Taking the next step

BiaAtlas book update.

I have decided to start querying agents. I worked on my Synopsis and Query letter and got them to a decent quality. My manuscript is still too high on word count, however I decided to go ahead even though the revision is unfinished. I have indicated in the query that the word count will be brought down.

This is believe it or not, very nerve wracking. Once submitted it is a 2-8 week waiting period to either hear back that they are interested… nor not. And the not is usually nothing.

Here is what I’ve learned so far about Literary agents and the query process.

Types:

Independent or small firms (1-5 people)
Boutique (focus on small scale, lots of attention 1-5 people sometimes more)
Larger outfits (6-25 people I haven’t seen higher than 25 yet)

They all have their benefits and drawbacks. This is where research comes in.

Within these there are senior and junior agents. Seniors have published books under their belts, juniors may have one or two.  While the seniors have more experience they are targeted more frequently and therefore have more applications at one time. Juniors have less experience but are highly motivated to prove themselves and build client lists. Both have advantages and disadvantages.

Each agent will have a bio and a list of books they are working on and or have published. Each agent has a list of what they are looking for in Genra and style. This is important. I wont query an agent if I don’t like or resonate with who they are and the work they do. It is silly to query an agent that doesn’t represent your Genre. That being said I look for agents that have a strong like for New Adult Science Fiction. That’s my primary Genre.

 

The process.

Choosing an agent is somewhat personal. They should all be AAR accredited. Association of Authors Representatives. This is important and excludes the ones that might not be legit.

Each agent has their own submission requirements and not all are open for queries. Every agency has their own rules. Sometimes they are the same and sometimes they are different. Read carefully.  If they ask for 10 pages double spaced and you give them 15 they will notice. If they ask for no attachments and you attach a pdf of your synopsis they will disregard it. If they ask you to cut and paste into the body of the email do that. So far the standard rule is only one query can be submitted to on agency at a time. So if you query Joe, you cant query Jane, Jill or Jack from the same company until your query expires. Each agency has different times on this too. If you break this rule they say right on their site in the submissions guidelines that your queries will be disregarded.

It is important to get a feel for the Agent/agency and personalize the opening paragraph of the query. NONE and I mean NONE of them like gimmicks or over familiarity. Keep it formal and professional. Treat it like a job application only more important. That being said dry and stuffy doesn’t work either. Find a fine balance of your personality and professionalism. They are after all interested in you AND your work.

I have made a spread sheet keeping track of the day I submit, name of agent if available, email, method, website and their specific timeline(this varies greatly) This is handy for those that say they will respond to verify receipt of query. Again read carefully.

It is quite the process, strict and linear. They receive hundreds of queries a day so they have to be.

The industry standard is 15% commission. That sounds like a lot. But when you look at all they do it is worth it. I have discussed this in the not so direct path to publishing.

My advice about Querying Literary Agents.
Do your research, read carefully and make sure they are the right agent.
I will probably talk more about the process in further detail as I query more this week. There is a lot to talk about.

-Sheryl

Related posts

The not-so-direct path to publishing.

Query letter “creativity drought”.

The first 50 pages.

The prickly process of writing a Synopsis.

The “word count” down.

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Unfinished

The blurry lines of opinion and advice

When I write I’m inconsistent. I use filter words, incorrect grammar, typos, dialog and action tags, wordiness and contractions. These things and more, are all over the map. It causes flow issues for the reader. That’s okay, well not the flow issue, but the mistakes or “lazy” writing are there. If I spent every second I’m writing worrying about every technical aspect of writing I’d never get anything done. I would stress out, get anxious, panic and most likely stop enjoying writing altogether.

I’m not interested in gumming up my creative process with rules etc. etc. etc., blah, blah, blah.  That’s not to say they aren’t there, and that I don’t employ them while writing, I just don’t care.

I say this because I used to stress out before I wrote the book. I can’t write as real authors, I don’t know what to do to make it perfect. I didn’t, it was true. Then I didn’t care, I don’t need to do it their way. I wrote and wrote and when I was done, I revised and edited, learned and edited again.

One teensy little question sent me on a whirlwind research tour. Contractions. To use them or not? Well the answer to that was not simple at first. Everyone everywhere seemed to have an opinion and it was all divided. This, believe it or not, I found to be a hot topic with serious emotional/opinionated response in writers. No serious writer would ever use them, no modern self-respecting writer would not. And back and forth and back and forth, until I still had no idea.

There comes a time when the line between an opinion and advice becomes blurred. It’s called peer pressure, when someone passes off their opinion as a rule.

So, I asked an expert, an author and ex literary agent. He would know and he did.
“It doesn’t matter as long as you are consistent and it reads well.”
I wasn’t sure. “But what if the literary agent is anti-contractions?”
“Then they will still read the value of your work and if they want to represent you, they will suggest you take them out. You still don’t have to. It’s your book.”

Talk about a load off my back. It’s not as set in stone as I thought. As long as I’m flexible and not super attached it’s all good. Here is what I learned from my epic journey in the wonderful research world of, to contract or not to contract.

  1. Be consistent in your usage.
  2. Consistent doesn’t mean always or every time. It means consistent to your voice and how you write or want a character to speak.
  3. As long as the voice of your writing is good (Almost)nobody will notice
  4. Write how you want not how others tell you to
  5. If you don’t use contractions ever, because you are a die-hard anti, or took a die-hard’s advice, be consistent
  6. If you use them only in dialogue and never out, never use a contraction out of dialogue
  7. If you write how you talk and how most of the world is comfortable and contract within and out of dialog, be consistent to your voice. Whether you use: Do not do that or don’t do that. It will depend on how you want the sentence to sound, be read and or how the character talks.
  8. Don’t sacrifice your style or voice for word count.

There I think that’s it. BTW a lot of books I read use contractions when it works for their style.

My advice about contractions.
When someone gives you a version of their golden rule, don’t jump on board immediately. Take the time to find out the other side of that set in stone opinion.  Follow your instinct. It’s your writing not theirs.

-Sheryl

Related Posts

Spell check doesn’t catch them all.

Tag! You’re it.

Roller-coaster Conversations

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Panic
Blur

Something different, something fun

I thought I would do something a little different today. Something just for fun.

I am still working through the information from my consultation and making the revisions and changes necessary to my Query letter and Synopsis.

I have been working on a few designs for logos and header pictures.

So I am asking your opinions on which you like best. Please comment below which you like best of the A B C images, 1 2 3 and which you like best of the X Y Z.

Let explain the reason for my choice of images. The man in the suit represents the large powerful corporation in the book that controls BiaAtlas. The earth symbolizes Atlas the Titan of strength (Titan Atlas is typically symbolized holding or holding up the earth). The elemental background is as close as I can get to the female goddess Bia. She is the goddess of force, such as gravity and resistance. The few representations of her in art show a whimsical strong being, so I represent her with powerful images of things that can’t necessarily be touched. There is also a significant amount of danger in the book thus my choice of fire.

From classic, whimsical to elegant these are my top favorites, I seem to lean toward the purples, I’m not sure why. Please note all images have been purchased or permissions granted for my personal use.

The first four are sans human. More of a ‘logo’ style.

biaatlas-logo-abcd

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The next three are the close-ups with less background. These symbolize the background to the story.

biaatlas-logo-123-pubCopyright © 2016 All rights reserved

The last three have more of the background image visable.

biaatlas-logo-xyz

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I hope you liked at least one of them and are willing to let me know. I also welcome constructive criticism. Thanks.

-Sheryl

PS I’ll be getting back to my norm soon.  😉

 

Tulips in July

Silliness and seriousness

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Elegant

“How could you?”

Me and my first.
“Are you cheating on me?” That question was a long time coming.
I cast my eyes away. “Yes, yes I am.”
“How long has this been going on?”
I swallowed hard. “Half way through revision I took a break.”
“A break!”
I need to be honest, to come clean. “Yeah, I started another book.”
“How could you? I thought I was your one and only!”
“You are my first, and I love you, but I need to move on. I need more.”
“So it’s over?”
I smiled and tilted my head. “Oh no, it’s far from over. You and I have a big future ahead of us. I’m sorry if you don’t understand, but I’m not a one book kinda gal.”

Moving on from working on one book to another is strangely emotional experience. I’ve spent so much time with my first book, reading, revising, and editing that it feels as if I’m being unfaithful. Which is funny because it’s a continuation of the story and characters. Even so, as I sit and read through my very, very rough draft of my second book, I feel as if I should be working on the first one.

I shake my head in amusement at all the typo’s, taglines, grammar errors, filter words and so on. I have a lot of work to do and it’s not at all daunting for me. I love editing my own work, because its mine. The satisfaction of seeing it go from simple raw ingredients to a beautifully decorated cake, is unbelievably rewarding. Unless it turns out to be a nut filled fruitcake, then something went horribly wrong.

With first book is finished and in sort of limbo. I have an appointment in a week and a half with a consultant to work on my first 50 pages, synopsis and query letter. Once they are perfected, I will begin the hunt for a Literary Agent. I’m so excited.

My advice (that has nothing to do with this post).
Go ahead and let someone tell you that you can’t do something. Then prove them wrong in a spectacular way.

-Sheryl

 

Other posts related to editing.

Read, revise and repeat. The shampoo process of editing.

Show and tell

 

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Cheat

The rejection letter

A few months ago, before I had any idea what to do, I sent out some queries to Literary Agents. At the time I was more curious to see what would happen. I did not expect anything from this.

The consensus regarding submissions is that it takes 8-10 weeks for a Literary Agent to accept or reject you. If they are interested they contact you, if not you don’t hear back. You can’t contact them after submitting a query.

Some of them sent an auto responder email to let me know they received my query and would get to it at their “earliest convenience”. A few even gave an exact timeline.

Four weeks in and nothing. No surprise, my query letter was a joke and my synopsis lacked flow. Not to mention my work was still riddled with those pesky little filter words. Week 7 however yielded a response.

I got a rejection letter. I was so excited. Yes excited. It didn’t bother me in the least that I was just rejected, I deserved to be for being so ill prepared. The letter was what I presume, a standard cut and paste rejection. There was nothing personal in it whatsoever. What was written made me laugh. Here it is.

Thank you for submitting your query and giving me the opportunity to consider your work.  Unfortunately, in today’s increasingly tough publishing market, I cannot offer you the support that you need for your project.  

Though my limited time precludes me from recommending other specific agents, a good place to start would be the Association of Authors’ Representatives website.

Please do not allow this letter to discourage you.  Many best-sellers have been passed on numerous times prior to being successfully published. 

I wish you the best of luck finding an enthusiastic agent and publisher for your book.

Sincerely,

Yes, it is true many bestsellers have been passed on; this is why I didn’t even entertain disappointment. The last bit made me chuckle. I wonder, do they realize they just suggested they are not an enthusiastic agent?  They did to me. They can’t offer the support needed or enthusiasm. I understand they get hundreds of applications a day (Or so I hear) so I didn’t take the cut and paste personally either.  I also didn’t go into this expecting anything. So an actual rejection is something.

Overall, it was a kind letter with encouraging words. The next time I submit queries to Literary Agents (Hopefully that will be soon) my expectations will be higher, much higher. Those rejections had better be personalized.  😉

My advice about rejections.
You will get them, what you do with it is what matters. Take it in stride don’t let it drag you down or toss you into the pit of doubt and surrender. Learn from it if you can. Easier said than done, I know.  Oh and it’s probably a good idea to wait until you are actually prepared and ready before trying. Unless like me, you do it for curiosities sake.

-Sheryl

 

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That sounds complicated

A simple thing can be complicated until you understand it.

For me the entire writing through to publication process was a complicated and daunting process to approach. There is a lot to do, consider and understand. When I first started researching  the different ways to publish and what was needed I thought ‘That sounds complicated.’ and it is. After time, more research and asking others questions (A lot of questions) it became clearer.

There were times when I felt overwhelmed with what needed to be done or how to even approach publishing. So much that I would question the worth of my choice. It was in those moments that I would take a second and remind myself that giving up is not an option. That something worth having is worth the effort. I wanted to write a book. I did that. Now I want to see it published. That is where I am now. Getting ready to take the next step. That step is having my first 50 pages, synopsis and Query letter reviewed by a professional as well as some friends. I’m looking forward to their feedback. Good or bad doesn’t matter as long as it’s honest.

I suppose my blog is about making something complicated less so for others. A few blurbs about my experience as a novice writer, and about what found out along the way. I am curious and excited about what’s to come. Will I glide or stumble through the process? I can’t wait to find out.

My advice about complicated things.
Find out why they are complicated and what you can do to un-complicate them. If you’re curious about what I’m up to (enter shameless plug) visit and read my other blogs and follow along with me. Don’t worry I don’t often gripe or complain. I will make fun of myself and be honest about my mistakes as well as accomplishments.

-Sheryl

 

via Daily Prompt: Complicated

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The first 50 pages.

“Drop and give me fifty!”
“Yes sir!”
“The first 50 Pages of your manuscript that is.”

Guess what? They are the most important. Who knew? I didn’t. Well I did but not in the context that they will make or break the deal. That’s why my first sentence ever written isn’t the first sentence you will read, it’s not even the second.

When they say put your best foot forward they mean it. To apply to literary agents I need to submit a Synopsis, Query letter and the first 50 pages of the manuscript. There are of course books written about how to make your first 50 stand out or to rise above the slush pile.

As odd as this is, it’s nerve wracking. To know I’m so close to putting it out there to be judged and hopefully loved. The trick is not to freak out about it despite the mini drill sergeant that lives in my brain yelling for me to check it again, and again. I like it so someone else is bound to.

I have revised the first 50 pages more than any other part of my book. Not only for the Literary Agents but also for the readers. If it’s not interesting, exciting or fun nobody is going to read further. For the past couple weeks my mind has strayed to chapter 2 and 3. They were originally chapter 1 and 2 until I added a much needed more exciting chapter 1. My problem was this. They were written first my first ever two chapters and quickly after that, my style changed. Sure they fit in fine but there was something about 2 and 3 that seemed slow. They were almost the same scenario from two perspectives.

Two days ago, I had the brilliant idea to meld them together. Pull out the repetitive crap and make one solid chapter. It came out longer than I liked, but still within a reasonable length for a single chapter. Once I put the two together, it made more sense. I knew something was wrong and now I’m glad I paid attention to my gut nagging to change them.

I will read it over again today and probably once more tomorrow. I have a few people reviewing it for me for constructive opinions. Then I will start the process of working with a consultant.

My advice about the first 50 pages.
Make sure they are clean, edited, well written and interesting. It is a fine line between writing to please someone else and writing to please yourself. I have set down a book because I can’t get past the first few chapters so I don’t want to be that writer, and yet I know others that rave it’s the best book they’ve ever read. You can’t please everyone so make sure it pleases yourself. It’s your book after all.

-Sheryl

 

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Query letter “creativity drought”.

What is a Query letter? To put it simply it’s the resume for your book, what you submit to a literary agent to get their attention. Single spaced and one page.

Everyone has a different opinion on this. There are bunches of websites dedicated to this and even one that maybe-might-possibly review it on their blog and tell you what works and what’s junk. Like the synopsis, there are even books written about how to write a query letter. It’s that important. I took my time and read samples, how to articles and found one format that I liked.

The basic gist is that a query letter is 4-5 paragraphs. You have 8 seconds worth of reading to catch the literary agent’s attention and have them read on. 8 seconds is not much.

The first is the introduction paragraph. The shortest of them. It has to be personal to the literary agent you are querying. Including their name and why they’re a fit for your work or why you like them or think you would work together. It varies as long as it’s personal.

The second is the quick catch paragraph. This part that must be interesting, well. This paragraph is where you set up the book to say “Hey read on, it’s awesome I promise.” It’s a mini-synopsis, but only the nitty gritty of the story without the spoiler. This paragraph can be two if need be as long as the whole thing is one page.

The third is to be about the author, me. My accomplishments in literature, prizes, awards, certificates and qualifications or relevant education. I don’t have any of those things per say. So I wrote about my experiences with writing.

The fourth is the how will I promote the book etc. etc. This one was tough too. The more exposure I have the more likely a literary agent will take me seriously. Thus I started this blog, registered domain names for an upcoming website and whatever else I could find that others have done to promote a book. I kept this short and sweet.

After my first few attempts at a query letter, my brain dried up. All my creative ideas evaporated under the hot pressure of the disapproving sun of self-criticism. I could not make it sound interesting. I realized I was being too hard on myself so I took a break, wrote and revised a few chapters. I waited for the rains on inspiration and tried again when they came.
I’m not going to beat around the bush, I’m getting help for this just as I am for the Synopsis. For me it’s like writing my resume, it’s so hard to sell myself to others looking to hire me. The same goes for this. I know what to say, but I want to make sure it’s perfect. I have a Query that I think is decent ready to submit to the consultant. I wonder if he will agree or not? I’ll let you know.

My advice about Query letters.

Do research. Lots of it. Find the style that appeals to you and go with it. Don’t be afraid to get help or opinions on this, after all its part of what you will be using to sell you and your manuscript to a Literary agent or publisher if you are contacting them directly yourself.
If you find your query parched and dull, try a different approach or style. This is the face of your book. The first thing a potential literary agent will see. But hey, no pressure. 

-Sheryl

 

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The prickly process of writing a Synopsis.

The prickly process of writing a Synopsis.png

Synopsis, a pretty word for stripping away the petals, leaves, and thorns. They just want the stem, what holds your story together and brings it from the soil to the sky.

I found that there are 2 main types of Synopsis; the long and the short.

  1. Short Synopsis is 2 pages double spaced. It reveals everything of importance. This is what everyone means when they ask for a synopsis or short synopsis. This is what to submit with the Query and sample pages to the literary agent or agency.
  2. Long Synopsis is 4-6 pages doubled spaced with more detail. It also reveals everything of importance, but more of it. The long is a special request and will be asked for specifically.

Opinions everywhere and no one agrees. There are many opinions out there on how to write one, what is expected and what to show. There are even books written on how to write a synopsis. The gist of all the advice and samples I found is to keep it an active read, not to just drone out a monotone report of how the story goes.

  • Don’t write it in first person.
  • Make a point form list of major events to work with.
    • Make a sub point of any minor events that affect major plot.
  • Choose which characters to present wisely. This was tough for me the story is about a group of people, focusing on one main and her support character. However, one other person is very important to a major plot turn. I chose to work all three in.

So I sat down and started my synopsis. It was painful. Two pages fills up quickly and then some. The first draft I wrote was a whopping 5 pages long and hated it. I tried again a few more times and didn’t like any of them. I started over and got one to 3.5 pages. I liked that one’s direction so I worked with it to bring it down to two pages. Edit, revise, edit again and it’s done. Well, not really done, it’s dry and lacking personality or excitement.

Now because I feel I’m truly stuck on my synopsis and it’s very important in the process of seeking out a Literary Agent, I’m getting help. I am going to pay for professional consultation on my Synopsis, query letter and first 50 page submission. I will share this adventure and both the Synopsis and Query letter once they are perfected. Depending on how brave I am I may post the before and after.

I have bashed my head on the wall over this for many weeks. I can write a story, but to strip it bare and leave just the bones? I am struggling with it not sounding like someone’s reading a blurb on how to test and treat garden soil for alkalinity. My decision to get help on this doesn’t mean everyone will need to.

 

My advice about writing a Synopsis.

Write it, leave it alone for a day and revise it. Like pricking your fingers on a thistle you must pull barehanded. If you don’t let them heal between attempts and revisions you’ll have a bunch of holes in your fingers and your synopsis will be a bloody mess. At least that’s what I learned. I do recommend getting second and third opinions on what you wrote for your synopsis. (Assuming they have read or don’t mind complete and total story spoilers)

-Sheryl

 

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The not-so-direct path to publishing.

The not so direct path to publishing.png

Something every writer has to think about at one point. For me, it was halfway through my third edit. Right around the time when I started receiving unsolicited advice. I love advice, I have to since I give it so freely myself. Nevertheless, I take it with caution. I like to figure things out and research.

Just a quick note before we get to the nitty-gritty. Apparently, it’s nearly impossible to contact a “real” publisher directly. I found a publishing company online that welcomed inquiries. I jumped the gun and contacted them unprepared. They called me with too many questions. I skirted them and asked how they publish. It seemed too good to be true that they called me with nothing submitted to them. I’ll get back to them later.

There are more than three ways, but these were the three at the top of recommended paths. I didn’t even entertain the others.

Self-publishing – Ready set, go. Um no, not so much. For this route, the book must be perfect and edited professionally. This is the out of pocket, do it all yourself approach, layout prep, find a printer, pay for printing, advertising, distribution, promotion, delivery and on and on. I’m getting a headache just thinking about it. Selling hardcopies this way is challenging, frustrating and exhausting. The other form of self-publishing is online or e-publishing. Lower cost, but risky, as it could be lost in the shuffle.

Vanity press – A smaller version of publishing house publishing. They have pre-set packages that vary greatly in cost and value and are confusing in options. (The place I contacted first was a vanity press.) They wanted minimum $3000 for the bare bones start-up. They were pushy and somewhat insulting.
I checked on them and other VP’s. The reviews were unfavourable and scary. -No, follow through. -Hard to work with once paid. -Minimum effort.
I found out some will recycle cover art so my book would look like a dozen other titles they printed. I can see the appeal, but they don’t care if your work is amazing or crap as long as they get paid.

Literary agent – A person that works solely on commision, to get my book published, and get me the best deal. Yes, they take a cut, but they do the hard work and they actually have access to the all-powerful publishers. A literary agent registered with the AAR, the Association of Authors’ Representatives is preferable. This is the advice I got and I felt was right. A literary agent shouldn’t ask for money, they work for me. If I am not published, they aren’t paid. Therefore, they want to get me the best deal possible.

The consensus I found is that it shouldn’t cost a penny to be published, but the opposite. (Unless I want to go vanity or self-publishing.)

The recommended path to publishing.
The literary agent first, if you exhaust this then Vanity press or self-publishing last. I have read from other authors that literary agents and publishing houses don’t look favourably on the self or vanity press published authors. In their eyes, your work wasn’t good enough for an Agent to represent the first time, it’s probably not any better now. Common sense and a lot of research told me the Literary Agent path is the one for me.

My advice on choosing your publishing path.

I recommend researching this and deciding which option is best for you. I know what I will try first, but that doesn’t mean the others are wrong, just not for me.

-Sheryl

I am getting closer to contacting literary agents for real. I will write about that another time and about what I’ve done and what I still need to do to prepare.

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