Saturday, April 27, 2013

Write On Con Recap -- Part II

As promised (though a little later than I'd planned!) here is the second installment of  The WriteOnCon Pitch Fest Recap. Even if you missed the actual contest, you can learn a lot from what the agents liked/didn't like about the pitches they read!

In this installment, I've collected comments from Jason Yarn, Logan Garrison, Eddie Schneider, Dawn Frederick, Christa Heschke, Brianne Johnson and Amy Tipton.

Also, you can read Part I here.

WriteOnCon Agent Wishlists -- Part II

Read on to see what these agents loved and what they're tired of seeing!
Hopefully these quotes will help you slide your query on the right desk!

Jason Yarn - Paradigm Agency

  • Thumbs Up: Unique names, human villains, characters we care about, strong visuals

  • I like the main character's name - that can be a hook in and of itself in a world of so many similar character names popping up in queries. 
  • Villain that gives us more than the faceless Facility.
  • The environmental message can play well, just as long as we're able to quickly care about those characters/places affected in the pitch.
  • I like the opening hook,the strong visual.

  • Thumbs Down: Lingo/jargon, opening with a question or a logline, faceless villains 
  • Overdone themes: Dystopia, greek gods, elementals

  • Starting your pitch/query with a question ... not an auto reject for me, but it's not something that makes me smile. I think a lot of agents feel the same way - if you're asking me a question I can Yes/No to, and then I do, then I can move on and pass easily.
  • One other issue - using lingo ... is cool for the book, but for the pitch we aren't acclimated to your world yet, so they can be confusing if you don't capitalize them at least the first time we encounter them.
  • There's a villain shaped hole in the middle of your pitch.
  • The opening screams "generic dystopia" ...Dystopias are a dime-a-dozen, so showing what makes yours unique is key.
  • There are a lot of elemental stories being queried
  • First off, the opening paragraph is a Log Line, not a book pitch. What I mean is that it is a generic encapsulation of the story - this is fine to start pitching it as a film, that's expected, but it doesn't usually work (and def doesn't for me) not to get into the characters right away.
  • There are tons of gods/Greek queries and novels, etc.

Logan Garrison - Gernert Company

  • Thumbs Up: Thrillers, mystery,twist on post-apoc, cross-genre

  • I really like the thriller/mystery element
  • An element of post-apocalyptic lit that I don't often see ... shows how people prepared for a coming apocalypse and then survived it, which is ambitious and fun.
  • I really like the idea of a story set during the last days; that you're showing us the impending apocalypse, not just the usual post-apocalyptic fare.
  • Intrigued by the way you incorporate SF elements along with tackling more traditional YA issues, like depression. I think there's a lot of potential for a manuscript that can navigate different genres.
  • I love a super smart female protagonist (even if she makes a lousy boy decision every now and then!)

Eddie Schneider - JABberwocky Literary
  • Thumbs Up: Environmental issues, tight/unique world-building

  • Intrigued by the simple fact MC's charm was Chinese in origin.
  • Reminds me somewhat of Philip K. Dick's UBIK
  • A middle-grade fantasy mystery, where the environment's actually been thought through
  • There's a wrecked environment she's supposed to be using her magic to fix ... caught my attention
  • No ruleless fantasy naming scheme here! Someone has thought through their world building. 
  • I could go in for something like Bubba Ho-tep, which was goofy but had real verisimilitude 
  • Like the idea of a MG fantasy about a somewhat hapless dragon

  • Thumbs Down: 1st person queries, Generic fantasy, generic dystopian, horror/body-snatching, "Chosen Ones", "Common Nouns Made Proper," celebrity caricatures, non-human protagonists in YA

  • Makes it sound to me like there's a bit too much going on, as if the pitcher felt continually raising external stakes is what's going to keep a reader interested, rather than the writing and the characters and the propulsiveness of a focused plot.
  • This is perfectly okay, but falls into the trap of fantasy queries that are perfectly okay.
  • The trouble is, within fantasy, it's not really doing anything to stand out. We get a lot of stock phrases ... clean the query up to reflect your own novel and not read like promo language
  • This draws more from horror, with the body-snatching ... the same suspenseful elements that might pique someone else's interest, where what fell flat for me.
  • Adjective pairing ... the effect is a bit cumbersome to me as a reader. 
  • Common Nouns Turned Proper that I'm not so very fond of personally....(there are a lot of these, in dystopian fiction and fantasy both, and they make my nose wrinkle),
  • Celebrity caricatures aren't likely to do it for me
  • Paint-by-numbers dystopian novel. 
  • Query letters written in first person really turn me off
  • It's better to not have any comp titles than for them to be this all over the place. If you're including comp titles, they should have more than just the lightest similarity.
  • Selling a novel where the protagonist is clearly not human, is a tough row to hoe. 
  • The exceptionalness of the protagonist leaves me cold, personally. ... my internal monologue: Yay. Another chosen one.

Dawn Frederick - Red Sofa Literary

  • Thumbs Up: Southern Gothic, Westerns, civil rights, twist on god stories, Native American, New Age, mobsters

  • Civil rights ... Ella Baker  ... seeing the other side of her appeals to my personal reading taste 
  • Immortal god interacting with humans. It's a formula that has worked many times ... set in Hawaii is a fresh approach.
  • Anything with a southern gothic ambiance is right up my alley ..... comes across as a darker, gothic story. It may be a good idea to mention books that are similar, that have done well. i.e. Darren Shan.
  • I'm esp. digging the Native American appeal of this story.
  • Idea of a plot based on constellations and the zodiac is nice
  • Like the mobster theme,
  • Western/cowboy stories are def. a gem

  • Thumbs Down: Religious and/or Mormon faith, near-Historical novels without an "event" to hook readers into that time period.

  • The story circulating around finding the Mormon faith is something that may appeal to some folks, but alas I'm not the best person to gauge it
  • Downside is that this MG novel is set in 1960. Kids need things they can appreciate in today's climate. ... The biggest hurdle to overcome is getting today's readers to want to read this book. What is the historical event that makes them want to learn more about 1964 and its events?

Christa Heschke - McIntosh & Otis

  • Thumbs Up: Steampunk, elves, twists on god stories, twists on genie stories, fairytale/folktale retellings, synaesthesia, Indiana-Jones type adventures

  • Most stories dealing with the Greek/Roman gods, are written with the assumption that a god is born a god. I like that you twist this on its ear. Zeus as a regular teenager...very cool! 
  • I'm a fan of steampunk
  • A different take on the genie which is great.
  • Intrigued by her love of storytelling
  • Norse legends/gods
  • Really intrigued by the idea of synaesthesia
  • I would like to see more stories featuring elves!
  • Intrigued by this idea of "mind linking" and astral projection.
  • I am a big fan of new takes on fairy tales, folktales etc.
  • I think there was an episode about man-eaters on Supernatural...great show, great episode and very interesting idea for a novel!
          ***NOTE: Christa just signed this writer (Congrats Rachel!!!)
                             so her list is probably now full in this regard.
  • Being able to smell ancient and magical artifacts is an interesting concept. I certainly am a fan of Indiana Jones type adventure stories, where the stakes are always high and there's always some amazing treasure to discover.

Brianne Johnson - Writers House

  • Thumbs Up: Physics/science geek, witches (though needs to be original)

  • There was something about this that felt fresh to me, and personally, I'm sort of a sucker for a good witchy book. 
  •  I like the physics angle

  • Thumbs Down: Anthropomorphism, Palestinian-American politics, High fantasy, suicide themes Overdone: Bullying stories, "damsel who saves herself," "kid who discovers he's magical," zombies

  • Overall, I'm not a huge fan of anthropomorphism
  • I would be a little concerned about the political ramifications here. It’s a hot button issue [Palestinian-American relations]... it’s important for these issues to be written about for kids, but I personally might step aside for an agent who’s more knowledgeable about the politics here.
  • Feels familiar (strong echoes of A Wrinkle in Time) this isn't a dealbreaker, but the writing would have to be truly spectacular to set this story apart
  • This feels a little too “Mean Girls” to me ... I'm seeing a lot of bullying stories these days--give us an additional plot element that will make this stand out from the pack a bit more.
  • I love the idea behind this (grrrl power, all the way!) .... [but] this feels really familiar to me--the "damsel who saves herself" trope is wearing a bit thin.
  • The "kid who discovers he/she is magical" plot has been done a lot--the writing would have to be really, really strong to work.
  • It's a crowded market for zombie/witch stories at the moment ... 
  • this plotline feels a little familiar (makes me think of Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher, and Eragon)
  • A little too high fantasy for my list.
  • I'm personally uncomfortable with suicide as the major theme of a book

Amy Tipton - Signature Literary

  • Thumbs Up: Geeks, thrillers, mystery/sleuthing, overweight heroine, quirky sidekick

  • I like the idea of "geeks" running the school ... that having the latest smartphone, liking role playing games, wearing unfashionable clothes is cool. I think this is fun. 
  • I like me a good thriller/crime/mystery. 
  • I like a quirky sidekick too.
  • I do like a good mystery and I do like the idea of ... sleuthing like Sherlock Holmes
  • Like the idea of an overweight heroine [but] I want the MO for losing weight to be hers and hers alone.
  • I love the idea of reinventing oneself

  • Thumbs Down: Sci-Fi

  • I don't normally like Sci Fi

Hopefully some of this was helpful for those of you querying!

Did you participate in WriteOnCon? What were your favorite parts?

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Who Are You Reading for Aussie Author Month?

Did you know that April is Aussie Author month?

In celebration of the month-long party, I've been cozying up with a few great reads by Australian authors. I'm always an enormous fan of anything by Garth Nix or Markus Zusak.

Two of my new favorites this month?
           ** Reviews coming soon!**

What about you? Who are your favorite Aussie Authors? 
Who are you reading for Aussie Author Month?
Who should I read next?

Monday, April 15, 2013

PitMad Agents & Editors

#PitMad Agents & their stars

source: krossel
Who were the agents and editors requesting at March's #PitMad Twitter Pitch Contest? Take a peek below to see who joined in the fun and what they were requesting.

Click on the links to be taken to their Twitter Favorites lists - many of them still have the pitches they picked listed.Even though the contest is over it can be pretty useful to see exactly what sorts of things each agent is craving right now.

Maybe your story is just what they've been looking for!


Note: This list isn't quite complete. I'm certain I missed a few agents here and there - particularly agents that didn't favorite, but asked to be @replied instead. If you know of one I forgot to include, let me know!

Annie Bomke - Bomke Literary
    • YA Contemporary, Fantasy, Historical, Historical Romance, Suspense, Thriller
    • NA Fantasy
    • Adult Fantasy, Historical, Literary, Suspense

Brooks Sherman - Fine Print Literary
    • YA Contemporary, Horror, Retelling, Fantasy
    • PB - Pets
    • YA Contemporary, Fantasy, LGBTQ, Southern Gothic, Suspense
    • NA Contemporary, Suspense
    • Adult Contemporary/Suspense
    • YA Contemporary
    • NA Historical
    • Adult Historical Fiction, Horror, Literary, Southern, Time Travel

Emily S. Keyes - L. Perkins
    • YA Contemporary, Edgy, Historical Fiction, Religion, Retelling, Thriller
    • MG Contemporary, Fantasy, Multicultural
    • Adult Historical Fiction

Eric Ruben - Ruben Agency
*Used @replies, not favorites
    • YA Fantasy
    • NA Fantasy

Evan Gregory - Ethan Ellenberg
    • YA Contemporary, Retelling, Sci-Fi, Fantasy
    • MG Superhero
    • Adult Historical Fiction, Romance

Jen Rofe - Andrea Brown
    • YA Contemporary, Fantasy, Ghost, Retelling, Southern Gothic, Superhero, Thriller
    • MG Circus, Monsters, Superhero

Jessica Sinsheimer - Sarah Jane Freymann
    • YA Contemporary, Edgy, Fantasy, Demons, Ghosts, Horror, LGTBQ, Retelling, Sci-Fi, Superhero, Suspense, Time Travel, Thriller, Urban Fantasy
    • PB Monsters
    • MG Contemporary, Fantasy, Ghosts, Monsters, Historical Themed Mystery, Superhero
    • NA Sci-Fi, Time Travel
    • Adult Contemporary Romance, Erotica, Fantasy, Historical, Reincarntion, Sci-Fi, Suspense

Jordy Albert - Booker Albert
    • YA Contemporary, Fantasy, Ghost stories, Historical Fantasy, Thriller, Time Travel, Superhero, Sci-Fi
    • MG Fantasy, Superhero
    • NA Fantasy, Suspense, Time Travel
    • Adult Contemporary

Julia A. Weber - J.A. Weber Literaraturagentur GmbH
    • YA Contemporary
    • NA Contemporary
    • Adult Contemporary, Historical Fiction, Romance, Sci-Fi, Thriller

Katie Grimm - Don Congdon
    • YA Contemporary, Fantasy, Horror

Louise Caiola - AKA Literary
    • YA Fantasy, Romance

Margaret Bail - Andrea Hurst & Associates
    • Adult Romance, Fantasy, Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction, Cozies

Mandy Hubbard - D4EO
*Note: She was also @replying
    • YA Contemporary, LGBTQ, Thriller
    • Adult Romance

Melissa Jeglinksi - The Knight Agency
    • YA Contemporary, Fantasy, Thriller
    • MG Fantasy, Multicultural, Superhero
    • Adult Contemporary, Historical Romance, Romance, Suspense, Women's Fiction

Sarah LaPolla - Curtis Brown, Ltd
    • YA Historical Romance
    • NA Time Travel
    • Adult Retelling

Victoria Marini - Gelfman Schneider
    • YA Suspense
    • NA Historical


    • YA Dystopian, Paranormal Romance, Reincarnation, Retelling
    • Adult Paranormal Romance, Reincarnation

Heather Howland - Entangled
    • Adult Contemporary Romance

    • YA Contemporary, Coming-of-Age, Fantasy, Graphic Novel, Historical, Horror, LGBTQ, 
    • MG Superhero

Mandy Schoen - Month9Books
    • YA Contemporary, Fantasy, Romance, Romantic Thriller
    • NA Gothic, Paranormal Romance, Retelling, Time Travel
    • Adult Erotica, Historical Romance, Reincarnation, Romance, Women's Fiction

    • YA Sci-Fi
    • MG Ghost, Sci-Fi
    • Adult Contemporary, Fantasy, Suspense, Thriller

    • Removed favorites and comments

Theresa Cole - Entangled
*Used @Replies only
    • YA Contemporary, Fantasy
    • NA Contemporary, Gothic Fantasy

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Feeling Rejected? Join the {Prestigious} Crowd

It's contest season in novel-writing land. And that means a lot of ups and downs for us writers. It's easy to forget about any of our own successes (completed rough draft, finished revision round, query polish, manuscript requests etc) and instead focus on how much more successful everyone else around us is.

She got more contest requests than I did. His premise is higher concept. They got agents...

But here's the thing: everyone goes through uncertain times; everyone has to deal with rejection.

We are not alone. 

Inspired by a post by Rachel Pudelek, I've collected some blog quotes from authors in their pre-published days. Now they are agented/published and generally wildly successful authors, but in these blog excerpts, they sound a lot like us!

The first one is particularly hilarious to me.

On Uncertainty ...

...on Sunday, I ran across this contest. I don't know why I spent more than a second's time on it. The theme is lycanthrope (am I even spelling that right?) which is the term for were-animals (duh, says everyone else), and I don't do werewolves. I've never felt the least bit inspired by them...Me. Writing a werewolf novel. What next?
         - Maggie Stiefvater, Author of SHIVER  (massively successful werewolf novel)

... it's different and funny, but it may be too different...not quite the thing for a break-out novel. I get lots of agent and editor nibbles from this one--lots of requests for partials and fulls, but I think it's ultimately turned down because it is a bit random (I was going for a Douglas Adams kind of humor) and it's certainly not a safe bet.
        - Beth Revis, Author of ACROSS THE UNIVERSE

On Writer's Block ...

Right now I'm still perusing agent sites and dreaming.  If only this damn manuscript would just write itself!!!
         -Gennifer Albin, Author of CREWEL

...I'm at that point in my current WIP where I kinda have figured out where the story is going, but I'm just using the Internet as an excuse not to actually write because right now, it's hard and I'm lazy.
        - Beth Revis, Author of ACROSS THE UNIVERSE

Grrr. After a really productive week of writing last week, I've ground to a halt. Writer's block, some might call it, but I know it for what it is: a wrong turn. That stumped feeling of staring at a blinking cursor, knowing where the plot is supposed to go but unable to get it there . . . that means I've done something stupid.
          Maggie Stiefvater, Author of SHIVER

On Crappy Writing ...

I spent almost an hour yesterday just reworking my first page! ARGH. But I know it's the most important page in the whole book blah blah blah so I'm trying to make it as great as I can, but I'm still not sure if I like how I started.
          - Marissa Meyer, Author of CINDER

It. Was. A. Mess.  The dialogue was good but everything else sucked.  There was no world building or character development and the plot was fuzzy at best.  Thankfully I have awesome critique partners...
           -Gennifer Albin, Author of CREWEL

So, after a large amount of cookie dough and some hours off, I returned to the desk and reread the last 2K words I'd typed. Sure enough, they're crap. No wonder my subconscious was making me drive with the brake on. "Stop, you moron! Stop before you hurt yourself and others!"
          Maggie Stiefvater, Author of SHIVER

Also: I didn't figure out what the book was really about until the last twenty pages. Which is a problem. Now that I'm revising and condensing, I'm weaving that information I crammed into the last twenty pages into the rest of the draft.
          - Veronica Roth, Author of DIVERGENT

On Contests & Querying ...

I didn't even get in the top 35 winners of the last contest I entered. Criminy, the judge must not have been my target audience at all.
         - Marissa Meyer, Author of CINDER

I started querying this week and, suffice it to say, I've come down with refreshbuttonitis.
        Gennifer Albin, Author of CREWEL

I will not take it personally if I am rejected by an agent. Or several agents. Perhaps when I reach the "dozens of agents" stage, I may begin to feel a little blue. But at that point, I will buy some Half Baked ice cream and watch a stupid chick flick until I feel better, and then I will get up and keep. writing.
        - Veronica Roth, Author of DIVERGENT

I’ve gotten incredibly mixed scores in contests. People have hated my work, work which, in other contests, have earned me finalist placement. ... I think I caught this chick on a bad day. She didn’t get it. Not just “didn’t get it” the way we talk about people who aren’t into our style of story… but really. Didn’t. Get. It.
        - Diana Peterfreund, Author of RAMPANT

I recently wrote about 100 queries...most of them sucked, one did not.
        - Gennifer Albin, Author of CREWEL

I had to write all those icky queries  first.  I learned through failure.  I would write up a query and come home and read it to my husband, mail it my critique partners, and post it on forums.  My CP's would give it a passing grade, but more like a C than an A+.
        Gennifer Albin, Author of CREWEL

This morning I got a form reject in my inbox.  It was the typical "Not what we're looking for, but best of luck" deal.  On a forum I post on another member pointed out it was hard to imagine one agent form rejecting what another flew out to meet me after reading.  The answer is that this business is subjective.
      - Gennifer Albin, Author of CREWEL

On Doubt ...

It's like a midlife crisis, only it happens far more often. Here's what it is: you came up with this idea. You teased it out. You wrote it out. You re-wrote it. You refined it. You lovingly crafted this book, or this story, or whatever, and suddenly...

You HATE it.

You begin to wonder if anyone will ever like or even mildly appreciate what you've written, because it's flawed, or unoriginal, or just generally oozing suckiness from every orafice. You doubt everything you have done in the past day, week, or hell, year. You consider giving up writing and becoming a potato farmer in Idaho instead.

Happens to me like...once a day.  

Sound familiar?

The fact of the matter is that EVERYONE goes through uncertain times. EVERYONE goes through rejection. Even the stars, folks.

What do you think? Do any of these quotes resonate with you?
What are your favorite quotes from pre-published/now published authors?
How do you encourage yourself along the publishing journey?


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