Monday, November 20, 2017

The Ones Who Got Away, Vol. 2

A long time ago I wrote a post about how agents lust from afar (or from very close if you're Twitter friends) over certain projects that they've offered on and didn't get.  I think I wrote the previous post in a November, too, so there must be something about Novembers that make me think about things I didn't get.




I do have to say, first off, that one of my previous authors who got away did a U-turn and came back to me!  I originally fell in love with Azlyn Richards and her historical fiction about a poisoner in Nero's court called THE EMPEROR'S ASSASSIN, but she went with another agent.  A year or so later, she reached out to me asking if she could change her mind and I happily said yes!

I've been thinking of some of the ones that eluded my grasp...and interestingly most of them are from 2016 Pitch Madness...

THE HATE U GIVE - I knowwwwww.  I offered on this (I think it was called STARRY NIGHT) and another MG project of Angie's and missed out.  She is an AMAZING author and person, though and I'm so happy to see the crazy amount of success she has had....even it is hasn't been with me   If you haven't read this book, which seems impossible, be sure to buy a copy!

AN ENCHANTMENT OF RAVENS - I knowwwww...again!!!  This book was SO beautifully written I fell in love from the first chapter.  The author is also such a great person.  We're friends on Twitter so I get to see how well she and the book are doing.  I think it was a NYT bestseller before it even officially published, so you should definitely read it!!!!

DIAMONDS ARE A GIRL'S BEST FRIEND - This was a really fun YA project about a girl who wants to be on her school's baseball team that I read via PitchWars.  It had the most dynamic, fun character and the best voice!

DAVY JONES, PIRATE HATER - This is another Pitch Madness project--an AWESOME MG fantasy concept that was really fresh with great world-building!!  It made me laugh out loud so many times.

A DRAGONBIRD IN THE FERN - This was a beautiful, beautiful YA Asian fantasy that made me think of a YA version of THE GHOST BRIDE mixed with Moana...and it doesn't get better than that!

These are all fantastic projects and fantastic authors and I'm sorry they're not on Team Carrie, BUT one agent isn't right for everyone and these lovely authors have found their deserved match.  Also, for every author I've missed out on, I've signed like 10 that I love with all my heart!  Every aspect of publishing is a subjective one; no matter what side of the fence you're on, there are rejections and signings and great moments and sad ones.  I've found that it all evens out in the end, though, and you end up where you're supposed to be!

And with that, Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!  My mom is foregoing cooking for the first time ever this year and we are doing Thanksgiving at The Roosevelt Hotel--I can't wait!!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Query Critique Winner

Hi all!  Here is this month's luck query critique winner!

Dear Ms. Pestritto,

Amelia Matthew has done the all-but-impossible, especially for an orphan in Gilded Age New York City. Along with her foster brother Jonas, she has parleyed her modest psychic talent into a safe and comfortable life. 
Then a head injury leaves Amelia with a dramatically expanded gift--including terrifying prophetic dreams. After a very public encounter with a spirit, she finds herself imprisoned in the notorious insane asylum on Blackwell’s Island. Where the dreams suddenly stop. As Jonas searches for a way to free her, Amelia struggles understand her new abilities and survive a place where cruelty and despair threaten her sanity.
 Andrew Cavanaugh is familiar with despair. In the wake of his sister’s suicide, he abandons a promising career--and his place in Philadelphia society--to devote himself to the study and treatment of mental disease. Miss Matthew is just another patient--until she channels Susannah’s spirit. 
Together, Amelia, Jonas, and Andrew engineer Amelia’s escape. But her old life is gone. And the dreams are back--and pushing her toward the island again. When a distraught mother comes to Andrew searching for her missing daughter--a daughter she believes is being hidden at the asylum, he turns to Amelia. Compelled by forces that refuse to leave her alone, Amelia agrees to do the unthinkable: return to the place that nearly destroyed her. They’re searching for a woman. What they find is a deadly conspiracy that threatens them all. 
Because you (represent specific author/express interest in genre/other), I believe my debut novel, THE FOLLOWING STORM, would be a good fit for your list. A standalone novel with series potential, THE FOLLOWING STORM will appeal to readers of historical mysteries who enjoy the work of Victoria Thompson, Deanna Raybourn, or Rosemary Simpson. The novel is complete at 85,000 words and available upon request.
 Thank you for your time and consideration.

And here is my critique:

Dear Ms. Pestritto,

Amelia Matthew has done the all-but-impossible, especially for an orphan in Gilded Age New York City, although her methods are a bit unusual. Along with her foster brother Jonas, she has parleyed her modest psychic talent into a safe and comfortable life. She has created a safe and comfortable life for herself and her foster brother Jonas--by using her psychic talents to read Tarot cards for the upper echelon of city society. [I don't know if the Tarot reading part is accurate, but you see what I'm trying to set up here.] 
Then But when a head injury leaves Amelia with a dramatically expanded gift--including terrifying prophetic dreams. After and a very public encounter with a spirit,--she finds herself imprisoned in the notorious insane asylum on Blackwell’s Island. Where the dreams suddenly stop. [I cut the previous sentence as-is, but I think what you should do is expand up ont, because just a sentence later, you mention her using her new abilities to survive in prison, which is confusing.] As Jonas searches for a way to free her, Amelia struggles understand her new abilities and survive a place where cruelty and despair threaten her sanity.
 He finds it with the help of psychiatrist Andrew Cavanaugh, who is familiar with despair. In the wake of his sister’s suicide, he abandons a promising career--and his place in Philadelphia society--to devote himself to the study and treatment of mental disease. Miss Matthew is just another patient--until she channels Susannah’s spirit. 
Together, Amelia, Jonas, and Andrew engineer Amelia’s escape. But her old life is gone. And the dreams are back--and pushing her toward the island again. When a distraught mother comes to Andrew searching for her missing daughter--a daughter she believes is being hidden at the asylum, he turns to Amelia. Compelled by forces that refuse to leave her alone, Amelia agrees to do the unthinkable: return to the place that nearly destroyed her. They’re searching for a woman. What they find is a deadly conspiracy that threatens them all. 
Because you (represent specific author/express interest in genre/other), I believe my debut novel, THE FOLLOWING STORM, would be a good fit for your list. A standalone novel with series potential, THE FOLLOWING STORM will appeal to readers of historical mysteries who enjoy the work of Victoria Thompson, Deanna Raybourn, or Rosemary Simpson. The novel is complete at 85,000 words and available upon request.
 Thank you for your time and consideration.

I love, love, love the premise of this story.  In fact, Stacie, when it's ready to go out, I hope you send it to me!  The query does a terrific job of imparting the hair-raising atmosphere of the story and leave the reader wanting more at the same time.  I made a few tweaks so that it reads a bit smoother, but other than that, I think it's in awesome shape.  Excellent job, Stacie! Chime in with thoughts and questions below! 

Monday, November 6, 2017

Happy Pub Day!

Tomorrow is the pub day for Dorcas Cheng-Tozun's START, LOVE, REPEAT, a prescriptive guide about to how to keep your relationship strong when there's a start-up in the family!  Dorcas speaks from experience, as her husband is one of the founders of d.light design and has also interviewed other successful entrepreneurs and their significant others, executive coaches, marriage-family therapists, venture capitalists, and start-up authorities.  Happy pub day, Dorcas!





So first, tell us a bit about the book!

START, LOVE, REPEAT is a guidebook for the significant others of entrepreneurs or anyone else who works crazy hours in their job. I read dozens of books and conducted nearly 100 interviews for the book--with entrepreneurs, their spouses, investors, marriage-family therapists, and executive coaches--to glean the best strategies on how to keep your relationship strong even when you and your partner are under a lot of stress and are dealing with major time constraints. My hope is that couples will walk away from the book feeling empowered to pursue their professional dreams and prioritize their romance at the same time.

What was your inspiration for writing this?

My own life, of course! I've been married to a serial entrepreneur for more than twelve years, and it has been quite the adventure. I've struggled with everything I discuss in the book, including resentment, anxiety, and burnout, because of the toll that my husband's high-risk, high-stress business has taken on our lives. I really wanted a resource that would help me understand why starting a business had to be so hard and would provide time-tested advice on what I could to to make things better. That resource didn't exist, so I decided to write it myself.

What was your journey to publication like?

It's been over three years since I first discussed the idea with Carrie, and it's been quite a journey since then. We did four rounds of submissions, with major revisions and additions to the book proposal after each of the first three rounds. A number of editors weren't comfortable with how much personal narrative was in the book proposal, so I spent quite a bit of time writing additional chapters that were much more prescriptive. We had an acquisitions editor who was interested in the second round, but she was overruled by her editorial board.

Then, finally, on the fourth round, when my book proposal had grown to nearly 200 pages, Christina Boys of Hachette Center Street expressed interest. She asked me a few basic questions, and then the following week I had an offer! Interestingly, I was living in Kenya at the time (another unexpected life pivot, thanks to my husband's business), and so everything was conducted over email. I had to e-sign my contract and didn't speak to my editor on the phone until several months later, when I had moved back to the U.S.

After the contract was signed, were there any unexpected aspects of the publishing process that surprised you?

I was pretty surprised by how quickly Center Street wanted to move on it. I had heard that it can take a long time from contract to publication, but they were determined to have my book ready in time for a November 2017 launch. That meant I only had about three months to finish writing the manuscript, which required me to finish a 4500-word chapter every single week. It was a really intensive period of researching, interviewing, and writing, but that deadline looming over me sure helped me be productive!

Did you feel like you were involved in the various stages your book went through?  What kind of input did you have?

My editor and copyeditor were great about giving me the opportunity to revise anything in the manuscript that didn't quite work, rather than sticking in words that weren't mine. I was consulted on the book cover design even before their designers worked on it, and again after they had created the design. I also had the opportunity to review any copy about the book, such as the back cover copy, the book summary, and the press release. And I was very much involved in getting Gary and Meg Hirshberg to write the foreword, soliciting the endorsements, and with all the marketing and promotion.

I felt like I had the opportunity to be involved in pretty much every part of the book coming together, which I'm very grateful for.

What is some fun promotion you've done for the book?  Anything upcoming we should be keeping our eyes or ears out for?

I love this book trailer that my filmmaker friend, Ron Eyal, made for me. It's fun and engaging, but it also perfectly captures what START, LOVE, REPEAT is all about. 

I've also got a bunch of podcast interviews and original essays coming out with outlets that target entrepreneurs and leaders. My husband, Ned, and I are even doing a podcast interview together to discuss what our relationship has been like. Links to all of these can be found at my website: www.chengtozun.com.

Anything that new authors can learn from your experiences?

I cannot underestimate the importance of persistence and trying different things. This was actually the second book I wrote. The first, a memoir, went through five or six submission rounds, and we weren't able to get anyone to pick it up. So I decided to move on to a new book idea in another genre. Early on, I also got a lot of feedback from editors that they wanted me to have a bigger platform. So I spent years pitching articles and networking, some of which led to published pieces, and a few of which led to regular writing gigs. I'm certain the fact that I was a regular contributor to Christianity Today and Inc.com was a major factor in finally securing a book deal.

I really believe that if you knock on enough doors, one of them will eventually open for you.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Quiz Time

I decided to make a fun quiz for you to take this week.  My mind was occupied with numbers a lot last week and so I decided to use some numbers to show you guys a bit about my agenting life!  

Also, if for some reason the quiz isn't showing up on this post, you can also take it here!



Monday, October 23, 2017

Agent's Little Helpers

Hi, everyone, meet my interns!  I have three fabulous ladies helping me out and, this week, thought it would be fun to learn a little bit about them and hear what it is like working for me.  I have a lot of interns helping me out, which is sort of cheating, but they are A++++ amazing!

                                                                                   Bea                                                     Rosiee
Tarie

So guys, tell us a bit about yourselves!
Bea: *Waves* I am currently chasing publication and Gothic atmosphere while querying a YA Victorian Mystery. When I am not writing (which is never), I am a Junior at Emory University in Atlanta, studying History and English. Professionally, other than my work for Carrie, I am the Editorial Assistant for the Internet Shakespeare Editions' academic journal "Scene."

Rosiee: I am a GED advisor by day, and a YA science fiction writer by... also day, cause I get tired early and nighttime is hard. I love nothing more than a good book and a hot cup of coffee--but don't tell my doggo, or she'll be jealous. I'm currently pursuing publication with my agent, Saba Sulaiman, and coming up, I'll be mentoring in Author Mentor Match (submit to meeee).

Tarie: My name is Tarie Sabido and I’m a professional fangirl in the Philippines. My fandoms are children’s and YA books, Asian beauty products, and K-pop!

My passion for books has led me to blogging at Asia in the Heart, World on the Mind; organizing the Filipino ReaderCon and Filipino Readers’ Choice Awards with my friends; and serving as Chair of the Philippine Board on Books for Young People

What made you want to work as an agent intern?
Bea: I learned about this position through the #MenteesHelpingMentees program from my mentor Dianne Freeman (who learned about it through a mutual #PitchWars mentee). What I am saying is Twitter can be amazing for making connections and networking!! For the past two years or so I have been in the querying trenches (well I took a nine-month break and I am jumping back in soon), and I really wanted to learn more about the behind the scenes. As a college student with graduation looming on the horizon, I am at a pivotal moment in my life where I can explore careers/life paths. I have always been drawn to publishing and editorial endeavors, and I thought learning the inside scoop on the publishing world would not only help my writing but perhaps open new doors.

Rosiee: I 've always been curious about what goes on behind the scenes at an agency. I've been in the query trenches, and so much of what agents do is a mystery--Even after signing with my agent I still don't know half of what an agent does! I wanted a little experience on the other side of things to get a better handle on how everything works. Plus, I just really really like reading slush. Like a lot. I swear I'm not being facetious. I actually really enjoy it!

Tarie: I want to be an agent! I’d love to scout for, nurture, and promote children’s and YA writers and illustrators in Asia.

What kinds of things have you learned about during your internship?
Bea: First and foremost, I have a way better understanding of just how slow this industry is—everyone is waiting: not just the writers, but published authors, agents, editors, and even me (the lowly agent intern 😉). Also, EVERYONE gets rejected all the way up to editors and agents—keep on keeping on! As a writer, it’s been helpful to see what other writers are doing in my genre (YA Historical Fiction), and to learn more about marketability.

Rosiee: Carrie has been so great about giving me the opportunity to learn about a variety of things. I get to read the slush (yay!), but I've also learned about agent-editor relationships, how submitting to publishers works, and how to spot potential in submissions. I'm even starting to get an idea of how contracts work--which is both terrifying and also really cool!

Tarie: As an intern, I am learning about evaluating manuscripts; communicating with authors and editors; publishing contracts and how they are negotiated; and tracking advance payments, royalties, sub-rights, etc.

What do you do for Carrie?
Bea: For Carrie, I read the slush pile, requested material, write reader reports, work on organizing her Full Rights Guide, blog issues, and anything else she might need me to do. Carrie gives us a lot of freedom and control over how we want our internship experience to look like.

Rosiee: Mostly I read slush and requested material, and give Carrie my opinion on submissions. I send on what I think she'll like, and give detailed reports on requested partials and fulls so she has a better idea of whether or not she's interested. I also help keep track of submitted work on many many color coded spreadsheets (which, I promise, I also unironically love!)

Tarie: Right now I’m helping one of Carrie’s authors expand and engage with her social media community. I’m enjoying getting to know the author and brainstorming with her!

What is your favorite thing that you've done as an intern so far?  You're least favorite?
Bea: My favorite thing is when I get to tell you to request more of a manuscript or consider representing the author! It makes me really happy for other aspiring authors! My least favorite is when I am reading the slush pile and a manuscript has an amazing premise but is executed poorly, or when a manuscript has a "meh/overdone" premise, but the writing is up to chops. For me, it's so sad because it'll be that much harder for the writer to figure out what to change, especially since we normally reject them in the querying phase. 

Rosiee: My favorite moment by far has been reading a manuscript I loved and suggesting Carrie request the full. When the full manuscript came in, Bea (my co-intern) and I were so excited, we didn't turn off caps lock for about 15 minutes. 

My least favorite is the exact opposite--it's really tough when I don't connect with a MS, especially when it has a concept I love. I wish I loved every book that crosses my digital desk, and saying no to those is hard.

Tarie: I like everything! But my favorite project so far is organizing submissions lists. It’s taught me a lot about how agents pitch to editors, what editors are looking for, and how a deal is made!

Any insight into how Carrie's mind works? 😉
Bea: I would say Carrie’s tastes run more commercial than literary in general. She’s avidly looking for cozy mysteries and YA to add her list. Carrie loves YA Fantasy, but it’s a hard sell to her unless it’s really special and has a unique twist—the market is a little saturated at the moment. If you want to send a memoir, PLEASE, please, please do as much research as you can to find out what she’s interested in. More often than not, I have to reject memoirs because they don’t fit her list not because they’re “bad.” As an agent, Carrie is blunt and honest in her feedback—she’s always aiming for ways to make a work more marketable and the characters more authentic. She likes writing that can evoke emotion, plot, and character without being overwhelmed by overtelling or overwritten language.

Rosiee: Carrie's very picky! She's a busy lady who knows what she likes in a book. Even if one of us likes something and sends it on, it's no guarantee she'll agree. She has to have a lot of faith in a project concept to even request pages, and from what I've seen, she really believes in helping those authors develop great books that she'll hopefully one day be able to sign.

Tarie: I’ve noticed how patient and positive Carrie is with everything and everyone. And her enthusiasm for her authors’ works is contagious!

What have you learned/seen about agenting that surprises you most?
Bea: I think I have been most surprised by the volume of material an agent has to sift through. Some of it has been so bad it’s made me laugh out loud and some of it could truly be the NEXT BIG THING. Not only that but there’s so much Carrie has to do in one day besides finding new material, but helping her clients, living her own life, and staying up to date on the market by reading published books. It’s multi-tasking to the max.

Rosiee: How much work there is to do other than reading submissions. I remember back in the query trenches when people who certainly weren't me--I would never ;)--complained about wait times on hearing back from agents, it seemed outrageous how long it took to hear back. But realistically, agents have a lot more to do than read queries. They have client manuscripts to read, projects to prepare for submissions, editors to network with, contracts to negotiate, records to update--the list goes on! Agents are incredibly busy--and they work they do is tough and important! It's a miracle they get so much done!

Tarie: I was pleasantly surprised by how organized the agenting system is. I knew it was easy to find out about agents’ tastes and manuscript wish lists. But I didn’t know that agents have rankings (by the number of deals they make in each category/genre), which are regularly updated. And I didn’t know that you can find out things like agents’ typical response times and the best ways to query them. It’s all very helpful for writers! 

Do you envision a career in publishing for yourself?
Bea: Oh, definitely. My dream would be to start a Literary Agency with the other intern I work closely with—Rosiee. However, I’d also like to try my hand at the editorial side of things as well!

Rosiee: Maybe someday! I'm really enjoying the work I do for Carrie and working with my fellow interns and hope to learn more. I'm not sure what a career in publishing looks like for me yet--or I guess which of the many important roles in the process I'd like to someday fill--but for now, being an intern is incredibly rewarding!

Tarie: I definitely want to have a career in publishing!

Anything else you want to share?
Bea: Remember, the people reading your submission are just that—people. Don’t let one "no" deter you, but also be prepared to listen, revise, and evolve as a writer. Take your time—this industry goes at its own pace so it’s best to submit your best work. Start slowly, submit in 10 batches, step back and revise your game plan as necessary. Connect with other writers they will be your best allies and will improve your writing SO much. Remember your story matters and you’re the only one who can tell it best!

P.S. To all the sexist men who submit “complex female characters” to Carrie, STOP, please. They’re not complex because they have bodies like Sophia Loren in a five-foot frame and have been emotionally wrecked by bad love affairs. Also, can’t tell you how many submissions have had incest lately as well, I blame Game of Thrones. Word count is not an end all be all, but make sure you're hitting the range for your genre, 5000 words does not a novel make.
Rosiee: I get to see the whole of Carrie's query folder, and while she gets a lot of great stuff, I'd love to see more diverse submissions/authors in the inbox. If you're a marginalized author, please consider Carrie for your query list! I can never make any promises, but I try to make sure every diverse query gets the attention it deserves and I hope to do my part in boosting voices that need to be heard. Also a big wave to all the authors whose manuscripts I've gotten to read since I started my internship--you're all incredibly talented, and there are a number of you I'm secretly cheering on!

Tarie: This is a remote internship for me and I’m actually a little sad that I can’t do the typical intern things like get coffee for Carrie. [It's okay, Tarie, everyone is remote, so I get my own coffee!]

Tell us any hilarious interning stories that you have, whether while working for Carrie or someone/somewhere else!
Bea:  Hmmmmmm. I really can't think of anything, gah. There's probably something there that I compartmentalized because it was embarrassing. I think some of the really awful queries we get can be hilarious... 

Rosiee: Carrie's a big gifter. She likes sending people things (which is great, cause I love presents!) About a month ago, I got a pack of super nice nail polish in the mail with no note. This isn't the first time I've gotten something with no note--I got a nerf gun about a year ago with no sender, a box of books once, and most interestingly a potato that said "take care of yourself" on it in Sharpie. I'm no stranger to surprise gifts, and so I took to social media to figure out who sent it. No one claimed responsibility though, so I was at a loss until Carrie emailed to let me know to expect a treat--little did she know, I'd already gotten it and had set up an intricate (and color coded!) spreadsheet to discover the culprit. I guess the moral of the story is, it's a good thing I'm a lit agent intern and not a detective.

Tarie: I was once a professor’s assistant and checked student essays for her. One of the students said, “Professor, why is your handwriting different on these essays?” and she just said, “Oh, I was tired.” What?!

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...