Common Publishing Terms and Abbreviations

Below is a list of common terms and abbreviations you might see as you read my posts or other publishing blogs. About a year ago I wrote a similar list, and it has turned out to be one of my most popular posts, so here it is, revised and updated!

  • Agent: Literary agents are professionals who represent an author’s career. The most well-known task an agent performs is selling the writer’s manuscript to a publishing house and negotiating the contract. Agents do much more than this, however, and function pretty much like career managers.
  • Beta reader: Usually beta readers are people that an author asks to read his/her manuscript and give critiques and respond to the story. This is not the same thing as a critique partner.
  • Big 5: Previously the “Big 6,” these are the major New York publishing houses: Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers, Macmillan Publishers, Penguin Random House, and Simon and Schuster. Many other significant, international publishing houses exist, though, such as Bloomsbury, Scholastic, and Harlequin.
  • Category: a broader term than genre that addresses the age range the book is written for or about. All books fit into one of these categories: picture book, middle grade, young adult, new adult, or adult. Some people separate the younger categories into more divisions than that, but those are the basics. Young adult and new adult categories are a bit different than the others, because while they are written about characters of a certain age, they aren’t written just for readers of that age group–adults make up a huge percentage of their readership.
  • Crit/Critique. An evaluation (usually from another writer) that aims for showing both the strong and weak elements of a MS. Critiques from other writers, especially authors and agents, can be a great way for writers to improve their writing.
  • CP/Critique Partner. Writers who critique each other’s work in an on-going relationship. The critiques CPs give can be tougher than a beta reader’s feedback, and CPs often know each other’s writing strengths and weaknesses, and can push each other more. These can be great relationships to establish because of the encouragement, resources, and support writers receive from each other.
  • Editor: Depending on the type of editor, editors acquire books for their house to publish and guide the book through the editorial process for publication. Like agents, they do much more than this, too.
  • Form rejection: A copy-pasted rejection from an agent to a writer who queried. Most of the time this is what writers will receive. Most agents receive 100+ queries a week (I’ve seen some agents report 800+), so personal responses are often impossible
  • Genre: A term to describe the kind of story a book is. When writers are asked what kind of books they write, they often respond with the category and genre– young adult fantasy, for example, or adult romance. Science fiction, contemporary, mystery, thriller, magical realism, and historical are all genres.
  • MG: middle grade. Writing written for middle grade readers and adhering to certain age group conventions.
  • MS: manuscript. An unpublished work of fiction or nonfiction. Plural: MSs.
  • NA: new adult. Characters and plotlines that revolve around situations common to the 19 to mid-twenties age group. Some say this is a subset of adult fiction, and others maintain it’s its own category.
  • Personalized rejection: A rejection from an agent to a writer who queried, but some element of the letter is personal. A line or two complimenting the work but explaining why it’s not right for the agent may be included. This is an encouraging sign and a compliment from the agent, and is actually a good thing to receive. If a writer is excited about receiving a rejection, this is likely why.
  • Pitch: A brief description of a manuscript highlighting the main elements in a way that makes others want to read more. Contests sometimes ask for a 1, 2, or 3-sentence pitch. Writers should have one ready for contests and conferences, and many writers create the pitch while they are plotting the manuscript to help keep them focused on the story’s core.
  • Query letter: A letter, often a professional email, that writers send to agents asking them to consider them for representation. The letter includes specific details about the manuscript the author has written and relevant credentials the writer may have. Some agents want 5 or 10 pages and/or a synopsis included as well. Conventions for queries are very particular.
  • R&R(or R/R): Revise and resubmit. The request from an agent or editor to have the writer make certain changes to the manuscript and then resubmit the work for consideration. These happen frequently, and are an excellent sign of the story’s potential. The agent’s current list of titles, market trends, and the writing itself may be reasons the agent asked for an R&R, to see how well they can work with the author and how open to feedback the writer is.
  • Request: An agent (or sometimes editor) requests to see a certain number of pages of a writer’s manuscript. These can be “partials”–generally 30, 50, or 100 pages– or else “fulls”– the entire manuscript. Usually agents request a partial first and then request a full if they are considering representing the writer. A request is a BIG deal, particularly if it’s a full.
  • Slush/ slush pile: the queries and submissions waiting in the query inbox of an agent or editor.
  • Small Press: A publisher with annual sales below a certain level, or else one who publishes a small list of titles per year. There can be significant benefits to publishing with a small press, such as increased attention from your publishing team.
  • Submission: Usually this refers to when an agent takes an author’s manuscript on submission– actively submitting it to editors, hoping to receive an offer of publication. It can also mean the submission materials writers send to agents or contests.
  • Synopsis: A 1-2 page summary that reveals the main elements of the MS in a cause-and-effect style. Agents and editors often ask for these to see how (and if) an author can wrap up the story.
  • Twitter pitch: A pitch designed for Twitter contests designed to quickly hook the reader. 140 characters or less. Twitter contests can be a good way to reach agents who may be closed to submissions (if they are participating) or get a request that may move you up in the agent’s slush pile.
  • WIP: work in progress. The manuscript an author is currently writing.
  • YA: young adult. Writing intended for a teenage audience, but with tremendous crossover appeal to adults. Publishers Weekly reported that 55% of all YA books are purchased by adult buyers, and 78% of the time, those books are for themselves. Basically, YA is written about teens, but written for both teen and adult readers.

Have you heard any other terms you’d like to know more about or have added to the list? Let me know in the comments!

The Query That Got Me My Agent

Hello, readers!

Yesterday the lovely EM Castellan featured me on her blog with a quick interview on how I wrote my query and advice for querying writers, plus of course the query that got my agent’s attention. It’s a great way for readers to see examples of queries that worked.

Since that’s often helpful for fellow writers, I’m going to post it here today with the query results so you have a bit more info. If you want to see my advice on querying and a few more questions, head over to see the rest of the interview! (And great queries from other authors.)

Here’s my query:

Dear (agent)

After (personal detail) I’m hoping you’ll be interested in my MS. HOW WE FALL, a YA suspense, is complete at 88,000 words.

Making out with your cousin has its pitfalls. Seventeen-year-old Jackie hasn’t been able to end her secret relationship with Marcus since he kissed her on a dare. He’s her best friend, which only makes it harder to quit their obsessive relationship.

Except she has to, because she’s falling in love with him. It’s not like it’s illegal to date her cousin, but her parents would never approve and the families would split up their multi-family home. Afraid of losing her best friend, she calls it off. She can’t lose Marcus right now: the cops just found her missing friend’s body.

Hurt and angry, Marcus starts dating the new girl, Sylvia. But with Sylvia comes a secret and a stranger. The stranger starts following Jackie everywhere she goes, and Marcus is nearly killed in a car accident. When Jackie finds out Sylvia lied about not knowing her murdered friend, Jackie’s certain Sylvia is connected to the man threatening Marcus.

The more Jackie finds out about Sylvia, the bigger the wedge between Jackie and Marcus, but she doesn’t have long to figure out what’s going on. She may have lost both her relationship and her friendship with Marcus, but she can’t lose him for real.

If she doesn’t act fast, Sylvia’s secrets may mean their bodies will be the next ones the police dig out of the Missouri woods.

(bio)

Thank you for your consideration,

Kate Brauning

(contact info)

Query stats:

Queries: 53

Requests: 23 (6 partials, 17 fulls)

That’s a pretty darn good request rate, but I do want to highlight that the agents who didn’t request often wrote back with a polite but definite pass. I’m pretty sure half the publishing community thinks I’m crazy now. 🙂

Another thing I think is important to highlight in this kind of post is that it is not your query that lands you an agent. It is your story and your writing. The query serves to catch the agent’s attention. You’ll reuse it in various ways down the road, and you want it to be as sharp as possible, but it’s really not the query that gets you an agent.

That said, the query is your foot in the door. Take it seriously, make it sing, make it reflect your story the best it can.

Have a question about querying? Ask in this post, and I’ll answer! I’ve read slush for a publishing house and a literary agency, and I edit so many hours a week I have trouble counting them– and I’m glad to help!

Before I Got My Agent

Lots of writers when they sign with an agent write a lovely, helpful, awesome blog post about the experience. They’re often titled “How I Got My Agent,” and contain query stats, timelines, and tons of gratitude and encouragement. They’re a great way for writers to become familiar with what to expect when an agent offers and how to handle the emotional roller-coaster that comes along with it. I posted my own “how I got my agent” story last Friday, but I wanted to write a follow-up this week.

Why? Because when I was querying, I’d see someone else’s agent story go around, and as completely thrilled for that writer as I was, sometimes I– confession– got a bit jealous. Maybe jealous isn’t the right word. I was happy for them, thrilled with their success, willing to cheer them on, aware their success didn’t make mine any less likely. But sometimes it hit at a bad time, when I was particularly frustrated by a rejection or a tangle in my WIP or things that had nothing to do with writing, and it made me 80% happy for the writer and 20% sad for myself. I’ve heard some of my close writer friends make similar confessions, too. It’s hard to watch others succeeding when we feel like we aren’t. It’s hard when their story looks easier than ours. It’s really hard when some writers get multiple requests  in contests or multiple offers or there’s a flurry of querying news immediately after they start querying, and it looks like the whole of the publishing industry is launching themselves at Fabulous Writer A, and we’d really just love to have one agent interested in us.

So, because I am so familiar with those feelings, I had a few quick thoughts I thought I’d share.

It looks easy from the outside. No one’s story is ever as easy or glamorous as it looks. I’m tempted to write out that line and hang it above my computer, because it’s so true. It’s not fair to yourself to compare the worst parts of your story to the best parts of someone else’s. I know it looks easier from the outside, because my “how I got my agent” story barely scratches the surface. There was definitely a “before I got my agent” story.

I wrote a novel in high school. I was deadly serious about it. I researched hours every week, wrote almost every day. I wanted to be published by the time I turned seventeen. (I have no idea why; it probably wouldn’t have been good for me.) It was a sprawling plotless wonder, but I loved it. 400 pages of a tangent-prone Mafia-western. It was completely unmarketable, and if anyone had told me that, I would have been crushed. I probably would have quit. But no one did, and so I figured I’d keep trying even though I gave up on the plotless wonder when I went to college. I wrote short stories in college, but felt like I’d never come up with another good novel idea again. My short stories got so-so reactions from my professors, so I figured that wasn’t for me.  4 years went by, during which I read and wrote and tried to figure out how to become an author. By the time I graduated, I’d been working at it for seven years. I really had no connections with anyone published, and no novel I was working on, but I still wanted to be an author.

I kept looking around for ideas, kept reading, and 8 months after graduation, found an idea I thought was marketable. I loved the idea, and started writing it. Unfortunately for the timeline but fortunately for my skill development, it was a research-heavy, historically based urban fantasy with a frighteningly large cast of characters. Of course, it was the first of a series and took over 100k to wrap up the first book. It took me two years to get it ready to query. I had joined Twitter, learned a lot from agent and author blogs, and poured sweat and tears into my book. I queried it, revised once I learned a little more, queried again, revised, wondered if I should start the second book while I waited, wondered why no one loved this book as much as I did, and received mixed reactions from agents and authors and critique partners. I’d been writing for nine years, by this point. I wasn’t working on a novel the entire time, but especially in those last two years, I learned a lot about story structure, and even now I can see it’s a pretty solid manuscript. It had unique elements, but wasn’t unique enough. It was adult, but had some YA elements. It had a twist on what was already out there in urban fantasy, but the twist wasn’t strong enough. It didn’t have enough something, and I knew I could do better.

I swore I wasn’t giving up on that MS. I wasn’t trunking it. Some day, when I’d learned how to turn the so-so elements into something awesome, I’d go back to it. I spent a year querying and revising that MS, and while I was doing that, I started a new MS. I’m so glad I did. (Incidentally, if you’re writing a series I don’t recommend starting the sequel right after you finish writing the first. You never know what’s going to happen with that first book, and it’s usually better to start a different project next so you don’t spend five years writing a series that never sells.) I didn’t want to sign with an agent on my second book, because I thought my first one was good (it’s decent) and it was unique (it really wasn’t) and I had worked so hard on it. I’d written it while working a full-time job plus a publishing internship, which I’m surprised didn’t drive me to a breakdown.

If someone had told me that that MS would get trunked, and still needed completely rewritten, and wouldn’t land me an agent, I don’t think I could have started a new MS. But I’d started a new one while I queried the first, and hey, it was awesome. I loved that new story. And you know what? It didn’t take me two years. It took me five months. And I could see it was better, so much better, than my first. I started seeing the issues with my urban fantasy– things I had looked for and tried to address before, but just couldn’t see what the problem was. It made sense to me why that manuscript wasn’t getting the agent attention I wanted it to have. (I’m so glad I didn’t self-publish the fantasy MS out of frustration, because it’s still not the story it deserves to be. I can probably get that urban fantasy where it needs to be, because I have tools now that I didn’t before. This is a prime example of why there’s so much waiting involved in writing and publishing–I was waiting on my skills to develop.)

That second manuscript was faster, less frustrating, and got me my agent. But there’s a backstory there of two other manuscripts, twelve years of writing and hoping to be published, sweat, tears, juggling three jobs, and lots and lots of rejection. My querying stats from MOON RIVER, my second MS, look like this:

Queries: 53

Requests: 23 (6 partials, 17 fulls)

R&Rs: 4

Offers:  1

But… yeah. The backstory. Here are my stats from that urban fantasy:

Queries: 160

Requests: 8 partials (5 from pitch contests) and 3 fulls

R&Rs: 0

Offers: 0

Writing is fun and exciting and worth every minute to me. But I didn’t know it would be this hard and I had no idea how much work it would be. I still think it’s worth it, and just because the work is hard doesn’t make the time doing it miserable. But it can sometimes make it a bit easier to know other people aren’t skating by us on the road to success while we toil away with no one noticing. Finishing a manuscript or signing with an agent or landing a book deal or reaching a bestseller list is almost never as easy as it looks. It’s true with our characters, and it’s true with writers: there’s always a backstory.

And here’s the encouraging part: your current situation is not an omen of where you’re going to be next month or at Christmas or next year. Rejection and discouragement happen to everyone. Focus on your successes, keep going, and keep in mind when someone else succeeds in an area you’re trying to, that it probably took them years and a lot of work. It wasn’t easy, but if they did it, there’s no reason you can’t. Love your book. Give it your best. Start a new one and let the process sharpen your skills. Be a writer, because that’s the whole point. You already are succeeding, just by continuing to write. The rest will happen along the way.

As always, if you read my blog and need help or advice, let me know. Pay it forward, right?

Why I’d Rather Be Broke

I’m now just a few days shy of a month since I quit working full-time.

I’ve taught for three years. During that first year of teaching, I got my first solid idea for a novel and started writing seriously. It took me several months to figure out how to find time in my day for serious writing, but I worked at it, and I read books on craft, but I mostly ignored whatever might happen after finishing my novel. I simply read and wrote.

The second year of teaching, I started feeling the strain of working full-time and serious writing. I’d hit 50k several times in my novel due to starting over multiple times, cut and rewrote enough pages it would have taken a forest to print them all, and continued to read books on craft. My progress picked up significantly- I had a real novel taking shape, not just a wandering mess of words. I started looking a bit further into the future and made some connections in the book world. I branched out in what I was reading, discovered what a query letter was, used my vacation days to stay home and write, started this blog, and FINISHED my first novel. Yes, it took me two years. I still love it. It’s the first of a series– a huge story with a huge cast, tons of historical detail, and a complicated backstory. I don’t regret taking it on as my first for-real novel (I won’t tell you about my high school and college novels. Oh, the trauma), but I must have been crazy to do so. I sent it off to beta readers and started writing the ever-dreadful synopsis and crying over draft after draft of query letters. My friends and family will tell you, I had very few spare minutes in 2011. (I’m still not fully back to the social butterfly I was in the pre-writer era.)

2012 marked a big change for me. I barely knew anything (still working on that), but I knew how to find out the basics. I revised and revised from my beta notes, sent that first traumatic round of queries (go read the archives here- fun stuff), revised more, sent further rounds of queries, received requests (astonishingly enough)and started reading new books. I’ve always loved classics, and of course I read the big hits. But I as I learned about the book world, I discovered some pretty fantastic writers. Somewhere in between reading THE NAME OF THE WIND and THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, subtext, voice, and internal conflict started making a bit more sense to me. In August, I started working for my fabulous boss editor at Entangled Publishing- the same month I wrote my 6-week first draft of MOON RIVER. Two years for the first draft of my first novel, six week for the first draft of my second. The scope is smaller, it’s not the first of a series, and the backstory isn’t nearly so complicated, but I love it just as much. Writing and polishing MOON RIVER kept me distracted while I queried SILENCE- I’d taken a break with it for the summer while I did YET MORE revisions on it.

Thanks for sticking with me here. I promise there’s a point.

The summer of 2012 saw me completely overwhelmed but unable to quit anything I was doing. To be published, I had to write. To live, I had to work full-time. My internship with Entangled was teaching me valuable skills that dramatically increased my knowledge of the industry and writing in general. Reading new, brilliant fiction and books on craft kept me sane and were also necessary for learning to write well. But I simply didn’t have enough time to do it all. Knowing MOON RIVER was a notch above SILENCE in writing quality made me desperate to finish it and get it out in the world; querying and revising SILENCE was incredibly time consuming; reading anything for pleasure made me feel guilty because I needed to be making progress on my internship and adding to MOON RIVER’s word count and sending queries, but it was necessary for staying sharp. My husband and I started talking about what would need to happen for me to work part-time. It was just a dream, but looking at it as an option helped me keep going.

The fall of 2012, all these things I’d buried myself in started snowballing. I finished MOON RIVER. Beta notes on it came back that made me grin instead of cringe. My internship with Entangled was going really well. The writing community on Twitter pulled me in, and every day, I love chatting with the writers, readers, agents, and editors there. I’m learning so much from having them on my Twitter feed. I read, read, read. CODE NAME VERITY, SHADOW AND BONE, and WHAT ALICE FORGOT helped a number of things click for me. Reading made me a better writer and helped me to keep loving books.  Teaching forced me to prioritize and value my free time. Interning made me a better writer and querier. Participating in the online writing community made me a better reader and writer. I can’t emphasize enough how much I loved all this work- stressful and demanding as it was (and still is).

But I just didn’t have the time to do justice to the tasks I was undertaking. I was dabbling in six things, mastering none, and needing each day to have 50 hours. Teaching, as much as I loved it, wasn’t making me a better writer. I couldn’t really drop anything but the areas I was investing in were only creeping forward. All my stress and effort for very little return. I’d burn out before I made it.

And then MOON RIVER was all but ready to query and the Carol Mann Agency offered me an internship.

To jump, or not to jump?

I couldn’t add two more things to my day. Literally could not. One serious “will we die of starvation?” talk with my husband later, I gave my notice at work and the school graciously offered me a part-time position similar to a teacher’s assistant. I couldn’t do what I’m doing now without this job, so I’m very thankful for it. I know so many writers who would give their right arm to stop working full-time and devote themselves to writing, and I feel a bit guilty that it’s me doing it and not them.

We’re broke. There’s a real possibility we’ll be living in a cardboard box next month (or showing up on my sister’s porch). But I’m doing what I love. I’ve been working part-time for a month now, and every day is a blessing.  Stressful and demanding, filled to the brim with deadlines and to-do lists, but still a blessing. MOON RIVER has ventured out into agents’ inboxes, I’m getting to work with some fabulous writers for Entangled and CMA, and I’ve started my next novel- I can’t wait for it to be living and breathing on the page.

I’m fine with being broke to make that happen. I’ll eat rice for a year, forget what restaurants are, and start pricing gasoline not by the gallon but by the drip, if I have to.

Maybe I jumped off a cliff and I’ll regret it when I hit the bottom. Right now, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be. Here’s hoping my optimism makes the landing softer.

3 Ways to Set Yourself Apart in the Slush

I’ve been considering writing a post for a while on common issues I see in submissions, and I’m seeing enough of the same things coming up that I think that might make a great topic. If you’ve been reading agent blogs or following writers on Twitter, you probably know to avoid super common openings in your novel- alarm clocks ringing, the main character waking up, an action scene before we’ve been given a reason to care, etc. Beyond those things, there are several elements of writing itself that makes me question the submission and occasionally stop reading.

1) Lack of contractions. I see this a lot in SF/F/paranormal writing. More formal phrasing is often the first route writers take when they want to make an angel/vampire/immortal of any kind sound as if s/he is from another culture. This idea might have worked for the first few who did it, and it still might work if done extraordinarily well, but it’s such a common device now that I expect it, so it isn’t interesting anymore. Plus, and here’s the kicker, it makes the writing stilted. Even if your character is from another culture, unless she’s the Dowager Countess, it doesn’t work. Try saying the lines out loud yourself; if it sounds weird, it reads weird. It pulls me out of the story and makes it that much harder to catch my attention.

2) Modifier overload. This has to be one of the most common things I write in reader reports. Adjectives and adverbs stand out; be choosy. An author friend of mine told me her agent says she gets ten adverbs per novel. That’s how choosy you should be. Now, if you’re that choosy, maybe you can do more than ten. The point is, I get the distinct feeling a lot of writers aren’t actually aware of how many they’re using. And you have to be. If using words is going to be your career, you have to be aware. Take just your first page and highlight how many adverbs and adjectives are on that page. I frequently see 15+ modifiers on the first page. Of course, the commonly advised solution is to delete the modifier and use stronger nouns and verbs- “china” instead of “plate”, or “hurtle” instead of “run.” I like to keep in mind the principle of “detail that matters.” If it doesn’t matter that the flowers are pink, don’t tell me. They’ll show up as a color in my imagination even if you don’t supply one. But if the tangle of the stems and the withered leaves matter as insight about the protagonist, then by all means, use it. Just be aware, and be intentional.

3) Common phrasing. This is a little more abstract of a concept, but it’s easy to identify in a manuscript. When I read about bright sunny days, fear creeping over someone, half-smiles turning up a corner of someone’s mouth, etc., I get bored because I’ve seen all these things too many times. Cliches might be a part of this, but it’s more just ordinary words being used in an unimaginative way. When I read, I want to see a new perspective on something. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson is an excellent example of breaking away from the ordinary in showing the main character’s thoughts. Not everyone should go so far as to strike out portions of the text, but I do at least want to think, “hey, this writer sees that man’s shoes a little differently than most people would” or “I’d never thought of describing a street like that.” So, I want to see more language that shows unique thought.

When I see a writer who doesn’t have these struggles, I know he is both aware and intentional with his writing. That fact alone helps the submission grab my attention.

Publishing Terms and Abbreviations

 

Below is a list of common terms and abbreviations you might see as you read my posts or other publishing blogs.

Agent: Literary agents are professionals who represent an author’s career. The most well-known tasks an agent performs are selling the writer’s MS to a publishing house and negotiating the contract. Agents do much more than this, however.

CP: critique partner. Writers who critique each other’s work. These can be great relationships to establish because of the encouragement, resources, and support writers receive from each other.

Crit: critique. An evaluation that aims for showing both the strong and weak elements of a MS. Critiques from other writers, especially authors and agents, can be a great way for writers to improve their writing.

Editor: Editors acquire books for their house to publish and help polish the work before publication. Like agents, they do much more than this as well.

Form rejection: A copy-pasted rejection from an agent to a writer who queried. Most of the time this is what writers will receive. Most agents receive 100+ queries a week (I’ve seen some agents report 800+), so personal responses are often impossible.

MG: middle grade. Writing written for middle grade readers and adhering to certain age group conventions.

MS: manuscript. An unpublished work of fiction or nonfiction.

MSS: plural of MS.

NA: new adult. Characters and plotlines revolve around situations common to the 19-early twenties age group. This category of fiction is just getting started and most agents and editors don’t recognize it yet because booksellers don’t have a system in place to sell NA works. A good-sized community is advocating for NA to become established, however.

Personalized rejection: A rejection from an agent to a writer who queried, but some element of the letter is personal. A line or two complimenting the work but explaining why it’s not right for the agent may be included. This is an encouraging compliment from the agent, and is actually a good thing to receive.

Pitch: A brief description of a manuscript highlighting the main elements in a way that makes others want to read more. Contests sometimes ask for a 1, 2, or 3-sentence pitch. Writers should have one ready for contests and conferences.

Query letter: A letter, often a professional email, that writers send to agents asking them to consider them for representation. The letter includes specific details about the MS the author has written and relevant credentials the writer may have. Some agents want 5 or 10 pages and/or a synopsis included as well. Conventions for queries are very particular.

R&R(or R/R) Revise and resubmit. The request from an agent or editor to have the writer make certain changes to the manuscript and then resubmit the work for consideration. These are common, and don’t necessarily mean the writing was poor. The agent’s current list of titles, market trends, and the writing itself may be reasons for R&Rs.

Request: An agent (or sometimes editor) requests to see a certain number of pages of a writer’s manuscript. These can be “partials”-generally 30, 50, or 100 pages- or else “fulls”- the entire manuscript. Usually agents request a partial first and then request a full if they are considering representing the writer. A request is a BIG deal, particularly if it’s a full.

Synopsis: A 1-2 page summary that reveals the main elements of the MS.

Twitter pitch: A pitch designed for Twitter contests. 140 characters or less.

WIP: work in progress. The manuscript an author is currently writing.

YA: young adult. Writing intended for a teenage audience, but with tremendous crossover appeal to adults. Publishers Weekly reported this month that 55% of all YA books are purchased by adult buyers, and 78% of the time, those books are for themselves.

Have you heard any other terms you’d like to know more about? Ask in the comments- I’ll answer!

GUTGAA Meet and Greet

This week the “gearing up to get an agent” contest kicks off- it’s a huge contest with great opportunities to get your work in front of agents. The first part of the contest and blog hop is a “meet and greet” post. If you want to check out the contest itself, go here!

Questions for the Meet and Greet
I live in the midwest but love to travel. Currently I’m in Alberta, Canada, actually, for a friend’s wedding. I love Harry Potter and Pride and Prejudice and anything by John Green, can’t live without music, and tell my friends more than they want  to know about writing and publishing. I am finishing the first draft of my 2nd novel this week (fingers crossed- I’m visiting friends and helping with a wedding!). I write adult and young adult fantasy and contemporary. I’m also an editorial intern with Entangled Publishing and an English teacher. I blog here and over at YA Stands.
-Where do you write?
 Usually I write in my library- a tiny half-bedroom upstairs. I do a lot of writing on my ebook, however, when forced to leave my library.
-Quick. Go to your writing space, sit down and look to your left. What is the first thing you see?
 Well, I’m in Canada right now, but if I were in my library, to my immediate left is my Keurig. I love it because then I don’t have to stop writing and go downstairs to get coffee. I push a button, and keep writing.
-Favorite time to write?
I teach full-time and year-round, so I don’t really get to pick when I write. Usually it’s from 6:30-8:30 most nights. I’ve been writing a lot later for the past month because I’m marathoning my current WIP.
-Drink of choice while writing?
 Coffee. I wish it was something more exciting, but then I get distracted from my writing. 🙂
-When writing , do you listen to music or do you need complete silence?
Usually I play a mix of Switchfood, Brandi Carlile, Mumford and Sons, and Florence and the Machine. But for really tricky scenes, I need quiet.
-What was your inspiration for your latest manuscript and where did you find it?
 Some of my growing up experiences contributed to my current WIP, but mostly the story just came to me as a big “what if?” one day.
-What’s your most valuable writing tip?
 When you read, find the scenes that make you feel something intense. Get a notepad and jot down how the author did it. Figure out why that scene affected you. Also read good books on writing. One of the tabs up top has a list of ones I have read and recommend, so check them out. 🙂
Thanks for stopping by, and good luck in the contest if you’re entering!

Writing Contests

I’ve discovered a whole string of worthy contests of late, and so I’m sharing the love and posting them below. If you’re a writer, check them out. Some end tonight or tomorrow! If you’re a reader, stalk the contests.  Reading the pitches for as-yet unpublished books is fascinating, and you never know- you might see the book on the shelves next year.

Share the Lobov Critique Giveaway from Karen Akins

Pitch Slam 2 from YALITCHAT

Operation Awesome Mystery Agent from Katrina Lantz and the rest of the wonderful writers over at the Operation Awesome blog. This one is run monthly!

Crits for Water by Kat Brauer- contests/auctions for charity here until the end of June

Three Two One Pitch contest from Dorothy Dreyer

Tons of Giveaways for writers and readers- closing midnight tonight!

Miss Snark’s First Victim regularly runs writing contests- sometimes weekly! Keep an eye on the blog.

Cupid’s Literary Connection– contests run here regularly as well.

Mother. Write. (Repeat.) – The fabulous “An Agent’s Inbox” is run here monthly. Don’t miss it!

Watch Monica B.W.’s blog Love YA  and Brenda Drake’s blog Brenda Drake Writes for contests, giveaways, and more valuable info for writers and readers. These ladies are fabulous and recently hosted a major contest with Mother.Write.(Repeat.) and Cupid’s Literary Connection.

If you’re not familiar with these kinds of contests, go here for a great post on the topic and some worthwhile tips.

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List of Agent Blogs and Interviews

A writer’s job is to read, read, read. Read fiction. Read nonfiction for research and nonfiction on your craft. Read your manscript aloud. Read publishing industry news. Read more fiction- bestsellers, books in your genre, and books nothing like your own. Read until your eyes cross. Read, read, read.

One of the most important things for aspiring authors to read is agent blogs. Whether you are querying agents, trying to break into the publishing business, or simply learning more about the world of books, agent blogs are an absolutely necessary source of information. During my plunge into querying agents, I’ve painstakingly divested the internet of its most valuable resource (don’t argue with me on that descriptor): agent blogs.

Blog posts from industry professionals contain the personal details you need to make your queries stand out, the contests that will give you a leg up, and the industry knowledge that will help jump start your writing career.

Actively Maintained Agent Blogs

Thoughts from a Literary Agent: blog from Marisa Corvisiero.

The New Literary Agents– blog of Kae Tienstra and her business partner, Jon.

Chip’s Blog: Blog of MacGregor Literary.

Ask a Literary Agent: Blog from Noah Lukeman, president of Lukeman Literary and author of multiple books on writing queries and fiction.

Carly Watters: Blog of literary agent Carly Watters. Great post from July 12 on making your query stand out in the slush pile.

Bookalicious– blog of agent and top YA book blogger Pam van Hylckama Vlieg.

Mandy Hubbard: author and agent with D4EO Literary.

LaVie en Prose: blog of Meredith Barnes, ex-literary agent now working in digital marketing for Soho Press.

Rapid-Progressive: The blog of Victoria Marini, agent with Gelfman Schneider Literary Agency.

New Leaf Literary: The blog of a brand-new agency headed by Joanna Stampfel-Volpe

This Literary Life: The stylish and thought-provoking blog of Bree Ogden, agent with D4EO Literary Agency.

Magical Words: Featuring posts on helpful topics by several literary agents and published authors.

Confessions: Posts by agent Suzie Townsend.

Janet Reid, Literary Agent: Posts by agent Janet Reid of FinePrint Literary Management. This blog in particular contains a wealth of information and blunt advice for writers. Janet has also been known to host contests.

Query Shark: Janet Reid, master shark of the query waters, also maintains this blog where she dices queries to bits. Enter yours, if you dare! Reading the archives is one of the most entertaining and alarming things you’ll do as a writer.

Pub Rants: Maintained by agent Kristin Nelson of Nelson Literary Agency. Personal, informative posts about all things literary.

Rachelle Gardner: Posts by Rachelle with Books and Such Literary Agency. Many of these posts contain enormously helpful information on the daily life of a successful author- taxes, social media, and the changing publishing landscape are all covered.

Coffee. Tea. And Literary: Blog of the Nancy Coffey Literary & Media Representation.  Contests are occasionally run here as well.

Kathleen Ortiz: Agent with Nancy Coffey Literary & Media Representation.

Glass Cases: Blog of the fabulous agent Sarah LaPolla with Curtis Brown, Ltd., featuring short stories, flash fiction, and memoir and novel excerpts from readers.

dhs liter show + tell: The wide-ranging blog of DHS Literary/Inkwell Management.

DGLM: Blog maintained by Dystel and Goderich Literary Management. Frequent posts revealing the world of publishing and writing in valuable detail.

Full Circle Literary: Blog of Full Circle Literary, with archives going back to 2006.

Et in arcaedia, ego. Blog of Jennifer Jackson, powerhouse agent and Vice President of Donald Maass Literary Agency. Frequent “query wars” reports  and contests. Archives back to 2003.

The Knight Agency: Blog of The Knight Agency- fantastic recent post on preparing your manuscript for submission.

Lucienne Diver’s Drivel: News, advice, and entertainment from author, agent, and superhero Lucienne Diver.

Agent Savant: “publishing morsels from Laurie McLean.”

Agent in the Middle: posts by RT-award-winning literary agent Lori Perkins.

KT Literary: blog from “shoe-obsessed superagent Daphne Unfeasible.” Immensely informative peeks into her query pile included.

Call My Agent!: Blog from Australian “Agent Sydney.” Emailed questions will be answered in a blog post.

Writing and Rambling- A Literary Agent’s Industry Musings: posts by Nephele Tempest.

Fresh Books, Inc.: infrequent but substantial posts from Fresh Books literary agent and founder Matt Wagner.

All that’s new(s) from A to Z: posts from The Zack Company, Inc.

Ask the Agent: Posts from Andy Ross.

Kidlit: Blog from YA and children’s lit agent Mary Kole.

The Forest for the Trees: Maintained by Betsy Lerner- author, ex-editor and agent with Dunow, Carlson and Lerner Literary Agency.

Between the Lines: Business Blog of Books and Such Literary Agency

Jennifer Represents: the blog of Jennifer Laughran, children’s and YA fiction agent with Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

Jill Corcoran Books: posts from Jill Corcoran, children’s book agent with Herman Agency.

Agent Incite: Posts from agent Mike Kabongo

Red Sofa Literary: Red Sofa’s agency blog. Eclectic industry news.

Babbles from Scott Eagan: posts from Scott Eagan from Greyhaus Literary Agency. Frank and unique presentations of industry news and advice.

Slush Pile Hell: “one grumpy literary agent, a sea of query fails, and other publishing nonsense.” Sometimes it helps to see what not to do in your query.

The Steve Laube Agency:  Browse it and learn from it- you’ll love it. Fantastic “News You Can Use” feature.

Upstart Crow Literary: new book announcements, advice on getting published, and more.

Navigating the Slush Pile: “Agent and book lover discovers the world of publishing one fast paced, eye opening step at a time, armed with only a handful of books and an English Lit Degree.” Posts by Vickie Motter, agent with Andrea Hurst Literary Management.

Inactive Blogs

BookEnds, LLC- A Literary Agency: Recently inactive, but chock-full of must-read posts on submissions, query letter samples, and pitch lines.

Fox Literary: Blog of Diana Fox of boutique agency Fox Literary.

Miss Snark, the literary agent: Inactive since 2007, but still a valuable resource.

Deep, Deep Thoughts: informative posts from John Jarrold of John Jarrold Literary Agency.

B.G. Literary: inactive blog of Barry Goldblatt Literary.

The Rejecter: Blog of a super-secret agent. See if you can find out who it is! Contains fantastic archives going back to 2006.

Lyons Literary LLC: “tips and quips on publishing from a literary agent,” Jonathan Lyons, formerly of Curtin Brown, Ltd., and McIntosh & Otis, Inc.

A Gent’s Outlook: inactive since 2007, but still valuable archives.

Blogs Interviewing Agents

Chuck Sambuchino’s Guide to Literary Agents Blog featuring new agent alerts, “How I Got Published” stories, conference/event spotlights, and author interviews.

Hunger Mountain: The VCFA journal of the arts Listed by interview type, the archives contain interviews with authors and agents.

Algonkian Writer Classes: Online Workshops and National Conferences for Agents: Great list of interviews with well-known agents.

Stacey O’Neale: Writer, Publicist, Superhero.  Most of these interviews are very recent and therefore most likely to contain accurate information.

Agent Advice: “a series of quick interviews with literary and script agents who talk with Guide to Literary Agents about their thoughts on writing, publishing, and just about anything else.”

Literary Rambles: “spotlighting children’s book authors, agents, and publishing.” The agent spotlights are invaluable for personalizing your query letter.

Mother. Write. (Repeat.) Long list of agent interviews. Be sure to check out the main page of this blog for “how I got my agent” stories, contests, and more.

YA Highway: Writers hosting contests, introducing agents, and collecting publishing news. Fantastic resource.

Comment to let me know what you think of these! I’d love to hear any agent-related blogs you follow. I’ll add them to the list! As always, thanks for reading.

A Chat with Folio Literary Management and Brendon Burchard

In querying agents, I came across this video featuring powerhouse agent Scott Hoffman and NYT best-selling author Brendon Burchard. I strongly recommend watching it. Hoffman and Burchard deliver worthwhile content about standard book advances, working with a backlist, the author-agent relationship, and traditional publishing vs. self-publishing.  Additionally, they discuss how Burchard earned his multiple 7-figure book deals.

What are you currently doing to position, package, promote, and partner?

Which social media networks do you think are key- Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Goodreads… which ones are absolutely necessary?

Do you “block time” to write?

Do you promote yourself in some way besides social media?

Comment with your professional development strategies, regardless of your field. I’d love to hear your tips!