Check out #KidLitforAleppo on Twitter today. Many prizes are available for those who donate to organizations supporting Aleppo/Syria. We’re giving away query/first chapter critiques today on Twitter. Check out Dana Levy’s post here! Please share the news!
Hi, Julie. I’m so excited that you’ve signed with Jennie Dunham of Dunham Lit and are on your way to publishing success! I think The Call is one of the most desired/feared/nerve-wracking/exciting/elusive steps a writer works toward. You’ve nailed your query and finally garnered some interest, but now what?
She sent me an email. I had received a similar email from her in the spring that ended up being a Revise & Resubmit on an older manuscript, but the wording on this one was different, so I was pretty sure it was going to be an offer. She didn’t mention a time, but she called me the next morning, so there was only one day of nail-biting.
How did you prepare for The Call? Any sites or blog posts that you felt were helpful in preparing?
I emailed my amazing Pitch Wars 2015 mentor, Juliana Brandt, who shared her list of questions and gave me an awesome pep-talk. And I emailed a couple of critique partners to freak out/ask for advice. I also did a little cyber stalking internet research on the agency and its clients. I read Janet Reid’s blog religiously and she talks a lot about how to maintain good agent-writer relationships. If you’re querying and not subscribed to her blog, go subscribe NOW!
I have to ask where you did the call? Were your kids and husband home?
I was home alone, thank goodness, because I was pacing all over the house with my phone and notebook. I was so nervous and had to keep moving (and reminding myself not to talk too much)! Once I got off the call, I was getting DMs, emails, text messages, and phone calls all at once. I didn’t even text my husband until later because I was on the phone with The Winged Pen’s own Jessica Vitalis, talking her ear off as she drove out of town!
How were you feeling when the call started? How did you feel once the conversations got going?
I had already had a really positive interaction with Jennie about the R&R on my previous manuscript, so I was feeling really good from the moment the call started. Even before it started, really. I sent her The Elephant Tree instead of the revision (with her permission) because I felt it was a stronger manuscript and she was enthusiastic about the project from the moment I pitched it to her. The call blew me away. By the time we had this call, she had read all three of my middle grades, so I knew she really got me as a writer. And she said all the right things. I was floating by the end.
What was the big deciding factor on deciding that this was the agent for you? Was there a moment in the call or something she said?
When she made me cry (in a good way), I just knew that she got me 100% and was going to be the perfect fit.
How has communication been since the call and what’s the next step for you?
I have been working on revisions on The Elephant Tree since we signed in October. So in addition to discussing revisions, we’ve also had a productive back-and-forth about my next story. The one I was plotting before I signed with Jennie is a totally different genre than The Elephant Tree (dark fantasy instead of contemporary with a sprinkle of magic), so it doesn’t make a very good follow-up.
I came up with a character and pitched Jennie a story idea that, unfortunately, has been done in an upcoming MG. That’s why I’m so glad to have an industry insider to help me navigate this—can you imagine if I’d written the whole story before I found out someone else had done something similar? I was able to take that same character, who I’m sort of falling in love with, and put her into a new story that Jennie thought would make a great follow-up to The Elephant Tree. Now if I can just get these edits done, I can start writing the shiny new story!
Are there any questions you wish you had asked that you didn’t?
We got so busy talking about edits for my current manuscript and story ideas for my next one that we completely forgot to talk about what her contract looks like! She had to email me the contract after the fact. I actually thought of a ton of questions after I got off the phone with her, so we had another round of email back and forth during my nudge week.
Any advice for querying writers working toward The Call?
Don’t give up! This was the third middle-grade manuscript I’d queried (fourth manuscript total because there was that one awful chicklit novel I wrote in my twenties and was foolish enough to query) and I racked up over a hundred rejections on my Pitch Wars 2015 manuscript before I shelved it to focus on The Elephant Tree. The evening before I got the email from Jennie, I got a heart-breaking pass from another agent that had me so down in the dumps that I’d actually told my critique partners I was all done with this manuscript (even though I only sent a total of 48 queries on it!). The next day, I had an offer.
Julie, thanks so much for letting me pester you with all these questions and congrats on this giant leap forward. I can’t wait to see what’s next for you. Follow Julie on Twitter @julieartz. You can also find her at julieartz.com.
~Kristi Wientge is the author of KARMA KHULLAR’S MUSTACHE out August 2017 with Simon & Schuster BFYR and is repped by Patricia Nelson at Marsal Lyon Literary Agency.
There’s a lot of heavy stuff going on in the world. It’s part of why I spend such a huge amount of time fleeing into the fantasy realm with a book, a movie, or with my own writing. But last month I heard about an opportunity to help a good cause WHILE fleeing into that fantasy world: #Scrivathon16 on Saturday, November 12, 2016.
A 24-hour word sprint, #Scrivathon16 will raise money and awareness for Syria Relief, a registered UK charity whose aim is simply to ‘relieve the suffering and support the future.’ It has a solid network of committed management and logistics staff on the ground inside Syria—currently numbering at around 1,600—which means they can deliver humanitarian aid in all areas, including the hard-to-reach rural and some besieged areas. In the short space of time since its inception, Syria Relief has established its reputation as a trusted and efficient humanitarian aid agency on the ground, with a track record of the highest level of transparency and feedback.
If the images of children being pulled from the rubble have touched you the way they’ve touched me, perhaps you’ll consider joining #Scrivathon16, donating to Syria Relief through the #Scrivathon16 JustGiving page, and entering to win one of the oodles of raffle prizes A.Y. Chao has put together for this event. You can even win one of several query/critique packages from authors at The Winged Pen:
ENTER HERE with code “Winged Pen Query & 1st Page” for a chance to win one of TWO query and first page critique from The Winged Pen’s contributors
ENTER HERE with code “WP 1st Page Crit” for a chance to win one of FIVE first page crits from one of Laurel Decher, Gita Trelease, Halli Gomez, Jessica Vitalis, and Kristi Wientge
ENTER HERE with code “Winged Pen Query & 1st Page” for a chance to win one of TWO query and first page critique, from either Gabrielle Byrne or from Julie Artz.
Check here for even more amazing raffle prizes!
BONUS BONUS BONUS!!!
Because the world needs a little extra love this week, The Winged Pen will be matching Syria Relief donations made Saturday through our Winged Pen #Scrivathon16 page (up to $500). So consider making a donation.
BONUS BONUS BONUS!!!
Don’t forget to join us on Twitter on November 12 for 24-hours of word sprints, camaraderie, and writing for a most worthy cause.
You know exactly which one I’m talking about. It’s the call every unagented writer dreams of. An agent you queried punches in your digits, gushes over your manuscript, and says how much they would love to represent you. I had that day dream frequently. And I hoped, prayed that it would actually happen some day.
Most days my phone was silent. The email, however, was buzzing. With rejections. Over 100 for my first middle grade book.
Things looked a little brighter for my second middle grade book – a 3rd place contest win, a slot in Sun versus Snow, and a few requests. But soon after, the excitement died down. I didn’t make it in to Pitch Wars 2016, I built up sixty rejections, and most of the requests I had gotten were months before. So long ago in fact, I was sure they were lost in someone’s cloud. And of course no one understands the cloud enough to get it back.
But there was one outstanding request…
It was a query I sent out on August 30th. Thirty minutes after I hit send, the agent replied. Her email was cheery and fun. And that’s what she thought of my query, so she requested the first fifty pages.
Then on September 6th, she sent another email requesting the full manuscript.
Sure she sounded excited. Yes she was more timely than the others. Still, it was one agent, and all I could focus on were the ones who had sent rejections. Or worse. No responses leaving me with a tiny ounce of hope in my heart that my head knew were no’s.
On October 1st, I had a heart-to-heart discussion with my critique partners and decided to take a break from this story. I loved it, but maybe it wasn’t the right time. I had to focus on something different. Get excited again. So for closure, I wrote a post about dealing with rejection (here), put the manuscript notes in the cabinet, and outlined a new story.
On October 6th, I was deep into the new story, a contemporary YA, or as deep as I could get lying in bed with the flu, when the phone rang. It rang several times that morning, mostly from my mom checking on me, but this was a number I didn’t recognize. Of course that meant salesperson.
But what salesperson leaves a voicemail? Um, one who wants to sell your book?
The phone call was from Kathy Green of Kathryn Green Literary Agency. The agent who thought my query was fun and had requested the full manuscript just one month ago. It was my dream, or a flu-induced hallucination. Either way, she told me she loved my story and would like to represent it.
This was the call I had been waiting for. The one I’ve dreamed about. But… I know! You’re thinking but what? Well, something had changed. I convinced myself I should focus on YA. I was sure my little middle grade light science fiction had no place in bookstores filled with fantasy and magical realism. What’s so great about a kid who doesn’t want his parents to get divorced compared to a kid who fights fantastical beasts and saves the world?
Then we talked. Kathy loved what I loved about my book. Specifically that it wasn’t fantasy or magical realism. It was a real kid with real-life problems and she believed in it. And there were other things: her agency is small, which I prefer, she’s an editorial agent, which I need. Our moms live in the same area carefully watched over by a sibling, our sons want to be chefs, we both have ties to North Carolina and New York. It seemed too good to be true.
Yes it was a dream – a dream come true! I know, corny, but so was the jumping and dancing I did after we hung up.
And the way I told my family and friends I had an agent. It was like getting an engagement ring and continuously wiping the hair out of your eyes.
HALLI GOMEZ teaches martial arts and writes for children and young adults because those voices flow through her brain. She enjoys family, outdoors, reading, and is addicted to superhero movies. You can find her on Twitter.
At the Frankfurt Book Fair, readers are a big theme. It’s the biggest book fair in the world and heavily “rights” focused. The more readers a book has, the more valuable the foreign publishing rights are.
The main business of the Fair is to make deals: between publishers and literary agents, domestic and international publishers, and publishers and booksellers or libraries. There are little tables at every stand and most of them are full of people showing each other books. It’s an affirmation of all those hours we spend writing. What we do matters, people! 🙂
1. Andrew Rhomberg of Jellybooks gave an insightful presentation about the way we read. Amazon collects data about how the world reads, but their data isn’t shared with publishers or authors. Rhomberg described Jellybooks as “Google Analytics for books.” The new epub3 format includes a button at the end of each chapter and at the end of the book that lets Jellybooks figure out how and when people read the books and how much of them they actually finish. It works on iBooks (iOS), Adobe Digital Editions (Windows) and Ebook Reader (Android) platforms. The data isn’t anonymous so that the publisher can tailor the book offerings to the readers.
Publishers use the service to find out just how people read Advance Reader Copies. Readers sign up for free e-books in exchange for sharing their reading data. Three reading patterns caught my attention:
Gradual fizzling out. Some prize-winning literature had a high percentage of readers finishing the first chapter, or maybe the first three chapters, but not much more. Or a skipping ahead pattern to see if the book got more gripping later on.
Commuter readers. Some readers only read around 8 AM and around 5 PM. If this was your target audience, you’d probably do well marketing to the commuter crowd.
Pageturners. Then there are the books where readers who finish the first three chapters read to the end without pausing. As Rhomberg says, “Some readers have discipline. They go to bed. But the others can’t put it down.”
Rhomberg also collects feedback about book covers to find the answers to two smart questions:
What’s the influence of the cover for choosing a book to read?
Was the promise of the cover fulfilled by the story?
Writer take-home: If your book’s cover and your opening chapters are the perfect set-up for the exciting chapters that follow, you’ve got a winner.
2. Fabian, an Indie author on the same panel, talked about a low-budget way to get feedback about your readers. He posts chapters of his book on his blog and uses Google Analytics to track reading time. He uses MailChimp’s analytics too. His 3,000-member e-mail list also puts him in a perfect position for a reader survey about new cover designs.
Both presenters agreed that the most helpful information to describe your readers is time of day, context, gender, and age. Rhomberg said that men and women give up on books at the same rate, but men read 50 pages before they stop and women read 100.
3. Wattpad‘s Star author, Jenny Rosen, has a much more personal connection to her 17, 747 followers. Wattpad is ten-year-old Canadian company with its strongest audience in the Philippines. Most stories on Wattpad are early drafts, she says, and reader input is useful. She and her editor, Kristen Maglonzo, consider reader feedback as they decide on the story structure. At the same time, she stays true to her vision for her story, describing herself as “stubborn.”
This young, dynamic team inspired me to go out and write the stories that need to be written! And to learn how to write a cliffhanger. 🙂
It’s clear that building an audience this way works: Wattpad is offering writers the ability to include video ads relevant to their readers. As Jenny Rosen says, “This lets readers support authors for free.”
Wattpad looks like a great platform for YA fiction and may work for Middle Grade, even though there isn’t a dropdown category for it. According to Wattpad’s spokesperson, most readers don’t search for books by category, so they’ve stopped adding new categories.
As a writer, seeing this data and hearing Jenny Rosen’s story was powerful confirmation that first chapters matter. They really do set the tone and make promises to the reader. And when the promises are fulfilled, readers really do read every single chapter that follows.
Writers build stories with set-ups and payoffs to satisfy their readers. This reader data is more confirmation that craft matters.
I hope you’re feeling empowered to write more stories!
For more of the 2016 Frankfurt Book Fair, try these podcasts.