Monday, December 12, 2011

Swag Winners-Writer Appreciation Giveaway!

Guys. GUYS. We have two winners for the season of swag Writer Appreciation giveaway:

Cherie aka @writercheri on Twitter


C D Meetens

Congratulations! May your day be filled with confetti, cupcakes, and chicken wings (see how easy it is to include the magic rule of three in writing?). Winners, please email your mailing address to byannabanks (at) gmail (dot) com, and I'll get your gift certificates to you. Thanks all for participating, and stayed tuned for more giveaways. Plus, you don't want to miss all my rants and peeks into the publishing world from the eyes of a debut author. :)

Friday, December 2, 2011

Season of Swag-Writer Appreciation

I'm baaaack! After a two month hiatus, I'm ready to throw around some more swag, and the theme this month is WRITER APPRECIATION!

We all know that the writing community is one of the most supportive, encouraging communities out there. And we all know why: Breaking into the publishing industry is freaking hard! Writing queries is suckish! Rejection hurts like a beeeoch!

So, in partnership with The Editorial Department, I'm giving away not one, but TWO (because I was gone for two months) gift certificates for the following:

"Redeemable for a critique and editorial analysis of a one-page query letter and sample material for agent or publisher submission of up to 2,500 words. Book length adult and young adult fiction and nonfiction only please."

So that's a professional critique of a query letter and roughly your first ten pages! And I have to tell you, I'm excited to be giving this away. I wish I'd known about these folks when I was being pitched about in the query hurricane. The co-owner, Renni Browne, is also the co-author of SELF EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS, a book I highly recommended to writers, even before I stumbled across the website for The Editorial Department.

So, if you'd like to enter to win, here are the rules:

1.) You must be un-agented.
2.) You must follow my blog.
3.) You must follow me on Twitter, and tweet about this contest at least once. (please include a link to this post, and my handle @byannabanks in your tweet. If you do not, I may miss your tweet!)
4.) The contest will end Saturday, December 17th at midnight. The winners will be chosen using, and will be posted on my blog on Monday, December 19th.
5.) There will be two winners, one for each gift certificate.

And that's it! Okay....GO!


I am going to make this brief. My mom unexpectedly passed away on October 27th. One week she was diagnosed with cancer, the next week we were told she had 7-10 days left. She passed away within 36 hours after that. While I don't wish to give details, I will say that naturally, I didn't feel like doing much blogging, writing, or anything in general during these past two months, hence my absence.

Thanks for everyone's well wishes, thoughts, and prayers.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Conference Prep

Are you preparing for an upcoming conference? 'Cause I am. I'll be crashing the Southern Breeze SCBWI 20th Annual Writing & Illustrating for Kids conference in October (and I'd loooove to see you there!). This'll be my first conference EVER, so I'm a bit nervous, and because of said anxiety, I've been lurking on the Internet and collecting conference tips. Here are some that I've wrangled for your prepping pleasure:

1.) Dress Appropriately. This might sound like a DUH moment, but if this item is almost always number one on all the conference prep lists I've read, so someone, somewhere, is not getting the memo. A conference isn't prom. A conference isn't the gym. Business casual. To me, business casual screams slacks, a shirt you'll probably have to iron (boo!), and you'll probably have to wear makeup and comb your hair and stuff.

2.) Dress Comfortably. I know, I know. Which is it, right? How about we keep the slacks and the makeup, but we add layers to our outfit, in case it gets too hot/cold. Also, the conference is not the time for breaking in new shoes or wearing stilettos, unless you're particularly good at wearing stilettos (if so, email me and give me a few tips). You'll be walking to workshops and hopefully mingling, so comfy shoes will be a necessity. Also, leave the perfume/cologne at home. People are allergic. And there's this one kind of perfume that makes me vomit instantaneously, and no one wants to see/smell that.

3.) Bring Stuff. Stuff like a notebook with pockets so you can take materials home and take notes during the workshop. Bring a pen, people. Don't be that person. The conference will probably supply some of these things, but bring them just in case. Also, it wouldn't hurt to bring some business cards, even if you're not yet pubbed. It should include your name, your mug shot, and your contact info. You never know who you'll meet. You just never know. :)

4.) Be courteous. To the volunteers. To other attendees. To the hotel staff. To everyone. Why should I tell you this? Because it's listed on other people's conference lists, so again, someone is still violating this basic rule.

5.) Agents/Editors. Don't pitch to them in the bathroom. They attend conferences to mingle and find new talent, yes. But pitching to them mid-stream is bad. Very bad. If you've scheduled a pitch appointment, then prepare for it. Practice your presentation until it sounds natural. Have material ready in case the agent/editor asks for it on the spot. (Not the whole MS. Just the first few chapters). This is also where a business card comes in handy. It will help them remember you when you send them your material.

These are but a few of the tips I've found. Do you have anything to add? :)

Monday, September 12, 2011


Okay folks, during the midst of my Season of Swag giveaway of a signed copy of ENCLAVE by Ann Aguirre, Ishita from The Reading Fish threatened me with bad things if I didn't do a giveaway for her Underwater Adventures Blog Hop. So, in keeping with the under-the-sea theme, I agreed to give away a signed copy of RIPPLE by Mandy Hubbard.

Keeping up with two giveaways was very stressful for me, so please feel free to send me fried chicken to help me recuperate. :)

Oh yeah, and congrats to the winners:

ENCLAVE goes to Andrea over at The Bookish Babes blog. She and her fellow blogger Melissa run a great show over there, offering insightful reviews, awesome giveaways, and coolness in general.

RIPPLE goes to Tamara over at Tamara's Book Ramblings. Have you seen the background of this blog, people? It's how I want my room to be wall-papered. Seriously.

Congrats again to the winners, and thanks to all who participated. Don't forget to check back soon for more giveaways!

Friday, September 2, 2011


Admittedly, this is not a huge secret (as I previously thought), since it's already on Amazon and Goodreads, but here it is, the cover for OF POSEIDON, my YA debut:

And I can't stop staring at it! Happy Friday! 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Under the Sea Blog Hop Giveaway!

Okay, so I know I'm already doing a giveaway for a signed copy of Ann Aguirre's ENCLAVE (it's not too late to enter! You can read about that here), but when my friend Ishita from The Reading Fish asked me if I was interested in doing a blog hop, I couldn't resist. The theme: Underwater Adventures, of course!

So, in honor of all things under the sea, I'm giving away a signed copy of Mandy Hubbard's mermaid novel, RIPPLE! The rules are simple. You must:

      1.) Become a follower of my blog.
      2.) Follow me on Twitter.
      3.) Tweet at least once about the giveaway on Twitter. (be sure to use my handle       @byannabanks so I'll know you've been a do gooder).

The blog hops runs from Sept 1st thru Sept 5th, so don't forget to check out the other Underwater Adventure hosting blogs (click on the picture above). There'll be tons of prizes and giveaways, not to mention a Read-a-thon. And if you want to stock up on mermaid books for the read-a-thon, check out YA Fantasy Guide for a tidy list of them!

Happy Hopping!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Sneak Peek

So, this last week I got a peek at the preliminary cover for OF POSEIDON! And it was...breathtaking. Seriously, I almost cried, that's how pleased I was! Love, love, LOVE it.

Which leads me to reveal a secret to you: I was secretly dreading the cover reveal. Thing is, the author doesn't really have a make-or-break say in the end about the cover. I kept having these nightmares about an AQUAMARINE-like cover. I'm not picking on that cover, but it's not suited for the YA crowd I wanted to target when I wrote OF POSEIDON. And oh sure, the author can protest on a cover (which I would only suggest you do if you have valid reasons). For instance, check out Mandy Hubbard's experience with her preliminary cover for RIPPLE. Her publisher agreed with her (professionally presented) reasoning, and changed it. But ultimately, the publisher will go with what they think will sell the book.

In retrospect, I'm not sure how I ever doubted the capability of Feiwel and Friends' art department. I mean, get a load of these covers:

I'm not sure why I ever doubted them at all. First-timer jitters, maybe? In any case, even after KNOWING what they are capable of, they still greatly exceeded my expectations with the cover of OF POSEIDON.  I have the image saved as the background on my computer, and sometimes I just stare at it and think, "Wow. That's going to be mine. Wow."

It stays true to the story, but it will catch the attention of any bookstore browser. Sigh.

Monday, August 22, 2011

'Tis the Season--of Swag!

It's Swag Season, which means it's time for another giveaway! If you happen to be a (freaking lucky) newcomer, let me explain what this is:

The Season of Swag is the 5th season, the OTHER white meat giving season, if you will. And it lasts for an entire year, right up until the release of my YA debut, Of Poseidon (OP), which is set to assault bookstores in Spring of 2012 (Feiwel and Friends).

To participate in the Season of Swag (and therefore be eligible to win, you know, swag) you must do this:

1.) Become a follower of my blog.
2.) Follow me on Twitter.
3.) Tweet about the Season of Swag and include my Twitter handle (@ByAnnaBanks) so I can confirm you've been a good little Tweeter and followed the oh-so-easy rules.

In two weeks, I'll enlist to pick my winner. In addition, the winner of each monthly giveaway will also qualify for a chance to win the Grand Swag: A mountain of all things OP, including a hardcover copy signed by MOI (for those of you who don't speak southern, MOI means me).

Now, for this month's swaggish giveaway: A signed copy of Ann Aguirre's Enclave, which is wholly awesome. Don't believe me? This is the first sentence: I was born during the second holocaust. And. I'm. Hooked.  Still not convinced? Then by all means, read the 150+ Amazon reviews for Enclave. Then maybe you'll come to your senses!

And did I mention THIS copy is signed???

Now, run along and do your very bestest to win.

And remember, this is just the beginning. For the rest of Swag Season, be on the lookout for more book giveaways, including more series and some signed copies, gift cards, and critiques.
So, no matter if you're in Mexico, Greenland, or NYC, 'tis the season of Swag!

Friday, August 19, 2011


A co-worker of mine just warned me that I might not want to pursue writing (insert snarky, defensive reply here). That writing requires a thick skin, and it's a hard business to break into (insert another sarcastic reply, and be creative). After our (brief) conversation, I figured that she either stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night, or she knows someone (besides me) who writes.

And while I'd love to continue to be scandalized, and to roll my eyes, she has a point. And I'd like to share (or rather, reiterate)that with you.

Writing is difficult. Albert Einstein thought it was difficult, folks. So it's going to suck for you many, many times. But don't give up.

When I think of the struggle writers go through to get published, I think of the Titanic. At first, it's a pretty morbid comparison (spoiler alert: It sank). But if you think about it, the Titanic didn't sink because of one big, obvious blow to the hull. It was a series of gashes, all strategically placed by that murderous iceberg, which ultimately brought it down.

And so it is with writers. We rarely have that Eureka moment where we say, "Because ______ happened, I'm giving up writing." No, it's a series of events. A line of holes. How many holes are you fighting right now? Not sure? Let's see:

1.) Time constraints. Maybe you work full time, or two jobs even, and have a family. Finding time to write means giving up things like sleep. Sacrificing sleep can really work you over. And so can sacrificing writing time, in the overall scheme of things.

Solution: Find balance. Make a schedule. Can you write on your lunch hour? Can you write after your kiddos go to bed? Can you wake up earlier? Don't expect too much of yourself. Slow and steady.

2.) Rejection. All kinds of rejection, all kinds of little holes, right? Agents, hole. Editors, hole. Heck, even a negative critique can puncture a hole in our perseverance. Self doubt settles in like rust on those holes. Add that to lack of sleep as mentioned above, and you're taking on water right?

Solution: Don't take it personally. Also, DON'T TAKE IT PERSONALLY. Another good strategy is to keep going. Rejected on a query? Send out another. That one rejected too? By all means, hit send again. Margaret Mitchell's GONE WITH THE WIND was rejected 38 times, people. Run along and read rejection stories of famous authors RIGHT NOW. Print them out and keep them handy. Then smile, and keep going.

We ALL get rejected. I did. You will. Keep going anyway.

What other holes can pock your perseverance? How do you patch them up and keep cruising?

Monday, August 15, 2011


I STILL WORK FULL TIME AT A BANK. (Anna BANKS, get it???) Yes, I'm one of those saps who always told myself that I would quit as soon as my writing took off. But...has it taken off yet? Here are some reasons you might not want to quit just yet.

1.) Should you live off your first advance? That's a personal decision. For me, the answer is no. Know this: Advances don't come all at once. They're broken up into three parts: First advance after signing the contract. Second advance after acceptance and delivery of the manuscript to your publisher (which means it's how the publisher wants it after line edits). Third advance when the book goes to print. There could be months in between these payments. It's not like your bi-weekly serving of paycheck casserole. Be warned.

2.) You DO know there'll be taxes, right? In fact, literary agent Kristin Nelson suggests you skim the cream from the top and send it to the IRS IMMEDIATELY. That's a lot of money to part with all at once. And something to think about before you haul off and quit the day job. In fact, this entire blog post helped me make the decision to stay at my day job.

3.) Marketing. How much of this money are you budgeting to market your book? We're told over and over that publishers, even traditional publishers from large houses, are spending less and less on marketing. Much of the cost is left up to the author. Remember, this sparkly debut of yours will make or break you. If your sales are horrible, how likely are you to get another contract? Not very. And a direct link to sales is public awareness. I'm not suggesting you spend your entire advance on marketing, but at least make sure you know that if you want to promote your book beyond the scope of what your publisher has planned, you will bear the cost of it.

4.) Royalties. The startling truth about royalties is that a very small percentage of authors earn out their advance and see royalties. And most of the time, it takes years to see an earn out. So, if you're planning on living off your royalties, uh....

5.) The economy. Say after your first book deal, you NEVER SELL ANOTHER. Does this happen? You bet your sweet aspercreme it does. Now you've lived on your advance, you've got a few years yet to collect royalties (if you even do), and now you're heading back into the 40-hour army--if you can find a job at all in this economy. If you're one of the lucky ones who can, you're starting on the bottom again with benefits, vacation time, seniority. Was your two year hiatus worth it?

Now, this is all not to say that I wouldn't quit in a heartbeat if I felt I could. It makes me ill to think how much writing I could get done in the 40 hours I'm slaving for someone else. But until I get my baby feet a little more established in this grown up industry, I think I'll stick with the bank. The fact is, I wrote the book which sold while working full time. I edited it, queried it, edited it, then I edited. Also, I edited it some more. All while working 40 hours elsewhere. It can be done. And while things will get busier around release date, right now, I'm still sane. Is this the right decision? We'll see...

My question to you: What would it take for YOU to quit your day job?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Public Thank You Note

It occurred to me recently that I might want to start putting together some acknowledgements, since OF POSEIDON will be in book form very shortly. That way, I can be a brown-nosing do-gooder and have it ready for when my editor inevitably asks for it.

But...aren't acknowledgements supposed to be the easiest part of the whole book? 'Cause ummm, they actually kind of suck. On the one hand, I'm so terrified of forgetting someone vital, crucial to the success of this project that I bought a notebook and pen specifically for articulating my thanks whenever my thanks hit me.

On the OTHER hand (and yes, I'm ashamed there's another hand to it), I'm mulling over not including some people who *probably* expect to be mentioned. Oh sure, crit partners and supporters and die-hard readers and agents and editors will go in there, but not because I feel obligated to publicly thank them. No, these are the ones who go there without thought, because OF COURSE I'm so grateful for everything they've done to make this work a success and I know that without any one of them it might have fallen flat on its face.

But I'm talking about those other people, people who didn't help at all, but who I feel obligated to add, just because they're related to me, or because they might have read a single chapter of this book and gave a nice comment about it. Other people who didn't support my writing at all (or very, very little), but who might be offended if their name isn't mentioned.

And I've decided to not mention them anyway. Because I'm not a sell-out when I write, and to me, that includes acknowledgements. Besides, I don't have sixty pages to include the post man from my previous address who said he can't wait to read my book. I have to make room for the hard workers who made it possible for the post man from my previous address to read my book.

Sorry if that sounds snooty. :(

Monday, August 8, 2011

First Winner O'Swag!

Drum roll puhlease.....*reaches into an Abraham Lincoln-style hat and pulls out the name of*...Becky Taylor! Actually, it was that picked Becky, and I thought it was a very fitting choice. Here's why: As I prepped this post for the winner announcement, I flitted over to Becky's very cool blog in order to link it...only to discover that not only had she Tweeted about my blog contest, but she actually dedicated a post on her blog about it. So umm, I'm a little creeped out that knew she completely deserved Maggie Stiefvater's The Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy. (Did you know that Becky's first YA novel, Ascendant, is repped by Emma Patterson of the Wendy Weil Agency? Well, now you do, my friend. Now you do.)

So congrats to Becky, and thanks so much for your word-o-mouth efforts! For everyone else, stay tuned for details of the next Season of Swag giveaway coming soon!

Also, stop by Mindy McGinnis''s blog de awesome, Writer Writer Pants on Fire tomorrow to read a little ole interview with my own self. Mindy's calling it the SHIT interview series: Submission Hell--It's True! I think she might be onto something here!

Happy Monday!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Pen Names-Should You? Would You? Could You?

At some point in every writer's career, the issue of whether or not to use a pen name arises. (Spoiler Alert: Anna Banks is my pen name! Muhahahahahaha!)

Here are some good reasons to use a pen name:

1.) Privacy. This is not one of the reasons for my own decision to use a pen name. Here in Small Town, Florida, everyone knows you, your business, and whose cows you tipped when you were thirteen years old. So they already know that you slipped on a cow pie and fell flat on your back in it (which you completely deserved, because tipping cows is evil). Yup, if you came to Small Town right now and asked around, you could probably get my address and blood type quicker than an ice cold sweet tea.

2.) Real Estate. Meaning location on the shelf at a bookstore. Books are stocked on the shelves according to author last names. My real last name begins with a Z. No bueno. 

3.) If your last name is absurd. Like, if my last name were Banana...Enough said.

4.) If your last name is common. Like Smith, Johnson, Frufugutzen. You might not want to be lost among the other Smiths, Johnsons, and Frufugutzens. Which is perfectly fine.

5.) If you plan on writing in different genres. For instance, if you intend to write erotic romance as well as eye-twitchingly sweet YA, possibly you'd want to consider a pen name for one (ahem, or both) genres.

What other reasons are there for using a pen name? What are the cons? You tell me.

And don't forget, today is the last day to enter my Swag giveaway for the month of August. Don't miss out on a chance to win Maggie Stiefvater's The Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy, in hardcover. For the official rules, go here.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Crossing Over, Part 3

In case this is your first time stopping by, I've been journaling my experience as a newbie author going through the publishing process for my debut YA novel, The Gift of Poseidon. You've stumbled upon Part 3: Line Edits and Copy Edits. Now, have a seat and no talking...

Line Edits

Are exactly how they sound. The editor goes through your manuscript line by line, checking for voice, style, wording, consistency. Probably more, but this is what I noticed in my own sacrificial, manuscript. The editor circles things and draws lines through them and writes notes in the margins that say, "Cut, ok? Dragging down the dialogue" or "This doesn't sound like something he'd say" or "Ew! Gross! Cut, ok?" (Truly. I blushed for days on this one.)

And yes, I said she wrote in the margin. I'm told that some editors like to use a program similar to theTrack Changes function in Word. You can just accept or decline the changes. My editor chose to print the MS, write all over it, and ship it to me. Which was the coolest thing ever. I used her notes and suggestions to revise the MS and emailed it back to her. As for the MS she shipped to me, scrawled-on and bleeding, I kept it as a keepsake. After all, this is the last time I'll ever go through this for the first time. :)

Copy Edits

Copy edits are the technical stage of editing. Again, the freshly line-edited MS was shipped to me, but this time, I was told NOT to change the MS and email it back. This time, I was to make notes as to what I wanted to keep or decline, and send only the notes back.

Though the copyeditor put me on Front Street a few times about my grammar, most of what came into question was related to my world-building. For instance, whether or not a certain word should be capitalized when it referred to an aspect of the Syrena world I created (Syrena are mermaids). She set up a style guide for my writing, meaning that if my character said, "like" instead of "as if", then that character needed to say this consistently throughout the MS.

Also, the copyeditor questioned whether or not to use italics, hypens, ellipsis. And when I say questioned, I mean she broke out the Merriam Webster and bladowed me with it. But sometimes, I didn't give a crap what the good ole' MW said. Sometimes I made up my own word, like, "fwopping" for instance, and I was going to keep it. Which is okay. Because that's what copyediting is for. :)

Now for the confession. I had a mini-meltdown during copyedits. I know, I DO know, how crazy it sounds to get emotional during the comma, period, semi-colon phase of editing. I mean, offing some punctuation isn't really a tear-jerking kind of activity. What happened was that I began to doubt myself and my ability. Not that I've never done that before (I'm a writer, remember?), but the thing is, when the MS is done with copyedits, it goes STRAIGHT TO ARCs. Book form. To you, the reader. Which means no more changes. Which means this is my last chance to impress you, to hook you, to protect myself from the evil book reviewers you are (well, you know, COULD be). And it scared the hello kitty out of me. There is a permanence about copyediting that makes it emotional. You'll see what I mean when you come to that bridge in your own journey.

But to end on a positive note, did I mention I got to see the copyright page??? Complete with ISBN???

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Season of Swag

A normal season visits us for only a few months, usually just long enough to over-stay its welcome. Toward the end of its stay, it acts like a teenager in puberty going through an identity crisis. Summer begins to question whether or not it should become Fall, and if so, then when, for crying out loud? Winter is never quite ready to turn the reigns over to Spring. And Spring is the most cruel hussy of all, running hot and cold so often you think it might actually be pregnant. It. Gets. Irritating.

But not the season of Swag. No, everybody loves Swag. Swag is consistent, steady, a giving season. Swag doesn't dictate what you wear, or how much moisturizer you knead into your face. It certainly doesn't encourage runny noses or mosquitoes or hurricanes. Nope, Swag is the season to put all other seasons to shame.

And the best part? Swag lasts for an entire year, right up until the release of my YA debut, The Gift of Poseidon. The Gift of Poseidon (TGOP) is set to release in Spring of 2012. Now, we already mentioned what a bipolar season Spring is. And what's worse, we're talking about Spring in NYC, which I've heard trespasses into the Summer months, by Florida standards (Summer starts in March, people!).

So there's no telling when Swag will end. But at least we know when it begins: Ten seconds ago. And to start it off right, I'm giving away the entire The Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy, by Maggie Stiefvater. In hardcover. Ohhhh, yes, they shall be hardcover.

To participate in the Season of Swag (and therefore be eligible to win, you know, swag) you must do this:

1.) Become a follower of my blog.
2.) Follow me on Twitter.
3.) Tweet about the Season of Swag and include my Twitter handle (@ByAnnaBanks) so I can confirm you've been a good little Tweeter and followed the oh-so-easy rules.

In two weeks, I'll enlist pick my winner. In addition, the winner of each monthly giveaway will also qualify for a chance to win the Grand Swag: A mountain of all things TGOP, including a hardcover copy signed by MOI.

And remember, this is just the beginning. For the rest of Swag Season, be on the lookout for more book giveaways, including more series and some signed copies, gift cards, and critiques.

So, no matter if you're in Mexico, Greenland, or NYC, 'tis the season of Swag!


Tuesday, June 7, 2011


My last post was about the ups and downs (but mostly ups) about tricking an agent into thinking you can write and letting her submit this trickery to editors. This post is about what comes next.
So...You're submitted. You're chewing your nails. You're not sleeping. It's been a few weeks. (Okay, mine was two weeks out on submission before we got an offer, but I'm told that's rare. I've heard of novels selling within a day, though. Then again, I've heard of them never selling. For all intents and purposes, we'll say it's now been a few weeks.) But you don't mind, because you're used to waiting, right? WRONG. 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.
Anyway, after a few weeks, you get an email from your agent that says OFFER! CALL ME! You squeal inappropriately in the doctor's office waiting room, then proceed to call her in front of God and everybody. She gives you the details of the offer, which are specific, and some of which you wouldn't have even thought to negotiate. This is where you realize just how badly you really do need an agent. You get this feeling of awe that two professionals in the pub industry were discussing your work this morning without your knowledge. You're amazed that Fantabulous Agent was busying negotiating and hard-balling on your behalf while you were eating oatmeal for breakfast and escorting your elderly mother to the doctor. Sigh.
Fantabulous Agent then tells you all the reasons she thinks you should/should not accept the offer. In my case, the editor wanted to pre-empt my book, which means that she wanted to know what it would take to get it off the table at other houses. Sometimes an offer can lead to an auction if you notify other editors, but in this case we decided to go with the pre-empt. (Note: There are many reasons for doing this. Weighing in on the pros and cons of each scenario sounds like a great blogpost in and of itself, so be on standby!).
Soon after, you get a phone call from your editor(s). They tell you how excited they are to work on your book (and with you) and they tell you everything they love about it. THEN comes the editorial letter. The editorial letter is a honey-do list of things that do not work for them. Mine was four pages long. Single-spaced. (Note: I've heard of them being as short as one page, or longer than ten, so this is...wait for it...subjective). You're wondering why they bothered to buy it in the first place. You feel the only thing they didn't change was the names of the characters (note: sometimes they DO change the names of the characters, so get ready). When you email Fantabulous Agent the editorial letter, she'll probably tell you to read it through a couple times, then sleep on it a couple times. Then rinse and repeat. This advice is priceless.
After a week of stewing and percolating, I realized that the changes were GENIUS. They didn't tell me how to fix things, they just told me what wasn't working. Which means I had the freedom to be creative, to come up with my own brilliant solutions. This challenged me as a writer and lemme tell you, it made my book ten times better. Also, there were items on the list that they wanted to change, but I wanted to keep (not many, mind you). After I explained my stance on the issues, they agreed to let those items stay. This is where you will appreciate the gift of compromise. It means you trust your editors' professional opinion and respect their stake in your work. And it means they trust your ability as a writer. Whew! 'Cause for a minute there...
So, you turn in your renovated manuscript and wait for their feedback. What comes next is for a different post. Happy Monday!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Crossing Over

When I asked yous guys what you wanted me to blog about the most, many of you said you want to know what happens after you get an agent. So that's what today's post will entail, in order of events:
You accept an offer of rep from an agent. You're on cloud ninety-nine. All your hard work has paid off. Now you can just sit back and...Yeah, not so much. While your agent was/is ecstatic about your project, it doesn't mean it's ready to send off to ye editors. Ideally, you will have discussed this sort of thing *before* you accept the offer of rep, but if not, then NOW is when you talk about the possible revisions and tweaking your MS might need. Depending on the extent of the remodel, it will take a few weeks to a month or more to sculpt it into submittable shape. *Note: Lucy requested minor changes, which I made within a week. Each situation/time frame will be different. You will get tired of hearing me say this.
Now that your baby has been through MS boot camp, it's ready to go to war, vying in the big arena for the attention of editors. You are excited about this. You can't sleep at night. You accidentally put the milk in the cabinet and the cereal in the fridge, and you don't remember driving to work but you must have because you're pulling into the parking spot that you'll soon come to loathe. Your relationship with your agent feels like that of a newlywed, all googly-eyed and rose-colored bifocals and such. It will be difficult to remember that she is your business partner instead of your bestest friend in the whole entire snuggly world. Seriously. But you won't have time for this mushy-gushy-cuddle-muffin stuff because...
Probably you'll be having another phone conversation with your dream agent about where she'll be submitting, and the strategy she'll be using. You'll want to know how long it will take to hear back from these editors. She won't be able to tell you. This won't be because she's not fantabulous--because trust me, she's fantabulous. It's just that this business is...wait for it...subjective. Some editors will read it right away. Some won't get to it for a month, maybe more. Like agents, editors don't have time to sit around all day and read submissions. Much of their reading, like agents, is done on the weekend.
You'll ask Fantabulous Agent what you should be doing while these editors are reviewing your work. Fantabulous Agent will say...wait for it...keep writing. So, aside from the floaty, euphoric feeling of having a professional cheerleader on your side talking up you and your project, the whole process of submitting to editors is much like the query process we go through to snag Incredible Agent. You still watch your email obsessively. You still feel like maybe you're not good enough. You still bite your nails and curse yourself for ruining a perfectly good French mani.
And you still have to wait. So, to harden you up for this process, I'm making you wait for the next blogpost to find out what happens when you get "the other call". ("The call" is, and always will be, reserved for agents.)
Happy Monday!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Are You Ready to Tell People About Your Book?

Many of you already know that agents ask for different things in a query letter. Some simply ask for the query letter, some ask for the query and the first five pages, while others ask for the query, a synopsis, and the first three chapters. But what they ALL ask for is a well-written blurb that describes your book. Nathan Bransford, a former literary agent, discusses one-sentence, one-paragraph, and two-paragraph pitches here.
As difficult as writing a good query letter is, I'm finding that telling people about my book is harder than writing about it. To the point where, when someone asks what my book is about, I say, "It's about mermaids." They usually return this indulgent looks that tells me I should have at least added an expletive or two to make it more interesting, since I didn't take the time to manipulate my plot into an informal blurb. But writers, you NEED this. You need to be able to tell people about it, to make a memorable impression for reasons other than awkwardness.
Complete strangers who hear you talking to your daughter about your book. Bookstore managers with whom you're trying to arrange an in-store signing. Friends and frenemies, acquaintances, relatives and twice-removed cousins. You need to be able to pique their interest verbally, and sound freaking cool while doing it. You can fling a bagillion marketing dollars at your book, but word of mouth will always be more effective in selling it than the prettiest internet ad.
It will take practive. It might take some wine. But get ready. You should be the best person to ask about your book. "It's about mermaids" = writer fail. So, by the end of the week, I hereby promise to have an interesting informal-sounding pitch, AND I promise to use it on at least 10 new people.
What about you? Are you ready to tell people about your book?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

You Tell Me

Okay friends, I need your input. I'm about to go to line editing with OF POSEIDON in a couple of weeks, but I don't want to be so erratic with my blog posts. My goal is to have a batch of ready-made posts for your reading pleasure during this time, some cut and paste goodies I can write in advance. When I sat down to make a list of topics, I felt a little silly, with three things on the list and all. So I thought I'd ask you. What questions do you have about the publishing process? Is there anything that concerns you right now? What do you need help with the most?

You tell me. Ask and you shall receive...

P.S. Tomorrow, stop by for my author interview. Anita Howard is my gracious hostess, and she is one of US--a slush pile find with an awesome novel on submission to editors AS WE SPEAK! :) And while you're over there, check out her book trailer!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

I'm Baaaaaack!

Sorry for the long silence--I had to ask for a tiny extension on my revisions due to a surprise root canal. I love surprises. Just not when they're root canals... Soooo. About the revisions (which are offically completed and turned in). I know I mentioned before about the 4 page editorial letter. I thought it was mostly minor issues, tweaking, re-touching. But when I went back through the MS with fresh eyes, I realized it was major revisions, and some of those not even in the editorial letter. In a way, I performed a root canal on my MS. It was still mostly my original, but I gutted it and re-made it, only better and stronger than the original. I cut 18k words and wrote 17k words to replace those. I cut scenes I loved, but they did nothing to move the plot forward. Then I replaced them with scenes I loved more, scenes that worked like a donkey for the plot. And I'm really, really excited about it. I wanted to share something I found very helpful in this process. I created an excel spreadsheet to document my revisions. The left colum indicated the chapter number. The middle column told a short synopsis of the content of each chapter. The right one indicated what needed to be changed in that chapter, if anything. As I went through and revised, I replaced what needed to be changed with a description of what actually changed, and I notated the page numbers for reference. This will help you when you turn in your revised MS--outlining all the changes for your editor saves him/her a big chunk of time for the re-read. What about you? What editing advice do you have? I'd love to know!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Progress Check

Sorry for the long silence. Though I intend to keep this post short and sweet (and you'll see why in a minute), I want to thank everyone for cheering for me and for all the congratulations. In keeping true to my word in blogging about the process, here is what I've learned about the publishing industry so far: It isn't always slow.

I've already received my first editorial letter (four pages, single spaced!) and I've already had my first pow wow with the editors about it. My silence is because I'm working to get the revisions done by April 1st. This will likely be my last post until then.

For those of you new to writing, you need to be prepping that rhino skin right now, so that it's fully developed when you hit this stage. So that when you receive a four page, single spaced letter telling you everything that DOESN'T work about your book, you'll be able to look it objectively. I'm not saying I didn't fall out of my chair, and partly because of a certain comment made about a certain scene which still has me blushing, but I'm just saying that you need to have skin thick enough to open the document without crying or being rushed to the ER. That's all. You need to collect some critique partners so that your wounds are calloused over by the time you hit this stage in the game. (BTW, it's a lot to take in at first, but really truly all of the editorial input I received was so on-point that I could hardly argue how much better it would make the book. By the end of the phone conference, I felt this overwhelming sense of appreciation for landing in such good hands with Feiwel and Friends, not to mention Lucy!)

Okay so, since my last post, this has happened:

1.) Mom back in the hospital.
2.) Editorial letter.
3.) Meeting with editors about said editorial letter.
4.) Computer crashed.
5.) Got the stinking flu.
6.) Got a new computer.
7.) Mom out of the hospital.
8.) Revisions, revisions, revisions.
9.) Beginning this week, I will be tranporting my sister to cardiac rehab 3xweek, for at least the next month.
10.) Editor needed author bio and author pic RIGHT AWAY for promotional packages to sell international rights at Bologna Children's Book Fair THIS MONTH!

Also, did I mention I work full time? And so, that is why I haven't been blogging. Please forgive me! But please don't blog flog me for not posting until after April 1st!

Thanks again for all the support, and I hope my erradic posts are still encouraging.

Monday, February 21, 2011


I know I've been saying I'd post the whole story here, and I'm sorry for the delay! I love reading success stories of other writers, so hopefully you'll enjoy mine. And hopefully it will motivate you to keep going:

I wrote my YA Fantasy OF POSEIDON (title subject to change, as many of you know) in a pretty short time frame, considering I work full time and have a young daughter, and help to care for my elderly mother. Anyway, with the first book I wrote, (OF POSEIDON is my second attempt at writing) I completely screwed up my query letter and closed the doors to a lot of agencies I thought would like it. How did I screw it up? Well, for starters, it was over 1,000 words long!

So the first novel was a learning experience. But I wrote OF POSEIDON with a purpose, armed with much more knowledge of the industry. They say you should always test your query letter on agents on your "B" and "C" list before sending to agents on your "A" list--the ones you really, really want. So, before the manuscript was actually finished, I shot off a first draft test query the beginning of January. Within two days, she asked for the full. The word 'Panic' was invented for this situation. Also, the word 'Idiotic' comes to mind. Anyway, I scrambled to get that draft out to her within a reasonable time frame. She passed, of course, because it was a first draft MS.

Then, I figured maybe her response time was just a fluke, so I sent out a few more queries while I edited. And received a few more bites. I decided my query letter was ready to go, so I began to query everyone on my list. And continued to edit.

I found an agent who I thought would really love it, and queried her with the first chapter. Within 45 minutes, she emailed me back with: "If only you could see my smile. Please send the rest and I look forward to reading it!" So, I squealed appropriately and then did as I was told. Within a week, she emailed that she would like to offer representation if I'd be willing to make a few revisions. Since I was about to leave for an all-girls cruise with my sisters, we agreed to get together when I got back.

Then, Lucy Carson of the Friedrich Agency emailed and asked for the full. She also wanted to know if other agencies were looking at it, which I did tell her I had several fulls and partials out. I also let her know I'd be out of touch for a few days because of the cruise. She promised to read quickly so I would know where I stood with her before I left. I emailed her the full, and within a few hours, she emailed me back and said she peeked at my first page and could tell I had a voice that was confident, so she'd try to get through as much as she could before I left.

The morning we were supposed to board the ship, I'm eating breakfast in the hotel with the rest of my crazy sisters and I get a call on my cell with a NYC area code. When I answer, it's Lucy! She tells me she only read about 75 pages so far, but that she absolutely loves it and doesn't want me to sign with anyone else before I talk to her. I clam up. Maybe it's just me, but what would you do in that situation? We all dream about the "call", and even though I already had a contingent offer of rep, this agent called to catch me before I left after reading only 75 pages! Lucy can sense that I'm a little overwhelmed, so she tells me to call her once I board so we can have a more in depth conversation.

I board the ship in a daze. I'm glad my sisters were keeping up with my 9 year old daughter for me, because I wasn't acting like Mother of the Year just then. I couldn't enjoy the Jamaican music or the fruity drinks laced with liquor they started passing out immediately. My mother was in emergency surgery at the moment back home, and we were all waiting for an update on it. And now, I've got two offers of rep on the table for a work I'd only begun querying a couple weeks before.

When I call Lucy from my cabin, I try to be more outgoing, and fail obnoxiously at it. Lucy is a good sport and explains all the pertinent information. Then she starts pitching to me about what a great agency the Friedrich agency is, and how I'd be very well-cared for if I'd join their ranks. I tell her that I've been working with another agent who'd like to see some revisions, and express my concerns that she has only read 75 pages, and what if she wanted even more revisions? She said she didn't care, and that she never offers representation based on a partial, but that I should consider this an official offer and I should notify other agents immediately to let them know. Then I clam up again, because does this ever really happen??? We end the conversation agreeing to touch base when I get back.

Then our ship leaves New Orleans, heading for Cozumel, and what I really want to do is jump ship and swim back to nurture my budding new writing career. On board, I end up buying one of their expensive internet packages so we can touch base with my hubby. When I check my email, I almost fall out of my chair--Molly Friedrich, the founder and president of the agency, has personally emailed me! She says that she personally read the manuscript as well, and that if she needs to throw Lucy on a plane to come down here and convince me to sign with them, she will absolutely do it. She said my manuscript would enjoy the full backing of the agency, and she also outlined their success in launching debut authors. So now, this cruise has become my own personal hell, a prison keeping me from starting my dream immediately.

On the last day of the cruise, my sister suffers a heart attack. When we port, she's taken straight to the ER, where they perform tests and inform her that she will need open heart surgery. She ends up getting a room on the same floor of the hospital as my mother, who is still recovering from her own surgery. So now, I'm juggling family emergencies with family life, and returning to my job the day after we port. Meanwhile, I'm emailing other agents that I've received an offer (which makes me feel guilty because I already know in my heart that it's Lucy, period), and within twenty minutes of sending them, I get an influx of requests for fulls.

I end up getting two more offers of rep--one contingent on major revisions, such as changing the whole thing to first person POV, and the other with minor revisions and both from very good agencies. I accept Lucy's offer, amid all this, plus my sister developing pneumonia and my mom falling twice in the hospital, breaking her foot, and losing a tooth. Then my niece, who had flown down here from Arkansas to help care for my sister during her recovery, ends up in ICU herself with diabetic ketoacidosis. I visited each family member in shifts; one in the morning, one on my lunch hour and one in the evening.

After reading the rest of my MS, Lucy did have some minor revisions as well, but they were easy fixes and I submitted them quickly. Within days, she submitted it to editors and within days of that, we received an outstanding offer, which we promptly accepted.

Now that my sister is out of the hospital, my niece is out of ICU, and my mom is recovering in rehab, I can breath and actually be excited about all of this. I know this blog entry sounds like a whirlwind, but I told it like it happened. Now that life has calmed down, I'm excited to begin the next steps of my writing career.

And I intend to share those steps with all of you who kept me motivated and supported me and will some day be in this position, although I hope not in as chaotic circumstances! So, stay the course, DON'T EVER GIVE UP. NEVER ever never ever.

Rejections do suck. The day after Lucy sold my manuscript, I received a rejection from an agent on said MS. When agents tell you that this business is subjective, believe them. Keep submitting. It will happen. It really, really will.

Friday, February 18, 2011


Well, I know I promised to give you details about how I came to land awesome agent Lucy Carson (it really truly is an interesting story), but now I have a little more news. She has negotiated an outstanding two-book deal for my young adult novel with Feiwel and Friends, an imprint of Macmillan specializing in children's fiction (in case you didn't realize, and my story about how we came to be a team will further convince you, Lucy is a bit ambitious).

I'm extremely excited to work with editor Jean Feiwel (anyone ever heard of the Goosebumps series and The Babysitters Club? Yeah, that's her, and now she has her very own imprint!) As this process unfolds, I promise to update regularly, but as you can see, things have been happening a teensy bit fast, and I've hardly had time to catch my breath. But do check out the Feiwel and Friends website; you'll see why I'm so excited to join the ranks there!

Friday, February 4, 2011


I've signed with Lucy Carson of the Friedrich Agency for my YA Fantasy! More details later, but I just couldn't contain myself any longer! I am super excited to work with her!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


And you know exactly what I mean by that. One second you're putting on your sunglasses and backing out of the driveway. The next, you're pulling into work without any recollection how you got there--or if you even drove. Your daughter is no longer in the back seat. You wonder if you dropped her off at school, or if she was ever in the backseat to begin with. The only thing you know for sure is that you figured out that snag in your plot. The one you've been losing sleep over. In that moment, your delight overwhelms any embarrassment or shame you should feel about minding speed limits, stopping at red lights, or transporting your daughter to a safe place.

You turn off the car, grab the keys, and walk in the building as if you're a normal person. You wish, sucka! You're not normal. You're a writer. Welcome.