Monday, September 24, 2018

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, September 17, 2018

Tip Time

This month's tip a pretty standard one, but it is worth highlighting because I see people disregarding it ALL. THE. TIME: follow an agent's submission rules!!



When I was at Prospect, in order to submit you had to fill out an online form that asked you a bunch of questions about yourself and your manuscript.  Sometimes people would get fed up with the process and email me directly instead...and I would delete their query.  Now that I'm at LDLA, we require authors to submit to us via our query email, but I still get plenty of people who email me directly or do even weirder things like send me a Facebook message...and I delete their query.

You see where I'm going with this, yes?  It might be annoying or a pain to do something other than copy and paste a query into an email or just reach out to the first contact-able thing you can find via Google, but following directions when submitting to agents is key.  

First of all, doing so shows you can follow directions and respect our time, which is huge!  

Secondly, we all have these procedures in place for a reason, not just to see how many hoops we can make you jump through (otherwise, I would have a rule that all queries be accompanied with a box of truffles and an original dance video) and if you vary, it can throw off our system for getting through the XXX amount of submissions we see each day--you can see my intern's guest post for my own query averages.

This is also a snowball situation, where if we let one person break the rules, we begin the descent into chaos where we're allowing people to pitch their novel to us in the bathroom at Whole Foods.  Just kidding...kind of.  I do remember a friend telling me about a conference where the organizers had to specifically instruct attendees not to pitch agents in the bathroom, which I would have thought would be a given.

Anyway, that is my tip for the month.  Use it well! 


Monday, September 10, 2018

Shelf Space

Last week I had a little bit of spare time on my hands, which I used to clean out my bookshelves!  It was a long time coming--as you can imagine, I accumulate a TON of books each year from BEA, editors, shameless asking, etc.  I rarely have time to read them all and every so often, I take the time go to through and choose who will stay and who will go.  The only books I keep are the ones I ABSOLUTELY love and couldn't bear to part with...everything else goes in various donation bins or to friends!

Look at all these books!

Doing this made me think of my client list, which is judged in a similar way.  Because I have a limited amount of time and energy, I need to make sure that each person I work with is someone who I feel like I must have on my list or I'll regret it forever.  A big part of making that list is the following:
  • Being a FANTASTIC writer who doesn't need much nuts and bolts guidance/direction
  • Having great ideas for lots of future projects
  • Being a strong collaborator who is flexible and enthusiastic 
  • Having a strong social media presence and network connections
  • Having an attitude and work style that aligns with my own
  • Being disciplined when it comes to getting things done
I'm pretty sure that most other agents have checklists that are like mine, as well as a limited amount of spots on their list, so keep this in mind when you get rejections from them!  It doesn't necessarily mean you're a "bad" writer--most of the time, it just means that even though we like your story, there just isn't room on our list.  I've read so many manuscripts that I enjoyed but haven't offered on because there wasn't that magical spark that let me know this was one of The Ones to add to the shelf.  

Get it?  "Clients" on a shelf instead of books!  ::cheesy grin::

Monday, September 3, 2018

Query Critique Winner

This month's lucky winner is Kasey!  Congrats to you!  

Here is Kasey's original query:

Dear Carrie Pestritto,   
Ocean’s Call, a middle-grade novel complete at 29K words, is an #ownvoices novel featuring a LGBTQ teen. Ocean’s Call will tug on the heartstrings of any who have faced turmoil in discovering who they are or have needed to overcome past trauma to embrace their present. Those who crave the beach, wished they were a mermaid, or enjoy following the complicated life of someone who has just found out she is different, will love Ocean’s Call. 
 
Thirteen-year-old Sheeon has not set foot in the blissful, yet terrifying, water since a near death experience five years ago. When the ocean tries to reclaim her love, her body listens—mutates—to show her where she truly belongs. One night, when she goes to the bakery to help her mother, scales begin growing out of her arms. Fearful that her mother would rush her to the hospital to figure out what was happening to her, and losing the big wedding order, she keeps the mutation a secret.   
When she finally gains the courage to tell her mother, the scales have vanished. Days pass without another incident, and she begins to think that she was imagining the whole thing. But after a day confronting her fear along the beach with the help of her girlfriend, Renee, she heads home to wash the sand off her skin and hair. After filling the tub with warm water, she jumps in and finds out that scales are the only mutation she has. Her legs have morphed into a mermaid tail.  
 Sheeon is determined to keep that she is a mermaid a secret so that it doesn’t affect either her life or Renee’s. With bullies already mocking Renee because of her weight, adding a freak girlfriend will only make things worse. But her worst fear is that Renee will see her as the terrible creature she has become and reject her, causing her to lose her love and best friend.  
 I have a B.S. in Psychology and am returning for get my Certificate in Clinical Psychology from Fielding Graduate University in September. Ocean’s Call will be my debut novel. 
 
Thank you for your time.  
 Sincerely, 
 Kasey 

And here is my critique:

Dear Carrie Pestritto, 
 
Ocean’s Call, a middle-grade fantasy novel complete at 29K words [That wordcount feels a touch short], is an #ownvoices novel featuring a LGBTQ teen. Ocean’s Call will tug on the heartstrings of any who have faced turmoil in discovering who they are or have needed to overcome past trauma to embrace their present. Those who crave the beach, wished they were a mermaid, or enjoy following the complicated life of someone who has just found out she is different, will love Ocean’s Call[There is waay too much telling going on here, especially for an opening paragraph.  Ideally you want to draw readers in with crisp showing moments right at the start that leave them wanting more.  I think you can cut this section and move the remaining sentence to the end paragraph before you tell us about yourself.]  
 Thirteen-year-old Sheeon has not set foot in the blissful, yet terrifying, water since a near death experience five years ago--quite a feat for someone living in a seaside townWhen the ocean tries to reclaim her love, her body listens—mutates—to show her where she truly belongs. [I'm not sure what this means.] But the ocean is about to give her a very different, unimaginable experience that will change her forever...  One night, when she goes to the bakery to help her mother while helping her mother fill a big wedding order at their family bakery, scales begin growing out of her arms. In shock and Fearful afraid to say anything that might lead to her mother would rushing her to the hospital to figure out what was happening to her, and losing the big wedding order, she keeps the mutation a secret.
 
  
 
When she finally gains the courage to tell her mother, the scales have vanished. Days pass without another incident, and she begins to think that making Sheeon wonder if she was imagining the whole thing. But after a day confronting her fear along the beach with the help of her girlfriend, Renee, she heads home to wash the sand off her skin and hair. After filling the tub with warm water, she jumps in and finds out that scales are the only mutation she has. Her her legs have morphed into a mermaid tail.
 
  
 Sheeon is determined to keep that she is a mermaid a secret so that it doesn’t affect either her life or Renee’s. [I think the language here could be more dramatic.  Right now, it feels a little flat.] With bullies already mocking Renee because of her weight, adding a freak girlfriend will only make things worse. But her worst fear is that Renee will see her as the terrible creature she has become and reject her, causing her to lose her love and best friend.  But more than disrupting her loved ones' lives, Sheeon is afraid that being a magical creature will mean that she will lose the best parts of her own life and be forced to retreat to the ocean for good.  [There needs to be something to give more of a cliffhanger ending here instead of just abruptly stopping, e.g. "But when a paranormal investigator shows up in TOWN NAME, armed with a camera and floodlights, there doesn't seem like there will be any other option...unless the ocean has yet another plan for her..."] 
 I have a B.S. in Psychology and am returning for get my Certificate in Clinical Psychology from Fielding Graduate University in September. Ocean’s Call will be my debut novel.  
Thank you for your time. 
 Sincerely, 
 Kasey 

This is such a cool idea for a story!  It makes me think of a MG Splash, which was one of my favorite movies growing up.  You have a great premise, Kasey, and with some smoothing out, I think this query will be great.  Be wary of flat, telling language, and do your best to insert more tension in the query so that we can't wait to read more and know what happens.  I hope my comments help you with that--best of luck!

If anyone has any other thoughts to share, the comments section is for you!