Monday, May 21, 2018

Tip Time

It's Tip Time!  This month I thought I would talk about how to nail your genre.  



I see a lot of queries where authors get their genre wrong or in an abundance of caution, classify their manuscripts using the broadest possible strokes, e.g. "I am querying you because you represent fiction."  

This is a mistake because even though you may have a fantastically written manuscript, being too broad or just completely getting your genre wrong shows agents that you don't really know the marketplace, which is essential knowledge to have, since as we all know, promotion efforts will definitely fall on your shoulders when your project publishes, regardless of where you land.

To familiarize yourself with different genres, I strongly suggest taking the time to cruise Publishers Marketplace, to see the kinds of deals that are being done each day and note which projects are similar to yours and how they are being classified (you can either sign up for a subscription or receive a free newsletter).  For instance, you might think that your historical fiction about Highlanders belongs in the historical fiction category, but after scrolling through several pages, you'll probably see that anything about Highlanders pretty much automatically belongs under romance and that labeling it as anything else will be more of an uphill battle, both for you and for a potential agent.

Another easy thing to do is to just park yourself at a Barnes & Noble or your local library one day and walk the shelves.  You might see that instead of calling your book an adventure story, you should really label it as a thriller or that since your protagonist is going off to college, your book is really more New Adult than YA.  Looking at comp titles is also a great way to see where your book fits into the publishing landscape!

Doing this will help give an agent a favorable impression when you query them and help you determine which agents you should send to when looking at what genres an agent does and doesn't represent.  We're always glad to see authors who know what they're talking about and have clearly done their research!

Monday, May 14, 2018

I Ardently Want Your ROMANCE Submissions

As we get closer to summer, I am realizing I am SUPER hungry for romance subs to read on the beach or during those long-haul airplane rides! Since they haven’t been appearing in my inbox as much as I’d like I thought I’d write a blog about exactly what I am looking for! 

damsel in distress feminism GIF 

I am interested in pretty much all romance sub-genres, except for Christian. I love contemporary romances that are adorable without being predictable, sassy, funny characters, LGBTQ, historical, steamy/erotica, paranormal, and anything in between. Romance authors who are savvy and have great platforms already will definitely catch my eye!

More specifically, I am always looking for a romance about baking or food (think GREAT BRITISH BAKE OFF!), but if you have a millennial romance about young graduates figuring out life, with diverse characters, or involving technology, that is also on the top of my romance wish list, so please send it to me! I tend to gravitate toward quirky romances with strong, spunky heroines and guys that don’t brood too much! I want plots that aren't purely romance-driven but have a storyline involving transformation for the main character outside of her relationship.


Recent reads:

SILVER trilogy by Kate Valentine

ONCE UPON A TIARA series by Carolyn Hector

THE HATING GAME by Sally Thorne

ALL SOULS trilogy by Deborah Harkness

ROYALLY ROMA by Teri Wilson

THE SECRET LIFE OF VIOLET GRANT by Beatrice Williams


I am NOT interested in romances about naive wallflowers who are swept off their feet by domineering (leaning towards abusive) men. In contemporary romance, think more Alexa Martin or Sophia Kinsella, and less Nicholas Sparks. I always wish steampunk would take off in the market, but it just doesn’t seem to sell, so it’s sadly not for me!


Here are some of my romance authors, whose books I LOVE:

Lauren Smith

Suzy K. Quinn

Alana Delacroix

Nicole Trilivas

Suggested by Farin Schlussel on Facebook.

Check out the last post I made about romance books here or take a peek at my Manuscript Wishlist here.


Monday, May 7, 2018

Query Critique Winner

Hello, all!  This month's lucky #8 is Nina!!  Congrats, Nina!  Here is her original query:

Dear Ms. Pestritto,
 Emerging from an unstable childhood, Mick Hardaway creates a life with his own special family. They share their lives, advise him, listen to his woes, and love him unconditionally like nobody ever has. Only problem? They are photographs.

 
When the twenty-three year old has a shot at a genuine relationship with a sweet intelligent coworker, he tries to ditch the photo family. They refuse to let him go. He fights back by writing them off as imaginary, each a metaphor of his own life, while his ties to the real world grow stronger. When he reaches out and seeks help, the social worker who comes to his aid is a man from of one of his photos. Then a new photo enters into his life, a school picture of a small child. Her stories of escalating violence between the adults in her life sound too much like his own past. And if she is real, he is the only adult who knows she needs to be rescued.
PICTURES OF US is a 78,000 word adult magic realism novel. told from two POVs. Mick’s is the dominant one. Kaitlin, the child in danger, is the other. This novel would appeal to fans of Alice Hoffman and Erin Morgenstern.

 
I’m both a longtime volunteer with Killer Nashville Writers Conference and a contest reader for the Claymore Dagger Award. I am also an active member of Nashville Writers Meetup. An award winning short story writer, my work has appeared in Nashville Noir, Everyday Fiction, Origami Journal, Rose Red Review and 101 Words. I have an upcoming piece in an anthology by Anchala Studios. I currently live in the hills around Nashville, TN with my husband, a slightly odd dog and a passel of scenic chickens.

Thank you for taking the time to consider Pictures of Us.


And here is my critique:




Dear Ms. Pestritto,
 Emerging from an unstable childhood, Mick Hardaway creates a life with his own special family. They share their lives, advise him, listen to his woes, and love him unconditionally like nobody ever has. Only problem? They are photographs. [I feel like you can have a more dynamic start here.  Something like what I added to really draw the reader in...]  Every day, Mick Hardaway wakes up and has coffee with noted chatterbox Lucy.  As he gets dressed, he talks with his stylish friend Tom, and on the bus, he and Professor Kimble share earbuds to listen to their favorite podcasts.  It would be a very fulfilling life if any of these people were real.
PICTURES OF US is a 78,000 word adult magic realism novel told from two POVs: Mick's and a young girl named Kaitlin's. Mick’s is the dominant one. Kaitlin, the child in danger, is the other. This novel would appeal to fans of Alice Hoffman and Erin Morgenstern.[We need clarification about who these photo people are/their origins right from the start so I moved this paragraph.  The reader needs to understand right away whether these are random pictures that Mick imagines into life and if he talks to them in a magical realism sense or in a schizophrenic sense.]
  Riddled with social anxiety, Mick has never been able to talk with people in real life, and instead finds comfort by taking photographs of interesting-looking men and women who cross his path and bringing them to life in his mind. But Wwhen the twenty-three-year old finally has a shot at a genuine relationship with a sweet, intelligent coworker, he tries to ditch the photo family. They refuse to let him go his photo family refuses to let him go. He fights back by writing them off as imaginary, each a metaphor of his own life, while his ties to the real world grow stronger. When, but when he reaches out and seeks help, the social worker who comes to his aid is a man from of one of his photos pictures. Then he meets Kaitlin, a young girl in a school photo a new photo enters into his life, a school picture of a small child. Her stories of escalating violence between the adults in her life sound too much like his own past. And if she is real, he is the only adult who knows she needs to be rescued. 
PICTURES OF US is a 78,000 word adult magic realism novel told from two POVs. Mick’s is the dominant one. Kaitlin, the child in danger, is the other. This novel would appeal to fans of Alice Hoffman and Erin Morgenstern.


 I’m both a longtime volunteer with Killer Nashville Writers Conference and a contest reader for the Claymore Dagger Award. I am also an active member of Nashville Writers Meetup. An award winning short story writer, my work has appeared in Nashville Noir, Everyday Fiction, Origami Journal, Rose Red Review and 101 Words. I have an upcoming piece in an anthology by Anchala Studios. I currently live in the hills around Nashville, TN with my husband, a slightly odd dog and a passel of scenic chickens.

This is definitely an interesting premise.  I like the unique idea behind this story, but felt like the way the query was originally set up brought up too many confusing questions.  As you can see, I did some reorganizing and clarification to make these read more smoothly and comprehensively.  I hope this is helpful, Nina--you have a good start!

Chime in with comments and questions below!

Monday, April 30, 2018

Happy Pub Day!

Tomorrow is the pub day for Rie Neal aka Melody Reed's third book in the Major Eights series, THE MAJOR EIGHTS: THE GOO DISASTER!.  The series has gotten great reviews in PW and Booklist so far and I'm so excited to have Rie here to talk about this next one!  Be sure to go pick up a copy tomorrow!!



Tell us about THE GOO DISASTER!.  What is it about?
First of all, thanks for having me! THE GOO DISASTER! follows 8-year-old Maggie, the band's drummer. Maggie is super excited about the band's upcoming performance at her school's fancy banquet--the girls get to wear sparkly dresses and she'll have a rockin' drum solo! Best of all, Maggie's mom is going to video the performance so her dad can finally see the band while he's off on a military tour. But when Maggie's science grade starts slipping, her mom won't let her play unless she can ace her science fair project. And so far, the project is just a giant mess! Maggie and the band have to find a way to clean things up fast, or they won't get to perform at the banquet after all. 

Now that you've written several of these, do you have a favorite character or a favorite story line?
I really love each character! Jasmine has amazing ideas, and I love helping her nudge the band along--when her ideas work, and when they don't. Scarlet's got spunk and style, but also a really good heart. Maggie is smart and responsible. She loves school and helping out at home, but gets to cut loose with the band. And Becca rocks the guitar, doesn't like dressing up, and loves black. She's tough, practical, and works hard. One thing we wanted to emphasize with the series is that they're four girls who are all pretty different and still work together as a team. In terms of storyline, though, the third book was one of my favorites to write so far, because I'm a science geek at heart!

What has it been like working with your editor and Little Bee on these books?  Do you work with them collaboratively to come up with the ideas for each one?
We do collaborate quite a bit, which has been fun. I've had three different editors assigned to the project at different times, and each of them has brought something special to the series. Little bee owns the concept for these, and hired me to write them, so ultimately, decisions are theirs to make. That being said, they've been very encouraging of creative input from me, which has made writing the books a blast. :) The 'Goo' was my idea; I love doing kitchen science projects with my kids. There's even a recipe for it at the back of the book!

What part of the publication process have you found the most interesting/fun?  What part has been the hardest?
One of my favorite parts is definitely getting to see Emilie Pepin's illustrations. Whenever one of the covers is released, it feels like a magical moment--that all of my hard work has been brought to life! She does a fantastic job representing the characters and I *LOVE* showing off the covers!!! The hardest part is probably the wait between the writing of a book and its release--it was more than a year ago now that I finished my part of THE GOO DISASTER!. But I'm getting used to it. I know that that's pretty typical--even short--in the world of publishing. I'm just excited and want to share the books right away! HA!

What have you had to do to promote your book?  What kind of social media do you think has been the most important in publicizing the series?
Since this is a write-for-hire project, I'm really not expected to do a whole lot to promote the books, which is kind of freeing. At the same time, I'm proud of the books and want to talk about them! I've done one or two bookstore events, and have a few more in the works. (At the next one, we might even have kids make their own 'goo'!) I also have an author website in the works, which will feature the Major Eights. For social media, I've mostly used Facebook and Twitter, but I'm trying to post more on Instagram now, too. Facebook is super helpful when it comes to sharing events, and also for spreading the word amongst family and friends (and friends of friends, etc.). Twitter is great for connecting to the writing community; I love writer Twitter!! 

Have you gotten to meet any of your readers?
Yes!!! Just a few here and there, but I've LOVED meeting these kids. I especially love it when little girls recognize that the main characters look like them and are doing super cool things! Makes my day every time. I love the idea of inspiring girls to reach for the stars like these characters do! 

Do you have any quirks when it comes to your writing process (e.g. do you have to write at night or while wearing lucky socks)?
Haha! I don't have lucky socks, but I have to have coffee! And I usually pop on a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, even if they're not turned on. (Even if I'm home alone and it's quiet!) When figuring out a plot, I often pace around the house. The neighbors probably think I'm nuts. And I've been known to steal my kids' thinking putty ... especially if it's sparkly!

Monday, April 23, 2018

Tip Time

It's Tip Time!



This month I wanted to talk about how you should interact with agents.  Ninety percent of the time, I'm impressed with how professionally and positively authors communicate with my and my colleagues.  But there is that other 10% of the time that makes me sit back and tilt my head in confusion.



I think that 10% stems from the fact that many people (even clients sometimes!) don't fully understand all the work an agent does.  Not only do agents read manuscripts, they also put a lot of time and effort into editing, researching editors, submitting projects, following up, negotiating contracts, monitoring royalties, handling certain sub rights, and so much more!

So when you're talking with an agent, it is important to be sure not to come across as demanding or argumentative.  This obviously doesn't mean you can't stand your ground or have critical conversations or a back-and-forth (although these things are more for clients to do--if you're just querying and get back thoughts you don't agree with, I suggest thinking them over seriously and then taking or leaving them), but it does mean you have to be polite and aware.  If an agent gives you advice or says that they don't think something works, they are talking from a place of knowledge and experience, and it can come off as insulting if you are dismissive or shoot off an email telling them how wrong they are.

I'm also surprised when I reject a submission and don't offer an R&R only to have that author constantly email me asking for specific information and thoughts about how to make the manuscript better.  I understand why this is done, but doing so without an invitation can feel like a bit of an overstep.  If you'd like an agent's thoughts on something, please ask them first!  And don't ask to set up a call or meet in person.  Because of how busy we are, that is much less convenient for most of us than just replying to an email.

Finally, if an agent does invite you to ask questions or is willing to speak, I strongly suggest drafting what you want to talk about so that you can make sure your thoughts are to the point, concise, and clear.  Every so often, I get stream-of-consciousness emails from authors that are so long and confusing, I give up before reading all the way through because it's too hard and I have too much to do.

Monday, April 16, 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, April 9, 2018

Happy Pub Day!

I have another great book publishing tomorrow: Alana Delacroix's MASKED DESIRE, the second book in her Masked Arcana series with Kensington Lyrical!  The series is about supernatural beings living in Toronto, their ruling council, and the mysteries and romances they untangle.

The Caffeinated Reviewer said of the first book in the series: "MASKED POSSESSION is the first novel in the Masked Arcana paranormal romance series by Alana Delacroix. From its brilliant world building to sizzling romance I fell hard. This was my first read by Delacroix, but it won’t be my last."

Here is Alana to tell you all about MASKED DESIRE!




Tell us about the book!

MASKED DESIRE is the story of Michaela Chui, a masquerada, or shapeshifter who takes on human forms, and an extremely sexy exiled fey named Cormac Redoak. When they’re forced to work together to solve the murder of a ruling council member, they end up discovering that they might need each other more than they want to admit.


Was the experience of writing this book (as a contracted sequel) different from writing the first book?  How so?

I was more nervous because there were expectations I hadn’t had to deal with before. I had a deadline, for one. I was also working on the edits and the marketing for my first book (MASKED POSSESSION) at the same time, and thinking about how to set up the final book in the trilogy, MASKED DESIRE. I had to work on my time management as well as the actual writing, making it feel more like another job in addition to my nine-to-five. At the same time, I had an editor who I could go to with questions, and that support was fantastic.


What have you learned about the publishing process (or anything specific about publishing romance) since you've started writing these books?

Absolutely, the steepest learning curve has been the marketing. Even though I work in communications and PR for my day job, marketing in the romance biz is a completely different beast. I’m still wrapping my head around all the different platforms and how to increase my visibility in front of readers. It’s particularly difficult as I don’t even use Facebook in my private life. And I prefer print books to e-books! I now dedicate time each day to working on my book and author marketing. You now can follow me on Twitter, Instagram, subscribe for my monthly newsletter, and like me on Facebook.
Did you feel like you were involved in the various stages your book went through?  What kind of input did you have and do you think that is an experience unique to working with Kensington? 

Good question. My editor involved me in creating the blurbs, asked my thoughts for covers and was open to discussions regarding edits. This was everything I wanted. It was very important to me that the women be shown on my covers, and I’m very pleased that Michaela is on this one looking so very gorgeous. Unfortunately, it’s still not very common to have Asian women as heroines and featured on the covers of romance novels.

What is one of your favorite plot twists? 

Well, I don’t want to reveal any of the twists in MASKED LONGING, so I’ll go more general. My favourite three are:
1.     Surprise! I’m not really dead.
2.     Surprise! I’m a double agent.
3.     Surprise! A steady diet of french fries, cheese and wine are good for you. (This last one has not yet happened.)

Can we expect to see any of the characters from MASKED POSSESSION?

You can. Caro and Eric, the stars of MASKED POSSESSION, are there and still madly in love. Stephen and Estelle make an appearance, and we see a bit of how their relationship has progressed…or not. You’ll read about them in the last in the series, MASKED LONGING.

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

It’s set in Toronto, so I’m planning some great social media posts about the locations they took place. You’ll see Cormac’s tree in High Park, get the recipe for the congee Michaela uses as a weapon, and see the infamous graffiti alley on Queen West where Michaela kicks some ass. We’ll also take a trip up to Manitoulin Island, which was the inspiration for the  masquerada training base.

What can we expect next in the series?
As well as discovering what happens to the Dawning’s attempts to control humanity, with the powerful Yangzei at the helm, you’ll find out if Stephan and Estelle can overcome a huge, and I mean huge, betrayal of trust to find love. And beat the bad guys.

Now fun question!  If these books were turned in to a movie (or movies ::salivates::) who would you cast to play the main characters?

Oh, oh, love this one. Okay.
Michaela Chui – Constance Wu. Can’t wait to see her in Crazy Rich Asians.
Cormac Redoak – Charlie Hunnam. This is on looks only, I’ll be honest, but I’m sure he’s a great actor.
Madden – Javier Bardem. Yep.
Rendell (a fey and Cormac’s nemesis) – Will Yun Lee, but with long hair. He’s got a great attitude that fits Rendell to a T.

Queen Tismelda – Tamara Taylor. She can pull off Tismelda’s cold cruelty—with a hint of insecurity—perfectly.