Monday, January 30, 2017

Who's Got Questions?

Hi guys!  Normally when I put together pub day interviews, I choose questions out of a pool that I keep handy.  Because I want these interviews to be as interesting and informative as they can be, I wanted to reach out to you this week to ask:

What questions would you like to see answered by my authors in their interviews?  What do you want to know about the publishing process or their individual journey?  Are you curious about the path they took to land their deal or would you rather hear more about the nuts and bolts of what comes after a contract?  Do you like genre-specific info?



Post your questions in the comments below, and I'll add the best to my rotating stable!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Query Critique Winner

Congrats to Suzanne, who was lucky #8 this month!  Here is her original query:

Dear Carrie,

ONCE UPON A WITNESS is an upper middle grade of 60,000 words. This fairytale mashup is ELLA ENCHANTED meets SHREK, in which an enterprising ex-princess discovers that the Organization of Fairy Godmothers is using the Island of Witness Protection to dispose of anyone who doesn’t fit their idea of a happily ever after.

When Princess Esme finds herself unjustly banished to the Island of Witness Protection by her manipulative Fairy Godmother, she’d do anything to return home. But her trouble is only getting started. While digging into the Island’s secrets, she learns that her frenemy has taken over her kingdom and imprisoned her friends, and that her Fairy Godmother has no plans to bring Esme back. Unfortunately, getting off the Island without her Fairy Godmother’s help seems impossible. The Maphea (Magicians Against Princesses Happily Ever After) guards the secret, and Esme’s only allies are the reportedly evil creatures a nice princess wouldn’t claim as friends. As her misfortunes grow—she’s chased by wraiths through a dungeon, her pocket dragon tries to kill her frog prince friend, and she unwittingly unleashes the magic of a deadly basilisk mirror—Esme wonders if her Fairy Godmother could be right. What if she doesn’t deserve a happily ever after?

In addition to writing middle grades, I work as a content editor for Red Adept Publishing. I also write romantic suspense under the pseudonym Lily Black. My debut, Storm of Attraction, will release from RAP in February of 2017. My MG novel NinChicks took third place overall in the SCBWI Carolinas 2013 fiction writing contest, and first among middle grades. I was previously represented by Christa Heschke of McIntosh and Otis, but have amicably parted ways with her.  ONCE UPON A WITNESS is a new project and has not been subbed. However, it was requested by Jill Davis of HarperCollins after our meeting at a SCBWI conference a few months ago, and she is reading it now.

Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you,Suzanne


And here is my critique!


Dear Carrie,

ONCE UPON A WITNESS is an upper middle grade of 60,000 words. This fairytale fairy tale mashup is ELLA ENCHANTED meets SHREK [This is just a knee-jerk reaction, but something that uses SHREK as a comp title seems like it would be more lower MG to me.], in which an enterprising ex-princess discovers that the Organization of Fairy Godmothers is using the Island of Witness Protection to dispose of anyone who doesn’t fit their idea of a happily ever after. discovers that she doesn't need to be royalty to totally rule! [Because I don't know enough about the story at this point to know what you're talking about, this is more confusing than compelling.  I suggest altering this to intrigue readers with the heart of the story, but not necessarily involve such specific details, such as what I added in, which of course, is just an example!.]

When Princess Esme finds herself unjustly banished to the Island of Witness Protection by her manipulative Fairy Godmother, she’d do anything to return home. [Explain a little more here.  What is the Island of Witness Protection and how does her Fairy Godmother manipulate her into getting sent there?  Does she set her up in some way?  And does Esme originally think her FG is doing it for her own good?]  But her trouble is only getting started. But it looks like going home may no longer be an option.  While digging into the Island’s secrets investigating the secrets of the island in attempt to leave, she learns that her frenemy has taken over her kingdom and imprisoned her friends, and that her Fairy Godmother has no plans to bring Esme back. [Does her FG not plan to bring her back to protect her from danger or because she is in league with the frenemy?] Unfortunately, getting off the Iisland without her Fairy Godmother’s help seems impossible. The Maphea (Magicians Against Princesses Happily Ever After) guards the secret [The secret to what?  To getting off the island?], and Esme’s only allies are the reportedly evil creatures a nice princess wouldn’t claim as friends [I understand what you're trying to say here, but it reads a little awkwardly.  Reword.]. As her misfortunes grow—she’s chased by wraiths through a dungeon, her pocket dragon tries to kill her frog prince friend, and she unwittingly unleashes the magic of a deadly basilisk mirror—Esme wonders if her Fairy Godmother could be right. What if she doesn’t deserve a happily ever after? [WHEN does her FG say this??  This is the cliffhanger at the end of the story's blurb and it's the first time we're hearing of it.  Definitely invest some space at the start of the query to give us more background on Esme as a princess and her relationship with her FG.]

In addition to writing middle grades, I work as a content editor for Red Adept Publishing. I also write romantic suspense under the pseudonym Lily Black. My debut, Storm of Attraction, will release from RAP in February of 2017. [Because this is a VERY different genre, I suggest cutting.]  My MG novel NinChicks took third place overall in the SCBWI Carolinas 2013 fiction writing contest, and first among middle grades. I was previously represented by Christa Heschke of McIntosh and Otis, but have amicably parted ways with her.  ONCE UPON A WITNESS is a new project and has not been subbed. However, it was requested by Jill Davis of HarperCollins after our meeting at a SCBWI conference a few months ago, and she is reading it now.

Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you,Suzanne


Good start with this, Suzanne!  I think you have the structure set up well, but this needs a bit more meat on its bones before it's ready to go out.  You'll see the areas I suggest need more fleshing out: mostly the beginning and certain sections throughout that need clarification.  I hope this is helpful!  

Everyone else, if you have any comments or questions, chime in below!

Monday, January 16, 2017

When It's a No

Recently, I've been reading really great manuscripts.  

And passing on them.  



I realized I wanted to write about that this week after doing my potential client match quiz, in order to hopefully encourage people who have had a rough time with something they've gotten positive feedback on, because, sometimes even though I think a manuscript is great, I don't end up making an offer for the following reasons:
  1. I'm not 100% in love
  2. I am in love, but I know that there are already too many similar books out there
  3. I need something more polished and don't have the time to get it there myself (this is usually something that results in an R&R)
  4. I recognize that the manuscript is fantastic, but it's not my cup of tea (e.g. adult high fantasy, really angsty teen lit, and so on)
In regard to #3, a lot of the reasons I am being more selective than I was a few years ago is that my client list is starting to fill out and I just don't have as much time to work on revising as I used to.  I still love being involved in helping shape my clients' manuscripts and consider myself a hands-on agent, but, for instance, I used to send line edits each and every time I read a draft of something, whereas now I usually send detailed editorial letters with suggestions and examples.  I also have wonderful interns who help me out!

Regardless, I know it's a bummer to told you have something worthy but still get a pass, which is why I wanted to write this post.  If this is something that has happened to you, you should know that you have the start of something with potential that you can work on and bring to the next level--either by pushing forward and continuing the submission process until you find the right agent, or looking critically at your manuscript (hopefully with helpful agenting feedback) and figure out what you need to do get your book over the edge into "super special" territory.

I almost always am willing to re-read projects like this or to look at other projects by the author once I have a memo in my brain that they are solid writers, so when you get feedback like that from me, don't write me off your list!  

Have you ever gotten a rejection from an agent that said your story was great but...?  Were their comments helpful?  What kind of feedback do you want to receive when you have a good project that just isn't getting an offer?

And Happy MLK Day, everyone!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Potential Client Match Quiz

Hi everyone! Since we are starting a new year, I know for a lot of people that means beginning a fresh round of queries. I decided to make a fun quiz to judge your potential relationship juju with me based on my interests, the way I work, etc.


  1. What genre/category does your writing fit into?

  2. MG or YA
    Commercial fiction, women's fiction, or historical fiction
    Memoir, other adult nonfiction, or mystery/thriller
    Fiction picture books or adult sci-fi/fantasy
  3. Do you enjoy working collaboratively?

  4. Not really
    I am willing to listen to other opinions, but want to have the final say
    I like having a back and forth, and am fine with compromise
    I love working with others to shape my manuscript
  5. How do you view the writing process?

  6. As something that I alone should control
    I work alone until I have a finished product and then share that with others to get their thoughts
    My process is to talk ideas over with others first, and then choose the best one to write
    As a creative back and forth that allows me to bring my writing and stories to the next level
  7. How often do you want to be in touch with your agent?

  8. Never
    Just when I have questions or there is something to say
    I like to have scheduled dates to check in
    All the time
  9. Are you comfortable with voicing concerns?

  10. Noooo, I get too scared
    I second-guess my concerns but will eventually share them
    I will speak out if my agent prods me first
    I have no problem expressing myself
  11. Do you believe in dabbling in different genres or sticking to one to build a reputation?

  12. I want to write in multiple genres because I want to write whatever strikes my fancy
    I write in two or more different genres and want to build separate author brands in those areas
    I mainly write in one genre, but am interested in dabbling in tangential genres, too
    I want to focus solely in one genre with my writing
  13. What do you want your agent's role to be?

  14. The person who sets deadlines and tells me what to do
    Just to focus on selling my books/the business side--I don't want them to be involved creatively
    I self publish, so I just want someone to handle subrights and maybe a new project here and there
    An advocate, sounding board, and person whose opinions I trust
  15. Are you interested in getting to know your agent's other authors?

  16. No, I don't think it's important
    I'm not against it, but I'm not really interested in it
    It would be cool to be able to talk to other authors in my genre that my agent works with
    Yes, I love the idea of having a community of authors agented by the same person
  17. What will you do if you have a hard time selling your first project?

  18. Give up and die
    Give up and die for a few days, but then bounce back to revise or try something new
    Keep pushing and revising on that first project until it sells
    I know publishing is subjective, so as long as my agent and I have a strategy convo, I'll be fine
  19. How do you feel about marketing, publicity, and social media?

  20. I think those areas are things my future publisher should focus on, not me
    Ehh not super interested. I think focusing all my energy on my writing is more important
    I know a bit but am eager to learn/do more in those areas
    I'm all about it
I hope this was fun and informative! Happy querying 

Monday, January 2, 2017

Query Critique

Happy New Year!  We're kicking off 2017 with the first query critique of the year!  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!  And don't forget to post any questions you want me to answer in the comments section with the hashtag #IHAVEAQUESTION!