Query Strategies

I recently jumped back into the query pool. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve actively queried a new project and I have to say, it’s as rough as I remember–maybe more so. The querying process will wear an author down on on several levels.

Level 1

First, and the one we all know too well, is the emotional toll that comes from rejection. This level has sub-levels that are directly related to the differing means we have of arriving at this level.

Sub-Level 1A: Straight forward rejection as in “I’m afraid I just didn’t connect with your writing”.

Sub-level 1B: Rejection by lack of other evidence. This is when you can assume that no response is a rejection.

Sub-level 1C: The high of a partial or full request, followed by a rejection.

Level 2

Second, researching agents and publishers is a time-intensive process. You research agents/publishers and their agencies/houses to find out what they represent, their manuscript wish lists, who their current clients/books are, how they interact with the writing community/world on social media, and what their submission guidelines are. It takes a lot of time.

Level 3

Preparing to query is also a time-intensive process. You have to craft the best query letter possible, one that highlights your story, captures attention, and compels the agent or publisher to request more. And you have to do it in about 250 words or less. But you also need to have a synopsis ready, and any writer who’s ever tackled this knows the special room in hell that houses synopsis writing. Is there really a way to effectively condense a 100,000 word novel into a one-page synopsis? (No, really! I’d like to know. If you have the answer, please email me!)

Level 4

This is the actual sending out of the query to your chosen agents/publishers. This step seems like a quick and easy one, until you get started. For each query you have to check, double-check, and even triple-check (at a minimum) that you’ve followed all of the submission guidelines, properly spelled everything (especially the name of the agent/publisher!), correctly entered the email address, included only what is requested by that agent. And then you do it again for the next agent, and the next, and the next….

Level 5

You realize you’ve made a spelling error, formatting error, forgot to include your sample pages, forgot the actual query letter, accidentally pasted the letter you wrote for another agent, just re-read your sample pages and realize you should make more edits…It’s bound to happen. Everyone has experienced that horrifying moment when you realize you shouldn’t have hit Send quite so soon.

Survival Tips for the Querying Author

So what can you do to make the querying process a little more tolerable?

First, always keep in mind that even with the best manuscript it really does come down to that novel arriving in the right hands at the right moment in time. Rejection isn’t personal, it isn’t you that’s being rejected. Your manuscript really just isn’t the right fit for this person, and you don’t want someone to accept it with a “well, I don’t love it, but I could probably sell it” view. Ultimately you want someone who will love your manuscript, who will be passionate about it and pursue publication because they believe in it, and you. So keep in mind that each rejection puts you closer to the right hands.

Second, be sure you are researching agents and publishers to find the ones who you want to work with. Don’t go into querying with an anybody-will-do approach. Be sure you’re targeting submissions to people who represent the genre you write in, agents who will meet your long-term career plans (for example, if an agent only represents YA, and you plan to write in the adult market as well, you’ll need to consider that). You should be able to tell an agent or publisher why you submitted to them. Do they represent an author you admire, did you hear them speak at a conference or on a podcast, did you read an interview with them? What specific reason can you offer for thinking this agent/publisher is for you beyond the fact that they are open to submission?

Third, and this goes without saying, but will probably continue to cause all of us ongoing issues: read your submission 3-4 times before sending it! Pay attention to the spelling of the agent/editors name–as well as your own!

Fourth, learn to be patient, or come up with ways to distract yourself from the wait. On average you can expect to wait 4-8 weeks for a response (or lack of response!). I know, from the minute we hit Send on that query we begin the constant checking and refreshing of our emails. We can’t seem to get away from it, but what else can we do to busy our minds and make the wait go by faster? A common suggestion is to get busy on your next project. Writing definitely makes the time pass and keeps you occupied.

One trick I’ve adopted is to plot my submissions so that every week I should have something going out or a resolution on an outstanding submission. Part of my research involves making a note of expected response times. I then send out submissions, in part with an idea of response times (long, medium and short waits). I mix my submissions with an even number of 8-12 week responders, 4-6 week responders, and 2-4 week responders. That way every few weeks I’m either closing out submissions and sending new ones or researching more. But in my mind I’m making some sort of progress every few weeks.

When you do start feeling the sting of waiting and/or rejection reach out and talk to someone. If you don’t have a local writing community, the internet has so many opportunities for reaching out. On Twitter the #WritingCommunity threads are very supportive, and there are smaller, genre-specific groups as well. One thing you should never do though, is use social media to slam an agent/publisher who has rejected your work. Sadly, it is something that still happens, and it will not help you achieve publication–nor should it.

Well friends, that’s it, that’s all I have to offer. Above all, I encourage you to keep writing, keep submitting, and keep dreaming! (and drop me a comment when you achieve your dream–or any time)

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August #Giveaway: Win 1 of 20 free critiques

(*Updated to reflect additional critiques)

My birthday is this month and I’ve decided to give, give, give! (Oh, and I asked some of my friends to help me give)

For my August giveaway I’ve decided to gear it toward those of you out there who are still writing away, editing and polishing your manuscripts, obsessively revising your query letters, and dreaming of the day your efforts are rewarded. That’s right, authors, this one is for you.

At the end of  the month 21(!) free critiques will be given away.

So, what do you do to enter? Click on the Rafflecopter link and follow the prompts. And yes, there are a lot of Twitter profiles that you can follow, but there were a lot of generous authors who volunteered their time to help out, so please show them some love.

Details (and the Rafflecopter link) are below. Best of luck to everyone.













a Rafflecopter giveaway

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High School Reunion (Why Is This Not a Musical?)

My high school reunion is this weekend.

I’ve  been lying low, flying under the radar. I’ve joined the Facebook group, read the posts, and looked at the pictures, but I have neither commented nor responded (or even decided) if I’m actually going. I didn’t go to the first one (in truth, I didn’t even hear about it), and I only hear rumors about the second.

A lot of things have happened since I last saw many of the people I graduated with. To put it into perspective as to how long it’s been, these are some of the things that were happening in the world the year we graduated:

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  • The Jamaican Bobsled Team Debuted at The Calgary Winter Olympics

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  • 2 1/2 Years after the Challenger tragedy the Space Shuttle Discovery was launched

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  • 4 years after the disease was recognized, the 1st World Aids Day was held

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  • The President we had (and the one that was voted in that year)

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  • Ben Johnson won gold in Seoul. Three days later he was stripped of his medal, and Olympic record, after testing positive for steroids. Carl Lewis was awarded the gold medal and Olympic record.

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  • Pan Am flight 103 was bombed while flying over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 243 passengers and 16 crew members.

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  • Eli Lilly began marketing Prozac in January, annual sales hit $350 million within a year ( #HowIShouldHaveInvestedMyTacoBellEarnings)

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  • Crack cocaine became a thing (is it even still a thing?)

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  • Residents of super-ultra-rural areas of California & Nevada were relieved to finally know that they weren’t imaging those “hovering crafts” they saw in the night sky. The US Government finally unveiled the B2 Bomber.

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  • Stephen Hawking released A Brief History of Time


So, as you can see, we left our glory years of high school and walked into the hope and promise the late 80’s had to offer. And that’s the last time I saw many of my classmates.

With the invention of Facebook I’ve managed to connect with a few of them. If nothing else, we are “Facebook Friends” and will occasionally Like or comment on each others posts. In all honesty though, our community was on the small side and we tended to hang out with kids in the classes ahead of and behind us. At various points we ended up in different districts and I can’t remember exactly if my Facebook friends are high school friends, junior high school– or even elementary school!– ones. This reunion will actually be a combination of the graduating class of three (!) local high schools.

So, if it’s been so long why am I so anxiety ridden about going and seeing everyone? Aren’t I excited at the chance?

Well, I have reasons to be anxious, and I think I may not be alone (really, I can’t be alone, can I?).

  1. I’m anxiety-ridden by nature. I don’t do well in large groups or around people I’m not comfortable with (I actually don’t even do well around the people I see regularly and do feel comfortable with).
  2.  I’m not a social creature. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not antisocial. I’m just a person who is comfortable and content in my own quiet world. I never viewed myself as a highly social person. I was a side-kick to my friend, Lysa. Now she should have a Doctorate in Social Interactions. She’s good with people. She’s confident in groups and she remembers everyone and most of the things that happened to, with and around everyone we hung out with. I was pretty much the grumpy (occasionally drunken) sidekick.
  3. I have insecurities. Lots of them. At the top of the list is the fact that I’ve gained weight (a lot!). I’m sure there are plenty of us who have gained weight as we aged, and I think they all still look great, but I can’t give myself that consideration.
  4. I am no less socially awkward now than I was back then. Maybe even more so now (see #3).
  5. I am horrible at recalling names. I generally remember a face, but can’t always pair it with the proper name (see #4-Socially Awkward).
  6. Sometimes my facial recognition skills fail me. Two days ago I had a conversation with a junior high school classmate. I’d remember her face anywhere!! She looked exactly the same, a fact a marveled at as I walked away. How, after all these years can she still look exactly the same as the last time I saw her?  The answer came as I recalled the confusion in her eyes (though she was sweetly trying to play the whole thing off) and pieced together the reality. I’d been speaking to her daughter!!!! A true Doppelgänger, but not who I thought (see #4-Socially Awkward).

While it may seem like I’ve been obsessing over the negative (and maybe I have) I’ve also tried to come up with reasons that I should go to my high school reunion. I’ve worked long and hard to come up with a list of things I can be proud of, reasons that I can show my up to my high school reunion without shame. Here are the highlights:

  1. During all the years since graduation I haven’t been featured in The Blotter (our local who’s-who of law enforcement attention).
  2. I’ve never been forced to flee from an angry mob in a foreign country.
  3. My family has never had to arrange my release from a third-world prison.
  4. I’ve never been the awkward subject of a photo that’s gone viral and spawned thousands of memes.
  5. I haven’t bilked any charities for millions and had to flee to the islands.
  6. I haven’t hacked into any multi-national corporations, released inflammatory e-mails, or tried to influence elections.
  7. My personal nuclear program abides by all limitations imposed by the UN.
  8. I’ve never been the subject of a Dateline or 20/20 investigation.

All in all, a pretty good track record, in my opinion. So I may do it. I may face my fears and step into a room full of people I haven’t seen in *information redacted to protect the innocent and vain*  years.

But, until then, please enjoy a few more images from our world during the year of our graduation:

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Reflecting on 2017

I’m quite late in doing this wrap-up for 2017. While I was preparing my reflection of the year, 2017 hit me with one more bomb. It’s taken me several weeks to brush off the dust and crawl out of the rubble that was left behind from that last explosion. But I’m moving on, I’ve pulled myself up by the proverbial bootstraps and I’m ready to dig in.

First, the bad:

I’m sure a lot happened in 2017 that seemed horrible at the time, but only a few things stand out now. One of my dogs proved that he just can’t be left alone, and his impulsive nature has resulted in him being grounded….forever!

Six months later a head-on collision on the interstate sparked a fire that spread uphill and burned down our fence and a number of trees. Luckily everyone survived the crash and no homes were damaged in the fire.

Six months later I was notified by my employer that I was being given a 37% pay cut. There were a number of other changes and expectations that made me realize I was no longer in a healthy, supportive work environment. After much soul searching–and a LOT of number crunching!–I decided to leave that 60 hour/week job and find something else. I’ll be making less money, but I’ll have more time for my family, my writing and myself, which is far more important than numbers on a check.

Now…the good:

In 2017 I began doing some social media tasks and reading submissions for a publisher. Lakewater Press is a small publisher in Australia, and what a wonderful experience it has been to work with everyone there. I’m learning more about the querying process, but from the publisher’s side. I’ve also learned more about how books enter the world from the querying stage to publication.  I’ve come to realize how true it is that rejections aren’t personal, or even a reflection of the quality of writing. Sometimes, no matter how well-written a sample is, it really just “isn’t for me.” I’ve also been somewhat surprised at the number of submissions that are sent out and don’t meet the posted guideline or aren’t professionally prepared. For my author friends I would like to reiterate how important it is to review the guidelines and ensure your queries are well-prepared and appropriately targeted before sending those to an agent/publisher.

In 2017 I entered the world of being a published author. A Shine That Defies the Dark was released in December with Changing Tides Publishing. This book has helped me learn so much about the editing process as well as just how exhilarating and exhausting marketing can be.

On the horizon for 2018:

So, what does 2018 hold for me?

I have a new job, with realistic hours that will allow me more time for the things that nourish my soul.

I’m looking forward to better physical, psychological and spiritual health as I move beyond the stress of my old job and spend more time with my family and my writing.

I have two books that are SO CLOSE to being ready to send into the world. The Light at Finnigan’s End is a follow up to A Shine That Defies the Dark. I also have a YA fantasy, The High Crown Chronicles, that is inching closer to completion (I can’t even tell you how long I’ve been working on that novel!).

And I hope that 2018 is off to an amazing start for everyone else. Read widely and obsessively, everyone!

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NaNoWriMo Day 21: Survival Tip of the Day

Like many of my friends and acquaintances, you might be in the midst of the sheer madness that is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  The goal: to write a book (yes, sir, that’s right a whole book) in (gasp) 30 days!

We’ve reached day 21. Congratulation. Whether you’re right on track, way ahead, or struggling to catch up the fact is that you’ve been doing an amazing thing. You’ve been writing your ass off for 21 days!

If it hasn’t happened already you might find that your story is veering off course from where you thought it was heading. Maybe your characters are proving to have different personalities than you thought. Todays tip is: follow your character’s lead.

You may have reached that point where your unconscious–and very creative–mind has kicked in and recognizes things that you had never anticipated about your project. As you’ve been writing you’ve also become more familiar with your characters and setting. As a result of your increased awareness and familiarity more options have opened up and there might be something better for your novel. Feel free to let go of your outline–or veer slightly off course for a short period–and see where you end up. You might just be surprised at the result.

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NaNoWriMo Day 20: Survival Tip of the Day

Like many of my friends and acquaintances, you might be in the midst of the sheer madness that is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  The goal: to write a book (yes, sir, that’s right a whole book) in (gasp) 30 days!

You’ve done it! Day 20! There are only ten days to go. I have to admit it, my brain is tired! I’ve just passed 40k words and I’m exhausted. My tip for the day is simple. No matter how many words you have right now: keep going! It’s hard, it’s exhausting, but it’s such an awesome accomplishment. Don’t give up now.


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NaNoWriMo Day 19: Survival Tip of the Day

Like many of my friends and acquaintances, you might be in the midst of the sheer madness that is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  The goal: to write a book (yes, sir, that’s right a whole book) in (gasp) 30 days!

We are getting to the end of that rough third week. Here’s what is happening to a lot of people: work demands are increasing; you’re getting tired & making excuses to not write; Thanksgiving planning/preparations are becoming more urgent; and you’re just not writing like you’d planned.

You’re so close to the end. This is the time you need to push through. Determine how you can best schedule time to write.

  • Some people do better when they block off a dedicated writing time. Allow yourself 1-2 hours daily (for minimum 1667 words, plus this allows you some room for a buffer or bonus word count in case you fall short one day)
  • Some people do better if they can write, in sprint format, for several shorter periods every day. Depending on your typing speed you can get 400-600 words in a 15 minute period. In four fifteen minute sprints per day (morning, afternoon, dinner time and before bed, perhaps?) you should be able to meet, and even exceed your 1667 word per day goal.

However you do it, rededicate yourself to meeting the goal. There are only 11 days left. You can do it!

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NaNoWriMo Day 17: Survival Tip of the Day

Like many of my friends and acquaintances, you might be in the midst of the sheer madness that is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  The goal: to write a book (yes, sir, that’s right a whole book) in (gasp) 30 days!

Todays tip is dedicated toward getting the most words possible in the shortest amount of time: join in some word sprints/challenges. It’s easy to find challenges & sprints online. Check the NaNoWriMo forums, follow @NaNoWordSprints on Twitter, check your local NaNoWriMo group or organize your own among groups of friends who are participating. The idea and rules are simple: Someone declares a word sprint of a certain length to begin at a certain time (ie “15 minute challenge beginning at :15). You simply join in, begin typing like crazy at the designated start time, then count & post the number of words you wrote during that time. A 15-minute challenge is a great way to knock out 400-600 words (depending on how fast you type). If you’re very competitive by nature, you can join in three of the 15-minute challenges & have met your minimum daily word count in 45 minutes!

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NaNoWriMo Day 15: Survival Tip of the Day

Like many of my friends and acquaintances, you might be in the midst of the sheer madness that is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  The goal: to write a book (yes, sir, that’s right a whole book) in (gasp) 30 days!

Today’s tip–and I realize now that I should have mentioned this earlier, like way earlier–is to lock up your internal editor. No matter how hard it is you have to push forward. You cannot make progress and move forward if you keep moving back. All of those misspellings, wrong words, bad punctuation, and really, really inadequate words that you put down will still be there when you go back later. You can fix them during your first round of revisions.

The goal of NaNoWriMo is to get through the first draft, no matter how bad it is. My current project title includes “SFD”, for Shitty First Draft (a la BIRD BY BIRD by Anne Lamott). I label all of my projects with the title and then “SFD”. This is just a starting point, nobody expects it to be perfect, but I’m certain that you want it done. So plug along. Leave the errors. Get to the end. December is the month of spelling corrections and removing errant punctuation.

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NaNoWriMo Day 12: Survival Tip of the Day

Many of my friends and acquaintances are currently in the midst of the sheer madness that is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  The goal: to write a book (yes, sir, that’s right a whole book) in (gasp) 30 days!

You may have noticed (or not, which is also fine, you have been busy trying to get your word count in!), but I didn’t post a survival tip yesterday. Why? Well, I had a lot going on, it had been a busy week and I was just exhausted. For my own mental health, at the end of the work day I shut down my computer, picked up dinner, and vegetated in front of the tv with my family. In the words of Stuart Smalley…


Today’s tip is that it’s ok to take a day off. Sometimes you just need to take a night off, rest your brain and recharge. The important thing is to get back at it the next day!



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