Surviving Sub

You’ve written a book… a whole book and that’s amazing. I mean it. So many people say they could or will, but you did it! And you landed an agent and made it Twitter Official TM. *Guy throwing confetti at his own face gif*

Happily ever after now, right? Well… not so fast.

The in-between–from signing with an agent to signing a book deal–is as shadowy as it comes. There are a variety of reasons for this from non-disclosure agreements to books that sell on proposal, to people simply being afraid to talk about it, to it truly being a different experience for every writer. I’m going to be a little light on details but I hope to help with the shadowy “now what?” status of when you’re agented but haven’t sold a book yet.

Landing an agent is an incredible. Take that percentage of people who actually write a book and winnow it down significantly to people who actually hone their craft and revise and successfully query. But what comes next is usually… yep… more revising and honing craft. Very very few books are ready to go unchanged from the author to the publishers. You’ll likely go through rounds of revision with your agent as they help you shape your novel. Timelines vary wildly and so do styles. Some agents are heavily editorial, some just put a little polish on it and send it off.

But now you have something your agent can sell, what happens? Your agent will prepare a list of houses they think would be a good fit for your work. Some agents submit broadly all at once meaning they try every house that could fit. Others go in rounds so if there’s editor feedback that something is awry with your book you can fix it and have more houses to sub to. You should absolutely be able to see what houses you are going to. Red flag if your agent won’t tell you. But once a house says no, that’s it. Sadly, that’s the end of the road for your book with say: Simon & Schuster BFYR.

So now… we wait. *Finding Nemo when all the fish are in plastic baggies gif*. This is painful. I’m going to be honest. It’s much harder than querying. The passes are also harder. Decide with your agent if you want to check in for rejections or have them sent as they come. I like the check-in method as I could prepare myself and didn’t suddenly get a bad email.

What’s the timeframe? Well, there kind of isn’t one. Some books sell within days, some within weeks, some take months and multiple rounds of sub. Just because your book hasn’t sold in days does NOT mean it won’t sell. It’s a weird alchemy like querying.

But let’s say an editor falls in love. Excellent right? Yes. It is. It truly is. That means someone wants to stake their career on you and work with you for at least a year on your book and that’s incredible. Some editors will want to have a call with you to talk about their vision, some will just take it to acquisitions.

Acquisitions is where the entire team from marketing to the head of the house decide whether to offer on the book. Your editor will go to bat for the book they love but unfortunately not everything can be acquired. I’ll confess that I’ve had more than one book die in acquisitions and it’s really hard. *Lili & Stitch just leave me to die gif*. And when that happens you wallow for a bit but then you move on, whether it’s the next house or the next book. You may need to shelve your book and have it be an option or try to sell it when the market changes. It happens.

But if they do offer, you will have a book sold! And you may even go to auction with one offer in hand and a second or more coming in. When it rains it pours in publishing.

Okay, this legit sounds awful Mere, how do I survive? Well, however you survived querying will work for sub. The number one recommendation I always have though is to refill your creative well by watching and reading stories or by helping other writers and then go make something new. You get a little distance from your art and the passes sting a little less. And if you get a multiple book deal you actually will have another story started! As always I’m rooting for you!

Looking for a 2020 #DVPit Mentee

A new decade, a new book deal, and I’d like to mentor someone again. If you’re interested, I hope you’ll read below and fill out the form at the bottom!

A little about me: I signed with Lauren Abramo of DG&B through the first DVPit, so this event has a special place in my heart. I was a Pitch Wars mentor and I’ve mentored four writers who are all agented now. Three have either book deals or books in print (and one forthcoming adaptation!). The last I hope will have great news soon!

What I can offer: I’m volunteering to do an edit letter, line-edits, then a last polishing round (if there’s time) for the right manuscript leading into April 2020’s DVPit. I’ll also work with you on your Twitter pitches and boost you. My apologies for not posting this in January, but I was swamped with life and deadlines.

Here’s what I’m looking for:

  • Someone who is a marginalized person (as defined by #DVPit). Preference goes to a POC and/or someone writing #ownvoices
  • Someone willing to do the work from mid February-until DVPit in April. I’ve guided my mentees through major overhauls, shifts/eliminations of POV, total changes in story-line, and smaller, finessing points of character arcs and plot points. I want someone who wants to grow as a writer, and can meet deadlines
  • Someone who has a young adult or adult manuscript and at least one critique partner. I’m not much use for middle grade.

Areas of interest: I’m best with contemporary, although light fantasy or very light sci-fi is fine. I like and write rom-coms. But I’m pretty open so long as it’s mostly contemp–surprise me!

I’m not your person for anything set in space, horror, or spy thrillers. I just don’t read enough in those categories to be of service. Same is also true for vampires, robots, flowery literary fiction, and pirates.

So that’s it. I’ll leave this open through February 14. If I’m interested in seeing more I’ll email you for a partial or full sometime before February 21. Let me know if you have any questions. I look forward to hearing from you!

DISCLAIMER: I won’t steal your ideas, but there’s a slim chance I’m working on something similar. If I am, I’ll tell you

Query Spreadsheets

Any time you query, but definitely after a pitch contest, you should keep a list of which agents you sent to, when, and their response. That way, once you get an offer of rep you’ll immediately know who still has material and who has passed. The easiest, sexiest way is a spreadsheet.

There are services that will keep track of your queries (ex: querytracker), but I preferred to just have a table in Word.

What you need in:

  • Agent name and agency name
  • Date they favorited if it was a pitch contest
  • Date you sent the query
  • Date they replied
  • Date you sent a partial
  • Date they replied
  • Date you sent a full
  • Date they replied
  • Notes

I liked to color-code mine because I’m cool like that. Green for requests, red for rejections, orange for R&Rs. That way I could take a quick, visual scan and see what was outstanding. When I got an offer of rep, I sent to everyone who hadn’t replied yet–not just the agents who had fulls–my email that I had an offer.

You might also want to note: email addresses, nudges if any, and whether a no response means a rejection somewhere in there.

Good luck!

The Seven Week Draft

Happy Super Belated New Year! It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but I’ve been busy selecting a DVPit mentee and less fun things like the flu.

I thought I’d do my first post of the year on how to draft a manuscript in seven weeks. Hopefully, it’ll help some of you who are struggling to complete a project or have a new one in mind.

So, okay, why 7 weeks?

70,000 words is a good target goal for Adult or YA, generally.

Note: the goal will vary depending on category and genre. And also if you’re a chiseler (draft heavy and then slim down) or a painter (start with a sketch and build up in revisions). Know the word count guidelines. Love the word count guidelines. It will save you heartache in the long run. Here’s a good one.

I find that 7 weeks keeps me immersed in the story and voice of the characters. I get out a draft. I clean it later.

And now for math:

70,000 words breaks into 10,000 words per week (take that, college calculus). That’s under 1,500 words a day. 1,428 to be exact. I find this to be a workable goal… usually.

How to get 1,500 words/day

Aiming for 1,500+ words a day will give you 2+ days off in those 7 weeks. Of course, 1,500 words can be a big ask if you’re staring at Twitter. So,

  • Break it down into multiple sessions. 500+ words in the morning or at lunch suddenly gives you a goal of 1,000 at night.
  • The easiest way to get word count is writing sprints. Never heard of it? You and another writer decide to write without distraction for a short period of time. Say you start at 8:00pm, you give your starting word count, close out of everything but your WIP, write, and then check in at the agreed time with your ending count. I find 30 minute blocks most useful. Repeat until done.

There’s something about having an accountabil-a-buddy that makes you focus. Plus it’s embarrassing to admit that you got 17 words because you were looking up lyrics to Havana.

How can you find someone to sprint with? Twitter is great because there’s always someone who should be writing. Just tweet out that you’re looking to sprint. Chances are you’ll get a taker.

Rereading/editing as you go

I hate having a garbage first draft, so I tend to reread/edit the last chapter or section I worked on the previous day. I find this keeps revision to a decent level… usually.

That’s it. Remember to reward yourself at the end because finishing a book is an amazing thing. And then to let it rest for a MONTH before you look at it again. Seriously, you’ll catch so much more in revision if you let your MS rest for 4+ weeks, read other work, and then go back to it.

Looking for a DVPit Mentee

[1/31/2018 Final update: Thank you so much to everyone who applied. There were so many amazing concepts and samples that I was able to select material based on whim- which happened to be lighter, funnier manuscripts for the most part. If I did not request pages it’s no reflection on you, just personal choice at the time. Thank you for making this choice so very difficult and I wish you all the best going forward. You did an amazing thing- you wrote a book!]

As we wrap up 2017, I’m looking ahead to 2018–specifically, the next DVPit. I’d like to mentor someone again. If you’re interested, I hope you’ll read below and fill out the form at the bottom!

A little about me: I signed with Lauren Abramo of DG&B through the first DVPit, so this event has a special place in my heart. I was a Pitch Wars mentor and read for a DVPit participant. All three super-talented ladies are now agented. One has a three-book deal.

What I can offer: I’m volunteering to do an edit letter, line-edits, then a last polishing round (if there’s time) for the right manuscript leading into April 2018’s DVPit. I’ll also work with you on your Twitter pitches and boost you.

Here’s what I’m looking for: 

  • Someone who is a marginalized person (as defined by #DVPit). Preference goes to a POC and/or someone writing #ownvoices
  • Someone willing to do the work from late January-early April. I’ve guided my mentees through major overhauls, shifts/eliminations of POV, total changes in story-line, and smaller, finessing points of character arcs and plot points. I want someone who’s wants to grow as a writer, and can meet deadlines
  • Someone who has a young adult or adult manuscript and at least one critique partner. I’m not much use for middle grade.

Areas of interest: I’m best with contemporary, although light fantasy or very light sci-fi is fine. I like and write domestic suspense and romance. But I’m pretty open so long as it’s mostly contemp–surprise me!

I’m not your person for anything set in space, horror, or spy thrillers. I just don’t read enough in those categories to be of service. Same is also true for vampires, robots, flowery literary fiction, and pirates.

So that’s it. I’ll leave this open through January 1, 2018. If I’m interested in seeing more I’ll email you for a partial or full sometime between Jan 1 and Jan 15. Let me know if you have any questions. I look forward to hearing from you!

[Update 1/3/18: well, I’m floored by the response. I’ll start wading through as soon as I can but there were close to 40 applications]

[Update 1/25/18: due to vacation and lovely oral surgery I’m slightly behind schedule with reading/requesting]