Jessica Leake
Jessica Leake / Writer of romantic historical fantasy
Author of ARCANA, a romantic historical fantasy novel to be released November 4, 2014 by Skyhorse/Talos Publishing

Blog.

Sometimes the Road to Publishing Is Long…And That’s Okay

0_A_winding_road

 

Last Christmas, I got one of the best presents EVER: a fabulous agent (full story here) . And this Christmas, I got yet another awesome present: an offer from Skyhorse Press to publish my book!! Never have I been more thankful for an agent than through the contract-signing process! Legalese is not something I’m proficient in, but Writers House had it all covered, with little to no stress to me.

Once all the legalese had been sorted out, I got to sign the contract, and the deal announcement was made! Seeing the little blurb written up on Publishers Marketplace was seriously a dream come true:

Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Jessica Leake’s debut ARCANA, in which a bold, half-Sylvan debutante in Edwardian London must hide her abilities not only from potential suitors — and the man she loves — but an ancient brotherhood who feeds on this rare type of magic, to Nicole Frail and Constance Renfrow for Talos Press, in a nice deal, for publication in Fall 2014, by Brianne Johnson at Writers House (World English).

SO EXCITING!!

It’s been slowly sinking in that the Word document I have saved on my computer (and like, five other places ;)) is about to become a book…an actual book I can hold in my hands. This is surreal, and daunting, and thrilling, and about a million other things all at once. But, as other published writers warn you all over the Internet, the road to publishing was long…long, anxiety-provoking, and sometimes torturous, but so worth it in the end!

I thought I’d write up a post on what that journey entailed for me, especially since the moment my MS went on submission, I was desperate to find out more about the publishing process. With any luck, this will give other writers hope! It may take awhile, you may even begin to despair it won’t happen at all, but there IS light at the end of the tunnel!

Okay, so I’ll admit it. After revising my MS with my fabulous agent and getting it all ready to go out to the editors, I had grandiose fantasies. I pictured an immediate positive response–multiple offers! No, an auction! Everyone fighting over this story I had created.

*Disclaimer* Not in any way representative of an ACTUAL book auction...

*Disclaimer*
Not in any way representative of an ACTUAL book auction…

I had never allowed myself to hope so much while querying, but I just let my mind have total freedom to imagine any ridiculous scenario it contrived when on submission. This pretty much only succeeded in making me neurotically obsessed with checking my email.

But, to some extent, it came true. There was a positive response from editors. The first time I received validation from someone other than my agent that the work was good, I felt, well…validated. Okay, so maybe I hadn’t tricked my agent into thinking my MS was The One! It was only the beginning of Round One, but almost all the editors expressed interest.

SO exciting, right?? Well, that was until I started to learn more about the submission process.

See that one editor liking it is only a tiny, tiny piece of what has to happen to get an offer from a big house. Every submission process is different, but in general, that One Enthusiastic Editor has to get reads from others in his/her department. If they agree with the One Enthusiastic Editor that the MS really might be a good fit, then they have to bring it before a board. If the board all agrees, then they have to bring it before the publisher.

Once it began to sink in just how many people had to be on board with liking my story, I started to Get Worried. I’m a writer, so I’m super skilled at Getting Worried. Luckily for me, my fabulous agent hadn’t lost hope! She kept track of all the reasons why the editors ultimately passed on Round One, and the consensus seemed to be that the fantasy needed to be built up. So we got to work.

With Round Two, there were more close calls, more interest, but ultimately we struck out. At this point, the thick skin I had developed during my two years of querying kicked in. I mentally put the MS that had gotten me my agent aside and began work on a Shiny New Idea. This is what I had always done while querying: if I was left staring at a pile of rejections, then I accepted it wasn’t the right MS and got to work on something that would be. And I did the same thing with the publishing submission process.

But, of course, I forgot to figure in the extreme genius and persistence of my agent (have you seen my agent? Because she’s awesome. Read all about her here and follow her here). Even though I had given up, she hadn’t! She had thought about it, and since everyone who actually read the story seemed to love it, she pinpointed a particular issue in the pitch to be the problem. Because when the editors sat down to their board meetings, they pretty much got immediately shot down. And as querying writers, aren’t we familiar with this? Ever try to get a vampire story published? Or YA paranormal anything?

It wasn’t even that big of a change, but as soon as I made it, we got immediate interest. Of course I was so jaded at this point that I was barely excited, but then shortly after the expressions of interest came the actual offers! And just as I knew my agent was the perfect fit for me, the same was true of the Skyhorse editors. They talked about more revisions (which I was totally on-board with…at this point in the game, a writer HAS to expect to do a ridiculous number of edits. This is natural, and more than that, every agent and editor you come into contact with is going to screen you for how much of a diva you are about edits–we writers HAVE to be willing to revise. This is a GOOD thing), but all their suggestions were things that would enhance the story.

So if you are a writer who is just starting your publishing journey, or even well on the way, know that it may take longer than you hoped (because we all want to be one of those lucky writers whose work gets an offer a week after being on submission!), but like the querying process, persistence (and patience) pays off!

Staying in the Moment

There is nothing like the anxiety and obsessiveness of a writer. Whether we’re querying, participating in a writing contest, or on submission, the amount of time spent checking our phones and emails is exhausting. But we just can’t help ourselves!

Uh, hang on...gotta check my email...

Uh, hang on…gotta check my email…

Some of us even get a rush from the anticipation of a writing contest…or even from the possibility of hearing back from an agent or editor. We’re future-focused–always waiting on the next thing in our writing careers: an answer to a query, a request in a contest, a call from our agent about an editor making an offer.

And writers aren’t alone in this. Most of us live our lives in anticipation of the next exciting thing. We’re basically always in a state of waiting–simple things like waiting on a phone call or waiting for dinner to be ready, and bigger things like anticipation for the birth of a baby or a big vacation coming up. I have so many exciting things coming up this summer, I can’t even stop myself from daydreaming and obsessing about them: vacation in Destin, FL (first time going to the beach in YEARS), my husband graduating from pharmacy school, moving back to SC, renovating a house, birthday parties, anniversary celebrations, housewarming party…it literally goes on an on. And, of course, the thing I’m most obsessed about is the status of my novel on submission (Just ask my CPs/Husband/Mother ;)).

Anticipation isn’t a bad thing, per se; it’s an exciting part of life. What IS bad, though, is all that time spent dreaming of the future causes time to fast-forward. I have a 20-month-old and a 5-month-old. They learn new things and do adorable and funny things every day. Every minute spent obsessing about something else is a minute taken away from the present.

You know how people say, “Where did the time go? How is my baby five already??” It’s because we’ve primarily been living in the future and not being really present in the here and now.

The distractions we have now don’t help either. So many times my husband has gotten irritated (rightly so) because I haven’t heard a word he said. I’ve been messing around on my computer or phone and just haven’t been entirely present in the conversation. It’s something I have to work on daily because active listening is a skill–and usually, it’s a difficult one.

Staying in the present moment is one of the most important coping skills I taught while I was a therapist because a lot of anxiety can be traced back to obsessing over the future. It makes sense, too. I can’t tell you how anxious and miserable I am when I’m constantly checking my email for the news I’ve been waiting for!

That’s why I really want to work on my active listening. I could do it with absolutely no problem when I was a therapist. But with my own family, I may as well have ADD. It’s one way to stay in the present, and so is putting away my phone while I’m playing with my toddler.

There’s nothing wrong with planning for the future and daydreaming about fun stuff coming up, but the majority of time needs to be spent in the time I’m in right now. The present.

On Submission

And with grammar and spelling like this--who wouldn't give me a publishing contract??

And with grammar and spelling like this–who wouldn’t give me a publishing contract??

*Note: It’s bizarre that I use so many cute kitty pics in my blogs considering I’m A) a dog person, B) allergic to cats, and C) cats make me nervous.

My manuscript is officially on submission!! It happened so fast I haven’t really processed it–but it’s slowly sinking in. Including the edits I made after our initial offer of rep phone conversation, Brianne and I went back and forth four times before she sent me the email saying it was ready! It has been SO much fun brainstorming with her, too. Her ideas are genius! She catches everything from repeated words to big-picture ideas, and I think the additional 3k or so words has made it a much more cohesive story.

The fact that multiple editors may even now be reading my work is exciting, yes…but also TERRIFYING.

I think Anna Banks (fabulous YA author) said it best in one of her posts on the pub process:

You’re going freaking nuts. You’re feeling bad about tricking your agent, and putting her reputation on the line like that. But you’re too proud to tell her.

You know that paranoia you feel when you’re querying? The kind you get when you know an awesome agent is reading your work? Yeah, it’s like that. Only SO MUCH WORSE. Because like Anna said, it feels like you’re putting your agent’s rep on the line, too! It’s one thing to worry that an editor is snickering about how your work isn’t up to snuff, and it’s another to think about said editor snickering at you AND your agent.

So to keep my mind off of it, I’m writing, of course :). I’ve been outlining the next book in the series and working on another WIP I have.

My family and CPs have also been putting up with my random attacks of book self-esteem. So, thank you guys–I swear I’ll calm down soon :).

Also after reading Anna’s above mentioned post, I realized how woefully ignorant I am about what exactly happens after getting a book contract!

I spent a couple days researching and educating myself on things like earning out your advance and joint account clauses in the book contract. I found literary agent Kristin Nelson’s blog to be extremely helpful. This post in particular opened my eyes to writing as a business: link.

 

Feeling Overwhelmed? Otherwise known as moving.

Moving_Boxes___Packing_MaterialI have moved nine times in my life, not including dorm room moves in college. My husband and I have never lived in the same city as our families as long as we’ve been married, but this May, we’ll finally get the chance.

You’d think I’d be used to it by now! Pack up all my stuff like a robot without feeling the least bit stressed. I mean, I’ve done this nine times! Except, I’ve only moved myself three times–the other times it fell on my parents’ shoulders. On top of general packing and moving stress, we also have to get the house staged for sale.

Stressed Cat2

When I was a therapist, I would do whole entire groups on stress. Whole entire WEEKS of groups on stress–because everyone has it, and we all handle it differently. So I could go into the two different types of stress, the affect it can have on our bodies, different causes, etc. But instead, I’ll just skip to what works best for me:

Breaking up enormous tasks into teeny, tiny manageable chunks  

For example, we have to get our entire house packed up. EVERY SINGLE ROOM. This daunting task makes almost everyone want to just lie on the floor with a blanket over their head and pretend this isn’t going to happen. So the BEST way to not have a nervous breakdown over it is to focus on one small section of only one room at a time. Packing up a whole house? Kill me now. Packing up the books on my bookshelves? I can do that.

This simple strategy can even be applied to writing (nice segue right???). Writing an entire novel? OVERWHELMING. Writing 1,000 words a day? Much easier.

So take the next daunting task that comes your way one small piece at a time and see if that makes you less likely to resort to cheap wine and chocolate cake.

Raising A Reader

As a writer, I think it’s a requirement to also love books. The way they take you away to another place, the way they make you realize things about your life you never thought of, the multitude of emotions they can evoke.bibliophile

I’ve loved books since I was little. My parents are voracious readers, and this obsession was passed on to me. My husband spends a lot of time reading–he stays up late reading my Kindle long after I’ve gone to sleep. So with two huge book enthusiasts, I always hoped our children would be, too.

Anson, our 19-month-old, LOVES books. Sometimes he’ll choose perusing new books over playing. He attends Mothers’ Day Out two days a week, and yesterday when I brought him, he made a beeline for the new set of bookshelves the teacher had. He picked out a book on trucks and sat in the little chair next to the books, totally content. It completely melted my heart!!

IMAG0035How did he become such a dedicated bibliophile? I think it’s probably a combination of genes, personality, and pretty much forcing books on him at a young age. Now that I have a four-month-old, too, I’m having to start the process over again to raise another reader.

Here are a few of the things I’ve found to be effective in increasing a baby’s interest in books:Ansonreading

 

  • Read to them–even the thriller you’re reading. They’ll quickly become addicted to hearing your voice.
  • Make soft books a favorite toy by taking them along with your baby everywhere–the car, church, the doctor’s office, etc.
  • Books with lots of tactile features–pop-ups or touch & feel books are always a favorite for a curious baby.
  • Once your baby or toddler grows older and starts showing a preference for certain things or characters (cars, Mickey Mouse, dogs, animals, etc)–buy books featuring those things. Anson loves pointing out the “doggies” in his books, or reading about “vroom-vrooms” (cars).
  • Look-and-find books are also great. Anson has a few that he just loves. Before he was talking as much as he is now, he would point out objects as we said them–awesome learning tool, and they really just enjoy looking at all the pictures!
  • Make it a part of their night-time routine early. Anson’s routine is: bath, brush his teeth, snuggle up to read a book (or five…or the same one five times), prayers, bed
    IMAG0037-1-1

    Don’t worry. There’s another bookcase to fill after this one!

  • Basically, push books on them any chance you get! Make them available to them from the very beginning by having low bookshelves in their rooms so they have easy access. Anson’s favorite game for the longest time was pulling every single book off the shelves and throwing them on the floor. Books are his toys, and he loves them as much as his little basketball hoop.

 

Any other tips?

The Whole Story

Yesterday I posted how I got my agent, but of course that isn’t the whole story! I went through several years of rejections until I got to this point, and numerous manuscripts. My very first (not counting the awesome unicorn story I wrote out on sheets of a yellow legal pad when I was about ten or eleven) was left uncompleted. I started it in college, and it was a contemporary romance set in Charleston. The next one I completed a few years ago when my husband and I first moved to Birmingham (a YA paranormal romance), and that’s when I really began to learn about the querying process. After countless rejections, I finally clued into the fact that I needed to become a lot more savvy about writing, editing, and querying. I made the classic n00b writer mistake: complete a manuscript and immediately start querying (I know!! *cringe* right??).

So I started researching. I stumbled upon the vast writerly resource that is Miss Snark’s First Victim, and I can’t thank Authoress enough because what I realized I was lacking was the writing community. I couldn’t bring myself to actually meet up with a writing group in person, so I found an online one–Scribophile. It’s probably one of the best online critique forums there is, and it’s great for beginners because, like Authoress’ site, all critiques are encouraged to be constructive not cruel. There I met two writers who really helped me learn the basics about critiquing and showing vs. telling: Claire Gillian & Aimee Laine. Claire is my beta reader to this day!! She is the best at looking at the overall story and finding pacing problems and any plot holes! Thank you for all your help on this one, Claire! :)

And of course I have to thank my original beta reader: my mom. It’s a joke in the writing world to say, “but my mom likes it!!” but with my mom, it really does mean something! She’s as good as any other beta reader at picking out what works and what doesn’t for a manuscript, and with this historical in particular, she was good at pointing out things that weren’t historically accurate. For example, apparently, Scotland Yard didn’t even exist at the time my story takes place–they basically had no formal police force! Glad she caught that!! I guarantee she’s crying as she reads this, and that’s what’s so great about her, too: my success is her success. She’s always only wanted the very best for me, and has always been my biggest fan. Love you, Mom!

I owe a lot to my dad, too, for telling me I needed to go to college, have a career, so I could support myself and my writing habit ;). I refuse to let him read my story (maybe when it’s published…) because I’m not sure he can handle the sexytimes scenes. But I know he would love it just because I wrote it. And that makes him the best. Love you, Dad!

Though historical romance is definitely not my husband’s genre, he has always been my biggest support! Not only does he tolerate me staring blankly and supe25-different-kinds-of-kitten-hugs-1-20577-1348859512-13_bigr creepily at him any time I’m trying to think of the right word to use or which direction my story should take, he also is the best at catching grammar mistakes. My work sounds real good ’cause of him ;). He also deserves a big “thank-you” for always keeping our little toddler busy while I’m writing to prevent little fingers from banging out random letters on my keyboard. I’m totally dedicating my first book to you, Sam! I love you! :)

My cousin, Kelsey Sandy, has also always been there for me! When we were little, we used to make up stories of the hot actors we were in love with at the time (Pearl Harbor had just come out, so Josh Hartnett and Ben Affleck). I still remember one summer when we were both visiting our grandmom in TX, and Kelsey had been writing (by hand!!) a story. She was still in high school, and I was probably just starting college. I remember thinking, oh! We could TOTALLY write books!! Kelsey went on to get her Master’s in Creative Writing–and to teach college courses! She’s AMAZING!! As a critique partner, she is the best at finding places in the manuscript that need MORE–more descriptions, more dialogue, more magic. I also need to thank her for encouraging me to keep the journal entries written by my main character’s mother, which my agent LOVED!! Kelsey is AN INCREDIBLE writer, so it’s only a matter of time until we BOTH have awesome agents!! Love you, cousin!!

But that’s not all!! (;)) So Scribophile was working well for me for awhile, but it’ll only get you so far. It wasn’t until I attended the online writing conference, WriteOnCon, that I met the critique partners my work would be utter crap without: Mandie Baxter, and, through her, Jamie Manning. I could do a whole POST on how much I love these two!! They are full of unconditional, enthusiastic support, but they also have magical critiquing abilities. Mandie the Plot Whisperer has the power to coax amazing twists out of any plot–the more stumped you are by a plot roadblock, the faster she comes up with a solution! Jamie has Eagle Eyes. He can spot the most ridiculous mistake everyone else has looked over a million times, thereby making your manuscript look a whole lot smarter! Both of them are ridiculously talented, and I ADORE their writing!!

 They couldn’t wait to have a conference call the moment I got an offer–to celebrate, to congratulate, to encourage. I LOVE THEM. Like this:Cat Hugging

Mandie is also the one who introduced me to Twitter. Which is where I learned even MORE about agents, writing, and querying. And got even more involved in the writing community. Seriously, writers are the most encouraging, helpful, and supportive community EVER.

Thank you, too, to all the people who read over my manuscript and gave me encouragement! I KNOW I couldn’t have gotten this far without everyone’s help.

<3!!!

How I Got My Agent (!!!:D)

IMAG0347 (2)

YAY!!!

*Disclaimer: There’s excessive use of capitalization and exclamation points in this post, but it’s not even CLOSE to how bad it would be if I wrote this a month ago!!

*Off-topic note: Isn’t my baby girl cute?? 😉

First of all, I can’t believe I’m actually getting to write a post on this!! This has been a dream for so many years now, and after 2 shelved manuscripts (manuscripts I actually bothered to query that is), the 3rd was the one!

And you know what? Getting picked out of the slush really CAN happen! I was in so many writing contests this past year I always thought it would happen that way. I mean, statistically, I probably had a better chance since more agents saw my work at one time. Lots and lots of contests. With each one, I became more and more cautiously optimistic. Even during the last contest–Authoress’ Baker’s Dozen (link to Miss Snark’s First Victim here; if you don’t read her blog, you definitely should!)–I was one of the twenty-five adult entries, and I got some great critiques but not a single bid from an agent. I still didn’t lose hope!

Querying for this MS was different. I got a positive response right away–completely different from my past querying attempts! I looked up the stats for those of us who are completely obsessed with stuff like that:

  • Total queries sent: 44
  • Partial requests:7
  • Full requests:9
  • Offers: 2
  • Rejections: 35 (counting rejections on partial/full requests)

 

I’d come really close with a few agents, even an R&R with one, but no offers yet. Since November and December are such a busy time for agents, I suspended my querying. I think 7 agents still had my work.I was busy with my sweet babies anyway and getting ready for our big trip to SC for Christmas with our family. We drove home to SC on December 7th, and that night, I got both an email and a voicemail (AHH!! An agent CALLED me!!) from an agent saying she loved my MS but didn’t think she could sell it. She wanted to talk, though, and see what else I had. So I was excited but not entirely, since she hadn’t made any promises. And of course it called for emergency phone calls and texts with my beloved CPs!! (Thank you for keeping me sane, guys ;))

Because she was so busy, we couldn’t speak again until the following Friday (a whole WEEK later…I was pretty crazy by then…I probably drove my family and CPs nuts because I constantly talked about it). Meanwhile, an agent I thought was a total pipe dream emailed and said she was really enjoying my MS and wanted to see the full. We all know how that goes, though, right? That doesn’t necessarily mean anything, but it did make me hope that maybe someone would offer eventually. I let her know another agent was really interested and I had an appointment to talk to the first agent the next day.

The big day to speak with an agent for the first time came, and thanks to my obsessive preparedness for the possibility I might one day get to that point, I had lots of questions printed out. I was a teensy, tiny bit nervous (okay…a lot. My husband caught me sitting alone staring at the phone…he was scared). But I managed to rein in the anxiety to some semblance of sanity. Also, I’m a therapist who has worked on a psych unit for a few years, so I’m pretty capable of talking to anyone–even if I’m freaking out on the inside. Unfortunately, the talk with the first agent was a little discouraging because as we talked I realized it probably wouldn’t work out even though she was so nice and easy to talk to. She didn’t think she could sell my MS, but she was interested in my WIP, so the call ended on a hopeful note.

But I’m ridiculously blessed because that same day, THE agent (the amazing Brianne Johnson from Writers House–the one who was a total pipe dream) emailed me saying she loved it and needed the rest of the weekend to finish, but she would let me know on Monday whether or not she could offer representation.

0.0—>my face. All day. Wandered around like that for awhile.

Right off, I loved the fact that she told me bluntly what I could expect: representation or not. I mean, I know that’s the point of querying, but sometimes it feels like some agents are beating around the bush about it.

In that same email, she told me what part of my MS she was reading (she actually said she almost missed her stop because she found it so engrossing–this made me grin like I was insane for the rest of the day), so I neurotically read from that point on in my MS. I went back and forth from feeling proud of what I had written to hyperventilating and sending panicked texts to my CPs (again, thank you for helping me stay sane!!).

Monday FINALLY came, and she emailed me right away in the morning–another thing I really like about her! If she says she’s going to call or email, you can be sure she will–and ON TIME!! I skimmed to the end first, scanning desperately for any “but’s” “I’m sorry’s” or “unfortunately’s”. Does anyone else do that?? There wasn’t a single one!! She loved it and wanted to speak with me that day! We talked, and I could tell immediately that my book would be in some seriously capable hands. She was SO enthusiastic and had a game plan already–I think she already loved my book as much as I did! And since your agent is pretty much your advocate out there in the pub world, you want one who’s totally in love with your writing! I loved all her ideas, and I was thrilled she didn’t think my MS would need *too* much editing. She offered after a few initial questions–probably to make sure I wasn’t crazy ;). BEST PHONE CONVERSATION EVER. Brianne’s the best: super sweet and funny but also direct and definitely gets things done! The worst part was I couldn’t accept right away!! I knew right away she was the agent for me, but there were other agents who had my work, and I knew the professional thing was to let the others know first.

I sent emails out that day, and a few stepped aside right away, which was great. I got another offer, which was sad. It put me in the position of being the one to send the rejection, and I definitely didn’t like it! I ended up letting the remaining agents (and the one who’d offered) know that I’d already made up my mind before I got any other responses because I knew Brianne would be the best agent for my MS and my writing!

I still can’t believe it!! Luckily, my CPs remind me regularly! Right, Mandie, Jamie, and Kelsey?? 😉

So that’s my story–the calm version. If I’d written this a month ago, it would have been in all caps!! And because I always loved reading this part on QueryTracker, here are my stats with Brianne:

EQ: 10/05

Partial Request: 10/26

Full Request: 12/13

Offer of Representation: 12/17 😀

 

TV Show Obsession (one of them)

SharkTank

Picture from ABC’s website; click to go there

I’m not sure if it’s just me, but there are some bizarre similarities between ABC’s Shark Tank and the querying process. My husband and I watch it just about every Friday night–part of our weekly routine that would bore the socks off anyone else, but one we shamelessly love. For those of you who haven’t seen it, Shark Tank is a reality show with 5 wealthy, successful entrepreneurs (the Sharks) who listen to the pitches of other entrepreneurs who seek out the Sharks’ investments and business expertise. So that may seem a little far-fetched considering it has nothing to do with writing, but it does have a lot to do with making a pitch and getting someone to work with you. In fact, I think we querying writers could learn a lot from it.

Example A: The Pitch

The entrepreneurs on Shark Tank have a short amount of time to impress the Sharks and get them to invest in their business or product. As in querying, a lot is riding on a successful pitch. I’ve seen the Sharks pass because of a weak pitch and an inexperienced entrepreneur. But, as with writing, a superior product trumps a poor pitch.

The entrepreneurs only have a short amount of time to hook the Sharks and describe their product. They have an advantage over us writers in that they can then have a Q&A with the Sharks. Our queries have to do it all: hook them, describe our beloved MS, and give a little background on ourselves for around 250 words. No wonder we’re usually cursing our queries or crying over them!

Example B: Know Your Product

So just about every week, the Sharks jump on some poor guy or girl for not knowing enough about their market. They’ll come on with something they think is totally unique, for example, and basically get laughed off the stage.

Poor, sad entrepreneur:”I have for you a brand new metal box that browns bread!! No one’s ever had a box that can brown bread this good!!” <huge, excited smile>

Sharks <snickering>: “And…how is this different from a toaster?”

Poor, sad entrepreneur: <face falls comically>

So maybe nothing that extreme has happened, but they do need to know a lot about their potential market: what other products are like theirs and more importantly, how their product differs. This is the same for us querying writers. We’ve all heard agents say they can’t stomach another vampire novel. Okay, we get that, but we also need to know what other parts of the market are overdone. As I learned (the HARD way) with my last MS…the YA paranormal romance market is flooded, too.

We need to be able to articulate how our MS stands apart from the rest. There’s a saying that every story has already been told, which may be true, but we can put a new spin on it. I think two good examples of this are revamping old fairy tales and creating new genres (like speculative fiction). Though that last one can be tricky. I think agents tend to frown (or run away) when you say you have a romantic mystery with paranormal and sci-fi elements and a dash of horror. The best place to start is to figure out where your book would be shelved in a bookstore (fiction? teen? children’s? romance? sci-fi?) and go from there.

Example C: Experience Will Get You Everywhere

The Sharks seem to especially like when the entrepreneur has some background working with the product or in business. This works to our advantage as writers, too. This is not to say we need to have previous publications, but it does help when we’re active in the writing community. Critique partners or groups are essential to being a good writer for almost all of us. I never would have learned as much as I have if I didn’t have someone to read over my work, tear it apart, and help me build it back up. Writing contests are an easy way to gain experience, get some editing advice, and maybe even get an agent! Researching and following agents on Twitter are also two ways to really start learning about the Do’s and Don’ts of the pub world.

And Most Importantly:

Almost always on Shark Tank, the people who are arrogant or nasty to the Sharks don’t get any offers. Same thing applies to us. For most of us, this is an obvious thing. Of COURSE we aren’t going to email an agent back and lay into them after a rejection! Well, some people do. Or say nasty things on forums. The writing world is small, so it really is in our best interest to be polite and professional–even on Twitter.

Okay, now I really want to watch Shark Tank.

The First Post Is the Hardest…

So after spending an obscene amount of time trying to launch this website (I didn’t know I was so internetz-challenged!!) and searching for a template I liked (still looking…), I then agonized over my first post. I wasn’t sure which aspect of my life to focus my blog on, so I decided on primarily a writing one with a dash of former-therapist-now-turned-stay-at-home-mom. I hope to write the post I always loved to read: the How I Got My Agent post :). Maybe even some querying advice?

The problem with my having a blog is that in spite of being a writer and a therapist, I’m actually really terse. A lot of times, I have trouble expanding on my thoughts. I’m just like: and that’s how I feel. The end. I also edit as I write, which slows everything down. I also have difficulty believing anyone would actually want to read my random musings…except my mom (Hi, Mom!!! Love you ;)). But since everyone and their cat has a blog now, I think I’m probably qualified to join in, right??