Monday, October 16, 2017

Query Critique

Query critique time!  For everyone who enters (and those who don't) spread the word so that even if you don't submit a query, you encourage others to read and comment.  Thanks :)



If you're not familiar with how to enter, take a look at my previous post to read the rules.  Good luck!  

Monday, October 9, 2017

Later Days

Hi all!  I'm taking this week off blogging so...


Monday, October 2, 2017

Happy Pub Day!

Tomorrow is the pub day for USA Today bestseller Lauren Smith's GRIGORI, the first in a new paranormal romance series (Brothers of Ash and Fire) about an ancient family of dragon shifters who find love as they fiercely defend their lands and fortune.  It is a super fun series and one that I am very excited about and I hope you all pre-order your copies as soon as you read her interview below!



For everyone who doesn’t know, tell us a little bit about yourself and what led you to start writing.
When I was ten years old I watched the movie Titanic with Leo DiCaprio and was stunned and horrified to watch him die. I came home and sat down and immediately began to write the entire movie as a book, hoping to change the ending. I didn’t know then that I was destined to be a romance writer, but from that first moment I put pen to page as a child, I couldn’t stop writing. I had plenty of ideas for my own characters and stories and it just felt like destiny. Now twenty-one years later I’m an attorney and a full-time writer. I live in idyllic Oklahoma and spend a lot of time traveling around the world when I can for inspiration for my next story!

You’ve written all types of romance, from Regency to contemporary to historical.  What is your favorite sub-genre and why do you write so broadly?
For me it’s always been the story, no matter what time period, no matter if there’s vampires, dukes, cowboys, or brooding billionaires. I follow a less traditional path as a writer by choosing to follow my stories rather than to simply churn out the same type of book over and over. I’m a story teller at heart, which means I often get very different ideas for books from day to day. I think historical regencies are probably my natural voice for writing, but I secretly love writing gothic romances or vampire romances the most (which is kind of funny because I haven’t written too many of those yet). I think each author has their own path to follow and the key is to listen to your inner storyteller. What do they want to share with the world? If it’s different every time, maybe that’s a good thing!

What are you really excited about for GRIGORI?  How did you come up with the idea for this book?
Ahh, Grigori, I really adore him. So if you didn’t know, Grigori is a Russian Dragonshifter from a long line of Imperial Russian dragons. By day he’s the CEO of a powerful industrial company in Moscow but he’s not human. I have been dying to write about dragons for at least four years. I was writing another story when I put a single line in there about how these supernatural hunters were using a spell that required the scales of a dragon and they joked about how dragons were obsessed with jewels and virgins and a bit territorial. An editor read that story and asked me if I could write an entire series around it and of course squealed with joy and said yes! Hence Grigori, the dragonshifter was born. What I’m most excited about is to see how readers like a mythology twist in their paranormal romances. I tied in a lot of Russian history and dragon mythology into this series to give it a layer of depth and yet it’s still sexy as heck too!




This is such a unique world.  Tell us about how you worked on world building and came up with the characters.  Did you draw inspiration from anything?
I drew a lot of Inspiration from Naomi Novik’s historical dragon series and I really tried to give it a real feel. It’s not a gritty dark paranormal like most paranormals out there. This book is dark in a different way. It focuses more on the human side to the shifters, what makes the men…well, men. And I use the heroines as a character foil to show how two people can heal the wounds of the past by loving and trusting each other even when they’re afraid of what that love might cost. I want readers to enjoy the world of Grigori and his future mate Madelyn, and immerse themselves in the gilded, snowy world of Russia and to become obsessed with the opulence of the story like a dragon would a pile of gleaming jewels in the farthest reaches of a cave.

What should we be on the lookout for re: fun marketing and publicity for this book/series?
I’ll be posting a ton of SEXY teasers on my Instragram and Facebook pages where you can find and follow me at : http://www.facebook.com/LaurenDianaSmith or on Instagram as @Laurensmithbooks plus I’m always running fun contests for free books or gift cards! I’m also hoping to launch a book trailer soon to show off the sexy series!

Anything you want to say to paranormal romance writers or to romance writers in general?
I know a lot of workshops focus on world building and while world building is crucial to having a stable reading environment for the reader to make sense of the characters and the story, never forget that it’s the characters and their chemistry that sell the book. Focus first and foremost on the character arcs and the passion being strong, and then you can layer in the world building elements.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Query Critique Winner

Hi, everyone!  Here is this month's query critique winner:


Dear Carrie,

“The Boundaries Between” is a YA fantasy novel. At 96,000 words, it is LGBT inclusive, diverse, and the first in a series.

Selia spent her childhood testing the sprites' patience by wandering through their woods. When she becomes 16 years old, she must confront the rare magic within herself that could be fatal. The boundaries between her body and the world around her slip away as she grows. She can pull energy into herself from the earth, or feel her own being drained away in a passionate kiss. She must master her abilities before she kills herself or someone else.

In this land, where the prevailing magic uses music to do everything from lighting candles to destroying castles, there is no shortage of those who would come to Selia’s aid. Still, she doesn’t know if they are offering her help or grooming her for their own purposes.

Everyone around Selia has their own secrets: the headmistress who kidnaps Selia for her own good, the sparring instructor with the wry grin, the sprites who are following her and the grief-stricken king whose people are suffering from neglect. In a world of unreliable loyalties and unknown motivations, Selia must  discover who she can trust and how to reclaim for herself the power that others would exploit. Ultimately, Selia must choose between leaving this all behind, taking a throne for herself, or fighting to help people she has never met.

I’ve been an avid hiker since I could walk and feel the most at home when I’m in a forest, especially among the redwoods or on top of a mountain. In high school, I discovered singing, culminating in receiving a Music Minor in college, which included studying at a conservatory in Italy for a semester. My BA is in English and World Literature, I worked as a Senior Editor on an activist website, and am currently a freelance writer and editor. I’ve been profoundly influenced by the writing of Ursula K. Le Guin and Patricia McKillip.

My novel has a similar lyrical quality to Novik’s “Uprooted” and shares the rebellious character qualities of Dennard’s “Truthwitch.” I look forward to your thoughts.


Sincerely,
Laura Burge

And here is my critique:

Dear Carrie,

“The Boundaries Between” is a YA fantasy novel. At 96,000 words, it is LGBT inclusive, diverse, and the first in a series. 

Selia spent her childhood testing the sprites' patience by wandering through their woods. [This is starting in the wrong place.  If you're going to talk about sprites at the start of your query, they should be integral figures.  However, we barely hear about them again and it seems like Selia's main conflict has nothing to do with them.] When Selia she [Before delving in to the plot, tell us a bit about who Selia is and why we want to read about her.] turns becomes 16 years old, she must confront the rare magic within herself...a magic that could be fatal. [Why does she need to do this?  Why does she have magic?] The boundaries between her body and the world around her slip away as time passes she grows. She can pull pulls energy from the earth into herself without meaning to from the earthand can or feel her own life force drain being drained away in a passionate kiss. She must master her abilities before she kills herself or someone else. [This sentence feels too generic.  What specifically drives her to get this under control?]

In this land, where the prevailing people use magic uses music to do everything from lighting candles to destroying castles, there is no shortage of those who would come to Selia’s aid. Still, she doesn’t know if they are offering her help or grooming her for their own purposes. However, there is no way of knowing if their involvement would truly help or lead to Selia's deadly powers being used for their own ends.

Everyone around Selia has their own secrets: the headmistress who kidnaps Selia for her own good, the sparring instructor with the wry grin, the sprites who are following her and the grief-stricken king whose people are suffering from neglect. In a world of unreliable loyalties and unknown motivations, Selia must discover who she can trust and how to harness and reclaim her for herself the power for herself, without being exploited that others would exploit.  The paths to get to this point, though, each have their own dangers: should she run away, take the king's throne, or fight to help people she has never met? Ultimately, Selia must choose between leaving this all behind, taking a throne for herself, or fighting to help people she has never met.

I’ve been an avid hiker since I could walk and feel the most at home when I’m in a forest, especially among the redwoods or on top of a mountain. In high school, I discovered singing, culminating in receiving a Music Minor in college, which included studying at a conservatory in Italy for a semester. My BA is in English and World Literature, I worked as a Senior Editor on an activist website, and am currently a freelance writer and editor. I’ve been profoundly influenced by the writing of Ursula K. Le Guin and Patricia McKillip. [Because this doesn't include relevant information re: your platform, I would suggest cutting.]

“The Boundaries Between” is a YA fantasy novel. At 96,000 words, it is LGBT inclusive, diverse, and the first in a series.  My novel has a similar lyrical quality to Novik’s “Uprooted” and shares the rebellious character qualities of Dennard’s “Truthwitch.” I look forward to your thoughts.

Sincerely,
Laura Burge

This is an interesting query, but the writing feels choppy, with large chunks of information and description missing that is really needed to draw the reader in.  As it progresses, it becomes more compelling, but anything involving fantasy always needs descriptive much world-building!  Laura, I hope this critique was helpful to you and wish you the best of luck with this.  Everyone else, chime in with thoughts below!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Mine Eyes Have Seen...


I was hitting a bit of writer's block about what to post this week, but then I realized that Twitter is the world's best polling forum and asked what you would be interested in hearing about and the answer is...industry trends!



I always get a bit nervous when talking about trends, because what I see may not be what the rest of publishing sees, so hopefully no bigwig comments that's I'm out of my mind, but this is what I've been noticing in the genres I rep via my own inbox, submissions, and sales (I'm leaving PBs out of this list, because I only rep a very specific subset):

MG
  • Trend: This has technically been a trend for awhile, but I'm really seeing a lot of diverse stories in MG, which is awesome.  One big example of that is a really good book called GINNY MOON, which I heartily suggest everyone read.
  • Inbox: In my own submission inbox, I've noticed that a good chunk of my MG queries involve stories with POC, LGTBQ MCs, or MCs who are disabled or on the spectrum, as well as really fun, unusual premises.  I really love getting stories like this, so keep them coming!
  • No More!: I'm personally getting a little tired of seeing MG stories where children find a magical object and are whisked into another world.  Looking for world-building that is a bit more complex, even though I'm a big fan of THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE!
YA
  • Trend: In YA, I'm seeing more of a move towards big, sweeping epics and very high-concept plots involving a love interests a la Cora Carmack's ROAR.
  • Inbox: As I discussed with one of my interns recently, I don't get that many YA submissions in my inbox for whatever reason, and I'd looove to see more!  I love YA, so if you have something, feel free to send it to me.  In general, I love high-concept YA (so I am also on trend!) and am looking for awesome fantasy, contemporary, and diverse stories.
  • No More!: In the same breath, getting YA fantasy is an incredibly tough thing to do.  You need something original with detailed, fresh world-building.  I've seen enough YA fantasy trying to ride the coattails of something else that recently published and became a bestseller, but I'm more interested in the next thing!

COMMERCIAL FICTION
  • Trend: I would have to say that I've seen more introspective novels in on the commercial fiction shelves, lately as well as super dark thrillers like Riley Sager's ammmazing FINAL GIRLS.
  • Inbox: Because I like chick lit, I see quite a few of those kind of commercial fiction submissions in my inbox.
  • No More!: I don't really have a no more for commercial fiction that I can think of.  I really enjoy the genre and would love to rep a wide range!

HISTORICAL FICTION
  • Trend: Most historical fiction that I see involves a famous figure, often seen through the lens of an Everyman character that the reader can connect to (think MRS LINCOLN'S DRESSMAKERCARNEGIE'S MAIDTHE SECOND EMPRESS, or my own author's project THE WARDROBE MISTRESS!).
  • Inbox: In my inbox, I see a lot of historical fiction that is generational family sagas or set during "unpopular" time periods.  Although I myself love reading about eras and times outside of the evergreen Tudor period, it is VERY difficult to sell historical fiction that stray outside of those kinds of boundaries, e.g. is set during a popular period in time, or is a recent historical (1880s on), or involves a famous historical figure
  • No More!: I am personally not a fan of family sagas or of historical fiction set in the 1960s and '70s.  I actually get a lot of submissions for that time period, but I'm not the right agent for it!

WOMEN'S FICTION
  • Trend: I've seen much more literary women's fiction selling recently, which I find very interesting.  My tastes are more opposite--I prefer more commercial women's fiction books--although I am on the lookout for more upmarket writers with mss with commercial themes written in a more literary way.
  • Inbox: Most of the women's fiction that gets sent to me involves women going through periods of transitions (e.g. divorce, etc.) and reinventing themselves.  Although I am totally down for mss that center around that theme, I want fresher stories.  The perfect example is one of my client's manuscripts, which is about a transgender woman reconnecting with her ex-wife and children after her ex reaches out explaining she has early onset Alzheimer's. 
  • No More: In previous years, women's fiction pretty much meant stories of women leaving their lives behind to travel and discover themselves (EAT, PRAY, LOVEPANCAKES IN PARIS, etc.).  I still see a lot of submissions like these, but I'm currently feeling sick of them unless they are VERY unique!

ROMANCE
  • Trend: This, I think, is just a me thing, but I've noticed an uptick in editors looking for paranormal romance and authors submitting it!
  • Inbox: I get a pretty wide range of romance submissions, from contemporary to historical, from sweet to erotic.  I'm pretty open to all genres in romance, so that is great!
  • No More!: I have a weird taste in romance.  I don't particularly stick to one genre and enjoy them all--my big emphasis is on story, characters, and chemistry.  If I love those elements, I'm happy to see read anything, be it erotic paranormal, billionaire, or Western.

NONFICTION
  • Trend: I can't think of trends in nonfiction, to be honest, but the nonfiction that catches my eye always is about chunks of time/events rather than someone's entire life story or a whole period in history.
  • Inbox: I've been getting quite a few travel memoirs, parenting books, and inspirational stories in my queries as of late, and none of them have really wowed me.  In general, I'm best with quirky memoirs, interesting, I-never-knew-that biographies, or compelling, issue-driven narrative nonfiction.
  • No More!: I'm not the best agent for memoirs about recovering from illness or surviving disease.  I see a lot of queries about those kind of books and I always feel bad saying no to them, but they're not for me.  Although I am glad for the person who was able to overcome those kinds of obstacles and think it's great they want to inspire others, those stories feel predictable in terms of meta-plot.
I hope that's helpful to everyone!  What kind of manuscripts have you been submitting to agents and have you been noticing more success with one over another?  What trends do you think your stories follow and what are your comp titles?  Are those comps within the last year or are they older?

Monday, September 11, 2017

Workhorse Is Going to the Fair

Whoo!  Has this summer been crazy!  I think it was was the busiest one yet.  Last week, I was on Publishers Marketplace, and noticed I had the following rankings:



That is obviously super cool, but also is DEFINITELY not indicative of my actual agent ranking, since I know there are many other stronger agents with more impressive reputations and sales than me at the moment (someday I might get there!).  What I think this does show is that recently, I have been a total workhorse and it's paying off with lots of deals--yay!  Oh, and that I have absolutely incredible interns, whose help is invaluable.

That's me!

Now that it's fall, I'm hoping the workhorse trend will continue, because I always love new deals, but also that I'll get to relax a bit and enjoy my favorite season.  For the past five summers, I've been telling myself that I'll go to the beach and it hasn't happened, but I am vowing not to let the same fate befall the fall!  I'm going to get back to New England to enjoy fair season no matter what!


Monday, September 4, 2017

Query Critique

Happy Labor Day and query critique time!  For everyone who enters (and those who don't) spread the word so that even if you don't submit a query, you encourage others to read and comment.  Thanks :)



If you're not familiar with how to enter, take a look at my previous post to read the rules.  Good luck!