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.

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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.


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Is it all about the writing?

In October, I asked: Can you find an agent by cold-querying? On New Year ’s Day, agent Rachelle Gardner posted her query statistics for 2010, in which she revealed she received over 10,000 query letters, but signed none of those authors. On Monday, Jody Hedlund asked a question on her blog: Is the Query System Dying?

I’m no longer involved in querying, but I read Jody’s post and comments with interest.

Wait! Do I know you?

A few had tales of the cold query system working for them, though most of those acknowledged that was years ago. Some said they got their agent’s attention through referral. Many said they first developed a relationship of sorts with the agent who eventually offered them representation.

To do that, they did things like commenting on the agent’s blog and following and interacting with them on Twitter, but the most often mentioned method was meeting their future agent at conferences and seminars, possibly more than once. The object was to cement your name in that agent’s memory and to garner that “golden ticket” allowing you to send REQUESTED material. But, as the writer of another comment pointed out, that’s not fair to those who can’t attend these conferences and seminars for whatever reason. And it’s not.

Repeatedly, I heard it’s all about the writing. I followed all the agents’ rules, polished my query letter until my fingers bled, selected agents who said they were interested in books like mine—and got nowhere. I was frustrated because I knew my writing was good. I knew readers would enjoy my book. It’s demoralizing to think my query might not have even been considered.

I had believed a lie. Finding an agent to represent your novel is not all about the writing. It’s about what the publishers are buying. It’s not all about the writing. It’s about having a connection with that agent. Yes, in the end you have to write well. Or sort of. You have to have a great story, at least.  But none of those agents I carefully selected knew me from Eve. Was my query even in contention?

Those of you still seeking an agent, take note. If you have no “in” and no ability or opportunity to physically connect with the agents, you may have a very long struggle ahead of you. I wish you well.

Your turn: This is my opinion of the query game system. How do you see it?


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New Year Stress

I feel like I lost my train of thought in October and still haven’t found it again. November was all cleaning, little writing. December has been all traveling and holiday preparations. Now, it’s time for a new year to begin and I’m scrambling to get my mind back on track.

Why? Do I LOOK stressed?

Nearly all of my October posts were about editing, literary agents, and query letters.  January will be about major editing. No agents and querying, but a thousand other things are in the works. And, as my friend Kasie reminded me yesterday, I have to write something in the next week for critique group. First chapter of my next novel?

So, yeah, three days left in this year and I’m already stressed about the next one. In some aspects, you can take one day at a time, but in most, you can’t really do that. The business of writing takes planning. I now have certain tasks to be done in a certain order by a certain time.

I’m trying to ignore the actual number of tasks though. Overwhelming leads to inaction. When the new year starts, I’ll keep my eyes down and edit my heart out.

Your turn: Are you winging it with your writing in 2011, or do you have a plan?


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A Year’s Worth of Writing

Have you reviewed your writing progress in 2010? In this and another post or two in the next two weeks, Ill take a look back at the highlights of mine. When I looked back at all the posts for this year, I was surprised at how many twists and turns I took.

At the beginning of the year, I thought I had a finished novel in query status, so I turned my attention to short stories. I wrote a post, Writing vs. Crafting, in which I vowed to not only read more short stories, but to write and submit for publication some of my own. Nothing to report on my stories, but I did read more of those written by others, including fabulous debut collections from Robin Black and Tracy Winn.

Next, I jumped out of the box and started my year of living dangerously. (Even though I lost sight of that along the way, it may explain the way my writing year will end. Stay tuned.) But back then, I dared myself again by trying a writing challenge: a micro flash story. And I wrote it from a prompt, which is something I hadn’t done for decades. It was so much fun I invited my readers to take the challenge too. 

And then, I fell apart. Rejection spawned dejection and in barged the Blue Muse. From the bottom there’s no way but up, so I went into warrior mode and wrote a new query letter and opening paragraph for my novel; entered two contests; and dissected a Flannery O’Connor story for a discussion group.

The decision to edit my novel again reminded me of a good beating and then, continuing with new experiences, my novel spoke aloud. I discovered frigid fiction, but soon I became blinded by the words. To my rescue came the fabulous Kayla Olson who volunteered to read and critique for me.

Again I needed to be reminded to wait for the words. Before long I had reason to panic over platform, but as the end of the first quarter of 2010 came to a close, I was riding the train of eternal optimism.

Your turn: Have you charted your writing progress this year? How did you fair?

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