Sunday, July 8, 2018

Query Wins for Me

I am getting ready to query again after about a six-month hiatus and looked back through my records of responses and was quite pleased. 

In the past, I’ve had many close calls. I’ve had full requests from publishers and agents alike for a few different books I queried. I could have given up with the mounting rejections but the rejections I’ve gotten over the last year and a half have MOSTLY been inspiring. This might not make sense to anyone who hasn’t been through the querying trenches but there is such a thing as a good rejection. A good “no” per se.

In posting this I want to say that if you are a writer seeking publication, you need to keep writing, revising and editing…but especially keep submitting.

Here are a few of my rejections:

“I loved the concept and was riveted by the world you have created, but ultimately I just didn’t fall in love with the voice. It’s not for me, but I wish you the best of luck in your search for representation.”

‘There was so much here I admired and enjoyed, but I am not a perfect fit.”

“I was excited by your query and the premise of your book. It’s clear that you’ve devoted a lot of hard work to this project, and your passion comes through in your writing. However, while there is a lot to be commended, I struggled to connect with the manuscript in a meaningful way, and therefore don’t believe that I would be the most effective champion for your book.”

“This has such an intriguing premise. However, I didn't quite connect as strongly as I would have liked, so I'm passing, with regrets. It's not so much a craft issue so much as that gut feeling I rely on when deciding to ask for more.”

“I really enjoyed the read and think you have a great voice. Your world building is extremely strong and the characters are brilliant, but I’m afraid I’m going to say no. My list is very small and I can only take on what I really love, and whilst this is a book I’d definitely pick up in a bookshop, I don’t feel I’m the right agent to champion your work.”

So as you can see, I've reached the point where that clich√© thing agents say—it's just not right for meis really true. My writing is not for everyone, just like every book, song, food, color or whatever isn't for everyone. We all have different tastes. I love Beyonce, IndiaArie, basketball, the color red, Black Panther, Arizona Ice Tea, sushi, chicken, Starbucks, anything J.K. Rowling touches, among many other things...but these are my tastes. Now, when I query I have to be much more choosy, I am on the lookout for an agent who loves my writing and sees a vision for my career not just the book they like. That, my friends, is a whole 'nother ball game.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Advice for Writers

The Best advice I can give to writers can be summed up in five tips and is partly what I've read, heard or learned on my writing journey.  

First – Keep writing and be ready. Write as many novels (and short story, poems, essays, etc.) as you can. Learn how to write a synopsis and query if you plan on submitting to agents and publishers. Learn the mechanics of writing and structuring a story. Take classes, enter contests, find mentors, work with beta readers, critique partners and editors - all with the goal of improving your skills and making your novels better.

Second – The road to getting published is not for the faint of heart. If you can’t learn to live with constant rejection then you might not want to publish your work. Writers must grow thick skin. We are going to be judged by our work constantly and must remember why we write in order to overcome haters, trolls or simply people who don't like our work/style. Not everyone is going to like your work that is a fact.

Third – Do your research in your genre for average word count and for the popular (like strong heroines) and dying trends (like love triangles). Be on the lookout for popular and award-winning books in the genre and when at all possible break down those books to see why they succeeded. Did the book ride a trend? Was it different than other books in the sub-genre? Do you think it was the author's notoriety that sold it? How was the book paced? What subjects did the book deal with? Male or female heroine? First or third person point of view? Examine books that might be like yours as well and ask yourself what makes your book different.

Doing your research matters when it comes to writing to standards the audience expects. In lower YA, sex is not acceptable, in most all YA explicit sex isn't acceptable either. In Murder mysteries the body is found in the first few chapters. So you need to know your audience to know who to market to and also to list your book for sale withe proper tags, among other things.

Fourth – Establish and build your author platform by joining and being active on Twitter (at least) in order to stay in touch with agents, publishers, readers and writers.  

I establish​ed​ and tripled my​ social media platform ​by: 

  • follow​ing ten​ or more people a day
  • committing to make​ three posts a day​
  • joining in on popular writer hashtags
  • retweeting at least once a day
  • favoriting a tweet at least once a day
  • engaging in a conversations at least once a day.

Fifth – If you love writing, don’t give up. I’ve heard it can take ten years from when you first start writing seriously to get an agent or publisher. I've also heard people usually sell their 4th - 7th books or very late drafts of their first books (Draft 15-30).

If you decide traditional is not the route for you and you intend on self-publishing, make sure to work with beta and critique partners and hire great editors you trust (and most importantly take their advice) in order to put out a comparable product on the crowded market. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

Agent Protocol & Questions When You Get an Offer

Agent Protocol - What is the standard protocol when dealing with agents?

Should you respond to a "no" from an agent with a polite thank you?
Although we want to be courteous to agents who take the time to look over our submission materials, you have to remember than they get a ton of emails a day and if everyone who got a no responded with a thank you or anything else then they would get inundated with more emails.

Can you respond by asking why or for more in depth feedback?

Agents aren't here to make us feel good or give us feedback-plain and simple. If feedback is what you are looking for then find a good beta reader or critique group, enter a contest or a Twitter pitch party. If you enter a Twitter pitch party and an agent favorites your pitch sometimes if they reject you, they will give you a little feedback. 

When should you nudge?

If an agent hasn't responded to your query and it is two weeks past their normal response time then I would say nudge. However if they say something like this on their website, "we only respond to those queries we are interested in," then it is safe to assume that no response is a response. When in doubt air on the professional side and respect their times and rules.

Agent Questions - What do you ask if you get lucky enough to get an offer?

  1. How many clients do you currently have?
  2. How do you balance working with existing clients and new clients?
  3. How long does it take you to respond to client? What is your preferred method of communication? 
  4. When was your last deal made? And with what publisher?
  5. What is your biggest deal - in figures in publishing terms? (nice, very nice, good, significant, major - all deal terms have a price range attached.*)
  6. How long have you been with your current agency?
  7. Do you have specialists at your agency that specialize in film, foreign, and audio rights? (Or do you specialize in any of these areas?)
  8. What happens if you don't sell this book?
  9. What kind of editing do you foresee for this book? Do you think it needs heavy or light changes? (Most likely they will skim over what they think needs editing because if they told you outright then you could say no to offer and go and fix your book.
  10. How close do you think book is ready for submission?
  11. What is your vision for book?
  12. What's your editorial style?
  13. Do you have publishers in mind?
  14. Is this offer for one book or open ended for other books I might write or have written already?
  15. Are you opposed to me working with another agent for different genre or other books?
  16. Also ask for two client references so that you can actually speak to someone they represent.

After your initial phone call slow your heart down and sideline your excitement in order to ask yourself how you felt about the agent. 

Did they seem honest and genuine? 

When they talked about your book did they seem excited about it? 

What vibe did you get from them? 

Did they ask interesting questions to get to know you and your writing style and habits? 

Did they know the publishing business well when you asked about business related questions?

Dig deep to evaluate the answers they gave to your questions and balance them with how you felt about the agent in order to make the best decision for you.

Good luck!

*From Publishers Marketplace - “Deals”:
“nice deal” $1 - $49,000
“very nice deal” $50,000 - $99,000
“good deal” $100,000 - $ 250,000
“significant deal” $251,000 - $499,000
“major deal” $500,000 and up

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Twitter Suggestions and Writing Hashtags

So now you're on Twitter but how do you find other like-minded souls? Hashtags and suggestions of people to follow by Twitter are the ways to go. These two elements help you network. Networking and remaining active by engaging and using hashtags is the key to becoming a force on this social media site.

If you aren't aware, suggestions pop up when you click on someone’s profile/twitter feed. You then can click on the people Twitter suggests and follow them. You can also peruse through their tweets and note hashtags they've used.

Having a popular hash tag to attach to your tweets helps you interact and find people who write and read or have similar tastes. You'll find a community of people you never knew existed. 

Even as I've written this more hashtags have been invented and will continue to be invented. That's the internet for you. New and trending twitter hashtags are made up everyday so search what's trending by pressing the explore button or look through your own feed at what people are hash-tagging. 

If you want more hashtags, search other writer’s twitter feeds and trending hashtags. Most of the ones I listed below are for posting quotes from your novel, sharing or talking about writing. Once you search these on twitter, you'll get an idea what the hashtags are. 

General List of Twitter Writing Hashtags







A writing prompt day with no rules or themes.


#WIPjoy - post tidbits about novels in progress

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Twitter Pitch Parties

About my year of participating in Twitter pitch parties and why you should participate too.

First let's start off with the basics. A twitter pitch is 140 characters (less with appropriate hashtags) about your chosen novel. A Twitter pitch party is a predetermined hash tag (ex:#PitMad) that groups all tweets together so participating agents and publishers and the writing community can find pitches and any related social media postings. With additional genre hashtags added to the pitch party hashtag (#A, #YA, #NF #PB) and even more specific genre hash tags (#SFF, #HF #MR) agents and publishers can read pitches they are interested in.

Example of a pitch: 3 generations of Black woman are bonded not only by life experiences but by a passed down pearl necklace.  
(The hashtags include the twitter pitch party tag:  and the genre tags:  )

One of the precursors to pitching in a twitter pitch party is having a polished query (bio, book blurb, etc.) and manuscript ready. I'd argue a synopsis too since in #DVPit some agents had them as submission requirements.

Large Like-Minded Audience
Twitter has the largest author, agent, publisher, fan community out there. During pitch parties I've made tons of connections with every type of creative related to writing and it's been an invaluable experience. Communicating is at your fingertips and engaging is what will help boost your followers and your content.

Do Your Research
Remember to research before DMing or tweeting agents. And if they favorite your pitch make sure you research their client and book wish lists to be sure you are a match. Just because agents are on Twitter and will engage with you doesn't mean you should pitch to them on Twitter or on their blog. There are protocols for querying that should be adhered to if you want to be taken seriously and remain professional. You can find agent and publisher submission info and manuscript wish list (#MSWL) all over the Internet and in their tweets - so do your research!

By pitching your 140 character pitch you are practicing the basics. What is your novel about at the core? Goal, motivation and conflict. Forget the title and even names in most cases. And sometimes a comparison of title(s) works to help people get the feel of novel. But be weary of this method because if your book doesn't hold up to comparison, you're setting yourself up for failure. Seeing what people are pitching is also important because it gives you an idea of what popular, missing or overdone. Reading and looking at what's in the market doesn't give you the finger on the pulse of what's next but seeing what agents and publishers are favoriting (asking for) does.

Study Other Writers Pitches and Response 
Studying the most favorited pitches gives you an idea of what agents are looking for and also how to construct a great pitch that catches the eyes of your intended audience.

The Real Deal
So far because of Twitter pitch parties I've been able to cater my queries to agents who I know expressed interest. This is huge, because aside from researching agents: their recent deals, their clients, their blogs, interviews, twitter posts and their MSWLs, as authors, we can only guess might be what they're looking for.

Every twitter pitch party has a general rule that only agents and publishers can favorite pitches which means they want to see you work. In essence you sort of get to skip the traditional slush/blind querying pile because they are targeting you because you have what they want. Or at least your pitch sounds like what they want. I'll be the first to tell you that a favorite during a Twitter pitch party is not a guarantee that anyone will offer to represent you. I have had 30+ requests with no cigar so far.

Test the Waters
You can test the waters of any story you're pitching but it's recommended that it be complete and polished because if an agent or publisher asks for it you want to be able to send it within a few days.

Most participants I'd guess don't ultimately end up with agents or publishers from these parties but it is great for networking and working through improving your novel. I met people who I'm now in Facebook groups with and who are now my Twitter friends. People who are supportive and awesome as awesome gets.

Here are some of the Twitter pitch parties from 2016:
#WriteOnCon #PitchFest #AdPit (Adult & NA books) 
#PitchSqueak (picture books) 
#JustPitchIt (faith-based books) 

Friday, February 10, 2017

My Self-Publishing Business Plan in a Nutshell: Tips & Resources for Marketing & Promotion

I have not decided whether or not to self publish at this stage in my career, however, I am a person that likes to be prepared. So I have researched across the net and through personal resources in order to figure out a solid business plan that might work when and if I do self-publish.

I am posting this because my research and plan might help some of you authors who want to self publish successfully. Please note, many who have reached best sellers status and have made money in self publishing, did not have such an elaborate and costly plan- they simply got lucky. However, I want luck to be a small percentage of my success, since it's such a feeble thing.

My Bestseller Plan:
Note: The down and upside of self-publishing is that it is still growing rapidly. "Because it's that much harder for your book to be recognized, you have to step up your game not only with a great story (fiction or non), but also great writing, and professional editing and design." (2013, Lorello, E.) Clifford A. Pickover also has a bestseller plan worth checking out that talks about the mechanics of writing a good story. The following tips I prepared follow the idea of making your book the best you can.

1. Launch a Web Presence: Start a Blog, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, whatever social media platforms you deicide you prefer. Research which ones you can keep up with! I decided on Twitter and a Blog. Build your fan base, learn how to use each medium to your benefit. You will use this to establish a web presence and for networking and promotion. The second part of this is to build a professional website through word press, blogger or hire someone. specializes in author website design and management.

2. Write a series of novels. Get them critiqued and revise, re-read - make them as good as I can - and have them ready to go before starting the process. Use several editors and take to heart all critique advice to improve books and the whole story arc. This approach makes sense to me because the more books you have ideally, the more you can sell and also people like series books. To write, edit and package these books this process took me # years. I decided to do this after researching how Amanda Hocking exploded onto the scene and became a bestseller. She is a prolific writer who wrote 17 books in her free time and queried and queried and went nowhere with her books. In 2010 she first self published and ended up making $2 million and about a year later she signed a $2 million deal with St. Martin's Press and also sold one of her self-published books series to them as well which they repackaged and bought the copyrights to. Karen McQuestion is not so prolific of a writer, she took 8 years to write 7 novels to which she finally felt needed to see the day of light after they sat on her hard drive and were only read by family and friends. However in both cases there was the same approach: they were able to upload multiple books in a small amount of time. Beverley Kendall says, "The more books you have and the more professional your book is–amongst various other things–the better your chance at for finding success self-publishing."

3. Create a catchy and unique title: Choose a title and sub titles that are catchy and easy to remember. Search the internet for the same or similar titles before settling on a title.

4. Be Professional: Invest in professional cover art, an interior formatter, editors, copy editors, etc.  The cover can make or break a book. The #1 goal is to look professional. "Fake it till you make it," has been something I live by in the publishing world.

5. Promote: Think about hiring a good publicist if you can't put together a: press kit, blog, blog tours, book personal appearances, send press releases or get books into the hands of reviewers yourself. I did this all myself since this is in my professional wheelhouse.

6. Give Freebies: Write novellas or books which you can sell as permanent freebies in order to "consistently gain new fans and boost sales." (2013, Kendall, B.). I wrote a prequel novella for this series for this purpose. Bella Forrest wrote a shorter first novel (154 pages) and gave it for free to kick off her multi-book bestselling series, A Shade of Vampire.

7.  Price books Low: Set the price low-under $3.00 is best. A low price makes a huge difference in enticing readers to try an unknown author.

8. Create a great Blurb & BIO: Blurb descriptions of the book (the back copy, the copy used to entice readers) should be brief, edited and stand out. Ideally only a paragraph or two. Your BIO should follow same guidelines. Get these proofread as well so there are no errors.

Before Release day:
1. Three to six months before release - Get book reviewed by reputable reviewers.

2. Set a price that you will sell first book. Karen McQuestion says, "It's about price, quality, and professionalism." Being self published you cannot price too high in the beginning. In fact, Amanda Hocking decided to sell her first book for $.99, and the next books at $2.99 and then went up from there.

3. Three months to release - Use ACX to complete an audio book from start to finish if you can afford it. This will be another way to reach readers.

4. Two months to release - Sell a novella in series (and make it good!). I sold the prequel for free and will keep it free FOREVER. Yes forever. This will pull people into your series through time.

5. One month to release - Offer first fifty pages/first three chapters of the first novel as a sample read on blog sites.

6. One month to release - Start book promo tour, book with different websites and run one tour after another with one month in between tours for six months. Try to offer giveaways if you can, some blog tours include this in their pricing.

On Release day:
1. When you upload your book, pick “categories” and “keywords.” And after the Amazon book page is complete, add appropriate tags. All of these things help readers find your books.

2. Introduce yourself and books (post) on message boards, and make comments on heavily-trafficked websites and blogs. (could do this before when you are doing book promo - engage with the reviewers) through comments on blogs. Be careful though because looking at negative reviews is hard and some people think authors shouldn't respond to reviewers at all.

3. Sell the first book for free for first three-six months for weeks at a time through sites like Bookbub and The Fussy Librarian.

4. Enter contests for self-published authors. If you final or win this can help garner notoriety and you can win money! The Indie Book Awards & The National Indie Excellence Book Awards are great contests. A list of contests can be found on website. Romance Writers of America also have plenty noteworthy contests.


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

On Critiquing and Being Critiqued

Congratulations on taking first step to improving your work. 
Remember, there is always more to learn and practice helps.

On Critiquing
Being critiqued and critiquing others is about trust. Whether you are trusting someone to read your work and be honest with their feedback or someone is trusting you with the task, each side must be being willing to be honest and let go of judgment. 

It is not about stroking your ego or someone else's. Narcissism is not allowed in the critiquing world. You don't benefit by people telling you your work is good - that only makes you feel good.

You benefit by people telling you what works and what needs improvement. In the critiquing world, it's about the craft of writing so if you want a pat on the back, a cookie or an ego stroke then let your family and friends read your work.

When getting your work critiqued, the intent of the reader is to help and support your talent. Always remeember this. During a critique session, a fellow writer should read the pages beforehand. What works, what needs work, and how to make work better should be focus of critiques. 

When critiquing, reading with an objective eye and finding a way to give your opinion without being mean, disrespectful or insensitive is key. Your delivery counts. My favorite thing about critiquing someone else's work is it helps me become a better writer.

Tips on critiquing

1. Remain objective
When critiquing always refer to the project, the characters, the prose, sentences, chapters (etc.) and not the person/author. No matter if you agree with piece, judge the work and not the person who produced it. You must remain objective even if it is something you might not normally read because of genre or subject matter. The trick is to apply what you know to the piece in hopes it will help.

2. Be honest and open
You never know what a difference saying what's on your mind about a piece you read can mean for the overall work or for the author's writing journey.
Make sure to give the work your full attention. Read all lines carefully, jot notes as you go and make overall notes at the end. In a second sitting for shorter pieces, read it twice if there's time so your thoughts can bake and the author can use your critique.

3. Always show respect 
Know everything you read of someone else's will not necessarily be your thing but it is someone else's, so be respectful. Remember the person invested time and effort in order to write so no matter what level or state the writing is in, they deserve respect.
4. Set up a process that works for partners and groups 
Before a in-person critique session, set up a process to avoid arguments and situations where a writer feels the need to defend their work. One option might be the author can only ask the critique to repeat or clarify and at the end can ask questions or the author should only listen during a critique.

5. Your opinion matters but only in realm of how to make project shine. 
Give your opinion but remember the piece isn't yours so don't try to change it as if it were. It's OK to say as a reader I would've like to see more of this or I didn't understand that. However, male constructive changes based on what makes a story good. Elements such as; character, plot, voice, tone, prose, structure, flow, suggest use of different words, eliminate clich√© phrasing and lazy prose, etc.

Things like "I don't like this character or this part isn't working" aren't helpful. Even I liked it, isn't very helpful to someone seeking guidance on elements that need to or could be improved on. Learn to provide reasons why you feel a certain way about someone's writing or story. And ask yourself how can I help? And remember even if they don't take your feedback you did your job.
6. What do you like about the piece?
Always start with what you liked. This is common practice. There is always something good to say and this should be celebrated before you discuss what you think can be improved on.

Tips on Being Critiqued

Are you really ready for critique?
You must first understand that being critiqued is not a personal attack. And also that it is one person’s opinion. Ultimately you decide if any changes are made. You don't have to make any changes. 

But you must be willing to ask yourself if suggestions can make your work better and if they are valid then why say no? Telling yourself, "This person doesn't get me or my story," is a dismissive facade people adapt to keep from getting their feelings hurt. Feeling like you suck or not feeling like your writing is good enough is a defeatist mindset. People critiquing you are not out to get you or make you feel bad about your writing so snap out of the pity party that you might fall into after a critique. Digest the info by taking time to look at it and then setting it aside until you can look at it again without someone's opinion hurting your feelings or chipping away what little confidence we writers have.

If you are not ready to divorce yourself from your piece and look at it objectively without feeling torn to shreds afterwards than you aren't ready for a critique.

How do you know you’re ready? 
Start small with one short piece (chapter, short story, a few pages) and monitor your reaction to accepting and processing critique. If getting an opinion might stall your creative process, then you aren't ready. Since the purpose of a critique is for you to see how your work is being read; is it pushing propaganda with too much preaching, teaching and whining, is it ripe with too many themes, does it push emotional buttons, confuse people but not in a good way, is beyond the realm of believe-ability, full of plot holes or devices, etc.

In the end, if you get a critique and find yourself dismissing feedback with statements like, "They don't get me," or "They don't know what they're talking about then you're not ready. Or if you choose not to make feedback then you aren't ready. If the feedback will impede your creative process in a way that is debilitating then you aren't ready.

Positive ways to make suggestions:
·         A stronger word would be…
·         This could be more compelling or exciting if…
·         You could try this...

On being in a group
If the group deadlines and workload become too much to handle from the beginning of at any point then say so and try to come up with an alternate plan or bow out.

Remember during the process to be coachable and get over yourself because being critiqued is about learning the craft of writing and making your work the best it can be.

Monday, December 7, 2015

NaNoWriMo Tips Series (#3): The Aftermath - NaNoWriMo is over, so what did you learn?

Writing a novel is a process. As a writer, you learn by trial, error and practice, what works best for you. During NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), I think most people who attempt the 50,000 word feat find out a few facts about themselves as a writer, including but not limited to the five facts below:


1. How much you can truly do when you push and believe in yourself. 

This is my third time participating and winning NaNo. Although I have never not written 50,000 words, I still am amazed I can do it in one month. Every time it's like discovering I have a secret superpower when I challenge myself.


2. If you attended write-ins, you learned when you write surrounded by like-minded individuals, it helps your spirit. 

You also might have learned during writing downtime, when you were socializing; what other people were writing, useful tips for completing NaNo or you met lots of cool people.

3. You learned what kind of writer you want to be. 

Plotter or panser or a little of both? Writing during NaNo is the first dump of your idea whether you've plotted or not. When you start going back through that novel this is when you'll figure out what will work best for you in the future. This is where you'll figure out what type of writer you want to be.

4. You have been convinced you need writing in your life. Right? 

I had been seriously writing since 2010 and found NaNoWriMo in 2013 but still the idea of a novel writing month made me want to be a writer. To actually make a career out of it. Now with 2016 approaching I am finally in a place after three years of NaNo to query my novels.


5. You realize writing takes time. In the upcoming year make it your duty to carve out that time. 

Think about how an hour of focused time got your word count up. Set aside time and make the most of it. Writing is time getting to know yourself and exploring what's bubbling and brewing inside that imaginative head of yours. The stages of writing (idea, plotting, drafting, editing, critique, etc.) can be brutal and take time. Once you start shaping a story, the best feeling is to see it through, to continue reshaping it until the story shines. 

Last note: Unless you are 5,000 words and below from finishing your novel, put your novel away. Take the rest of December and maybe some of January to look around you and enjoy life. November was crazy and whatever you accomplished, it was more words than you had before you started. So give yourself a break. And
don't pitch your book on #pitmad or query agents. A book written in thirty days will never be polished so wait to show it to the world. Please. 


Here are some great revision links that might help you when you are ready to revise:

Happy Writing and Revising!