Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Fates Have Spoken!

It looks like fate has intervened in terms of vacation time!  If I had taken a minute to look at my calendar, I would have realized that Memorial Day and BEA are crammed in the same week, meaning that I am taking this week off anyway to memorialize those who died while serving in the armed forces with barbecue AND to get all the free books I can carry!

In other news, before I go on this semi-vacation, I signed a new client: Anne O'Brien Carelli, whose awesome MG novel, SKYLARK AND WALLCREEPER, tells the alternating stories of a young girl evacuating her grandmother during Hurricane Sandy and her grandmother's youth in France working for the Resistance. Very cool!


Also, I can check off Deal #4 for this year!  BethEllyn's YA novel AT FIRST BLUSH is going to find its home with Meredith Rich at Bloomsbury Spark, and I am beyond thrilled for her.  I think Bloomsbury Spark is going to be the perfect publisher for this book, which I am crazy about, and thus am very happy that it is going to be getting out there for others to fall in love with as well.  


All in all, a pretty great week.  I got a new client and a new deal, and realized that I can actually afford to take a scheduled break.  I'm posting a day early because tomorrow I'm going out to dinner with Beth to celebrate and then letting the relaxing begin!!  That is, until Thursday, when my book Christmas (aka BEA) will be happening, and then I will go absolutely crazy!!  :P

Monday, May 18, 2015

Vacation Dilemma

I frequently talk about how busy I am, but this is the first time in a long time that I feel like I may be working a bit too hard.  I've been doing my best to read things quickly, have found several fantastic new authors (yay!), been sending out submissions like a mad man, and also have been crazy trying to help Emily plan for RWA and to get myself ready for BEA.  

To top that all off, my dad has been in and out of hospitals lately.  He is fine, but drained, as am I (and my mom!).  

I am generally a pretty energetic person, but this past week I've been a little tapped out, which is why I think I maybe need to cool down.  My response the past few days when people ask me how I am has consistently been "stressed" or "tired," and I've been thinking about what I want to do to fix that.  The thought that kept popping in my head is maybe I should take a week off.

That would put a real wrench in the gears of my agenting machine, though, and I don't know if that's something I want to risk.  I made a little spreadsheet the other day, and not counting the IP projects my authors sampled for, I have six different projects with extreme editorial interest/possible offers sitting on fences right now.  I don't think I've ever had this many projects with interest at once, which is awesome!!

I was planning on taking vacation in August, which is when John's mom has rented a cottage on the shore, but maybe I should just take my vacation now and spend it at home with the 'rents.  Orrrr...be totally crazy and take two week-long vacations???

If I'm honest with myself, though, I know that this is all a wasted inner debate, because, at most, I will possibly give myself a week off from reading and sending out new projects, but nothing else.  There is just too much to do!

Red Bull it is, then...

Monday, May 11, 2015

Query Critique Winner

This month's query critique winner is Melissa Alexander, who participated in the Backspace conference that I was a part of a couple weeks ago!  Here is her original query:

Dear Carrie,
I participated in the Upmarket Fiction week at the Backspace Online Writers Conference. You gave me terrific feedback on my first two pages, so I wanted to take a chance in your query contest. In Doubting River, a 100,000 word mainstream novel, an estranged uncle and his suddenly-fatherless nephew find a common purpose in turning an injured retriever into a field trial champion.
Charm Freeman ran away from home when he was sixteen. Now, eighteen years later, he returns to his old life after his brother-in-law’s unexpected death. Initially planning to fulfill his brotherly obligation and then disappear for another twenty years, Charm reluctantly agrees to stay and help with his sister's crippled son, Lucas. Drawn into the family against his better judgment, he finds himself at odds with his sister over how to best help the ten year old deal with the death of his father.Before the accident, Lucas and his father were training River, a neighbor's retriever, for a field trial. The boy desperately wants to fulfill his father's dream, but his mother believes anything to do with the dog is a setup for heartache. The past belongs in the past; the way forward is forward. Against his sister's wishes, Charm and Lucas join together to turn the injured retriever into a champion, a journey that forces the family to face the issues that tore them apart in hopes of finding salvation in the past they tried to forget.
An excerpt of Doubting River won the mainstream category of the 2010 Sandy literary contest. I am a former dog trainer and the author of Click for Joy, the winner of the 2003 "Best Training/Behavior Book" award presented by the Dog Writers of America. I am also the owner of the 6500-member ClickerSolutions (dog training) mailing list, and I have published numerous articles in the magazine "Teaching Dogs."
My contact information is below. I look forward to hearing from you!

Sincerely,Melissa Alexander

And here is my critique:


Dear Carrie,

I participated in the Upmarket Fiction week at the Backspace Online Writers Conference. You gave me terrific feedback on my first two pages, so I wanted to take a chance in your query contest. [This is a great example of effective personalization in a query letter!  This is something we talked about at Backspace, and I think that as long as you have a relevant, real reason to add in a personal salutation, it can make your query stand out.  If you manufacture one by Googling random facts about an agent, it reads disingenuously.]  In DOUBTING RIVER Doubting River, a 100,000 word mainstream novel [“Mainstream novel” doesn’t really tell me much about how this should be categorized.  I would say “feel-good, commercial fiction” or something else instead.], an estranged uncle and his suddenly-fatherless nephew find a common purpose in turning an injured dog retriever into a field trial champion.

Charm Freeman ran away from home when he was sixteen. Now, eighteen years later, he returns to his old life home after his brother-in-law’s unexpected death. Initially planning to fulfill his brotherly obligation and then disappear for another twenty years, Charm reluctantly agrees to stay and help with his sister's crippled son, Lucas. Drawn into the family against his better judgment [I’m curious.  Why against his better judgment?  You mention something later  on in the query about their family being torn apart…hint at why here!] he finds himself at odds with his sister over how to best help the ten-year-old deal with the death of his father.

Before the accident, Lucas and his father were training River, a neighbor's Golden Rretriever, for a field trial. The boy desperately wants to fulfill his father's dream, but his mother believes anything to do with the dog is a setup for heartache. The past belongs in the past; the way forward is forward. [Just to clarify here: his mother doesn't want him training the dog because it was an activity that he was going to do with his father, and she wants him to leave his memories in the past, or because she is afraid he’ll be heartbroken if he doesn't win?  I don't really understand why she would be against him doing this.] Against his sister's wishes, Charm and Lucas join together to turn the injured Rretriever into a champion, a journey that forces the family to face the issues that tore them apart in hopes of finding salvation in the past they tried to forget. An excerpt of Doubting River [Either italicize or write your titles in all caps.] won the mainstream category of the 2010 Sandy literary contest. I am a former dog trainer and the author of Click for Joy, the winner of the 2003 "Best Training/Behavior Book" award presented by the Dog Writers of America. I am also the owner of the 6500-member ClickerSolutions (dog training) mailing list, and I have published numerous articles in the magazine "Teaching Dogs." My contact information is below. I look forward to hearing from you! 
Sincerely,Melissa Alexander

What do you guys think?  This seems like a very solid query letter to me.  One of the things I emphasized during my phone conference for Backspace was that the one aim of your query letter is to intrigue the agent reading it.  Think of writing your query as if you were writing the back jacket copy of your book, or the blurb for Amazon.  You don't want to give away the entire plot of the novel, but you want to tantalize enough with the meat of the story in order to get an agent to read those sample pages!


Comment with any thoughts or questions about my critique, and I would love to know how and if you choose to add personalizations to your pitch letters to agents!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Last Week Today

I participated in my first conference in quite some time last week: the Never-ending Online Backspace Conference!  It was a lot of fun, and I'm looking forward to doing it again for their women's fiction panel.  Since the conference is never-ending, I'm hoping to be involved in this a lot over the coming months, since I enjoy it so much.

http://www.backspacewritersconference.com/

I sent off my IP projects, too, in addition to three different submissions, so we'll see how all that goes!  I'm sitting on several potential deals at the moment--slightly nerve-wracking--and while I'm waiting, I'm trying to distract myself with reading (I have several manuscripts right now that I'm liking a lot) and other non-agenting things.  Thanks to the wonderful Kara Tatelbaum, I now have an at-home Pilates routine to get me toned up for the wedding, so I've been trying to stick to doing that.  Painting the apartment is a total bust; I sort of thought about it this week and then never did anything about it.  John and I went to the Union Square farmers' market instead, which was AWESOME.


Sooo much delicious food and beautiful plants.  I'd like to grow some basil and parsley out on our fire escape, so I bought a couple pots of those, along with a yummy sourdough loaf, garlic and chive cheese, and pears!  There is a B&N right across the street, which we went into after, and I picked up a copy of the Smitten Kitchen cookbook for my mom for Mother's Day!  When I was at Writers House, I remember the agent I worked for trying to contact the Smitten Kitchen lady about representation.  I'm not sure if she already had an agent or what ended up going down, but there is no denying that she is an amazing cook.  The recipes in the cookbook look amazing and the food photos are gorgeous, so I know my mom will love it!


Reading over this post, I guess a lot of my past week has been about food.  If you're an author out there, with an amazing, descriptive food narrative, NOW would be the time to query me. ;)


P.S.  One more thing: It's party time!  Prospect Agency is hosting its annual Old Stone House Soiree at the Old Stone House in Brooklyn this week.  I love doing this party--it is so much fun!  More soon....
Kevin Sherry's amazing artwork for this year's invite!