Query Letter Critique (YA Contemporary)

Original Query:

Almost fainting onstage should be a foolproof way to lose a battle of the bands. But seventeen-year-old singer Charlie’s sabotage backfires, and her all-girl band the Wretched Gretchens takes first place anyway. Cue the sappy “Hallelujah” music.

It’s not that Charlie wants her band to break up—she’s just sick of her stage persona being cooler than she is. With a mic in hand, Charlie’s a siren with Joan Jett’s pipes and Shakira’s hips. Offstage, she can’t even confess to Jonathan all her songs are about him.

When the Wretched Gretchens get a chance to play their first tour, Charlie sacrifices a summer with Jonathan to help her bandmates chase their dream of fame. Killer shows and rave reviews convince Charlie that dream could be hers, too—and, even scarier, it could come true.

Desperate to prove she can handle the rock star lifestyle, Charlie channels her inner Courtney Love offstage. Partying all night with hot musicians? Bring it. Fighting with her guitarist best friend as the band crumbles? Cake. Fast-forwarding her relationship with Jonathan beyond awkward smiling? Thrilling.

When a bad gig pushes Charlie away from the other Gretchens and back into her shell, she must decide if she can exist only as a Gretchen or be confident as just Charlie—without the backing of the band’s catchy hand-clap choruses.

RIP HER TO SHREDS is contemporary YA complete at 74,000 words and told from alternating perspectives of the four girls in the band. It will appeal to fans of Nina LaCour’s THE DISENCHANTMENTS and the film ALMOST FAMOUS.

Cheers,

Name Redacted

The Critique:

Dear Ms. Agent,

Almost fainting onstage should be a foolproof way to lose a battle of the bands. But seventeen-year-old singer Charlie’s sabotage backfires, and her all-girl band the Wretched Gretchens (the name isn’t necessary right here) takes first place anyway. Cue the sappy “Hallelujah” music. (This doesn’t really add anything or propel your query forward.)

It’s not that Charlie wants her band to break up—she’s just sick of her stage persona being cooler than she is. With a mic in hand, Charlie’s a siren with Joan Jett’s pipes and Shakira’s hips. Offstage, she can’t even confess to Jonathan all her songs are about him.

When the Wretched Gretchens get a chance to play their first tour (how?), Charlie sacrifices a summer with Jonathan to help her bandmates chase their dream of fame. Killer shows and rave reviews convince Charlie that dream could be hers, too—and, even scarier, it could come true. (How? Don’t be vague here, this will help the reader understand the stakes. Is there a potential record deal? A label coming to their show?)

Desperate to prove she can handle the rock star lifestyle, Charlie channels her inner Courtney Love offstage. Partying all night with hot musicians? Bring it. Fighting with her guitarist best friend as the band crumbles? Cake. Fast-forwarding her relationship with Jonathan beyond awkward smiling? Thrilling. (Wait…how is Jonathan here? In the previous paragraph you said she had to sacrifice a summer with him. I’m missing the connection to how she’d have to sacrifice, if he can tour with them.)

When a bad gig pushes Charlie away from the other Gretchens and back into her shell, she must decide if she can exist only as a Gretchen or be confident as just Charlie—without the backing of the band’s catchy hand-clap choruses. (But why would one bad show destroy her confidence, when technically, the battle of the bands was bad if she tried fainting? What is the catalyst that makes it SUCH a bad show that she’s retracing? I think strengthening that a teeny, tiny bit more will make a big difference.)

RIP HER TO SHREDS is contemporary YA complete at 74,000 words and told from alternating perspectives of the four girls in the band. It will appeal to fans of Nina LaCour’s THE DISENCHANTMENTS and the film ALMOST FAMOUS. (Perfect closing!)

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Cheers,

Name Redacted

The aftermath:

Let me start by saying I really like your voice…but…I’m not fully grasping what the actual stakes are here. Don’t get me wrong, it sounds like a good story and I totally get that she’s trying to find out who she is and become a confident, strong, girl..but what happens if she fails? What major choices does she have to make and how will that affect the people around her? I think beefing up some actual conflicts will help build the tension in the query. That’s really what’s missing.

In one way, there’s almost too much going on and the focus gets lost in the series of events that are listed. (Interesting as they are.) For example: We know there’s a battle of the bands and Charlie’s trying to sabotage it, and there’s something going on with Jonathan…then she’s on tour, and magically loving the rockstar lifestyle and partying and fighting and Jonathan is suddenly here and she’s making a move on him, then a bad gig happens and she falls apart. But those aren’t stakes, they’re kind of like a powerpoint presentation of mini conflicts.

What is the main focus of your story? What is the HUGE thing laying on the line? See if there’s a way for you to pick the BIG conflict and pull that out.

If there’s something at that bad gig that’s life-changing for everyone in the band – go into that! Tell us why that’s so important and why it’s so devastating when/if she screws it up. Is there an A&R person there, ready to sign them if the show goes well? Is there a music journalist that could write a review that’s a career changer/destroyer? 

What makes that the crucial turning point in your manuscript? I can already picture conflict for daysssssssss there. THAT is the conflict that needs to shine in your query. My god, my god, my god if Charlie messes ____ up it’s not only the dreams she’s come to desire, but all of her bandmates hopes that could be crushed FORVER. AND she could lose ________ as well. The tension and stakes are building simply by bringing your focus into a bull’s eye. 

Mini conflicts and subplots are great in books, we just need more core stuff in the blurb. Try leaving some of the smaller subplots (and list of events) out, get into the bad show part sooner, and show us what’s at stake.

Thank you so much for braving the query critique and for sharing your work on my blog! I really hope my notes are helpful and my goodness, this sounds like a fun read. Keep up the amazing work!!! 🙂

 
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Query Critique (Non-fiction)

The Original Query:

Address

Address

Address

To Whom This May Concern,

GO BLOG YOURSELF!

What better way to showcase concrete research on blogging as a legit form of writing for students then to place it next to blog entries from the researcher, and teacher, herself?

My book, GO BLOG YOURSELF, would include entries from two of my blogs (a teaching blog and private blog, started in the spring of 2002) intermingled with chapters that include blogging research I’ve conducted over the years. Due to the recent nature of blogs this book would fill a much needed void of concrete research connected with blogs for academics, as well as attract recreational readers of blog and bloggers alike.

Through the process of becoming an Associate Professor (in North Dakota!), I’ve kept up with several blogs, and I’ve co-published an article* on blogging with Dr. X and Y, both professors at _____. In addition, I’ve taught using blogs (class blogs, too) since the spring of 2002 at NDSU and, currently, at the North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton, ND (a hour south of Fargo). Within the last few years, I’ve also given presentations on how blogging has worked in my classrooms.

I believe GO BLOG YOURSELF would be suitable for the ___ Corporation. Enclosed, you’ll find a Table of Contents and a sample chapter of GO BLOG YOURSELF. A SASE is included for your reply. Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,

*That article can be found here: (Redacted)

The Critique:

Address

Address

Address

To Whom This May Concern, Dear Ms. Agent, (Make sure you’re researching agents and personalizing your query letter. This is someone who’s going to (possibly) be your business partner, so include their name. I’m sure that you aren’t sending out letters “To Whom This May Concern” but for the purpose of the critiques, I have to point that out.)

GO BLOG YOURSELF! What better way to showcase concrete research on blogging as a legit form of writing for students then to place it next to blog entries from the researcher, and teacher, herself? (As an opening, this isn’t working for a couple of reasons. The first being it almost comes across as an “As Seen On TV” infomercial (sorry!). Yes, you want a sales pitch, but it doesn’t have to be over-the-top. Query letters, whether they are for fiction or non-fiction, should start with your hook. And in order to have a successful hook, you want to remove the question element altogether. STATE what this book is about and why it’s unique and why readers are going to pick it up. Here’s what I mean…let’s say you’re at a dinner party and your friend asks you what your book is about. You probably wouldn’t answer them with a question, you’d explain it in a sentence or two.)

My book, GO BLOG YOURSELF, would include entries from two of my blogs (a teaching blog and private blog, started in the spring of 2002) intermingled with chapters that include blogging research I’ve conducted over the years. Due to the recent nature (maybe insert what recent nature of blogs here, because leaving it so open-ended could mean anything. Are you talking about the recent downfall of blogs? The relevance of blogs? How blogs have changed/evolved? Don’t be afraid to spell it out – it’ll only take a word or two to clarify what you mean) of blogs this book would fill a much needed void of concrete research connected with blogs for academics (how?), as well as attract recreational readers of blogs and bloggers alike. (If it’s research about blogs for academics, why would it attract recreational blog readers?)

Through the process of becoming an Associate Professor (in North Dakota!) (Why is this here? It doesn’t add to your query, save the space for more pertinent information relating to your platform and what exactly your book is about. By this point, I’m still not sure who your target market is (Students? Teachers? Readers? Bloggers?) and what exactly your book is going to cover), I’ve kept up with several blogs (you’ve followed several blogs, or you personally keep several blogs? And if it’s blogs you just read, that’s not really telling the agent about your proposal. If this is the research part, how reliable are the sources?), and I’ve co-published an article* (This is one of those parts where you want to tell the agent your credits. Where was this published? National, local, print, academic journal, e-format? Don’t be vague with your credentials.) on blogging with Dr. X and Y, both professors at _____. In addition, I’ve taught using blogs (class blogs, too) since the spring of 2002 at NDSU and, currently, at the North Dakota State College of Science. in Wahpeton, ND(a hour south of Fargo) (Again, this is unnecessary, tell the agent more about why this book? Why you?) Within the last few years, I’ve also given presentations (How many? To whom?) on how blogging has worked in my classrooms. (How has blogging worked in your classrooms?)

I believe GO BLOG YOURSELF would be suitable for the ___ Corporation (Just one place? I thought from your opening it would appeal to students and bloggers and blog readers, too?). Enclosed, you’ll find a Table of Contents and a sample chapter of GO BLOG YOURSELF. (Make sure you’re researching agent guidelines; find out if the agent you are querying prefers JUST a query letter first. You can say “sample chapters are available upon request” if they don’t ask for material upfront.) A SASE is included for your reply. Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,

Your Name

*That article can be found here: (Redacted)

Okay, so here’s the thing: platform is an essential part of non-fiction. Yes, you mention you’ve got two blogs and have co-published an article, but the agent isn’t hearing about the numbers. Do you promote your blogs on social media? How many followers/subscribers/friends/fans do you have on twitter/blog(s)/facebook, etc. You’ve given presentations, that’s good! How many, and how many do you do a year? Are there opportunities for you to sell your books at these presentations? Are they local, national, etc.? This is your place to SHINE, talk yourself up.

Credentials and platform mixed with a great/unique idea are the basis of what you want to come across in this proposal. I can’t give a more in-depth critique like I can for fiction,  but I can give you a few questions to keep in mind while you’re crafting your next draft.

After reading this several times I’m still not entirely sure what your book is about. Yeah, it’s about blogging and blogging relating to academics (I think), but what exactly are you teaching the reader? How to make money at blogging? How to quit your job and blog full-time? How to grow readership? How to integrate blogs in the classroom?

You mention that it will not only appeal to students, but to bloggers (and readers of blogs) as well. Again, I still don’t know why, because I don’t know much about the book.

I think your title is catchy, and you’ve got a good voice – you just need to hone it into a streamlined pitch that’s CLEAR. You’re the expert on the subject, make sure you “show” your expertise.

Here’s what I’ve learned from my agent, basically you want to answer three questions:

Why you?

Why this book?

Why now?

The questions don’t have to be answered in that order, but they do need to be answered. Find a way to let your voice shine through authentically (without being forced  or over-the-top), and you’ll have a killer proposal. 

Here are some helpful links for non-fiction query letters that you can use as reference guides: (the people who wrote these have stellar advice and are much more in-the-know regarding successful non-fiction proposals.)

http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2007/02/how-to-write-nonfiction-book-proposal.html

http://bookendslitagency.blogspot.com/2009/03/nonfiction-query-sample.html

http://writenonfictionnow.com/how-to-write-a-query-letter-for-a-nonfiction-book/

http://kidlit.com/2011/07/11/how-to-write-a-non-fiction-query-letter/

MOST importantly: Thank you to this brave author for sharing their query with everyone. You are ten kinds of awesome, I mean it. Critiques are NEVER easy, but I *know* you are going to come up with a kick-butt pitch that’s going to land you some amazing requests. Good luck with this!

Special Post: Ask an agent ANYthing and Harper is open to unagented submissions!

A couple of amazing things I had to share with my fellow writing friends…

If you’ve ever wanted an opportunity to ask a literary agent ANY question regarding publishing – now’s your chance! My agent (Barbara Poelle) is doing a monthly column for Writers Digest where she’ll be answering questions from YOU.

No writing/publishing question is off limits. (Unless you’re especially pervy. Then shame on you, Pervy McPervy Pants.)

If you’re uncomfortable with using your real name, Sleepless in Seattle’s are welcome. Or, you know…the more writerly version of that.

If you have something you’d like answered honestly, with good humor and spot on industry info, then direct your questions to:

writersdigest [at] fwmedia [dot] com with “Funny You Should Ask” in the subject line.

I can vouch 1,000% for how awesome Barbara is.

Here’s part of the announcement from Writers Digest itself:

Have you ever wished you could get advice on your writing life, your pursuit of publication, and everything in between, from an expert source would tell it to you straight, with good humor and grace?

So have we! That’s why we’re excited to announce WD’s new advice column, “Funny You Should Ask,” in which popular literary agent Barbara Poelle—known for her knack for spotting debut talent at Irene Goodman Literary Agency as well as for her approachable, refreshingly honest and sometimes irreverent style of instructing writers—will begin tackling your toughest problems and offering up her best advice for writers in the pages of Writer’s Digest magazine.

For the full article and extra details CLICK HERE.

On to the second bit of writerly awesome! Harper Voyager is going to be open to unagented submissions for the first time in a decade!!! The window to submit your work is only going to be from October 1st-14th.

(That’s starting THIS Monday, kids.)

For submission guidelines check out the link HERE.

 

Lastly, I finally joined tumblr last week. And guys, I’m kinda addicted. If you’re there and want to hang out and share things or ask me questions about writing, or publishing, or kittens, or of I’m team X,Y or Z…here’s where you can find me: http://kerrimaniscalco.tumblr.com/

 

Lots of Sparkly Things Happening…

This post is going to be a little different because there are a few things happening around the interwebs that writers (and readers) might be interested in. I LOVE helping my peoples out when I can, so here you go!

1. There’s a new agent at my agency! *throws confetti*

Here are some deets:

Name: Rachel Ekstrom

Currently Seeking: young adult, women’s fiction, mysteries, thrillers, and romance…

Query email: rachel.queries(at)irenegoodman(dot)com

Query Guidelines: Please check out irenegoodman.com  for current submission guidelines.

Also, check out Rachel’s twitter feed for all your agent stalking goodness @EkstromRachel

2. My friend Ruth L. Steven is hosting a FABULOUS agent judged contest on her blog!

The details:

You’ll need your query letter and the first five pages to enter. 10 winners will be chosen by Ruth to advance to the agents. (Please note, your manuscript MUST be complete.)

RULES:

1. This is open to all fiction genres of YA and MG.

2. The contest itself will run on the 18th April. The submission window is 9am – 5pm EST.

3. In that window, you’ll need to send your query letter and the first five pages of the ms in the body of the email. The address to send to is lottiehumphries14@yahoo.co.uk

This competition is for Ruth’s followers, so you must be following her blog to enter.

For the FULL contest details and PRIZES click here.

Agents Judging the contest are Julia Churchill of Greenhouse Literary and Gemma Cooper of The Bright Literary Agency. (Contest is open to everyone.)

3. My agent is teaching a webinar TOMORROW! Wheeeeeeee!

The juicy details:

I already touched on this last week, but there are only a few spots left for people to attend. IT’S SO GOOD, GUYS.

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN:

The essential elements of each subgenre within thriller/mystery in adult and young adult

Writing that “killer” query—one that reveals “the hook, the book, and the cook”

The components of a compelling hook within your book

Common themes and trends seen in successful crime books

How a familiar idea can still be unique—i.e., how to distinguish your own work from similar stories flooding the marketplace

The opportunities in both e-book and traditional publishing for thriller and mystery

WHO SHOULD ATTEND?

Writers who are actively querying agents and publishers in both adult and YA

Writers who feel they are hearing similar themes in rejection letters

Writers in the initial stages of writing who need to nail down what subgenre they are writing in and who would be most interested in their submission

Writers who will be pitching their concept at a conference

Writers who write for adults but are thinking of trying a YA novel in the mystery/thriller genre

To sign up CLICK HERE.

4. One of my best writing pals, Anita Grace Howard revealed her debut’s cover!!!!

It’s SO freaking awesome – have you seen it yet?! If not, here it is: SPLINTERED’s Cover Reveal (video)

SOOOOO PRETTY *pets screen*

Ahem. Back to the point… Anita is doing a HUGE giveaway on her blog to celebrate SPLINTERED’S amazing cover! There will be not one, or two, or even five, but TWELVE lucky winners!!!!!! SQUEEE!!!!

Get over to her blog immediately and enter as the contest is ending promptly at midnight on Friday. (THIS Friday, LIKE TWO DAYS FROM NOW Friday.)

CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THE PRIZES AND ENTER THE CONTEST

Say what? Publishing Terms Defined

Publishing has a lot of jargon we take for granted because we’re around it ALL the time. Over the weekend I was asked a few questions, so here are some definitions if you’re seeing things floating around twitter or the blogosphere and feel out of the loop…

Please note: This list isn’t all inclusive, so if there’s something you’re a little unsure of – or if there’s something you’d like to include – please ask or add it in the comments.

Agatha Awards = awards for mystery and crime writers who write via the same method as Agatha Christie (i.e. closed setting, no sex or violence, amateur detective).

ARC = Advanced Reader Copy. (These are used for book reviews.)

ALA = American Library Association (they have a GREAT annual conference)

Auction = when more than one publisher offer on the same project and bid against each other.

BEA = Book Expo of America (it’s like Disney World for new books, check the link out.)

Beta Reader = a person who reads your manuscript with a critical eye, with the aim of improving grammar, spelling, etc.

Critique = in-depth feedback on areas where you can improve your manuscript.

Critique Partner = someone who you exchange manuscripts with to offer helpful feedback.

Edgar = Award given for the best in the mystery genre.

Elevator Pitch = is a short summary used to quickly and simply describe your book.

Full = when an agent requests your entire manuscript

Frankfurt = Frankfurt Book Fair aka the largest book and media fair in the world.

Hook = One sentence pitch on what your book is about. (The more gripping, the better.)

Hugo = Award given for the best Science Fiction or Fantasy novel from the previous year

MS = Abbreviation for manuscript

MWA = Mystery Writers of America

Nebula = award given each year by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), for the best science fiction/fantasy fiction published in the United States during the previous year.

Partial = when an agent requests part of your manuscript. (Normally they will specify how many pages to send them. I.e. 50 pages.)

Pre-empt = a preemptive offer from a publisher. (Usually a large sum to avoid going to auction.)

Query Letter = a 3-5 paragraph business letter that introduces your book, a short author bio, and reason for contacting a particular literary agent. Normal length is 250-350 words. (check out QueryShark for excellent examples.)

RWA = Romance Writers of America

SCBWI = Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators

SFWA = Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America

Sublist = submission list. (Your agent sends you a list of publishing houses/imprints that are currently considering your manuscript.)

Synopsis = extended summary of your book. (Including the ending.) (The best examples of summaries are on wikipedia for any given movie.) Usually range in length from 1-5 pages, single spaced. The tighter the better.)

WIP = Work In Progress

Great sites for writers to check out:

Absolute Write: A wonderful forum/community for writers at any stage in the game. Ask any writing/publishing question/share your work & find critique partners, and do research before querying agents here. (Not to mention meeting and hanging around with other amazing/knowledgeable writers.)

Chuck Sambuchino’s Guide to Literary Agents Blog: A fantastic resource for new agent alerts, and tips for EVERYTHING.

Hey, there’s a dead guy in the living room blog: I’m going to link you to my agent’s (Barbara Poelle) blogging days here. I may be biased, but I think reading through her blog archives is AMAZING.

Miss Snark: The mysterious secret agent who will live on in blogger history. She may not be blogging anymore, but there’s a WEALTH of information worth checking out.

Nathan Bransford: This former mega-agent’s (now author) blog is the guide to publishing BIBLE. Countless hours were spent there when I first started researching everything I could about publishing. It’s like the Holy Grail of the book world. Seriously.

Preditors and Editors: If there’s one site you add to your MUST list before querying, it’s this one. It’s a great resource for finding agents/agencies that are not scammers.

Pub Rants: Agent Kristin Nelson dishes on everything industry related. There are also some great examples of query letters that worked posted on the sidebar.

Publishers MarketPlace: I highly recommend that you get a subscription. Daily deals are posted as well as breaking industry news. I peruse my Pub Lunch every single day.

QueryShark: A phenomenal blog dedicated to the art of crafting a great query letter, run by super agent Janet Reid.

Query Tracker: Keep track of your query letters, search for agents who represent your genre, and hang around other writers in the query trenches. Another amazing site that has a forum where you can have your query letter critiqued by your peers.

Writer Beware: Is basically a watchdog blog for writers to avoid scammers and bad eggs. Highly recommended.

Attn Writers: My agent is doing a webinar!

Hey writer friends I’ve got something for YOUUUU! My agent is doing another Writers Digest Webinar (From Cozy to Carnage: An Agent Explains the Ins and Outs of Thriller/Mystery Writing–For Both the Adult and YA Markets) on Thursday April 12th.

Are you squinting at your screen wondering why you should be interested in this? If you’re nodding your head, here’s my answer: I attended the last one in November and ended up signing with Barbara on my next project. WOO HOO! I’m walking proof that these things work – it opened up the doors for our communication. Not to mention, the query letter and first page critique that came with the webinar were AWESOME.

Some of what Barbara pointed out helped me while crafting my next novel. She’s got SERIOUS superpowers with identifying areas that you can improve in your manuscripts and queries. ALSO you might be one of three people asked to submit sample chapters OR a full manuscript based on your first page. Not too shabby.

Are you thinking I really WANT to BUT I’m working when the webinar is going on… FEAR NOT! You don’t have to attend the live event! You just have to register, then watch it at your leisure. After work, over the weekend, three o’clock in the morning – it’s all good.

If you’re looking to take your writing to the next level and make an agent connection, then this is the perfect thing for you. Who knows? Maybe we’ll be agent mates…that would be pretty freaking cool. 🙂

For those interested here are the details taken directly from WD:

ABOUT THE QUERY AND FIRST PAGE CRITIQUE

All registrants are invited to submit their query (one page) and the first full page (double-spaced) of their work. All entrants will receive a critique from instructor Barbara Poelle. If you choose to submit your work prior to the live webinar, you could be one of three entrants who are asked to submit three chapters or a full manuscript based on the first page during the webinar itself in order to show what captured Barbara’s attention and why.

This webinar is an exploration and discussion of the earmarks of each subgenre within the thriller/mystery world, including cozy, suspense, crime, and thriller, as well as the type of query and introduction that can capture the eye in this crowded field. The webinar will discuss tips on not only how to write a compelling story, but also how to pitch one to agents and editors.

Instructor Barbara Poelle has numerous national and international bestselling authors on her client list throughout all of the thriller/mystery subgenres (full list below) and loves to break down what truly makes something “thrilling” to read. She will explore titles and examples of each subgenre within the thriller world and walk writers through the process of captivating both a publisher and an audience.

INSTRUCTOR

Literary agent Barbara Poelle began her publishing career as a freelance copywriter and editor before joining the Irene Goodman Agency in 2007, but feels as if she truly prepared for the industry during her brief stint as a stand-up comic in Los Angeles. She has found success placing thrillers, literary suspense, historical romances, humorous/platform driven nonfiction, and upmarket fiction and young adult and is actively seeking her next great client in those genres, but is passionate about anything with a unique voice. Barbara has a very hands-on approach with the craft and editorial details of the books she represents, and loves working with her clients to take their writing to the next level.

Books within these genres Barbara sold within the last year include: BLIND FAITH by New York Times best-selling author CJ Lyons; THE EDEN PROPHECY by international bestseller Graham Brown; the Bad Day crime novel series (such as A BAD DAY FOR SORRY), by Sophie Littlefield, which have become national bestsellers short-listed for the Edgar, the Anthony, the Barry, and many other awards; THE NINTH DAY, by international bestseller Jamie Freveletti; and STARTERS, by Lissa Price, a major deal for a new YA series to be published by Random House in 2012.

*Please note this webinar is for both Adult and YA manuscripts. My book is a YA genre mashup (science fiction/thriller), so if yours isn’t a straight thriller or mystery but has those elements, don’t hesitate to sign up.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CLICKY CLICK HERE

Four words, twelve letters: I HAVE AN AGENT!!!

You guys… I can’t believe I’m actually typing this post out. I mean, sure I’ve dreamt about writing something like this for the last two years, but I seriously can’t believe it’s real. I mean, it’s REALLY real.

HOLY MOTHER. I HAVE AN AGENT.

A real, live, agent is my partner in publishing crime. And it’s not just ANY literary agent, it happens to be my DREAM* agent. How lucky am I?!

It took me two years, and countless tears and laughter and SO MANY FEELINGS before I made the right agent connection. And even THEN she didn’t sign me with the first project I sent her…

The beginning:

I queried Barbara Poelle in July of 2011 with a YA futuristic thriller after reading (and loving) WITHER and seeing she represented the work. I checked and rechecked and did a million neurotic things before I fired off my query letter. Then I ate a bunch of dairy-free chocolate and questioned my life. Not really. But sort of. 

Fast-forward a few weeks. 

Write-On-Con (an online writing conference) was going on and Barbara (and fellow agent Holly Root) participated in a live Q&A session. If I wasn’t sold on how awesome Barbara was before, I was then. I thought she was funny/knowledgeable and would be the PERFECT advocate for a writer. I hoped, hoped, hoped for the impossible; she’d want to throw a chair and by chair I mean bar stool out a window to represent my work.

Fast forward another week or so.

My email taunts me with the dreaded: Gmail – Inbox (1) –

I see that it’s a message from Barbara. My brain runs through a million + 1 different scenarios in my head. Then I remember: The Irene Goodman Literary Agency only responds if interested. GASP. Could it mean… a FULL REQUEST. SQUEEEEEEEE!!!

So I acted like a professional successfully keeping my inner Tom Cruise from jumping on my inner Oprah’s couch and sent off the requested material. And I waited. But while I was waiting I did that thing you’re not supposed to do… I kept revising. I got some feedback from another agent, then revised some more. Taking a chance, I sent the revised copy to Barbara. She gladly accepted it.

Fast forward again.

While perusing Writer’s Digest for info, I came across a webinar Barbara was teaching. It was either going to help me stand out, or flag me as a complete nut, but the class sounded AWESOME and I quickly signed up. After another revision** Barbara jokingly accepted my latest version. A few weeks later she emailed me to let me know it was coming up in her reading queue. Of course I panicked.

Then a week later I see this guy again: Gmail – Inbox (1) –

It was from Barbara… And it was… a rejection. But you guys, it was SO GOOD. Like if rejections could cuddle hug you, this one SO would. I trusted what she said and agreed with her comments 1,000%. Knowing that she’s the kind of person I want in my corner, I rolled my writing sleeves up and got to work on another book.

Two Weeks ago:

I sent Barbara my full manuscript. (She told me to directly submit my next work, which was AWESOME of her.) Then I proceeded to bite my fingernails and by bite my fingernails I mean drink vodka and sent a handful of query letters out. Requests started coming in, as did a few rejections. I sent the requested material and tried to not check my email psychotically throughout the day.

Seven days later I saw a message from Barbara. I immediately assumed she was writing to tell me she discovered a way to set fire to her email using only her eyes. My heart sank. Then I pulled on my big girl panties and read the first line: She wanted to talk…

ON THE PHONE.

I proceeded to spaz/get nauseous/almost fall down the stairs. Because… OMG MAYBE SHE REALLY DID DISCOVER HOW TO LIGHT HER EMAIL ON FIRE AND SHE LEARNED BY BURNING MY MANUSCRIPT BECAUSE IT’S THE WORST THING SHE’S EVER READ.

Paranoia is a real thing guys.

I harassed told my mother about my “email and fire” theory. She wasn’t convinced. I tried the same thing with my friends and sister and they didn’t buy it either.

Then I sent a few thousand emails to my writing pal Anita Grace Howard, where I was openly panicking. Because OMG the phone call was TWO DAYS AWAY. That’s like a thousand years in a writers imagination. Thankfully, Anita talked me off my ledge and I calmed down.

Day of “THE CALL”

Barbara was every bit as awesome as I imagined she’d be. Within two seconds my nerves subsided and it was like talking to someone I’ve known my whole life. Her enthusiasm for my project was INCREDIBLE, and HOLY GUACAMOLE it’s like she has brain scanning superpowers. She totally got my book and characters, and my mind was officially blown.

 Apparently, she hearts me and my book as much as I heart her and her agenting superpowers.

So it’s official, I am now represented by Barbara Poelle of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency!!!!!!!!! I could not be happier, I KNOW that Barbara is the perfect agent for me. I’m BEYOND thrilled to be on this publishing journey with someone like her on my side.

*HAPPY DANCES LIKE A MANIAC*

Here’s the moral of the story: If you have a dream, never give up. EVER. Keep learning, keep pushing, keep striving to reach it. But don’t forget to celebrate the little achievements along the way.

None of this would’ve happened if I stopped after that first book didn’t work out, or after that hundredth rejection I received, or any other bump in the road that emerged along the way.

I promise you, having that person call and be equally passionate about your work TOTALLY erases EVERYTHINGEVERYTHINGEVERYTHING crappy that has ever come before it.

THE END THE BEGINNING!!!!

WOO HOO!!!!!

*By “dream agent” I really mean they should be the RIGHT agent for you and your work.

**Please note: I also ended up taking a Writers Digest Webinar by Barbara in November 2011 and it was one of the best experiences. That’s the ONLY reason why I sent her a second revision. It really opened up our communication lines, be sure to attend the next one on April 12th, 2012! Barbara knows her stuff!!

Here’s the info: From Cozy to Carnage: An Agent Explains the Ins and Outs of Thriller/Mystery Writing–For Both the Adult and YA Markets