Guest posting, follow me

Blogger friend, Jennifer Neri, asked me to guest post at her blog. She suggested some topics, but then she asked me a question: Now that you’ve self-published, would you ever query agents again? Go to Jennifer’s blog to read my response.

Take heart queriers!

In my last post, I voiced my opinion that nowadays it’s almost impossible for a writer to obtain representation through cold-querying an agent. I also asked you to share your opinions. Some of you agreed, some of you disagreed, and some of you were discouraged. Today, I’d like to address all those reactions.

If you agreed with me, you’ve surely been down the same path I trod. Enough said.

If you disagreed, you’re in good company. Jody Hedlund, whose recent blog post, in part, inspired mine, stopped by to remind me that she advised those still looking for a literary agent to query the new agents. That’s good advice. New agents are actively building their client list and are more open to cold-queries.

Some who disagreed, did so because they or a writer friend recently found representation through cold-querying. I would bet they all write YA fiction. And those that don’t, write in another hot genre. Bottom line: it is easier for some writers than others to get the attention of an agent without a referral or a prior connection, simply because of what they write, not necessarily because they are better writers than those who get form rejections.

So, for those of you who might have been discouraged by my post, take heart. Agents still need books to represent—new agents, especially. And if you can make contact with those agents through conferences, seminars, their blogs, or Twitter, so much the better.

And if the traditional route doesn’t work for you, you can query the editors at small presses. Or you can come back here and we’ll discuss Indie Publishing. Good luck to us all, whichever way we publish.


Rotten Loglines

Last week, I submitted a logline for critique by strangers. First off, the stranger part is always scary to me, but I relaxed when I saw no one trashed it. The consensus was “not enough detail.” Oddly, I had the opposite problem drafting a query letter.

I realized when you are too familiar with a book, it’s easy to think you’re telling more in a one-line synopsis than you are. It’s similar to the way you fill-in missing information when seeing a movie adaptation after you’ve read the book. So, I agree. It needs more detail.

That brings up the question of logline length. It’s usually described as a one-sentence pitch, but very few of those submitted in these rounds have been one-liners. Some suggest no more than 25 words total, but the contest I hope to enter allows up to 100 words. Confusing.

At least three of those who critiqued my entry questioned why I describe my novel as Women’s Fiction since it’s obvious the main character is male. *Sigh* But an equal number complimented me on my novel’s title. *Yay*

I’m revising the logline even though the odds of getting accepted for The Baker’s Dozen Agent Auction are slim. In my division, only the first 40 entries will be considered, with only 15 of those accepted for the auction. If I don’t make it, at least I’ll have an elevator pitch ready. Though the last time I rode in an elevator was three months ago, and if an agent was in the vicinity s/he was invisible.

Hmmm, maybe I’ll just get in the habit of spouting my logline whenever I step into an elevator, just in case. And hey, agents have to shop, so maybe when I’m in the mall I could …

Your turn: Tell me about your logline. How long is it? Did you have any trouble writing it? Did you write it before or after you wrote your novel?

 

What’s a male protagonist doing in my women’s fiction?

Yes, I’m back to the subject of categorizing fiction. I’ve been told the key to knowing how to label your book’s category is to picture where it would be shelved in a book store. That advice works for those who write in mystery, sci-fi, horror, YA, and other clearly defined genres, but I don’t. I see my novel shelved in that vast section with the helpful title “Fiction, alphabetical by author.”

Two of my favorite authors are Anne Tyler and Sheri Reynolds. What I write is similar to their stories, and, somewhere, I saw them both listed under “women’s fiction.” Okay, so that’s my category. But wait! Many people (readers and agents alike) hear women’s fiction and think Chick Lit or Romance, neither of which describes my novel.

Another term, used mostly by the publishing industry, is “upmarket,” which denotes more than usual attention paid to character development and language use for the genre. I’ve used either “upmarket women’s fiction” or “literary women’s fiction” in my query letters. But yesterday, I read Lydia Sharp’s definition of women’s fiction and felt like an idiot.

In short, Lydia said, in women’s fiction “the main theme always revolves around some aspect of the female experience.” Uh oh. My themes of love, loss, and redemption are universal, but my main character is a man. There are two female co-main characters, with parts written from their pov, but overall, it’s Jalal’s story. It can’t be women’s fiction.

But wait! That’s not what Jessica Faust said on her blog when she responded to a question almost describing my novel. In her opinion, women’s fiction can have a male protagonist. Hmmm. Was Lydia wrong or had I misunderstood her?

I hope you didn’t waste more than a second on that no-brainer. I asked Lydia to clarify and she did, even citing the same Jessica Faust response I’ve held dear. Whew! So I haven’t been an idiot. Well, at least not for describing my novel as women’s fiction.

Are any of you writing WF with a male protagonist? Have you read one? Would you?

Could you?

With a goat?

Can you find an agent by cold querying?

The first agent blog I discovered was Nathan Bransford’s, and the first thing I read there were his posts on how to get agent representation. His number one tip: have a referral. For top agents, he said, that’s essentially the only way. I really, really, really didn’t want to believe that.

I don’t know any agented writers. I know of some. At least three have even commented on my blog, but I don’t know them in the sense they would refer me to their agent. Nor do I know any agents, editors, or publishers. My budget doesn’t allow me to meet them at conferences or seminars, not even online ones. I’m stuck out in the cold.

I believe my completed novel is a good one, but it’s not the novel of the century, a straight to #1 on the NYT bestseller list. No agent is going to read my query, or sample pages and synopsis, and declare, “I will die, absolutely die, if I don’t get to represent this book!” How close to a miracle will it be should an agent offer me representation, I wonder?

Tell me, fellow writers, do you know of any recent debut fiction authors who found an agent by cold querying?

The REAL reason writers need to blog

If you’re an extroverted writer, this post probably won’t mean much to you, but if you’re an introvert, pay attention. It’s lonely being a writer. My circle of live-and-in-person writing friends is just big enough to span … a card table. Once a month. Yeah, I’m about as introverted as you can be. So you, my blog friends, are my main literary circle.

And yet, about every other week, I decide blogging takes too much of my time. I ponder cutting back to a weekly post. Maybe none at all. Or I could save time by not replying to comments, but as I’ve said before, I consider that akin to inviting you into my home and then refusing to speak to you.

I do a lot of whining on this blog. I rant on occasion. I voice my doubts and fears. I’ve lost some readers, but I’ve gained some too. And what do you do in return? You commiserate, you thank me, sometimes you even laugh at my weak attempts at humor. You give up some of your precious time to read my posts and leave comments. But that’s not the best of what you do.

You give back more than I deserve, but exactly what I need. You encourage me. Sometimes you do that with a slap on the back—you can do it. Sometimes you do that with a slap across the face—snap out of it. And sometimes your cheerleading also whacks me upside the head.

If you read my last post, you know I’ve been struggling to write that knockout query letter. I’ve been haranguing a couple of friends to HELP ME! About mid-morning yesterday, I decided I was sick of myself. Neither one of those friends needs help writing their query letters. I was too needy. I was pathetic.

About ten minutes later, I saw notice of a new blog comment. It was this one left by Brett. I read it and almost cried. It touched me that she would care enough to write such a comment. And then, I had the opposite reaction from what I’m sure she intended me to have. I got angry.

Not angry at Brett; angry at myself. It was time to fish or cut bait. Either I’m a writer or I’m not, and if I am, I darn well better learn to trust myself to write. No “sales pitches” aren’t my thing. So what. It’s my book. I wrote every word of it. Who better to tell an agent why she should be dying to read it?

So, I will write my query letter—a bright and shiny one. And I won’t ever quit blogging. I’d miss you guys too much.