever it is (I suspect it may be a little of both) I carefully tailor my submission to match the given requirements. I don’t want my work thrown out because I sent in 5 pages instead of 10.

I am shocked by how time consuming this is. I thought that once I was ready to send out my query it would quick; just a matter of changing the names on the top of the letter and firing it out. This is definitely not the case. I suppose that in desperation you could do that, (I can even write a macro in Word that would do it for me) but I won’t. I think that part of the slush pile problem is too many people are doing that. My hope is that the time and care I put into this process now will pay dividends later.



Novel Synopsis


I am done with my synopsis and in slightly less time than it took to write the whole novel. It was a daunting task for me, full of mental hurdles to overcome.

I really struggled with this one. I have mercilessly deleted pages upon pages of failed attempts. I killed them slow too, using the backspace to wipe them out letter by disappointing letter, no CTRL+A delete for those bastards. 

I know a lot of my problem was the pressure I put into the synopsis. I thought that if this was the only thing the publisher or agent read, I wanted it to be perfect. That is a lot a pressure, enough pressure to make a guy just go play with the kids instead of sitting down and working. 

The other issue I had was the fact that I actually have two separate story lines going simultaneously through the book. That made it hard for me to write a linear synopsis as I was constantly jumping between the story lines. I have to thank Chuck Sambuchino and his Guide to Literary Agents blog for the solution for that problem. He started posting up sample synopsis he found on Wikipedia for movies. This helped immensely. I looked up movies that were plotted similarly to my book and came up with a good way to write my synopsis. Standing on the shoulders of giants, it’s the only way to see the world. 

So now that I am done with my synopsis I am going to start querying again. This time I’ll be ready with a synopsis in hand when they ask for it.